Exploring Queensland, July 2006. Part 5A. Tennant Creek to Adels Grove.

Monday, Oct 09, 2006 at 23:31

Member - John and Val

It’s the 1st of July and time to head east into Queensland. After a cool night requiring our doonas the day started gently. We cooked a leisurely breakfast over the campfire – bacon eggs and toast is something we do only occasionally, so it’s really a treat when it happens. While we waited for the last few bits of washing to dry we were amused and entertained by the antics of a little grey fantail. We were clearly in his territory and he wanted us out. He was both fearless and persistent in his efforts to evict us.

So about 10am we were on the road but our progress was slow as brilliant patches of wildflowers required closer inspection. The red holly leaf grevilleas were putting on a stunning display, along with wattles and bloodwoods. A bit further east we were intrigued by many termite mounds – small spiky ones and big rounded ones 2 or 3 metres high. There was a lot of tourist traffic and quite a few road trains, and waving as you pass is de rigeur, at least among the 4WD and camper trailer set. Caravanners and sedans are less enthusiastic wavers it would seem. We called into Barkly Roadhouse to give Troopy a drink and make a couple of phone calls.

By mid afternoon we started looking for a campsite for the night. The country here is very open, mostly grassland, although there are not many cattle to be seen. Eventually we came into Camooweal and turned south just before entering the town to find Lake Francis, big waterholes and great open areas for camping. Back along the road someone had told us about this spot. There were lots of waterlilies and birds, and the colours at sunset were beautiful. By going a bit further along the track there was plenty of space, and we were able to find enough wood for a small campfire and BBQ to round off the day.

During the night we heard pigs, and later next morning we saw a number of them across the water. We decided to stay here for another day as there is so much to see. There were brolgas dancing nearby and on the water were spoonbills, egrets, pelicans and darters. A number of whistling kites patrolled above.

Nearby were camped mother and daughter from Victoria, Raelene and Simone. Simone is on her way to a job in Alice Springs, driving her Troopy that she has had for just 3 weeks. Raelene is along for the ride, so we had a good chat about Troopies and travelling.

The next day we bought a few groceries and fuel in Camooweal before setting out towards Lawn Hill. We wanted to ask the local police about road conditions, but no-one was in at the police station. From VKS we had heard that the road into Adels Grove required 4WD with extreme caution, so we were keen to get advice from the locals, but it was not to be. So we headed east towards Mt Isa for about 70km before turning north onto the Bourketown road. This road, contrary to information on our Hema map, was sealed all the way to the junction with the Camooweal Road. Further north there were some corrugations but lower tyre pressures smoothed out the ride.

There are a lot of floodways and the road winds around quite a bit but otherwise it’s an easy drive through country that is slowly changing to have a more hilly lush, tropical appearance. We turned off towards Riversleigh and found a camp for the night beside the O’Shannassy River. This river is crossed by a causeway, as is the Gregory River a few kilometres further on. However there were no suitable campsites at the Gregory River so we backtracked to the O’Shannassy where we could at least hear, if not see, the water running over rocks. There are big deep pools a little further along the river, which is lined with Pandanus and overhung by big paperbarks and river red gums, all very pretty. We contemplated having a dip but our enthusiasm waned when we spotted a large snake swimming in the water. So with plenty of water available we had a luxurious shower and settled in for a relaxed evening in the warmest weather we have had so far.

We had the campsite to ourselves that night although we heard a few vehicles going past. Not far from our camp we came to the Riversleigh fossil site where we stopped to have a good look around. There were displays in a building cleverly designed to blend into the landscape, and a clearly marked walk around the site. It was easy to spot fossils in the rocks and this was helped by some explanatory signage. The whole landscape here is ancient limestone, but the more recent limestone that bears the famous mammalian fossils is fairly localised in extent.

From Riversleigh we were now on the road that we had been warned was in poor condition, but in fact it was in quite good condition despite having some sharp bends and being hilly here and there. There were now a lot of big termite mounds to add to the scenery. In our usual way we explored a few side tracks and were rewarded by creeks lined with Pandanus and pretty little cascades formed by tufa (limestone) formations.

We arrived at Adels Grove about lunchtime and found the reception to be very friendly and helpful. We found a site then headed off to Lawn Hill along 10km of rather corrugated road. There we did some short walks around the end of the gorge admiring the brilliant red cliffs, the big figs and paperbark trees and the turquoise coloured water with a calcium carbonate scum on the surface. The canoe hire was very busy and the attendant suggested that it would be better in a day or two after the school holiday rush had eased. So with that knowledge we headed back to Adels Grove for a hot shower from the donkey boiler.

The next day we had a lazy day around camp while we waited for the rush on canoes to ease. We did some washing – by hand as there are no washing machines. We explored along the creek and had a swim. The water was rather cool but very refreshing as the day was warm. At dusk we were delighted to hear the strange sounds – hardly a proper laugh to our southern ears - of some northern Kookaburras resplendent in their blue plumage. After dinner our neighbours Wendy and John from Melbourne joined us around the fire where we had fun swapping travellers tales.


Tomorrow we will go canoeing up the Lawn Hill gorge.
J and V
"Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted."
- Albert Einstein
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