AROUND AUSTRALIA BY CAMPERVAN
By Rae Hussey, 1970s.
We left Leonora early in August in a convoy of six vehicles led by Bob Collard. Two station wagons, one saloon, one utility and two campervans. Before leaving Kalgoorlie we had visited the Tourist mine, it is quite something to go down in a genuine miner's lift a couple of thousand feet underground and be shown all around by miners. We hed spent the Sunday night at the Leonora Caravan Park and had our last showers for a week. oe A The road was excellent bitumen as far as Windarra, then we turned ~ off on to a very good dirt road. Our next 2,000 K were to be on. dirt roads, until we joined the Stuart Highway en route to Alice Springs. fhe country was surprisingly green, with plenty of health looking shrubs end scattered trees, but the most noticeable feature. was the crystal roadside droppings from dead windscreens, and the ~ abandoned she&@is of vehicles. One of Bob's many stories was about — @ member of a previous convoy who had plagued him with idle question
Q. What are ald those cars we are passing?
A. They dropped out of previous convoys.
Q. What happened to the people?
A. We were in a hurry, so we buried them on,the return oe Shy ae
The weather was good, blue skies with light cloud. The re earth —
and colorful outcrops with occasional low ranges made travelling:
very pleasant. We found a good camping spot each late afternoon © and scon had a campfire going. Some used gas for cooking, others: | made small cooking fires. Toilet arrangements varied, most of the = party just took to the spinifex. We carried our own water to last | to Ayers Rock. Petrol was available at Warburton and Docker’ River. ©
but we ell cerried enough for at least 600 K. The temperature was .
around zero each morning, so we didn't really mind going showerless.
We reached Warburton on Wednesday morning, refuelled and moved on, and found that we had seen the lest of the good road. From there to- the Stuart Highway it varied from not too bad to horrible, deep. sand drifts, corrugations and rocky surfaces (similar to the Pinnach
road) but we hed no mishaps. Yes, there was one, some natives... 28
managed to slide into Bob's rear door on a patch of heavy sand. Thei:
vehicle would no doubt be joining the rest of the wayside shells ( before very long. ie area
We rose at sunup.vesch morning and were soon on our way. We had
plenty of stops, Bob showed us rock paintings, plenty of snamna
holes, small animals in caves, historic spots, old survey pegs - he | had stores to tell about everything, and did not make the mistake of mixing fact with fiction. Ves enne
On Thursday we visited the Giles Met. Station (by arrangement, it is
not open to tourists). This was fascination. TI had expected all
the explanations to be beyond me. but the young man who showed us around explained it all in terms we could understand. We saw the balloon go up and away.
The country was changing, plenty of desert oaks and quite large ghost gums, and that afternoon we passed through the beautiful Schwerin Mural Crescent and Petermann Range country. At one river — bed we dug for water (not from necessity) and found beautiful water just below the hot sand. The Docker River Social Club was our next call and it really seemed quite a social visit. Well kept, completely native owned and built They employ & married white couple but the man assured me that the. netives did really own the plece, no missions, no Goverment aid.
It is jist across the border of the Northern Territory.
Late on Fridsy afternoon we saw the Olgas in the sunset, and’ eemnee: neer there. A lovely collection of rounded domes, beautiful shape: Next morning we welked and climbed as far as we could around then. The tellest dome is higher thon Ayers Rock, the geological formation is quite different. In fect we were all rather
diss ppointed in "the Rock" when we finally reached it, it:is..437) certainly immense. However, by the time Bob had taken us around and explained verious native legends we began to feel something
of the spell it hss obviously hed for the natives Bor countless yea: That night, Saturday, we hed wonderful hot showers, bliss, and then to the Desert Sands Motel where we wined and dined in finé style ani enjoyed talking to the other touristssthere.
Ayers Rock wes the parting of the Ways of our party, we went on. to Kings Canyon with Bob, others went. direct to Alice Springs. |
Kings Canyon is in a remote area, passing through the originel Angus Downs property. Nice country, with plenty of large “trees
but looking dry in spite of the good season they had nad. It is in the George Gill Range, and proved to be a difficult,longe climb. . Spectacular certainly, for those not (like me) a bit exhausted DR. kh the climb, or bewildered by trying to keep to a reesonable route. © That evening we stayed at Wallara Ranch Roadhouse, where we found
a marvellously cold swimming pool and equally welcome cold beer. Here we left Bob, and continued on a rough, lonely road until we joined the Stuazt Highway, thence to Alice Springs. "The Alice” is delightful. We stayed at the Heavitree Gap Caravan | Perk which started out as an orange grove (yes, you can pick the | oranges). It hes some very fine desert orks, and other shade trees A short walk took us to the Pitchi Richi Park Museum, a very well | kent collection of historical Australiena in a park setting.
From Alice Springs we went to all the nearby gorges, staying ~ overnight at Glen Helen and Ormiston. At the Glen dems Roadhouse” :
we talked to & youn policuien, most interesting, and when he said | he'd better go because he hed someone in the vehicle, I said "Can't. he come ing" policeman said "Better not, he's a murderer, I think", There had been trouble, and a killing, at a native settlement the night before. : We went up and down the various gorges, climbing rocks, wading theou the shallows, and thorougshly enoyed ng 2 There is a wonderful painting in Alice Springw, called Panorama Guth (Guth is the artist). Impossible to describe the concept, but unthinkable to visit Alice Springs without seeing it.
The Todd River wes still running, rather disconcertingly for the * Henley-on-Todd orgenisers, the event wes the weekend after we left.: We had about a week there, then off and up the Stuart Highway to the Devil's Marbles where we stayed overnight. (Well off the road). This collection is similar to the Olsas but much smaller.
On to Mataranka - this is in the Elsey Station area (Mrs Gunn's "We. of the Never Never") but Mrs Gunn said nothing about the hot spring. It is in a beautiful setting of netive trees and palms, the water stays a constant 72F and is crystal clear. The day was sool enough: to appreciate the warm water, though when we passed through egain’ .. ten days leter the 7°?F was much too warm and we quickly sought the * coolth of a pool further down, away from the source of heat.
At Tennant Creek we saw the gold being loaded on to a van, the bank | maneger nearby, and a cas ually dressed lad with a gun being the_ only indication thet it wes not an ordinary delivery van.
At Katherine we were fortunate in arriving just in time for ‘the : aftérnoon boat run up the gorge. We stayed in the Caravan Park at. ‘ the Gorge, it is a-.green and plessant perk. The Northern Perr theory, Tourist Development are doing a good job in promoting tourisn, though there is still a lot to be done. They have developed: the Berry Springs into a garden area for daytime use, and the Howard Springs closer to Darwin caters for Caravans. Douglas Springs is not developed, we found it quite delightful, a very hot stream = joins a very cold one, and at thé junction we found family parties lazing in whatever degree of warmth they preferred. The campefis took a pride in keeping the area beautifully clean, even though they were obviously sharing it with the wild buffaloes in the area, we saw several beauties.
Darwin we found very hot sand dusty, the town shows little sign of the cyclone, fine buildings and excellent roads everywhere, but further out there were plenty of wrecked housing settlements.
We soon left, and headed beck to Kununurra. There is some
magnificent scenery along the way, especialiy in the Victoria River
ois erie wg cone Scat area, and in between the stations where years of uncontrolled ©: overstocking has denuded the country. eee Kununurra looked very civilised. We st: yed in the Caravan Fark): on the edge of the lake ~- the early morning, and evening colors, and the birdlife were a joy. We visited the main dam, Lake Argyle which is a huge extent of blue-blue water in the strong sunlight, with its steep red, or grey-green, slopes: down to the myriad © islands end little bays. We enjoyed a swim in the Village pool. The return to Katherine seemed longer than the 650K as we were 2% hours behind the clock, but we didn't mind when we arrived ‘at: the Low Level for a swim in the Katherine. This is a very popular picnic place, being clear and shallow but still lively water. At the Three Ways Ropdhouse we left the Stuart Highway and turned east on the Barklay Highway to Mount Ise. The country varied a lot, at first quite heavily wooded with vrlenty of wildflowers and flowering shrubs, but thet st-tion areas rather barren. As = we got into Queensland there were lonzer stretches of high and dry spinifex with plenty of evidence of pest fires. And disastrous | fires have since ravaged the area from Julia Creek and Richmond up to the Gulf. ad a3 nh It was getting really hot now (early September) with pleasantly cool nights. Mount Isa is a young city with a young and rapidly increasing population. The city looks after its tourists, with buses and guides provided dsily. We found it quite fascinating . and would have liked to stay longer then the few days we could spare. We visited Mary Kathleen, a Company town that has ‘had more than its share of troubles. It is still the prettiest little’ town you could ever wish to see, Built around a park full of good shade trees and seats and lawns, ablaze with bauhinias
and bougainvilleas and hibiscus. ‘The people we talked to were understandably worried, but certainly not pessimistic about the future. Parag We continued on the Flinders Highway to Chartres Towers and: then .. detoured around by another Company town with a "Private, Keep Out® Sign. The rond had become narrow, the erosion gullys looked _ A awful, and the cattle were pathetically thin. The locals said then fatten up when the rain starts. Or drown. We were now approaching the Atherton Tebleland, most beautiful country with rain forests, cultivated areas with rich volecnic soil, rivers
and waterfells, hot springs, flowering trees, and around every second bend a fairytile distant view across the mountains. We. stayed in a Ceravan Park in among tall trees in Atherton, and. from there went up and down the winding Rex Highway to Mossman on’:
the east coast. This is a sugar town, and there can be few more lovely sights than to look down on the sugarcane fields, some ~ green, some ripening, and at sunset, a few being fired. | The smoke » hes a distinct sweet smell. And the homes of the growers all Faia seemed large, modern and well built, very different from the rather untidy rambling type we usually associate with rural properties. From Mossman we went gradually down the Queensland coast with its picture-postcard ocean and mountain views, up on the tourist train. to the Barron Falls area, back to the Atherton Tableland, back to the coast, launch trips to the various islands both coral and volcanic, swimming and sunbathing and enjoying the luscious tropical fruit picked-as-ripened, quite different from the cold-store variet; The roads are quite good, narrow in places, broken edges at times, . with flood markings in metres at every dip it seemed, but bitumen... There is a great deal of bridzge-building and roadmaking in progress, Beravan Parks were plentiful and good, most coastal towns have choice riverbank sites for Council run caravan parks. So on, down through the Sunshine Coast, by-passing Brisbane (not actually, but we went throush like an old Bondi tram) and out to the Gold Coast where we stayed a while visiting friends etc. It was starting to zet cool egain, and when we passed into New South Wales the scenery was beautifully soft-green-rural, wide rivers, lush grasses, lovely coastline, but no more swimming. And there can be no more beautiful drive than the old road (not the. new toll road) from Gosford to Sydney. a : From there we were visiting friends and relations. There was ; heavy rain, and flooding which we avoided. Sunshine again on the © Murray River where.we picked mushrooms and “got involved in shearing.
Melbourne was in its glorious spring-colour, suburban gardens ablaze with roses, roses. at ie We went to Port Augusta via the Murray River, then across to. the Barossa Valley where we enjoyed sempling and stocking up the various delights of the vineyards. The valley hed s large German population and is now quite a mixture, but there is quite a northern European’. atmosphere. Perhaps it was the soft rain, wrapping the valley in mist with patches of sunshine. Hans Andersen picture country. Westward then ang across on the new Eyre Highway, stopping at the “cemera stops" to go down to the ocean, the terrible, beautiful cliffs with the sea hundreds of feet below. It is no longer a - Nullabor, trees, shrubs, grasses, all green and many in flower. An@ of course some hard red earth between, just to remind us. eeu! It was only as we spproached Southern Cross that we suddenly found | withered, stunted crops and all the heartbreak signs of the drousht, and even that soon gave way to more normal crops. . And so, home and happy after a lovely tring around Australia.