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  • Day55

    BURKETOWN up to GEORGETOWN 25/6 to 5/7

    July 13, 2018 in Australia ⋅ 🌙 18 °C

    BURKETOWN TO GEORGETOWN 25/6 to 5/7/18
    We headed off from Adels Grove along dirt roads which were rough in places, passing through dry and flat countryside with thousands of termite nests among the yellow grass. After crossing the Gregory River we came to Gregory Downs which is not so much a town as a group of buildings and a homestead of the property of the same name. There were a lot of caravans free-camping along the banks of the river. From there we headed north towards Burketown through similar terrain and reached the small town which consists of a fuel stop/general store, a couple of other shops and a few houses. It also had a caravan park where we stayed for the night before setting off the next day along a sealed road towards Leichhardt Falls. We crossed the Leichhardt River and drove off road in search of the falls but the road was not fit for towing a caravan so Frank had to manoeuvre a U turn on the narrow dirt road. I headed off on foot to see the falls but it turned out there was no water flowing although the cliffs and gorge were impressive. We drove out to the main road in search of the free camp by the river which we had heard about but with no luck as there were no signs and no way of seeing it from the road. So we continued towards Normanton along dirt the roads of the Savannah Way through eucalypt and yellow grassland with some herds of cattle congregated around waterholes or wandering across the road in places. Again there were some areas densely populated with termite mounds which sometimes looked like a derelict ancient graveyard full of old headstones. On the way we crossed the Armstrong Creek and Flinders River which were very wide and the bridges very low. In the wet season these roads would be under water. We pulled in to see the memorial at the Burke and Wills camp 119 which was the final camp of their expedition before they headed south to try to reunite with the rest of their party on the Cooper Creek in S.A. Then we continued our drive to Normanton where we checked in to the caravan park for our four night stay.
    We enjoyed our stay in Normanton. The owners of the van park encourage everyone to wash the dust off their van and car as there doesn’t seem to be any water restrictions and they were happy to have plenty of water on the ground to encourage the grass to grow although I think it was a losing battle with the grass! We took full advantage and spent half a day getting rid of a lot of red dirt off everything. The amenities block was unique – made of rusty looking corrugated iron but clean inside with lots of quirky plaques and posters on the walls. I just love the outback humor. The dump point was inside an old Telstra phone box! While in Normanton we visited some points of interest including the old wharf on the Norman River, the old gaol, the historic shire council building and old pubs and the replica of an 8.6 metre salt water crocodile which is the largest ever killed by a croc hunter in the world. We also went on a short trip on a vintage rail motor – RM60 built in 1931. It is really an old bus which was converted to run on rails with bogie wheels replacing its wheels and tyres. There is a rail line between Normanton and Croydon which is totally isolated from the rest of the Qld. rail network and this is the route of the historic Gulflander train which still runs from Normanton to Croydon on a Wednesday and returns on a Thursday, a five hour journey each way along the line which still has the original steel sleepers laid between 1888 and 1891 which were used to withstand flood waters. Ours was a short trip of only 45 minutes on the rail motor but quite memorable, noisy and bumpy. The historic railway station is beautifully kept and contains a small museum.
    After leaving Normanton we travelled north to Karumba which is situated right on the Gulf of Carpentaria where we had booked to stay four nights at Karumba Point caravan park at the mouth of the Norman River. Along the way we saw lots of brolgas in pairs or small groups near marshland or on the flat, dry looking plains. We were fortunate to arrive on a Saturday as the van park put on a free fish dinner with entertainment in the camp kitchen area on that night. On the Sunday morning we walked about a kilometre to the small town centre where a weekly market is held and then enjoyed lunch of local prawns and chips at the seafood shop. Another Karumba experience was a guided tour of the Barramundi Discovery Centre which is the hatchery where the southern strain of the gulf barramundi is bred before being released into rivers and lakes in the gulf region. Barramundi can grow up to 1.8 metres in length and we were all given the opportunity to hand feed a piece of squid to the large breeding fish in the holding tanks. That was quite an experience as the fish take the food with such speed and a loud snap that you can’t really see what just happened! We also went on a sunset cruise from Karumba township where we motored up the Norman River for about a kilometer where we spotted a croc on the river bank and also saw a family of Jabiru (Black-necked Stork) which are large (up to 2 metres) striking looking water birds. Their head and neck is an iridescent shimmering green and purplish colour. This family had become used to the tour boat and waited for their feed of fish. We motored out of the river mouth and watched the sun set over the Gulf while enjoying drinks, nibbles and fresh prawns. It’s a hard life!! We thoroughly enjoyed our Karumba experience, seafood and sunsets.
    We then backtracked along the same road through Normanton and turned off in a south-easterly direction towards Croydon. The Gulflander rail line follows beside the road and we pulled in to a way-stop near a tiny siding at a station called Blackbull which is the half way point on the rail line in the middle of nowhere where we had some lunch before continuing to Croydon. We stopped at a freecamp at the rodeo grounds near the edge of town. It happened that a large group of about 200 bike riders and support crew were also staying there for the night. They were on an annual ride from Cairns to Karumba. Croydon is typical of a lot of small towns in the outback where historic buildings have been restored, parks are well kept and local history is highlighted. In Croydon’s case it revolved around the gold rush of the late 1800’s. Before heading off the next morning, Frank played golf on the 9 hole “course” next to the rodeo grounds. The “fairways” were rugged with tufts of dead grass and lots of gravel but the greens were very upmarket – covered in artificial grass! He only lost two balls in the rough (more like scrub). After another outback golf experience we headed off along the Savannah Way towards Georgetown through grassland and forested areas which became hilly in places. We crossed the wide Gilbert River and the sealed road reduced to a single vehicle width with wide graded dirt on either side. When the huge road trains approached there was no option but to pull over onto the dirt and let them pass. You never argue with a road train!
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