STAGE 6 - Heading For The Sign
Marion Downs to Kelso Station - Queensland
My re-supply crew flew in from Winton at 9.30 this morning with the stores for Stage 6 and I spent the afternoon packing & getting things organised. I am still carrying enough food for over 30 days but will now carry less water as this is now available at bores & waterholes along the way to Longreach.
On our way again today and as soon as we crossed the Georgina River there was a big difference in the country and we spent the whole day walking on a claypan that, when the river is flooding, goes under water. We are now on Lorna Downs Station.There is very little feed.
Arrived at Lorna Downs homestead this afternoon. The property is 200 000 acres and, due to the dry season, is currently carrying about 1600 head of cattle. The explorers, Burke & Wills, passed through here and stopped at what is now Pelican Waterhole on the Hamilton River, about 13km from the homestead. We will move on from here tomorrow.
Was approaching Springvale Homestead this morning when two Government Fisheries inspectors came along. As we all admitted, in a season like this, there is not a lot of inspecting to do, but they were just 'flying the flag'. After dropping into the homestead we continued along the road and camped in a very good spot at Boundary Bore where the camels had a drink, Mac splashed in the trough, and I had a swim in the tank near the bore.October 9th
Along the road but no traffic today, (a total of one vehicle for yesterday counts as traffic in this part of the world). It continues to be quite warm, about 35 and down to 17 at night. Mac now walks in the morning until about 11 then rides for the rest of the day. There was a group of Brolgas out on the flat and some were 'dancing' and flittering about, but basically they ignored us. We crossed a couple of low sand hills and had lunch at Gum Waterhole at 11.30 then continued to the Diamantina River where we made camp in a main channel. It's too muddy for the humps to roll & play, but the feed is good between the channels. It's a good campsite, and there is something very Australian about sitting on the ground under a Coolibah next to a waterhole and having a cuppa at the end of the day.
Kept waking up last night and checking the sky which was gradually becoming overcast - I seem to have a built-in 'storm alert' meter, as when it clouds over during the night, I always wake up. It's marvellous how the senses work. In the morning, just as I had finished loading the camels, the thunderstorms began, giving us a good soaking and making the clay soil & track very slippery. The humps dropped down into 1st gear and we all steadily plodded on through the mud. I wanted to get out of the channels and reach the higher ground onto the gibber, just in case it really decided to bucket down.We arrived at the Diamantina Lakes homestead but there was no-one home so we kept on going in now dry weather. Diamantina Lakes was a pastoral holding until 1992 and is now a 500 000ha National Park. (On a technical note, I didn't require a permit for camels, as the main road is also a stock-route). The floodplains, channels and waterholes of the Diamantina River are lined with coolibah, red gum, lignum (which the camels eat), bluebush and various grasses. Beyond the river flats are the vast gibber plains of cracking clay soils which support grasses such as Mitchell Grass
A good day, which went quickly, walking along the road and after 28km we reached the Mayne River in the late afternoon. The Mayne Pub Bore was turned off, so we continued to the nearby Mayne Hotel and camped in the dry dam next to the ruins. I hope it doesn't rain tonight or we might float away! The hotel closed in the 1940's and not much remains. Mac and I explored the extensive bottle dump and looked at the small cemetery. I noted that it was almost 100 years ago to the day that one young lady had died. I wonder what it was like to live out here back then. I wonder when it was that the last traveller came through with camels
When I was planning this expedition, I had to prepare for every possible outcome in case there was an accident which involved either myself, Mac or the camels. You never expect the worst to happen but the possibility of an accident had been in the back of my mind for the whole trip so I had to be prepared as possible. But sometimes there is nothing you can do. It started off a normal day walking along the track but in the afternoon tragedy struck and Mac was injured in what I can only describe as a mongrel set of freak circumstances.
There is no point talking details. I carried him for about 400 metres to some trees where he died and later I buried him between three large gum trees on the bank of a small creek.
I camped nearby and sat there on my swag not really doing anything for the rest of the day. We had been a team for nearly 6 months on this trip.
The remainder of this journey will now be very different.
Goodbye little mate.
The camp is quiet tonight.
Began raining this morning so didn't break camp till noon and walked in silence all day stopping at Mount Windsor homestead to fill 6 jerry cans with rain water.
The day was long and silent. This was the first full day of the expedition when I had no one to talk to. Even though there were five of us, the camp had always been split into two - Mac & I on one team, the camels on the other. The whole tone of this trip has changed. We trudged along in 40 degree heat that didn't bother me nor the camels. I stopped at a waterhole at lunchtime where the camels drank only a little.
Continuing along the station track which follows the Mayne River. At one stage today we passed through country that was similar to that in the Gibson Desert near lake MacDonald - stoney rises dotted with spinifex and occasional belts of mulga. About 3.30 we came to a very good waterhole and camped. I went for a swim, the clear water being warm at the surface and cold about half a metre under.
Decided to camp here for the day. This is the first time in 168 days of travelling that I have stopped somewhere simply because I wanted to - all the other 'days off' have been due to rain or because of re-supply points. After doing the chores I spent the day reading, having cups of tea & swimming. This afternoon a group of locals came and camped nearby. Too nearby. It's now dark and the generator has started and the music is blaring. Strange really. I'm sitting here with only the moon for light and I can see everything around me - can even read the label on the Milo tin - but I guess some people like to have the comfort of electric light and music - sort of like home really.
We walked 38km today - the day off has recharged the batteries for the camels and they can feed on the dry grass as they walk along the track. I walk on auto pilot all day. We are in opal mining country now and there are piles of rock dotted about the landscape where there are small diggings
We continued to follow the Mayne River today and called into the homestead at Mayneside Station this morning. The owners run a mixed enterprise of cattle and opal mining on this 100 square mile property. The country along the river remains stoney with dense clumps of spinifex. Near the head of the river we passed a natural spring but unfortunately there was no feed for the humps so I continued on another kilometre to camp. I have to watch out for the heartleaf poison bush that grows in the small gully's, so was kept occupied shepherding the camels. A gut full of that plant would be the end of a camel and I've had enough drama this week to last the entire trip.
Overcast today and there was a couple of drops of rain this morning for about two seconds. We moved from the stoney spinifex country down onto the Mitchell grass flats where there are quite a few roos & emus about, then crossed the Vergement Creek, passing the dog netting fence and was met by the stationhand who was keeping an eye out for me. Put the humps in the cattleyards where they had a drink while we drove up to the house for a cuppa then a yarn. It was only 3pm, but as there were storms about, I decided to camp nearby in Wheelbarrow Creek where there is very good feed.
Away at 8am and followed a new feature that I hadn't seen since Alice Springs - a power line - which was heading due east to the next station. We had a good day walking through what is now much more closely settled country. Another 'new' thing we saw today were sheep, plus many dozens of kangaroos and 4 or 5 emus. AND, the last spinifex plant - no more spinifex. I made a point of walking through it three or four times, just in case my legs had forgotten what it was like.
Began raining last night, then quite steady in the early morning which continued until lunch - probably had about 25mm. Put the tarp up next to the saddle and spent the morning reading the label on the milo tin and listening to the radio. It was quite cool today - only 18 degrees - so it was good to lie in the swag and just relax and drink far too many cups of coffee for the day. Camels are happy - they rolled in the mud and are now filthy, muddy & dirty and look extremely pleased with themselves. Also found time to read an August copy of the Bulletin magazine.
This morning there was a heavy fog which almost was like light rain, so decided to wait till it cleared, which I knew it would and it did, so we loaded up and left at 11.30. The road was a bit sticky but the humps did well. Got onto the main Silsoe-Longreach Rd and walked until 4.30, camping in a good spot. Met some locals today and collected $100 for the RFDS.
October 25th - Day 181
The biggest day of walking so far on this journey - 38.4km in a straight line, so we covered over 40km for the day. Collected another $260 from local people who had come out from Longreach to see me. It is quite weird to walk along a road, stopping & meeting people. The humps don't seem to mind the vehicles, as long as they can see what is coming and nothing creeps up behind them. A spectacular full moon rising tonight with Jupiter & Saturn shining bright near the moon.
Today we arrived in Longreach We only had 22km to walk and after getting some local help negotiating around & across the many channels of the Thomson River, we skirted town and arrived at the Australian Stockman's Hall Of Fame & Outback Heritage Centre in the mid afternoon. The HOF is a museum that, amongst many things, covers the geographical, aboriginal & European history of the country. It also honours the pioneer men & women who settled inland Australia - most of the country I have just walked through - so it is kind of nice to reach here. The Tropic Of Capricorn is about 200 metres north of the main building, and tonight I am camped in the grounds where the camels are chewing into some lucerne hay and I can see & feel the lightening storm to the north-west.
We left the HOF this morning, walking through the large wooden front gates and out onto the Landsborough Highway. Again, the traffic is not worrying the humps but things like flags fluttering in the breeze, which is an unusual thing for us to see on this trip, seem to give them the spooks. Morgan was sure that Frank the giant bunyip was lurking about the place. Or maybe it was one of Frank's personal flags that was flying today. We walked along the stock-route to 'Kelso', a property about 24km from town. This will be our home until November 9th when the humps can have a rest in the paddock and I can begin tackling my long list of 'things to do'. We have two fund-raising functions coming up - one at the HOF on the 5th, the other at the Wellshot Hotel in Ilfracombe on the 6th. Ilfracombe is a small town about ten kms from Kelso. Hopefully we will raise a significant amount of money for the Royal Flying Doctor Service.
'Kelso' Station - Ilfracombe, Queensland - End Of Stage 6 - 3110 km from the Indian Ocean.
Pedometer kms - 3822 or 5 751 082 steps, give or take a couple.