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Friday 22 Aug 2003
Gulf of Carpentaria, Australia

aye Karrumba!

Right.. been away from net access for past few days while Ive been roughing it (seriously) in the outback crossing west from Cairns. Heres a day by day update of what Ive been up to...

19/8/2003

Left Cairns today around lunch-time. I should have left a little earlier since I only made it to Atherton (central town of the Atherton Tablelands about 2 hours from Cairns). I spent the night there in a secluded supermarket carpark. Quite handy since I didnt have to go searching for brekkie in the morning!

20/8/2003

Got up bright and early.. had some brekkie and popped into a net cafe only to notice I was getting spammed by a virus! Arrrgh.. no time for diary update...

Drove west out of the Tablelands, heading towards Croydon and along the way I dropped into the Undara Volcanic National Park. The main attractions at this park are the Undara Lava Tubes - vast underground caves stretching for several hundred kilometres that were formed by the erosive flows of acidic lava thousands of years ago.

I had to take a tour, unfortunately, that cost a ridiculous 33 dollars for 2 hours! Yet I had wanted to visit these ever since I heard about them in Townsville so went ahead. The tour was fairly average.. I didnt learn a vast deal and there was a lot of time-wasting as the guide bantered back and forth with the fellow Queenslanders, but the tubes themselves were really quite magnificent! We saw two tubes in two hours - so I got my moneys worth - time wasting or not. A bit pricey, but some interesting cave formations were to be seen, including a mini-rainforest that formed in the midst of the barren landscape where part of the tube collapsed.

After this tour it was still only about 3 pm, so I continued pressing on westward toward Croydon. This proved to be another 4-5 hour journey and it was well dark as I drove along the lonesome single-road toward Croydon. The stars were out in full brilliance, as were 30 or so kangaroos, wallaroos, wallabies, you name it! A few of them precariously crossed the road as I sped along, causing me to put on the brakes in a cold-sweat more than once. These things are big and even my bull-bars wouldnt prevent some major damage to my precious van!

To my relief I arrived at Croydon in one-piece (and without any points on my "kangaroo-kill score card") and found a nice parking space in a hotel. In a rather handy gesture, the hotel also had showers accessible from outside, so this proved to be VERY handy in the morning!

Croydon was a funny little outback town. The locals all seemed to congregate around "The Club" pub/hotel. It was essentially the only place open in town at that time (8pm) and I got a good gawk at the locals in their "wife-beater" ripped-sleeveless denim jackets, cowboy hats and burly women as I waited for my take-away: a delicious steak sandwhich!

21/8/2003

Off to Normanton this morning... was only about a 2 hour drive west. I arrived and saw there wasnt much going on so I headed on a bit north-west to the very pretty town of Karrumba. This coastal town is the first place I have visited on the Gulf of Carpentaria and across the pristeen crocodile-filled aqua-marine water is Indonesia! This proved to be a delightful and extremely peaceful gem of a place with a seashell bay flanked by lush green mangrove forests further up the coast. The main thing that strikes you about Karrumba, though, are the birds. These things are HUGE! Everything from countless hawks, albatross and huge pelican-alike birds (as tall as me) abound. The hawks in particular are quite intimidating... as I walked along the white-sand/seashell beach a few of them hovered above me having a good look (and smell probably) to see if they were going to try some man-flesh this evening. Erk. The hawks were so bold, in fact, that one in particular actually swooped down on my plate and grabbed a clawful of pasta when I turned my back on it for one second! It did this twice! A local guy said that if my hand was in the way for one second I probably would have lost the skin on my hand!!! Hence I quickly rushed into the safety of my van to continue my meal for fear that I would become victim of this hawk rather like an extra in "The Birds". Scary stuff indeed!

Coincidentally, two Austrian lads that I had seen (but never spoke to) at the Undara Lave Tubes, parked beside me on the beachside view as I laid back jamming away on my guitar watching the sea roll by! They were to be my drinking/camping buddies this avo and we had a good time jamming away on the guitar and didge under the stars!

22/8/2003

Today I drove off from Karrumba and after a looooooong 5 hour drive I have arrived at Cloncurry, just east of Mt Isa and well south of Normanton. The road there took me along some fantastic outback scenery... I saw the road getting dustier as I headed away from the tropical north and the dirt beside the road has become a distinct "ozzie red". I passed by entire FIELDS of awesome ant-hills, some of which stand up to 3 metres high! I also stopped off at the "Burke and Wills Roadhouse" for a bite-to-eat - essentially the ONLY stop-off point on the 5 hour drive from Normanton to Cloncurry. While there I noticed a load of cowboys (*COUGH* I mean STOCKMEN!! Id get killed for callin em cowboys) on horseback around a small arena. Apparently these guys were all taking part in the "Stockmans Camp Draft" - an annual event where stockmen take part at chasing cows around small posts in a certain time limit. I got some great still-shots, despite getting covered in LOADS of dust from the stampeding calf!

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