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Published: October 2nd 2017
It is with immense sadness that this blog begins with the loss of one of our fur-kids….our beautiful Bailey “Boo” lost his battle with cancer on 22nd
Sept, aged 2 months shy of 16, leaving us as a one-cat family for the first time since we moved in together. His big bro Oscar has been coming to grips with it all (and enjoying all the culinary benefits of being an only child) and we too have a big hole in our lives, it will take some time for the grief to ease. Bailey was diagnosed in April, so we feel absolutely blessed to have had his little face around for an extra 5 months, and will always remember our travels with him this past 12 years in Boris. RIP little man.
Sending a big cyber-hug & GET WELL SOON to Jeff’s mum Colleen too, who is recovering from an op after a nasty break. We hope you get back to the comfort of home quick time and success with the mountains of physio ahead.
Colleen’s plight has certainly reminded us of just how far away north we are in this huge state of QLD, however
our journey southwards has begun, having smashed out the whole QLD interior and gulf country since we took off back in June this year. Well, smashed out as best we can without having a four wheel drive, that is. North of Karumba and north of Cooktown will have to remain on the bucket list for when we have a mode-of-transport change.
That being said, the bits we have seen have kept us entertained and awed in equal measure – so here goes….and all without any mechanical failure this time yippee!
Our last blog ended with us leaving Mt Isa heading East, with our first night camped only about 60km from Isa, at a little spot called Fountain Springs. On our way we stopped at the former mining township of Mary Kathleen, now a ghost town as it was closed in the 1980’s. They tore every scrap of building materials down so all that remains are the eerie remnants of fully sealed roads, concrete where carports once stood & it’s now a popular free camp, especially the “slab” sites!
At Fountain Springs camp we noticed a sign explaining that just over the
road there was a tourist drive out to the actual Fountain Springs (beautiful, but not flowing this time of year), and a couple of ghost towns named Ballara, Bulonga and Hightville, circa 1913, pertaining to tin mining in the area, and even relics of an old steam railway that hauled the loads west. It was absolutely incredible and well worth dragging Daz out and the sore butts. Mind you, when they said “EXTREME 4WD” on the sign out to follow the rail trail, they meant it! Tab had to disembark Daz a couple of times and walk up the steep and often washed out trail. At the furthest point of the journey was an old rail tunnel which was very eerie, but such an engineering feat, you could almost feel the blood, sweat and tears of the men who dug it with a pick & shovel.
We ended up spending quite a few hours exploring out there so a second night at the same camp before we trundled into Cloncurry for the first time. There was not a lot going on in town due to the nearby Quamby Rodeo being on that day, but we saw plenty
of cowboys and girls with buckles the size of dinner plates and their best RM boots scrubbed up nicely! Next on the list was a beer at the pub made famous in Crocodile Dundee – the Walkabout Creek Hotel in McKinlay. We had a liquid lunch and then continued on the road to spend the night at the Blue Heeler Hotel in Kynuna, where we hand-fed giant brolgas (almost as tall as Tab!) and enjoyed the serenity and ever-changing colours of the outback sunset from the pubs expansive verandah. The next day we took in the sights of Combo Waterhole, rumoured to be the site of the “billabong” in the famed Waltzing Matilda, when Banjo Patterson was at nearby Dagworth Sheep Station back in 1885.
A little birdy had sent us a text message to tell us they were in Winton in a couple of days time, so, being only about 150km from there, we promptly texted the little birdy back and returned to our favourite chook race venue The North Gregory Hotel! The chook races were on again, but our main priority was a good old chin wag with Phil & Di, who we worked with
on the cattle station in the Pilbara (see blog Station Life). Last time we caught up with these guys was back in Clare when they paid us a visit, and before that in Alice after Molly passed away and it was all hands on deck to clear out her house. We enjoyed a few frothy ones of course, dinner at the pub, and endured the terrible music in the front bar until bedtime. As always, an absolute bloody pleasure seeing you both again and safe onward journey back to WA guys xoxo
There was a dirt road linking the road from Winton straight up to Julia Creek, which would cut off about 80km of road travel, so always being up for an adventure we decided to give it a crack. The first 30km was great, then pockets of bulldust started appearing at about the 40km mark (also about ¾ of the way to our destination). Bulldust promptly turned to bullshit and Jeff performed an exceptional full-speed 180 with Boris ankle deep in the dust (liken it to turning a boat around in custard), but Boris dug in deep and we headed back to the safety of the
road-more-travelled! It was to be the long way round to Julia Creek afterall, via the Blue Heeler Hotel for the night once more.
A night at the RV friendly park there and it was gulf country calling as we made our way past Burke & Wills Roadhouse up to Normanton. Here the weather changed drastically and we could feel every percent of the humidity, combined with about 31 degrees had us very thirsty. A three-pub crawl took up the afternoon, afterall we had to compare which pub had the stickiest tables and the most lipstick on the glasses (QLD pubs must have the dodgiest glass washers in history). The Gulflander train departs from Normanton, but we’d missed that days departure and we got there just as it came back in on our way past the second time. Added to the bucket list!
In between our two visits to Normanton we headed to the bottom right corner of the gulf to a little town called Karumba. It was fantastic there, had a real beachy holiday vibe with plenty of sight seeing and one of the best views from a beer garden we have ever experienced
(see sunset pics, like “stairway to heaven” at Broome). We also grabbed tickets for a croc and canapes sunset cruise that takes you 7km out to a little sandbar, enjoying drinks and nibbles while you watch the sun set – once in a lifetime bloody magic to sit out in the gulf, superbly quiet surrounded by croc infested water. The only crocs we saw on this trip, however was the fashion-forward footwear variety!
We had been constantly warned about the number of sandflies in Karumba, but can happily report Tab escaped with only 10 and Jeff only 3, and yes, they are still itchy a few weeks on, but could be a whole lot worse. On our way out of Karumba we loaded up on fresh gulf king salmon, and opted to stop about halfway back to Normanton to throw the net in at Walker Creek. After hearing a decent splash, a little freshwater croc swam up to our camp spot, leaving us to wonder if there might be a bigger saltie or two in the creek…..and also if the answer to that was yes, how the hell were we going to get the net out safely??
We decided speed was key (and weapon of choice a shovel, just in case) and found four little fish in there but no crabs or yabs. Best of all, no crocs waiting for the humans that accompanied the net!
A restock of the pantry at Normanton and we again turned East starting our maiden voyage to the FNQ coast. Through the pretty little town of Croydon where we scored a free (cold) shower at Lake Belmore, just what we needed to wash off the dirt and sweat and found a beaut little roadside stop about 30km past Croydon. We had booked a night at Cobbold Gorge which now takes the trophy of the worst road in Australia! Only 40km of dirt this time, but it took about 4 hours aaaaarrrrgh! Once there, we enjoyed the little oasis of the campgrounds, infinity pool, deck bar and looked forward to the gorge cruise we had booked for the following morning. It was nothing short of spectacular! About 15 people per solar-powered boat (no noise) as you cruise through the sheer walls of the gorge, sometimes only a few feet apart – claustrophobics avoid! Fresh water crocs could be heard
splashing ahead of the boats, and their wet body marks on the rocks, but we didn’t get any close ups unfortunately. After the tour we embarked on the return bumpy ride back out to the main drag, and pulled up camp in a little town called Forsayth for the night. We found out purely by coincidence that the Savannahlander train was departing Forsayth the next morning, taking a 3 hour journey through the countryside to the outpost called Einasleigh, with the option of a return journey to Forsayth by coach (as the Savannahlander train continued east all the way to Cairns). We jumped at the chance and thoroughly enjoyed the trip, with a walk through Copperfield Gorge at Einasleigh, a pub lunch only to be dropped back to Boris in air conditioned comfort, the return journey taking about 40 minutes rather than 3 hours – gives you some idea of how slow the train was!
Continuing East we stayed the night at Mount Surprise and booked a tour of the Undara Lava Tubes for the following morning. WOW!! The absolute highlight of our trip in QLD so far. The pics don’t do it justice, it was spectacular
and made you feel ant-sized to the forces of nature that made this incredible place. Definitely go there.
Hot springs once again called us as we neared the Atherton Tablelands above Cairns proper and we soaked for hours in the 5 pools at Innot Hotsprings. At one point during the night Tab thought Oscar had escaped when a pale ginger cat rubbed on her leg and disappeared under the bus. Adamant that Oscar was still inside the bus, Jeff grabbed the torch and sure enough, Oscars twin was sitting under the bus! He was super friendly, loved a cuddle and even came into Boris to meet our boys, which was fine with our two, but this ginger got his hackles up!
Cruising through the tablelands was beautiful, rolling green hills, farmland and the beginnings of sugarcane country, which they are harvesting at the moment up here, so there are cane trains everywhere. We camped Boris up for a couple of nights at Herberton and cruised around on Daz checking out local waterfalls, craters and other sights. We took in a coffee plantation tour near Mareeba which was super interesting – and never again will
we whinge about paying for a coffee! So much human energy goes into producing the beans (which start off as cherries, we even tasted them straight off the tree – yum and nothing like coffee whatsoever!). We camped at Granite Gorge nature park near Mareeba which was teeming with wildlife and had fabulous walks through the enormous granite boulders.
Sadly our time together was drawing to a close, as Jeff was due to fly out of Cairns in a few days to give Brad and Cheryl a hand with pruning back at Savina Lane in Stanthorpe, after Brad underwent surgery to repair an untimely crook ankle right in the middle of pruning time. It was only 3 weeks, but it felt like a lifetime, and definitely the longest we have been apart in the 20+ years since we met! Tab busied herself with checking out the sites of Cairns, hunting out good eats, lots of reading, cooking and cuddle time with the furkids, soon to be fur-kid, so a very much treasured time in hindsight. The main touristy things had to wait until Jeff’s return, when we hired a little Micra and jumped on the Kuranda Scenic
Railway, Skyrail, visited Cairns night markets and Rusty’s foodie markets, smashed out the Daintree in a day, headed up to Cooktown and even squeezed in a night away like overgrown kids in our own Treehouse (complete with spa and fireplace) in Malanda. Port Douglas is another destination we’ve had to bucket list, we called in for a drink on the way back from Daintree, but the van parks were all fully booked until the end of September so alas we couldn’t stay.
We bid farewell to Cairns mid-Sept, taking in some sights on our way south, highlights being the Mamu Skywalk and Paronella Park, built with railway lines and hand mixed concrete back in the 1930’s. Townsville was a bit of a down time with the loss of our Boo, but we did get out to do a cruise to magnetic island which was quiet and cute.
We will continue our trip south, like a slow cyclone called “Boris” and keep you posted on all the things we find in our next instalment.
P.S. Happy zero-type birthday to Tab’s brother Adam too for back on 19th
August – wish we could
have been there but hope you had a great night at your party!
P.P.S a shout out to our friend Jo from Stanthorpe who also sadly farewelled one of her fur-kids this week big Syd, who we doggie-sat a few times while we lived there. He was a gem and we know how much you will miss him xo
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