Qld 2010 Part 2 (From Charters Towers north to Cooktown then South, all places to Home)

Monday, Jun 07, 2010 at 06:08

Member-Heather MG NSW

Sunday 16th

Charters Towers Tourist Park? (Top Tourist)
$22.50 for members.

We left Theresa Creek around 8am in cloudy weather topped up the diesel in Clermont and were on our way towards Belyando Crossing and then Charters Towers - approximately 370kms to the north. The road seems to have improved greatly since we last traversed it two years ago and we had an uneventful trip. The landscape was lush with long grasses and the dams and creeks full of water, very different from the previous trip. We stopped at Cape River in a flat dirt area just off the road to eat our lunch, poured in the extra 20litres of diesel and continued. I felt really tired today and had a couple of short sleeps while John drove on in peace - most uncharacteristic of me - but I have been burning the midnight oil a bit these last few nights and getting up before dawn most mornings so I guess sooner or later the body just has to rest!

We were in Charters Towers before 3pm and bought fuel so that we are ready to go in the morning .... not sure where to yet, but we are headed to the Lynd Junction and beyond! We intend checking out a place near Dalrymple National Park which is 40 kms north of here and mentioned in Camps 5 as I think it has a walk to do and might be nice as an overnight stop, however it may not be suitable as it is right beside the road.

We checked into this van park in Charters Towers which we have stayed at twice during the past few years and have found very clean and friendly, and were shown to our site alongside Barb and Darrell who arrived here yesterday. Have caught up on the last 36 hours while we were apart and enjoyed seeing them again.

I went for a short walk around the neighbourhood while the others watched the RL on our TV and, as well, I phoned all three of our girls. We watched the news tonight but the tv has gone off again as there's not a thing we want to see despite having numerous digital channels! I haven't missed it at all and find that ABC local radio is much more entertaining when we travel. It has been great to put on the nespresso machine though, and have delicious coffee!

It is cool, windy and very lightly raining tonight. Maybe we will get to test the shadecloth end piece which is in place and which we hope will protect the steps and doorway to some extent. It certainly helps with the wind. Dinner was a simple healthy stirfry and rice, followed by home made icecream (not nearly so satisfying as a campoven meal) and John is already asleep! I dont think I will be long in joining him.

Monday 17th
Travellers rest -Mount Garnet $25 powered site
A long days travel on i'nteresting' road surfaces. We were away from Charters Towers by 8am in very light rain. Barb and Darrell decided to stay another day in the park so as to avoid packing up wet canvas. Not sure it was a good idea as it continued to shower intermittently all day as we travelled north west along the Gregory Developmental Road through Greenvale and The Lynd Junction.
We called into the free camp on the banks of Fletcher Creek some 40 kms from Charters Towers which has toilets and showers (not sure whether these are hot showers) where there were campers spread out along the river banks. There is a lot of flat space here and if we had been able to see any walking tracks we probably would have stayed a night. However it was raining lightly and we decided to continue, also in part because of the time of day - around 9am.

The earlier part of the road was ok from memory although even it varied between wide upgraded sections and narrower sealed ones. There were cattle wandering across the road also roos which we startled. We stopped at Greenvale roadhouse and bought cornettos ($7.60 for two!!) which we ate beneath the shade of a large tree. Not sure why but we always decide we really want one in the most 'out of the way' places!!!
Continuing on our way we crossed several largish creeks on low level bridges and causeways and there was one creek lined with huge diagonally sloping river gums, this obviously caused by the force of the water rushing downstream during the wet season. That would be a sight!

As we travelled north the road surface deteriorated and we encountered many shortish sections of road works with either lights, or workers holding 'Stop/Go' signs. This made the going slow and tedious, although there were sections of upgraded wide bitumen in between and the road is obviously going to be fantastic in a year or two when it is all completed. Light rain added to the experience as did the growing frequency of road trains to which we paid our usual courtesy, moving off the sealed middle strip, contacting drivers on the CB radio, then waiting for them to pass.

We called in at the Oasis Roadhouse at the Lynd Junction, some 2 kms off the road, bought diesel and had lunch during which time a cattle road train pulled in which dwarfed our van and ute. I took photos for our little grandson who is fascinated by trucks and all other manner of vehicles!

After the Lynd we searched in vain for a place to pull off to free camp but could find nowhere and were finally onto the Kennedy Highway. It was a quick stop at 40 Mile Scrub National Park picnic area for toilets after which time we decided to continue as far as Mount Garnet. The rest area at 40 Mile Scrub is very close to the road and the toilets were smelly, also it was raining again....not so pleasant a place to spend the night.
Once in Mount Garnet we had a look at the BP Roadhouse which is no longer suitable for caravans and looked a to be a bit of a dive so we found this little treed park a short distance off the highway, and booked in. It is a pleasant enough place to stay and would have been very quiet apart from a group containing one of the most obese men I have ever seen! He was showing most of his bloated body off by wearing only a pair of shorts, slung low under a huge sagging belly! It was quite a sight, believe me!! John observed him getting on a motor scooter to drive the 30 metres or so to the amenities block and hoped he wouldnt find him wedged into one of the toilet or shower cubicles when he went to use them!
This group of (mostly) men played music, watched TV and shouted and swore profusely at one another long into the night and we felt extremely worried for the welfare of a small child with them. Selfishly we also were glad we would not one day be its teachers at High School somewhere!
Apart from them, only one other caravan is here, a couple from Tasmania who we saw half a dozen times on our way here when we overtook them or they overtook us.

Our dinner was a casserole of chicken, tomatoes and olives with pasta and topped with shaved parmesan, served with green beans - Italian flavours.

There was a small problem when our sinkmixer kitchen water tap blocked up and stopped functioning until John realised it had a filter which was blocked from two years of variable quality water around the country. We use a B.E.S.T inline filter on the hose for all our water and small pieces of charcoal from it, as well as other debris, had clogged it. After a clean, it is working better than it has been in months however the filter is obviously due to be replaced and I will order another when we return home.
It rained lightly for much of the night but this morning, although overcast, seems to have fined a little. Going for a walk when the other half stirs from his bed, and after breakfast.

18th May Tuesday
Rocky Creek - just north of Tolga (near Atherton, RSL Memorial park) on Kennedy Highway
Gold coin donation per night (minimum charge)

We had our walk around Mount Garnet for close to an hour before returning to the van to pack up this morning, then at Ravenshoe we detoured to visit the Information Centre and pick up iwalks pamphlets for Queensland National Parks and the Tablelands area. We also looked in vain for the free camping area where we intended parking the caravan while we drove to some of the closest National Parks walks, however gave up when we didnt find anything signposted. It is supposed to be on the southern end of town opposite the railway museum - maybe we are just blind but we couldnt see it!
Ravenshoe is apparently the highest town in Queensland and looks to be a lovely little place with a number of interesting shops. Just to the north of there we suddenly came upon a wind farm with the giant turbines rising from the steep green hills like a sculpture installation, their tops shrouded in mist. I wasnt quick enough in grabbing my camera but it was quite a sight.
The Kennedy Highway from there to near Atherton is a windy, hilly and sometimes narrow road through very picturesque countryside. We saw pockets of rainforest and rolling pastures all very green.
Having visited Atherton two years ago we knew that this large town has many major shops and services and also remembered our way around. We continued through the town and north some 12 kms through the vilage of Tolga to this great rest area, arriving around 11am. It is a large gently sloping grassed camping area beside a big Anzac memorial and we stayed the maximum of 72 hours two years ago using it as a base to explore the tablelands. It is much quieter this time so maybe we are north before a lot of the other travellers. A caretaker with huge companion dog checks to see that nobody stays longer than the allowed time, noting Registration Numbers of vehicles each day and he also cleans the toilets.

Having set up the van we had lunch and drove back into Atherton to buy groceries and yet more beer and fishing lures and equipment! Apparently you can never have too much of either!!!

Spent a quiet afternoon reading the papers and wandering around the memorial, reading the plaques and the history of the place which used to be a military hospital.

19th May (as above)
The day dawned cloudy with a cool wind.

Today we did the full 'tourist thing' and took the meandering drive along sometimes narrow, potholed dirt, out to Lake Tinaroo, calling in to each of the campgrounds in Danbulla National Park to see which one we think will best suit us to stay a few days. We have decided on Downfall creek which while being the busiest, also permits the use of generators between 8am and 7pm and we can test out the 2kva honda which is awaiting collection from the van park at Lake Tinaroo tomorrow. It also suits us as far as being able to put the boat in and leave it close to our camp, has phone and hopefully internet signal. I booked our camping permit online when we returned this afternoon - $10 per night, a very reasonable cost for flushing toilets and a beautiful location.

We also took a look at the various geographical points of interest along the way and did a few short walks, visiting the Crater lakes and then stopping for lunch at Youngaburra. This is such a charming little town and we had a delicious meal in one of the cafes there, both ravenous after a long cold morning and some exercise. We just could not resist the home made chocolate souffles to finish and they were superb - rich warmed dark chocolate pots with oozing centres ,which both of us ate despite feeling overly full afterwards!! In my opinion these alone are good enough to warrant booking into the van park and staying close by some other time soon!
We had intended walking to the top of the hill to look out over Atherton but it was misty rain and very cold so we cheated and drove instead. After those chocolate souffles we could have done with the exercise! We arrived back at the van around mid afternoon and it was another quiet afternoon around the campground. Once again there were only a handful of campers.

I reviewed the photographs I took along the way but because of the weather - with heavy cloud - and they are somewhat disappointing. I am hoping I get some better shots while we are camping on the water.


20th May Thursday
Discovery Parks Tinaroo falls.
$25.20 with Top Tourist discount.

Checked in here by 10.30 this morning despite driving to Hastie's swamp near Atherton to view the waterbirds from the double storey hide before we packed up at Tolga. There were many whistling and assorted other ducks, waterhen, and other waterbirds. We also took a drive north of Rocky creek and collected firewood from down side roads before we packed up - and saw a bustard in the paddock nearby.

I have managed to get laundry done here and as well we had a bit of a walk around the lake on the pathways. The foreshore area is beautifully landscaped and maintained with BBQ facilities, taps, childrens playground areas and it's all very green. This afternoon Barb and Darrell arrived and we have caught up on their last few days, sitting around outside the vans and enjoying one anothers company.
Dinner was heart smart lamb rump, sealed in the pan, roasted and still pink and juicy served with sweet potato mash and steamed veg.

After dark tonight we heard the haunting call of the bush stone curlew close by - reminding us that we are far from home.

Also Barry phoned to let us know that his stress test today showed a blockage in at least one artery and maybe two. He is now off to Brisbane for an angiogram and the most appropriate treatment by specialists to rectify his blockages. We are so glad that he has followed up promptly since the scare he gave us all last Friday at Theresa creek. Having been through the same process a few years back with John, neither of us was surprised to hear his news.

22nd May Saturday.
Downfall Creek campground, Danbulla National Park ($10 pn for 2) flushing toilets, generators permitted between 8am and 7pm, individual fire places,
no defined sites. Sites must be pre booked.

We arrived here yesterday morning before 10 and have a flat site overlooking the water with our own fireplace. It is a busy campground, with large family groups in tents, waterskiers, fishermen in vans and huge motorhomes as well as assorted other campers. The days are noisy with the ski boats, motor bikes, remote control boat, jet skiers, the bass beat of 'music' playing and the hum of our new generator for a few minutes three or four times a day as it heats and runs my espresso coffee machine!! (the generator is the quietest of all these!) Theres also the sounds of happy people - laughter and squealing! It is a lovely place, but much more pleasant during week days.
We put the boat in the water and baited up the redclaw traps which were dropped in mid afternoon yesterday. John and I went for a very short unsuccessful fishing trip when all I managed to do was get one of John's new plastics snagged and had to leave it in the water!
Last night we cooked dinner of oven baked barramundi with stir fried veg and steamed rice inside and then a certain person (not me)was thrilled to be able to tune in the tv and watch the friday night football. It is one downside of this campground!!!LOL

This morning I was up by 5, sat outside and had coffee and watched the sunrise. John and I checked the redclaw traps around 7. We got two big redclaw, a couple of small fish for bait and a sooty grunter of edible size. A young campper staying nearby identified the fish for us and we got chatting with this large friendly group who arrived yesterday evening and set up beside us.

A little after 8 we set off on what we thought was going to be a one and a half hour walk, returning nearly 4 hours later!
We took the track through to the next campground at Kauri creek then followed another one from there to complete a loop walk and back to Downfall creek. It must have been close to 15 kms we reckon and took us through rainforest tracks, some quite overgrown with the vicious 'wait-a-while' vines with tiny hooks which catch anything it comes in contact with.
We meandered over small timber footbridges, along the creek and then quite steeply uphill, returning along a forest track. There were two creek crossings where John insisted on removing his boots to piggy back me across. I managed to pull him backwards as I attempted to jump on his back, wherepon he slipped and I put my foot down on his hat! He slipped over, had a leach on his ankle, and got ripped across the back of his leg with the wait-a-while and bled a bit! Woops!!!! (all my fault once again!!!)

24th May - Monday.
Our last night at Downfall creek is tonight and because the campground is very quiet we have heard the following bird calls - a barking owl (which I mistook for a dog), bush stone curlews, whilstling ducks. Also while staying in this N park we have heard victorian riflebird, whip birds, seen brush turkeys, ulysses butterfly, (I think) a black whip snake, a small mammal which may be a northern bettong scurrying across the walking track, some kind of a wallaby thumping a warning as he bounded off, as well as the usual willywagtails, currawongs, black ducks, a greater egret, and a lesser egret.
I have decided that this place is much more pleasant on week days - almost deserted!

27th May Thursday.
Cooktown in a powered site in Peninsula caravan park ($30 per night)

We arrived here on Tuesday and I have been so busy that I have neglected my journal for a few days (a good thing surely).

I am so glad that we have aircon here. It is the first time that we have used it all day long to keep comfortable whenever we are at the van. It is so humid and comes as a bit of a shock, although we expected it, as we havent really been on the coast to experience it this trip so far.
Any walking or exercise just causes clothing to be drenched and it all takes so long to dry out! Of course the locals are happy that the wet season is at an end and the days are more bearable - I guess they will be pulling on the winter woolies!. I dont know how they live here all year round but then I guess it is a matter of acclimatising.
Barb and Darrell were in Cooktown before us and chose the park, neglecting to check that there was water in the swimming pool. There isn't, so theres no relief for them and as well they chose a site which is in full sun for most of the day so they dont have to pack up wet canvas!! It must be unbearable! Still we live and learn I reckon and maybe next time they will take their time to choose where they stay. We have chosen the places until here so I cant complain, and we are comfortable enough.

Anyway...back to Cooktown. What a pretty and interesting and historical little town this is - so much to do in only a week! We followed what the other pair did and paid for 5 nights but I am sure John and I will need another night or two especially if he wants to spend some time fishing.
The water is a deep blue and the trees and much of the grass is brilliant green at this time of the year. Steep conical hills (not high enough to be mountains?) rise almost from the waters edge in some places. There is so much lush tropical vegetation around and was quite a picture from the lookout on Grassy Hill with the Endeavour river snaking its way from the coast.

We did a walk from the park through to the Botanical gardens and then to Finch and Cherry Tree Bay and from there to the hill to look over the town, mostly following the coast by way of a rough track. It was sweaty going although we left around 7.30 am and I found the uphill sections taxing because of the humidity, despite them being quite shaded by trees and mangroves. We took two bottles of water, not really adequate, and were hot and tired by the time we returned to the van some time after 10. I am not good in humid heat!

Later in the day we drove to Quarantine bay, south 5kms and then around the same distance along the road, for a look. Afterwards we visited Keatings lagoon to view waterbirds from the hide, as well as to walk the shaded track. This is a picturesque place at this time of the year -- a lagoon fringed with flooded paperbarks, its surface almost covered by waterlilies.] We spotted a pygmy goose but at that time of the day there werent too many species in view. Maybe we will get a chance to return early morning or late afternoon before we leave. It was a photographers paradise.

We returned to the van for lunch and then took a drive to the James Cook Museum (entry currently $8 each - concession) and spent an hour or so wandering around the exhibits - which include the anchor and cannon from the original 'Endeavour' and much information about the first landings and contact with indigenous people taken from diaries. This museum is administered by the national Trust of Queensland and the building was originally constructed in 1889 by the Catholic church as St Marys Convent for the Sisters of Mercy. Until the Second World War it was a major centre for the education of women in Far North Queensland. The collections of Cook memorabilia, documents and records of maritime, mining, Indigenous and Chinese history were very interesting and the building is a beautiful example of architecture form the 1800s with a wide shady verandah on the first floor overlooking the main street and Endeavour River and beyond.

The remainder of the afternoon we escaped the heat by staying indoors. Our indoor temperature of 23 degrees seemed icy after being outside and I kept the aircon on until after we had cooked pizzas for dinner using the gas oven. The temperature probably isnt above 30, it is the humidity which makes me feel that I am experiencing the worst sweats of menopause, now in the past!

After dinner I had a phone call from Judy who is anxiously waiting for Barry to have heart bypass surgery. His angiogram finally completed only that morning after he was transported by air ambulance from Bundaberg shows that one artery is blocked completely and another is 99% blocked. His blood is now so thin (due to medication to prevent any blockages) that there was a wait to remove the tubes from him, and as well for the bypass surgery to be done. Of course we are extremely worried that he may die before he gets to theatre. She was in tears when we finally said goodbye and I each time I woke in the night I worried about both of them. We went through a similar scenario 6 years ago with John, although his angiogram and surgery occurred within hours of one another, but it is such an emotional and worrying time. I wish we were closer to them at this time.

This morning after breakfast I walked back to the Botanic gardens, around 5 to 10 minutes from the van park, and had a wander around under shady palms and other large green trees to enjoy the tropical plants until the Information centre opened at 9. There were two exhibitions on - one by a now deceased local artist Vera Scarth-Johnson who set out to complete 200 botanical illustrations of flowering plants of the Endeavour river. Her task was cut short by Parkinson's disease but she managed to finish around 150 and donated these to the local community before her death in 1999. Approximately 20 are on display and I enjoyed viewing them.

The other exhibition is on loan from the Queensland Museum and contains an impressive display of reptiles, butterflies, birds and other fauna bequeathed to Cooktown by Charlie Tanner who dedicated his life to recording information about the reptiles and bio-diversity of cape York Peninsula. I found viewing the snakes particularly fascinating. It was well worth paying the small fee of $3.50 to view these exhibitions for me. The staff were very friendly and helpful too.

I returned to the van and found John getting fishing gear ready to catch bait fish from the wharf. He and Darrell spent a few hours fishing from Finch bay this morning and brought home some scrappy bits of fish for bait (happy moments) but were not impressed with their catch. I accompanied John to the wharf and intended having a walk around but found it just too sweaty and spent my time finding shade to sit in to watch the fishing. John and Darrell caught some long toms - garfish with razor sharp teeth - around 30cms in length and they brought them home for fishing tomorrow morning before daylight and into the early morning. A local young lady provided some interesting hints as to where, when, how and what could be hooked and I enjoyed chatting to her. Darrell sat with legs dangling over the wharf and was so ungainly with his huge belly obstructing his efforts to move around whenever he hooked anything that I had visions of him accidently falling off the edge and into the water a few metres below. He would be a good meal for a croc!

After maybe an hour I drove the car back to the van and enjoyed the cool inside. Mid afternoon we took a drive south to Black Mountain national Park, located 25kms south of Cooktown on the highway, to take photos and view this interesting landform composed of huge granite boulders the size of houses, stacked precariously on one another, appearing to defy gravity .They appear black because of the lichens which cover their surface. The small region is home to a frog confined only to here- the black mountain boulderfrog which lays eggs and hatches out froglets and the female is bright yellow. It is also home to a black mountain skink and black mountain gecko. The National Park protects the northern end of the Trevethan mountain range, at the meeting point between the Wet tropics and the drier savannah woodland region.
This region is part of the traditional country of the Kuku Bididji and Kuku Nyungkul clans of the Eastern Kuku Yalanji Aboriginal people who know the area as 'Kalkajaka' (place of spear).

We took a detour off onto the dirt and went to Archer point which was windswept and wild coastline - steep mountains to the south plunging down into the blue water and rocky platforms. On the way we encountered a few small water crossings, none very deep.

Back at the park, we sat around and talked with Barb and Darrell (who went back to fish from the wharf until around 9). I phoned Judy and she and Barry had just been visited by anaesthetist and surgeon as Barry's surgery is scheduled for tomorrow morning at 9. Maybe she will sleep a little better tonight. It is a worrying time until he makes it through the surgery however this procedure is routine for the highly trained people who perform it, as I reminded her. Will talk to her tomorrow when it is over. I also phoned Lou and caughtup on news of the grandchildren, something we do each couple of days.

The weather is cooler and less humid this evening with a breeze blowing from the south and we have turned off the aircon early.

After dark and early in the morning we hear the curlews calling nearby and around dawn and dusk the sounds of many other birds in the huge trees which shade the sites in the park.

28th May Friday.
Cooktown day 3.
John left to fish from the wharf around 4.30 this morning and I was up early and walking by 7.30. It was a cooler night and today has started out the same way - we should have done the Mt Cook walk today I think. It is planned for tomorrow morning early.
I walked to the town main street and along to where the men were fishing, pausing to take photos and read the information at the sites marking the landing of James Cook in 1770, and other historic events. The park on the foreshore also has a musical ship and the pathway is dotted with ceramic tiles detailing the history of Cooktown so I did a leisurely stroll and read them all.

The men hadn't caught anything except long tom but while I was there we saw one of the huge grouper which patrol the area regularly. These fish are protected and not to be targetted by the fishermen - what an impressive size he was.

I walked back to the van park and on the way had a look in a couple of shops, bought Oliver a t-shirt with his favourite animal - a crocodile, complete with opening jaws - on it to take home. Had intended having another look in the Craft shop too but it wasnt open - probably a good thing for my credit card as I bought myself a very nice necklace and earrings made by a local lady the other day for a very modest amount I thought. I am keen to get something for each of our girls however may do that when we return to Mareeba.

After lunch we drove out to Isabella Falls on Battle Camp road, some 30kms north west of Cooktown. What a beautiful place - a river crossing which we decided was a little deep for us to take our car through without a snorkel. We wandered around and I took some photos of the water cascading over the falls just below the road. There was a man swimming in the pool beneath - a place safe from crocodiles. The drive involved some dirt road but all was in excellent condition as it is early in the tourist season and seems to have been recently graded.

Judy phoned to let me know that Barry had his open heart surgery this morning and is now in ICU for the next couple of days. All seems to have gone well and he will now face a few months of recovery. Great news!

29th May
Cooktown Day 4

We were up early and in the carpark at the trackhead by 6.30am keen to tackle the Mt Cook summit walk. It was a steady climb along clearly defined track for the first couple of kms to the viewing platform and pleasant in the cool of the early morning. We enjoyed the calls of unfamiliar birds in the trees above.
There were extensive views out over the coastline and the mouth of the Annan River to the south from the platform and we paused here to drink water and to take photos. I suggested to John that we continue to the summit and we set off, following the small triangular orange markers affixed to trees at regular intervals along a considerably steeper less well defined track. The vegetation changed to rainforest plants as we assended - palms, ferns and the nasty wait-a-whiles which hide their barbed spikes on fine tendrils. John is good at seeing these and pointed them out to me so I could avoid being caught up. We had to clamber over rocks in some places, as well as trees which had fallen and blocked the track and we were soon wet with perspiration.
There's no marker to inform people that they have reached the summit, only a very ugly small building and a radio (or some other communications) tower surrounded by trees and big boulders. There are also no views and it was only by continuing a little way past the building and down a track that we found a large sloping rock face where we could stand and see the coastline to the south, similar to the one at the platform.
We retraced our steps and the return journey to the car took around an hour which meant that we had completed the walk in three hours. By this time it was starting to warm up and we were very sweaty. I put the aircon in the van on as soon as we got back to the park, then we sorted out the laundry and I managed to get it all on the line by around mid morning. I will be surprised if it feels very dry even if it hangs on the line all day.
We had an early lunch of fresh king prawns and salad sandwiches. (I bought the prawns along with some green king prawns at the fish shop on the wharf yesterday and we had sate prawns and stir fry vegetables with steamed rice for dinner last night.)

During the afternoon, I baked a loaf of wholemeal bread outside under the awning. I think the humidity affected the yeast as it resembled a brick when the breadmaker cycle finished! It tastes ok but is a bit heavy in texture!

I have been out voted and we will leave Cooktown tomorrow morning. I would have loved to have visited one of the aboriginal art sites near Laura on our way out of here (from Lakefield) but it seems that we will go to Mareeba area for a couple of days instead. I hope we get back up this way one day as it is such a beautiful part of Queensland - still remote enough to be not too affected by development, and the landscape is truly spectacular.


30th May
Granite Gorge Nature Park near Mareeba $28 powered for two (includes entry to gorge walks).

John and I left Cooktown around 8.30 and arrived in Mareeba by 12 after a leisurely trip. We had a look at the Rodeo Grounds as well as a couple of caravan parks in the town but didn't think much of any of them.The rigs in the Rodeo Park were lined up in a bare flat piece of ground and looked as close together as they would have been in a park! i guess when it is half the cost to stay there rather than in a van park then people would rather stay there but it didnt look very appealing to us at the time, amd Barb and Darrell needed shade plus to do laundry.
I had suggested coming here first so.....am very happy that we ended up driving the 14kms out. Its a quiet little place - with lovely walks, some beautiful scenery and bountiful wildlife - Very tame little grey rock wallabies living in the big granite boulders around the gorge. plenty of birdlife too, some in cages unfortunately.

We went for a walk around the gorge this afternoon along a track which started out on a narrow, mostly level track before a side track found us down in the gorge. From here the 'walk' required some rockhopping and climbing around and over big boulders as the water rushed and gurgled below. We took only one bottle of water and found it very hot, and in some places slow, climbing over and between the huge granite boulders as the 'path' marked with big white dots meandered around the gorge. Of course we also did it in reverse! Met a few others coming the other way, mostly international tourists. I took photos along the way to try to show the scale of the rocks against John.
Back inside the van we tried to cool off for a while and then of course it was time for the Sunday afternoon footy game which John and Darrell were happy to be able to watch on our tv. I spent the time playing around with photos - organising and editing some of the many I have taken on this trip so far.

The evening has cooled off and is very pleasant. I prepared us a lamb and lentil/vegetable curry with rice for dinner and we have enough left overs to freeze and have sometime in the future.

31st May Granite Gorge.

After breakfast we had a shortish quite easy walk around the gorge and the camp ground before setting off for Mareeba to do some sightseeing. Our first stop was to the caravan dump point, then for diesel and then a drive to the Wetlands just to the north of the town. We arrived at 9.30 to find the place closed despite the sign on the gate advertising opening hours as from 9am. I picked up a pamphlet and discovered that to actually see any of the wetlands we had to either take a tour - at around $50 plus per person, and even to just walk around approximately $15 each! A bit of a tourist rip off we thought but maybe it would have been worth it! We will never know!
We turned around and visited the mango winery where John tasted a few products and I bought presents for our family - a bottle each of dry wine and sparkling for the three girls and partners.

On the way back to Mareeba we drove 10 kms along the road to Dimbulah to a Coffee plantation and I enjoyed a double shot espresso before buying coffee beans and chocolates. Some of the chocolate coated macadamias have already been eaten but I am hoping that at least some of the others will last the distance to home!
Finally it was a visit to the coffee works in Mareeba where I tasted chocolates which were being made on the premises, before buying a lovely selection of chocolate and ginger, chocolate and nut, coffee chocolate, plain dark chocolate, chocolate coated mango......most of which I hope to take home for family if I can hide it from John!
By this time it was midday but we pressed on and did the grocery shopping. I stocked up on quite a few products for the first time in weeks and then had to spend ages packing it all away in fridge, freezer and other spaces.
The remainder of the day was spent baking a fruit bread, whipping up passionfruit icecream and then getting the campfire ready to bake our chicken and vegetable dinner. Barb and Darrell joined us around the campfire while it cooked and the sun set and then again after they had eaten their meal in their own van. We enjoyed ours by firelight while the little rock wallabies hopped and grazed around us.

1st June -
Chillagoe Tourist Village ( roadhouse van park) $22 powered.

I found the drive to Chillagoe interesting as the landscape changed from the agricultural mango and other plantations around Mareeba and was replaced with dry, rocky red soil and treed hills. The road traversed a couple of ranges and crossed creeks, passing through small communities including Dimbulah, Petford and Almaden and was mostly good bitumen surface. Between Almaden and Chillagoe there were a couple of short stretches of dirt where of course we encountered a road train or two.These threw up large billowing clouds of dust so we stopped for a couple of minutes to wait until it cleared. There was no problem about Barb and Darrell diong it in their vehicle and I am glad I had confirmation of the road conditions from a couple of recent travellers who answered my forum thread on EO and that Darrell consented to drive out rather than staying at Dimbulah some 90 kms east.

We booked in at this park for two nights after arriving in town before lunch and meeting the others at 'The Hub' - the combined visitor centre, PO and library all housed in a very pleasant modern airconditioned building. The others were keen to stay here without looking at alternative places so I went along with them. We were told to park anywhere so we did just that, spaced out under the shady huge trees with access to both water and power. There was only one other vehicle parked in the campground at the time.
Our water took some time to be connected as the limestone build up on the tap made fitting our hose impossible until John was handed the well known plumbers tool - my nail file! He managed to file off the lumpy deposits after some effort and fit the hose. The water is very limestone tasting and we have decided to draw drinking water from our tanks in the van while we are here.

John and I drove back to the Hub after lunch, and paid and booked to do all three cave tours tomorrow. Afterwards we took a drive around town and out to Balancing Rock to wander around and take photos, returning via the Donna and Trezkinn caves. We parked the car and went for a wander, decided to do one of the self guided caves which was a bit of an adventure. One (Pompeii?) looked too difficult as it involved sliding down a rock face for a couple of metres and I didnt know what was at the end of it. Did not want to injure myself! So we went on to the second one and managed it without too much trouble after a bit of a rock scramble.
We put on the aircon after our return from walk and drive around the remains of the tin smelters near town and cooled off in comfort for an hour or so. As the sun sank, it cooled down and was pleasant sitting under the trees
I was very thirsty and developed a bit of heatstroke I think, had to take a couple of headache tablets around dinner time, and drink numerous glasses of water!
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This afternoon the park filled up with 5 Pheonix vans travelling together who were staying across from us in Cooktown, and then a Tag-a-long tour came in and set up tents. The workers arrived back and the place was noisy early in the morning when they left for work before 6 in assorted vehicles, although I managed a great nights sleep!

2nd June

We tackled all three caves today, guided by a knowledgeable, interesting and polite young man from Qld parks, named Fred. The first was Donna cave, at 9am, with apparently over 400 steps - named because one of the rocks inside resembles a profile of - "Madonna". It was fantastic to have a guide all to ourselves as we were able to get up close to a couple of the horseshoe bats which inhabit the caves, as well ask questions freely. This cave like the Trezkinn which we toured at 11am is lit by electric lights which illuminate the limestone formations well. I managed to get a few reasonable photos along the 1 hour trip. The cave is flooded during many of the wet seasons and it was interesting to imagine it with water in it many metres in depth and apparently so clear the handrails can be seen clearly below according to Fred. We climbed up and down the steep steps without problems and after the tour wandered over the tops of the rocks to lookout over the surrounding country.
Between tours we had a walk through to the balancing rock carpark and return (1km each way) and then sat in the shade of a tree to have some fruit and water. I photographed the red flowering kurrajong and its flower and seedpod - a beautiful tree, as well as the landscape which I find so beautiful every time we get well away from the coast.
We found the 3/4 hour tour of the second cave - the Trezkinn (named after the two men who discovered it) - just as interesting as the first as we were shown the stalagtites and stalagnites and other features and were reminded how they were formed There were 4 other people along on this tour. The cave is mostly above ground level unlike the Donna.

We returned to the van to have lunch then drove out to the carpark for the Royal arch cave tour. On the way we found a juvenile papuan frogmouth in the middle of the road so we stopped and John placed it on the side to prevent it being run over. I took a few pics of the frightened little bird - an amazing looking little fellow, but we should have taken it with us to give to the rangers to contact Wires so it could be cared for, as when we returned we couldn't find it. I worry about it surviving without assistance however it didnt appear to have any injuries.

There would have been 20 of us along for the Royal arch cave,and we were each given a power pack attached to a torch which is the only lighting provided for the cave. This cave is huge and we only saw a small portion of it, despite visiting a number of different chambers and spending well over an hour inside. The temperature beneath the ground was approximately 20 degrees and very pleasant. There was a very small sidetrip which both John and I opted to do and which involved wriggling along on our tummies and squeezing through a small hole then sliding down a small smooth 'shute' to rejoin the others. I managed it without any problems which boosted my confidence and was really glad I had done it.
The combined torch power by 20 of us provided ample light to view the caves and see the bats, spiders and other small life forms within the cave. There were also small fossils embedded in the walls.
Back in the car by 3.30pm we drove out to the Archways and the Mungana art site and enjoyed an hour or so wandering around looking at the rocky landforms and the art created long ago by the first inhabitants of the area.
It was such a great day - so much to do and so interesting - and I am so glad we took the time to visit this fantastic little town.

The four of us sat around for a couple of hours tonight and talked about our time travelling together. It has been good despite my initial reservations about it but we have mostly chosen powered places and not too much remote stuff so that Barb and Darrell could come along and enjoy it. I wouldn't like to do it everytime as it prevents us from just stopping somewhere along the road or changing our plans from day to day and if we do it again I won't be providing any itinerary so we can be more flexible.
Tomorrow we part - and John and I have decided to spend a couple of nights in Herberton near Atherton as I wanted to see it on our way through to the north and didnt get a chance.
A school group with many senior primary school age children has set up tents in a corner of the campground tonight and the sounds of excited chatter of children can be heard in the distance. I guess they are all having an adventure!
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3rd June
Wild River van park - Herberton $20 powered.

This morning we retraced our steps from Chillagoe, back through Mareeba and turned south. In Tolga at the Peanut Place we had delicious gelato - chocolate for me and macadamia caramel for John - for morning tea. Absoutely delicious in waffle cones! We also refuelled and then set off for Herberton, not much over 20 kms from Atherton over a steep hilly windy road. The turbo on the car seemed to surge a couple of times so we hope it isnt going to cause us trouble further on in the trip. After last years problems in Geraldton we took out the extended three year Nissan warranty but hope we dont ever have to use it.

Checked in at this little quiet park in Herberton attached to a roadhouse/ service station/cafe. It has old faded signage and we were dubious about staying here but it is fine - theres only a couple of other people staying and it is so much quieter than in Atherton. After lunch we visited the Tourist Information centre and had a look at the Mining museum ($3) then stopped in the town for me to have a look at the Spy and Camera museum (entry $12 for pensioners) owned by an interesting man who gave me a one hour commentary. I found this to be incredibly interesting as there were cameras dating back from the first ones invented in the 1800's and I saw so many of the cameras I used to teach about, along with the photos and negatives they produced. The spy cameras were particulary fascinating - reminded me of Maxwell Smart in 'Get Smart' and there were truly ingenious inventions. Apparently this collection has been on ABC 'Collectors'. It certainly contains some priceless pieces of photographic memorabilia.


4th June.
Herberton

We had a quiet night last night, but were woken early by a B-double starting which parked here at one of the cabins after dark last night.

After breakfast we were back to the information centre to do one of the short walks, around 1km in length, around the site of the former mine. On the way we stopped to read the signs and view the pits, machinery and other remains which litter most of the hillside.
Then it was on to the Historic Village to spend an engrossing morning wandering around this collection of restored buildings including a blacksmiths workshop, butchers shop, frock salon, school building all furnished with an amazing array of original objects, engines, machinery and related vintage items. Buildings date from the 1870's with intact interior displays. Apparently the most significant collection in Queensland, the village is the work of two couples - Harry and Ellen Skenner and the present owners Craig and Connie Kimberley. As pensioners we were charged $20 each, a very modest fee we decided.
An incredible amount of planning and work has already been done and there is still work in progress with more buldings being restored.

We returned to the van for lunch then took a drive out to Irvinebank to have a look at the small village and to see what the road was like as it was signposted 'unsuitable for caravans'. It was bitumen for about half of the 26 kms and had a number of low cement creek crossings as well as some steep and winding gravel sections.
We decided it would indeed be an interesting trip towing our van!

It was a quiet afternoon around the park. We have had some tv reception here which has made John happy with football on tonight for hours. I dont tv most of the time and have even gotten used to not buying a current newspaper each day. We have read novels and I spend a lot of time on my laptop with photo editing, emails and researching places we are yet to visit and explore.

We hope to make an early start in the morning as we have 500 kms to drive to Charters Towers where we have decided to spend two nights.

5th June
Charters Towers.

A very long day spent in the car on a road with frequent works causing delays. We left Herberton at 7.30 and arrived in Charters Towers before 4pm. Stops along the way were minimal and we lunched at the service station at Greenvale under the shade of a tree, after buying fuel.
I had forgotten just how much of the 350kms or so of the Gregory Highway is being widened and sealed North of Charters Towers and south of the lunction of the Savannah Way, east of Undara Lava Tubes. We had hoped because it was a Saturday that the men would be taking a break however I guess the work has to be completed during the dry season and it continues at least 6 days a week, until done.

On arrival at the caravan park we rushed around to get set up and I did a load of washing so as to get it on the line first thing in the morning. We are staying in the same park as three weeks ago but it is considerably busier this time. There is also a bush poet appearing for happy hour (4.30 start) in the camp kitchen area, as well as a 3 course meal provided by a local club eg Rotary three nights a week for which tickets can be purchased at the office. Its a great service and promotes socialising but we probably won't take advantage of it.
We will be early to bed after such an early start this morning.

6th June
A lay day spent in Charters Towers to get laundry done, purchase a few groceries and have a look around. We have stayed here a number of times previously but hadnt been out to see the Burdekin weir some 13 kms from town. It looks like a lovely place for a picnic and John threw a line in the river near there for a while without success. Now he can say he has fished in the Burdekin. This is a mighty river and would be awesome in flood.
We picked up a few groceries in one of the shops but will have to wait for a week day to buy more than basics somewhere down the track. Home for lunch and then it was a lazy afternoon spent around the van and under the awning. I wandered across and enjoyed the entertainment at 4.30 and John watched his RL (Sunday afternoon footy).
Tonight we decided to return to Theresa Creek dam near Clermont for a week to trap redclaw and try to catch another barramundi. This will mean a more direct route south, and we should be able to avoid having the car serviced until we get near home. Both of us feel very excited about the prospect of returning there, as we love it.

7th June.
Theresa Creek - 7 nights ($70)

Another early start - around 7.30 - so we may have upset a few of our neighbours in the park, as it is impossible to get hitched up without some noise.
We had a good trip to Clermont but a headwind blew up as we travelled south and we required every drop of the extra 20 litres of diesel in our spare container to get to the service station. We also filled our water tanks and lunched in town before buying groceries and were at the dam by around 2pm. We were surprised to find there are many less people staying than three weeks ago, maybe because the nights have cooled considerably but the two places we had hoped to park are occupied. We have parked away from the other vans in this part of the campground, however they all have generators running and the noise is pretty annoying with the exhausts turned in our direction!!! Hopefully they wont run all day during the permitted hours of 7.30 am to 9.30 pm.
I intend having ours on every now and again for 5 minutes or so to power the coffee maker so cant complain I guess! (mybe I am just a grumpy old woman!)

After getting the van set up, we took the boat down and unloaded it, baited up the redclaw traps and set out to put them in the water over the far side of the lake. We also collected some firewood.I soon realised that my clothing was inadequate out on the water and the time we returned it was after 5 and starting to cool down rapidly. A few of the other campers were huddled around their campfires in beanies and warm clothes and I was running around in shorts and freezing my rear end off!! They gave me some funny looks but I was too busy to explain.... as I hurried in to get warmer gear on.

We had dinner inside the van - stir fry sate lamb, vegetables and rice and the gas warmed the space considerably. After washing up we drove up to the top amenities block to shower as it is quite some distance from our site. It is beautifully cool and theres no trace of humidity which is just wonderful! I think it will be a cold night - clear and starry outside. The last generator finally went off around 9.45 and the silence is blissful!

8th June
Theresa Creek
I was up around daylight and had to put on a beanie, gloves and socks to help me stay warm. Apparently it was 3 degrees in Clermont.
Today the Kovea 'Little Sun' gas heater will have to be pulled out from under the bed. John emerged to venture out to check the traps and returned with a few redclaw, mostly on the smaller side.
He wandered off to fish after breakfast and I put on the boots and went for a walk to get the heart pumping and blood warmed up.It was glorious out and I enjoyed the exercise after the previous few days sitting in the car for most of the time.
During the morning he managed to hook one barramundi which was 58cms in length - legal size - and we now have a couple of meals of fish filleted, skinned and in the freezer. Tonight I had alreadly planned to have lamb shanks cooked in the camp oven.
After lunch, we took the boat out on the lake and went for a drive up the creek to where the dead trees stick up like scarecrows from between the lily pads. It is just so picturesque and I took a number of photos. John threw out the line and tried to fish for a while but nothing seemed interested so we returned to the camp.
Later in the afternoon we returned to fish and I managed to hook something of reasonable size, however apparently failed to react quickly enough and all it did was eat the live shrimp! Anyway, I had fun....and we can always try again tomorrow!

Back at the camp, it was time to get the fire going and the dinner in the camp oven. We ate quite late, sitting around in the glow of the fire and enjoyed the stars and cool evening. Unfortunately the generators have all run all day and the noise is pretty horrendous, especially from the big, non inverter yellow one!
I think we should have set up our van the opposite way so as to have our awning side away from the noise....another lesson learned!

9th June.
Another cool clear night. This morning we went for a walk across the dam wall and then around to the other campground section after John had checked the traps and cooked up the redclaw. I saw a pair of jabiru - my first - and was surprised at just how big (tall) they are. Magnificent birds.

Two vans which were in 'our preferred spot' (the place we stayed when we were here three weeks ago) packed up and left and we decided on a whim to move not long after we returned from our walk. It took an hour or so all up but was well worth it as there is almost no noise from generators where we are. We both feel very happy about it!

I have booked us a powered site at Takkarakka resort near Carnarvon Gorge for 4 nights next week at a whopping $41 per night! I guess it is the pnly place to stay for travellers like us so they can charge whatever they please.
We are keen to rewalk the tracks there as we visited the park about three months after Johns bypass surgery on our first ever visit to Queensland, while he was on sick leave and I was on carer's leave. It will be interesting to see how we fare six years later (older) and we think fitter than we were then.

We spent the afternoon trying to hook a barramundi. I caught a yellowbelly and an eel tailed caatfish, both legal sized, on live shrimp but decided not to keep them. I only want to catch a barra!! John meanwhile had some very big fish hit his lure however couldnt land any so.....we now have an excuse to do it all again tomorrow! I am surprised at how much I enjoy fishing again.

We saw a small coppery brown snake swim across the water and then slither out and up the rocks nearby as the sun sank. I walked back to the van to close up windows and start preparing our dinner of redclaw mornay, steamed vegetables and damper and left John at it. He arrived sometime close to dark and announced that he had landed one small barra and released it.

10th June
This morning after breakfast I did a 45 minute walk along the track near the creek which really warmed me up. John had checked the traps which we have out on the dam and was cooking up the redclaw when I left, saving the half dozen or shrimp for fishing later in the day. There has been a very cool wind blowing all day and we are glad we moved to our current site and are facing away from the worst of it.

Around mid morning we packed some water and fruit and set off in the boat, motoring up the creek as far as we could get. After that we drifted around and fished for a while with bone chilling winds blowing and clouds drifting across the sky. Despite me wearing my thickest polar fleece I was freezing and resorted to putting my life vest on, john's jumper over my knees and the second life vest on my lap! It didnt help much and only when we eventually paddled up a side creek and the sun came out for a short while did I start to thaw. We had no success at all with fish and packed up after a couple of hours returning for lunch.

This afternoon we returned to the fishing spot and I managed to hook a very nice yellowbelly as well as a silver perch both of which we released after taking photographs to prove my fishing prowess to our children!! I also brought a beautiful, undersize barramundi right into the shore however was too impatient and he spat the hook as I tried to lift him from the water!He was so impressive - dancing on top of the water for me right near the bank and I wouldnt have kept him anyway but would have loved a photo. Now I am even keener to bring one in.

11th June.

A bit like groundhog day here again with more walking, fishing and campfire meal for dinner. We ate barramundi after I hooked two this afternoon and failed to get either of them to the bank! They were both well and truly legal size too as they seemed to take delight in showing themselves to me before they escaped with a flick of the tail into the water!! We fished earlier, due to my impatience, but should have waited as when they really began to bite, I was almost out of live shrimp bait! We will be back there tomorrow and I am more determined than ever. A woman on a mission!!!!
John caught a good sized one after I left (someone has to go back to the van and make the phone calls to family, organise the dinner....etc) which he carried in a bucket of water to the lake where he released it, much to the astonishment of the other campers.

The campground filled up today as it is the Queens Birthday long weekend and there was a constant stream of vehicles coming and going as they searched for the ideal place to park their van/ campertrailer/ motorhome. We were surprised that nobody parked behind us in the small space but we are still all alone up one end and I can continue to get up early (any time from 4.30am) and make a small amount of noise without worrying other campers. I dont use the generator to power the Nespresso until close to 8am, using the filter one instead for my first coffee of the day.

12th June.

A personal goal has been achieved!!!!
Finally.....I caught a beauty - a barramundi 58 cms in length. I felt a real adrenalin rush as I managed to bring him in after a bit of a struggle. John had tried to get me to fish in other parts of the water but I had a bit of a play around and after sitting in one place for a while suddenly I was aware of my float bobbing and then it disappeared. Of course it was one of those moments when I had taken my eye off it and was dreaming (I find the concentrating on the float a bit tiring on the eyes!) so I took a few seconds to react! John heard my cries and moved toward me and was there to pick him off the bank! After photos we agreed to release him into the dam where he has a much better chance of surviving the winter, however I felt a real desire to keep him.

We had no more success for some time until John had a barra hit his lure a number of times in the same place. We then cast out the shrimp which of course he also hit (and which I dropped) and finally he caught him on the next cast with his lure. It was almost a matching one to mine - around 1 cm shorter he kindly told me. He had another walk to the dam to release him while I returned to make phone calls to the family to tell them of my success!!!

16th June
overnight in free camp at Virgin Rock a couple of kms NW of Springsure
Toilet, water, allows vans but not camping.

We left Theresa Creek yesterday morning and stopped in Emerald briefly to buy essential grocery items. Arrived in Springsure before lunch time and drove to the Showground where we intended staying. However when we saw that they charge $25 for powered sites we decided to drive the couple of kms back along the highway to here and parked as far back off the road as possible with our door away from the road as well, for privacy.
The imposing Virgin Rock and Minerva Hills are a backdrop to the camp.

We unhitched the van and took a drive to Minerva Hills National Park following the tracks up the ridgeline until we came to a couple of lookout points - one at Fred's Gorge and anoother with a short walk (800 metres) to Skyline Lookout. There were good views of Springsure and the surrounding country, as well as towards Virgin Rock and our camp. It is harsh dry and rocky country up there with hardy plants clinging to life, rock wallabies and small spindly dead trees, evidence of a fire some time ago.

On our return, we parked the car close to the A frame so there will be minimal reversing this morning to get hitched up. There are probably 8 other vehicles here but still plenty of space and we have both enjoyed a good restful nights sleep, despite some heavy traffic.
My only grievance has been poor internet signal, although the phone works well enough, and I think it is a problem caused by the USB stick modem which is now years old. I have the antennae connected and sitting on the roof but the signal keeps dropping out and I havent been able to access some sites. Not really worth worrying about I guess!

The night has been unseasonably warm with light showers wind and cloud, clearing this morning to fine and clear.

I didnt have any more success with barra at Theresa creek however John hooked one around 53cms which he released into the dam. That means 5 have been given a chance to survive the winter water temperatures there. I caught a small yellowbelly and I guess had the winning total for the 8 days we were there but it it went on weight, then John would win hands down! Also I relied on him to bait my hook as I dont want to handle the live shrimp who understandly object to being put on a hook!
The last few days there were cool, cloudy and windy and none of the fish were as active. Also there was a group of teenage boys playing around down there, fishing and generally making noise as they do! We were lucky to enjoy as many days as we did with the fish biting I reckon. I was happy to spend a few hours each day sitting on the rocks surrounding the pool, practising my casting and enjoying the moment until the evening cooled.
Each day I managed a walk somewhere or other and each evening we lit the fire up and cooked our evening meal main course or accompaniment - pumpkin damper, roast chicken, moroccan chicken, heated the washing up water etc. We love these camps so much and had a great week there.

Today we move south to Takkarakka Resort, the caravan park for Carnarvon Gorge. We stayed there probably 5 years ago and did the walks so it will be interesting to compare with then.

16th June.
Takkarakka (Carnarvon Gorge)
$41 powered
Our overnight place proved to be very comfortable. During the night we heard light showers on the roof and the occasional truck roared past. I slept for what must be close to a record number of hours - around 9 - since we left home.
We were away by 8 and had to call in to the toilet dump point in Springsure to do the necessary. Our trip to the resort was uneventful - fuel at Rolleston and then south some 60 kms to the turn off on the Carnarvon Highway.
It is about 40kms from the turn and only the last 12kms is still dirt. There are a number of creek crossings and the steepest of these is on the dirt. Presently there is only shallow water running across the road but I can imagine that it would not take too much rain to stop traffic crossing.
The dirt surface is great at present but of course its condition would vary depending on traffic and weather.
We arrived here before 12 and found Barb and Darrell setting up their van in the site next to us. After a quick catch up and we parked and got ourselves organised and I begged John to connect the water so I could make my Nespresso coffee. (I went without it from Monday night until then as John didnt want to unpack the gennie in the free camp!!!!)
There is no phone or internet signal as I though although I could access the parks wifi network if I wanted. Not sure just how I do that and I dont want to want to then ruin my normal email access settings so will have a few days without. My family know where we are if necessary.
After lunching and chatting to Barb and Darrell for a while we set off to do the short walks around the resort - one to a lookout, and others along the creek and to the platypus pool'. The school group close by ensured that there would be no viewing of platypus for us! They are mstly spotted at dawn and dusk so we knew there was little chance.
I had thought about doing laundry however at $5 per load and with the laundry situated in the far amenities block, have decided to leave it until the next town and laundromat, probably Roma.Hand washed the undies and socks instead.
Returning to the vans, it was a lazy afternoon spent talking under the awning and deciding on the activities for the next couple of days.
After dinner (chicken and vegetable curry and brown rice) John settled in to listen to the 2nd State of Origin RL game on the poor AM radio signal for a couple of hours. He shouldnt have bothered as it was yet another embarrassing defeat for NSW!!

17th June.
We packed lunch and snacks and set off this morning from the van park around 8am to do the Gorge walk to Big Bend - 9.6 kms one way from the visitor centre. Theres a drive of about 4 kms to the Visitor centre and car parks some of which is bitumen. I picked up a pamphlet on the walks and had a chat to the ranger at the station on the way and we set out around 8.30 in the cool morning air.
The track has changed somewhat since our walk here 5 years ago as the floods in February this year washed away many of the creek crossings. For the first section it now crosses the creek in front of the Visitor Centre and then follows the creek line some kms through macrozamia cycads, Carnarvon fan palms, grass trees and forested, rocky, hilly country on a track with formed steps in many parts. The track is still a work in progress. I stopped along the way and took photos and John walked ahead so once again I have many pics of him receding into the distance.
We decided this time to walk to the Big Bend at a comfortable pace and then call in at any of the side features we wanted to see starting at the other end. It was cool to begin with and I was glad I wore my light merino sweater and much of the walking was in shade. I called in to the toilets at the turn to Moss Garden and we continued for kms before choosing a couple of flattish boulders in the middle of a dry creek bed to have morning tea and rest. It was warm when walking by this time but there was still a chill in the air whenever I stopped.
This is such a scenic walk and the track is so varied. For much of the way the huge white sandstone cliffs of the gorge are visible and the track crosses the creek by way of stragetically placed boulders. The vegetation consists of ferns, some tree ferns and palms dotted along the edges, grass trees, and ancient cycads and taller eucalypts. I spotted a colourful small butterfly sitting on a rock and was able to snap off a few photographs also paused for water frequently and enjoyed the scenery.
We met one couple about our age who had camped at Big Bend for two nights and walked up to Battleship spur and saw one other young couple on our walk to Big Bend and so were able to enjoy the place by ourselves.

We decided to view the cathedral cave which is 500 metres from big bend on our way up as there was more chance of being there before any others arrived and it was great timing as the sun hadn't hit the walls. I was able to photograph the aboriginal artwork in good light. On our previous visit we had seen the cave but I had forgotten just how impressive an Aboriginal art site it is - a huge wind eroded overhang which sheltered Aboriginal people for thousands of years. The lower surfaces are covered in ochre stencils and rock engravings, also some freehand paintings. I took a number of photographs but don't feel they really convey the scale and significance of this beautiful place.

Continuing, we arrived at Big Bend described in the national Parks brochure as 'a natural pool in Carnarvon creek in an elbow of the gorge beneath looming sandstone walls.' and enjoyed it alone sitting at the picnic table. Here we ate our sandwiches and tested the echos which reverberate off the rock walls with a barrage of calling, clapping and 'singing'. There are clean self composting toilets provided at this campground which is used by hikers doing the walk up to Battleship spur and beyond on the 'Carnarvon Great Walk' an 80 km rigorous track which takes around a week to complete.
As we were leaving a friendly young French couple arrived and we took photographs for one another so we have a record of our visit here.

My legs and feet still felt surprisingly fresh but I knew that by the time we finished the walk we would be very weary and footsore so we took the return trip at a comfortable pace. As we were leaving, we met more people however there were surprisingly few we thought for such a popular walk.
We took the side tracks to the Art Gallery - another art site where 'over two thousand engravings, ochre stencils and freehand paintings adorn the 62 m long sandstone walls' and the Ampitheatre both of which tested our tired legs somewhat. We began to feel very weary when climbing steps but had no trouble climbing the four metal ladders to enter the narrow walkway through to the Ampitheatre - 60 metre deep chamber gouged from the rock by running water with soaring rock walls all around through which flows a small trickle of water and where tree ferns and other vegetation grows in lush greenery. It was cool and quiet inside and we sat and enjoyed the tranquility (not to mention the rest for our legs!)

We started back and the track seemed to get longer and more tiring, especially once we arrived back at the junction of the Moss Garden track which is 3.5 kms from the visitor centre. The new section of track with uphill steps which were downhill on our way up the gorge suddenly seemed endless and steep and we put our heads down and plodded on, swapping short humerous conversations with anyone we encountered, especially others who were foot sore too. Finally we arrived back at the Visitor centre and then it was a long 200 metres or so back to the carpark and back to the van, around 3.30. We walked somewhere in the vicinity of 23 kms a bit more than our usual 7.

Darrell had managed to get to the Art Gallery and Wards canyon but struggled to get back and was very sore and sorry. We sat around the communal campfire and enjoyed the company of other travellers until after dark, swapping stories and information and back at the van I was so tired, I struggled to cook us a steak and vegetables for dinner. It is a good feeling to be tired because of exercise though.

18th June Friday.
Takkarakka day 2.

Last night we had both decided to have a bit of a rest day today however we woke refreshed and ready for a walk with no signs of the exertion. It was agreed that we shouldnt waste a day sitting around the van park.
After breakfast we packed fruit and water and walked back up the Gorge to see the Moss garden and then Wards Canyon, both of which we had seen on our previous trip here. It was a good walk, around 11 kms in total and we did it without too much effort despite steep steeps to access Wards Canyon. The king ferns there are spectacular as well as rare - their huge fronds metres tall held erect with water which fills the interior like a giant hose. The vibrant greens are in brilliant contrast to the deep red ochre of the rocks in the waterway which runs through the canyon before dropping over the edge to fall down the rocks and into the gorge. We arrived to find it empty and had morning tea sitting with the vista of ferns and rocks, and the trickle of water. This is a beautiful place and close to the main track.

The walk to the Moss Garden is a longer deviation off the track (650 m) but worth every step up along the valley, ending at a mossy, ferny waterfall. The track is well formed as are all the tracks in this National Park. We thought it wasnt as mossy as on our previous visit and that perhaps the big flood of February had washed away some of the growth, however it is still a lovely place and being the closest venue from the Visitor Centre, is accessable to many people who would not be able to venture further.
We arrived back at the van for lunch and after toasted sandwiches and fruit cake I decided to defrost my freezer and fridge. I have discovered that if the contents are packed into the Blue insulated shopping bags, food stays frozen and cold, and by placing bowls of boiling water in the cavities of fridge and freezer the process takes only a couple of hours. I repacked the freezer as soon as it was turned back on and left the fridge to recover for a while before the fridge thermometer told me it was cooling again. It was soon back to around 2 degrees.

This afternoon John also gave me my usual No 6 haircut with the clippers then we wandered back to the fire to meet new and old faces and enjoy a happy couple of hours. We heated leftover lanb shanks and couscous which I had taken from the freezer, added a can of chick peas, half a can of diced tomatoes and a handful of surprise peas for dinner tonight - very easy and minimal washing up required.

After showers it was time to bring out the DVD's and we chuckled and squirmed as we watched a couple of episodes of 'The Office'. Its a bit like watching 'Fawlty Towers' for John but I love them both and never cease to get a laugh from them, regardless of how many times we see them. Ricky Gervois is brilliant, as are all the characters in this British comedy.

As we drifted off to sleep, we could hear Darrell and Barb's radio and the Rugby League commentary reverberating out of their van.

19th June Saturday.
Takkarakka day 3.

It has rained lightly during the night and now is heavier at 7am so looks like a it may be a wet day here. John and I had planned to walk Boolimba Bluff but I think that may have to wait until later in the day as the ladders and rocks may be slippery. I can hear vehicles and people moving so no doubt those with 2WD vehicles are going to try to get out before the road is closed! It may well be too late as even a small amount of rain can cause the roads to deteriorate with traffic.

8PM.
The road was closed between Takkarakka and the Carnarvon Highway for a few hours as vehicles trying to leave as well as some trying to get in were both bogged and required help. Some travellers waited on the road for most of the day and arrived mid to late afternoon after the sun had been out for a couple of hours to dry it out a bit. There will be stories to tell to those at home for anyone who experienced it I guess.
The showers eased by 9am and John and I put on the boots and waterproof jackets around 10 and set out. The dirt road between takkarakka and the National Park Visitor Centre was ok on the way in and muddy and slippery in places when we returned some three hours later. We didn't have any problems however those in 2WD vehicles with conventional tyres may well have.
We were soon back on the Gorge track and turned right to take the 3.2 km one way short steep track up Boolimba Bluff which is the only formed lookout track from the Gorge.There is a warning that it should be attempted only by the physically fit, rated class 4! It was cool even when walking and only when I was climbing up the steepest 300 metre section with ladders did I remove the jacket. I found the uphill climb reasonably easy as it is well formed steps and rocks placed at regular intervals. We last did this walk 5 or so years ago and I recalled it as the vegetation changed and we progressed up the narrow valley and eventually climbed out on top. The weather cleared and it was cool and beautiful and flat walking for the last 600 or so metres across to the lookouts over the Gorge. The last couple of hundred metres turned to thick clinging clay which stuck to our boot soles and clogged the tracks making them look like big flat snow shoes, so that we had to take small steps for fear of slipping over.
We had clear views, and patches of blue sky appeared while we sat in a sheltered spot to eat our morning tea of fruit. Then it was back through the mud and on to the track to return to the carpark. Before the descent we ensured we had dislodged some of the mud so we wouldnt take a slide on the steps but I guess any now left will have to dry to fall off. We met a single man as we were returning along the escarpement and then a young couple about half way up the steep section but otherwise had the track all to ourselves.
By 1 pm we had returned to the van for lunch. It was very cool in the wind however the sun shone through and tonight is very clear and starry and probably the coldest we have experienced here. Twice the power has gone off and a short time later the generator power has kicked in apparently. I was only using lights at the time so didnt notice anything other than them dimming a little. We have our fan heater on low and it will come on during the night to keep the van at a cool pleasant sleeping temperature.
Tonight we were first at the fireplace as John was given the job of getting the fire started. Before long others arrived and we ended up having quite a large group of happy people sitting in a circle around it. The park supplies a small amount of wood to burn for a couple of hours which is a bonus we think.
I returned to the van to prepare dinner - pan fried barramundi and sooty grunter fillets with vegetables which was a simple meal but enjoyable as we had caught the fish.
Tonight I feel tired and very happy that I had included this place on our list of places to stay and walks to do. Having been here twice now, we may never return but it is a beautiful place and not to be missed.

Tomorrow I will be happy to get back to phone and internet service and to get in touch with the family. We are planning on being somewhere near St George by tomorrow night.

Kapunda Fishing Park.
Of all the paths you take in life, make sure a few of them are dirt. John Muir
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