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 The GRAYnomad Chronicles :: #048

Editorial

Well we're finally home after more than three months living in the Cruiser and visiting some of Australia's most remote and interesting places.

So what did we learn. Well, for one thing we learnt that you don't need a $50,000+ vehicle to explore Australia, so if that's your excuse think again. Our old Landcruiser cost $5000, plus we probably spent as much again to fix some things and fit it out. If we can do it on our limited budget, then so can you, but don't waste the $40,000 you save, you'll need it for fuel, because it ain't cheap in the outback. We spent over $7,000 for petrol and gas on the trip (a diesel vehicle would have been cheaper, but would still have been expensive).

Secondly, we were quite happy living in the Cruiser, especially when the weather was kind. I don't think full-timing in a 4x4 is really on, but you don't need a huge vehicle either. You should be able to live comfortably in about 7 metres (23 feet) as long as the space is used efficiently. Actually, at 5.5 metes in length, a Landcruiser isn't much shorter than that, it's just that most of that length is bonnet.

Thirdly, being in a small vehicle was like being set free. We could drive where we liked, park where we liked, and camp on just about any half-flat square metre of dirt.

So what's this leading to? I'm not sure yet, but something is afoot. Stay tuned.

 

Fri 28 Jul 2006


The famous Birdsville pub at around dawn.


Looking behind me I see the local telephone boxes.

We spend some time wandering around the town. There appears to have been a lot of investment in Birdsville lately, many of the buildings are new and the town is very clean.


The clinic, nice and new with clean landscaped gardens.

Leaving town we turn left and head towards the town of Betoota.


Some signs on the way out of Birdsville.

After a while we notice the car swerving more than usual and stop to check things out. It's a blown tyre, so we change the wheel and continue.


Changing a wheel on the way to Betoota. Note the steel banding that is exposed, we've been driving like that since we tore strips off the tyres in the Kimberley, 7000k ago.

After a while we reach Betoota, it used to be a one-man town, however the only occupant died a couple of years ago. He was a German immigrant and he now lies in rest at the back of the town's only building, the pub he owned.


The one-man "town" of Betoota, that's it, the pub is the whole town.


Toilet block and water tanks at the pub.

This road is one of the main access routes to Birdsville and as such appears to be having some improvements made. There are new rest areas in place, it's desolate out here and the rest areas don't help much, but it's something I suppose.


Somewhat barren rest area.


A wedge-tailed eagle enjoying some road pizza.

We camp at a spot called the JC ruins, just off the road and not far from Windorah.

Sat 29 Jul

On entering Windorah we fuel up and check out the tourist information area with a view to finding out if the road into Welford National Park is open. They don't know so they ring the resident ranger. It's closed, so much for that idea.


The two service stations in Windorah.


Note the signs, never assume you can get fuel in these towns. Diesel is always available, petrol usually, and LPG hardly ever. And even if your particular poison is normally available the pumps are often broken.

On exiting the building I see an old fellow sitting on the porch of a tiny house.


Watching the "bloody tourists" go by.

I take a couple of photos with a long lens then decide to walk over for a chat.

"This your place then?"

"Why the bloody hell d'ya think I'm sittin' 'ere?"

Hmmm, not off to a good start. I spot an old washing machine and move the conversation to that.

"We use a mangle just like that" I say referring to the rollers that were commonly used before spin drying became popular.

"Bloody thing doesn't work"

"So you just relax here watching the world go by then?"

"Nothin' but bloody tourists"

I'm not doing too well here but persevere and eventually get him to loosen up by getting the conversation on to his career as a ringer for the nearby stations. These days he just looks after a couple of the local gardens, and watches the bloody tourists.

As I leave he wishes me good luck with our travels.

We drive on to Quilpie, fuel up again and ask the lady in the information bureau if there is somewhere nice to camp. She tells us of Lake Houdraman just a few kilometres out of town.

As we approach the car we see that it is listing severely to port. We have another flat tyre. It appears to be a slow leak, and it's only a short trip to the lake, so I re inflate it and we set off.

On reaching the lake I get a jack under the axle before it gets too close to the ground, then settle in for a beer. The tyre can wait until tomorrow.


Twilight over Lake Houdraman.

Sun 30 Jul

Chris wakes me early, it looks like rain and she doesn't want to be stranded here so I get up to fix the tyres. But first I notice the light over the lake.


Dawn over Lake Houdraman.


Putting our new tyres on the rims.

We finally get to use the spares we bought in Broome to replace the two rear tyres we trashed on the Mitchell Plateau. I'm glad we didn't ditch them at the time as we've driven another 7000-odd ks on them.

It doesn't rain but no matter, the job is done. This is a very nice spot but we are now thinking of getting back home so we drive towards Charleville.


Dingoes are considered pests by farmers so I guess someone is trying to make a point here. The pelts have been taken to get the bounty.

On the way we notice a town called Cheepie on the maps. One map says it's a ghost town, the other states the population as being two, so we drop in to see which is correct.

It turns out that there are in fact two people living in Cheepie, a fellow and his wife. I chatted at length with the male half of the population, mostly about trucks.

While there a farmer drops by to pick up his mail (the bloke I'm talking to is also the town postmaster). The farmer has a load of hay on his ute and a cow takes the opportunity to get a feed.


Meals on wheels, Cheepie style.

We continue to Charleville and find a nice spot on the Warrego River by following a farm track.

Some kids ride passed on trail bikes and soon after the farmer saunters by as if he's checking the fences or something. Presumably the kids reported us to their dad and he's decided to check out the gypsies camping near his gate. He obviously decided we're harmless and we spend the rest of the evening in peace.

Mon 31 Jul

While driving I spot a little dog trotting along the road. We're miles from anywhere and a tiny Jack Russell looks well out of place. I stop and it approaches. It's a friendly little thing, obviously not feral so I assume it's wandered away from home. Just then a truck approaches. I flag the driver down in the hope that he will know where the dog belongs. He doesn't, but tells me that there is a school just down the road and as it's 3 o'clock most of the local Mums will be there picking up children.

Surely someone will recognise the dog there.

We bundle it into the car and take off. It's a cute little thing but I hope we can offload it as we are not in a position to look after a dog.

Within a few minute we arrive at the school and sure enough the bus driver thinks she knows the dog. "That's Billy's dog?" she says but with a questioning tone to her voice. However one of kids concurs, so they take the dog on board.

Thank goodness.

We continue for an hour or so then pull down a track and camp in the bush near a field.

Tue 1 Aug

Still heading east. We camp near the Nindigully pub on the Moonee River. As we turn off the road we see a sign saying

Free beer

Wow, this is my kind of pub, hang on, underneath, in small text it says

Yesterday

The beer isn't free, but the camping is. It's a pleasant spot and the pub allows campers to use the toilets and showers. In return I guess they hope you'll buy a meal and a beer or two.

Some of the other campers do just that, but we've spent so much on this trip, most notably for fuel, that we aren't buying anything.


Afternoon light on the algae-covered river.


The Nindigully pub.

There's a freezing wind, and while sitting in the lee of the Cruiser we decide it's just too damn cold and that we will make a run for the coast in the morning.

Wed 2 Aug


Dawn over the river and in the sky. From our campsite.

We camp at Mt French, it's near the coast but quite high and so still cool. It's not the biting cold of the inland though.


The view from one of the lookouts. With green rolling hills it's quite different to what we've been used to lately.

Thu 3 Aug


Shed for rent.

Finally we arrive at the coast and drop into Mark & Gail's place on the Gold Coast. We'll stay with them and some other friends in the Brisbane area, then head home sometime next week.


A houseboat and local wildlife on Russell Island.

Fri 11 Aug

As we drive along the dirt lane that leads to our block we both think that it's good to be home.

The truck appears to have survived our absence and there's no obvious damage. I remove the tarps, raise the roof, and drop the deck. Then it's beer o'clock, so we sit on the deck and admire the view.

Yep, it's good to be home.

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