Up to the Gulf

Where are we now ?http://goo.gl/maps/mDq5C

Sunday 9 June 2013
The first 110km section of the 550km ride today was due east from Mount Isa to Cloncurry along a gently undulating and winding road through picturesque and rocky hills. This was a very pleasant and scenic ride. Here is a short YouTube video of this ride >>http://youtu.be/kOqgAIiK1f8  We turned left and headed due north again at Cloncurry whose main claim to fame seems to be that it has the highest recorded temperature of any Australian town. (53.1c in 1889). The countryside almost immediately changed back to the now familiar straight road and Savannah type vegetation punctuated occasionally by red rocky outcrops as we headed toward Normanton and the Gulf. This was a run of almost 400km with the only civilisation between Cloncurry and Normanton being the aptly named Burke and Wills Roadhouse. Although sealed all the way, substantial sections of the road were the old style single lane with passing vehicles required to move at least one wheel off the bitumen and onto the dirt. This provided for some “interesting” riding experiences negotiating our bike past large trucks and motorhomes coming the other way. Fortunately we did not encounter any road trains during these sections although we did pass a couple during wider sections of the road. Here is a little YouTube video of some of our single lane road experiences. http://youtu.be/0zCBv3bcCfs  We were excited to spot several groups of very large birds along the roadside that we assumed were Brolgas. We even saw several pairs of them taking off as we passed. We marvelled at how these huge birds could actually get off the ground. When we arrived at our motel in Normanton we were informed that they were not Brolgas but another similar bird (often mistaken for Brolgas) called a Sarus Crane. It seems nobody even knew these birds existed until they were first identified near Normanton in 1996. Unfortunately we were unable to get any photos as there was nowhere to stop. We are staying in Normanton tonight prior to heading out to the gulf at Karumba tomorrow. One of Normanton’s main claims to fame is that their pub is painted purple!.

Typical Savannah vegetation along the Matilda Highway heading for Normanton

Typical Savannah vegetation along the Matilda Highway heading for Normanton

Waiting our turn to fill up at the Burke and Wills Roadhouse

Waiting our turn to fill up at the Burke and Wills Roadhouse

The Purple Pub at Normanton

The Purple Pub at Normanton

Monday 10 June 2013
We had a leisurely 75 km run today to the coast at Karumba on the Gulf. Before we left Normanton we checked out the replica of the largest crocodile ever “captured” (ie shot!) by a lady back in to 50’s when crocodile hunting was a sport. It was absolutely huge at 8.62m and hard to believe such a monster existed. Apparently crocodiles can live to 120 or more and never stop growing. They banned the shooting them 50 or 60 years ago so crocs this size could be a reality again in 40 or 50 years from now. The Normanton Rodeo was on this long weekend and the town was awash with cowboys on Sunday as they prepared to head home again. Their standard vehicle seems to be a Toyota truck with a cage on the back holding two pig dogs with a couple of swags in the back and a high lift jack attached to the cage. We saw literally dozens of these vehicles, all c/w dogs. A young couple in just such a vehicle stayed in the motel next to us. They took the two dogs out of the cage and chained them next to the truck. There they stayed all night and did not make a sound. We assume pig hunting is big in this region. We certainly saw a few killed along the roadside as we came in. The short run into Karumba was pleasant and we were fortunate enough to see some more of the large Sarus Cranes along the road. We just stopped in the middle of the road to take a few photos and waved and smiled to the few puzzled drivers who passed us while we were stopped . They were a fair way away but we got a couple of shots of these fascinating birds that would be at least a metre tall. Not surprisingly, the main industry (aside from Grey Nomad tourism) of Karumba is prawning with a large prawn “factory” in the middle of town and many large trawlers moored in the Norman river. We went out to Karumba Point about 5k out of town and found it to be jam packed with the fishing variety of Grey Nomads. These are the ones you see with the caravan on the back and a tinny on the roof usually with the wheels of a fold-up boat trailer hanging off the back of their vans. Their were literally hundreds of them filling all the available caravan spaces. Karumba seems to be some sort of “Fishing Grey Nomad” Mecca and judging from the catches we hear about we can see why. We came across a billabong near Karumba Point that was teeming with all types of birds as well as a lone wallaby. A great photo opportunity. We took a sunset cruise out onto the Gulf (with prawns and wine of course) and were, yet again, mesmerised by the sunsets over the ocean, a sight that us easterners are not accustomed to.

A Black Kite on the wing over the Norman River

A Black Kite on the wing over the Norman River

Another Black Kite taking food on the wing from our cruise boat

Another Black Kite taking food on the wing from our cruise boat

An eclectic gathering of birds at a billabong near Karumba Point

An eclectic gathering of birds at a billabong near Karumba Point

The Gulf!

The Gulf!

Along the road to Karumba Qld

Along the road to Karumba Qld

Some of the elusive Sarus Cranes near Normanton Qld

Some of the elusive Sarus Cranes near Normanton Qld

Filling up at Normanton Qld

Filling up at Normanton Qld

The local standard vehicle at Normanton Qld

The local standard vehicle at Normanton Qld

 

The giant Croc (actual size) at Normanton

The giant Croc (actual size) at Normanton

Black Cormorants at Sunset over the Gulf at Karumba Qld

Black Cormorants at Sunset over the Gulf at Karumba Qld

Sunset over the gulf at Karumba

Sunset over the gulf at Karumba

 

 

 

Into Queensland

Where are we now?http://goo.gl/maps/hAkHw
14,429 Kilometres travelled so far since we left home 60 days ago

Thursday 6 June 2013
We headed due south today for 550 Km on a relatively straight road. It was interesting to see the changing vegetation as we moved from sub-tropical coastal areas into the red centre. The trip was relatively uneventful although we seemed to be playing leapfrog with a number of caravans through the day. They were travelling at 100Km/Hr and we were sitting on the speed limit of 130 Km/Hr so we would pass them but we need to take more breaks so whenever we stopped they would pass us again. We passed one particular group of NSW vans about four time throughout the day then ended up spending the night with them at the Threeways Roadhouse near Tennant Creek. The old classic case of the tortoise and the hare!!. We have another big day tomorrow with 650Km to travel to Mount Isa in Qld (we also lose 30 minutes) so we will get an early start and try to be on the road by 8am Qld time.

Grave site of the "Maluka" of "We of the Never Never" fame

Grave site of the “Maluka” of “We of the Never Never” fame

Road train replenishing the fuel tanks at the Threeways Roadhouse at Tennant Creek NT. This busy servo reputedly dispenses over 1.5 million litres of fuel each year.

Road train replenishing the fuel tanks at the Threeways Roadhouse at Tennant Creek NT. This busy servo reputedly dispenses over 1.5 million litres of fuel each year.

Friday 7 June 2013
The run due east today from Tennant Creek in the NT to Mount Isa in Qld is one of our longest rides so far at 650 km. We set our clocks 30 minutes ahead onto EST before we went to bed so we could start the day on the new time rather than losing 30 minutes through the day. The road was predictably straight with the weather fine and sunny warming up to 31c during the day. We were buffeted by strong head winds for most of the day making the riding interesting at times. We had a very close encounter with a huge wedge tailed eagle who was sitting in the middle of the road and decided to take off with its 2m + wingspan almost clipping us on the bike as we veered out of its take-off path. A close call!. It was a real comedown to cross the border into Qld and see the speed limit drop from 130k/hr down to 110 k/hr. The countryside is surprisingly green and seemed to be much the same for the whole distance but it actually changes subtly during the day until you suddenly realise the country is totally different to what it was like in the morning. I took a sort of a time lapse video over the past few days which I am hoping to compile into a YouTube video to show the changes as we first headed about 1000 km due south from Darwin to Tennant Creek then 650 km due east today from Tennant Creek to Mount Isa. We are staying in Mount Isa tomorrow and will take a guided mine tour underground. On Sunday we will head due north again up to the Gulf of Carpentaria at Karumba.

One of the vary rare NT highway rest stops we encountered along this road (no loos though!)

One of the vary rare NT highway rest stops we encountered along this road (no loos though!)

A couple of fellow bikers we travelled with today hailing from Cowra. Their adventure touring bikes and gear (c/w spare tyre) contrasted starkly with our highway touring rig

A couple of fellow bikers we travelled with today hailing from Cowra. Their adventure touring bikes and gear (c/w spare tyre) contrasted starkly with our highway touring rig

Saturday 8 June 2013
We spent the day in Mount Isa (albeit somewhat deserted due to it being a long weekend). We got kitted up and  went underground on a tour of their tourist mine which had live demonstrations of working underground equipment. Very interesting. We are heading off in the morning for Cloncurry then Normanton, a ride of some 550 kms.

Suited up for our underground mine inspection at Mount Isa

Suited up for our underground mine inspection at Mount Isa

One of the hundreds of Forked Tail Kites soaring in the skies over Mount Isa

One of the hundreds of Forked Tail Kites soaring in the skies over Mount Isa

A view of the Mount Isa Township with the omnipresent mine towering on the hill behind. The mine can be seen from virtually everywhere in town.

A view of the Mount Isa Township with the omnipresent mine towering on the hill behind. The mine can be seen from virtually everywhere in town.

Our trip to Normanton and Karumba tomorrow is the final leg of a somewhat round-a-bout trip we have needed to take to reach the Gulf via the only available sealed road (know as the Matilda Highway) . The distance from Daly Waters in the NT to Karumba on the Gulf in Qld is around 775 Kms as the crow flies.
To make the journey via the largely unsealed coastal Savannah Highway is a journey of 1150 Kms. Our road bike is definitely not suited to this type of journey. Our route via the Barkly and Matilda Highways (sealed all the way) through Camooweal, Mount Isa, Cloncurry and Normanton is a little over 1,600kms. We still think it is worth it to be able to see the sunset over the Gulf. 😮
Cheers for now
Ros and Dick