Travels 2011 - Home via Coopers Creek

 

We finally extracted the campervan from its Jingili mooring at  0830 hours on  6 September 2011 and pointed our car south for the next 1000 kms.  Driving out of Darwin has always been a daunting exercise not only because of the huge distances to be negotiated but also because of the sudden rush of guilt about persons or things not seen during one's stay. My personal approach is to keep the mind blank until after you have reached Katherine (300 odd kms away) for your first re-fuelling stop.  By then one has escaped the social gravitational pull.

The traffic on the Stuart Highway remained heavy all the way down with about equal number of road trains and caravans travelling in both directions.  We pulled up at the historic Daly Waters Pub on our first night and to help morale I decided we should dine out on their famous Beef and Barra meals together with a bottle of wine.  The meal was excellent but was accompanied by a local country and western singer and yarn spinner who, while well received by the predominantly southern tourists present, we found a little too folksy.  Still it did delay our usual bedtime and guaranteed a good nights sleep.

 

Our aim for the next day was to refuel at the Three Ways and try and get across the Barkly Highway as near to the Qld border as possible so as to give us an easy run into Mount Isa the following day.  I came across one exhausted obese traveller from NSW at the servo at Three Ways who appeared to be sweating profusely.  When asked whether he was OK, he spluttered that he and his  wife could no longer stand the heat and needed to get home.  He had not made Darwin as originally intended and had had to turn around at Katherine.  Just then his obese wife appeared out of the shop bearing gifts of  two giant muffins and cream to sooth their fevered brows!

Despite the traditional headwinds we got to the Avon Downs Police Station rest area - approximately  740 kms from Daly Waters and only about 60 kms from the Qld border.....we managed these distances by each driving in two hour spells. 

           

Boring Barkly Highway - the mileage signs just go on forever

       

Sunset and subsequent sunrise at Avon Downs Police Station Rest Area

                   

                                                Cattle watering on the Barkly Tablelands                                Qld Border at last

 

Just before driving into Camooweal we investigated the popular free camping spot at the Georgina Billabong.  As usual it was crowded but also was home to several families of  Brolgas.

               

 We eventually drove into Mount Isa about midday the following day and set about doing our research about the trip down the Birdsville Track over the following weeks.  After agreeing on a skeletal itinerary we then had to tackle the task of planning meals for the journey.  Maria then went buying and got out her trusty Cryavak machine to process the meat.

Throughout our six month camping trip we have found the biggest challenge to be the purchasing of quality fruit and vegetables in outback towns and then the added problem of how to keep them in above average temperatures in very humid and dusty conditions.  Soft vegetables such zucchini, squash, tomatoes or bulky ones such as lettuce, silver beat were the worst.

During this drive out we found that the vehicle could cover approximately 650kms of highway safely with the aid of a jerry can - this was a good reach given that we had the boat on top and were towing the campervan.  It should also serve us well if we decide to take the rig down the Birdsville Track.

The City of Mount Isa (population 24 000)is dominated by the massive MIM copper, lead, zinc and silver mining operations (now owned by Xstrata) right at the foot of the town's CBD with only the dry river bed of the Leichardt River separating the commercial CBD from this giant mining operation.  Its iconic red and white smelter stacks constantly belch ominous orange and grey smoke.  We drove up to the town's look out and took some snaps at sunset over the town; to limited effect.

 Quite apart from the mining operations, Mount Isa has quite a few attractions including underground mine tours, a large recreational lake as well as a number of WWII monuments including the underground hospital which we toured one afternoon.  This amazing institution had been sealed up from the end of the war until 1979 when it was accidently discovered.  It has since been restored and houses a wonderful collection of 1940s medical equipment - some of it makes one feel quite squeamish.  The town also supports a large School of the Air and RFDS base as well as numerous hotels and large clubs including the Buffs and the quite lavish Irish Club, complete with Tram Bar.  We tendered to keep to our local Overlander Hotel on the eastern outskirts of the town - they served excellent Rib Fillet and local Barra at a good price.

Unfortunately our time in Mount Isa again focussed attention on the inexperienced staff used to man local Tourist Information offices.  We came across it in Charleville, Charters Towers, Cairns, Cooktown, Normanton as well as in Darwin.  All of these offices are manned by local volunteers who may be able to tell you about the attractions and accommodation options in their own town but know absolutely nothing about the conditions or facilities available in neighbouring districts and in most cases do not appear to have ventured outside of their own town's perimeter fencing.  This makes planning long distance touring all the more difficult - surely each office should have someone on call who has travelled a little more widely.

Another disappointment has been the number of  backpackers (especially from Ireland and the UK) who man all the country pubs you visit.  While these folk are generally most welcoming and jolly, they know absolutely nothing of their adopted town's history or of its special attractions.  So rather than get engaged in conversation about the local district and or of its current concerns, you get some dreamy girl or boy chatting  into the mobile phones to a friend in some other part of the country about their love life or lack of it.....Ba humbug!

Due to the increasing cold nights inland, Maria decided to drag out the flannelette sheets for the remainder of our journey home.  We were to experience night time temperatures in the desert as low as 8 C.  We also took the precaution of extracting some winter clothing for ourselves - just in case...Brrrrrr

On Sunday we decamped and set off South for the town of Boulia (home of the mysterious Min Min lights).  The road south was actually the Diamantina (Beef) Development Road which meant only a single lane of bitumen all the way down to Birdsville well, nearly all the way. Quite early in the journey with Maria at the helm we had to pull off the road to allow 3 Road Trains full of cattle to pass.  The route down south travels through endless Mitchell grass plains with the odd bit of Gidgee to break up the landscape mirage.  There was a deal of road kill on the road and quite a number of Wedge tail Eagles feasting on the carcases.

           

The only town you pass is Dajarra (population 150) which, on a Sunday appeared deserted, save the odd dog.  We pulled  up at the only rest area (completely shade less) along the way and consumed a home-made Porchetta and salad sandwich with some bush flies.  It was then full steam ahead to Boulia (population 300) where we wisely decided to ignore the sterile looking Caravan Park in favour of a beautiful free site right behind the racecourse on the banks of the Burke River (Camps #401) only 5kms out of town.

          

After erecting the camp, I donned the Akubra and wandered back into town to visit the local tourist office to enquire about road conditions, the local attractions and then to meet a few locals in the pub.  While in the pub a large refrigerated semi pulled up selling '100% Aussie  Seafood'.  From 'Deck to Door' was his brag - the seafood mostly emanating from Townsville. The owners of the rig sell the seafood to grateful residents in centres throughout Qld's Far West - he seemed most popular and we bought some Spanish Mackerel.

That night we dined beside the river under the stars and a strange light - was it the Min Min light or just the moon?

The next day we booked into the excellent local sound and light show explaining some of the historical background and legends associated with those Min Min lights and we thoroughly enjoyed it. 

We also toured the local museum which houses an excellent collection of fossilised prehistoric marine reptiles over 500 million years old.  

                                       

It was then time to fuel up and head to the Diamantina National Park some 180kms away to the South East.

This NP was gazetted  in 1996 to preserve the natural and cultural heritage associated with the Diamantina channel country, which incorporates stunning sandstone mesas, clay pans, sand dunes as well as vast gibber plains.   Sir Sydney Kidman once owned the property called Diamantina Lakes. 

                           

                              

At the centre of the Park is what is known as the Diamantina Gates where the many channels of the river converge and push through a 1km wide gorge.  The 'Gates' were used by stockman who had to drive cattle across the Channel country. Refer diagram below:

   

                                       

We camped for a couple of nights at Hunter's Gorge - one of the many so-called 'Diamantina Lakes' but more correctly named Mundawerra Waterhole.   This waterhole was full of waterfowl and other birdlife and at night the ground became alive with numerous bush rats - quite tame.  Not so pleasant was the discovery of 3 of the blighters trapped in the newly erected pit toilet at the camping area...On arriving in Bedourie later on we were advised that the town had recently had a rat plague due in large part to the heavy seasonal rains earlier in the year.  However, Maria wants it on the record that she believed these 'cute' nocturnal mammals were Kowaris or Desert Dunnarts rather than common rats.

               

Make your own mind up!

We next headed west back to the Diamantina Development Road to the town of Bedourie (population 150).  The route traversed many gibber plains and the track turned quite stony. 

Maria also had to jump out more frequently than she had become accustomed to open and close many station gates. 

                   

Only 25kms from the end of the dirt road (near Cluny Station) we experienced our second tyre blow out on the camper.  This time it was on one of the new tyres we had had fitted back up in Weipa.  I was a little annoyed but with stoic fortitude crawled under the camper with jack in hand and changed the wretch.  

We then drove into town and quickly arranged for a new tyre to be fitted to replace the blown one.  Unfortunately, the only tyre fitter in town had run out of tubeless valve stems and so we had to have a tube fitted as well.  Meanwhile Maria booked us into the camp ground opposite and by chance ended up with an ensuite site for only $10.  There was only one other camper in the park.

We quickly toured this tiny town and got acquainted with the 100yr old Royal Hotel (staffed by another Irish girl).  It was then time to follow the campground caretaker and former drover Graham to his employer's motel, service station, restaurant and bar complex where he was going to have a couple more and collect his 'nosebag' (dinner).  We all got on famously, the owner having come originally from Rockhampton and who had only taken over the business six months previously.  Next morning, their relative inexperience was illustrated at our expense when they could not get their fuel pumps to work properly.......a loose wire in the computer.

               

                                                                            Royal Hotel est 1886

The road down to Birdsville from Bedourie - a distance of 200kms is 50:50 bitumen and dirt in 30km stretches.  It was a good run where we were able to view vast landscapes of green feed some almost a metre high - we were told that cattle can put on as much as 1.5kg/day on this rich Channel Country feed. However, these green pastures were also feeding huge numbers of feral pigs, emus and kangaroos.  Everywhere you looked there was water lying about in shallow gutters and clay pans. 

                               

This was the country that Sir Sydney Kidman had tried to tame and create a drought proof cattle empire through a string of  properties stretching the length and breadth of the nation.  However, during relentless droughts during the early Twentieth century he had had to walk off many properties in this Channel country....today most of the properties here like Glengyle and Cluny are owned by large pastoral companies with sufficient flexibility to move their cattle herds to different districts to take advantage of varying rainfall and markets. 

En route we paused at the historic ruins of Carcoory HS (another ex Kidman property) and its vey hot (85 C) artesian bore.

                                       

 We also took time out to visit a stand of very ancient Waddi Trees - trees that do not burn readily, are white ant proof, will blunt axes and saws when dried and highly prized for fencing while green.

Waddi Tree

Tree blazed by Burke & Wills party

The camp ground at Birdsville (pop 120 - 5000) is very good even though, like the rest  of the neighbouring country it lacks a bit of shade.  The camp ground is Council owned and therefore is administered from Bedourie where the Diamantina Shire is centred.  The management are most helpful and knowledgeable and the facilities spotless.  The park is located adjacent to the town's billabong and so there is plenty of bird life quite close at hand - but what else would you expect at 'Birds Ville'! 

                       

We tried to make a tentative booking for 2012 but were firmly advised that bookings are only taken after 2 January of every year and that the minimum booking accepted is for a week at a fixed cost of $250 for a powered site.  Everyone else must go to the unpowered and overflow areas ($5/night) a couple of hundred metres from the ablution block.

I should also report that the local Tourist Info office was at last staffed with people well versed in the area and very knowledgeable about surrounding access roads, the flood levels of the rivers and what highlights one should aim for as part of one's Simpson Desert experience.  They even wore professional-looking uniforms.  Birdsville - what a place - a camp for Burke & Wills in the 1860s,  home to Afghan cameleers, mailman Tom Kruse, the existing pub which has been there since the middle 1880s along with the Races which first began there in September 1882.  Today the place plays hosts to travellers from all parts of the country and for that matter the world - all come to experience the birdlife, the sand hills and the desert.

           

           

Simpson Desert Recovery Vehicle (we actually saw one of these rescue vehicles bring in a Victorian couple who had broken a rear axle out in the Simpson Desert - luckily they were carrying a Satellite Phone.

Caravan Park Overflow area - however, there is also perfectly good free camps out along the Diamantina River adjacent to the Race Track; maybe 5km out of town.

One of Birdsville's major tourist attractions has been its Working Museum which houses a unique and very extensive collection of Australian domestic and commercial memorabilia, appliances and machinery.  Sadly the museum has not been able to be sold as a going concern and as a consequence it closed the day we left town.  Its collection is to be catalogued and all of it is to be sent to Melbourne for auctioning later in the year.  The owner and his wife are also leaving town but only going as far as Isisford to retire.

           

           

 We also had to pop into one of Australia's iconic pubs - ($5.50 schooners and $50/VB 30 box of cans but $10 for Gin and Tonic and other "fancy" drinks).  However all bar staff were Australian with a smattering of local knowledge - even tho most hailed from NSW and Victoria. It had an honest feel about it!

                   

The local Roadhouse opposite the caravan park is a little greedy ($63 for 9kg gas refill) and one can get cheaper fuel and general groceries at the Mobil servo opposite the pub.  We also visited the Diamantina River bird sanctuary, racecourse and finally a trip to the famous 'Big Red' sand hill.  Unfortunately, due to the amount of water lying about one had to take an extensive detour to see Big Red some 40 kms away.  But the sand hille on the detour itself proved too much for our car fully loaded and boat on top - we only managed 4 hills with the vehicle almost taking off on the final crest of sand. 

                           

On the detour track in search of the large sand dune known as 'Big Red'

Sand Dune Crest signage - novel?

Maria atop a sand hill with surface water still laying about Birdsville in September!

We met two fellows who were veterans of the Simpson Desert sand hills and were going to take them all on right across to Alice Springs ......brave lads!.  When attempting these sand hills motorists are advised to deflate their tyres to about 20psi, use 2nd high 4x4 or 3rd low 4x4 and have at least a 12 ft aerial with red flag on top - now we saw plenty of punters utilising surf rods as aerials and one chap had even lashed a log of firewood to his bull bar with what appeared to be a pair of jocks tied to it.

Before leaving Birdsville, I also decided to catch up with a lot of cataloguing of photographs and journal up-dates.  I find I have to be quite disciplined (or is it anal) about these chores or else find myself swamped by a backlog of photographs and haunted by half remembered incidents and facts I wanted to formally record. 

Getting on with it!

Our next challenge was the Birdsville Track (pioneered by that cattle duffer Harry Redford/Capt Starlight) and to get a glimpse, at least, of the flooded  Cooper's Creek leading into Lake Eyre.  In Birdsville, a 4 hour charter down and over Lake Eyre on a fixed wing aircraft was costing $600/head...we hoped for something a little cheaper further south.  The Birdsville Track crosses into South Australia very shortly after leaving Birdsville and then you have 318kms of varying dirt surfaces to contend with until you reach the Mungeranie Roadhouse, its then a further 75kms to the car ferry across Cooper's Creek on the detour road (main road been cut since June but expected to be open again in time for Xmas).  Then one has another 200kms to Maree where  the Track joins the Oodnadatta Track to Coober Pedy or go down to Strzlecki Track to Innamincka.......at any rate there are lots of  isolated kms to negotiate and re-fuelling logistics to be worked out. ..viz:

Distances  from Birdsville

Not only did we have to suffer pet doggies in caravan parks but then also having to share our wilderness experience with these lean and hungry brutes was another matter!

Because we now had a firm timeline to be back in Yeppoon, we felt we could only manage to go as far as Cooper's Creek and so off we went.  The initial 100kms was a marvellous smooth clay track as was the last 100kms but the middle section was a bastard rock strewn gibber plain which shook everything and us about. 

           

We gratefully stopped at the Mungerannie pub after a 300 odd km journey which had taken over 5hrs - I had a couple of quick beers before stealing ourselves for the last 75kms down to Cooper's Creek where we eventually camped (Camps #534) under some lovely shade trees right on the banks of Cooper's Creek or more accurately where it forms Lake Kopperamanna.

However, our trip down had not been without incident as I discovered the vehicle had got a puncture right at the Creek and then I had ripped out the electric cable to one side of the campervans electric brakes.  I found a chap called Peter Ware who runs river charter trips up and down the river as well as undertakes the odd repair job who readily agreed to fix the puncture next day. 

          

He also advised where to launch our tinnie and where I might have the best chance of catching the odd Yellow Belly.  Peter also warned us not to leave too much lying around our campsite during the night as bush rats were still a bit of a problem in the area.....ho hum!   As foreshadowed, come dusk there was movement all around amongst the spinnifex and tiny grizzled snouts began to appear - our fire kept a lot at bay but we did feel a little under siege inside the camper, especially when one had to attend to calls of nature or get another beer from the WAECO.   However, we were able to witness an amazing sunset that night over the Cooper and an equally impressive sunrise the following morning:

Sunset over the Cooper

Sunrise over the Cooper

The following day after a leisurely breakfast we launched the boat and after negotiating our way around the Car Ferry (its only powered by 2 x 15hp outboard motors strapped to the side) we proceeded to tour the Cooper by 'power' boat, much to the disdain of a couple of others who were doing the same, but in far more ecologically sound canoe craft.

                   

The Creek was alive with all manner of water fowl (ducks, cormorants, pelicans, swans, ibis, spoonbills and herons).  About a km up stream from the ferry we came across a rock cairn sticking out of the water - erected by surveyors back in the early 20th C when their were plans to extend the existing (but now defunct) railway line from Maree to Birdsville to better assist the movement of livestock to the Adelaide markets.

Using fine pieces of rump steak as bait we were soon getting the odd nibble and then I finally jagged one - a fine Yellowbelly, maybe just under a kilo in weight (our scales are broken).  We celebrated and returned to camp triumphant and keen to give it a more serious go the next day.   I managed to take a small bit of video footage on the Cooper before our camera battery obligingly ran out....talk about being up the Creek without......!

       

Meanwhile, Maria had slipped across on the Car Ferry and made contact with a Helicopter pilot who agreed to give us a short 20 min ride over the flooded Cooper and beyond for $85 each - a bargain.  That flight just before sunset that night proved to be the highlight of our trip down and really made it all worth it - but so did launching the boat on the Cooper and catching that  fish.

Later that day during a conversation with Peter Ware he advised us that next month the neighbouring stations of Mulka and Etadunna would use an annual licence they share for one month to net Lake Hope about 80kms North and sell the resultant haul of Yellowbelly down in the Southern Fish markets.  Now, I questioned this story as I had never come across Yellowbelly or Golden Perch for sale commercially.  However, he was adamant and so I guess his story is true.  

 

          

Original Birdsville Track crossing of Cooper's Creek still swamped - Sept 2011

Car Ferry (just visible) crossing point on Cooper's Creek

           

Flooded Coopers Creek with the charter cruise just visible

               

The following day we awoke to howling winds which gradually got worse over breakfast.  We decided that further boating was not on and that instead we would pack up and move back up north towards Birdsville.  During the initial stage of our drive back we were confronted with many sand storms which almost forced one to stop the car they were so severe. These storms were accompanied by quite distracting Tumbleweeds flying across the road without notice.

              

After Mungerannie the storms abated and we were fortunately able to negotiate the wretched stony section of the Track with full visibility.  However, we learned at the pub that the car ferry service on the Cooper had suspended operations that morning because of the strong winds.   Our vehicle also succumbed to a smashed rear window of the canopy which necessitated some makeshift solution to at least keep the dust penetration into the rear to a minimum. To help avoid stones ricocheting off the towed camper or trailer many travellers tape a piece of cardboard over this vulnerable rear window....I will remember to do likewise next time!

We eventually made better time than we had anticipated and so drove straight back to the Birdsville Camp ground for a final night of luxury with showers.  The drive north had seen the Track all of a sudden fill with holiday traffic and we suddenly realised that we had run into the September school holiday period and that might make future camping options a little more cramped.

From this point of time we were on a mission to return home on or about the end of the month.  We decided that a different route home from those previously travelled would have to be mapped out and so it was that we set off quite early the following morning for the town of Windorah (pop 80) centre of the  Cooper's Creek Channel Country some 390kms to the East.  En route one passes the ghost town of Betoota - a town which once boasted a 112 year old pub which was last owned by a teetotal a Polish immigrant with a fearsome temper from the mid 1950s until 1997 when he closed it. 

Of  similar interest are the ruins of  the hotel established by an early pastoral legend John Costello who originally established Waveney Station.  However, the current owner of the station also bought the 'JC'....

About half way between Betoota and Windorah the local Barcoo Shire has erected a traveller's Rest Area at which they have also erected some very good interpretative signage about the Mitchell Grass plains and the Channel Country in general which I found most illuminating - as I hope you will too:

 

As one nears Windorah from the West you get to travel over a series of very red sand hills which at sunset would be a magnificent sight.  But even in the middle of the day are quite spectacular.

The town of Windorah (pop 80) is very small and one wonders how such a place survives the advent of modern communication and transport linkages which have been the death knell to other similar sized towns. 

           

               

                                                                                    Windorah cottage                                               Windorah's solar power station

However, the town does have the magnificent Cooper's Creek running just 10kms to its north which provides an idyllic and very popular free camping ground for travellers and keen Yellowbelly fishermen.

        

           

After establishing camp on the banks of Cooper's Creek, we noticed some additional collateral damage to the camper.  This time, my repairs to the electric brakes cable required additional attention.  However, more seriously we noticed that the stony road had ripped out the water tank's hoses to the kitchen pump as well as the drainage cock resulting in the complete loss of all the tank's 60litres of drinking water.  Fortunately we had an additional 30 litres in the vehicle.  But then Maria reported more damage to some of the kitchen shelving which had collapsed over the past 500 kms of  dirt roads - the old camper was beginning to show her age and limited off-road proficiency.....there were also some broken screws on the bed slides which all meant that we had to nurse the old girl back to Yeppoon for some TLC and much needed maintenance before its next outing - still I think all things considered the camper had done a wonderful job over the past six months over some of the roughest conditions expected of any sort of off-road camper.

Visitors to Windorah should take the trouble to travel along their 12km Nature Drive which is dotted with 45 native trees and shrubs which have all been identified with small signs - very thoughtful experience provided by the local community.  It was then off to the town of Jundah (pop 90) some 100kms to our north and the administrative centre for the Barcoo Shire.  It sits on the Thomson River.

However we had decided to camp out at the Welford NP which had camping sites situated right along the banks of the Barcoo River.

Unfortunately, the map of the park's tourist drives was, to say the least, very ambiguous and as a result we failed to explore them, preferring instead to catch up on some reading and watch the myriad of birdlife on the River right in front of our camp.

              

                                                            A relax by the Barcoo                                                         Observed by a Red winged Parrot

We stayed at this campsite for two nights and then moved further north through Stonehenge (pop 80).  Now the tiny town of Stonehenge (pop 25) is the home to part of our Defence Department's Over the Horizon radar installation, but apart from that there seems little else going for this town.  Hang on; the town is apparently home to ?'Bronco Branding' and has a native well on the outskirts of town.

                                   

From Stonehenge we took a 100km 'short cut' across a Mitchell Grass studded black soil plain to the town of Isisford (pop 130) where we decided to camp on the Barcoo River again but this time at the Oma Waterhole  some 14 kms out of town. 

           

This non-listed campsite turned out to be be a real bonus.  For $2/vehicle/night one got hot and cold showers plus flushing toilets. 

               

These facilities and surrounding riverbank camping were spotless and despite the school holidays we shared the area with only about 10 other travellers each camped out of the sight of each other. These facilities were erected (so a sign said) in 2005 courtesy of  Jupiter's Casinos (TABCORP) - it was good to see our share holdings doing some positive good in this outback town.

However, we did have to shoo away the odd cow and heifer who appeared to want to browse our camp early in the mornings.  They hold an annual fishing competition on this waterhole and so Maria and I both tried our luck with varying success.

Different techniques

But then a little while later, after I had retied to the shade of the camp, Maria calls me down to show off a couple beauties:

Because of the generally friendly nature of the locals we made a couple of trips into town during our stay out at the waterhole.  We in fact were able to watch the Geelong: West Coast Preliminary Final.  However, we did feel a little bit of angst for those Hawthorn supporters back in Darwin after their narrow loss to Collingwood the night before.  Our host of  Clancy's Overflow Hotel turned out to be a Dutchman who had fallen in love with town several years prior and decided to buy the pub for 'a steal'.  However, on Saturday night he arbitrarily closed the pub early at 5pm as he wanted to attend a party at a hotel in the neighbouring town of Yaraka some 102kms away - so we and all his other patrons had to move up to the other pub in town for a couple more.   However, we got home safely and were able to prepare a sumptuous meal of Shepherds Pie out of our remaining pack of minced beef.

While at this and earlier river camp sites, I felt a distinct reluctance to go swimming and cool down in these lovely picturesque water ways and can only put this down to the years of living in Darwin where the ever-present threat of crocodiles was a constant deterrent of such pleasures.

After 3 nights at Oma Waterhole we packed up and headed North East to Jericho (pop 100) via Blackall.  Although we had visited Blackall back in April we had not been able to visit the Jackie Howe exhibit because it was closed for ANZAC Day.  On the way to Blackall one passes the historic Isis Downs which is home to the innovative semi-circular shearing shed.  Unfortunately, the current UK owners have decided to close the Shed from the public on account of public liability concerns but I would dearly love to have a peek at it sometime.

The back road from Blackall to Jericho was a very sandy track for most of the 120km journey.  But we pulled into the free camp spot on the Jordan River (Camps #342) at about 1330 hours and proceeded to erect our camper.  I also decided to to use the generator for most of the afternoon to give our second battery a break from the non-stop demands of the WAECO.  However, the generator decided to play up and I had to seek assistance from a fellow traveller to secure an appropriate tool to inspect the machine's spark plug.  Once cleaned, the generator resumed normal operations and ensured no one would camp too near to us.

           

Apart from its biblical associations, the town of Jericho also lays claim to the smallest Drive In in Australia holding just 36 vehicles plus some bleaches for those who choose to walk in.

               

The biblical story of the Israelites marching around the walls of  Jericho is represented by a quite an impressionistic sculpture in the main street titled: the Crystal Trumpeters.....make what you will of it.

The following day we headed further East along the Capricorn Highway to Emerald and then to Dululu where we pulled up at the local Progress Association's rest area (Camps #441) which only charged  $10/night for a powered site.  Dululu was to be our last stop before returning home as it was only about 70kms from Rockhampton where we intended to undertake a few tasks before heading back into Yeppoon.  However, it was here that at Dululu that the camper van's winding mechanism again refused to fully cooperate and would not raise the roof more than 75% of the way thus preventing the upper portion of the door to be fitted.  Admittedly it had been causing me some angst over the previous week by being extremely stiff - something is a miss again and we dare not tackle the problem until we get home.

It was on Wednesday 28 September, just about six months since we had set out on our journey, that we realised that we would just have to return home a day early and hope that we could gain access to our house or else prop in a motel room for our last night.  The route from Dululu to Rockhampton takes one over Mount Morgan which sits atop a rather large hill with correspondingly steep ascent and descent  which caravanners are warned to avoid; but I want to see this former gold mining metropolis. 

Our trip over the past six months has involved travelling over 22 000kms during which we have taken well over 2000 photographs and video clips.  Our accommodation costs have only averaged $100/week by choosing to stay predominantly in National Parks or cheap council camping grounds and rest areas (excluding the 6 free weeks while staying in Darwin with our son and daughter-in-law).  However, by choosing to stay off road a lot, substantially increases one's fuel costs not only because of the extra distances travelled but also the higher fuel costs incurred in the more remote localities.

Notwithstanding the costs and occasional mechanical breakdowns, it has been a wonderful trip of discovery of  Far North Qld as well as the Far West and down to Coopers Creek.  It has certainly whetted our appetite for future trips  around Australia's more remote corners.

Some very expensive tourist badges we couldn’t resist collecting along the way (better than teaspoons perhaps?)

 

 

 

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