A Travellerspoint blog

June 2013

Normanton - Billy Tea and Damper Excursion on the Gulflander

Day 36 - Saturday 15 June 2013

Another fine sunny day in Normanton with hardly a cloud in the sky - forecast 15 to 32 degrees. For Frosty's benefit we are on Site 77 with a nice shady tree just past the amenities block.

Site 77 with a shady tree

Site 77 with a shady tree

We started the day with an early breakfast and were on our way just before 8:30 am for the Normanton Railway Station for our Gulflander Excursion to Critters Camp with morning tea at the 11 mile waterhole on the way back. The train comprises three old rail-motors all about 60 years old, with two converted to carriages. The first motorised unit is powered by a Gardiner 102 HP diesel, with an unusual drive arrangement through a tail-shaft and differential to a single axle at the rear of the unit.

Gulflander drive unit

Gulflander drive unit

Standard front bogie unit

Standard front bogie unit

Rear axle drive through a tail-shaft and differential

Rear axle drive through a tail-shaft and differential

Normanton is the administrative centre for the Carpentaria Shire which covers an area the size of Tasmania but only 2,500 people.
The railway line from Normanton had originally been planned to go to Cloncurry to bring ore from the copper mines to the Port at Normanton. However gold was discovered at Croydon before the line was completed and the line was changed to service Croydon instead. The line was constructed across the flood plains and the track is laid straight on the ground without ballast, because that would be washed away in the floods. Over 90% of the original U-shaped sleepers are still in service 120 years later, proving the effectiveness of the original design.

Unique U-shaped steel sleepers laid without ballast

Unique U-shaped steel sleepers laid without ballast

Flood markers

Flood markers

The Excursion took us to Critters Camp, so named by a fettler who sat on a scorpion and was bitten on the back-side. At Critters Camp a Y track is used to turn the train around, before stopping at 11 Mile Waterhole for morning tea on the way back to Normanton. Morning tea comprised tea or coffee, served with a choice of croissants, scones, and damper served with jam and cream. There was more than enough for the 80-90 passengers who had made the trip. While we were having morning tea we were entertained by folk singer with a guitar raising money for the Flying Doctor Service.

Cattle grazing near the railway line

Cattle grazing near the railway line

Crossing the Norman River

Crossing the Norman River

Critters Camp

Critters Camp

Di with the Gulflander

Di with the Gulflander

Victorian drinking team from Cloncurry

Victorian drinking team from Cloncurry

David and Di in front of the Gulflander

David and Di in front of the Gulflander

Morning tea laid out

Morning tea laid out

Tawny frogmouth hiding in a tree

Tawny frogmouth hiding in a tree

Morning tea entertainment

Morning tea entertainment

Last steam locomotive taken out of service in 1929

Last steam locomotive taken out of service in 1929

Back at camp in the afternoon David decided to take up Frosty's challenge to visit all three pubs in Normanton to find which one of them served the coldest beer. He started with the Albion where five locals and two visitors from the caravan park were enjoying a chilled refresher or two. Next stop was the Central Hotel which was deserted, apart from a regular stream of locals making purchases at the bottle shop. Finally he went to the Purple Pub where 4 locals and 3 visitors from the caravan park were watching the AFL football on TV. Given the it was late in the last quarter David had a second beer and watched Richmond give the Crows a lesson. Go Tigers!!

The Albion Hotel

The Albion Hotel

The Central Hotel

The Central Hotel

The Purple Pub

The Purple Pub

As to which pub has the coldest beer the result was inconclusive and a second visit may be called for tomorrow.

Posted by TwoAces 23:51 Comments (1)

Cloncurry to Normanton

Day 35 - Friday 14 June 2013

Forecast for today was 11 to 24 degrees in Cloncurry - however the forecast for Normanton was 15 to 32 degrees. After a visit to the dump point at the caravan park we were on our way to Normanton at about 9:15 am. Our trip today was a fairly long (for us) 385 kms along the Burke Development Road. Today was a public holiday in Cloncurry for the local show and all the shops were closed - so no traffic on the roads.

We stopped for fuel and lunch at the Burke and Wills Roadhouse, which was about half way between Cloncurry and Normanton. We were here three years ago and stayed for one night in the caravan park, but nothing has changed in those three years - the roadhouse is still staffed by backpackers, presumably on 457 visas. For lunch we had excellent toasted egg and bacon sandwiches with a coffee. We also filled up with fuel, but only needed 33 litres of diesel to fill the tank - the excellent fuel economy no doubt due to the tail wind that followed us all the way from Cloncurry to Normanton.

The road from Cloncurry to Burke and Wills Roadhouse was a good two lane sealed road, however after Burks and Wills RH we encountered about five sections of single lane road totalling about 60 kms. We eventually arrived at the Normanton Tourist Park at 2:30 pm and were allocated a drive through site for 3 nights. We did a full set up with power, water, awning, mats, tables and chairs. We have a nice shady site - probably the best site in the park - no doubt due to booking ahead and being a 5th wheeler.

After completing our set-up we drove around the town, stopping first at the Information Centre. We asked where we could buy papers but were told that they would be two days old, so we probably already have them. We also checked out the dump point, the shops and the bakery then drove past the Railway Station where we will go for our excursion tomorrow.

The Gulflander waiting for tomorrows Billy Tea and Damper excursion to Critters Camp

The Gulflander waiting for tomorrows Billy Tea and Damper excursion to Critters Camp

Posted by TwoAces 03:33 Comments (1)

Relaxing in Cloncurry

Day 34 - Thursday 13 June 2013

Forecast for Cloncurry today was 13 to 27 degrees and full sun. After sitting around catching up on the news by reading one and two day old newspapers and doing a couple of loads of washing we decided that it was time to go into town for today's papers. We called at the newsagents for papers, Woolworths for a few items that we forgot yesterday, the pharmacy for a few items, and the local coffee bar. As it was nearly lunch time we decided that we would have an early lunch with our coffees - toasted ham and cheese sandwiches for Di and a beef casserole pie for David.

Back at the caravan park we spent an hour or so removing the worst of the grime from the caravan and the Navara. At the moment we are watching the slow progress of a crack in the windscreen, that started with a small stone chip on the very edge of the windscreen on the passenger side. Hopefully it will not progress too far until we reach the east coast. Eventually it will need to be replaced, making 3 windscreen in eighteen months.

This caravan park is undergoing a transition from a caravan park to a mining camp. Many of the patrons says that the park is barely recognisable from their previous visits. The caravan park has been reduced to about 20 tourist sites with more that 200 accommodation units for miners. During the afternoon we went for a walk around the park checking out all the new accommodation units for the miners. The park is located across the road from a large rocky outcrop at the entrance to Cloncurry.

Rocky outcrop across the road from the caravan park

Rocky outcrop across the road from the caravan park

At 5:00 pm it was time for happy hour again - we keep catching up with people we have met before at Bourke, Cunnamulla and Charleville. We will again meet up with some of the group at Normanton. We have booked for three nights at Normanton and plan to do the Billy Tea and Damper Excursion on the Gulflander from Normanton to Critters Camp and return. On Sunday we plan to drive to Karumba for lunch at the pub overlooking the Gulf.

Posted by TwoAces 03:28 Comments (0)

Winton to Cloncurry

Day 33 - Wednesday 12 June 2013

Forecast for today was 17 to 28 degrees with intermittent clouds. We packed up and left the caravan park at 9:30 am and drove across the road to fill up at the servo, diesel in Winton - miles from anywhere - is 1.519 cpl, no doubt because we are on a major road-train route.

The traffic was very light this morning with little traffic heading north. Some road-train traffic and caravans going south however - maybe no fish at Karumba? About half way to Cloncurry we stopped for a coffee at the Kynuna Road House. About 50 kms from Cloncurry the low fuel warning light came on so we decided that perhaps we should add the contents on one of our jerry cans, rather than risk running out of fuel. As it turned out when we filled up with fuel in Cloncurry, we would have had one litre left. Interestingly the cost of fuel in Cloncurry is $1.699 - 18 cpl dearer than in Winton - just another rip-off!!!!

We arrived at the Discovery Caravan Park at about 2:00 pm and were allocated site 13 - but some one else was already in it! We ended up on site 10 - the caravan park staff were in a bit of a muddle because their computer system had crashed. After setting up for two nights we headed to Woollies for a bit of grocery shopping, then Cellarbrations for a few bottles of wine, and finally Woollies/Caltex for fuel. Luckily we still had a 15 cent discount voucher to make up for the exorbitant cost of fuel!

At about 5:00 pm we joined a group of caravaners for a happy hour. Most were from Victoria and like us were heading north for the winter.

No Photos today.

Posted by TwoAces 02:53 Comments (0)

Longreach to Winton

Day 32 - Tuesday 11 June 2013

Clear skies today with a forecast of 14 to 28 degrees for Longreach and Winton. We left the caravan park at about 9:30 am and drove into the town centre for some last minute shopping. Di headed straight for the Kinnon and Co Station Store to buy a Blue Heeler - rest easy not a real dog, but a stuffed toy! We also went to the newsagent but today's national papers will not be in until after 2:00 pm, and then to the bakery for some rolls and pizza bread.

The Blue Heeler

The Blue Heeler

Our trip today from Longreach to Winton is a fairly modest 175 kms. We were not overtaken by too many vehicles as perhaps they were doing a similar speed to us - 85 - 90 kph. We were however passed by lots of caravans and road trains going the other way. We arrived at the Matilda Country Tourist Park and were allocated a large slab site where we could stay hitched up for the night. After connecting water and power, and having fresh rolls for lunch we walked into the Town Centre for a look around.

The temperature had risen to about 30 degrees so we stopped for a beer or two at the Tattersall's pub in the town centre. Winton has a population of about 1,000 people and its main claims to fame are being the location of the first Qantas Board meeting at the Winton Club in 1921, and being the location for the first public performance of Banjo Patterson's Waltzing Matilda in 1912. He wrote the song while staying on a nearby property Dagworth Station. In 1936 a horse drawn wagon brought the last load of wool to the Winton railhead. With a team of 19 horses the wagon could move 9 tonnes of wool. By contrast our Nissan Navara can pull 3 tonnes!

Banjo Patterson

Banjo Patterson

Winton streetscape

Winton streetscape

Old Winton building

Old Winton building

Jolly Swagman

Jolly Swagman

The last wagon to bring wool to the Winton railhead

The last wagon to bring wool to the Winton railhead

More recently Winton has become the centre of a number of Dinosaur discoveries. Lark Quarry, 114 kms south west from Winton, is currently the only recorded dinosaur stampede on earth. Around 95 million years ago, a large herd of small two legged dinosaurs gathered on the banks of a forest lake to drink. The herd was stalked by a large Theropod – four tonnes of sharp-clawed, meat-eating dinosaur. The herd panicked, stampeding across the muddy flats to escape the Theropod’s hungry jaws. A record of those few terrifying minutes is cast in more than 3300 fossilised footprints.

Dinosaur foot rubbish bin

Dinosaur foot rubbish bin

Back at the caravan park we noticed that the caravan park is on the corner of the Landsborough Highway from Longreach and the Kennedy Highway from Winton to Hughenden. Numerous 3-trailer road trains loaded with double decks of cattle were coming down the road from Hughenden and turning left towards Longreach. It seems that they were not going too far though (Winton is a rail head) as empty road trains were soon coming back the other way. Hopefully it will not go on for too long tonight.

We will leave a visit to Lark Quarry until our next trip through this area.

Posted by TwoAces 03:38 Comments (0)

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