6th May 2018–Charters Towers (again)

Distance: 525 km
Fuel: 58 L

I had seriously thought about returning south via the coast ie Innisfail to Townsville but the combination of possible rain and the coastal traffic on a public holiday made me rethink the idea.

At the moment I am several days ahead of my schedule because I had allowed two stops between Charters Towers and Atherton in each direction. On previous journeys I have stopped at Undara Lava Tubes but on this occasion, while I did take a break at Mt Garnet on the way north and Greenvale on the way south, neither places have any great interest or reason to stop overnight.

Today’s trip was a long drive but I was listening to an audio book “The Handmaids Tale” which passed the time pleasantly enough and I always enjoy the bush winding passed.

Ravenshoe and its wind farm was its usual windy, soggy self:

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…but the weather improved no end past Mt Garnet.

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There are probably less than 10km of single lane road now on the whole of the Great Inland Way.

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13th June 2017–Normanton to Georgetown

Distance: 307 km
Fuel: 36 L

The caravan park office doesn’t open until 9am so walked down to the local ‘Supermarket’. It is one of these country stores that sells fuel, burgers, milk, bait, tools and just about anything including ice which was what I wanted.

Headed south toward Cloncurry to get to the turn off toward Cairns on the Gulf Developmental Road. These developmental highways are usually part of the price mining companies pay to develop their mine. (BTW the road from Cloncurry to Normanton is the Burke Developmental Road.)

At one point was held up for 20 minutes where they were resurfacing the road by covering it with tar then pouring small stones on top and following this up with modern equivalent of a team of steam rollers.

170613 001 Normanton to Croyden

Stopped for a while at Croydon basically because it is the only town between Normanton and Georgetown where I will stop tonight. It was the third largest town in Queensland during its gold rush but it’s glory days are behind it and now it is just another pleasant, small, outback town.

170613 005 Croyden170613 003 Croyden170613 006 Croyden170613 008 Croyden170613 010 Croyden170613 011 Croyden170613 013 Croyden170613 014 Croyden170613 015 Croyden170613 018 Croyden

From Croydon the road was a mix of single and two lanes of varying quality but nothing to slow down for (except the occasional single lane bridge). Georgetown is not a big place, you can stroll from one end of town to the other in a few minutes.

170613 022 Georgetown Peace Garden170613 021 Georgetown Peace Garden170613 024 Georgetown170613 028 Georgetown170613 030 Georgetown170613 034 Georgetown170613 040 Georgetown170613 038 Georgetown

As I neared Georgetown I saw one of those big solar battery powered signs which said something about the Etheridge River Bridge being closed on the 13th and 14th June however it was not clear. I enquired at the caravan park to be told it was possibly being closed between 9am and 5pm each day so at the worst I have to be out of here before 9am. However when I went for a walk the traffic controllers unloading their gear at the bridge told me it was not being totally closed. It is the only route east.

170613 036 Georgetown Etheridge River Bridge

Am not particularly worried because it is a rare occasion that I am not on the move before 9am. Notice why this is called the ‘dry’ season?

By about 5pm I was starving so I had the $10 special of Chicken Burger and Chips – not bad once I removed the beetroot.

170613 044 Georgetown Dinner

7th June 2017–Daly Waters to Cape Crawford

Distance: 280 km
Fuel: 34 L

Woke up this morning early had a shower and felt the need for a jacket, the first time for weeks because, at dawn, it was about 14’C.

Only travelled a few km down the Stuart Highway before turning onto the Carpentaria Highway and set off for its junction with the Tablelands Highway. Not a particularly long drive but being a single lane road most of the time had to watch out for trucks coming the other way.

170607 002 Carpentaria Hwy to Cape Crawford170607 003 Carpentaria Hwy to Cape Crawford

Fortunately those that I did see I saw in the distance rather than just as I rounded a bend or came over a crest so I was able to slow down and get off the road with no problems. Passed three road trains of cattle and a couple of trucks; the rest of the traffic was either cars or caravans so it was just a matter of putting the left hand wheels in the dirt and passing each other in a cloud of dust.

Arrived at Heartbreak Hotel just after midday and booked in for the night (too far to the next caravan park). Fuel here is an outrageous $1.79/l but the site was only $28 – mind you the facilities are a bit crude but acceptable –  the place serves food and has a bar. The sites have plenty of shade so you can’t complain too much.

170607 010 Heartbreak Hotel Cape Crawford170607 006 Heartbreak Hotel Cape Crawford170607 009 Heartbreak Hotel Cape Crawford170607 005 Heartbreak Hotel Cape Crawford

There is no mobile phone/internet coverage at all (note the Telstra phone boxes in photo) so this blog will have to be posted another day when I do have coverage.

All the caravan parks are noticeably busier since the beginning of June; April and May were much better months to travel.

Oh yes, it has been pointed out that on a few recent posts I have entered May instead of June – Oooops! – I will correct this as soon as possible.

6th June 2017–Katherine to Daly Waters

Distance: 295 km
Fuel: 33 L

Left the caravan park at about 8.30am and headed straight down the Stuart Highway to Daly Waters, very much in familiar territory now. Didn’t stop at any of the many ‘historic’ WWII airfields or hospitals because I did so last time I was down this way. Anyway most of the airfields have just been reclaimed by the bush and are barely visible

Last time I was here I stayed at the Hi-Way Motel so this time decided to stay at the Daly Waters Pub Caravan Park. I thought it would be quieter than the roadhouse. Nope! from when I arrived at about midday there was a continuous stream of campers and vans filling the place up. The pub was doing a roaring trade.

170606 028 Daly Waters Pub170606 030 Daly Waters Pub170606 032 Daly Waters Pub170606 048  Daly Waters Pub170606 033 Daly Waters Pub170606 035 Daly Waters Pub

Revisited the Stuart Tree – you can just vaguely make out the ‘S’ carved in it.

170606 006 Daly Waters Stuart Tree170606 008 Daly Waters Stuart Tree

Also had a look at the Daly Waters Airstrip once a fairly busy hub, it claims to have been a ‘complex’ especially leading up to and during WWII but now just another bush landing strip though with a tarmac surface.

170606 011 Daly Waters Airstrip170606 012 Daly Waters Airstrip170606 010 Daly Waters Airstrip170606 019 Daly Waters Airstrip170606 020 Daly Waters Airstrip170606 021 Daly Waters Airstrip

Am stopped here because I have decided to get off the Stuart Highway and take a detour to the Barkly Highway via the Carpentaria and Tablelands Highways instead of continuing down to the Threeways Roadhouse and getting on the Barkly there.

I had a couple of beers or six at the pub ($8 a schooner!) but they have a happy hour at 5pm to 6pm which I tested – $4 midis. Afterwards I ordered their kangaroo steak which was surprisingly good and well priced.

170606 050  Daly Waters Pub Meal

Tomorrow I plan to stop at Cape Crawford and this journey is about 100km longer than staying on the Stuart but I have never been there before (road less travelled and that).These highways are sealed but a single lane so oncoming trucks have to be treated with a lot of respect (ie you take to the dirt). BTW ‘Cape Crawford’ sounds nautical but it is actually about 140km inland from the Gulf of Carpentaria.

3rd June 2017–Kununurra to Timber Creek

Distance: 281 km
Fuel: 27.93 L

After 20 minutes driving from Kununurra crossed into the NT and lost 1.5 hours of my life.

170603 004 WA NT Border

Note the sign telling you that the maximum speed limit in the Northern Territory is 110kph – about 200 metres down the road was a 130kph speed limit sign (someone must have forgotten to remove the first sign when the NT went back to its old limits).

Driving was easy on a fairly good road through undulating bush.  I made a few stops at things that interested me.

170603 007 Kanunurra to Timber Creek170603 009 Gregory's Tree170603 013 Bradshaws Bridge170603 015 Bradshaws Bridge

Was undecided whether to stop at Timber Creek or push on another 90km to Victoria River. I stopped for a few sights along the way and it was after 1pm by the time I arrived at Timber Creek so I booked a night.

While I waited to book in I enjoyed a bloke going rabid about paying $1.70 for a two day old copy of the NT News (paper) the girl behind the counter was trying to explain that this was a remote location and the newspapers were always a couple of days old. He only wanted to pay $1.40 for it – how he arrived at that figure I don’t know but he was very insistent. He eventually flounced out but rather spoilt the flounce by having to come back to get his money back.

Unhooked my trailer in a nice shady spot and went to see the local sights having seen a couple of signs indicating lookouts as I drove in.

170603 019 Timber Creek170603 016 Timber Creek170603 023 Timber Creek170603 024 Timber Creek170603 028 Timber Creek170603 034 Timber Creek

The road in the last picture is the highway from Timber Creek to Katherine (only 290km away).

In the creek and bush at the bottom of the caravan park were some freshwater crocs, turtles, kites and bats. Actually there was a two metre croc (as big as the males get) on the bank when I first walked down but I thought it was a fibreglass garden ornament and walked within a metre of it,  it didn’t move. It was only later when I went back and found it gone that I realised it was the real thing.

170603 041 Timber Creek Freshwater Crocs170603 044 Timber Creek Freshwater Crocs170603 048 Timber Creek Freshwater Crocs170603 069 Timber Creek Freshwater Crocs170603 071 Timber Creek Bats170603 077 Timber Creek Kites

Power for this town is generated locally at a small diesel power station.

170603 078 Timber Creek Hotel Fees

I could do without the power I suppose except I like a cup of tea and some toast, videos and my music (am listening to Captain Beefheart as I type).

30th May 2017–Fitzroy Crossing to Warmun

Distance: 468 km
Fuel: 55 L

This morning, before packing up, I went for a drive to the old Fitzroy Crossing. It is still there but the river silt either side has effectively blocked it off. There were some tyre tracks but they had come from the river sand flats. It is still only a metre above the water line now so one can understand why it was replaced by a higher level bridge.

170530 015 Old Fitzroy Crossing170530 004 Old Fitzroy Crossing170530 008 Old Fitzroy Crossing170530 009 Old Fitzroy Crossing

The drive to Halls Creek where I had originally intended to stay was pretty straight forward though there were many single lane bridges on the way which had to be approached with some caution.

170530 017 Near Halls Creek

At Halls Creek I filled up with fuel but because it was only 10.30am decided to press on to Warmun (Turkey Creek) Roadhouse only another 160km further on. Warmun is a small Aborigine community who own and run the roadhouse.

At Warmun I enquired about a site and was told to take one and come back to tell them which site it was – it was $35 for a powered site. Once I had set up I wandered over to the Helicopter Flight office and asked if there were anybody who wanted a flight but needed another to make up the numbers. Oh dear, nothing looking likely and at $400 per person I wasn’t going to pay for two seats. Will try again in the morning because Kununurra is only 200km away.

170530 022 Warmun Roadhouse170530 029 Warmun Roadhouse

What was an almost empty caravan park was nearly full by the time 6pm came round.

170530 025 Warmun Roadhouse