Outback Queensland & The Gulf Savannah

Wednesday, Jun 23, 2010 at 21:04

Baz - The Landy

Photos and Story: Baz – The Landy
June 2014 update to 2010 blog…

Heading down the driveway always comes with great anticipation, waving good-bye to the urban surrounds we are so familiar with, but long to escape, steering The Landy towards the bush; today was no exception. The boys, David and Stephen, along with their parents and good friends, Bob and Annette, arrived early and to be greeted by our excited son Thomas, TomO as is frequently called these days and not to mention his excited parents!

Janet had finished packing the food into The Landy the previous night, and now there was nothing left to do but load ourselves in, wave good-bye to the Grandparents and head west.

If only in an instant you could transport yourself from the centre of suburbia to the outskirts of Sydney, but you can't, so we wound our way along the M2 Freeway, through Richmond and after a spectacular fly-over by a C-130 Hercules transport plane from Richmond airbase we did finally reach the foothills of the Blue Mountains.

The Landy wound its way up the hill at Kurrajong under an overcast sky and through the tiny hamlet of Bilpin, an apple growing region not far from Sydney, before passing through Lithgow enroute to our first stop at Bathurst. It was here we realized the spare set of keys for The Landy were still sitting on the kitchen bench, which, of itself was no big deal, except that they also had the key that opened the padlock securing the jerry cans on the back of The Landy. A quick stop at an automotive facility in Bathurst sealed the fate of the padlock which ended its useful service crushed by the jaws of a pair of oversized bolt-cutters.

And that is the last we will talk about the spare set of keys.

The drive westward along the Mitchell Highway was uneventful and took us through some familiar towns including, Orange, Molong, Dubbo, and Narromine, a favourite of ours, before passing Trangie and Nevertire on the long, straight run in to Nyngan under a canopy of blue sky with only a few scattered clouds.

The sun was low on the horizon as we reached the outskirts of Nyngan and the air had a distinct chill to it as we pulled into our accommodation for the evening, the Comfort Motel, which is conveniently located across the road from the RSL Club.

A meal at the club has become a ‘first night on tour’ tradition for us as we head west, relaxing with locals and weary travelers alike who I’m sure were equally pleased that they had also been released from their urban shackles.

And, with a salute to a full moon, we retreated to our accommodation, content in the knowledge that tomorrow would see us crossing the Darling River and into the Outback!

Departing Nyngan we headed north along the very straight road towards Bourke, stopping at Byrock a small township of around 350 people along the way. The town has quite a military history counting a Victoria Cross, Military Cross, three Military Medals, and a Distinguished Flying Cross, as being awarded to members of its community for service in both World Wars.

The boys, and adults passed the drive to Bourke playing a quiz game on Australia, covering, general knowledge, animals, and landscape, amongst other topics. And this was punctuated by the sighting of various wildlife, mostly emus’ and one large eagle.

A fuel stop at Bourke and we were on our way, crossing the Darling River, and in to the Outback. TomO has often asked on our trips when will we be in the ‘Outback’, so we have always had an official spot, and that is a crossing of the Darling River heading westward.

A lunch stop at Ford’s Bridge had the boys, including the big ones, trying their luck at catching some yabbies for dinner, fortunately for all, Janet and Annette had the night’s menu covered as there was little luck had. Just prior to reaching Ford’s Bridge we came across what appeared to be an old grave site with a number of markers. This had never caught our attention on previous passing and a mental note was taken to research this further.

The drive along the Bourke to Hungerford road was teeming with bird life, especially water birds, with much of the countryside covered in surface water. As we passed Mullarara Water Hole, on Cuttaburra Creek, we were surprised at the number of pelicans in residence; the number in the water easily being surpassed by those circling in a thermal overhead. Perhaps they were heading for inland Australia which is currently covered in much surface water, especially the Lake Eyre region.

One of the tragedies seen often by the side of the road is wildlife road kill; although we must count as a first ‘fish road kill’. Janet had spotted something on the road just past the water hole, and thinking it was a shingle-back lizard was calling for ‘The Landy’ to stop to enable a photo opportunity; it turned out to be quiet a large Carp that had obviously been dropped by one of the circling pelicans.

‘The Landy’ could never pass through the small town of Hungerford without stopping for a photo opportunity at the pub, okay, yes, and a beer, or two. In fact, ‘The Landy’ joins a distinguished list of visitors to the establishment, including none other than Henry Lawson the famous poet and laureate. His view and description of the town upon his arrival, for those unfamiliar with his writings was much less enthusiastic than the one displayed by our crew. I did suggest that perhaps the journey was a far more arduous one in his time, but Janet quickly quipped, with a wry smile and a wink at ‘The Landy’, that it was still an arduous journey, for some!

As tempting as it was to linger and enjoy the outback hospitality we headed off to Currawinya National Park, a short 15 kilometre drive from town, for our first camp of the trip at Ourimperee Water Hole.

Currawinya National Park is a favourite of ours and we have visited on numerous occasions over recent years, drawn by the rivers and wetlands which are important water bird habitats. The park contains two large lakes, Lake Numalla, and Lake Wyara, the latter being saline. These lakes are visited by migratory birds whose journeys frequently start in the Northern Hemisphere, but unfortunately the lakes road was not passable on this visit due to the large amount of surface water in the area.

The park is also home to a large captive-bred colony of Bilbies that are housed in a large 25 square kilometre predator proof fence; although this area is closed to the general public. The greater bilby has disappeared from much of inland Australia, but was once found at Currawinya.

After a very frosty night, that had temperatures plummeting to zero, and a slow start to the day we headed off to the Granites, a large rocky outcrop within the park where we were able to take in quite a panoramic view of the area shared only with a couple of wild goats who were scrambling with great ease over the massive boulders.

And with plenty of time on our hands to do little more than nothing, we took the opportunity to cook a sumptuous camp oven roast lamb dinner, with all the trimmings, topped off with damper coated in lashings of golden syrup, a Janet specialty.

Another cool night, with frost, ensured a slow start to the day and after a leisurely breakfast we broke camp and headed towards today’s destination of Quilpie. Our first stop was at Cornie Paroo Water-hole which is located at the northern end of the park. We lingered at a beautiful spot on the banks of the river where two locals were trying their luck fishing for yellow-belly, but with little success it seemed.

And for the birdwatchers, we were fortunate to spot a few Brolgas as we headed through the northern section of the park, surprising us, as we always associated these birds with the far north.

One place worth stopping at is Eulo, a small township that has a history steeped in Opal mining. The towns pub, The Eulo Queen, is worth a visit where you can read about the Eulo Queen, Isabel Gray, who once owned the three pubs and made her fortune from the Opal trade, and supplying opal miners.

Heading north through the Yowah Opal fields the boys passed the time reading books, Tomo, who is intrigued by all things military, has been engrossed in a book ‘Somme Mud’, a book about an Australian teenager in World War 1, called Edward Lynch.

We took the opportunity to stop at Toompine for afternoon tea and to learn a little more of the history of the town.

Toompine was originally called ‘Thuenpin’ which is the aboriginal word for ‘leech’ and was named so by pioneer Pastoralist JD Steele who arrived in the area around 1875. The Survey Department later changed the name to Toompine.

The focal point of the town has always been the pub, and in years long gone, around 1884 to 1915, it was a Cobb and Co. changing post for the weekly services between Charleville and Thargomindah, and Thargomindah and Adavale. Today, the South Western Hotel remains a popular spot, particularly amongst the caravan fraternity as it offers free overnight sites, with power it seemed, and in return it looked like the publican was well rewarded with their patronage.

We availed ourselves of some relative luxury, staying in cabins, at the Channel Country Caravan Park, to enable us to catch up on some mundane chores, such as shopping, and washing. Okay, I didn’t do either, but ‘The Landy’ did get a tidy up! For those visiting it is worth noting that the park puts on a camp oven dinner each Tuesday night with a sing-a-long afterwards, if you’re inclined, and whilst very nice, I must say that Janet’s damper and camp oven dinners are just too hard to beat.

But a couple of other things worth knowing about Quilpe; it is the end of the Western Railway line in Queensland, and Amy Johnson once landed here.

I believe today is Wednesday 30 June, but I’m not bothered if it isn’t.

We took advantage of not having to pack up camp and elected for an early start towards tonight’s destination, Welford National Park, but not before a quick stop just outside of Quilpie so the boys could have a fossick for some opal. And yes, coloured stone was found, but none of us will be retiring any time soon based on our finds.

Prior to entering the park we found some ‘Gidgie’ wood and cut it into lengths for our camp fire. This wood is perfect for camp oven cooking and the mere thought of another lamb roast and apple crumble all cooked by coals spurred the activity on.

The countryside had plenty of surface water and many water-birds and other wildlife was seen as we progressed towards Welford. On arrival we headed to the Rangers Headquarters to register our stay, and we were fortunate to catch up with one of the Park Staff. She mentioned that there was some weather headed our way and it was forecast to arrive within the next 24/48 hours. This came as little surprise to Bob and I as we had observed the changing conditions over the course of the morning and this confirmed our thinking.

Generally this would not usually concern us, however roads conditions in the park would deteriorate very quickly with even a small amount of rain given the amount of surface water so we elected to move on to Jundah and stay the night there so we could assess if the weather conditions would require us to alter our plans.

As it turns out we decided that we would skip Welford National Park altogether and head towards Longreach to visit the Stockman’s’ Hall of Fame, and Qantas Museum, and then visit Winton and Lark Quarry, before heading towards Diamantina National Park and resume our planned trip. It pays to be flexible, especially when travelling with children!

Before leaving the Park we took a drive around the ‘Desert Drive’ which is a 22 kilometre, one way circuit. The drive takes you past waterholes teeming with birdlife and providing a contrast is the Simpson Desert like dunes. Welford’s sand dunes are at the Eastern reaches of the Lake Eyre sand dune system and are a very rich red colour.

Janet and Annette enjoyed taking many pictures of the small, but colourful flowers in bloom and covering the dunes, whilst the boys, being boys, tumbled down the dunes countless times, so much so that TomO needed to be upturned to shake the sand from his clothes before he could be let back in ‘The Landy’.

In fact, we took a picture of TomO stretched out on a tree branch on the Barcoo River in 2004 and it featured on our Christmas Card that year...well we couldn't resist taking another one on this trip at exactly the same spot.

Now for those of you who have never visited Jundah all I can say is don’t be shy, this is a tidy town that has a pub, and wonderful host, Monique, who offers good honest meals at a very reasonable price, and basic, but clean accommodation; the beer is cold and served by Irish backpackers.

Too be honest, I doubt we will ever camp at Welford National Park ever again, knowing there is such a friendly place just down the road!

‘The Landy’ took a leisurely drive arriving in Longreach around lunch-time, but not before a fleeting visit to Stonehenge along the way. In fact. Stonhenge has had a couple of distinguished visitors over the past week, the first being the Governor General, Quentin Bryce, last Saturday to open a community centre, and ‘The Landy’s visit today……

The boys had been anticipating the visit to the Stockman’s Hall of Fame, and so were the adults, so we wasted little time and headed straight there. I won’t go in to any great detail about the museum here as it wouldn’t do it justice, however don’t miss the opportunity to visit if in the area.

One interesting feature on the Longreach skyline is the tail of a Qantas 747 Jumbo Jet which is parked at the Qantas Museum on the airport compound…but more about that later.......

Today, Friday 2 July, has been very cold, at least for this part of the world, with the temperature checking in at around 14 degrees celcius at mid-day.

Our visit to the Qantas Museum was the highlight of our unplanned stay in Longreach, and given there are three pilots amongst us, Janet, Bob, and myself, who’d be surprised. In fact, Janet and I visited this museum in 1997, flying to the town in our Piper Arrow whilst on an extended flying trip to the Gulf Savannah; yes the Gulf Savannah has figured in many of our trips!

We spent a couple of hours looking over the static displays before taking a tour of the Qantas 747-200 aircraft, along with a Boeing 707, the first jet aircraft operated by Qantas.

After a late lunch along the banks of the Thomson River, just outside of town, we headed towards Winton, arriving in time to see a team of drovers moving their cattle towards the centre of town as part of a cattle festival.

Our stay in Winton was brief as it was not on our original itinerary. However, there are a couple of things worth recording. During the 1860s a number of explorers passed through the region whilst in search of the ill-fated Burke and Wills expedition and Winton was originally named Pelican Waterhole, but later renamed Winton in 1879.

Banjo Paterson penned ‘Waltzing Matilda’ at Dagworth Station, not far from town and it is suggested it was first performed at the North Gregory Hotel in the town’s main street.
Another Winton character worthy of mention is James Francis ‘Gidge’ Taylor, the town crier. ‘Gidge’ was given a retainer by Bill Evert of the open air picture show ‘The Royal’ to announce attractions of the night and it is said his imaginative description of the Picture was entertainment in itself.

And in 1962 a large dinosaur fossil find at a nearby property focused world attention on the region and we will learn more of this when we visit Lark Quarry, the scene of the only known dinosaur stampede in the world.

And with improving weather, we have turned towards Diamantina National Park travelling via Lark Quarry Conservation area. We spent an interesting two hours looking over the site which is done as a guided tour and is housed in a special building. And as our guide, Bill, pointed out, today’s stark red earth and spinifex-studded landscape is in stark contrast to the landscape when the dinosaurs roamed and lived in the area which was then lush and green.

Leaving Lark Quarry behind our track to Diamantina National Park took us past the site of the ‘Old Cork Ruins which are situated at Cork Waterhole on the Diamantina River. The property was one of the first established in the region and was acquired in 1875 by the South Australian Premier, Thomas McIlwraith, and business partner, John Smyth. Unoccupied since 1960 the homestead, constructed of local sandstone, and timber from south-east Queensland, has fallen into a derelict state and work is underway to restore what is recognsied as a place of great historic value.

On the way into the park from the north-east we stopped at the Mayne Hotel ruins, an oasis that provided refreshments and lodgings for the many travelers to the region. It was a fairly substantial place in its hey-day and even had its own horse races. Today, there are just a few rotting timbers and remains of the old cellar and a graveyard with a number of headstones that date as far back as 1889.

Closing your eyes and immersing yourself in the moment you could almost hear the sounds of laughter, children playing and horses racing all from an era long gone. And not far away the flat topped jump-ups of the Mayne Range, with its weathered sandstone escarpments, look down on a land that has been here for a million years, and will still be here long after the sounds of laughter have faded on the wind.

Diamantina National Park, like many, was originally a pastoral holding prior to becoming a National Park. It features are many, from floodplains, sandstone ranges, wide open plains covered in Mitchell grass to red sand dunes. It is little wonder that the park holds a fascination for many people, including ourselves.

The Diamantina River is an important part of the Channel Country, a vast expanse of the Queensland Outback that has spawned more yarns and tall stories than just about any other part of Australia. The area has been associated with Australian pioneering families including, the Kidman’s, Costello’s, and Durack’s. A stock-route runs through the National Park and it isn’t uncommon to see a droving plant in the region. And in fact we passed one on the northern boundary that was moving a large number of cattle towards Davenport Station to the south. This was quite exciting for the boys who had spent considerable time learning about droving and drovers on our visit to the Stockman’s Hall of Fame only a couple of days ago.

The term Diamantina Lakes is a little misleading as there are no lakes within the park, just a series of waterholes and channels formed from the main Diamantina River. The waterholes are a bird lover’s delight with many examples of Australia’s diverse birdlife evident. And for those lucky enough it is possible that a Bilby, which inhabit the region in small numbers, may dart across your path.

The park is also the habitat of the inland taipan or fierce snake as it is often known, along with the letter-wing kite and grass owl, all of whom are predators of a native long-haired rate whose numbers explode following good rains or floods.

The Kirrenderri people are the traditional landowners of the area and have lived here for thousands of years, calling the land ‘Kurrawoolkani’. The park has a rich aboriginal history and is also the traditional land of the Maiawali people.

For visitors there are two camping options, Hunters Gorge campground is on Mundwerra Waterhole, a channel of the Diamantina River. The other is Gumhole campground which is situated about 11 kilometres from Hunters Gorge. We made our camp at Gumhole as we found this the more pleasant of the two on a previous visit.

And after setting camp we drank a toast to the setting sun and enjoyed a camp oven stew with lots of damper to soak it up!

Our first day in camp has been restful, and a welcome change to the recent driving. The boys swam in the waterhole, the ‘whistling kites’ flew overhead watching us closely and we had a birthday cake, expertly baked in the camp oven by Janet and Annette, for David who became a teenager yesterday. And we feasted on another roast lamb dinner and apple crumble expertly cooked in the camp oven by none other than Janet and Annette once again.

After another pleasant evening we took the time to visit some other areas of the park today and one beautiful spot not to be missed is Janet’s leap, which looks down on the Diamantina River as it winds its way through the parched country-side. We had a brief stop at Hunters Gorge where there were a number of campers before heading out towards Lake Constance on the Warracoota Circuit Drive. The road had a closed sign on it so we checked with one of the Ranger’s, Shorty, who said it would be okay to drive to Lake Constance, but was unsure how far we would get beyond that point. As it turned out ‘The Landy’ did the whole circuit while Bob and Annette brought the boys back to camp for a swim.

The Warracoota Circuit drive takes you through a number of different land forms, including red dunes, gibber plains, and claypans, along with differing vegetation and wildlife. We took the opportunity to have lunch beside Lake Constance, which had plenty of water in it and would be a pleasant place to spend a few days.

Continuing on the circuit drive ‘The Landy’ stopped at Warracoota Waterhole, a deep, long and narrow waterhole that is a special place for the Maiawali and Karuwali, as it has never been known to run dry. Conflict often arose between Indigenous people and stockmen over competing needs to use the area. Stockyards are located nearby.

Our track took us to the ‘Ruins’ before reversing direction and heading back towards the Boulia Road passing Green Tank Waterhole along the way. The ‘Ruins’ is just as it suggests and to this day little is known about their origins or occupants. They are thought to have been a settler outpost as there are stockyards nearby, however there are no records that confirm this.

Returning to camp we were greeted with a hot cup of tea, just the thing before settling in and maybe downing a beer, or two later!

Tomorrow we continue our journey north.

The Campers curse, rain, struck in the middle of the night, and whilst not particularly hard it was continuous, and meant we would be packing up wet tents. The weather had been forecast to deteriorate so we had packed away most of our camp after dinner last night and we were ready for an early start in any case.

Well we certainly left in time as the rain continued all the way to Boulia and the road was fast becoming sticky, slippery, but still passable. As it turns out Diamantina National Park was closed after we left due to the risk of flooding and impassable roads; all remaining visitors were escorted to the park boundaries by the Rangers.

We have elected to stay in Boulia rather than continue on our planned route to Dajarra. And our onward route to Camooweal will now be on the ‘blacktop’ via Mount Isa, rather than the dirt via Urandangi. A little disappointing, however many roads have now been closed and having travelled that way previously it is not a place to be in the wet!

Boulia is located about 300 kilometres south of Mount Isa and the town’ fame rests on the Min Min Light, a strange light that appears and disappears and takes the shape of a luminated ball. No-one has been able to explain the phenomenon. Burke and Wills were the first Europeans to visit the area and the town was established around 1876 on the Bullu Bullu Waterhole of the Burke River.

So our own encounter with the town was not lost as we took in the Min Min Encounter display, along with a visit to the ‘Stone House’.

Our drive to Camooweal via Mount Isa was done under cloudy skies with constant drizzle and with many roads in the area remaining closed travel on the ‘dirt’ was not an option for us. Originally we had intended to travel to Camooweal via Urandangi, tracking parallel to the Queensland and Northern Territory border along the Barkly Tableland. However, the rain did little to dampen the enthusiasm for the touring crew and we made the most of the day.

We stopped at Dajarra Road house for morning tea.Dajarra was once the largest trucking depot in the world and some will tell you that in its hey-day it trucked more cattle than Texas in the United States. Drovers would bring the cattle from as far away as Western Australia and the Northern Territory to put them on the train at Dajarra. Bidding farewell to the small community ‘The Landy’ settled in to the drive along the blacktop. Our stop in ‘The Isa’ was limited to purchasing some fruit and vegetables for the next week in the Gulf and after a lunch stop we were on our way.

TomO, who is always eager to learn about all things military, was excited when he noticed a World War Two site along the Mount Isa to Camooweal Road. The monument was a dedication to those who constructed the road which formed part of the Inland Defence Road System. In 1940 as the war moved to the Pacific Region the defence of Northern Australia became an urgent issue. Prior to 1940 the road was merely a track which ran close to the Telegraph Line erected in 1897 and which meandered from waterhole to waterhole. After construction in 1941 the road was carrying as many as 1,000 vehicles per day.

The nearby rest area has been built on land provided by the ‘Kalkadoon’ People whose land the road traverses, and who were part of the workforce that constructed the road.

Leaving an overcast Camooweal behind ‘The Landy’ travelled north along the dirt road to Lawn Hill National Park, stopping for morning tea along the road, and ‘indulging’ ourselves with a refreshing swim at O’Shannesy River, in fact it was so good we lingered for a couple of hours, especially as we were back under ‘blue skies’. We passed Riversleigh fossil deposits near the southern boundary of the park before arriving at Adel’s Grove, a camping area not far from the National Park.

Fossils in the Riversleigh area date back as far as 25 million years and have been preserved in the limestone outcrops that dot the area. The area was once a lush rainforest with many lakes and rivers and when the skeletons of dead animals came in contact with the water they were coated in the limestone infused mud and preserved.

Boodjamulla as it is known by the Traditional Owners, the Waanyi Aboriginal People, or Lawn Hill as it is more commonly called is situated in the remote north-west region of Queensland and takes in Lawn Hill Gorge and includes the Riversleigh area. The gorge, nestled in the Constance Range, is fed by a number of freshwater springs, abounds in wildlife and vegetation and could only be described as an oasis in a scorched and barren land.

Apart from the opportunity to kayak, and swim in the gorge with the freshies’, yes freshwater crocodiles, there are many walks that you can do, some quite short, and others which are longer. As ‘The Landy’ progressed towards the park there was an air of excitement at the prospect of spending a few days undertaking all of these activities.

Janet passed the drive time by reviewing the birdlife in the park including the purple crowned fairy-wren, the parks emblem, which is often found among the pandanus plants. Finches are also a favourite of ours and one we were looking forward to seeing is the crimson finch, and of course the many different lorikeets and parrots. On our last visit to the park in 2004 we were taken in by the Ta-Ta lizard, a small dragon that frantically waves its leg, and hence its name. On that particular visit, TomO, who was then 4 years old, made friends with an Arafura File snake when swimming in the Gorge and discussion centered on whether there would be another encounter.

The boys were simply excited at the prospect of swimming and sunshine, and Bob and Annette were looking forward to visiting the park having had it recounted to them on many occasions from others, often ourselves, who had travelled to the area previously.

Boodjamulla, the Rainbow Serpent formed the Lawn Hill Gorge and surrounding area, according to the Wannyi People and Aboriginal occupation of the area dates back at least 17,000 years, but some suggest that it could be as far back as 30,000 years.

Pastoral activities also took place in the Gulf region from the mid 1800’s and Lawn Hill Riversleigh Pastoral Holding Company had a number of graziers as leaseholders of the land until a famous cattle king from Brazil, Sebastiao Maia arrived in 1976 and took over the lease. Today, The Wannyi People own 50 percent of the Company.

Adel’s Grove is situated adjacent to the park’s boundary and was originally gazetted in 1904 as a Miners Homestead Lease according to the information provided. In 1920 Albert de Lestang took up the property as an experimental Botanical Garden, and in fact our campsite is situated in the old Botanical Garden. Albert supplied many Botanical Gardens around the world with the seeds of the over 1,000 species of plants he produced in his nursery. Tragically, in the early 1950s fire destroyed the grove, Albert’s dwelling, and all his research papers.

Janet and I first visited Adel’s Grove in 1997 when we flew our Piper Arrow aircraft into the property’s airstrip on a day visit from Burketown to the north, and of course in 2004 with a very inquisitive 4 year old. The little 4 year old is now 6 years older and he wasted little time in heading for the creek for a swim after we finished setting up camp in the ‘Grove’. I must say that I wasn’t far behind him, and after another very refreshing swim we settled in around the campfire for dinner and a chat.

This morning the bigger boys headed off for a walk, while they ‘boys’ headed for the creek to swim, and the mother’s watched on. Our walk was within the Lawn Hill National Park area and took us up a steep hill and onto a plateau that had commanding views of the Gorge itself and the surrounding area. There are many other walks that can be undertaken and we will be doing so over the next few days……

The camp fire beckons, and Janet is about to make scones in the camp oven………….

Our second full day in Lawn Hill was mostly spent in the Gorge, canoeing and swimming, and yes, with the ‘Freshies’. TomO managed to great a great photo of one sunning itself just near Indarra Falls, in fact this specimen is about as big as they normally grow at around two metres. We had intended to undertake a couple of the walks, but we spent far too much time swimming and having fun to bother with a walk!

We even had the chance to speak with another couple who were ‘caretaking’ at King Fisher Camp in 2006. It was all good and whilst we don’t to wish away our holiday time, we are certainly looking forward to our visit in a couple of days-time.

At the Gorge, just near the Rangers Station, is dedication to Senior Police Constable Alfred Wavell. Alfred Wavell was shot and killed by a horse thief, Joe Flick, on 27 October 1889 whilst endeavouring to apprehend him at Lawn Hill. The plague was placed on the 100th anniversary of his death on 27 October 1989.

After return to camp for a lunch and a snooze ‘The Landy’ needed some attention and a tyre repair needed to be done. Turns out a couple of pieces of wire had penetrated and created a small leak.

For those who have never visited this part of the world I’d suggest you put it on your list of places to visit. Those who have visited will understand what I mean. There are visitors from all parts of Australia, driving and towing all kinds of vehicles, caravans, and camper trailers. And many visitors fly-in in private aircraft and we have noted many aircraft arrivals (as we would!) in the short time we have been here.

But, I just heard Bob cracking the top off a can of Fourex Gold; best I don’t let it go hot…..Cheers!

Today we headed off early to visit the Riversleigh Fossil Site, and to give the vehicle batteries a much needed charge. As it turns ‘The Landy’s auxiliary battery, which is a deep cycle battery, would not take a charge, and admittedly it had been stretched to its limits over the past few days with very little charging. The solution was to replace it and take a mental note to install a battery monitoring device on our return home.

Bob and Annette continued on to Lawn Hill Gorge to do a couple of walks, and TomO joined them and the boys, while Janet spent the time reading.

The popular place to be in the afternoon was Lawn Hill Creek for a swim, which is only a few metres from our campsite; the boys spent their time jumping into the creek from a tree, while the adults lazed around on rubber tubes….

This is our last night at Adel’s Grove and tomorrow morning we will head to King Fisher camp.

King Fisher has been high on the places to visit list for ‘The Landy’ for quite some time. Being a fan of the writings of Kerry McGinnis I have been eager to visit this spot as it is located within the boundaries of Bowthorn Station, which, until recently, was the home of Kerry, and until her recent passing, Kerry’s sister Judith.

Camping at King Fisher is along a waterhole located on the Nicholson River….Hopefully I will be able to update you on our adventures at King Fisher camp in a few days-time when we arrive in Normanton.

Our drive to King Fisher camp was most enjoyable and along a dirt road of varying condition. At times it was quite rough, other times reasonably smooth, and it wouldn’t be an outback track if it didn’t have its share of the notorious ‘bull-dust’. Leaving Lawn Hill behind it wasn’t long before we arrived at our first river crossing on Lawn Hill Station; Bob walked it and it was only knee deep in places. However, we elected to put a canvas blind on the vehicles and off we went. And we were fortunate to observe a purple crowned wren at this spot.

The landscape changed as we progressed towards our destination, and the countryside near Edith Ranges was very spectacular; long grassy plains that stretched towards the horizon, the range, and undoubtedly beyond.

Curiously, we came across a small hill that had a white cross on top of it, at first I thought it might have been a trig point, but I’m not sure and a mental note has been made to research this further.

Janet and Annette were very excited at seeing what appeared to be Grevillea Trees with flowers of varying colours. Janet took the opportunity to photograph the many different floras along the way. And the wattle was very spectacular.

The larger water crossing was at Elizabeth Creek, and we took the opportunity to have lunch while ‘The Landy’ and ‘Bob’s Beast’ cooled down. The crossing was quite straight-forward, but impressive, with the vehicles pushing a solid bow wave as they forded the creek.

I could not miss a photo opportunity for ‘The Landy’ at the boundary of Bowthorn Station, the home of Kerry McGinnis up until 2005, at which time she moved to the Wide Bay/Burnett area of Queensland. As I mentioned previously, Kerry is the author of a number of books, and I commend them to anyone who as an interest in the Australian Outback, and life on the ‘track’ as part of a Droving Plant.

We were greeted to a very pleasant camp site at King Fisher, and yes they are very grassy (watered lawn grassy!) and with only a few other visitors, a quiet spot. Our hosts Janelle and Dennis greeted us with great enthusiasm and are clearly proud of Kingfisher Camp. After establishing our camp we set the yabbie traps and tossed them into the Nicholson River, which is at least 100-150 metres wide near our camp. It looks very enticing for a swim and whilst there is no specific mention, or otherwise, of the presence of ‘salties’ or estuarine crocodiles, I have a healthy respect for the waterways of Far North Queensland having grown up in Townsville, and with the flooding in this region over the past few months I must say I would prefer to be an observer from the River Bank (so will TomO!). But I stress this is a personal choice and it may well be quite okay to swim.

The ‘boys’ set the fire tonight so we have allowed them to light it, and they have done a reasonable job as it is well on its way to providing us with some very good coals on which we will cook a roast lamb in the camp oven, and if we are lucky Janet might do an apple crumble, also in the camp oven, for dessert. The pressure is on the ‘older boys’ to produce some yabbies as an entrée and they say if you hang around the banks of the river, a cold beer in hand, the chances increase, so with that in mind………..cheers!

Our first full day at Kingfisher was spent lazing around on the banks of the Nicholson River, wiling away the time and seeing how many different birds we could identify. The Gouldian Finch has proved to be elusive so far and with the amount of rain over the past few months, and the pooled water it is unlikely we will see them on this visit, but we live in hope.

And whilst we are on the subject on being elusive this has also been the case for the yabbies; ‘red claw as they are more commonly known in the Gulf Savannah. So with beer in hand I’m off to place the traps, and whether I catch one or not what a great way to watch the sun settle below the horizon in the Gulf Savannah!

This morning we headed off up the river in a ‘tinnie’ to have a look at the Gorge and spend a pleasant few hours in the shade by the water enjoying a morning tea. We spotted a small ‘freshie’ lazing in the water nearby and numerous birds flying through the trees. The run up the river took just under 30 minutes before we reached a point beyond which we could not progress.

I elected to walk back to camp to enable a better opportunity to observe the birdlife along the way and I was fortunate to observe one of the largest ‘freshies’ I have seen. I was also rewarded with a sighting of a Purple Crowned Wren, but no Gouldian Finch. Janet baked some wonderful scones in the camp oven for afternoon tea, and these were coated with Rosella Jelly which she purchased locally.

And as the sunsets on our last day here our stay at Kingfisher has whetted our appetite for a future visit, hopefully in the not too distant future.

If there was a place to linger longer, than surely Kingfisher Camp would be the place to do it, however it was time for ‘The Landy’ to move on and after packing up, a quick breakfast, and a stop to thank our hosts, Janelle and Dennis, we headed for Normanton the home of the ‘Gulflander’. In fact, it seems Normanton is the home to many things, but more on that later.

Our drive to the North from Kingfisher was largely uneventful and along a recently graded road that brought you to the Savannah Highway just west of Doomadgee. For those who don’t want to undertake a river crossing at Elizabeth Creek this would be the best way in to Kingfisher, however I could never deny ‘The Landy’ such an opportunity and so for us future arrivals at Kingfisher will always be from the South!

We stopped at Burke and Wills Camp 119 on the way in to Normanton, and no doubt I will be corrected if wrong, but my understanding is this was the Northern-most camp of their ill-fated expedition in 1860/1861.

Now I did mention that Normanton is infamous for many things and one is a life-size replica of the largest recorded capture of a salt water crocodile in the world. The crocodile was shot in 1957 on the Norman River not far from Normanton; measured in at 28 foot & 4 inches and weighed over two tons – Good luck if you ever happen to meet one of these blokes out on the water….

And it seems one of the other things Normanton is famous for is the ‘Purple Pub’ and that is where we are headed for dinner!

One place you shouldn’t miss visiting if passing through Normanton is the Railway Station, home of the Gulflander. The station was constructed in 1889 and its Victorian Architecture is contrasted by the landscape and red earth of the Gulf Savannah. The Gulflander still runs between Normanton and Croydon once a week, and on other days does ‘Billy Tea’ trips to a camp not too far from Normanton. It even requires a ‘crank’ to get it started! Annette took ‘the boys’ for the run out to Critter’s Camp for the morning, something they enjoyed enormously.

After bidding farewell to Normanton we headed towards Croydon which had its start in 1885 following the discovery gold. One could write volumes on this town and its characters and as ‘The Landy’ travelled along the Savannah Way I was recounting a previous trip to the town in 2004. The gold-rush has long past, but in its wake is a lot of history which has been painstakingly preserved for future generations to view and enjoy. A new information centre, opened in 2009, is full of historic information and has an informative 20 minute movie that details the history of the town, the gold rush, and pastoral activities.

It is said that up to 15,000 people passed through the town between 1885 and 1927, and the area produced 760,000 ounces of gold before its demise after the gold rush ended and most moved on. In its heyday the town boasted numerous factories, foundries, and schools, produced 4 newspapers and apparently had 36 hotels. And as you could imagine with that many ‘pubs’ the local constabulary were kept very busy.

We lunched beside Lake Belmore, a man-made lake which is approximately 4 kilometres from town, before setting up our camp and taking a look around the historic buildings in the main street.

Of the 36 hotels only one remains, and that is the Club Hotel which has kept its original ‘flavour’. I commend all who take the time to visit the historic buildings that they leave the ‘Club’ to last so you can quench your thirst with an ice cold beer, or two, whilst drinking a toast to those hopeful miners and their families who flocked to Croydon in search of their riches!

Tomorrow we head towards Georgetown and Cobbald Gorge.

After a leisurely start to the day ‘The Landy’ was pointed towards Georgetown, and then south towards Cobbald Gorge. Cobbald Gorge is located on Robin Hood Station, a large cattle property of some 1,300 square kilometres that has a history that dates to gold rush days of past.

Our route to Cobbald Gorge took us via Forsayth,or New Charlestown, as it was originally named.Forsayth had its origin based on the discovery of gold in the region in the late Nineteenth Century, and on the establishment of the Etheridge rail line that was built to exploit gold in the region. Today the rail line carries tourists from Cairns on ‘The Savannahlander’ a four day rail journey that takes in Aladen, Chillagoe, Georgetown, and Forsayth.

The attraction for us is the Gorge which is accessible only by flat bottom boat on tours conducted by our hosts, the Terry family. The gorge is about 6 kilometres long and consists of a series of small waterholes which are fed by several springs that keep the water level fairly constant throughout the year.

Today was spent visiting the Gorge and learning more about the area that Robin Hood Station occupies. The boat trip up the gorge was fantastic, and enabled us to view numerous wildlife, including freshwater crocodiles and many different and colourful, birds.

Of particular interest was the story of John Corbett, whose grave is located on Robin Hood, and which we visited. John and his brother Patrick were from Ireland and migrated to Australia in 1854. The story evolves, and eventually John and Patrick commenced carrying supplies from Townsville to the Goldfields around the Palmer River, and later, the Gilbert River region when gold was discovered there. The brother’s prospered from their ventures, however bad luck was to befall John, who was killed by hostile aboriginals in 1871 whilst travelling to Gilberton. At this time the ‘blacks’ had become quite hostile in the region and many ‘whites’ were being killed, and eventually the town of Gilberton was abandoned, apparently the only town to be abandoned in Australia due to hostile aboriginals.

The John Corbett story is a fascinating one and provides an insight in to life for those who were associated with the gold rush days in Northern Queensland. His story has encouraged us to travel to Charters Towers, via Gilberton, to hopefully give us a sense of what it might have been like travelling the region 150 years ago. Apparently there is very little left other than the ‘Old Fort’, which was built as protection from the local aboriginals.

Today’s drive to Gilberton and later our destination for the day, Charters Towers, took us through the prospecting and fossicking area at Agate Creek. The drive is very pleasant as the dirt road meanders around various hills, and through gullies and I think this is a route I travelled as a 9 year old with family friends many years ago.

On Ortona Station, a property you pass through along this route was a plaque erected in commemoration of the ‘Teamsters’ who travelled the Ortona-Forsayth road and Percyville area in the period spanning 1869 to 1930. The commemoration was erected by The Hoolihan family.

It took ‘The Landy’ approximately 2 ½ hours to cover the 80 kilometres to Gilberton which included a couple of stops along the way. We spoke with Lynn from Gilberton Station who gave us some directions to the ‘old fort’, which she has been restoring, after we told her we were looking for Gilberton. Lynn did quip that we were about 140 years too late, but was very helpful. To reach the fort we crossed the Gilbert River causeway and just prior to the crossing was a Date Palm which was the location of John Corbett’s store. Lynn mentioned the Date Palm still bears edible fruit, some 140 years later. There were a number of prospectors’ and fossickers’ camped in the area.

As we lunched at the fort our thoughts turned to those who lived and worked in the area; the indigenous aborigines; the Chinese workers, and what life was like for all in this remote area.

Our onward journey to ‘The Towers’ was over the Gilbert Range and via the Lynd.Charters Towers holds a special interest for Janet, whose mother was born and lived in ‘The Towers’. And tomorrow we will spend time looking at the many historic buildings in the town before pointing ‘The Landy’ homeward via Clermont.

Charters Towers seems to be one of those towns that you either know someone who ‘came’ from there; or if you ‘came’ from there you always seem to be running into someone else who ‘came’ from there. Like many other places we have visited in the past few days, ‘The Towers’ has a history steeped in the discovery of gold. In 1872 two prospectors and an aboriginal assistant discovered gold whilst looking for their packhorse that was spooked during a sudden summer storm. The rest is history and their discovery sparked a ‘gold rush’ that continues today. Most of the ground underneath the town has been, and continues to be, worked for gold. In its heyday the town boasted over forty goldmines.

Naturally business and commerce followed the discovery of gold and the town even had its own stock exchange, eight banks and five newspapers. The town also played an important role during World War Two with many air force, and army camps centered on the region. In fact, the Mott family home (Janet’s Grandparents) was requisitioned by the US Army to be used as an Officers’ Club/Mess during this time. The home has been painstakingly restored by one of the town’s local business owners and today is used as a private residence.

You could spend many weeks in the Charters Towers region and still not have enough time to sift through all it has to offer. But something not to be missed is the Miners Cottage situated just off the main street. The Cottage is a typical example of housing in ‘The Towers’ during the late nineteenth century. We spent quite some time looking over an extensive collection of mining paraphernalia and we were fortunate to meet Tony, one of the characters associated with the Cottage, and who gave us quite a rendition of various Australian classic songs on his piano accordion. The ‘boys’ were able to purchase a small bag of ‘dirt’ which they worked with a gold pan and were rewarded with a couple of small nuggets for their trouble…just to give them a taste of prospecting!

Unfortunately we didn’t have ‘weeks’ to spare so reluctantly we headed south through the Central Queensland coalfields to the town of Emerald; tomorrow, Surat……….geez, it’s getting cold again!

Continuing our drive south we headed for Surat, passing through the townships of Injune, and Roma, and shadowed by the impressive Carnarvon Ranges and of course the world acclaimed Carnarvon National Park. As tempting as it was, we didn’t visit Carnarvon National Park on this visit, however we were impressed when we last toured this region and all vowed to return soon.

Surat is situated just to the south of Roma, and is a great overnight alternative to the ‘big smoke’ of Roma. Clearly there is a lot of civic pride present in Surat judging by the way the town presents itself, and it is proud of its association with Cobb & Co. In days long past it was a Cobb & Co staging post and on 14 August 1924 Fred ‘Tommy’ Thompson took the reins for the last time to drive Cobb & Co Coach 141 for the final service the company conducted on the 47 miles run between Surat and Yuleba.

Tomorrow will be our last night on tour and this will be spent at Moree, but not before calling in to a favourite place of ours, the Nindigully Pub! The pub is Queensland's oldest hotel located in its original condition and position on the banks of the Moonie River. The license was issued in 1864 after operating as shearer's accommodation for the Nindigully Station. From the late 1800s the Nindigully Pub was a Cobb and Co coach change over station.

And what a treasure the Nindigully Pub is! We stopped for lunch, but not before spending the morning in Surat looking through the Cobb & Co centre and museum.

Tomorrow we point ‘The Landy’ homeward to Sydney. There have been many highlights and
without doubt, in the years ahead, they will be recounted as though it was only yesterday we packed ourselves inside ‘The Landy’ and made the journey…

Cheers, Baz ‘The Landy’


As a footnote… “The Landy” came about as a consequence of owning three Land Rover Defenders, but as you can see this has now changed and yes, thank you, I've recovered fully!

And whilst I'm reluctant to refer to the new vehicle as “The Landy” that’s for sure; the owners’ of either brand would never forgive me!

But “The Landy” reference has stuck, so “The Landy” it is…

Cheers, Baz – The Landy



“Those who don’t think
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