A Travellerspoint blog

14: Cloncurry and Flynn of the Inland

Karumba to Cloncurry

sunny 25 °C
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Post Office, Cloncurry

Post Office, Cloncurry

Marked tree from Burke and Wills camp

Marked tree from Burke and Wills camp

Chinaman Creek Dam, Cloncurry

Chinaman Creek Dam, Cloncurry

View from Lookout near Chinaman Creek Dam, Cloncurry

View from Lookout near Chinaman Creek Dam, Cloncurry

Though sad to leave our balmy and comfortable home at Gone Fishin', Karumba, we took to the road fairly early for the 452k drive south to Cloncurry.
As usual, the day was warm and sunny as we drove down through the flattish country with scrubby vegetation. We drove into Cloncurry mid afternoon, and found our pre-booked room at the Wagon Wheel Motel adequate for it's modest price. We had plenty of time to look around the town, which is extremely spread out as if in a Drysdale painting, and pretty hot even in mid-winter. The Mary Kathleen Memorial Museum has a great display of the famous local mining and exploration history, including Robert O'Hara Burke's water bottle - though I gather there is another of these also claiming to be the genuine one.
In the evening we drove across the Cloncurry River to Chinaman Creek Dam - the town water supply. This is an unexpectedly beautiful spot with red cliffs, lots of birdlife and would probably be very peaceful except it's also very popular with the local bikers who were having a great time zooming around the exposed shoreline. Dinner at our Motel (previously the Prince of Wales Inn, and still said to be the oldest liquor licence premises in NW Queensland) was fine, and so was the liquor.

Posted by Farhorizons 20:41 Archived in Australia Tagged hinchinbrookandcentre Comments (0)

13: Sunset over the sea

Normanton to Karumba

sunny 25 °C
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Balmy outdoor office at Gone Fishin' Motel - without Tree Snake

Balmy outdoor office at Gone Fishin' Motel - without Tree Snake

So where IS that blasted Mangrove Whistler?

So where IS that blasted Mangrove Whistler?

Jabiru fishing in the Norman River at Karumba

Jabiru fishing in the Norman River at Karumba

Sunset over the sea sipping beer and bubbly at Karumba Point

Sunset over the sea sipping beer and bubbly at Karumba Point

In the campground at Normanton a generator was running all night, very bright lights shone through the tent, my air bed deflated, I hardly slept. From now on we’ll pre-book. No more making this trip up as we go and risking towns being booked out!
Just north of Normanton is Karumba on the Gulf of Carpentaria, where we’ve never been so why not go there? We were waiting outside Normanton Tourist Information at 9.00, and were able to book a room at the Gone Fishin’ Motel by the Gulf of Carpentaria in Karumba which the Normanton tourist info guy recommended. After bacon’n’eggs for breakfast at the most promising looking of the two places open, we crossed the Norman River heading for the Gulf. Almost immediately things looked up as we passed a flock of Brolgas grazing in a paddock.
We liked Gone Fishin’ (quiet, roomy, friendly, low-key) and Karumba with it’s lovely warm winter weather so much that we opted to stay three nights there. We had good wifi on our verandah, each evening we could amble over the quiet street to the pub where you could sit and watch the sun set over the sea and there was a great restaurant around the corner which served Barramundi and chips on butcher’s paper.
We visited the Barramundi Discovery Centre where Barramundi are bred to restock local waterways. Feeding sardines to the large and hungry females was fun and we didn’t lose any fingers, only got soaked. We also went on a Ferryman bird-watching cruise among the mangroves. Only four other people went, and one of them was “Chook”, who is a real expert and great at calling up the species you want to see. We saw Red-headed Honeyeaters and White-breasted Whistlers as well as Jabiru, and nesting Ospreys and Brahminy Kites.
There was wildlife everywhere, but it was a bit startling when a metre long Tree Snake slithered under my table while I was blogging. At the time I didn't realise it was harmless, but did remember to stay still anyway - just!

Posted by Farhorizons 15:32 Archived in Australia Tagged hinchinbrookandcentre Comments (0)

12: Overpriced caving

Undara to Normanton

overcast 22 °C
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Bush brekky at Undara. Watch out for sausage-snatching Kookaburras

Bush brekky at Undara. Watch out for sausage-snatching Kookaburras

Lava tube caves

Lava tube caves

Cave interior

Cave interior

Fold away washbasin in our railway carriage sleeper cabin

Fold away washbasin in our railway carriage sleeper cabin

Leaving our railway carriage accommodation

Leaving our railway carriage accommodation

Kalkani crater rim

Kalkani crater rim

Undara to Normanton
Our railway carriage proved a vastly overpriced and none too comfortable sleeping experience. The space was cramped, there was too much light getting past the blinds, there was no door to the “ensuite”. Maybe the experience was better while whooshing along the rails to exotic destinations. The original open-out wash basin was fun though.
Bush breakfast away from the lodge among rocks and trees was fun too. Whistling kites and Kookaburras stole bits of sausage if your attention lapsed. Billy coffee is fine, and very well-designed toasting forks ensured our breakfast didn’t fall in the camp fire.
We had a young, enthusiastic guide who was well-versed in the geology of the area. Basically, the “lava tubes” of Undara are very slickly marketed caves. Quite interesting though so we enjoyed the tour, despite today being one of the few overcast days of our trip. On our way out of Undara we hiked around the crater of one of the local volcanoes for a bit of exercise. For me, a highlight of the day was the Bustard strolling across the road. Lunch was at a low-key caravan park at Mount Surprise.
The road deteriorated after Mount Surprise, with many stretches of single-lane bitumen where you needed to get over on the gravel to pass oncoming Grey Nomads. Like other roads in Queensland, this one also had frequent stops for roadworks. It was quite late when we finally got to Normanton, and there was nowhere to stay except our hiking tent in the campground in a veritable sea of Grey Nomads. A proper outback pub around the corner (The Albion) was a saving grace though, and provided a good traditional “countery” and well-deserved (we thought) beer and sauv blanc.

Posted by Farhorizons 01:00 Archived in Australia Tagged hinchinbrookandcentre Comments (4)

11: Down through the tablelands

Cooktown to Undara

semi-overcast 24 °C
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Magpie Geese at waterhole south of Cooktown

Magpie Geese at waterhole south of Cooktown

Dining on the edge of the bush

Dining on the edge of the bush

Railway carriage accommodation

Railway carriage accommodation

After a pretty basic breakfast at our motel we headed south from Cooktown on another beautiful day. A water hole on the way had dozens of Magpie Geese and we visited the Palmer River roadhouse again. We shopped at Mareeba again, which was a much easier town without the rodeo on. The road from Atherton to Ravenshoe was scenic, with patches of rainforest and Cassowary AND Tree Kangaroo warning signs and some lodges. The road to Herberton looked as though it would be interesting too. Must stay overnight here next time.
Our last stop as we headed down the Kennedy Highway was at the Millstream Falls, then we drove straight down to Undara, through increasingly flat and “outback” looking country with sparse small eucalypts and other vegetation.
Turning off on the Gulf Development Road, we turned off again on the road to Undara, warily ready for our “Undara Experience”. We hadn't booked, and at 4.30 pm found the accommodation options were already limited and most of tomorrow's tours already booked out. The best available option was an ensuite sleeper in an old railway carriage which at least was novel and the bush setting of the well spread-out resort was attractive. We were afraid the dinner area would be crowded, but at 6.00 it was quite pleasant. We sat on the edge of the bush as night fell. The Kangaroo steak and chocolate dessert were the best food I've eaten in a week.

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10: Cooktown and the Palmer

Cairns to Cooktown

sunny 26 °C
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Sunset dinner with fishing boats at restaurant 1770

Sunset dinner with fishing boats at restaurant 1770

Crocodile on bank of Bloomfield River

Crocodile on bank of Bloomfield River

John and bikers at Black Mountain

John and bikers at Black Mountain

Cooktown Museum, former convent

Cooktown Museum, former convent

John at Cooktown Museum

John at Cooktown Museum

Keating's Lagoon

Keating's Lagoon

Cooktown from lookout

Cooktown from lookout

We had breakfast at a restaurant on the Esplanade and a quick look at the birdlife enjoying the mud flats then headed further north. The drive up through the Kuranda forest to Mareeba was beautiful, but Mareeba itself was bedlam as we had arrived on rodeo day. We managed to park and do some shopping though.
A new favourite spot we discovered today was the Palmer River Roadhouse. We had steak sandwiches and tea, sitting under trees with Apostlebirds and Greater Bowerbirds around us. They had comfortable tents looking down on the river which we thought looked very inviting for another trip.
In Cooktown, we stayed at River of Gold Motel, with views over the Endeavour River mouth albeit through a very small window. Dinner at our motel was great though.
We had a great breakfast on a verandah in the main street, then drove down to Bloomfield, along roads now mostly sealed much less adventurous than John remembered when he was up here on his bike a few years ago. A high bridge is even being built over the Bloomfield. A large crocodile sunning itself on the river bank still looked dangerous though.
We shared a pizza for lunch at "The Lions den" at Helenvale.
In the afternoon we visited the beautiful Museum, once a convent school, with an anchor from Cook's Endeavor, ditched while freeing the ship from a reef offshore. Dinner was at sunset at "1770" on the waterfront, pretty classy for this far north, watching the fishing boats coming in and the sun set over the river.

Posted by Farhorizons 01:55 Archived in Australia Tagged hinchinbrookandcentre Comments (0)

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