..... Tuesday 30th November 2010
The campsite at Undara was very dark at night, Gary and I went for a late pee and got lost on the way back to our van, shame they don't make you sign in and sign out to go to the bathroom. This morning was the big tour to the Lava Caves, we set the alarm but woke up before it went off. I went and had a quick shower. I say quick shower not because we had somewhere to be, no I took a quick shower because I was sharing the room with six black creepy looking ant things that could fly and swim really well (I turn the shower on them) a big black beetle, a couple of crickets and a frog, who didn’t appear until halfway through my shower and made me jump out my skin....but I am getting braver....as long as they keep to their side of the room and don’t touch me.
Gary repeated his same morning pattern, coming back from the bathroom and grabbing the camera, this time it was to take pictures of two young bucks practicing their boxing. Kangaroo’s boxing is the funniest thing, they fight like girls. We took a video, so I’ll see if I can upload it. At five to eight we made our way over to the reception to meet up with our tour guide. There were fourteen of us on the minibus as we drove through the bush to the first Lava cave. We passed a hundred or more kangaroos and wallabies on the way and even got our first photo of a Rock Wallaby which is smaller more rat looking than normal wallabies. The walk down to the first cave takes you through an archway, it was part of a cave once but an earthquake opened up both ends making it an arch. Let me first explain what a lava tube is. When the volcano erupted the lava poured out and follows the most direct route...down. Finding its own path it spews down the valley, as it travels the top and outer edges start to crust off in the cool air but the hot lava continues the flow through the centre. Once the volcano stops the hot lava carries on flowing until it runs out, leaving behind a tube or tunnel of hardened lava. This was obviously a hundred and ninety thousand years ago, so in that time vegetation has grown on and over the tubes and an earthquake or two has collapsed parts of the tunnels, revealing these unbelievable works of nature. The caves were pitch black inside, the only light was the guilds flash light pointing out the strange shapes in the walls and lavacicles which are lava tubes equivalent to stalactites on the roof. Most of my photo’s didn’t come out, it was just too dark and my flash couldn’t focus on anything the place was so big. The tour was really interesting and the caves were incredible. If you ever find yourselves in the outback 40km east of Mount Surprise then I urge you to do it, you won’t disappointed.
Back in the van and on to our next destination, now it should have been Charters Towers but we have changed our minds again and have decided to drive west to a town called Normanton (Norm for short) and then continuing up to the coastal town of Karumba (which sort of reminds me of Bart Simpson). This is called the Savannah Way and promises to have sealed road all the way. We drove through Mount Surprise, which I have to say seemed to consist of two houses and pub....not the biggest of towns. The scenery along the Savannah Way keeps changing, we started off with lots of trees, then rocks and shrubs, ending with rolling hillsides and views across vast planes and the roads are so straight, I think they made the decision to build a road from Mount Surprise to Normanton by drawing a line with a ruler across the map of Australia.
Weather Hot & Sunny - 36 degrees
We have arrived in Georgetown and it’s hot, the campsite is the equivalent to a road side motel you see in all the trashy American films, but it’s only for one night and it is very cheap. The toilet block was a short distance from the van, but after dark it could have been a mile away as our pathway was blocked by a million bugs, bats and frogs. We had to turn the lights off in the van for half an hour as the bugs were bashing on the window to get in. We then braved the short walk, Gary side stepped a frog and ducked under the toilet doorway to avoid the large bugs flying round the light. My toilet didn’t have any lights on so there weren’t any bugs luckily for me, but we spotted a street light just outside the campsite on the way back. It was a ball of bugs swarming round the light with bats swooping in taking pot shots at them, it would have made a great photo but even I have my limits. I did take five minutes to look at the stars, I remember last time were here how fantastic the stars are in the outback, with no light pollution you can just about see and touch every star.....it is a magnificent sight I wish I could have spent longer looking but the bugs were already starting to flock so we made a mad dash for the van.Wednesday 1st December 2010
We had parked the van under a tree to make use of the shade, what we didn’t know was the tree was full of silk worms that lowered themselves on to our roof over night. Not really a problem until the birds turned up at first light for the free breakfast buffet. The tap, tap tapping on the roof was maddening. After our rude early morning wake up knock we showered and were back on the road heading towards the town of Normanton. The skies are clear blue and the roads are long a dusty. There is a odd road system out here, the normal two ways road structure keeps going down to one track with just gravel either side. The idea is you drive down the middle of the tarmac area until you meet another vehicle, this doesn’t happen very often, but when it does you both play chicken until just before you meet then you drive half on the gravel and half on the road to pass. This is fine as long as you don’t do this at high speed, which Gary did the first time, it was a worrying few minutes.
The next town is Croydon, this was a Gold Mining town back in the 1800’s, when the gold ran out the miner up and left leaving behind all their equipment. One of the relics from the mining days was a crushing plant on the edge of town, the only thing left of it is a large chimney...we stopped to take photos. The fields all around it are littered with termite hills, small ones only 18inchs high, looking like massive graveyards, fascinating to see.
We pulled into Croydon about lunch time, during the gold rush this was a town with a population of over 7,000 people, there are now just over 200 people living here. There are lots of unused buildings around the town which have been turned into museum show places. We stopped at the local supermarket to get some petrol, a bit of shopping and a bit to eat. Once we finished our steak sandwich we wandered over to the Information Centre to grab some leaflets of the area. We were met by a very helpful lady who invited us to watch a video of the town history, after a few technical difficulties with the equipment....she didn’t have it plugged in....we sat down to watch a really interesting film. We then had a wandered out the back of the centre where they had set up a replica miner’s house. There was also a walk you could do around town looking at the town hall, court house, school, etc.... It had all been restored really well, and everyone we met were really friendly, but the streets were empty, I stood in the middle of the main crossroads, next to the pub and took photos of each direction and there wasn’t a car on the road in any of them.
Having had a look round and some lunch we headed back on the road to the town of Normanton. Lots of changes in scenery, lots more scrub land out this way. We did pass through an area where they were doing controlled bush burning. Lots of small fires at the side of the roads, these fires must have caused small creatures to come out of their homes as the sky was littered with hawks already to pounce on anything that moved.
We arrived in Normanton and had a drive round (which didn’t take long) there are two big things here a big Barramundi (local fish delicacy) and a big crocodile, although the big croc shouldn’t count as a big thing as it was actually life size. A model of the biggest crocodile ever shot in these waters which raises a question does that mean there are bigger ones that haven’t been caught???
Weather clear and sunny 36 degrees
Booked ourselves into the local camp ground, they obviously don’t have a lot of people stay here as we had the place to ourselves. It was late afternoon when we got here but it was still 38 degrees in the van and 36 degrees in the shade.... in a word it was HOT!!!! We set the fan up outside and let it blow hot air at us. The notice boards were full of advice about staying indoors after dark and keeping doors and windows closed because of insects...freaked Gary out. When night fall finally came it was a bug free for all, we went for our usual toilet stop before going to bed and our path was blocked by what must have been two hundred frogs. They had all situated themselves between the two toilet blocks under the outside lights which were attracting the insects....we went the long way round.