Gulf country

Arthurs Creek, Point Parker, Gulf of Carpentaria

Starting writing

We have just come back from the gulf country and I will get to writing this blog properly when I can. At the moment we need to manage power and keeping food cold is a tad more important. No power sources where we are camping in and around Doomadgee. This blog was written in parts over a week.


Tis a Friday night and all is well. We have arrived in Normanton and I have spent two days writing reports. We had to meet a family rep today to see if they want us to go along the coast up towards Delta Downs. I wanted to wait till we could get some veges. The truck came in today and so we had 6 veges with dinner - impressive really. Lemon Chicken and a vege medley in the lemon sauce... got some beautiful bush lemons from Corinda Outstation. Have not seen such perfect specimens for years. Ironically after waiting so long, we did not buy many veges. A small pack of 3-4 lettice leaves cost $4.50. Mushrooms were $5 a little 400 g pack; but at least they had sweet potatoes. Normally when travelling, I stock up at the last woolies or coles and we have green veges for up to two weeks and then the vege supply deteriorates to things we can keep and that will survive corregations. So pumpkin, potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots and onions become stable diets. Occasionally you can buy cauliflower halves or cabbage halves. This time was no such luck. We keep veges in an eske and we make ice in special ice packs that I rotate every day. We both can't eat artificial colours and flavouring these days and so we make everything from scratch, so carrying veges is important. It all works - with curry pastes, sauces and herbs, you can make anything edible.                                                              Picture: Paul cooking in the kitchen.

Picture: Paul at work at Bullock Head.

A couple of people asked me how we live in the truck for so long. It's pretty easy. We don't carry much and have no excess stuff which helps. One drawer of spices, herbs, sauces and occasionally pickled onions; a drawer with cutlery for 2 and a few things like tin openers ( I do take tinned mushrooms and tomatoes) and a big spoon and egg flipper; and a compartment for cooking oil, cordial and our two pots and one frypan. We keep dried emergency food including rices and pastas, boxes of tissues (important to be who has constant hayfever at the moment) toilet paper,  a couple tinned products, soaps, coffee tea, soy milk etc under one seat. Our kitchen is outside with a sink, stove, cutting board and shelf. We have a freezer and it has a small fridge on top. We can carry about 20 meals of meat in the freezer. Hopefully we catch fish and it lasts longer.

We have a shower which plugs into sockets on the back of the truck. Paul heats up water on the campfire and we share a bucket of water in the shower. I can even wash my hair and shower in half a bucket. We have a washing drum and usually use creek water and roll the drum about - string and pegs complete the laundry facilities.                                               Picture: Paul investigating a broken Phone tower at Womblebye

We have a huge bed and Paul has the fishing rods  and a big phone aerial in drainpipes on his side.  I sleep with the modem and all the dials are on my side, but they are mounted on the wall ( battery monitors, light banks, power switches etc).  I usually sit on the bed cause I like lounging about and Paul uses the lounge seat as his bit of mobile office. We store laptops and lots of devices, as only folks like us would own, in backpacks which sit nicely on one of the seat/boxes. Everything straps down for travel.  We even have a library of books and we keep some folders for receipts and work stuff under a seat. We have two small clothes bags each. One each for everyday clothes and  a packed away bag each ,  for going to town clothes and spares. We have a seat locker for these too. Every seat is a locker, just like in  boat.  We have power - two big batteries store power. We generate power from either running the motor, using a solar panel, using a generator or plugging into usual 240 volt power. We run power out of the batteries with two inverters. Nimmo and Paul seemed to make a good system and we can power up all our toys and keep the freezer going. We have LED lights everywhere. We even have an airconditioner and a fan which we can run with the generator.  So its all very luxurious in many ways. I don't think there is anything I would want to change or improve, except maybe the fridge rattling at night behind my ear.

Outstation experiences

The Doomadgee area has a number of outstations, though not many of them are used for any length of time. The areas are so inaccessible and so very wet most of the time, that folks can't really live there and they are incredibly remote in harsh country. It was amazing to see this area. It is nothing like we have ever seen before - huge salt pans, kilometres of scrub, huge lagoons, terrific rivers and mile of beaches with very large low tide areas. The spread of water through this channel country is what makes it unique and famous of course, but this also makes it inhospitable.             Picture: Old Doomadgee Outstation

We spent a bit of time with one elder who Paul wrote about in his blog who was wonderful. He was 82 and as spritely as a 60 year old. He told us about how he had been taken away and put in a dorm as a child away from family. He then added that years later, all his children had been taken away too. We met many of them, one who became a mayor.  I really really cringed to see the veil of pain go over his face. You hear that expression a lot, but I saw it and was very shamed. What is wrong with us white people? I just wanted to hug the man. His son told us how he taught himself to read and then made sure he found out about the lost stories and culture he should have been told, if he had stayed with his family. He is now a very respected elder of the community and it was amazing he wanted to spend so much time with us.

Picture: More salt flats.    Our journey with water is continuing. I did not realise until I put some images on our web site that we seem to be travelling from water hole and river to water hole and river. Pity we have not caught any fish. Apparently the water is too cold. I have become better at casting and not lost a lure yet, unlike someone I know and love.  The theme here in the channel country is definitely water and how it flows everywhere each wet. We visited one outstation that gets up to a metre of water through it each year; but folks just pack up stuff and leave and then come back when the water goes away and start again. Given they live on the edge of very abundant and beautiful lagoons, I am not surprised.  A couple of outstations have been abandoned because the water just gets too high now.  Some well meaning person built new houses on flood plains in an outstation project a decade ago......

We spent much of the week meeting with elders and the mayor of Doomadgee who seemed to be everywhere we went. Great guy and really fun to talk to. We eventually got away and headed north. There are a few families of Doomadgee who are really working hard to develop their blocks into cattle stations. It was so encouraging to see the results of their enthusiasm and talent beginning to pay off. Some are well down the track and some are fledgling, using tents and open camps as a base while fences are built and building and yards constructed. There are no dollars for this and people are building up their properties the hard way with hard work, a little at a time.

One amazing thing about outstations is the number of abandoned old cars in them. I guess it is a sign of the territory. If you leave a car there and it gets flooded by salty water, it won't go again. Also cars break down and it costs too much to rescue them, even if there was a mechanic or spare parts for hundreds of kilometers. Paul is starting a photography collection of abandoned cars. The bull catchers are the funniest - mostly modified toyota utes. They are very classic.                 Photo: Ned Bullcatcher

Salt pans

The gulf is quite dynamic and changes from salt pans to amazing river systems to very scrubby dry country; all within 100K. We were just astounded at the miles and miles of salt pans. We had to drive across several on our journey. We stuck to known tracks. I certainly did not think we would get out of a salt pan bogging. We were told by one fella about watching a car sink  down, so we were pretty careful. The salt pans were very hard this time of year though. There was one we did not cross. Even a  local pulled up and bounced on it first to see how hard it was. We decided our big beast would certainly break through the salt/mud crust. There are usually salt lagoons around the salt flats and so the variety of bird life and the sizes of flocks is pretty astounding. They can look like very desolate places though, cause so little dries up. Must be astounding in the wet. The pano below is from the salt flats of Point Parker.





There are literally dozens and dozens of wild brumby packs racing across these flats. So majestic and cool to see them galloping across the plains and salt flats. There are a few buffalo and some pretty wild cattle too.



Photos: 1. Paul checking for barra at Gummumulla; 2. Nicolson River near Doomadgee  3. Paul discussing if we would sink in the muddy salt.

The gulf has several large and many many small rivers making channels across the landscape. Most outstations are near one large river or another, or else border on lagoons. One place Gummumulla is just astounding. It is typical of the coastal gulf though and a real treat to spend a couple of days there. We were not too game to go to the beach at night with it being rather croc infested, but one local Indigenous family who camped near by said they saw turtles nesting on the beach one night.

Need to go back for a serious fishing weekend but.

Jabaroo story

 Baby Jabaroos On the trip back we were treated to finding two baby Jabaroos on the road. The adults are a definite Black and White and so majestic in flight. The babies though have brown-grey  down and can hardly fly, so we had a wonderful close look cause they could not get away. There were many Jabaroos and brolgas in the fresh water lagoons and dams made by road crews. It is such a treat to be able to get so close to large groups of them.  We see many birds all day. Bit NT like in that respect. My favorite are the budgies. I have only seen a few wild budgies near Mt Isa last year but this year we have seen dozens of quite large flocks. They are green and very noisy. Its amazing how fast they fly. Makes you realise they should not be caged.

We see the usual wildlife - kangaroos and emus up here and the odd wild pig. Saw the biggest pig ever the other afternoon while walking. Scary. The two snakes were also no fun. We saw one and Paul stopped to investigate as the snake had gone under a drain in the road. While peeking at it, another came out, so that was enough for me.

This picture is actually a good look at the road quality. They have mostly been very good - flat and not too rough.  Only a few corregates. The salt flats are of course smooth as. We could do 70 K on them. Most of the time 60 K is top speed. We have only had a couple tricky river crossings, so it has been quite uneventful driving - touch wood...



 More Pets

 Edward Emu is a pet emu we visited in Doomadgee. He was obviously used to be hand fed and was quite a cutie. He was rescued as a chick when his mother was killed on the road and he seemed to cope very well to being hand fed. The kids obliqued and fed him for my photo. He is about half grown here. Amazing really to see him. We have heard of lots of strange things out here but this is the first pet emu. Lots of people get pigs when they are little and raise them - for food obviously.  There is a pet croc we saw on Boigu Island.

 After we got back to Doomagee to get the mayor's signature on the paperwork, we sadly left the town. It took all day to say goodbye to the people we had met. Usual story.   We could not find the mirror holder which fell off yesterday so we headed out to Burketown. The big smoke. Well it has a pub and caravan park and a washing machine.

One of the things we do while travelling is take lots of photos. With the landscape as big as it is, I have got into making panoramas. I just can't stop at the moment. There are some wonderful landscapes and a 180 or 360 degree pano is about the only thing that captures what we see.


Gummumulla Landscape


The camping area at Leichhardt Falls

Leichhardt Falls


Gilbert River at Sunrise - yes I did get up early enough to take these.


The weekend that was

So we eventually headed out of Burketown and made our way towards Normanton. It's a pretty nice drive with some remarkable campspots along the way. Our favourite was the Leighhardt Falls area where there is a spectacular water fall. One of the panos above is of the river with the falls in the distance. The landscape and road is very dusty. We stopped at a truck round ( a small extra bit of the road where the road trains turn around) and had a sandwich seeing we had fresh bread. A vehicle going past was pretty awful. Normanton is always fun to visit. Had a delightful few K walk (I am keeping in training Sel for your walk) across the river to the wetlands. There are quite a few tourist attractions in town but we had done the sights a couple of years ago and so settled into a pub for a couple of pots of on-tap beer. We went up to Myra Vale with the Pascoe family which was fun. Elaine discovered some pigs - so many of them all running wild - babies and little ones.  Never seen so many little pigs in one place. No wonder there is a wild pig problem in the cape and the cull each year is dramatic. Food for years...  She had lots of stories to tell us and found we knew her family from the Lockhart area. Its starting to be a web of families for us. We will definately go back to Myra Vale and take up the family's offer to camp on their river. 

Photo: Walkers Creek Cherrabin spot     We spent one night at Walkers Creek and I caught Paul some Cherabin for breakfast. I had a vegemite sandwich, being allergic to crustacians. Then we went onto the Gilbert River where we had a fish and a roast. No fish but. Had no luck this trip. The sunrise was glorious. I even got up for it, which is quite a sacrifice for me. being that sunrises are so early these days.  The photos above  try to capture the morning light and still water. I had to take a photo for Lindy, so she gets home sick enough to come back. Miss her.

We then headed off to our favourite camp in the world at a secret location on the way to Chillagoe. The river is much higher this year and I did not even get any love bait, the water was rushing too fast. I don't know what it is about our favourite crossing but I seem to have the urge to clean there - so cleaned the truck and washed and had a bath on the croc infested crossing. No crocs in the day! At least  this year Paul did not make me wade into the water to rescue the billy can while crocs fed on the causeway (which i did not know about at the time). It was a real treat to have the pretty faced wallabies come down to the crossing to drink right beside our camp.

The road to Chillagoe is perhaps the most boring in Australia. So much dry country. The road was thankfully in great nick or it can take you hours to the 380K. Once in Chillagoe, we found the Post Office Hotel. Last time we went there on a Monday, the sign said "No lunches on a Monday", so today being Tuesday, we arrived and found a sign "No lunches on Tuesday'. So we went round to the Chillagoe Hotel again and had a $7 TBone Lunch and a couple of beers. I had hardly got a sip of me beer, when Ken the kitchen builder rang to discuss powerpoint locations and granite. He was quite amused at what we were doing while talking to him.

I guess we had a pretty long weekend - there ought to be more of them.

Picture: Michelle trying to fish.  

So we have one more visit to do into the gold mining country and then head to the coast to meet Judy and Raggs....