Birthday Blog - The Outback

Trip Start Sep 21, 2010
Trip End Feb 15, 2011

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Flag of Australia  , Queensland,
Friday, October 8, 2010

Our trip into the outback had an inauspicious start. We picked up the campervan in pouring rain and were not thrilled at the state of it. However we did book a budget van so we couldn't really complain. We were also rather ignorant and didn't know about companies like Apollo then. After driving about 60 miles we then discovered we’d left a bag behind at the apartment!!!. So back we went to collect it. Much grumpiness followed.

As we got further away from the coast the weather improved and soon the rain was replaced by blistering, relentless heat. The road into the outback is long and straight and bordered by endless gum trees, scrubby grass and dead animals. But there is something about this deserted road and miles of space that is very attractive and absorbing. We saw no other vehicle in 150km at one stage. Eagles and buzzards circle the road endlessly looking for roadkill – of which there is plenty unfortunately. We have been advised not to drive at night because of the large number of animals on the road. We have heeded that warning, although it’s a bit frustrating sometimes because the sun sets around 6.30pm so unless it’s within walking distance, it can be difficult to find something to do.
Our second night was spent at a place called Mount Surprise. The surprise was that anyone lives there! Lonely Planet describes this as a 'jewel of a town’. Do their writers actually ever visit some of these places? A sugar cane rail track went through the campsite – but we never saw any trains. We wandered down to the local ‘pub’ which was the Hotel. It was like something out of an old Clint Eastwood film or tv programme. I kept expecting Rowdy Yates and Gil Favour to appear (Wrinklies’ alert!)
One excellent afternoon we had was at a place called Porcupine Gorge. We had to drive down some unsealed roads to get there but it was worth the effort. The photos tell their own story, but after walking down a rough track for of a mile we got to the bottom and were able to swim. It was just fabulous – and there was no one there except us! The down side was having to walk back up again!
This week we have had some bizarre conversations. For example:
The ATM Machine:    (hole-in-the-wall to you and me)
At camp reception:
‘Excuse me, is there an ATM machine anywhere here’?
Yeah, in the town at the ‘pub’, I think’. Town? A loose term. How can you 'think' and not know when you live here?? There are only about 6 buildings  – all next to each other.
At the pub: ‘Hi! Do you have an ATM machine here’?
‘No it’s at the shop’.
At the shop: ‘Hi! Do you have an ATM machine here?
‘No, I think it’s at the Hotel or the filling station’.
At the filling station: No I don’t think we have one it broke. Ask in the shop……..’
There was no ATM. But at the pub we were told we could have some cash if we bought a drink and paid by card. Seemed a good deal. ‘OK, we’ll have a glass of wine and a beer’.
‘ Well…. There isn’t much money in the till - no one much has been in today…’ Really? What a surprise!
The Internet:
This conversation took place at a ‘town’ called Normanton, the furthest point we went into the outback.
At camp reception:
‘Hi! Is it possible to get the Internet here’?
‘Have you got wifi’?
‘OK. No problem’. Walks away.
‘But I need a user name and password’.
‘Use the one you’ve got’
(Bewildered) ‘But I haven’t got one’.
‘How do youse think yer gonna get on it then’?
‘I thought I would be able to buy time from your internet system…..’ (I did this at the last place. For a fee or sometimes for nothing you can log in to their system)
Pitying look. ‘Go down to the post office and buy a disk.’
‘Oh, we don’t have that system in England’. (A long explanation followed but I switched off at the part that said I wouldn’t be able to access Hotmail.)
‘How on earth do you manage’? Pitying looks.
‘I don’t know we just do. But it says here you have Internet Facilities’.
‘That’s down at the library. This place has a LIBRARY? It’s open at 10 tomorrow’.
The Phone:
Same campsite 20 minutes later:
‘Hi! It’s me again’! Blank look. ‘Is there a public phone here I can use? I can’t get a signal on my mobile and the phone in town is broken’.
‘Use the phone in the chalet’.
‘We aren’t in a chalet. Don’t you remember I just checked in with a campervan’? Blank look.
‘There isn’t a phone. Use the one in town….’
‘Thanks’. For nothing!
Before this conversation, our walk into town looking for a phone and a pub to celebrate my birthday (English) revealed complete darkness. At 7pm. the only sign of life was the barking of vicious sounding dogs when you walked past some properties. One forlorn looking house had a home-made ‘For Sale’ sign on it. They had to be joking! We soon scuttled back.
The loo blocks on the campsite had to be in complete darkness at night because of insects which attract frogs (there were loads of them jumping around outside) which attract snakes. The loo seats also had to be kept closed in case there was an unexpected visitor. Needless to say going to the loo in the middle of the night was not an attractive proposition!
On my English birthday we had plans to go to a beautiful gorge accessible only with a guide and by boat, but after about 20km we hit a dirt road and the going was impossible so we had to turn back as there was another 60km to go! That was a disappointment. On the way there I also managed to nearly kill us both. We were tootling along and I was driving fairly fast – about 60miles an hour when a car came out of nowhere travelling very fast. As it went past a vacuum was created which threw us all over the place. Fortunately nothing else was on the road as I zig-zagged about trying to get control. Not helped by Bruce shrieking ‘Whoa, whoa’!! I really thought we were going to overturn.
My Aussie birthday was much better. (I had 2 birthdays because we are 10 hours ahead here.) We rolled up at the Gulf of Carpenteria (Karumba) after many hours of driving. We went to a local restaurant and had barramundi and chips. Wonderful! It is a locally caught fish. A jolly Aussi we met had the whole restaurant singing Happy Birthday! Embarrassing, but of course I loved it!!
We’re having a great time and a lot of laughs. We love all the wildlife and the country living, but are looking forward to getting back to the coast. We hit that tomorrow. We are in a place called Charters Towers at the moment which is full of old world charm and many buildings from the days of the Gold Rush.
Anyway, must go and boil the billy for Bruce and make him some tea. That’s what Sheilas do around here!! He did fix the flat tyre after all!
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Jean Keeling on

made me laugh....I can just imagine. Pleased things have improved, sun, fun etc
Belated happy birthday Sheila!

Sarah on

G'day Bruce and Sheila

I AM SO JEALOUS.... You are having so much fun. It is bringing back so many memories! Am jelaous of your frogs - we only have slugs in our bathroom!

Keep having fun and send us all your tales.

Keep safe.

Lots of love S, S and P xx

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