Our travels through north west Queensland and the NT have officially transitioned us into fully fledged nomads (and a little bit feral)...how do we know? We are now greeted by other travellers with the casual raise of their index finger from the wheel as they head in the opposite direction (alternative methods include 2 fingers, the wave or slight raise of the head).
Our days are taken up by driving stretches of 4-6 hours each day, spending the afternoon exploring and setting up camp only to pack up the next morning and do it all over again. We have stayed and passed through many towns including Longreach, Barcaldine, Winton, Camooweal, Cloncurry to name a few.
Before we commenced the journey we thought there would be multitude of picturesque little spots by a river or billabong we could simply pull over, set up camp and have the space all to ourselves for the night and enjoy the serenity...unfortunately this not the case - much of the county is private farm land and the only places you can set up camp include show grounds (in some towns), caravan parks or free camps which are often rest stops or gravel pit beside the main highway. However, sometimes you strike gold with a picturesque spot by a billabong. The issue with most of these options involves camping literally right on top of one another, more often than not it is next to a grey nomad in a caravan, a concept that seems ridiculous given the vast open spaces out here. At times you strike gold in the people you meet, most of the time they are in the free camp areas. One such character was a bloke who introduced himself as “Bushy”.
Bushy is an old feral dog and pig shooter we met in one spot near an old dried up creek, 20 mins drive outside of one of the smaller towns. It’s not unusual to find people who stay permanently in their caravans in these areas, individuals often escaping something or someone. Bushy was the sort old bloke you wouldn’t mess with, with cheap tattoos, an old worn out akubra, a beard one would kill for with a rollie constantly parked in the corner of his mouth that constantly required lighting.
"I’m pretty sure bushy had no idea who the current prime minister was and probably thought that “Game of thrones” was a kids board game. "
Once we got chatting to him however, he had a heart of gold and was a walking encyclopaedia when it came to understanding this land and its local flora and fauna, something the girls loved listening to. Having said that I’m pretty sure bushy had no idea who the current prime minister was and probably thought that “Game of thrones” was a kids board game.
During summer he said he doesn’t see anyone for up to 4 months at the campsite as the temperature can get up to 50 degrees, the creek bed dries up and even the animals find it too hot to walk on the ground, regularly seeking refuge under his old 4WD. He also taught us how to quickly get rid of rowdy neighbours. He showed us a local plant that has small traces of arsenic in the leaves so when he’s had enough of the “**** heads” as he referred to them, he wanders over to the fire to have a chat and throws some of the leaves on their campfire concealed in something like an old jatz cracker box. Within 20 minutes he assured us they will all be in their swags complaining of a headache! We have kept a secret stash for when times are desperate...
Then occasionally you get not so lucky and most of the time this has been in the caravan parks (which we try to avoid) where you will get stuck listening, rather than talking to a grey nomad determined to tell you everything he knows about his caravans, trailer breaks, how to hitch a caravan or trailer, tow weights, road train etiquette, solar panels and much much more. This has become so much of an issue that Sar and I have now have a code word to assist removing me from one of these men whom have lost the gift of understanding when one is trying to wrap up a conversation.
The scenery from centralQueensland up through to the NT changes every day. The only guarantee seems to be the further north west we travel the redder the earth becomes. The colours of the country are spectacular. Within minutes the land changes from fields of soft yellow pastoral grasslands to rich red rocky outcrops that would not look out of place on planet Mars. other constants include the roadkill and termite mounds. The road kill ranges from kangaroos, cows, feral dogs and the occasional camel make easy picking for the array of kites, hawks and wedge tail eagles. The termite mounds are also scattered across the countryside however every few kilometres they are dressed as people! Yep, that’s correct, the locals seem to like dressing the termite mounds in all sorts of costumes ranging from “high viz” gear to bras and tutus (there’s obviously not a lot to do for the locals).
The girls have been provided a well rounded education whilst on the road, ranging from podcasts, times tables, writing their blogs and listening to rather fruity language coming across the 2 way radio, which we constantly keep on as it assists us in dealing with the road trains. The girls were very interested in how one gentleman could place another gentleman’s head up his own backside?
Our next destination includes the much anticipated Kakadu and Lichfield National parks. We are all looking forward to leaving the bitchumen behind us and swapping it for some hiking boots and togs to swim in the famous water holes of the top end.