Thursday, September 8, 2011

Real outback Queensland

View from caravan door Cowan Downs stop over
We had a very relaxed night at Cowan Downs rest area with barely a vehicle passing us throughout the night. The route is called Matilda Way and is nearly completely flat and quite boring to drive. From Normanton to the Burke and Wills Roadhouse which is a distance of about 200 kms there are no towns and the only evidence that there is life is the occasional sign giving a station name. We have only seen one actual station homestead from the road in our travels and that was not on this road. The view from the caravan door taken on Monday morning will given an idea of the countryside we were travelling through.

We drove on to the Burke and Wills Roadhouse. This roadhouse is one of the memorials to the pioneers who travelled from Melbourne to the Gulf of Carpentaria in 1860. We planned to take a side trip from this point to visit the Lawn Hill National Park. Although this side trip is approximately 500 kms return there is a section of over 200 kms which is gravel so we decided to leave the caravan at the Burke and Wills Roadhouse and use the tent. We did a quick repack of gear and the tent and stretchers etc were already on the roof rack so this didn't take long. The first 150 kms was bitumen and we soon covered the distance to Gregory Downs which has a pub and a few houses. We stopped at the pub and had lunch. From here we headed off travelling further west crossing the Gregory River. There were a lot of caravans free camping along the riverside and it certainly looked very pleasant. We would have been happy to have brought the caravan and stayed there too but there was no security to leave the van behind as we continued to the National Park.

We soon left the bitumen behind and we were back on roads very similar to travelling to Cape York. We might have cleaned the car but it certainly wasn't going to be very clean after this trip. The road was corrugated, gravel and huge amounts of bull dust and we didn't pass any settlements or houses, only road trains with all the dust that they create - we saw plenty of cattle grazing the roadside and some on the road which we had to avoid. Fortunately there was only one river crossing so the dust didn't turn to mud! We arrived at the Lawn Hill National Park (Aboriginal name Boodjamulla) mid
afternoon and it was certainly very hot putting up the tent! The park only has twenty camp sites but as it is now outside of peak period we had no problems obtaining a site. This National Park has more facilities than any other National Park we have stayed in - there are flushing toilets, cold showers, and cold water dish washing facilities and an excellent recycling and rubbish facility. It is hard to imagine these great facilities in such a remote corner of north west Queensland. It was good to be back in the tent.

We soon realized though that we had yet another flat tyre - the roads have very sharp rocks which are hard on the tyres. Peter soon had the tyre off and typical of camping he was offered help (or more like supervision) from a young guy who was camping opposite us. No sooner had the tyre been changed than we realized that the second battery we had had installed just a week ago had blown a fuse in the car and the Engel fridge was not working - great when we have all our food for the next few days in that fridge and it is in the high 30's. Fortunately Peter was able to bypass the new battery and the fridge was soon back in business.The camping area is adjacent to the Lawn Hill Gorge which is an usual blue/green colour. The gorge is bordered by sheer red sandstone cliffs. There are fresh water crocodiles in the gorge although we didn't see any but we saw plenty of fish in the water and numerous birds. 

On Tuesday we commenced our day taking the hour and a half walk called "wild dog dreaming" which followed the creek for about five kms viewing the various sandstone cliffs, including one called the island stack, to see the Aboriginal art, and the fossilised shells down to the lower gorge lookout. There is a tremendous amount of devastation from fallen trees washed down in February - April this year during the wet season which was worse than normal.

The gorge is extremely popular for canoeing and canoes are available for hire. Back at the tent we decided that we may as well hire a canoe and visit the middle gorge and Indarri Falls. I much prefer to have my feet on solid ground but we headed off and all went well as we proceeded down to the falls,with Peter doing much of the work, sore shoulder and all. At the falls he suggested we get out of the canoe to have a look around. 

That was a challenge for me but eventually I climbed up on to the landing without sinking the canoe. It was a different matter getting back in. I soon had the canoe off balance and there I was dangling with my feet in the canoe and my arms extended to the landing and the middle of me in the water. Peter thought this was a great joke as I yelled at him to help me as by this time I had more water
in the canoe than any canoe is supposed to carry. The only way was to let the canoe go and go completely into the water - I will leave you to imagine the sight as fortunately Peter didn't grab for the camera. Just as well the crocodiles were nowhere to be seen. I was wet to the neck and after Peter emptied the canoe of water I climbed back in and we returned back upstream.

In the afternoon we decided to do another of the walks and this time took the four kilometer walk to the Indarri Falls taking the rim walk. It was extremely hot as we walked as quite a distance was out in the open. We were pleased to get back to the shade of the trees near the camping area.

We left Lawn Hill on Wednesday morning and took a slightly different route back. This route took us past the Riversleigh World Heritage site which has an 800 metre fossil trail. We continued on, crossing about six river crossings some of which were very deep with fast flowing water, and to take us back to Gregory Downs the road took us down a track worse than the old telegraph track up in the Cape. We couldn't help but wonder if we were actually on a road. One minute we were in deep gravel, then bull dust, sand, overgrown bush and creek crossings. The track was about 60 kms long and we were grateful when it eventually connected with a "main road" albeit a gravel dust road. Another 40 kms on this road and we arrived back at Gregory Downs and it was bitumen all the way back to the caravan. Our side trip was nearly 600 kms but it was worth it.

The roadhouse is not a particularly interesting place to stay other than late at night. We were surprised to see that there were a couple of other campers set up there, one couple that we have met at two earlier campsites. We repacked, hitched the caravan on and continued on south to Cloncurry. Cloncurry was a reasonable size (population 4500) so although there wasn't an auto electrician in town there was a Woolworths. It was so nice to be able to buy some fresh milk, bread, fruit and vegetables. Cloncurry is about 800 kms west of Townsville.

We were still keen on getting to an auto electrician as soon as we could so we continued on towards Mount Isa and stayed overnight at Fountain Springs rest area. On Wednesday night there were about twenty groups of campers staying overnight and for the first couple of hours there was a road train parked up having some repairs undertaken. In the morning Peter saw that a van had pulled in after dark and the eight or ten occupants were all sleeping on the grass in their swags! We had a lot more comfort than that.

We have been to the Gulf of Carpentaria
 Leaving the Gulf behind
Burke & Wills Roadhouse

 Leaving the caravan behind again

 Burke & Wills to Gregory Downs

 Farming North Queensland style - Brahman cattle

Amongst the termite mounds

 Gregory Downs hotel

Verandah Gregory Downs hotel

Gregory Downs hotel refreshment

Peter's photography

The road to Lawn Hill National Park
Being watched - Brahman beast

The only water crossing on way to Lawn Hill National Park
Arrival at the Lawn Hill National Park
Another flat tyre at Lawn Hill - camper Andy supervising
This is the walk we should do now!
 Wild Dog Dreaming trail
Creek Lawn Hill National Park
 Lawn Hill creek
Ready for the walk, water back pack on
  The debri from the wet
The colours of the rock Lawn Hill
The Island Stack at Lawn Hill
  Island Stack sign
 View of Island Stack
  Impressive rock formations
 Continuation of Island Stack
 Wild Dog Dreaming info
  Wagnyi tribe info
 Aboriginal art
Ancient art info
 Ancient art
 Info re shells in rock
  Look for the shells
 Aboriginal art of fish net
 Lower gorge
 Lower gorge Lawn Hill
 Beauty of lower gorge
 Fish at lower gorge
Red gum oozing
The gum looked like blood
Walking back from Wild Dog Dreaming trail
 Fallen trees Lawn Hill
Size of trees washed down in April 2011
 Showing the waterline
The gorge from canoe
One of the Indarri Falls
 Warm water flowing Indarri Falls
Our canoe - Peter prays before our epic return journey,
actually just before the great sinking!!
Swimming yes or no - Gill decided yes and subsequently sunk the canoe
and herself - bugga looks like the prayer didn't work!
 Children playing Indarri Falls
 Lawn Hill National Park gorge
Friends, Iris & Ken who we met camping at Lawn Hill
Tree growing on rock
 Rowing Lawn Hill Gorge - no they are not man boobs.  I'll
have you all know that there is a fine specimen of a man
under that singlet.  You can see his ripling mussels in his arms!
Our campsite Lawn Hill National Park
 Fish in Lawn Hill creek
 Catfish & yes he was a big one
Relaxing on the creek edge
The Indarri Falls from cliff top

Where I entered the water from the canoe! Entered more like
fell and then flapped around like a dolphin having a fit!
 It was so hot! Mmmm now where are the Croc's
The Gregory River where we entered trying to follow the road
Warning signage before we entered the river!
The road across the river
The currents from passenger side window
 The water flow from the driver's window
The Gregory River taken while crossing
Our Boat 'The Patrol' crossing The O'Shaugnessy River crossing
tis just a little deep out there!!
The Old Savannah Way - it seemed to get progressively worse
The Old Savannah Way
 Cattle on the Old Savannah Way
The Old Savannah Way - one could be forgiven for not
quite knowing where the road went
 The old Savannah Way - thank God for the GPS
 Double use for the roadway suddenly seal and width .  You've seen it
on TV; here it is. Anyway like you would actually park out
there in the middle of nowhere, what do they think we are!
We are about to take off - yeah sure
Keeping the body beautiful - exercises in the middle of nowhere
or else me bum had gone to sleep!
Picking up the van at Burke and Wills
 Cloncurry - time for a litttle bit of shopping.  This was the original home of  the
flying doctors service for this area
Burke and Wills Memorial
 Ah more free camping and obviously we were not the first
there - half way between Cloncurry & Mount Isa
 and they just keep coming   last arrrival at about 1030 pm
 Road train with some air problems at the free
camping.  These things are enormous,
would love to have a drive though!
Free camping area Fountain Springs Rest Area
 This was an advert that was posted at the free camping - perhaps we will try this on our return trip

Some more free advertising at the free camping site - this is a must
 Woke up in the moring and the owners of these swags
had arrived some stage during the night
 Free camping - Fountain Springs Rest Area
Free camping area again
Nearly 8:30 and still asleep -  free camping works for some.
Obviously no stress re paying for camping

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