Rocky Creek War Memorial Park

After attending church in Tolga, we drove towards Mareeba to the Rocky Creek War Memorial Park. (Camps 6: 221) It is a huge park, with a large paddock section made available for campers. Other than a look around the memorial part of the part, we were here to have a relaxing time in between visits to a doctor about my infected ear. (He recommended a visit to an ENT specialist since it was taking too long to heal) and other required visits.

Rocky Creek Memorial Park
Again we meet up with other campers whom we had met previously. After a day there, Lorraine and Brian rolled up too, whom we had first befriended back at Walker’s Creek and then again at Ravenshoe. It is great to meet up. It makes me feel more a part of a ongoing community.

Rob discovered with the help of another camper that the noise we had been experiencing was the fan belt after all – one of them was missing. Rob has been carrying spare parts of several items since we first hit the road a few years ago and yes, thankfully, we had fan belts too! It was a rotten fiddly job and took a good 2 hours into the early evening under lamplight. (Gee! I know I am certainly glad to be a woman at times like these!). All up with the doctor visits requiring 2 separate day trips back to Cairns etc, we ended up staying here for 5 nights before moving on.

Camping at Danbulla State Forest/Lake Tinaroo

Danbulla State Forest is just inland from Cairns, up on the Atherton Tablelands. There are several camping grounds within it, all situated around Lake Tinaroo. We left Gordonvale and went up the Gilies Highway, stopping to see the Strangler Fig Tree, which is marvellous.

After driving through Atherton and Tolga we started into the forest area. The first camp ground in is called Platypus. It is for small vehicles and tents only. We were advised to go to the Downfall Creek camp site (Camps 6: 225). The 4km dirt road is a little rough and we heard that it gets worst as you go in, so we took it very slowly. There are no dedicated camping spots, you just find a spot you like and pitch your tent or van. We found a lovely spot just 8 metres from the edge of the water on a reasonably level spot. It is an easy walk to the amenities and to walk around the campsite.

Peace - before the neighbours moved in.

We decided not to unhitch the car since we weren’t going anywhere for the 2 nights of our stay. We came to regret this very soon. As a group of people rolled up several hours after us, decided that they wanted to camp in the same location and proceeded to erect their many tents and marquees within a metre of our van including the area where we should have parked the car had we unhitched it. Really, you could only just walk between our van and their tents. It was lousy of them and a form of intimidation. There were plenty of other spots, they could have just moved maybe 10 metres away and that would have been OK. But no! We also found out in the course of time that ‘this’ spot is where this group of friends come and camp every year and they were going to continue the tradition, no matter if there were other campers there first. It didn’t matter that there was lots of room in other places around the campsite that would easily accommodate a large group of campers that wanted to be together. There was no communication from them.

This tiny little bird was hardly bigger than the grass - maybe 5-7cm high

The next morning, it was cool and drizzling on and off. Our neighbours had more friends roll up and pitch their tents, this time right in front of us. I had to go and say that it wasn’t wise to box us in as they would need to move the tent to allow us to drive off early the next morning. They moved the tent, just a little to the side and instead parked their car with the boat and trailer across the front of us. All the other cars including a trailer with a jet ski, were parked on the other side of us. At one stage I couldn’t even sit outside our van and view the water unimpeded. One of the new arrivals noticed my situation and got the car in front of us moved, thankfully. Still with the generators and all the people including probably a dozen kids, it was certainly not a peaceful location to be. We were glad that we hadn’t booked more than 2 nights there. Apparently we booked the first night of the Queensland school holidays. Thank God that most campers are not as selfish as these. Still, we will try to check when the school holidays are on and avoid the more popular camping spots during this time in future.
We also found out after our time there, that though there are no showers at the camp sites, there are hot showers at the picnic spot about 5km back. We had wondered why so many people went for a drive in the late afternoons! Why the forestry administration decides to have showers at a picnic spot but not at the camp spots, beats me! Had we been left alone, we would have loved watching the lake sports and our time there, so don’t be put off by our bad experience, go there yourselves. Just make sure you don’t go in school holidays and ‘pinch’ someone else’s spot. ;)
The view from our door - before the invasion

Cairns and Gordonvale

We needed to get many camping and hardware supplies in preparation for our forthcoming camping trip up the Cape but we didn’t want to stay in Cairns just yet so we wanted to accomplish as much as possible in the one day trip. We bought our camp chairs, tracks for the Waeco, a camp stretcher, some yabby traps, etc. We then headed to Gordonvale for the tyre fitting and a stay in the rest area nearby. (We will be back in Cairns after our cape trip, to stay in a caravan park with our son and his family then). We got our tyres bought and fitted in Gordonvale and I went to the op shop and bought some magazines, a couple of towels as spares, and a couple of shirts for Bob.

Huge green tree frog painted on the side of the road between Gordonvale and Atherton.

Even though the Gordonvale Rest Area (Camps 6: 12) is listed as a day use only, we had been told that many people are now using it as a campground. There was something like 15 campers/vans there the night we stayed. The park area is quite nice with some wonderfully mature trees and mown grassed areas. It also next to a creek but again right near a highway, though not as noisy as some places we have been to.
As life happens sometimes, we ended back in Cairns two more times to visit doctors about my 'ruptured' ear drum. After seeing an ENT specialist, we discover it was not ruptured but a constant ear infection and needed separate treatment. Well, I suppose it is good news that I didn't damage the ear drum, but still I am having problems with it.

Oh well life goes on.

Innisfail & The Boulders

Innisfail was our next destination. We needed to get some supplies from a major centre and so we decided to try Innisfail where we had also pre-arranged to have some mail forwarded to there from home. What a delight it was to enjoy a pizza there for lunch. We also wanted to buy new tyres for the Landcruiser before heading into the Cape but after trying a couple of places, we decided to pick them up closer to Cairns, in a small town called Gordonvale. We camped at the Fred Drew Park (Camps 6: 18). It is a grassy spot right opposite a cane field and at the junction of 2 highways, hence it is a rather noisy location.

The Boulders are just 6 km west of Babinda and were a really lovely surprise to us. I had just been expecting a interesting boulder strewn walking track. What we got was a beautiful BBQ and picnic area adjacent to some wonderful fast flowing waterfalls and a swimming hole. We free camped at the nearby campgrounds by the same name (Camps 6: 13). It is a very small campground surrounded by mown grassed picnic tables and open space. The camp ground supposedly holds only 10 campers/vans in twin share dedicated bays. However on both nights we had an extra vehicle ‘squeezed’ in. (Sites 5 & 6 are the flattest/level sites there!). It is one of the best free camp grounds we have been to. I suppose being a free camp, we really can’t complain about the cold water only showers available there; the toilets were good and were cleaned every day! it is certainly well worth a visit. Roll up early if you want to get in here especially in the busy season, however if you miss out here, we heard the nearby Babinda Rest Area (Camps 6:14) is a good alternative.

I wanted to stop in Babinda for a look around the country shops including a craft shop but we needed to be in Cairns earlier than first thought, so we had to drive right on past.

All the images in the blog entry are various views at The Boulders! Make sure to visit this magical place when you are in the area.

Ravenshoe and the Millstream Falls

After leaving Archer Creek, we stopped at Millstream Falls. A nice easy walk down a bitumen path to a platform overlooking Australia’s broadest waterfall.

The beautiful Millstream Falls

The campground at Ravenshoe (Camps 6: 235) is actually right in town and next door to the Historical Railway which is operational most Sundays, but at the time of our visit, it had been recently derailed and thus it was not running. The railway volunteers offer a very efficient hot water showers for a gold coin donation as well as the toilets. The campground is virtually on the main street (which is relatively quiet at nights as the highway by passes Ravenshoe).

Lo and behold we parked right next to Brian and Lorraine, whom we had first met back at Walker Creek (heading to Karumba) and again just at Cumberland. We made more new friends here esp Ros and Trevor from the Central Coast, travelling with their Winniebago.

We spent the afternoon, chatting and get acquainted with the town. Just across the road is a FoodWorks supermarket and a Laundromat. We enjoyed a rambling stroll up the main street, where you’ll discover the normal range of shops, including a newsagent, pharmacy and a IGA supermarket. Up the top end is a wonderful local art gallery called Win’s and you’ll get to meet the artist, Winsome, who paints lovely scenes of the surrounding countryside. She also has some lovely hand-blown glass works, and some local woodwork that are of a high standard and a few miscellaneous items, including art cards. I can recommend the fish and chip shop that is the other side of the Laundromat and their pizzas look scrumptious and I was told that it tastes good too! The nearby bakery is also highly recommended by yours truly.

The lovely eggplant coloured plumes of the tall native grasses

On the first full day there we went for a drive to Tully Falls, which was a lovely drive but I was disappointed to discover that there are no waterfalls except in the wet season, due the construction of a hydro electric scheme somewhere and this has severely restricted the amount of water flowing at other times. There is a short walk adjacent to the lookout and the little creek and subsequent waterfall is delightful. We didn’t go much further and thus didn’t see what was at the end of the walk, probably just another look at the dry granite where the waterfall should be.

The lovely Little Millstream Falls - note the grass in the foreground

On the return trip we called in at the Little Millstream Falls and this is truly delightful. You can walk all the way to the bottom and can even swim in the pools at the bottom. Make sure to stop and the first major U bend in the walk and you can walk out the top of the waterfalls and look down. I wish it had been a warm day as I just love to swim under waterfalls, there’s just something magic about it.

Thundering at Little Millstream Falls

Contemplating at the base of Little Millstream Falls
That night we cooked & sampled our first Frittata. I chose a zucchini frittata recipe and loved it for the taste and the simplicity. This will become a staple in our camping menus.

On the Sunday we went to the local Uniting Church which though it was with a style & songs that we knew some 20 years ago, it was very friendly and once again we were invited to fellowship afterwards with them.

Archer Creek

Leaving the chimney
Before leaving the chimney,  we had a last minute chat with  new friends Brian & Lorraine, whom we had met back in Walker's Creek.

We stopped for lunch at Georgetown and did a bit of housekeeping, checking phone calls and internet. We met up with a previous camping neighbour, Trevor & Carol and spent some time catching up. I just had to show Carol my new crochet piece that she had taught me way back at Gregory Downs. I think I surprised both with how well I had picked of up her instructions... she is a good teacher!

This is one of the greatest aspects of freedom camping, it is so easy to make friends and it is not uncommon to meet them again and again, especially on the more remote routes. Once we hit the coast there are many more options on which way to travel as where to stay and so it is a lot more possible to not meet up again.

Anyway, we continued on to Mt Surprise and then Archer Creek where we stopped for 2 days. Michelle wanted a day of total relaxation and no travelling for her birthday. Bob spoilt her by making lunch and dinner. Brian and Lorraine rolled up in the van later on during the day! :)

Camp ground at Archer Creek
We enjoyed a little walk along Archer Creek which is a nice but very cold creek. You can hear the traffic since the camp ground is right alongside the highway but mostly it is bearable and quietens down generally at night.

Cumberland Mine Historic Site (The Chimney)

The Chimney had been recommended to us a few times and so we had to go there. It is a large quiet area on an historic mine site. There is a lovely billabong there with water lilies that are flowering right now. We liked it a decided to stay here for 2 nights. Just before dusk each night, the local Brahmin cattle amongst the caravans to get some fresh grass. They are quite shy creatures and liked to be left alone.

That first night, our neighbours were 2 Israeli boys and we invited them to share our campfire. From this small beginning we ended up having a mini United Nations evening. We also had a German girl and a French couple join us later. Don't forget Rob is Dutch and I am 2nd generation Australian from English stock. We introduced some of them to the delights of toasted marshmallows.

The next day was spent lazing around. Bob got out the metal detector and played around , finding next to nothing for the effort, whilst Michelle made some more felt animals for her grand daughters. We even had a go at making a new Cheese and bacon Damper – it looks perfect - pity the taste didn’t live up to the visage.
Our fabulous looking Damper

Gilbert River

We camped at Gilbert River (Camps 6: 251). However as we rounded a curve in the road just outside the campsite, we were flagged down.

There had been an accident ahead at the single lane bridge. We pulled into the campsite and quickly made our way to the car accident to see if they needed any assistance. (We had both just updated our First Aid Certificates just before we left!)
The driver of a land cruiser had failed to stop in time and rather than hit other vehicles that were waiting for traffic on the bridge to pass, the car had run up the embankment, just missing the guard rails and ran down into the creek itself. The car had a 4 ton trailer on the back and was very fortunate that the trailer didn’t end up rammed into the back of him or toppled on top of him. The driver had sustained back injury and an ambulance had been called. Everything that could be done was done until the ambulance rolled up which took about 90 minutes considering they had to come about 100km.

The car and trailer at odds
We settled in and then talked with neighbours and went for a walk up the mostly dry creek and around the other campground which is on the opposite side of the road. It is shadier there.

The bridge over the Gilbert River

Another brilliant sunset, this time at Gilbert River

Walker's Creek, Normanton & Karumba

We stayed overnight back at Gregory Downs before moving on towards Normanton. We stopped at Burke & Wills for lunch; a pie and sausage roll with chips there (nice & a reasonable price considering the isolation). Then moved on to Bang Bang rest area (Camps 6: 258). Nothing really to comment on in our opinion and it is noisy being on the highway!

Wedge tailed eagle

The next day we fuelled up in Normanton ($1.67 per litre) as we were running on fumes the last 7km. However we found out later that it is around 10 cents a litre cheaper at the Depot in Karumba – oh well!
We stopped by the Tourist Information Centre here and checked out the history of the largest Crocodile caught here. A whopping 8.63 metres or such –a world record catch at the time. There is a life size replica on the main street.

Krys is a tad bigger than Rob
We camped at Walker’s Creek which is about 30km north of Normanton. It is not in the Camps 6 book but is camp number 256 in the Camps 5 book. It is anyone’s guess why it has been left out of Camps 6. It is a big area and apparently can be quite crowded there as campsites in Karumba are quite expensive and frequently booked out well in advance. There is a weir next to the camp. Apparently it doesn’t have water going over it but there sure was a lot of water running over the weir when we were there.

Looking at the weir from the road

Walker's Creek Weir

The toilet is old and decrepit and I wouldn’t use it in a pink fit. It is certainly not maintained by anyone – maybe that is why it has been omitted from Camps 6.

Sunset at Walker's Creek

Moonscape at Walker's Creek
We liked it here. If you are lucky and want shade you might get a spot that overlooks the river, but most are away from the water. Apparently you can fish there but you’d have to be patient, one small group spent all day there and didn’t catch anything!

One of the many Brolgas near Karumba
We made some friends here, esp Lorraine and Brian We enjoyed a happy hour with 4 others the first night.
We left our van here are drove into Karumba to have a look around and to taste fresh barramundi & chips which were absolutely yummy. I am not so keen on Karumba. Having said that, it is chocka block full. I have never seen so many fishing trailers as there. It must be a great place to kick off a fishing expedition that's for sure.

Karumba - looking west up the creek

We much preferred Karumba Point for scenic viewing but truly, unless you are into fishing in a big way, this is one town you can leave off your agenda.
We stayed an extra day at Walker’s Creek just for the opportunity to be lazy and do a few odd bits ‘n bobs.

Karumba - looking out at the Gulf of Carpenteria
Another reason we stayed an extra night in Walker’s Creek was that we could attend church before moving on. We forgot to check the time of the service and found that we were an hour too early, so I went to the Laundromat and Bob went and filled the Robbiebago with water whilst we waited for the appointed hour...10am rolled around and no one came. At 10 past we gave up the ghost. Obviously they had called off the service and hadn’t thought to post a notice to say so for visitors. We left rather disappointed and continued on. We stopped for lunch at Black Bull which is an old railway station that is also a campsite. It too, is not in Camps 6 but it is in Camps 5: 252. It is about 90km east of Normanton. It has toilets and some covered picnic tables. I would consider staying overnight here if we were here later in the day. As it was we kept on going!

Boodjamulla National Park (Lawn Hill)

We decided to leave the Robbiebago at the caravan park next to the Gregory Downs Pub ($8 pn) and also use this 3 night trip into Lawn Hill as a mini trial run for camping up in the Cape early in July.

The first bit of the road to Lawn Hill National Park is mostly bitumen or well graded dirt road that is maintained by a mining company near the park. We stopped at the intersection of the mining road turnoff as there is reception here for the mine and we had lunch whilst we check out our emails and phone messages since there is no phone reception and Gregory Downs nor at Lawn Hill.

After this intersection, the road quickly turns into deep rutted dirt tracks in many parts especially after the recent rains that would have made the roads a dickens of a drive. We had no real problems even though we also had to drive nice and steadily through a few large mud puddles that could have been dicey.

A tad muddy in places on the way in to Lawn Hill
Our friends were going to work for 4 months Adel’s Grove, so we decided to call into them first since it was on the way but we were advised that they had gone for a trek, so we continued onto our campsite. (By the way, Adel’s Grove is a private campground just outside the National Park - and expensive at about $48pn unpowered! Fuel is available here too for $1.98 per litre, but at least it gets you out of trouble if you were caught unprepared!)

We set up in a camping bay and then along came John & Kathy to see us after their walk and for a cuppa and chat.

Our site is home to nesting birds, unidentified by us at this point of time. It was great to sit back and watch them at times. We also saw black cockatoos and sulphur head cockatoos, kites, wrens and crimson .... whilst there. These little nest builders were so fast it was hard to catch them on camera. As you can see I have only 80% of the bird! The pick up an amazing amount of litter and fly it up into a gum tree for building the nest!

Unidentified bird collecting stuff for its nest
After our friends left, we went for a short but pleasant walk through tall palms and what not to the Cascades, only to discover a nice big pool of water with lots of little fish but no cascades as the water wasn’t flowing there at that time.

Both these above are of the pool area at the Cascades
The next day Bob did some fiddling jobs – there always seems to be something that could be done to make something work better or some minor repair. I am lucky to have a hubby who can do these sort of things that make life a tad better. Then we went kayaking with John & Kathy up the Lawn Hill River for a few hours. They came back to our camp and provided sausage sandwiches for a late lunch.

Kayaking up Lawn Hill Creek

On our last full day at Lawn Hill, we went on an ambitious 6 km walk (I reckon they have their distances way out and it is more likely 8km) to the Upper Gorge where we had a lovely view of the various levels of the river and gorge with its corresponding waterfalls. It was quite steep in places and that last kilometre seemingly took forever. I don’t have crook knees but they were sore for 2 days afterward.

One of the small waterfalls on the creek
The most disappointing thing about camping at Lawn Hill is that there are no hot showers. We could have brought in our solar showers had we known that it was cold water only. Nothing can compel me to have cold showers even in the middle of the day when it is the warmest! Finding out that no fires are allowed was also a tad disappointing especially as it wasn't a fire danger season.


Now we know a few more thing about camping and what to bring (and leave behind) when we go camping in the Cape.

All set up for a good night's sleep

Gregory Downs - one of the best free camp spots in Qld

We parted from Sandi and Noel at Mt Isa. We decided to backtrack to Cloncurry rather than chance the shorter dirt roads and slippery mud (it had lightly rained frequently whilst in Mt Isa) before heading north. We had a sticky beak and picnicked at the pretty Chinaman’s Dam just outside Cloncurry before heading north to Gregory Downs.

They breed the cows tough enough here to eat cars!
On the way we stopped by Burke & Wills, just one of the many camp stops made by the famous early explorers. It was just out of here that we started to see a new road sign that is completely self explanatory.

Rob outside Burke and Wills
We were to meet up with good friends. We had met Kathy and John back in WA and spent several camps with them.

We arrived before them and waited at the camp spot just near the pub, (Camps 6: 227).

Overlooking Gregory Downs Campsite
Our friends rolled up an hour later and directed us to camp down at the river even though there are signs NOT to camp alongside the river. They had obviously been there previously.

What a delightful place. We parked right on the water’s edge next to an old wooden bridge, however the next morning Bob moved us to a place a bit further back as a vehicle driving over it makes quite a racket esp if you like your sleep.

Camping right alongside the river

The council even has rubbish bins down at the riverside that they regularly service and the cops come past waved friendly like to the campers. We think the sign is there to cover them for insurance purposes as it will flood in the wet season and the tracks were as rough as any we’ve come across and made worst in the slightest bit of rain.

Michelle & John supervising the campfire

It is all to do with the type of black (or red) clay soil in the north up these last 500 or more kilometres. (Remember our story back at Nindigully Pub!) Now this is a site I could stay at for a week easily. There are no toilets or showers here or even up top at the ‘correct’ camp spot. However just across the road from the pub is a public toilets and solar hot water (that is mildly warm to hot!)

Camping lifestyle

The weather was a little windy with quite cold mornings, but the days are delightful, especially considering it is in the middle of winter here. We met other campers, had drinks and shared fires etc. We took a few walks along the river and tracks. A few tried fishing and yabbying but with not much success that we noticed. It was just nice to sit back and watch the fast river flowing by with nothing to cause any kind of stress except what to choose for dinner each day.

Rob watching the camp fire

We did get a bit of rain part way through our stay and that made it difficult for vans to leave but not impossible. The worry was how much more rain are we to get over the next few days especially as John and Kathy had a commitment to start work at Adel’s Grove in Boodjamulla National Park (also known as Lawn Hill) on Monday. We were booked into Lawn Hill camp grounds from Saturday but otherwise, our time was our own. John & Kathy decided to leave a day early to beat the mud if it continued to rain. Fortunately it didn’t rain anymore and we could still get out the next day, even though the track was still muddy.

Boiling the billy and cooking in the camp oven