After a wonderful time at the lovely Walkamin Van Park in Far North Queensland, it was time to come home.
While there, I became friends with Mark and Dallas – the new owners of the park – and they quickly disposed of any worries about changes that might be made. Changes, yes – but all for the improvement of the park, such as an extensive irrigation system that will keep the grass green during the dry season.
Mark is a keen gardener and has already put in new vegetable beds and he even has plans for chooks. I won’t know the place when I go back next year!
Before I left, Lynn – one of my Walkamin friends – gave me a mug with a picture of the park on it that I took a few years ago from a helicopter. That picture has now been put on mugs, a shirt, a cushion cover and mouse mats besides appearing on the caravan park’s various promotional material. I should charge a fee!
THE RAINFOREST RAMBLERS
I’m still a keen and active member of the Australian Caravan Club and took the opportunity to join up with the local branch – the Rainforest Ramblers – for a couple of musters.
One muster occurred near Yungaburra and the second at Newell Beach where the caravan park was just across the road from the beach.
On the Sunday, we drove up to Daintree and took a leisurely cruise along the river. The local crocs were basking on the banks and one was swimming across the broad river.
NOT IN THE PLAN!
Leaving Walkamin, I’d planned to stay overnight at Henrietta Creek campground in the Wooroonooran National Park but soon changed my mind when I arrived only to be attacked by a swarm of ferocious marsh flies.
I jumped back into Yemmy quick smart and drove the next 10km with one hand on the wheel as I swatted the black pests with the other hand!
Instead of a very short first day trip, I opted to drive on to stay at Toomulla Beach, a nice free camp north of Townsville.
It’s not as busy as some – probably because it is on an estuary and not directly on a beach.
With two days in hand before I could go to my favourite national park campground at Smalleys Beach, I opted to stay at Ball Bay, right on the beach. I’d decided to stay regardless of how much the fee but got a shock when the man came around and told me it was $27 a night regardless of whether it was for one person or eight! $54 for two nights with basic amenities is a bit steep when the nearby national park is just $6.70 a person – no wonder Smalleys Beach is so heavily booked.
NOT THE SAME!
Site 3 at Smalleys Beach – my old favourite – is not the same as it used to be as the trees and shrubs have grown and block the once open view.
The picture I used for the cover of my first book, The ABC of Caravanning was taken from site 3. It was a great, open view of the sparkling sea and the shore.
The ranger said he’d shoot me if I told people where it was because back then it was very quiet and he had an easy job!
ALL DRIED UP
After a great lunch catch-up with Mackay friends Tony and Denyse Allsop, I headed for Lake Elphinstone near Glenden, intending so stay a few nights.
There were very few campers at this usually quite busy free-camp, and when I took a better look I could see the lake was dried up. What I was looking at was the muddy bottom and just a few puddles.
I decided to leave next day and really start my journey back home. My route took me inland along quiet country roads, through mining towns like Midddlemount. After Emerald, I found a gravel road used for prospecting and a quiet spot for Yemmy.
Taking a walk after getting set up, I came across what had once been a campervan but now was upside down and a wreck. For some strange reason, there were three pedestal fans in the back!
TIME FOR A REST
My trip was going well so I decided to stay a couple of nights at the Charleville Bush Caravan Park. GoRV readers might recall the recent article I wrote for the GoRV e-magaine.
Owner Graham gave us an interesting talk about Lake Eyre and all the associated rivers and told us about the wonderful trips he organised when there’s water in the lake.
He hires a 40-seater plane from Brisbane where most of the tourists come from and goes along as the tour guide. He says it’s great fun and has no trouble filling the plane for a number of trips.
At the end of the talk I asked him if he would mention the story in GoRV and when he asked, “Who has heard of GoRV magazine?”
Most people put their hands up. One lady then said that they had come to stay at the camp because they had read the article and when I then told them I’d written it they all clapped.
ON THE WATER
After crossing back into New South Wales the next day, I booked into Kidsons Camp near Bourke and asked about the paddle wheeler trips.
“If you drive straight down to the boat you will be able to get on board for this afternoon trip,” I was told. “You can choose a site when you get back.”
So off I went and what an interesting and relaxing trip it was. I’d met the skipper on my way north – he’s a fellow Sprinter owner so we had a bit in common although he isn’t plagued with Murphy-like episodes.
The friendly and helpful hostess made me a cup of coffee – it’s free – and she brought it up to the top deck for me!
It looked as though we wouldn’t get under the bridge but there was no need to worry as there was plenty of room. I guess it’s different if the river is in flood.
ON TO HILLSTON
The next day, my goal was back to Hillston, first for a pasty and custard tart at the bakery and then back to the caravan park where my friend Sammie and I had stayed on my way north.
Next morning, before I left the park, my ACC stickers attracted the attention of a member of the ACC Northern Bushwhackers – a lovely lady who happens to be the secretary of the branch and we had a nice chat before I headed off for what was intended to be the second last day of my trip home.
The day started with lovely sunshine but this deteriorated as the day progressed and before I reached the Victorian border, a very strong and gusty side wind had sprung up.
With nothing attractive about a night stop, I rang my daughters to tell them I’d be home a day earlier than expected. Whoops – Jackie had planned a welcome home meal for the next day but they were delighted to have me home safe and sound.
I’d knocked up 690km on that final day and a bit over 3000km on the way home. Thankfully Yemmy had behaved beautifully all the journey and Murphy had kept his head down.