October 8 - October 14, 2001
(Week 3 Continued)
When last seen, we were talking about Truck Trains! Here's what can happen if you don't yield!
Some of them take up nearly all of the "sealed" road, and you need to let them keep all their wheels on a solid surface. As long as that shoulder is dry and firm -- you're fine!
Anyway - thanks for the catch, Bo!
This week has taken me through some fascinating area, as I move from the Northern Territory into Northern Queensland (and gain another 1/2 hour!). I head for Kathryn, home of "The Kathryn School of the Air", the largest classroom in the world! This is the terrific organization that broadcasts class work to students in an Outback area of over 800,000 square kilometers. Not many of us can imagine living 200 km (125 miles) from doctors, or the nearest supermarket, or having your children sit down in front of a high frequency radio transceiver to attend school, but that's exactly how tens of thousands live in rural Australia! It's a rugged, but good life! But don't even think about feeling sorry for these good folks --- hell, they feel sorry for us, and why not? The only tie I've seen since I left Tony (Brett's brother) in Perth on 9/26 has been on TV --- and these folks know who they are -- they're Sheilas and Blokes!
Oh yeah - I almost forgot to introduce you to a friend of mine that I met when I stopped for fuel.
This old boy was only 17 feet long. Can you imagine one 24-26 feet long? Not a bad reason to try to avoid them in the bush!
This is probably as good a time as any to introduce you to one of my favorite discoveries, an almost daily companion, and a staple in my diet. (I know there are many out there concerned about whether or not I've been able to maintain my weight.) Almost every Aussie Roadhouse has a gourmet cook who is able to prepare my favorite Bacon, Egg and Cheese on a bun, topped off, of course, with the chef's own version of tomato sauce! (Eat your heart out, Jim!)
From Kathryn, to Tennant Creek, then crossing into Queensland, a stop in Mt. Isa, and then on to that long haul going across Gulf Savannah, and across The Great Dividing Range to Charters Towers, and eventually to Townsville on the coast of the Coral Sea, and of course home of The Great Barrier Reef. Wow! That's 5 days of hauling! It also takes you through incredibly diverse country. Mt. Isa and Tennant Creek are old mining areas, and the countryside reflects it, but in the rocky, somewhat barren areas, Aborigines still find it appropriate to burn off the scrub and grass growth, but it's essentially rocky scrubble. (Now, don't even bother trying to determine if that's in the dictionary. It's not. It's my word, it's descriptive of the terrain, it's my website -- so I'm using it!)
-- and then as you move through the red rock roads, the burned out shoulders and pavement
-- give way to flatlands and red roads!
This is the preview as we move into central Queensland, and begin to cross The Barkly Tableland and eventually The Gulf Savannah. Rocky scrubble begins to turn to grazing land, and Brahman breeds begin to be joined by Drought Masters-
She's a Shorthorn/Brahman cross, similar to the breed we have in the states called the Santa Gertrudis, except that the Drought Master is 5/8 Brahman, handles the high heat areas of these deserts well, and yields good beef (I can attest to that!), while the Santa Gertrudis is just the opposite - 5/8 Shorthorn. The savannah grass grazing lands begin to appear, at about the same time as the Drought Masters -
The Gulf savannah is an enormous expanse that goes from the Barkly Highway, which I'm crossing. all the way north to the coast, and Gulf of Carpentaria. It covers about 300,000 square kilometers (or roughly 130,000 square miles), and is the largest area of Queensland, which itself is huge, second only in size to Western Australia. It is largely flat, and as I indicated, covered with savannah grass, abundant with animals and birds, and regarded as the remotest land in Australia --- and after my travels, that's saying something! It's economics revolve around fishing and cattle. Fishing on the northern coast is primarily sea shrimping, where fishermen go out to sea for months at a time. It is not unusual for cattle ranchers in Gulf Savannah to have stations that exceed 1000 square kilometers, or 400 square miles! Because of the size of these stations, these Savannah cowboys are more apt to use fixed wing aircraft and/or helicopters than horses to cover their "spreads". Their stockmen may get to "town" only once every month or two, which is why these places are pretty popular!
We cross The Great Dividing Range
--- and arrive in Charters Towers, which was at one time a thriving Mining Town of 30,000, and supported about 25 pubs. Today it's populated by about 9,000 good folks, and a few less active watering holes!
Not needing to check out the remaining pubs, I move on to Townsville, and am somewhat taken aback by the amount of burning that is going on there (although we are still in "the dry", and still above the Tropic of Capricorn here.
Then we get sunset on the gum trees --
-- not a bad way to close your day after a 900+ km drive!
Sunday AM seems like a good time to get out and walk a bit in search of breakfast. I am only a few blocks from the Strand, the Beach area that introduces me to the Coral Sea. On the way, I stroll thru a neighborhood that offers kind of a colorful introduction ---
Please, no questions on identification.
The Strand, the beach, and Magnetic Island in the background. Townsville is really an attractive town, but you haven't really been to Townsville until you make the climb up Goat Track and get the view of the area from the top of Castle Hill. In case I need to prove just how popular it is with locals, check out the folks casting someone's ashes to the winds. (You have to be pretty sharp to spot 'em - try moving up 1/3 of the photo from the bottom of the photo, and them move in 1/4 of the width, from L to R. Got 'em?) Are you starting to get a little tired of this website? Sorry -- there's more!
So, Tony finds a favorite tall palm to hang out with, and I ponder my plans for Week 4 -------
Stay tuned -- we head for Cairns in the AM and kick off Week 4 there!