Day 5…

TITLE: All Aboard!

There’s nothing wrong with chocolate and half a banana for breakfast. I don’t suggest you take bananas on a road trip though, they don’t fair well in the fridge and they’re worse left in the heat.

Once packed we headed through town to the train station. The officer in charge, Ken, had us on the 9am departure for Critters Creek, a two hour round trip on the Gulflander Train – I’d been looking forward to this.

The Gulflander train journeys through savannah floodplains and goldfields on original heritage listed steel rails and sleepers that were constructed in 1891. The affectionately named “Old Tin Hare” rattles and rolls along with great commentary, informative stops, lots of history and still delivers the mail. The 5 hour trip from Normanton to Croydon overnighting in Croydon before returning to Normanton the next day is what it’s known for but in the tourist season the train also does 2 hour return trips to Critters Camp – this worked in well time wise for us so we took our seats and settled back to enjoy the ride.

There’s something relaxing about travelling by train, for me I think it was also the chance to stare out the window at the surroundings and not with unwavering concentration on the road ahead. On the return journey Ken pulled the train up on the bridge and let Fred and I off to take photos and film. He backed the train up and crossed the bridge once more. Me with camera poised standing in a dry river bed and Fred positioned up alongside the tracks ensured we got some great images and footage with plenty of passengers waving as the train rolled by.

Before leaving town we dropped by the BP to see Wayne, the local mechanic who’d been giving Jason some advice. Wayne’s workshop was a photographer’s dream, even for an amateur photographer such as myself. I’m sure he knew where everything was but to the passer by it was a sight to behold! I’ll post a photo on Instagram as soon as I can use my mobile – at the moment I can only get WiFi on my laptop and have no reception.

Burketown was our aim for the day, it was to be five hours on the road by the time we’d made a few stops. The first of which was Burke and Wills Campsite 119, this was their most Northerly campsite during their expedition in 1861. On February 1861, four members of the Burke and Wills expedition attempting to cross the Australian continent from South to North established their most northerly campsite adjacent to the Bynoe River in the Gulf of Carpentaria. Two of the party camped at this location for three days while expedition leader Robert Burke and surveyor William Wills ventured further North in an attempt to reach the Gulf Coast. During their occupation of camp 119 the party blazed fifteen trees to mark it’s location, all of which were marked. It was surreal to be there, reading the history and imagining what it would have been like for them back then – all before returning to the comfort of our air-conditioned vehicle loaded with supplies.

The road conditions varied, much of time it was only one lane, you’d have to move off onto the gravel if a car was coming in the other direction. Other times it was all gravel – you always need to concentrate on the road but on these roads I needed to take it to a whole new level, you’re constantly judging where best to position the vehicle for a smooth ride, dodging the big rocks, looking out for wildlife and what’s up ahead.

It was hot and I wasn’t drinking nearly enough water, we pulled over for a bit of a break and while Fred was shooting some footage I stood talking to Jason.
“Look.” I said pointing to the ground. “That was a big lizard.” I said staring at what I thought was a leathery version of the lizard’s former self.”
“That’s a dried up cow pat B.” Said Jason.
“Oh.” I said. “I think I’m going to get some water, could be I’m dehydrated.”

The afternoon was getting away from us but as we crossed Leichhardt Falls the riverbed either side of the causeway was completely dry so we pulled off onto it to make ourselves a snack and take a look at the nearby gorge.

75kms on and we’d pulled up in front of the Burketown Pub, the original pub was the oldest in the Gulf area but it sadly burnt down in 2012. Nevertheless it’s now back better than ever and owners Peter and Ian had put us up for the night in the well appointed cabins at the back. Peter used to be a truck driver himself so The Bold Line story meant something to him too having lost a number of close friends during his time on the road. He made us feel right at home and we propped ourselves up at the bar with a beer and me with my laptop. Fred and Jase took to the pool table to while I worked on the blog. A local Aboriginal man stood alongside me, ordered a drink and asked my name, in the same moment Peter popped Jason’s room keys in front of me and said, “don’t leave those lying around.”
My new friend piped up assuming the keys were mine and said, “Jeez you’re making it easy for me, is that an invitation?”
“You should give stand up comedy a go because you can’t possibly be serious.” I replied glancing over in Jason and Fred’s general direction hoping they’d come back soon.
They did and we ordered dinner. The Wild Barramundi on the menu had caught my eye and I was not disappointed!

TIP: UHF radios are great on a trip like this. Today two road trains pulled off the road to let us pass by. I said “thank you” over the radio and then heard Jason’s voice “It’s peak hour traffic today!” He said.

“Yep,” I replied “at least they moved over for us.” Turned out I wasn’t speaking with Jason, it was one of the truck drivers. Oops. Must remember it’s not a private line.

TRACK: Moonrabbit – Cloud Control

KMS: 281

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