Where are we now?

Where are we now?
Where are we now? Tahmoor, NSW. Updated 7th December 2011

Friday, September 30, 2011

Day 236. Gregory Downs

The things we do for love!

Last night was another restless night; the heat didn’t let up until after midnight. We all found it difficult to sleep, and even Scarlett was tossing and turning until the wee hours of the morning when the night air started to cool.

We woke to another beautiful morning in paradise! The skies were clear, and the calls of the Australian bush were music to our ears. As usual, I was the first to rise, with Bec and Scarlett soon to follow. Scarlett pulled back the curtains and excitedly informed us that all the other caravans were already leaving.

Luckily for us, we weren't in any hurry this morning. We lazed around, and caught up on some minor jobs on the car and van that were in much need of attention. We were still waiting to hear if our containers were on the way from Adels Grove; so by 10am Bec called them to see if they had passed on her gear to anyone heading our way. She returned from the public phone box, and unfortunately they had not found anyone to bring them out.

After an early lunch, Bec and Scarlett moved down to the Gregory River to relax and play in the cool running water, I jumped in the Pajero and headed back to Adels Grove – 90km away! The trip back to Adels Grove was a straight fwd affair; except for the cattle, wallabies, road trains and dust! The road was unsealed most of the way, and it took me almost 1 ½ hours to reach the Grove.

The fires have moved down from the escarpment

I soon had the containers and vegetables that were left behind, and quickly placed them in the car fridge before heading back up to the lookout to check for messages on our phones. I took the opportunity to take some quick photos of the area, as the fires and smoke could now be clearly seen below the escarpment and on the plains closer to Adels Grove. I’m hoping what I saw were back burning fires; as if not I’m guessing Adels Grove would be evacuated by the end of the weekend – if not before!

I quickly returned to the car, and headed back to Bec and Scarlett. I was back before 3pm, and discovered that during my whole time away, Bec and Scarlett had never left the water. I couldn’t blame them, as it looked very inviting. But instead, I used this time to hitch up the car to the van, and prepare them both for our journey tomorrow.

Here fishy fishy fishy...
When I was finally finished, I poured a Bundy and sat back under the shade of the annex to relax and enjoy the serenity of the running waters of the river, and the sounds of the bush. It was impossible to ignore the squeals of laughter and delight from Scarlett; as she played merrily with another little girl that she ‘found’ down at the river.

Bec and Scarlett feeding the fish under the bridge

During my time resting back at the van, I found myself surrounded by a dozen or so Crimson Finches, which were foraging around and under my chair as I sat sipping a Bundy. They came right up to me, and to my surprise one even landed on my toe – before realising its mistake and making a quick retreat to a safer distance. It was a fantastic experience that I will never forget! It’s not anything that I would expect many people would understand, but it was a magical experience that I found breathtaking. The finch was so small and inquisitive at the same time!

Gregory River

Bec and Scarlett finally returned to the van after almost 5 hours in the water, and Scarlett was a shrivelled as a prune! Bec tried to get her out of the river a number of times earlier, but Scarlett being Scarlett wouldn’t leave. She is such a water baby!

Going for an afternoon walk...

After dinner, we went back down to the river to feed the fish under the bridge, and later went for a short walk along the river upstream. We found some beautiful camping spots, but there was no chance we could have gotten our van this far up the dirt track. We’ll have to save these experiences for a camper trailer or tent!

Our campsite on the banks of the Gregory River

I think today was a day we needed to sit back and relax. I’m glad that Bec and Scarlett were able to spend some quality time together, without having to worry about housework or travel. I on the other hand had a small errand to run! Luckily for me Gregory Downs isn’t that far from Adels Grove, but it did end up being almost a 200km round trip on some very dusty and corrugated outback roads to retrieve Bec’s containers!

The things we do for love!
posted by Shane

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Day 235. Adels Grove to Gregory Downs

OMG... I forgot the vegies!

We woke to smoke filled air again, so we decided it was time to pack it all in today and head back to the van at Gregory Downs. We had eggs and mushrooms for breakfast and went to see reception and get the latest update on the fire front. The news wasn’t good, the fire was still out of control and the park wouldn’t be open for at least 4 more days, a longer time than we had to wait.

Self portrait as we canoed down the river

Agile Wallaby on the banks of the river
Scarlett was chomping at the bit to use the park’s canoes and took it upon herself to go down to reception and ask how much they were to hire. Upon her return she asked me if she had $10 in her wallet, enough money to hire one. Well she didn’t but now with the canoeing in Lawn Hill a total no go we decided to get one here for her.

We canoed down the river for half an hour spotting heaps of ‘Agile Wallabies’ laying on the river bank in the shade of Pandanus palms and River gums. We also spotted some willy wagtails, whistling kites, and forest kingfishers. The waters were so tranquil and we had a really great time canoeing along in the total silence, being the only ones out there. When we got back there were a heap of kids already out in the water, jumping from the pontoon. So after mooring our canoe Scarlett was straight in amongst them.

We stayed and let her have one last swim with the kids for a while, then we decided it was time to make tracks. The road back to Gregory’s was heavy with water trucks supplied by the local mine all trucking water out to the fire, along with the mines usual road train traffic of supplies and fill. The bull dust they throw up is phenomenal and you can’t do anything except pull over and wait for it all to subside.

When we got back to Gregory Downs we moved the van down to the river, the place was packed and there was no chance of getting a spot by the water, so we parked further up the bank but still a great spot. Shane had the generator set up and the air conditioner on within minutes and we were all sitting inside enjoying a lovely cold drink when we realised we had left some of my expensive airlock containers and food back at Adel’s Grove in the camp kitchen fridge.

We called the park and asked that the container be passed onto another traveller we know who was coming via here tomorrow; they said they would see what they could do as the other traveller was in the camping area that has no defined sites and there would be no way to find them unless they called up to the shop that day. We could only hope as Shane understandably wasn’t keen to drive back out for me.

Relaxing in the cool waters of Gregory River
It was really hot so I decided to take Scarlett down to the river for a swim. The river is filled with smooth river pebbles, and the water is crystal clear. With the banks lined with palms and lush tropical foliage it was an amazing site for a free camp. The water was so cool and inviting! We had a great time just laying on the water’s edge; it was a great relief from the heat. We even managed to get Shane in the river after our BBQ dinner. It beat a shower any day, and we only retreated due to the fact that the sun was going down. We could have stayed there for hours watching the Crimson finches scurry around in the reeds and having one last drink before bed.

It was a hot night and took quite some time to fall asleep, and even then it was a restless night. Hopefully my container turns up tomorrow, but if it doesn’t I can think or worse places to spend another night.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Day 234. Adels Grove

Lawn Hill N.P. ablaze…

I awoke before the sun had risen, so I laid there in my bed just relaxing and enjoying the tranquillity of the morning chorus of the Blue Winged Kookaburra’s. It was good to be back in the north and hearing familiar sounds again.

'Camping' at Adels Grove

As the sun rose over the eastern horizon; its blood red colour was a warning of things to come! The higher the sun rose into the sky, the thicker the smoke became apparent. Believe it or not, but by 9am in the morning, the temperature was already nudging a warm 29deg.

Inside our eco-tent
Bec and Scarlett slowly stirred, and Scarlett rolled over and just stared at me. The first thing she said was; “Have you been reading that all night?” She was implying that I hadn’t been asleep at all, as when she went to sleep I was reading my Kindle, and I was again when she woke. “No” I laughed, and gave her a hug and good morning kiss.

We all slowly climbed out of bed, then moved outside and enjoyed a hot morning cuppa. This is the life! I didn’t realise how much I had missed the bush and outback Australia; away from the rat race of city life. Here – even away from our van with its modern conveniences, the experience of living on just the basics in a tent and just talking to each other and reading is a liberating feeling. I think I get to caught up in my daily routines and forget the important things – so I’m finding that I am really enjoying the chance to get some ‘real’ time with my two beautiful girls.

The river at Adels Grove

Walking along the river

We waited until 8am, and then went up to reception to find out if Lawn Hill N.P. was open yet. Unfortunately we weren’t in luck, and discovered that the fire had gotten bigger overnight. The National Park would be closed for a little while longer as the winds had picked up over night, and the fire front was now out of control. Deciding to wait it out a little longer and see what tomorrow would bring, we went back to cook up a big breakfast on the BBQ; Bacon, Eggs, Toast, and Beans! Mmm… Bec certainly knows how to look after me! Thanks honey!

Walking up to the lookout behind Adels Grove campground

After breakfast, we went on a short walk up to the lookout to see for ourselves how bad the fire was. We couldn’t even see the escarpment due to the large amount of smoke; but with the wind blowing a gale, the heat of the day, and the thick smoke, it made for a very surreal feeling. We talked about leaving ‘Adel’s Grove’ early as there was a rumour that the fire was heading our way, but again we decided to wait it out and see what happened. We did say that if either of us felt like it was getting to dangerous, then we would pack up and head back to the van at ‘Gregory Downs’.

We ended up spending most of the day down at the river, enjoying the cool water and soaking up the sun, whenever the smoke cleared enough to do so. Scarlett had a ball playing with the other kids on the pontoon, while Bec and I just floated around in the water.

Smoke all across Lawn Hill N.P. escarpment

Later on, Scarlett and I collected some fire wood so we could have a ‘small’ fire at our tent, while Bec cooked a yummy Chilli-Con-Carne for dinner. With the fire burning, we enjoyed dinner outside. The fire was just for ambiance (not that we needed the heat), and also for Scarlett to toast her marsh mellows for dessert!

'Cheers!" Dinner outback style

After dinner, we all grabbed a drink and watched another fire-red sunset. It was an eerie site, but still beautiful. It’s just another natural seasonal occurrence up here in northern Australia. After the sun went down we noticed micro-bats flying around our campsite, so we stayed outside and enjoyed their aerial acrobatics – that was until the mozzies came out! We then moved inside the tent and read a book before going to bed. Scarlett even heard the call of a couple of Barking Owls in the night.

Marsh mellows anybody?
We didn’t get into Lawn Hill N.P. today, but we still enjoyed our day lazing around the campsite and river. There’s not a real lot to do out here, but that’s the thing about this place. You get back in touch with nature, and it’s really a revitalising feeling!

posted by Shane

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Day 233. Gregory Downs to Adels Grove

An Oasis in the Gulf

It’s today we leave the van here at Gregory Downs, and head into Adel’s Grove situated on the fringe of the Lawn Hill National Park. It’s 90km’s of powder-like bulldust road, with dry creek bed crossings and heavily corrugated road. So we have decided it best to leave the van here, and stay in the eco-tents out there for a couple of days.

As we headed out of Gregory Downs free camp, about 100mtrs down the road we crossed a second river crossing and this time it was filled with lovely clear running water, shaded by lush green trees and a heap of caravans lined the banks - all free camping. I was so angry with myself for not venturing a little further and finding this lovely spot yesterday. Instead I had us camped last night in the hot dust bowl up the road. I just knew there had to be more to that camp, as it had come so highly recommended by other campers. Oh well, we know where we will be moving the caravan to upon our return from Adel’s in a couple of days.

The road wasn’t too bad, but it would have filled the van with bull dust and shaken it to pieces had we of towed her in. I was glad it was only an hour trip, and not the three hours it would have taken had we been towing. We passed some road trains on the one lane road in, where the only place to go was off the road and into the bush to let them pass. They threw up so much dust, we had to wait a minute before continuing on as visibility was zero. Also at one creek crossing, we came around the corner and had to slam on the breaks to avoid a huge Brahman bull standing in the middle of the road.

Bec and Scarlett 'floating' on inner-tubes

When we arrived and set up camp in our great eco-tent, it was straight down to the river for a beautiful cool swim. The river here is flanked with Pandanus Palms, River Gums and the edges have pretty water lily’s floating on top of the surface. It was a little oasis, with the water so clear, and a small waterfall for the kids to play in. We ended up floating about on tyre inner-tubes, and relaxing in the cool water for hours.

Come on in dad!
Further upstream the water opened up to a deeper swimming hole, which had a pontoon floating out in the middle. An overhanging tree had some ropes hanging down that the kids had a fantastic time swinging off and into the water from. Scarlett was so game in the end, that she was running the length of the pontoon and swinging off with the rope and dropping out into the water. It was nearly 5 o’clock by the time we were able to convince her to get out and come back for some dinner.

The park seemed to fill up quite a bit this afternoon, and word spread quickly that Lawn Hill had been evacuated due to a bush fire with everyone moved to here. We are hoping that it doesn’t get too bad, and we are still able to go in and check it out in the next day or two, as the gorge is the whole reason for coming up this way.

Scarlett lining up for a turn on the rope swing

We showered, and cooked our dinner of steak and veg in the camp kitchen. This was followed by some toasted marshmallows on the fire (cooked by Scarlett) for dessert. The temperature has dropped to a more reasonable level now, making our eco tent with all its windows open quite a comfortable stay. It was after reading for about 20min I think everyone fell asleep with exhaustion from the full day’s swimming. Tomorrow if we can’t get into Lawn Hill, our day will probably be filled with much more of the same.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Day 232. Cloncurry to Gregory Downs

Deep into Gulf Savannah Country…

Dry Riverbed at Gregory Downs
We woke to the sound of the garbage truck, and Scarlett diving for the door! She had heard it too, and she wasn’t going to miss seeing it in action for anything. The next thing we heard was the sound of the door slamming as she disappeared and ‘flew’ outside in her pyjamas!

Bec and I just grunted ’morning’ to each other, rolled over, and started to drifting back to sleep. Unfortunately we both ‘forgot’ that we are living with a 5yr old, and before you could say “What the?” – She was back and opening all the curtains and windows. “The Suns up!” she proudly announced – and that is how our day started. Nothing quite like being back on the road all together in our little caravan…

We packed the car and van, and went into town to do some last minute shopping before ‘heading bush’ – deep into the northern Gulf Country. We found a Woolworths, and Bec went on a shopping spree that ended up costing us in excess of $300! (Mind you, this did include our first carton of alcohol – ‘Strongbow Sweet’; since leaving Sydney 2 weeks ago). We topped up on diesel, and finally left Cloncurry heading north at about 10am, with Bec in the driver’s seat.

The drive itself was not very interesting; other than the fact that we saw large numbers of Wedge-tailed Eagles on the road eating ‘road kill’. We must have come across at least three or four pairs, which was great to see. They were always in pairs; with one on the road while the other would sit in a nearby tree watching for danger. A number of times Bec had to brake and slow down as the eagles wouldn’t leave their free feed until the very last minute. This is not a good thing to do, as they have more chance of getting hit by a passing truck or car. But it did give us great opportunities to get up close to see these majestic birds in their natural environment!

Lining up for Diesel at Burke and Wills Roadhouse

We stopped off at the ‘Burke & Wills Pub and Roadhouse’ to fill up the Pajero, and took the opportunity to have some lunch. A number of road trains carrying cattle pulled up too, and Scarlett wandered over to have a look. She enjoyed ‘mooing’ back at the cattle, while Bec and I finished off our lunch. (Don’t ask me why, but it’s the small things like this that make a trip around Australia worth it to a 5yr old).


'Just how long is this truck?'
From here I jumped in the pilot’s seat, and Bec jumped in the back with Scarlett to watch a movie. Along the way, we passed through a number of cattle stations and deeper into the ‘Gulf Country’. The grassy plains seemed to go on forever, and we started to spot more wild life. There were Brolga’s and Jabiru’s in the Billabongs; with the ever present sign of feral pigs everywhere. We passed a number of big boar carcasses on the road, and it’s obvious that this is perfect pig country. If only I had my gun!

2 hours later we finally pulled into Gregory Downs. We found a free camping spot in the bush not far from the river; which just happens to be dry! Go figure! We did a quick set up, and headed down the road to the Gregory Downs Hotel, where I enjoyed my first XXXX Gold, and Bec sipped on a Lemon, Lime, and Bitters.

Gregory Downs Pub

We were going to spend two nights here, but I must say we were a little disappointed with what we found. Bec thought there were lush grassed sites, as well as toilets and showers – as this camp site had come highly recommended from other grey nomads that we have met on the road. Unfortunately this is not the case, so we contacted ‘Adel Grove’ at Lawn Hill National Park, and were able to get our booked tent a day early! Tomorrow we are off to Adel Grove/Lawn Hill for 4 nights of relaxation and adventure! We will be leaving the van here at Gregory Downs and ‘tenting it’ for a few days, but we’ll pick it up again when we come back through here on our way to Normanton and Kurumba then on through to the coastline.

Our 'Dry' campsite at Gregory Downs
posted by Shane

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Day 231. Winton to Cloncurry

What happened to the Walkabout Creek Hotel??

We left Winton this morning setting our sights on Cloncurry, about 350km's to the north. We are starting to think we are a little crazy to be heading north still, with most travellers all now heading south. It's really starting to heat up, and we wonder how far we will get before it gets too much and we pack it in and move back down south again.

The roads up here are shocking! They are the worst we have travelled on so far, and with the huge 3 trailer road trains packed with cattle passing every 20min or so, they can be a little daunting. Other than stopping for a pee break, we really didn't see or do anything till about 1pm when we decided to stop for lunch at the 'Walkabout Creek Hotel'. We were all really looking forward to seeing this old pub, made famous from the 'Crocidile Dundee' film starring Paul Hogan.

Well lets just say it was a bit of a let down. They have done the pub up to their credit, but unfortunately this and the fact it was moved closer to the road for tourism seems to have made it loose any of it's old pub charm. It literally had a plain facade on the outside, with inside having no furniture what so ever other than a pool table and a few stools along the bar. There was some pictures and stills adorning the walls of the characters from the film, but that was it.

Unfortunately they didn't even have any food, so we had to go next door to the roadhouse for lunch. I will say the stop turned out all good though, with the surprisingly good hamburger we got there. The walls of the roadhouse were however very interesting, with every wall being covered with photos of trucks that passed through, and also truck crashes in the area. We spent ages scrolling the walls, even seeing a photo of a road train with 7 trailers, and a photo of a poor fresh water crocodile that had crawled up on the road and been hit by a road train. Now that makes for interesting road kill.

The next hour on the road that saw us into Cloncurry was much the same as the last, with Scarlett and I giving Shane a rest by both having a small sleep. The park here at Cloncurry has a pool, and finally we have weather hot enough here to use it. So after we loaded 4 loads of washing into the machine, I took Scarlett down for a swim. Now I can tell you how hot it is here, 'cause even I went for a swim.

We have planned to spend this evening in front of the TV, and under the air-con - recovering from today's big drive. Scarlett is already in bed watching a DVD, and munching on popcorn. Tomorrow I need to do a big restock ready for our trip into Lawn Hill, as this will be the last chance to for quite some time. Then onto 'Gregory Down's' yay! One more stop before we enter into Lawn Hill.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Day 230. Winton

A day enjoying the Outback Festival

Sunrise at the Winton Showground

This morning, I woke to a beautiful sunrise! Bec and Scarlett were still in bed, but I was up early as I had a date with a few Bush Poets. Just as I was heading out the door, both Bec and Scarlett began to stir; so I set up cartoons on the TV for Scarlett, and made a hot cuppa for Bec. Then I was gone!

Bush Poetry behind the Council Building

This mornings Bush Poetry consisted of both professional poets, and 1st time amateurs all giving it a go. (Would you believe that Channel 7's QLD Weekender crew were even there, as they were filming a segment for their show). The poetry went on for ever, as there were lots of people wanting to have a go! But I must admit, I haven't laughed so much in ages. I left after two hours of 'therapy', and returned to the van to pick up Bec and Scarlett to take them into town. Bec wanted to visit the 'Afghan Bazaar', and Scarlett wanted to try out more circus tricks.

Scarlett taking a photo of mum and dad (with an old AMPOL tanker)
Ummm... Where's the horse dad?
Unfortunately for Bec, there really wasn't much of a market on. However Scarlett was impressed as there were competitions, rides, and of course the circus trick tent! She was really enjoying herself, and was not happy when we had leave at lunchtime.

Before we left, we checked out the trucks - as there was a huge range of old vehicles on display. It so happens that there is a 'Trucking Re-union' on here in Winton at the moment, and there were trucks from all over Australia attending from as far as Western Australia and Victoria. It really is a huge event, and I can honestly say that I have never seen so many restored old trucks in any one place before. I took a million photos for Russell (Bec's dad who is an old truckie) but there's so many I'll probably have to burn them all onto a disc for him.

Scarlett with a mini Mack truck

We also decided to check out Arno's Wall, which was only a block away from all the action here in Winton. The wall is made up of a collection of junk, rocks, and concrete; and extends for more than 70 metres and is as high as 2 metres. There's everything you could ever imagine within it, including a few motor bikes, engines and even the kitchen sink! We had a great time spotting all the unique items held within the wall. Bec even found a microwave oven in the wall, who's door still opened.

A section of Arno's Wall

Winton is also home to the infamous 'Musical Fence', a public instrument that has to be seen to be believed! Surrounding the fence is a number of artistic musical objects made up from 'junk', and these can be used as percussion instruments to accompany the Musical Fence. All three of us had a go at playing everything, and I must say I can now understand why the fence is located so far out of town!

Scarlett playing the Winton 'Rubbish' drums!
During our visit to the Musical Fence, we came across a Tornado that was heading for town. Most people think of Willy Willies, when thinking of tornado's here in Australia; but I can tell you this thing was bigger than any Willy Willy! It was so big and moving so fast towards us, that when I got out of the car to take a photo of it, Bec and Scarlett decided that they weren't taking any chances - as they wouldn't get out of the car - and even went to the trouble of winding up all the windows and leaving the car running. What about me! Luckily for us, it ended up burning itself out just before it reached the Industrial Shed that you can see in the photo.

A tornado on the outskirts of Winton

Later in the afternoon, we set up our chairs on the footpath in the main street of Winton and watched the grand 'parade' go by. Scarlett absolutely loved it, as there were animals, trucks, floats and lollies being thrown out to all the kids. Lets just say that she collected a large proportion of lollies, and has stashed them away for a rainy day!

Some horses in the Grand Parade

Ansett Airways Memorial
Russell also asked us to find out about an Ansett Airways plane that crashed just out of Winton back in the 60's. We found a memorial plaque mounted in the main street. It is the only large commercial plane to ever of crashed on Australian soil, killing all passengers and crew. This happened back on the 22nd of September, 1967. The actual crash site is on a cattle station about 12miles out of town; but as its on private property access to the crash site is very restricted.

Is this the real Elvis?
We spent the evening watching a World Record attempt from the strongest man, who attempted to run over a certain distance whilst carrying 330 kgs at the same time. There were Indigenous dancing, and some great country music and even 'Elvis' was on the main stage. Scarlett had a ball, and danced the whole night away! So much so, that we lost track of time and didn't get back to the van until after 10pm. Tomorrow we move on, but all agree we have enjoyed our time here in Winton.