Monday, 25 June 2018

Still Travelling Part 4 - Muttaburra to Townsville

Friday 25th May --- Our travels today started at 1015 am with a cross-country gravel road from Muttaburra to join onto the Aramac - Torrens Creek road - saving over 60 km driving. It was an easy road passing through a number of sheep properties.
Bowen Downs Info
One of these properties was Bowen Downs, established in 1862 and still an operating station today. In it's day it was the world's largest sheep station covering more than one million ha (almost 1.5 million football fields).
Park Entrance
Once we joined the main road it was bitumen all the way to the Moorrinya NP entrance. Leaving the bitumen we travelled via good  gravel road to the only camping area in the park. We had not planned to stay the night here, just to stop for lunch. However, once at the camp site,  we decided to stay. There are only 7 camp sites here alongside the old shearing shed that was once part of the property known as "Shirley".
The shearing "complex" has been well maintained along with the shearer's quarters.
Shearer's Quarters
However, it was disappointing, and frustrating, that there was no information provided by NP's about the complex or the park itself.
Saturday 26th May --- Rising early at 6 am gave us time to enjoy a cooked breakfast before departing today. Only a short distance between locations, however we planned to take a slight detour to White Mountains NP as we have passed this park on three other occasions and never explored the area. Unfortunately today would be another "drive pass". Leaving Moorrinya we had to return the 16.5 km to the main road before heading northwards to Torrens Creek onto the Flinders Highway. Expecting bitumen all the way we were surprised to find the road turned to gravel 38 kms from the intersecting highways.
Aramac Torrens Creek Rd
This was the worst road we had travelled on since leaving home over 2,400 km ago. Extremely rough and seriously corrugated for about 30 km. It was rougher than the cross-country route from Old Cork to Middleton - and that now seems like a highway after the Aramac Torrens Creek Rd. Poor "Ada" was pretty badly shaken about and "Peter Prado" didn't like it much either. Poor "Theodore" lost his hat and the Rambling Retirees disintegrated into the Rumbling Retirees!! We all breathed a sigh of relief when we finally hit the bitumen again.
Once on the Flinders Highway we were cruising along, aiming for road to White Mountains NP, when the OWO espied an unusual light on the dash, one he had not seen before. Mrs OWO was asked to rapidly fine the meaning in Peter Prado's operating manual. Oh dear, trouble ahead it seemed!
Instructions - if this light appears take the vehicle directly to a Toyota dealer! Hmm. A little difficult when the nearest was over 250 kms away! Oh wait - light goes off, speed picks up, great! Nope, 5 km later same thing. Definitely a problem - no visit to White Mountains on this trip. We'll just stop overnight at Pentland, drive to Townsville tomorrow and put Peter Prado into the care of Toyota on Monday.
Arriving at Pentland, rather relieved, our first stop was the pub, where we could camp for free, get an evening meal, and down a few 'coldies' to ease the pain of the last 2 hrs. Enjoyed a pleasant evening at the pub talking to a few of the 'locals'.
Pentland has lot of history to share and there was a great historical display on the pub walls. This little town is on the main rail route from Townsville to Mt Isa, with the Inlander passenger train still stopping at the railway station.
Sunday 27th May --- This day did not start well. Unfortunately after 4 one night stops Mrs OWO was exhausted and suffered a very 'inconvenient' MS meltdown. "Inconvenient" because it meant the OWO had to wear a number of hats - carer, packer and driver - and all just prior to reaching our last stopover before Mareeba. We refuelled at Charters Towers and stopped for a tea break before continuing on to Townsville, arriving around lunch time.
Although the trip so far has been very interesting with some beautiful sights and fascinating history along the way, it was a bit of a relief to be greeted by our wonderful friends in Townsville. After travelling 2,639 kms in 13 days it was now time for both these intrepid travellers to have a few days to relax in one place with the comforts of home.

Wednesday, 6 June 2018

Still Travelling Part 3 - Diamantina to Muttaburra

We departed Diamantina NP at 9.45 am, a little later than planned and travelled to the Middleton Hotel via Old Cork Homestead and waterhole. We traversed some very interesting and diverse countryside crossing over a myriad of water channels and passing through gibber plains and claypans. Along the way we passed some fascinating jump-ups, sandstone hills and waterholes.
Ranges enroute
We saw many different birds; Budgerigars, Brolgas, Wedgetail Eagles, Red-tailed Black Cockatoos, Emus, Nankeen Kestrels, Black Kites and the Spinifex Pigeon - the latter delighted the OWO as he had not seen these in the wild before!
Spinifex Pigeon
Old Cork Homestead
Stopping at Old Cork Waterhole for lunch we marvelled at how green the area was compared to our last visit in 2014. From here we travelled west, one thing we could not do during our previous visit due to lack of fuel. On reaching the Kennedy Development road we decided to take a 5 km detour to Cawnpore Lookout. Oh my! What a beautiful vista from there.
Looking Nth from Cawnpore
View from Cawnpore
'Ada' at Cawnpore
I'm sure that photos cannot do justice to the beauty of this spot. It was certainly worth the detour and we would recommend if you are in the area, don't miss this spot.
We arrived at the free-camp area at the Middleton Hotel and camped at the outback 'Hilton'. The beer was cold and the owner, 'Les', a fascinating character with many a local yarn to tell, kept us entertained. Meals were a little limited that night as the pub had been almost eaten out of house and home by the Endeavour Rally group (approx 500) 2 days before.
Middleton Hotel
Hilton Hotel free camp

Sunrise at 'The Hilton'
Thursday 24th May --- An early start as we had quite a distance to travel (approx 400 km) if we were to stay at Muttaburra overnight. It was an easy drive from Middleton to Winton where we stopped to replenish supplies, empty the porta-loo, top-up Ada's water tanks and refuel Peter Prado. Fuel was $1.59 here and 'Peter' swallowed over 150 lt!! Highly recommend the Bakery, but this is not the place to replenish other supplies with only a Spar and Friendly Grocer servicing the town. Leaving Winton around midday we travelled via the Landsborough Highway to Morella then turned onto the dirt road towards Muttaburra, arriving around 3 pm.  Middleton to Winton was amazing. We passed through areas of red jump-ups, dry schlerophyl forest, spinifex grasslands, gibber plains and tree- lined channels. East of Winton the scenery once again changed with large flat areas covered in hay-like golden grass.
We continued to marvel at how different the area looked compared to our last trip through here in 2014. Back then this area was in severe drought and there was no ground cover of any kind. Stockmen were droving cattle along stock routes beside the highway to find the smallest amount of feed and water points. This time the cattle we observed in paddocks were fat and in good condition with so much feed available after the rains in March and April.

Muttaburra Council park provided a great stopover. At $15, per night, we were provided with amazing hot showers, lovely clean flush toilets, water and power for 'Ada'. We were also treated to the most beautiful sunset on our trip so far, and an equally beautiful sunrise.
Sunset at Muttaburra
Shortly after arrival another Avan traveller pulled into the park.
Muttaburra Van Park
Chris and her Dad had travelled from South Gippsland in Victoria in four days! We had taken 10 days from Toowoomba!! As always the OWO made himself known to fellow travellers and spent some time chatting about photography to one couple, and the Avan to Chris and her Dad. They were more than happy to chat about 'Ada'  as this was their very first trip towing an Avan!

Monday, 4 June 2018

Still Travelling Part 2

Thursday 17th May--- Departed Cooladdi around 9.30am and travelled via Quilpie on to Windorah. Here we stayed at the Council Van Park - $16 per night included power, water and hot showers. This was to be a 2 night stop to give us time to look around the area prior to moving on. We had contemplated camping at Cooper's Creek but decided the fly population was a little too crowded for our liking.
Friday 18th May---- We decided to take the 12km Nature Drive starting at Cooper's Creek.
Cooper's Creek Bridge
The drive explored the local vegetation with many species of trees identified as well as some of the local history highlighted.
This included information on McPhellamy's Crossing, the original crossing of the Cooper, which has now been replaced by a bridge due to the problems with flooding.
McPhellamy's Crossing
 Visited the Info Centre, refuelled at the servo and enjoyed a very good lunch at the pub. The OWO spent several hours socialising with some of the other gents camped at the park.
Saturday 19th May--- Today we departed Windorah rather late at 10.45am. We continued our journey along the Diamantina Development Road on our way to the Diamantina NP. Along the way we stopped to observe some waterbirds on a waterhole beside the road.
Red-kneed Dotterel
We encountered several km's of roadworks and stopped at the JC Hotel ruins. Nothing much to see there now, however, an interesting history. Built around 1884 it was purchased in 1956 by the owner of Waveney to close the doors as his stockmen were being led astray and wasting their money. One way to control your employees.
Mt Henderson
We expected the travel from Windorah to the NP to be slow going but found the road in excellent condition. Had we started around 9am we would have made the NP today. However, the OWO decided to call it quits around 2.45pm and we camped near Davenport Creek. No traffic at all on this road so quite isolated but quiet and beautiful.
Mt Henderson
The countryside between Windorah and Davenport Creek was ever-changing. Red sand dunes, treeless plains with miles and miles (we are showing our age) of nothing but spinifex or black gibber granite, interspersed with dry creeks and water channels, and sparse vegetation. Such a harsh but beautiful country. However did those pioneers, and especially their wives, survive the harshness and solitude. And what would possess anyone to travel into these areas in the 1800's.
Saturday 20 May --- A much earlier start today departing at 8.30 am from our camp near Davenport Creek. Just as we were about to leave a young man drove past then came back to check we were okay.The only vehicle we saw in 20 hrs on these roads.
Diamantina NP Southern Entrance
Davenport Creek camp
The road into the NP was well graded and we travelled at an average speed of 80kph. It was 32 km from the park entry to the Ranger's Office at Diamantina Homestead.Along the way we passed over the channels of the great Diamantina river. Although most of the area looked dry, arid and flat there pockets of green alongside the channels where a few waterholes still held water after the floods in March. There were many claypans where the water had dried. It was lovely to see the homestead and many of the outbuildings have been preserved and maintained. The Information area, where you can get a map of the Park, is a must to visit.
The drive out to Hunters Gorge campground passed over several channels of the river. These would be impassable in the wet season but at this time of the year they are like little oases. The campground is close by a permanent waterhole and, on our arrival, there were a large flock of pelicans on the water.
Australian Pelicans
Apart from the millions of annoying bush flies this will be a lovely spot to camp and explore for the next three days.

Wednesday 23 May --- 6.45am. After 3 nights in the NP, today we must continue on our way to Mareeba via Townsville.

Despite the tiny bush flies we have enjoyed the peace and tranquility camped beside the Mundawerra Waterhole. Here, apart from the pelicans, we have observed White-necked Herons, Red-backed Kingfishers, Red-capped Robins, Yellow-billed Spoonbills, Zebra Finches, Black Kites & Nankeen Kestrels.
Red-capped Robin

During our stay we explored several areas of the Park. We have been amazed by the diverse landscapes we have seen around the park. There is beauty everywhere if you but look. On Monday we drove to Janet's Leap Lookout. From this point we looked down on the channels of the Diamantina, a forest valley of green on one side and dry gibber plains behind us.
View from Janet's Leap
The gap between the Hamilton and Goyder Ranges (Diamantina Gates), where the flood waters from the northern areas flow into the Diamantina Channels,  can be seen from here. What a magnificent sight it would be in the wet season. On our way we saw a beautiful Dingo near the first waterhole crossing and a Jabiru at the second crossing.
Gum Hole Yards
Returning to the campsite we detoured to the 2nd campground, Gumhole. Another lovely area situated beside another permanent but smaller waterhole. Smaller shady sites more suited for tents. The 90 km Warracoota Circuit Drive begins near here but unfortunately was closed due to severe washouts after the floods in April. As it was one of the areas we wanted to explore we will have come back when it is open. We did, however, drive out to the Gumhole Yards, made entirely of post and rail fencing using gidgee and coolibah, and the remains of a makeshift stock camp beside a permanent waterhole. Reminders that this NP was once a 507,000 ha (1,252,824 acres) cattle station, established in 1875, with over 12,000 head of cattle. Tuesday was planned to be a day canoeing at the camp waterhole. Unfortunately, due to excessive winds, that did not happen. Instead the OWO went bird watching and Mrs OWO stayed inside, fly-free, and enjoyed several hours with her needle and thread.

As we continue on our journey who knows what today will bring as we travel along unknown roads towards our next over-night stop at Middleton.