12-13 July – From coast to outback

Author: Mrs A

Thursday – Location: Karumba Point

The news of Mark’s mum’s passing and all the planning of funeral, wake, travel and all associated details had left us tired, so we decided to book in for another night. Mark spent an emotional morning writing a eulogy, and we visited the shops in Karumba for a freshly baked sourdough loaf.

The afternoon continued in the same vein, with a short walk around the area trying to spot the elusive brolgas, ever present while in a car travelling at speed, but mysteriously vanishing when on foot with a camera. Away from the coast the land is sparsely vegetated, a low lying flood plain covered in saltbush, surrounded by gumtrees on the higher ground.After showers, we headed out to the Sunset Tavern, nestled along the coast at Karumba Point with a perfect westerly view across the Gulf towards the setting sun. We ordered dinner, a bottle of drinkable white wine and sat back to enjoy the show.

Friday – Location: Karumba to Gregory Downs

We hitched up and farewelled the fresh salty air and headed back south, into the hot dusty Savannah. We called into Normanton one final time for some expensive eggs and fuel, before hitting the road. We were unsure as to whether we would make it all the way to Gregory Downs, but the choice of roadside camps was pretty limited and unappealing.

Gregory is not a destination in itself for us, rather a half way point on our way to Boodjamulla (Lawn Hill) National Park, an oasis in the desert.

We pulled up at the free riverside camp in Gregory at around 3pm and it was heaving! It is Queensland school holidays, but I have to say we only saw a couple of children – the rest being nomads, like us – perhaps escaping the more popular coast. We managed to park up at what looked like to be the last space.

Gregory is a tiny little settlement, it has public toilets, a pub and a tiny shed which is apparently the general store. It sits on a crossroads – heading west you reach the Century zinc mine site, Adels Grove and Boodjamulla, and eventually the Barclay Highway. Heading north, the road leads to Burketown, and east to four-ways and the Burke and Wills (for the non Australians, named after a couple of European explorers) roadhouse. The landscape surrounding it is dry and dusty, with scrawny looking cattle occasionally spotted in the scrub.

The popular free-camp is alongside the crystal clear waters of the Gregory River. The tall gum trees, palms and ferns made it look like a real oasis. We saw several people cooling off in the waters, some floating down the current on inflatables.

We ambled up the road to check out the pub, but it didn’t look very inviting. It really wouldn’t take much to give it a lick of paint, a few plants, benches perhaps. Maybe our expectations are too high? But I’m certain if it looked more appealing there would be a lot more visitors. There would have been around 25 caravans and campers in the free camp – at least 50 people. If only half of those went up to the pub for a sundowner each night that would certainly bring in some funds that would soon provide payback for any expenditure on basic decorations and improvements. But no. People stayed at camp, including us.

Despite being relatively crowded, it was very peaceful and we had a good night’s sleep.

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