Mt Isa on route to Cooktown
Reece and I are like a well oiled engine when it comes to setting up and packing down our camper van now. After a fair run of trial and error, now three months in, we don't need to say anything to each other, we just know exactly what we both have to do. I have my jobs and he has his. He can't do his jobs unless I've done mine and I can't do my jobs unless he's done his. Based on our abilities and the sequence in which things need to be done, it all just works and now we can have our full set up ready in less than 15 minutes. On the other hand, as I've never been one to sit back (As a female) and watch my husband do the 'hard work' there are certain tasks that we have discovered I simply can't do. We would be lost without Reece as he is just physically more able and the running repairs and maintenance he has done as we go are seemingly endless. There is really no way to describe the admiration I have for him in the way he has stood up and taken care of us all. I loved him before of course, but I love him even more every day on this adventure. There's a fair bit of swearing involved, but the jobs get done. I often look at other flash set ups that we see on the road and I think "Wow that would have saved my husband a lot of dramas", but then again if we had have spent that amount of money on our set up we wouldn't have been able to afford the trip. Long story short, thank goodness for my capable husband!
Over the bridge crossing the Leichhardt River and both kids put their arms into the air and yelled "yay"! I guess they saw buildings. "Mount Isa, we've arrived" I say. While in town a highlight was visiting the Riversleigh Fossils Centre. River is becoming increasingly more interested in different rocks and things that have died. Inside, the science officer saw that River was asking lots of questions like "Are these it's bones?" and "when did it die?" and so he invited us for a special tour into his science office to have a look through some of the microscopes. I think he was fairly impressed that someone of such a young age would actually listen to him and ask questions, even if they were simple questions. We looked at some bats fossils and Olive had a dig in the sand pit with fake dinosaur bones. Family happiness complete! Also on the list was a visit to the underground hospital and without going into too much detail, Oh am I'm glad I never had to give birth there!!! On Father's Day we took a picnic lunch out to Lake Moondarra which reminded me of family picnics as a child out at Canning Dam (Perth, Western Australia) although this place was much more impressive. A walk over the dam wall and a kick in the park was really all we needed for a free day out to be complete.
Still heading east on the Barkly HWY now our family are heading towards Mary Kathleen, an old mining town established in the 50s to mine uranium. It was closed down in the 80s and they auctioned off all the buildings and so now it's just the concrete pads remaining with cows roaming the old streets. You can explore around the town and see where the old swimming pool once was, the shops, the schools, etcetera, and there is a weird eerie feeling of what once was. We were actually camping on the medical facilities and I would recommend this free camp because the old concrete pad are perfect for caravans. A 6km drive up the road is the out of service open cut mine site and it would be the closest I personally have ever come to this type of mine. The drive itself is also interesting enough, through the hilly country side and passing wild camels crossing the road. Therefore we rate this free camp highly.
We shoot up through Cloncurry for morning tea and to Burk Willis road house heading North on the developmental hwy for another free camp at Bang Bang. At free camps our kids always
find something funny to entertain themselves, and us, with. This time is was banging pots and pans with wooden spoons and using bits and bobs to pretend they are in a band. River was of course the ring leader and singer with a song he called 'rock and roll
pancake coconut head'. It was loud, repetitive and lacked in any musical elements like tune or rhythm... But hey, no one was around, luckily. These little freedoms of free camping are really growing on us. However it's not always singing songs and happy times.
One of the tantrums we had on our way out of this camp site was, (and you need to imagine it in a toddlers demanding type voice and then read the following) ...
"I... Don't... Want... To look out the WINDOW".
Never mind. Sometimes some really
loud car music does the trick and we are a super daggy family. At the top of our lungs Reece and I sing "Just a fool to believe, she's like the wind"...
Full ballad singing in the car! Dirty Dancing soundtrack all the way into KARUMBA!!!
Its a small beach side town on the lower east side of the Gulf of Carpentaria and the type of town where you'd go for weekend holidays if you lived inland. Everyone owns a boat and the only reason to live it town is to fish or work at the MMG processing plant. Palm trees line the beach and pelicans float out on the water. It was low tide when we arrived and large sand bars exposed themselves and gave all the sea birds a place to rest. The whole town has that smell of salty sea water. It was a refreshing break from the red dust we've become so accustom to on this adventure so far. We spent our time collecting some shells, watching birds through the sunsets, swimming in the pool and at the towns water splash area. Other than watching the footy and having a few beers we didn't really do much. Exactly what we wanted to do!
Normanton is where the largest crocodile ever to be caught in the world was caught (And by a woman might I add) There's a to scale replica of the crocodile and it's so huge I feel there must be some mistake. Olive was petrified of it and even in my arms wouldn't let us have a photo. The Gulf Developmental road takes through to Croydon where there is a train that goes between the two towns, Normanton and Croyden. Nowhere else, just the two towns. Unfortunately it only travels on Wednesday and so we miss the opportunity to go on it and find out more. We head into Georgetown for a night and move on quickly crossing the mountain ranges to Mount Surprise.
Mount Surprise is all about the gem stone Topaz and locals have claims to much of the areas along Obrien Creek where they are found. Tourists are allowed to try their luck on the opposite side of the creek and so we arranged our fossicking license. All we hope to find is just one topaz gem to add to Rivers rock collection. After having a chat with some locals we head out following a hand drawn mud map, stopping firstly at Gueeko's house to borrow his fossicking gear. Gueeko, also known as Pappa in town, is am old Italia bloke who lives about 50kms deep in the middle of pretty much know where. He speaks in a quite mumbled old Italian voice and I can hardly understand him as he explains what to do and where to look. But he was also a lovely generous person and it saved us the normal $35 hiring the gear. Plus he has stacks of topaz and one particular gem was the size of a small football. According to Gueeko if you dig around the edges of the river bank and sieve the stones eventually you'll find one. We head out to our spot on O'Brian's Creek to get started and in short, after 2 hours of digging and sieving, no topaz. We were just about to give up when Reece struck gold.. well topaz! We found one!!! Its only small..... But we've GOT ONE!!!! Which made our day! Thanks Gueeko!
Next, and further along the
Gulf Developmental Road it wouldn't be an proper inland trip without stopping at the Undurra Volcanic National Park. Very basically, what happens is, huge lava tubes were created when rivers filled with lava and confined to the valleys they cooled and crusted
on the top forming a roof. The lava flow would then carry on for tens of kilometres, eventually emptying and leaving huge big tubes. Now you can walk through them and it's amazing! An absolute not to miss experience especially since these are the largest lava
tubes in the world and have been left completely untouched. River thought to ask the tour guide "When will it happen again?" and then added "Did we miss it?". Yes mate, phew, we missed it!
At a quick over night stop at Mount Garnet there's some construction going on. A small trench being dug out but the kids find it fascinating to watch. The machine driver gets out for a break and says hello to River.
"My grandad with the sheep has one of these". he tells the story
The man replies "Oh does he and do you know what this one is called"
River replies much to the man's total shock
"Yep... An excavator".
The man was stunned "oh wow you know your trucks mate" We will forever remember this stop as 'the grandad truck stop'. Heading north on the Kennedy HWY we stop for a quick nudie swim at the Innot hot springs. I'll leave that one with you all. Finally rolling green hills are before us as we enter the Atherton tablelands. What a drive, up and over, weaving in and around through the hills spotted with dairy cows and pine cone trees. Hidden amongst it all are small pockets of rain forest and with just a small winding detour you are in rainforest territory with the most picturesque waterfalls. Millaa Millaa falls are a must and a great spot to watch bush turkeys roam the pathways. Too bad that on our visit it rained and we didn't swim. All is ok through as we hit the chocolate and cheese factory, stop for hot peanuts and finish off at the distillery. Up the wheelbarrow way towards Mount Molly and an easy free camp at Rifle Creek Rest Area. On route to Cooktown.