This Adventurous Age

Adventures travelling and working around Australia.


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2000 Travels June 16

FRIDAY 16 JUNE     TENNANT CREEK

We had the same lovely weather again.

I washed the two floor rugs. These are a heavy cotton weave and I do them by hand in a laundry trough, not in a machine.

We had new arrivals in the site next to us. Got talking, and it turned out they came from the same area as us, but had moved a couple of years ago to Tathra. The man used to run in the same local Veterans running events as John.

The mail was not in. That meant we would now have to stay here until Monday.

We drove out to the old Telegraph Station. Like many places through the centre of the continent, Tennant Creek began as a repeater station on the Overland Telegraph Line. It is several kms north of the present town, having been built by the actual Tennant Creek.

We had a good look around the Telegraph Station. It was interesting for the architectural features designed to counter the heat – built of stone, wide verandas all round, and the cool room/cellar structure, with its really thick walls.

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Old Telegraph Station, Tennant Creek

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Cool room cellar at the Telegraph Station – thick walls

We then drove out to the nearby Pebbles – a large area of small rock outcrops, promoted as a miniature Devils Marbles (which are about a hundred kms south of Tennant Creek). There was quite a maze of tracks and informal camp spots out there.

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The Devils Pebbles near Tennant Creek

We did more bird spotting. John saw a new looking hole in the bank of a dry creek channel with an agitated little bird flitting nearby, and put the two together – the hole was the bird’s nest. When we moved away, it zipped into the hole with the beak full of grass it was carrying – a red browed pardalote, a “new” birdie! We watched it go in and out, nest building in its hole, for a while. There were good wild flower displays out there, too.

We went back to the van and got the makings of a late lunch, then drove back out north again, to Mary Ann Dam, to eat it. That was a pleasant spot, made about twenty years ago, for recreation.

Refuelled Truck – 95cpl.

John and neighbour L went and practiced bowls at the Tennant Creek club, for a couple of hours. My back was playing up a bit – probably a reaction to the long day sitting in Truck, so I decided to pass on bowls.

I extended our stay here for two more nights, so we can get the mail on Monday – hopefully! That also meant that John could play bowls on Sunday.

Tea was bought fish and chips – alright.


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2000 Travels June 15

THURSDAY 15 JUNE     TENNANT CREEK

It was a day with clear blue sky and a pleasant light wind. I felt happy to be wearing shorts and a Tshirt – finally!

I did a load of washing and did some cleaning in the van.

We drove to the central shops again to see if the mail we were expecting had arrived. No – it takes four days to get here from Melbourne, even if it was sent Express! Aah – the Outback!

We went to the Information Centre, at the old Battery/mine area. As the name suggested, there was a gold crushing plant here. Gold was mined in Tennant Creek from the 1930’s, but it was not the scene of great rushes to alluvial gold fields, like down south, because the gold here was found in solid rock that needed crushing.

The Visitor Centre was quite good. We walked around there for an hour or so, bird spotting – they had expanses of native tree plantings, and pools.

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Sturt’s Desert Rose – the Northern Territory floral emblem

After lunch, walked into town to get the paper. John was walking fairly slowly – it was a long day for him with the driving, yesterday.

The aboriginal presence in the town was visible, but did not seem intrusive or unpleasant.

Back at camp, we talked for a while with a European couple a few vans up. He did a lot of metal detecting and said he did quite well at it. He showed us some big pieces of petrified wood he’d collected.

Tea was chow mein and rice.


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2000 Travels June 14

WEDNESDAY 14 JUNE   MT ISA TO TENNANT CREEK   693kms

Our alarm went off at 6am, because we had a long drive ahead, today. We left the park at 7.20am.

There was some cloud. At times, we could see light rain falling from the clouds, but we only collected a couple of small spits. It was not too hot.

Initially, out of Mt Isa, was interesting range country, then it flattened out into grass and scrub lands.

The road was not great. It alternated single width strips of bitumen with normal two width road, all the way to the NT border. There was a lot of chopped up areas beside the single width sections, and tyre ruts, showing where vehicles had to pull over for oncoming traffic, in last week’s rain. I remembered hearing that a road train carrying cattle had run off on one of these sections last week, and overturned, killing a lot of poor cows.

We encountered a number of road trains – too many! Also met the occasional wide load and were very glad that the verges had dried out!

Camooweal did not look to have much of interest. We topped up the fuel there, to get the last of the supposedly subsidized Qld fuel prices, before crossing into the NT. The Qld government had recently announced that it was scrapping the fuel subsidy because the companies were not passing it on; they planned to reduce registration costs instead. There had been much yelling and screaming about this from various interest groups. The proposed changes would not benefit interstate tourists like us, in the way the fuel subsidy did, which would be fair enough when we come from other States.

At Camooweal we paid 99cpl.

The road improved greatly once we were into the NT.

We were crossing the southern part of the Barkly Tableland, but not the true grass plains of a bit further north, because there were still some bushes about. The mulga was in flower, and all was very green, with still some surface water about. We were lucky to see it looking so good. There had been quite a lot of flooding of these northern parts of Qld and NT from a cyclone a couple of months ago.

We stopped at the Barkly Roadhouse to eat lunch and buy a cool drink. We could have overnighted here at their caravan park, but opted to do a long day instead.

At the intersection of the Barkly Highway with the north-south Stuart Highway, at Three Ways, we turned left for the run south to Tennant Creek. It would mean a short back track when we headed north again, but we wanted to explore Tennant Creek. We’d also asked K to send mail here, thinking it could be a while before we would be near a Post Office again.

Reached there at about 3.30pm, Central Standard Time. We’d “gained” half an hour as we travelled west. So it took us nearly nine hours to do that leg; we seemed to have a tail wind.

Booked into the Outback Caravan Park for three nights for $17 a night. It was on the edge of town. It had nice big sites – dirt and gravel, of course, with cement slab. It was all very spacious.

After setting up, we drove back to the town centre to try to get a paper, but they were all sold out. “Those tourists…” the man said!

Tea was soup, cold pork, salads.

We were very tired and went to bed soon after tea.

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2000 Travels June 13

TUESDAY 13 JUNE     MT ISA

Today was reasonably warm, but there was cloud build up through the day. It looked like there could be more rain on those dirt roads!

We had a rather boring day. We did the necessary shopping for food for a while, spending over $100 at Coles. Hunted around after a globe for the van light. Collected my photos, which were alright – they are cheaper at K Mart. Did some banking.

Refuelled Truck, at a different servo – 84cpl. Big difference!

Packed up the awning. Hooked Truck up.

There was still sight seeing in the area that we hadn’t done – next time, since we planned to be back this way next year.

Tea was soup, cold pork, mash, coleslaw. Repetitive, but nice.


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2000 Travels June 12

MONDAY 12 JUNE     MT ISA

Today had clear skies and it was sunny, but not really hot. Of course, now that we have decided to keep going west, the weather has become fine!

It was a public holiday, and thus quiet in town.

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Nice day in the caravan park at Mt Isa

I read and sewed for a while, then we drove to the shops and bought a paper, and wine.

On the way back, as we came up to a traffic light Truck shuddered and shook and made clunking noises in second gear. It sounded like a nasty gear box disaster! John stopped and I looked to see if anything was caught underneath – couldn’t see anything untoward, like the innards hanging on the road! We started off again, and John let the handbrake off after we’d started. I asked if it had been on all along? He said it could have been!

We drove around for a bit – no more nasty noises, so we hoped it was only a case of the handbrake being left partly on. John explained to me that the brake acts on the gear system, since the vehicle is constant 4WD.

In the afternoon, we went for a long walk around the streets – more for exercise than any sightseeing.

I discovered that there is a really feral area of “permanents” down the back end of the caravan park. It was the most slummy looking such area we had come across ,to date, in our travels. The structures looked very run down. The police visited there this afternoon.

Tea was soup, cold pork, mashed potato and coleslaw.


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2000 Travels June 11

SUNDAY 11 JUNE     MT ISA

The weather was clearer today.

K phoned. He’d talked with the vet on the phone. He and P have decided to keep the dog going while she is no worse, and to give her a really good last period, with lots of fuss and special food. Sounds like it will not be long, though. I felt awful all day.

We went to the Riversleigh Interpretative Centre. Riversleigh is a really important area for finding fossils, north of Mt Isa, at the southern edge of Lawn Hill National Park. Paleontologists have been exploring for fossils there since the 1970’s. The area was significant enough to have been made a World Heritage site, in 1994.

It cost us $5 each to get into the Centre, but it was well worth it, being informative and interesting. I hadn’t previously realized the extent and significance of the Riversleigh Fossil Area. It gives a fairly complete record of the species living in that region, over about 20 million years, and shows how the environment changed, from lush rainforest to grasslands. It is one of only two or three places in the world that preserve such a complete record. The evolutionary ancestors of many modern species are preserved in the limestone at Riversleigh. Apparently, the rivers and lakes of those times were really high in calcium carbonate, which speeded up the fossilizing and preservation processes.

We decided it would be really interesting to visit the Riversleigh site, if we ever get to visit Lawn Hill.

I bought a tea towel – a practical souvenir, and magnet, and got some general tourist information there.

We drove up to the city lookout – that really showed the scale of the mining infrastructure and its closeness to the town.

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Mt Isa from the Town Lookout

Tea was roast pork and vegies. While that was cooking I made up a batch of two potato soup for later days. This contains ordinary and sweet potatoes.


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2000 Travels June 10

SATURDAY 10 JUNE   CLONCURRY TO MT ISA   174kms

There was low cloud this morning, and some drizzles of rain.

We had to pack up everything, but still managed to leave Cloncurry about 9am.

The way was through range and ridge country – varied, attractive and dramatic in parts.

We had the CB radio on, as usual – it was scanning – and picked up talk between three or four light planes, communicating between themselves. Then we saw them, flying very low. Obviously, from the conversation, they were trying to find a way through the higher country, to Cloncurry. One was really worried about the low cloud obscuring the hills. They eventually turned back, and we saw them again, near Mt Isa, on their way back to the airport.

The mine dominates Mt Isa. The various surface structures are only a few hundred metres from the shopping centre. You see the smelter chimneys from everywhere in town.

Mount Isa Mines has been going since the 1930’s. They mine silver, lead, zinc and copper. Given its scale, the mine is obviously the mainstay of the town.

We booked in at the Sunset Caravan Park – fairly central – for $14.40 a night, after discount. It seemed quite pleasant.

After set up and lunch. drove to the shops and had a look round. I put films in at K Mart for processing and collection on Tuesday.

John found out at the bowls club that he couldn’t play after all, because there was a big two day tournament on. It was a pity that he hadn’t phoned and checked from Cloncurry, because he would have gotten a game.

I bought some meat and greengroceries.

Had chicken drumsticks, potato and salad for tea.

I phoned K but he wasn’t home – had gone to Ballarat for the funeral of his step mother’s father. P told me she had taken our dog, Butch, to the vet, this morning. She has diabetes, will soon get worse and will need to be put to sleep. That was a real shock. I really thought she would still be there when we settled back down at home. She is only 11 years old. I was really upset and sad, and cried for ages. I phoned again, later, when K was home and talked with him about it. We are all upset. I guess John and I both felt guilty for leaving her behind while we travelled.

It was not a good night.

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