17/06/2015 As we were heading out of West Leichhardt Station, we came across a mob of wild camels sauntering across the gravel road just ahead of us. We pulled up and spent a little while watching them graze just a little away from the car. Di was elated and snapped off many pics. Tick off “Camel” (Fifth Tick) on her “Animals in the Wild” list.
The drive east along the Barkly Highway to Cloncurry took us through some very picturesque country, with scenic rocky hills and boulder formations on either side. I took note that I’ll shortly have to replace the window motor on Di’s side as she was lowering and raising the window every couple of minutes to take a shot of some new rock formation or another (sigh) Whistling Kite.
In Cloncurry, we stocked up on groceries, paid a couple of bills, and had a wander around the town. But the heat was getting to us so we jumped back into the air-conditioning and headed 100kms north on the Burke Development Road to our overnight camp at Terry Smith Rest Area. About twelve vans had beaten us in and grabbed all the spots. The only bit of ground left was near the toilet block and on sloping ground; probably why no-one else had taken it. The Kruiser’s airbags made an easy job of levelling the van, though, and the couple next door came over to say how they were surprised we chose that spot until they saw the van straighten itself up. Makes you feel like a proud parent. It turned out to be a nice private spot with a great view to the distant hills, and with a cleared camp fire area just into the nearby Mitchell Grass next to the van. And the bonus of an ensuite right next door!
Next morning and about 90kms further on, we pulled in to the Burke and Wills Roadhouse at the Three Ways Intersection for fuel and a looksee. It’s located at the intersection of the Burke Development Road and the Wills Development Road. Not sure, though, why it’s called Three Ways and not Four Ways. After topping up the fuel, we turned west onto the Wills Development Road towards Gregory Downs. It had been a good drive as both these roads were well maintained, mostly single lane bitumen with wide gravel edges. We had to be wary of the road trains that operate 24/7 carrying zinc ore from Dugald River Development Project north of Cloncurry to its Century Processing Operation at Lawn Hill and encountered a few of the empty triples returning to Cloncurry. Apart from them, there was very little oncoming traffic, only the occasional caravan.
Gregory is a very small community clustered around the pub, built in 1877. The road in front of the Gregory Downs pub had to be the widest main street we’d ever seen. We camped in the riverbed of the Gregory River up next to the water and hoped it didn’t rain upstream while we were there. This is a popular camp spot with lots of caravans, but we managed to find a site up the end on a bend of the river looking upstream with everyone else behind us, so it felt quite private. It was a lovely spot, and with the temperature in the 30’s, the cold flowing water was very refreshing. You could jump in the shallow stream, float along downstream in the fast flowing current and walk back upstream to do it all again.
State of Origin Game Two was watched up at the pub following a nice meal. It was a lively evening, with a group of the local Waanyi People outnumbering the handful of travellers. These are the traditional owners of the Gregory area and reside at the Bidungu Aboriginal Reserve just outside of town. It was a good night and we walked back to the river camp using our torches under a spectacular starry sky.
The following day, I used the phone box outside the pub to book a couple of days at Adels Grove, further on up the road near Lawn Hill National Park. The recorded message said they were on another call, please ring back, then cut me off. No choice but into the pub for a beer. After downing that one, it was back out to the phone box to try again, and the same recorded message. Once again, back into the pub for another beer. I wasn’t minding this too much. The next try, though, they picked up and we were booked in for a couple of days for starters and we’ll see what happens after that.
“The very basic core of a man’s living spirit is his passion for adventure. The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences, and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun.” ― Christopher McCandless