10.08.2010 - 27.08.2010 36 °C
10 August 2010 Mareeba to Chillagoe
So, we are finally about to head west. We left Mareeba after going shopping and having a huge breakfast of bacon and eggs. Not much to say about Mareeba, it just isn't our sort of town.
We are heading to Chillagoe to visit the limestone caves. Pretty uneventful trip, mainly on sealed roads and where the roads were gravel, compared to some of the roads we have been on, it almost felt like we were driving on a highway. We booked in for the afternoon tour of one of the caves. It was really interesting, as all caves are especially when there are micro bats flitting around! We climbed over the surrounding limestone outcrops and these rocky formations were all the more remarkable once you realised that the caves you had been walking around 1/2 and hour ago are under you!! Spooky.
We were welcomed back to our campsite by Apostle birds! Long time since we have seen them and they are still very cute!
Croydon/Normanton and Karumba
We only stayed the one night in Chillagoe then headed towards Croydon. We want to stop in Croydon to see if we can trace any ancestors of our neighbour (Brian) in Burleigh. His great grandfather migrated from Scotland to Croydon back in the gold rush days.
It is really flat, cattle country out here and lots and lots of posters for Bob Katter!! The road is sealed but pretty ordinary - it goes to one lane for fairly long stretches and unfortunately, on one of the one lane stretches an idiot sped by and flicked up a lot of stones. Two of the stones cracked the windscreen. Ahhhhhh. Len has taped it and we are hoping to make it to some as yet,unknown town to have a new windscreen installed. Heavens only knows where that will be. The corrugations now feel huge as we are concerned that every bump will be spreading the cracks.
We didn't find out much about Brian's great grandfather however, we did find the local genealogist who will do some research and email if he finds anything. Our next stop was Normanton to pick up a new camera and other assorted mail from the Post Office. We also managed to vote and then stopped the night at Karumba which is on the Gulf. This is fishing land and there isn't much for us to do but we did watch a spectacular sunset over the Gulf.
We arrived at Leichhardt River Falls around 3pm and decided to set up camp for the night. This is the perfect bush camping area. We camped on the dried river bank of the Leichhardt River about 10 metres up from the current water level. We sat and tried to imagine what it would look like during the wet season when the river is in flood and our campsite would be completely underwater.
At the moment it is an oasis for lots of birds and wallabies. In the river, the water is drying up and the pool below us (some 100 metres long x 30 metres wide) has stranded various fish including a Sawtooth Shark, a freshwater crocodile, long toms and lots of other fish we can't identify.
Sitting around the campfire at night with only millions of stars for company was fabulous. We had planned to stay only one night, however the temptation to stay another night and walk down the drying river bed the next day was too much. It was a great walk and further downstream, after a couple of additional creeks had added some volume of water we found a full flowing river. We took so many photo's that it makes you realise that you can judge how much you like a place by the number of photo's you take.
With cracked windscreen we gingerly made our way along the gravel and corrugated roads to Gregory Downs. We thought we were heading to a small country town. Well, this one has only a pub that doubled as the petrol station, caravan park and sold snack food and meals. The sign in the bar admitted to these other non pub activities but reminded you in no uncertain terms that it was first and foremost a pub. Just love country Australia. We are miles from nowhere and they think all we need is a beer. Perhaps we do!!
The beautiful Gregory River is a few minutes from the pub. It is a cool, spring fed river and we had lots of fun floating down the river, catching rapids and keeping cool.
Boodjamaulla (Lawn Hill) National Park
Len has wanted to come to Lawn Hill National Park for years and we happily left Gregory Downs to head to this wonderful place, our only worry is whether our windscreen will stand many more miles of corrugation, dips and bumps. We are still in savannah/cattle country with lots of grass plains and long distances between towns and stations. We did arrive at Lawn Hill with the windscreen still in one piece, we had to add more tape as we went along but it is still hanging in there. We set up camp about 50 metres from the river/gorge and spent the rest of the day going in for swims and thinking we were in heaven. It is just glorious and such a change of scenery from the dry savannah plains - a real oasis.
The walks around the park and along the gorges were sometimes a bit of a slog but always with stunning views. It is pretty hot at the moment; the temperature has been mid to high 30's in the afternoons so our walks are always in the morning. In the afternoon we go for swim and hang around the spring fed river to keep cool picking up ripe cluster figs and feeding them to the resident turtles. We hired a canoe for a 2 hour paddle up the main gorge. What an amazing setting - the red cliffs edged by pandanus, palms, river gums and cluster figs all surrounding turquoise waters. So peaceful. Around the first corner we spotted a darter sundrying itself, then a few minutes later we startled a nankeen night heron, it didn't go very far so another photoshot presented itself. We were the first people on the gorge that morning and there were crystal clear reflections of the gorge as we paddled our way to the small falls. The falls were formed when the waters of the river, which is rich in lime, flowed over any obstruction such as rocks and deposited skins of lime minerals (called tufa). These build up to form small dams.
We ported our canoe up and around one of these little dams to the higher gorge. Same peaceful setting only this time we had the added bonus of coming across a 2 metre freshwater crocodile that was sunning itself on the banks just 5 metres away - the largest freshie we have seen so far. We took much longer than the planned two hours for the paddle - this was an exhilarating experience!!
There were loads of fish and turtles and we spotted an orange coloured snake swimming effortlessly across the creek - wish we had our reference books to check out what it was!! On one of our walks we stopped and watched a bowerbird parading in front of his bower - he was making such a racket. They go to such elaborate lengths to attract a mate. We had so many David Attenborough moments; it was fabulous.
Reluctantly we left our campsite at Lawn Hill NP to head to Mt Isa. Our first stop was Riversleigh about 50km from the campsite at the southern section of the park. Riversleigh is an area of fossil rich limestone outcrops where they have discovered a 25 million year old collection of fossils including turtles, crocodiles, lots of mammals, giant wombat like marsupials, an ancestor to the thylacine and flightless birds. You would need to be a paleontologist to be able to identify any of the fossils at the site so we went to the Riversleigh Fossil Museum in Mt Isa to get a better understanding of the World Heritge listed site.
Just like Weipa we didn't have any plans to go to Mt Isa but the windscreen needs fixing, Len's tooth needs filling and the computer is finally getting too unstable and needs replacing. The windscreen made it, albeit the spider cracks are now going all the way to the top so it didn't have many more miles nor bumps left before it disintegrated completely. Isa has turned out to be much better than Weipa. It is a larger town with more facilities (including decent coffee). Once we leave Mt Is we have decided to turn left at Tennant Creek and head towards Alice Springs and then south through the middle. It has taken us much longer than we thought to get this far and it is starting to get pretty hot. We are still living in the tent so there isn't any air-con and the thought of more 38 degree days isn't very appealing. We will come back up to Katherine, Kakadu etc next time.
Next stop Camooweal.