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carmel’s Travel Diary

Sunday, 18 Jun 2006

Location: Georgetown, Qld, Australia


I forgot to mention Mt Isa Mines are having a maintenance shutdown and they have 600 Guest Workers here to help with the work. I think there are quite a few here at the caravan park. The couple next to us are here for the shutdown. He works 7 nights a week from 7.00pm to 7.00am, while she looks after their three littlies – 4, 2 and 6 months. I wouldn’t swap places with either of them. Another thing I forgot to mention – petrol prices were quite reasonable (relatively) at Mt Isa, 131.9c compared with up to 178.9c we have paid elsewhere.

We left at 8.00am this morning, on our way to Normanton. It was still pretty country, but it was quite a trip. There were roadworks off and on for the full 400kms. Admittedly it was essential. The original (and still most of) the road is one lane so the vehicles have to get off the road to pass. We even met up with a roadtrain, however he stopped off the road to let us pass.

We saw a herd of wild camels, probably about 20, and 2 dead pigs on the way. The first pig looked like the one in ‘Lord of the Flies’ and the second one was white, but as large as a good sized cow. As they were both in the middle of nowhere, I’m guessing they were feral. Also, the eagles seem to be larger here, and they seem to take much more time to get airbound – we’ve had a few close calls, quite scary actually. Of course, they are much too big to benefit from the car’s updraft. We also had a bull want to stare Barrie down before moving off the road. Barrie won! Although 2 others must also have tried this – and lost, we saw their bodies on the side of the road.

I can’t get over the roadhouses, they pop up every 200kms or so, with absolutely nothing else around. We filled up at the Burke and Wills roadhouse and would have been charged $1 if we’d used our credit card, needless to say we paid cash.

Not far out of Normanton, we could see these things in the distance. Initially we thought they were cattle but, as we got closer, we realised they were termite mounds. It was a paddock with hundreds of mounds, they looked like gravestones.


There was another unusual sign at the Normanton Caravan Park – ‘Please close the toilet lid to keep the green frogs out’.

When it rains here in Normanton, it must really rain, because the flood markers went up to 8 metres.

The water around the Norman River is a haven for bird life, there were so many different birds – brolgas, herons and varieties of water birds which were just as large. Also the ponds and creeks were covered with water lilies – so the water must be shallow, it is also very tidal.

We have seen a few live wallabies (for a change) along the way. This seems to be good cattle country, with all the dams full. There was even water lying along the side of the road. However I don’t know whether the water was salty or not, as we passed through a lot of salt flats, even though the Gulf was probably 30kms away. But we did see stockyards crowded with cattle in, what seemed to be, nowhere – I guess it was a stock saleyard. We also saw large herds along the way, both from Normanton to Karumba and on to Croydon. In fact the only dead animal we saw on this part of the trip was a cow.

It’s hard to remember we are in winter, the temperature this morning at 9.00 was 22oC.

On the way we saw a sign ‘God bless the Outback’ and, a bit further on ‘Go Crocs Go’, I don’t know whether they were wild life lovers or supporters of some sport.

From Normanton, we went to Karumba, the only town on the Gulf of Carpenteria with a sealed road – a really great road. The sign said don’t go in the water because of crocodiles, but I had to have a little paddle. I also looked for shells. There were some really nice ones, but they were all embedded in the sandstone and I couldn’t get them out. There was scarcely any proper sand, it had all become sandstone – weird. I did manage to get a couple of imperfects.

The 2 major employers there are Jinifex Century Mine Port Installation and Raptis Seafood. Karumba is only a small place, but, with 2 such big employers, plus tourism, there should be no unemployment. We bought a kg of green banana prawns for $10, and would have liked to get a kg of king snapper for $11.90, but didn’t have room in the freezer as I’d just stocked up with meat.

The Norman River joins the Gulf at Karumba. The river was as wide as the Pumicestone Passage.

Our next stop after Karumba was Croydon. The road had floodways all along it, some only 500m apart – a good indication of when it rains up here it really rains.

30kms out of Croydon, we were back onto the 1 lane road, but with a sign that said ‘road widens 2 km’ and it did, a beautiful, new road. When we reached Croydon, we found we had lost a caravan hub cap – this time permanently. It was the getting off and on again the road.

There was only one caravan park in Croydon which was situated over a gold mine. Unfortunately we didn’t find any spare nuggets. After we set up I went over to the information centre to use the internet and get information about Croydon. Well, 3 hours later and armed with a showbag of information for both Croydon and where we are heading (including lots of freebies), I left. The girl there was just great. I then did the heritage walk. Croydon is very proud of its old buildings. I also went to the Chinatown archaeological dig. There wasn’t much there, apart from what would normally be regarded as ‘junk’ although the plaques were interesting, explaining what was originally there, and also histories of the original inhabitants. I finished up with blisters.


We are now at Georgetown and will be here for a couple of nights. We are also back to the 1 lane road and have been told we can expect that until almost the coast. You don’t see many other vehicles on the road, but, just as we got back onto the 1 lane road today, we met 2 cars – and they were flying, and, of course, threw up stones. Barrie was not impressed.

Today, we checked out Georgetown, not that there is much to see. Its main claim to fame is TerrEstrial, a collection of over 4500 minerals, gemstones and fossils, one person’s collection. We are going to see it tomorrow. However we did go to Teresa’s museum which had a bit of everything. I also started the river walk. I had expected the walk to be beside the river, but it is up on a ridge. Maybe, if there was water in the river, it would have been beside it. I climbed down onto the sand and found some really nice stones. (I’ll check out what they are when we go to TerrEstrial.) I wasn’t game to go down too far just in case there were crocodiles. The girl at the info centre assured me there weren’t any, but I wasn’t going to take any chances.

The walk goes for 7kms and I certainly wasn’t going to walk that far. I’d been told there were gates along the way, but couldn’t find one when I was ready to call it quits. (I got as far as the golf course and, according to the map there should have been one there, but I couldn’t find it.) So had to walk back to the last one and get home that way. I’m going to have another go at it tomorrow. The locals reckon they have an international golf course because it is such a hard and unique course – there is no grass, it’s all shale.

On the walk I saw (and nearly trod on) a goanna. There were also stacks of wallabies and kangaroos and a herd of cattle. One cow started to follow me, maybe she was just being friendly but I wasn’t too sure. Some of the kangaroos were a bit too friendly for my liking also, they certainly weren’t scared of me.