After spending three nights in the RV paddock at Richmond we were on the road heading north along the Cattle Corridor Byway, to Croydon and beyond. The RV Paddock is a fenced area set aside for those travellers who are totally self-sufficient. It has a dump point and drinking water and is provided free of charge by the Richmond Council. It is a 5 minute walk to the main street. We rose early and packed by 8am but then had to wait for the Police Station to open at 8.30 so we could get some road information from them. Basically that was a waste of time, as the clerk had no idea. She said that there was about 50km of bitumen in the Richmond Shire but that turned out to be 80km and to top it off it was Show Day in Winton and a local public holiday and no one was around who could help. This wasn’t serious but it is nice to know if the road is open and if it is in reasonable repair.
When we got on the road, we stopped at the Fossil fossicking site number two to collect a stone we had discarded the day before with Copprolites (fossilised fish poo) in it. This stone was to be sent to the grandkids of a mate ! Then we drove further stopping at various creeks looking for Moonrocks.
At one such stop Jude upturned a rock to find the most beautifully coloured Velvet Gecko. I managed to get it onto my hand for some photos. We placed it back where we found it with its cover on top. The bitumen ran out at 80km mark and while I was letting down the tyres to 25psi a local cocky stopped to see if we were OK. He said that the road to Croydon was rough in places but manageable. And he turned out to be pretty correct. We drove through a thick growth of Tropical Woodland Savannah scrub and along the way we enjoyed many kilometres of roadside Wattle in flower giving a vibrant display of the colour yellow and the lovely scent as well.Thete were thousands of head of Brahman Cattle along the way and being mainly an unfenced road we were frequently slowing down or stopping from our already relaxed pace.
At times we had to pick our way through and around the bulldust patches but kept the speed steady around the 60/70 mark and had a smooth run. Jude spotted an old-man Goanna walking across the road and I had to pull up quickly. He stayed about for photos and films and marched off into the scrub with the tip of his tail up in the air denoting a warning sign that he would resist an approach. The only vehicles we saw all day was a road crew at one of the creeks and then 2 4×4’s as we got close to the Esmeralda / Prospect Road junction and bitumen. There we spied a family of Feral Pigs including piglets foraging on the side of the road.
Today we saw the Flinders Poppy plant in flower and we also saw and photographed a Lime Bottle Brush. Whilst stopped looking for a place to camp we saw a covey of Squatter Pigeons with the clear, wing markings. We finally found a good camp under the shade of an Ironbark tree only 50 metres off the road but we were not expecting a mob of traffic. Jeddah complained for most of the day about the state of the roads and the corrugations. Just before we found our campsite she stuck her head out of her window and barked continuously until I yelled at her. Once stopped she lay under the van feighning exhaustion. The pigs made a racket down the creek after dark but then all went quiet. Two vehicles passed. A mob of Happy Jacks came over to see what we were up to and Jeddah got very disturbed about them eating her tucker so she gobbled both helpings up quick smart. We lit a fire and sat around it for a while. There didn’t seem to be any mozzies around although I did rub Desert Dwellers on early in the evening.
I am very pleased with the van as dust ingress is minimal even after travelling through kilometre after kilometre through fine bulldust. Jude went to bed early but I sat around and burned wood until ten pm. There were some strange noises emanating form the creek nearby and I guess the porkers were still in the vicinity.
The following morning we were up earlier than usual with the Blue wing Kookaburras cackling at around 6am. On the road by 7.30 and within five minutes we saw another Black Pig family. A Mother-pig, with 8 piglets, each the size of a kitten and including a smaller one which was obviously the runt of the litter. Then we saw Brolgas, a Jabiru, Red tailed Black Cockatoos and a Plains Turkey as well as lots of Kangaroos and some Wallabies. Jeddah did her usual barking at the cattle of which there were many on the side of the road. The first few kilometres of the road was wide bitumen but then we got to where the latter had been washed away in places. Then it was back on to the gravel road for a while which was quite good. We struck a patch of road works and chatted to the grader driver over the radio. Then the bitumen came back and it was like that all the way to Highway 1. The countryside changed to being hilly in places and quite picturesque. At Croydon we were ushered in to a movie of the town at the Information Centre. It was a good little clip telling us about the history of Croydon. But there was no free camping to be had at Croydon. Couldn’t even find a fridge magnet of the place. We drove to Lake Belmore fur kilometres from the town and had smoko there. No camping there either. It is a pity that town elders can be so short sighted as to not provide free camping for travellers. Not all travellers want to stay in caravan parks. And if staying in or on the outskirts of a town, the chances are that travelers will all spend money in the town. We pushed on to Normanton arriving there at around lunch time.
Normanton to me, is still as uninspiring as it was in 1971 when we were here last. There wasn’t anything open except two shops and the Purple Pub. We took some photos of Krys the Croc, which is on display in the Main Street. It is sad really that such a fine Crocodilian Reptile was shot for its skin. It weighed approximately two tons. The lady at one of the shops told us that there was free camping on the other side of the bridge or 20km north of town at Walkers Creek. We refuelled taking 79 litres for 578 kilometres at $1.66 per litre (13.6/100).
On the other side of the bridge over the Norman River we saw a number of vans and RV’s parked close to the roadside. We went for a drive a bit further out on to the floodplain and found a place right on the river which looked good enough for a camp and away from the road by about 500 metres. After forwarding and reversing a number of times we turned the rig around and settled for that position. We will have to keep a watchful eye on Jeddah as this is Crocodile Country! We might stay here for a day or two. The weather is beautiful in the high 20’s with a gentle breeze. We have all of the flaps and windows open on the van which creates a cool effect. We discovered that some ants had come along for a ride and got busy evicting them. There weren’t many flies as yet. Jude got busy with a painting of the river. We collected some firewood and had drinks outside in the afternoon light. The mozzies did not worry us but the sandflies got us around the ankles. Will rub extra Desert Dwellers on tomorrow night. Jeddah was restless until her bed was put in its usual place. There were flocks of birds flying over at sunset. They were mainly Brolgas and Sacred Ibis with the odd Jabiru around too. Once again we were up early the next morning. So what’s new? Set up the shower tent for privacy and showers. Amazing how quick we seem to do it these days. Went for a walk and found a whole cluster of small billabongs about 200 metres away from our camp.
This is where the birds are spending some time. Some of the billabongs have beautiful blue waterlilies in flower. Saw a wallaby and some Sacred Ibis and some White Herons. In the evening we saw a Fish Eagle and a Pelican. Later we walked back to one billabong and filled our buckets with water. I got muddied in the process. Later I jacked the van up and tested the wheel bearings and tightened any loose nuts on the U bolts. The solar panel came out early. The day has been breezy but pleasant. We did jobs around the van, had corn, bacon and cheese jaffles for lunch and then a snooze which was interrupted by Jeddah who was having a doggie nightmare. There are more vans on the flats today but they have kept their distance from us. We have had lots of discussions about where to go to next and what we are going to see. We decided that visiting Undara Lava Tubes would be problematical because of Jeddah. Anyway, we have been to other Lava Tubes before. Will substitute that with a Magic Cave Tour at Atherton instead. We lit a fire with the very dry wood we had dragged in from surrounding places, tonight, and kept watch with garden spray bottle just in case as there was a bit of dry grass around. Fire did get going once but we had it under control within seconds. I eventually doused the fire after 9pm when we turned in. Had to run the engine of the truck at 1200rpm to get battery up as solar panel did not seem to put enough in over the last hour of the day. The wind blew a bit during the night but eventually quietened down.
We tried to delay our early morning departure to the max and managed 8.34am. On the way out of camp some other travellers alerted us that the Top of the van was still up. Silly us!!! Did the dump point run, topped up with water from a park tap, visited the Post Office to send parcel off and went to buy something at the shop but then decided to do the shopping in Karumba. The road to Karumba was quite busy. Once we had turned the corner to head towards Karumba the plains opened up with wetlands everywhere. Saw hundreds of Brolgas and three Sarus Cranes. I was quite excited about that, as these Asian visitors are not often seen. We made a beeline for the Raptis Fish Market on the wharf where Jude bought 2 x $15kilo and 1 x $10 kilo prawns. Then she did some shopping for supplies. We had smoko on the beach at Karumba Point where the ‘new’ township is being developed and we all dipped our toes in the Gulf of Carpentaria waters.
Then we made for Walkers Creek bush camp at the intersection of the Normanton/Karumba/Chillagoe Roads. Jude found us a beaut spot and we settled down very quickly after setting up camp. Water for the shower was found close by in the creek and the artist started on a painting soon afterwards. We were only about 200 metres from the road but the area is heavily wooded and the sound is muffled. Hopefully things should quieten down by the later afternoon. I went and collected some fire wood laying about and also made up a sling for breaking dead branches off trees. Jeddah kept wanting to protect the camp from every movement closeby, by barking loudly. This does deter other campers from setting up, but not all. By nightfall we were 10 vehicles in the area including a large bus close to us. We stayed another day just loafing around and then left on our next adventure