Well, the all-in race to the fish BBQ never eventuated, the free fish BBQ was a very civilised affair with table service! Perhaps the owners of Karumba Point Caravan Park had realised a while ago that the push and shove of previous years was a little daunting! We had a great evening of entertainment with the kids getting up on a few occasions to join in the singing and dancing.
The lack of crocodile sightings while we’ve been in “croc territory” has been a little disappointing, although we didn’t want any close encounters it would have been great to see a few more in the wild (from afar!). However, I’m very pleased that the crocs which are around today rarely (if ever) get to the size of ”Krys” the croc who was shot by Krystina Pawlowski in 1957 on the Norman Rover near Normanton. Krys measured 8.63meters and is the largest ever shot – brilliant record for the ladies!
Just out of Normanton is the site of Burke and Wills’ camp 119. This is the last camp that the ill-fated explorers made before their final push to the coast to be the first European’s to make the journey from the south coast, crossing the middle of the continent to the north coast. Theirs is an amazing story about the disorganisation and unfortunate set of circumstances that resulted in the 1860/61 expedition losing five lives, including those of Burke and Wills themselves when they missed the rendezvous of their relief party by eight hours (after a four and a half month wait!). Ben and I have both recently read “The Dig Tree” by Sarah Murgatroyd which tells the whole story brilliantly, a book I’d definitely recommend for those not familiar with the history of this expedition.
Our drive from Karumba to Burketown crossed many rivers and river beds which change dramatically from this time of the year to the wet season. The water level on the Leichardt River commonly rises to 15ft above the causeway (which is over above the falls). Such an incredible amount of water that’s truly hard to comprehend.
We camped for a couple of nights on the Gregory River at Gregory Downs, the kids had a ball floating down the river and racing up the river bed over and over again all day long. There were certainly a few tired souls getting into bed that night.
We’ve made this little detour from Normanton to spend some time at Lawn Hill National Park, a place that we’d been told is a ‘must see’. We certainly were not disappointed! There are two places to stay here, at the National Park itself on the edge of the gorge or at Adels Grove, a commercial park. We stayed at Adels Grove, right beside a deep swimming hole in Lawn Hill Creek, it’s nice to be able to swim so much again after a long time near croc waters. At Adels Grove we met up again with the Hurt family who we had met in Karumba. The Hurts live about 15mins from us at home and Hudson is in the same distance education class as Tobey, we are also working out what mutual friends we have (Horders, you’re the first!)… small world!
We hired (overpriced) canoes at Lawn Hill Gorge and paddled up the gorge, having to go overland around the falls. We saw two pretty big freshwater crocs sunning themselves on the side of the gorge. The gorge was beautiful in the early morning as the sun came into the gorge and shone on the red walls. It was a bit of a sprint home to the hire place though, we needed to get the canoes back before our two hours expired and we’d be charged another bomb!
From Lawn Hill we took the slightly long way down to the Barkly Highway, heading out to the Burke & Wills Roadhouse and then south to Cloncurry so that we’d be able to pass through Mount Isa. There was not a huge amount to see in Cloncurry, but we did take a look around the museum where Indi took a spin on an old trike and we saw one of the water bottles once belonging to Robert Burke.
The museum houses many of the remains of the town of Mary Kathleen, developed in the late 1950’s to mine uranium, but due to the oversupply of uranium on the world market the mine and town were closed in 1984. The whole town was auctioned off and what didn’t sell was dismantled and taken away. You wouldn’t know there used to be a town at the site of the town (about 50km west of Cloncurry) if it wasn’t for the tourist signs.
After a quick overnight stop at a rest area near ex-Mary Kathleen we spent the day in Mount Isa. We weren’t able to go on the underground mine tour though because Indianna was too young. I think the kids far preferred the alternative option of the skate and water park though. Ben thought the sight of the smoking stack beyond the park reminded him of Mr Smithers from The Simpsons… “distract them with some fun and they’ll never know what we’re doing over here!”.
Fully stocked and full of water and fuel we set off from Mount Isa for our last night in Queensland and what a wonderful campsite it was. We camped on the side of the billabong just out of Camooweal around a camp fire and with all sort of birds to keep us company, the rowdiest being the Brolgas, squawking and dancing away.
We’ve been in Queensland just for just over three months and have covered around 13,500km. There is so much to see in this state we have barely scratched the surface, we’ve had an excellent time though and when I think back to some of the highlights (like Fraser Island, snorkelling on the Great Barrier Reef, driving the Old Telegraph track on Cape York, the big skies near Winton, the rainforests all along the northern coast) it seems like we have been in Queensland for far longer than three months.
Now we’re in ‘The Territory’ where the speed limits are fast, the roads are straight and the trucks are big!