(written by Nancy)
Well, we survived our first true bush camp! We slept okay though the wind picked up a bit during the night, which always seems to create weird noises that you can’t identify. I don’t think we had any animal visitors other than a cow on the other side of the fence – a bit disappointing as we were hoping for a kangaroo or two.
It seemed to be pretty warm all night but we woke up to cloudy skies and the temperature was quite a bit cooler. We did not really get moving until almost 7, as it seemed quite dark while laying in the tent. We had our usual oatmeal and coffee and packed up. Funnily enough, we had a full 10 litre water bladder this morning even after breakfast and filling all the bottles (including the two 1-litre Nalgene bottles I am carrying). So we could have actually had quite a bit more water yesterday – perhaps even a bit more of a sponge bath, which would have made both of us feel a lot better! We also both woke up during the night with headaches requiring aspirin – I am sure because we were dehydrated. Okay, lesson learned.
We hit the road about 9 with a wind that varied between a slight crosswind and a tailwind. No real sites on the road, just more of the same flat bushland. We failed to mention yesterday (in our slightly depressed state) that this road runs parallel to a road built in WWII to enable easier travel up to Darwin from Mt Isa and was used heavily by Australian and US armed forces in an effort to protect Australian’s northern borders. It was apparently built in a very short period of time to replace a meandering track that went up to the Top End. Portions of the old road have been visible alongside the new road for much of yesterday and today. We saw quite a few wide loads today carrying big army tanks headed toward Mt Isa. Have not been keeping up on the news much so not sure if something is happening that we don’t know about!
We only made one stop today, for lunch of PB&J sandwiches at a truck pullover. There was a very large windmill right next to the stop, with two huge water tanks – no chance of us getting any water though as they were all surrounded by a large fence topped with barbed wire. We also drank so much of our extra water this morning we were forced to make numerous comfort stops…
We made it to Camooweal about 12:30. There is not much of a town – a general store/post office, a pub, a gas station/roadhouse and a few houses. We stopped in at the general store and met the very nice proprietors. They had some lovely cakes so we had a coffee and cake and got the skinny on the camping options and the road ahead. Best of all, the couple are also wildlife carers and often have little joeys that they are taking care of. They are generally orphaned when the mother is shot for food by the local population – though at least the folks will bring the babies in to the store to be taken care of.
They have one now and they brought it out for us to take a look at. It is very little and spends all of its time in the makeshift pouch they have for it – basically a shopping bag with towels and a warmer in it. The joey must be fed every 4 hours at this age so it takes a lot of commitment to take one on. Once the joey get a bit older they are put out in a pen in the back, and then are eventually taken to a large station where no roo hunting is allowed. They basically learn to be a kangaroo with the rest of the kangaroos there. It was very cute – very sleepy but it’s ears perked up when it heard the husband come by, as he is the primary caretaker for this one.
We headed down to the caravan park behind the BP station, where we set up the tent and took our showers (boy did that feel nice!). We even got a load of laundry done. It was pretty chilly once we got into town with a good breeze and we could see dark clouds out in the south. Sure enough, it has now started to rain and it is currently raining quite hard! Hopefully all will stay dry in the tent and the rain will blow through overnight. The weather forecast seems to indicate that – let’s hope it is right. We are currently sitting the camp kitchen, which is relatively dry – at least if you stay under the areas in which there are no holes in the roof! It’s chilly though – compared to yesterday when we were sweltering as we set up camp we now both have long pants on and our down pullovers. There is another caravan park behind the pub as well, but the folks in the BP station are very nice and the facilities are well kept.
Steve, the long distance cyclist that we met in Mt Isa and who is heading in the same direction we are, was intending to leave Mt Isa today. Hopefully he is not too wet somewhere along the road.
The folks in the general store said that there is water along the next stretch at several places, though it may need to be filtered/purified. There is a roadhouse about 260k from here, so we could do it in 2 days with one bush camp. We are now planning to leave relatively early in the morning carrying enough water to bush camp and ride to Avon Downs, about 80k from here. There is supposedly water and toilets there and a police station, of all things (it is just a rest stop, not a town). We will continue on if we feel okay to try to get ~135k or so and then bush camp, and then ride the other ~135 the following day to the Barkley Roadhouse, where there is a caravan park. That’s the plan anyway. If it is raining like it is right now I am not sure what we will do – perhaps sit here another day in the tent…
One important note – tomorrow we pass into the Northern Territory and Camooweal is our last Queensland town. The border is about 12k from here.
Off to have dinner at the roadhouse – something highly nutritious I am sure…