This Adventurous Age

Adventures travelling and working around Australia.


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2007 Travels June 1

FRIDAY 1 JUNE   ALICE SPRINGS TO DEVILS MARBLES   405kms

So now it is officially winter. That seems such an artificial designation in parts north.

It felt so good to be leaving town, and heading bush again. John didn’t get anywhere near the amount of bowls he’d intended – certainly not enough to justify the time spent here.

Today, it was straight north on the Stuart Highway.

An initial slight climb for some 20kms, brought us to the highest point on the Stuart Highway – about 792m above sea level. Downhill all the way north now ………. with a few slight local variations!

Marker at the highest point on the Stuart Highway

Crossed the Tropic of Capricorn a bit further  north of Alice Springs. This landmark is easy to overlook here, because it is part of a rest area.

Tropic of Capricorn Rest Area

Back in the tropics again! That really makes me happy.

The 400kms drive north  was varied enough to maintain interest. Often, there were low ranges or lines of hills in the distance. There tended not to be too many dead straight sections, either. So the route was not a boring one, despite having driven it before.

We found that Wauchope had the best fuel price, by a long way, in that stretch north of Alice. $1.65cpl. Had previously fuelled up at Barrow Creek – $1.74cpl. We needed to keep the tank topped up as much as possible because of tomorrow’s planned deviation.

I was conscious of this Barrow Creek roadhouse having attained notoriety by being the place that British backpacker Joanne Lees was taken to when rescued after the possible murder of her boyfriend in 2001. That all remained somewhat of a mystery, despite a man having been convicted and jailed.

A little further north we would pass the spot where this event occurred, but of course there was no marker to show where it was.

Arrived at the camping area at the Devils Marbles just after 3pm. It was already quite crowded, but we were able to slot in together to a camp spot, albeit much closer to the very smelly long drop toilet, than we would have liked!

Devils Marbles camp area – best to get here early in the day!

The fees for tonight’s stay were $6.60.

Campers were confined by barriers to the designated area -which was sensible in an area like this. Otherwise, like ants, they would have over run the whole place.

By about 4pm, the later arrivals were cruising the camp area, destined not only to miss out on any halfway decent spot for the night, but any spot at all! This was not a place at which to arrive later in the day.

There were some low tables as well as the rather unpleasant toilets.

After the usual basic set up for an overnight stay, we went walking, spending a couple of hours wandering around and between the Marbles rock formations.

Gravelled paths wound through the spinifex.

There were some small gum trees and shrubbery growing, in places. Some of the shrubs had fruit on them which, us being woefully deficient in identifying much of the native flora, we could only guess was a native plum?

Was this a native plum?

The Devils Marbles were originally formed as molten granite intrusions up through weaknesses like cracks, into overlying sandstone, where the granite cooled. Over time, the sandstone has eroded away, leaving the blobs of granite as the feature we see today.

The granite formations were fascinating- many varied shapes and configurations, and balancing rocks – all of them begging to be photographed!

There were some interesting contrasts, too, with the red rocks and the vegetation growing around them.

The rock formations were spread out over a fair sized area – it took a while to follow the paths that wind all through the spread.

There was a smaller section of Marbles across the other side of the access road. It did not seem that quite so many of the visitors bothered to walk that far, but we did, and were rewarded by the sight of some interesting split rocks.

Probably one of those photos everyone takes!

There were a couple of small rock pools  on sections of the flatter, sheet like rock that occurred in parts.

The aboriginal story explaining this feature is that an ancient Dreamtime ancestor walked through here, making a hair-string belt as he went. He dropped clumps of the material along the way and these became the rock shapes. To be truthful, what came to my irreverent mind was an ancient enormous wombat-like mythical creature, wandering about, leaving his droppings to become stones!

The sunset was brilliant.

Received a text message from son – from Darwin! Obviously, he was on business with the Darwin branch of the motorhome company he worked for.

Then the full moon rose in the east.


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2000 Travels November 1

WEDNESDAY 1 NOVEMBER   CORAL BAY TO CARNARVON   247kms

We thought about having a final snorkel on the reef, before breakfast, but decided we needed to focus on the pack up and travel.

Left Coral Bay about 9.30am, after topping up the fuel with 20 litres, at $1.31cpl.

The van jockey wheel had been going flat really quickly, since Onslow, and John had not been able to get a new tube in the small towns we’ve been in. So, here, he tried putting silicone on the perished parts, and it actually stayed up longer. Having the flat jockey wheel had made hitching up the van harder for me, so I was pleased with any improvement.

It was a routine, but rather tedious drive to Carnarvon, through featureless, scrubby country.

We crossed the Tropic of Capricorn again, before reaching Highway 1. I wondered if/when we would return to the tropics?

11-01-2000 going south.jpg

Going south again

Just before reaching Carnarvon, we came into the irrigated fruit and vegetable growing area that exists around it, relying on  water from bores around the Gascoyne River. This river is another with a really large catchment area. It can flood quite spectacularly. Its waters soak really quickly into the underlying aquifer and that is where the irrigation water comes from. Some say it is a river that flows upside down.

We stopped at a roadside produce stall on the approach to town and bought tomatoes and capsicums. They were cheap and fresh – lovely.

Booked into Wintersun Caravan Park, for $16.50 a night. John paid them an extra $3 so we could wash the van and get the Coral Bay salt off.

We ate lunch as soon as we arrived, then set up the camp.

11-01-2000 camp Carnarvon

Less arid here than at Coral Bay

Drove into town – this caravan park was right on the outskirts. There were banana plantations lining both sides of the road as we drove.

John was able to buy a new tube for the jockey wheel – hooray!

Bought a few supplies and meat for tea at Woolworths.

Carnarvon is rather a strange town – there seems to be no really defined central focus to it, just straggles of shops and businesses. There were quite a few closed businesses, which would seem to indicate some sort of local downturn.

John wanted me to make stuffed peppers for tea. They take quite a while to do, so tea was late.

I missed the sound of the sea at night, that we had at Coral Bay.

11-01-2000 to carn


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1998 Travels May 15

FRIDAY 15 MAY   ROCKHAMPTON TO MACKAY   354kms

We left the park just after 8am. It does make departing in the morning much easier,  when we can stay attached.

We stopped briefly to take a picture of the rig in front of the big marker that indicates the Tropic of Capricorn. One side has a sign saying temperate zone and the other side says tropical zone. So, we are now officially in the tropics!

05-15-1998 01 entering the tropics.jpg

Our rig “on” the Tropic of Capricorn

Then we crossed the Fitzroy River bridge – that is one big river! It seemed to be very full, swift,  and brown. I am not sure if that is normal or whether they have had rains upstream. The road bridge, and the rail one alongside it, are pretty high up.

05-15-1998 02 crossing Fitzroy River.jpg

On the road bridge over the Fitzroy River, looking to the rail bridge

Bought diesel in Rockhampton – 67 cpl.

Again, we drove through mostly grazing country; the cattle now are predominantly the grey, humpy backed Brahman types. Sugar cane appeared as we got closer to Mackay. It was growing almost right to the road sides and was not fenced off. It is about 8 feet high now, so we were driving through corridors through the cane.

05-14-1998 02 sugar cane country near mackay.jpg

Mountains and sugar cane between Rockhampton and Mackay

In Mackay, we booked into the Big 4 Beach Caravan Park. It took considerable navigation  through the town, to get there, but I wanted seafront. It cost $16.20, and again we were able to leave the rig hitched up.

I saw an unusual bird flitting around and sitting on the fence wire. It was brilliantly coloured, very shiny. and with a couple of narrow long feathers sticking down from its tail – not a very big bird. I identified it afterwards as a Rainbow Bee Eater. The rainbow part is apt.

We took the bikes off and cycled off to find some shops for some bits and pieces, but found we were not near any major centre. The parts of town we cycled through were rather run down and uninspiring. We rode 8kms looking, before giving up on the shops idea.

Back at the van, we walked through the dunes to the beach and were surprised that there was no sea! It was about 1500 metres out – it was low tide. So we walked along where high tide would be. In the distance was another surprise – the lights of the 3km long Hay Point pier. It loads coal from the mines west of here, and has to be that long to get far enough out to reach water deep enough for ships. It is pretty at night.

05-15-1998 03 mackay tide out Hay Point jetty.jpg

Where did the sea go? Low tide at Mackay. Hay Point jetty on horizon

In the absence of shops, there was also an absence of our Friday fish and chips. So our tea was a gourmet meal from tins – baked beans and creamed corn, on toast.

Whilst eating tea we were considerably startled by some very loud thumps and bangs and much gunfire! Eventually worked out that it was the army playing war games, and they may have “attacked” the nearby airport. Well, we hoped that was what it was! The “battle” went on for half an hour. The defence forces are a very obvious presence up north.

05-15-1998-rocky-to-mackay

We have been conscious, over the past two days, that we are bypassing any number of interesting places along the coast. We will come back to these, at a later date – probably in a later year! For now, if we are to achieve our next big goal for the year – Cape York – we must press on northwards.