Saturday, April 11, 2009

Day 43- Mount Isa to Camooweal

The kids played on the slide while we packed up camp.

We grabbed a carton of beer and some bundy, while mum and dad got some meat and vegies on the way out of town. Just a short uneventful 190km trip this morning. The town of Camooweal itself is just a pub, 2 servos, a police station and a centrelink office and not much else. We called into the pub for a quick beer while we waited for Mum and Dad to join us and then we headed just over the river for our free camp. We were not really sure what the camp would be like but the caravan park in town was nothing exciting so we figured we'd check the river out. Super glad we did. Big billabong with heaps of birdlife and there was a lovely breeze blowing so the temp was not too bad (in comparison!). We discovered after we had already set up camp that just an extra couple of hundred metres further along the track the camp flats went right down to a deeper section of river without the mud flats that we had... but there were a few less trees there so whatever- our camp was nice enough. The billabong was covered with birds and there were brolgas marching through the trees when we first arrived but our vehicles caused a mass exodus and we hoped they would come back once we settled in. Only 30min to set up and within 45min of driving off the main road we were sitting with sandwiches and a beer. There were lots of storm clouds brewing and we were not sure if it would turn into anything or not. We debated putting the bed flys on but decided not to. But the cloud covered cooled things off nicely and made the lack of air conditioning not such a big deal. The boys enjoyed exploring the camp area finding sticks and feathers and poking at the waters edge (where they were told to come back from just in case of freshies). Jordy got his binnoculars out to check out the birdlife with Dad and i. Darcy tried to copy :) Then Dad dug a pit for the fire with a bit of help from the boys. Darcy wanted to get IN the firepit but he is such a copy-cat that he learns pretty quickly how to gather sticks etc. I went for a walk around to see if i could catch some good bird photos. Not a huge amount of luck! But nice to wander and see what i can spot and try to follow them with the camera. I would have loved to have gotten a photo of the brolgas but never managed to be free with my camera when they were out. Super yummy steak and salad wraps for dinner and then we sat around outside and just enjoyed the quite and the fire. A light rain started to fall as soon as dusk came. It got heavier as night fell and a bit of a wind blew up. We were not all that sure about what the track in would be like if it got too heavy and the guys were both considering options for a quick escape off the mud flats if a storm really set in.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Day 42- Mount Isa

Bloody great noisy garbage truck woke us all early this morning. Which was a good thing cos i wanted to get some sunrise photos from the lookout. So up and out the door super quick. It was still early false dawn but even then i think i missed the best photos by a half hour. The mine lights were all on and the black ore hills were just sparkling but there was too much ambient light to get a good shot. Tempted to try again tomorrow but i'll see how sunset goes instead. The full moon looked amazing. And we are 1860km from Sydney and 1307km to go to Darwin. Pity we can't fly as the crow does!

Got back from the lookout and had a slow breakfast and did the blog etc. Tim made some more icecream orange & mint sorbet. I had a webchat with Nardia and then we headed the 20km out to Moondarra Dam for a picnic and a look around. Not as big a dam as i had imagined but nice. Lots of ski boats and fisherfolk out there being a long weekend but there are a lot of BBQ and picnic areas and we found a table by the swimming section of the dam.

The boys had fallen asleep while we drove around and looked at the area. We almost went 4WDing as we headed up a dry rocky river bed to see what was up there! Got a bit stuck so had to turn back. Signs everywhere for crocodiles and the mozzies that have hit town with some disease (can't remember the name! but we are being careful anyway). So we left them to nap while we sat and had a drink and some cheese and biscuits. But the noise of kids playing soon woke them and they were into the food.

Jordy was keen to play and he is so funny. Not at all shy and he just wanders up and says "you wanna play with me?" First kids he asked were two older boys about 11ish and they just ignored him. Not at all bothered he headed to the next lot of kids to try again.

Darcy stole Tim's hat and walked around pointing at the galahs and dragonflies and smiling like a crazy man. There was a kite's nest right down low in the tree near the picnic table and he flew all around the hills but i was too slow to get a good in-focus photo of him.

Back to camp... started to sort things out for our departure tomorrow. Did some washing. The kids played in the personal playground! I took the boys for a little walk around the park. Jordy played the San Fransisco game on the computer with grandma and then had a swim.

Corned silverside with white sauce!!!! and potato and vegies for dinner. Darcy ate twice as much as i thought he would (minus the white sauce). They played throw and fetch for far too long and faught going to sleep until far too late!

We are off to Camooweal and we cross the border tomorrow into the Territory. We are stopping at a free camp and so will not have reception until the following day (actually, the following day might even be optimistic cos that will be around Barkly and i'm not sure what their internet reception will be like.)

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Day 41- Mount Isa

I am going to bore you again today with nothing interesting. Slow and lazy morning. Tim did an oil and filter change on the truck. I cleaned out some of the cupboards in the van that seem to be accumulating junk. Jordy cut paper with scissors and made snowflakes, and played with a balloon (short lived with the prickles in the grass!).
Darcy walked around collecting sticks (one of his favourite things to do) and played in the dirt (another favourite), and ate lots of food (his absolutely most favourite thing!). Later on in the morning Jordy and i went into the tourist info centre to have a look at The Isa Experience which is pretty much a museum and gallery. Mum and Dad went to the Underground Hospital (built by volunteers during WWII after Darwin was bombed in case Isa came under threat), and Tim and Darcy stayed adn did some work at the van.

Jordy and i had a great time at the museum. I kept trying to read and look at something and Jordy would yell "Look! Come here and look, Mum!" and drag me on to the next thing he had discovered. He especially liked the old telephone exchange desk with all the buttons. Mum and Dad said the hospital was interesting and good to see but there was not all that much to look at. They were finished and back to pick me up and we were only half way through the museum. They lucked out and were able to duck in and join me without having to pay so that was good.

We got back to the van and Darcy was giving Tim a hand being a big help working hard to install a fan at the back of the fridge. Darcy could not get the wiring quite right though and even after a couple of goes it was still not working. The fan motor died so we'll have to get another one next town we get to.

We talked about going out to Moondarra dam this afternoon before it gets too busy with holiday people tomorrow but we wanted to get one of Darcy's vaccinations done and appointments were limited so i did that instead.

And i wanted to go up to the lookout at dusk this afternoon (apparently the best time to see it) but dusk sucks as a time to do anything except bath and feed the kids so that did not happen either. I'll try for sunrise in the morning or give dusk another go tomorrow.

After dinner (homemade pizzas which were a big hit all round) Jordy took the torch and wandered off in the dark around the park area. Tim watched for a bit and then went over and asked what he was up to. "Lookin for frogs" apparently. We suspect that Dad must have shown him the cane toads cos when Tim pointed one out the first thing he did was stomp on it. Then he stomped again and again! Poor (disgusting) thing was only half dead so Tim showed him how to squish it properly. Now i would have thought that squishing a frog would upset him cos he loves animals and is forever telling me that the ants or spiders etc are his friends... but, no. He happily yelled "look, his bum's all red!". And then the two were off spot-lighting looking for more to stomp on. They got more than a dozen. I'll admit i don't really like the cane toads. I saw one for the first time ever at Innisfail and they give me the creaps. I like a nice pretty green frog any day.
It is now 9:30 and Jordy is still outside spotting toads with his Grandma! He had a nap today (i hate that!) and he is powering through.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Day 40- Mount Isa

As predicted we did nothing interesting today at all! LOL!

Except we finally got Jordy's mop-head hair cut! "Yay" says everyone! I will admit that i love his curls but about a month ago his curls turned into a matted mess. And over the last week every single person that has met him has assumed that he is a girl. I do love his new hair cut but my god he looks different. It's incredible- It has totally changed his face.

Wandered around town. Bought some cheap shorts and singlets ($3.50! bargain!). Tim got an insulated cover for the Waeco (also a bargain at $75). Lots of friendly people here and we chatted to a couple of other families in vans near us who are also travelling and working. Got some good tips and found out a few places to visit. One family, John and Naomi and their three kids, are off to work at Daly Waters Pub so we will definately call in there on our way through.

Had a quick swim before i logged onto MSN for a LionsOnOz induction while Tim got stuff sorted to change the oil on the truck.

Baked chook in the microwave with potato and vegies. Then the boys and Tim played catch and fetch for ages (Darcy is hilarious and has a surprisingly good throwing arm). Some blogging and then bed.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Wal's Camp review

Wal's Camp, Cloncurry.

Stayed 1 night. $10 a night for the site for up to 2 people. Kids (not infants) are an extra $2 a night. I think that if you had to pay more than $10 a night it would be getting close to not being worth it during hot weather. A bit cooler and probably not so bad. And if there were a bunch of other travellers there to chat with around the (basic) camp kitchen then it might have more atmosphere.

For a cheap camp it is pretty good but if you want grassed areas and decent shade then head to a van park. There are a number of thin trees that do give some shade, and the camp kitchen area has a nice shaded roof area so there is certainly shade but i think the gravel of the camp just radiates heat and we were there on a stinking hot day.

There is a fire place and a couple of picnic tables. (note that the fridge in the picture does not work! It's just a cupboard). Big troughs you can use to wash up in if you cart the water. You can run your own generator for power or if you stay a full week you can pay extra for power.

The toilets and showers are pretty decent. They are in a converted shipping container but are nice and clean with ample space.

In all honesty i would probably choose a van park next time but i think the extra advantage of power and grass and a pool for the kids makes the difference for us.

Day 39- Cloncurry to Mount Isa

Nothing much exciting happened today. Up and out of town nice and early. It was only a short trip (120km) and we were keen to get to Isa. And the trip was a good one. Trees!! And then the flat grasslands turned into little rocky mountains as we came closer to Isa.

The town (city?) looks quite nice. Outback, so a different 'nice' to the nice i grew up with! And you have to bear in mind that the mine is RIGHT in town! I probably would have assumed that the mine would be on the outskirts or even 10km out of town or something, but no. You can be standing in the main street and see the piles of ore and the mine and the chimney smoke stacks just right in front of you.

Apparently Mount Isa is the worlds largest city in geographic size even though it only has a population of just over 23,000 people. And so far the people have been friendly.

First stop was the tourist info centre for a map and then we chose the Copper City Riverside Tourist Park. There is a Big4 in town but we preferred this one. And i am glad we chose it cos instead of a regular slab site when i mentioned we had two little kids and asked if they had a playground the lady thought for a minute and then said how about we put you both in the park. Seriously, we are IN the park. There is a large grassed area next to the camp kitchen and pool and play equipment and that's where we are. It's not all that busy so no one is walking through the area and the van park is two parks in one so there is another pool on the other side so our pool is not busy and we are surrounded by grass and Jordy literally walks out the van and has his own little playground 3 metres away. And we have lots of shade.

We had decided to make today (and our stay in Mount Isa in general) a bit of a tidy up, catch up, stock up, sort things out kinda day. So three loads of washing, a mopped floor, folded laundry, a few blog updates, and $300 worth of grocery shopping later (holy crap!) and we are on the way to getting organised.

Steak and vegies for dinner. The kids were in bed nice and early and Tim and i had a chance to sit and talk for a change. The wind came up a bit late in the evening and there is apparently the chance for some rain but so far it's just hot.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Lakeview Caravan Park review

Lakeview Caravan Park, Richmond
Stayed two nights. $22 a night. Lovely location and all the facilities you need. I think it's the location that really makes it!
Overall- 3 stars.

Location- 8/10. Right on the man-made lake which is also on the main street of town. You can swim and fish and go boating and waterskiing on the lake.

Sites- 7/10. Nice drive through sites with grassed sections and a bit of shade.

Bathrooms- 5/10. Did the job.

Laundry- 5/10. Simple laundry facilities $3 a load.

Shop- no

Pool- 8/10. Well, it's not a pool, but the lake tops any pool any day.

BBQ area- 5/10. Shade-sail covered BBQ area with picnic tables in the centre of the park. No camp kitchen though.

Playground- technically none, but the other side of the lake (just a stroll away) had a great playground and exercise area that i would rate 8/10.

Other- Nice walk around the lake, also backs onto the Richmond Bush Tucker Garden.

Day 38- Richmond to Cloncurry

We called into the Kronosaurus Discovery Centre on the way out of town to have our fossil finds identified. No paleantologists in there (we were pretty early!) but the girls at the tourist desk apparently know a bit and they said the bone that i thought looked like a fin or flipper is actually a jaw bone. While i was in chatting, Tim took the boys to the park across the road. It had a big slide of rollers that the boys thought was great. They went bump:bump:bump:shudder:shudder:shudder as they rolled down it and Darcy cackled himself the whole time.

Was a fight to get them back in the car for the looooong trip to Cloncurry. About 300km of booooooooring road. We were not looking forward to it all that much cos we expected it to be a slow trip. Another couple we got chatting to at the van park had come that way and said it was a horrible road. Well, they have obviously not travelled from Undara to Charters Towers or they would have seen a horrible road. While there were certainly some doozies of bumps that launched the truck two foot off the ground (i even hit my head on the roof at one point!) and there were a few pot holes etc it was generally not too bad.

But the scenery. Oh. My. God. Grass and more grass and more grass and more grass and more grass and more grass, oh! a tree! and more grass and more grass and more grass. The kids travelled really well though.

We were greeted in Cloncurry by a sign that proudly boasted about Cloncurry having the hottest recorded temperature in Australia of 53.1'C. Lovely. It was not quite that hot but it was pushing it :) We were going to have a look through the John Flynn Memorial which shows the history of the Royal Flying Doctors which was started in Cloncurry but it was really expensive ($12 each) and we were not that keen so we headed out to our camp instead.
We had decided to stay at Wal's camp seeing as we were just wanting an overnight stop and they had a cheap camp. Not sure if it was the best decision in hindsight cos it was just soooooo hot and the camp is mostly all gravel and there was no power so we could not use our air con. And did i mention that it was hot? But we were there and the kids we wanting out of the truck so we made camp and then got out of there to go find a breeze.
Headed out to Chinaman's Creek Dam which was a nice big dam. Had a refreshing swim to cool off and then drove up to have a look over Cloncurry from the lookout. Not much to see but the rocky little mountains around town are quite pretty.

Then we did a quick lap back through town looking for the house that Mum and Dad and i lived in for 6months when we lived out here 32 years ago! They knew it was near the swimming pool and a church and the street turned off the main road.... well, it took a couple of laps but we found it. I obviously remember nothing of it so was no help.

Called out to a really great playground that is out at the Mary Kathleen Museum. Had heaps of great play equipment. Even had little spinning disc things that i am sure are banned everywhere else just in case you have too much fun spinning yourself stupid. We obviously all had to have a go and i spun so much i actually fell off the darn thing and had to sit on the floor for a minute to stop my head spinning. They have BBQs and stuff there too and it would make a fantastic day stop (would also make a great overnight stop if you were allowed to camp there). Back to camp. Bit hot! So we sat around outside trying to find a breeze. The kids did not seem to mind though and happily played with the rocks. We were running seriously low of fresh vegies and meat so we made an egg and potato salad for dinner with sausages. I stuck some left over spinach and some sliced prunes in mine and it was actually really nice! Who'd have thought!

I fell asleep putting Darcy to bed (again). I dragged myself out of bed at 9:30 for a cold milo and then went back to bed to try to sleep in the heat. Tim sat outside in his chair and dozed while watching the stars.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Day 37- Richmond

I woke early this morning and sould see the sky was a brilliant shade of pre-dawn orange so i ducked out of bed and went to take a few photos. Could not really manage to get the colour right so i'll have to make more of an effort to get up early in future to practice.

Mum, Dad, and i went for a walk around the lake while Tim and the kids were asleep. It's not a big walk, 1.2km i think, and it was wonderfully cool so it was nice to be out and see the sun rise. Here is a photo of one of our crab pot bouys in the morning sun :) There is a photo display near the park on the other side of the lake showing how they made it (in 2003) so that was interesting to look at. There is also a good play ground and an adult exercise area as well as a mini water play area with a water fountain and two water canons but it was not working this morning so we figured we'd try later in the day.

Our vans are just to the left of the red car behind the trees.Back for a quick breakfast so we could get dressed to head out to do some more fossicking. We had decided to stay another day so we could have more of a look around. It's only a really small town (pop 900 i think) but it's a nice town.

We left Darcy with Mum and Dad (cos even though we got away early before the real heat kicked in it is still ridiculously hot) and Jordy, Tim and I headed the 12km out of town to the fossicking site.

The area is all limestone shale and even though in Hughenden you mostly find belemnites for some reason (they are not sure why) here in Richmond you get a big variety of fossils and shell. We just parked the truck under a tree (the only one big enough for shade!) and just wandered around the area. There are little fossils of pieces of shell embedded in the rock all over the place. There is so much of it that you sort of forget how amazing it is that there was this huge inland see millions and millions of years ago. But the shell bits were not exciting enough for us to worry about collecting. LOL!

Jordy had a great time. I had been thinking on the way out that we should have packed some kind of fossil digging tools but i had no clue what we would have had to suit, and i was thinking of a paint brush to brush away dirt or some kind of small digging tool.... Tim must also have been thinking cos he packed three hammers! So we were just banging away at the rock like real professionals. :)

Jordy was hilarious. He had his hammer just banging at stuff and when a rock broke in half he'd yell "Check this out!" and i had to go admire his find. I was worried it would be hot and boring for him so i had put a blanket on the ground in the shade with a bottle of water and told him to sit down and take his hat off if he needed a spell. Every now and again he'd sit down for about 10seconds, sigh, and then get up again, wave his hammer and say "This is good fun looking for dinosaur bones, mum!" and off he'd go.
We spent a couple of hours out there and found some really interesting bits all embedded in soft rock. We each found a complete shark tooth (there were lots of fragments but we each lucked out with a small complete tooth), a whole belemnite, a couple of small complete bones, a funny shaped bone that looked like it had some kind of fin or flipper on the end, something that looked like a spine of a snake or something that does not have big vertebrea (no clue!), an impression in the rock of something prehistoric. We bought a couple of things back and if we have time in the morning we will call past the Discovery Centre and see if someone there can tell us what they are.
Tim chiseled his tooth out of the rock but i never got around to doing mine today. But if i do i will keep that but we'll leave everything else here in the caravan park garden unless it's super cool and the Dinosaur place wants it :) We sat around in the 36'C shade for a bit before having lunch. I had a 30min cat nap and Tim rode down to the local pub (tell him to get his reviews done!!). Then we wandered around the lake over to the playground. Met a lovely family that are "sort of" locals. They live on a cattle station 250km north of here and are in town for the triathalon this weekend. (Crazy people doing triathalons in the middle of the freakin day out here!!!!! as if it's not hot enough in the pub?!?!?) We had a good chat to them and Jordy played with their kids. The water park was still not working and they knew the CEO in town so were going to call past and see what the issue was for us. Dad got to chatting and turns out they just bought all their kids archery gear and are starting to learn. Dad had some old rests and bit and pieces that he is not using so later in the afternoon they called past the van park and Dad gave the gear to the kids.

They ended up inviting us out to stay with them for a week or whatever on their station if we call past again (which we plan to do down the track on our second lap around when we do the Gulf and the Cape) and do some hunting for the feral pigs. I hope we do stay in touch cos that's the sort of thing that we would all like to do. It's nice out here finally getting a chance to talk to the locals and get a real feel for a place instead of just driving though like tourists. The other people in the park a friendly too and we spend a bit of time chatting and going back and forth to each others sites for a natter.

After another swim and a cool off we came back and had some cake for Darcy's birthday. Mum made a carrot cake (just a packet mix) and i found a tea-light candle so we sang happy birthday and Jordy blew the candle out and Darcy la-la'ed and did a jig and they we had cake- Darcy had just a mouthful cos being a packet mix i have no idea what dairy stuff is in it (actually, we had identified a couple of other food intolerances- tomato! for one, so we will have to really watch his diet.)

We put some of the yabby crab traps in last night and when we checked this afternoon we had caught one great big red-claw! Nothing else though so we ended up throwing him back.

It started to cloud over a little which bought the temp down just a notch. And then later this afternoon we finally had a light sprinkle. We looked at the grey clouds and wondered about putting the bed flys up. Tim decided not to worry and then the wind started to howl and blow and the rain came down in massive big fat drops. Typical. So we all ran around like mad things in the glorious cool rain grabbing gear that was blowing away in the strong winds and putting the awning down before it broke. It lasted about half an hour and then died. But the temp stayed down so it looks like it will be a nice night.

Sort of a mushroom bolognaise thing with rice for dinner that was pretty bloody good if i do say so myself. The kids crashed and i won't be far behind them. It was a lovely day and i am glad we stayed the extra night.