Carnarvon, Kingfisher and Lawn Hill

Wednesday, Jul 24, 2013 at 00:00

Member - Min (NSW)

Carnarvon, Kingfisher and Lawn Hill July 2013

26 June Wed: Home to Gilgandra
Left at 9.30 in fine weather. Travelled via the beautiful countryside of the Lachlan Valley Way to Canowindra where we had lunch in the park. Then on to Molong and Wellington, where we had coffee at Maccas, Dubbo and finally to the Orana Windmill Motel Gilgandra. The motel is very good, small but very clean and plenty of space for the trailer. And no traffic noise. $89 seniors. Walked to Services Club for dinner, the usual fare. It is our practice to stay in motels for the first couple of nights especially when the weather is cold.

Came back to find Julia Gillard overthrown by Kevin Rudd as Prime Minister. So pleased that we won’t be seeing TV or newspapers for some time.

27 June Thurs: Gilgandra to Dirranbandi
St George was booked out so opted for Dirranbandi Motor Inn via Coonamble (good IGA just north of town) and Walgett. Couldn’t find anything decent to eat there so had crackers and mandarins and went into Lightning Ridge for delicious soup.

The motel was comfortable with large room and bathroom. We had dinner at the motel restaurant where the menu was a bit better than pubs and clubs. We were the only customers. Poor internet connection.

We were woken at 5.30 by a truck starting up across the road. Of course the motor was left running for half an hour before moving off. The motel is on a corner and not a good choice for a quiet night’s sleep.

28 June Fri: Dirranbandi to Carnarvon Gorge
The drive today was far more interesting and pleasant than yesterday. The weather was fine and mostly sunny.

Stopped in Roma for fuel and fresh fruit and veges – what a pain, had to park far from Woolies so I waited at the parcel pickup while John went back for the car. Needed a tap for the water tank, got 2 then tried to get fuel. Pandemonium reined at Woolies servo so gave up and went to Maccas for a wrap (no parking anywhere else). Couldn’t make head nor tail of what the kid was asking me – “Crispy or seared (aka fried or grilled), snack or meal (aka small or large)” and so it went on, and on… We ended up with a mouthful, obviously ‘snack’, of something reasonable and headed back to the servo which had calmed down somewhat but was still a madhouse. Still hungry we couldn’t get out of the place fast enough. Mandarins on the road again.

There was a huge amount of roadwork between Roma and the Carnarvon Gorge turnoff which made the journey very long. The drive in was lovely and the road much improved since our last visit. Takarakka is big and being school holidays is quite busy but not full. It is $45 pn for a powered site. As the NP sites were booked out we decided to have the luxury of being warm.

Our neighbours invited us for dinner as they were cooking a large piece of corned beef. We were able to make some contributions including a bottle of wine which went down well as they had run out. It was a very pleasant evening.

And so to bed, the first night in the camper for a year.

29 June Sat: Slept well. Didn’t want to get up so got moving a bit late. Drove down to NP for a walk along the main track. It no longer runs close by the creek but is up higher so there are lots more steps than previously. We went as far as the Moss Gardens and thoroughly enjoyed it the walk and seeing different plants and many birds.

30 June Sun: Walked to Mickey Creek and took a side track to Warrumbah Gorge which was lovely with ferns growing on the walls as it narrowed. The best part is well past where the made track ends. Had lunch in the visitors area near the rangers station (unmanned), very pleasant, well grassed, lots of trees and palms, tables and chairs and gas bbqs. Walked to the Balloon Cave where there are good hand and tool stencils. Called in to the Rock Pool before calling it a day and going back to camp.

A cold front came through and brought a few spots of rain.

It has been very dark at night and as I don’t like waving a torch around when people are sleeping, have managed to get lost and tripped over getting to and from the loo which is some distance away.

1 July Mon: Carnarvon to Alpha
Left Carnarvon at 9.30 after a night that alternated between calm and windy. The drive in and out is beautiful with the great bluffs and walls of the Range being a wonderful feature. The road is mostly sealed and the part that isn’t is just a bit stony but quite good. There are a lot of cattle on the unfenced land although they seem traffic savvy.

Had lunch in Emerald and as we couldn’t get into the cv park that had been recommended at Sapphire we continued on to Alpha and are in a very simple park with clean amenities close by and a camp kitchen where we cooked dinner and ate dinner while chatting to a former truckie who displayed a good grasp of the land and how the river systems work after we started talking about floods. It made me remember some of the interesting people we had met in camp kitchens.

We are still undecided as to where we will go when. It really depends on how far we get in the next couple of days.

2 July Tue: Alpha to Winton
It seemed a long day. Stopped briefly in Barcaldine and had lunch in Longreach. Got a few things in the IGA, food is expensive. Much roadwork again today. Called ahead to book into Matilda caravan park, our third stay here. We have a very good site, plenty of room and shade.

3 July Wed: Went to Age of Dinosaurs about 22km from here. It is perched on a jump-up with great views all around. We went through the laboratory first where we saw the huge ‘parcels’ of bones which are awaiting the painstaking work of drilling away the rock from the bones with dental drills. The finds come from the land surrounding the mesa which is siltstone, unlike the finds from Riversleigh which are in limestone and can be put in a bath of acetic acid to remove the rock. After the lab we made our way back to the theatrette in the visitor centre where Boyd gave a very polished talk about three of the most famous dinosaurs, Banjo, Matilda and ?, the last one being massive. It’s a pity that no printed material is handed out as it is often handy to refer to soon after a visit to such places as it is impossible to remember or even hear all the relevant information.

4 July Thurs: Went to town today. It has been good resting for a couple of days as our bones don’t take so kindly to long days in the saddle as they used to.

5 July Fri: Winton to Burke & Wills Roadhouse
It seemed a long drive today to get to the roadhouse. We did some shopping in Cloncurry, had lunch, found a shady back street to pack away the shopping and got on our way again. Noticed that fuel was much more expensive there than at the servo near the Matilda cv park at Winton. The country was ordinary until we started seeing the jumpups around Cloncurry. Some roadworks and a lot of rebuilt roads.

The roadhouse was not a bad place to stay – less than picturesque but clean facilities if very basic, and there are meals. We were a bit surprised when the main meal came but not the one serving of soup ordered. When asked the waitress said, “Well, I’ve only got two hands.” Then out came the soup minus the bread roll but with two spoons, halfway through slices of buttered bread appeared.

6 July Sat: Burke & Wills to Kingfisher Camp
The drive to Gregory is on a good, straight road. If you use the loos at the Gregory pub take your own paper or you can buy a roll for a dollar in the bar! Fair enough. Past Gregory the road is good gravel but is essentially a mining road so 3 & 4 trailer road trains are frequent. We will not make the mistake of sitting just behind the worst of the dust in future but will leave a considerable distance because when we got to Kingfisher we had an incredible amount of dust over everything, far more than ever before. I’m sure it wasn’t all the bulldust we encountered on the way in.

We thoroughly enjoyed the trip, lovely scenery, changing track conditions, lots of beautiful stock and some interesting flora. There were many dips but only one wet crossing early on which was lengthy but not deep. I was testing the depth when two vehicles came from the other direction and saved me the trouble. A beautiful spot for lunch but we munched on mandarins and cracker biscuits again (we do eat other fruit!) as we went along. There were 14 gates to open and close between Lawn Hill station and Kingfisher.

This place is much more organised than I expected, but in the best possible way. There are flushing toilets and hot showers. Someone lights the donkey early in the mornings and afternoons. As there is a possibility of salt water crocs we will not be paddling our inflatable sit-on-top on the beautiful five kilometre waterhole. We will hire a tinny for one or two half days. The camping area is pleasantly shady and grassy.

There are two river walks, 2km return and 7km return. The birdlife is prolific and there is evidence of roos but haven’t seen any. However there is a big white bull that wanders through the camping area munching on the grass. He is not the least bit phased by the people and seems to have good night vision as he never bumps into things or gets caught in tent ropes. His munching is a different way of being lulled to sleep. The caretaker said he will have to move him far away as he is too content here and is not doing his job with the ladies. Apparently if he’s not taken some distance away he just leans on the fence until it falls over and he’s back.

7 July Sun: Very lazy, went for a couple of short walks, took some photos of plants and read the folder of info I brought with us on our forthcoming trip to Europe. Made a fire tonight just for the pleasure of it. Some people have huge fires but I always remember what Paddy Palin used to say, “The bigger the fire the bigger the fool”.

8 July Mon: Lazy again, went up to the office and had a look at the plant list and also read about the history of Bowthorn Station. The McInnes family were the first to really make a decent going concern of the place and Kerry(?) McInnes has written a book about the history “How Many Grids to Gregory” and another about the McInnes family.

9 July Tue: Mr Munchy came around last night and seemed to be thoroughly enjoying the grass around our site, so much so that I couldn’t sleep. I was also concerned that he would walk straight through the washing on the line. Eventually I’d had enough and got up to see him off. My feeble attempts were met with a supercilious stare and he put his head down, dropped a load, and continued eating. So I took the washing in.
We hired a tinny for four hours to go up the river. We headed nearly five km up to the sandbars fairly quickly then made our way back slowly stopping frequently to go ashore and explore, climbing up rocks for the view. Along the way we saw interesting rocks (John tried his hand at stone toolmaking), lots of birds and a couple of freshwater crocs. It was a thoroughly enjoyable few hours.

Quite a few people left yesterday and today so it’s very quiet. The nights are very dark and the stars are wonderful. John is disappointed that he hasn’t got a telescope with him. We have to choose between scope and boat, no room for both.

10 July Wed: We drove to Goose Swamp this morning. It is about 1-2km from the camping area along a soft track with lots of bulldust, then a 1.4km easy, flat walk. It is a beautiful sight with islands of green rushes and water lilies, many birds, and brumbies grazing knee deep in water. After enjoying the peace and serenity we climbed the hill to get a wonderful view of the whole swamp and surrounding area.

After collecting firewood it was back to camp for lunch and more laziness as we watched many vehicles arrive and quietly criticised their methods of communication as they set up! We are amazed at the size of the caravans that come in while remembering the lady who sat and cried as the dust billowed out after opening her new Bushtracker on arrival at Laurella Springs a few years ago.

I’m not keen on setting up near such vehicles as our experience is that noise, in the form of music, news or tv programs, is sometimes constant, i.e. any time of day or night from many of these vans. And while I’m having a moan why don’t groups of three or more vehicles travelling together use the lovely, flat, shady group area which is close, not too close, to the amenities?

Having said all that we have found people here to be very pleasant and considerate.

11 July Thurs: We left KFC this morning with me driving and John on gate duty. The road improves markedly on Lawn Hill station. At one point we had to wait while brumbies were unloaded. A young woman with the group, formerly from Melbourne, explained that they were a muster camp, contracting to the properties in the region and bringing in choppers or whatever is needed to do the job. We changed drivers near Adels Grove where we got ice and bread.

We have a good, generous, drive-through site here in Boodjumulla (Lawn Hill) NP. The only problem is that the sites are covered with blue metal no doubt to keep down the dust so it’s very stony under foot. The ground is very hard and although John got the tent pegs in he’s not sure if he’ll get them out. (They came out easily.)

12-15 July: Days are spent paddling, walking, swimming and reading. After dinner it is wonderful to just sit in the dark and enjoy the superb night sky.

There is a family of six camped nearby. Everyone seems to have their say but there is no squabbling. There are obviously rules of behaviour especially around sportsmanship and if they are not observed there is gentle chiding and the culprit responds appropriately. The younger boy and girl have matchbox toys and play with them for hours in the dirt, making tracks and building shelters. No one has a hand-held thing with buttons on it! It is a delight to have them as neighbours.

Paddling in the gorge is a marvellous experience with the pandanus and trees fringing the way until you reach the sheer high red walls with the roots of trees from above threading their way down to the water like so many strands of cotton. Once past the walls the vegetation starts again and the occasional fat freshwater croc can be seen soaking up the sun on a low branch just above the water. Before long the roar of Indarri Falls can be heard.

These five low falls are formed with tufa (calcium carbonate) and they separate the upper and lower gorge. There is a portage of about forty metres for canoes to access the upper gorge which is well worth the effort to reach another long and peaceful stretch of water and more high red walls.

There are about six walks of varying length and all quite different. One walk is to Wild Dog Dreaming cave which has been continuously used for 30,000 years, possibly the longest continuous use known.

16 July Lawn Hill to Mt Isa: Set off from LH and picked up bread, water and ice from Adels Grove then went to Riversleigh D Site to look at fossils. Nothing has changed since our visit about ten years ago. We had intended camping on the Gregory River in the Miyumba part of Boodjumulla but it didn’t look very inviting so we continued to Mt Isa where we very reluctantly stayed in the Argylla cv park (Discovery/Big4) after one park was booked out (with mining people by the look of it). Unfortunately we required power for a night. Camper-trailer people are treated as second-class citizens there. We paid full price ($37) for half a site almost inside the laundry. When we mentioned to our neighbour who was in a big motorhome with annex extended that she was on our site she said that the people in the office said not to worry, they would put a little camper in there. All concerned will receive our opinion of this attitude on our return. To make matters worse we got very little sleep due to trucks roaring through all night. We should have found a bush camp within 50km of Isa and done our shopping the next morning. We do not like Isa and will organise ourselves better so that there is no need to go there again.

17 July Mt Isa to Boulia: The drive today was beautiful with wonderful scenery of broken, craggy ranges. We stayed in the cv park overlooking the Burke River which is now run very efficiently by a couple who live on-site. Grassy, shady sites, easy walk across the bridge to town. It was State of Origin night and people were arriving for the camel races so it was busy. Huge amount of mining traffic during the day but only one truck went through during the night.

The river is down with only a waterhole below the park which attracts many birds morning and evening. (Since coming home we heard on the news that Boulia is experiencing frequent power outages due to the weight of thousands of galahs perching on the power lines and breaking them.)

18 July Boulia to Windorah: We reached Beduorie at 11.30 and had an early lunch before continuing to Windorah. About 120 km south of Boulia we noticed very high hill with some kind of structure on top. It turned out to be Vaughans Lookout with a good, steep road to the top. There were two structures, a covered picnic table and a loo with a view. There was also lots of info about the region, and huge vistas. Well worth stopping for.

We changed drivers every hour or so and managed the distance to Windorah quite well. The weather was threatening so we stayed in the motel at the back of the pub which was quite okay ($130). Unfortunately dinner was the usual pub/club fare, crumbed and fried everything, and steak, and salad. It is no more difficult to prepare or to access the ingredients for imaginative food, and no more waste, so why doesn’t someone try it?

19 July Windorah to Quilpie: It rained overnight. We got fuel at the servo that used to be owned and run by a blind man who became quite famous among the outback travelling community. He and his wife have retired and moved to Toowoomba.

We had originally planned to camp in Welford NP but decided not to because of the weather but still wanted to check it out so made the 150km round trip to do so. There was a huge amount of wildlife on the way in and inside the park. There was a big waterhole where there was camping and would be good for boating and fishing although the banks were steep. There was plenty more to see but we didn’t want to get caught in there if it rained.

Our caution was well founded as it started to rain later on and became very heavy. The road was single lane bitumen and it was quite nerve wracking as at times we couldn’t see more than a couple of car lengths ahead and were driving with all lights on, including hazard lights during the worst of it. In such a situation you can’t stop because if you get off the road you are sure to get bogged. A couple of times we were confronted with road trains so got off the road but kept moving forward. Water was beginning to cross the road in places. By the time we got to Quilpie the rain had eased.

The road on this stretch was variable, mostly single lane bitumen but occasionally widening at floodways. The surface varied from smooth to quite uneven and patchy.

We stayed in a cabin in the cv park where we cooked a huge boned leg of lamb with all the trimmings in the Cob. It was cold so the air con was very welcome. The rain stopped soon after we arrived and we awoke to sunshine.

20 July Quilpie to Charleville: Some of the distances between towns is a bit too short for our liking so it was a shorter day than usual (213km). There was much evidence of yesterday’s rain and the Paroo River was only a foot or so below the deck of the bridge. As we came in to Charleville we saw a cv park that was advertised in an info booklet we’d picked up but passed it by thinking the sites didn’t look flat or grassy, so ended up in Bailey Bar park. The site was level and grassy but very tight.

A couple of days ago we heard Jane Morgan from the visitor centre (which is also the Cosmos Centre) talking about the Nordon bomb sight (not site) she had acquired for the VC which she had chased down in USA. John’s attention was immediately focussed as he had seen two of them in his early days at CSIRO where they had been acquired for their precision parts which were scarce for a long time after the war. So we went to the VC and had a long chat to Jane who explained that there were 3,000 US personnel based in Charleville, some whom were working on a secret weapon – the Nordon bomb sight. Jane has acquired some interesting memorabilia to enhance the collection.

We could not see the Nordon that day but did have a sneak preview of the other items so we returned the next morning to see it. I think there may be a tag-along convoy to see relevant sights related to WW2 in the area from now on.

There is an Outback Native Timber Walk in a pleasant park near the Visitor Centre for which notes are provided. It is a bit tricky in places to find your way from one tree to another but patience is well rewarded.

We didn’t leave the park until nearly 10.00 because the pub nearby does not close until 3.00am and the locals made the most it. The undesirable behaviour did not stop immediately so few in the park got much sleep. At the time I didn’t know the noise was coming from the pub and thought they were roaming the streets and had actually entered the park.

It was a very cold night with a heavy dew. Cabins or motels from here on.

21 July Chareville to Cunnamulla: Another very short day (201km). It was not sensible to make a dash for Bourke after such a rotten night and late start (went to see the bomb sight).

The drive today was not very inspiring as it was very flat and there was little opportunity to see further than the scrub on either side of the road. Lots of emus again today – we must have seen thousands of them this trip.

We are in a cabin in the Jack Tonkin cv park. It is not near the pub! We went for a walk after lunch and the only things open were an opal shop and one pub which has a midnight licence, I checked! Not even the VC was open, apparently he had just shut the door. But we had a much needed walk and the gardens around town were beautiful. We saw lots of neatly mown lawns but only a couple of private gardens. It is interesting how customs vary from place to place.

22 July Cunnamulla to Bourke: With no particular interest in staying in town we went to the visitor info centre to see what the options were and ended up at Kidman Camp in a beautiful log cabin with a view across the fields towards the river. It was very quiet and we slept well. We camped there a couple of years ago – it is a well-run park.

23 July Bourke to Cowra: Resisting the temptation to push for home we stayed in Cowra in a motel where the trailer was safely and conveniently parked. It was very cold and the restaurant in the motel saved us having to find somewhere to eat without moving the trailer. Our meal was excellent and a lovely way to end our holiday.

24 July Cowra to Home: The final run was along the Lachlan Valley Way again. Sometimes I think we should go out of our way just for a change but this is such a lovely drive that it is no hardship to travel it time and time again. The road is windy and hilly with few chances to overtake but it is because of the hills and bends that the views are constantly changing.

We were home by 11.00am and had the car and trailer emptied and three loads of washing done well before dinner.

6344 km door to door, 909L diesel.
John 'n' Min
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