Old donkeys like me want to take a sunrise photo but don’t want to get out of bed some mornings so I take my camera to bed with me. I find it difficult to believe there are people who have never experienced an early morning view like this. This is what travelling and free camping is all about.
The Exploding Rock Camp this morning was so spectacularly beautiful that I wanted to freeze the scene. After the sun rose I wanted to rewind and play it over and over again. It was the Hilton of the Outback.
Today we had a couple of stops on the way to Mt Isa, one at Dajarra (pop170) and the second just north of the village. At Dajarra we used to visit the store which had the most extensive range of goods to be found in the outback, talk with the owner of a private museum who delighted in painting his collection of memorabilia in bright colours, sit on the restored railway station and muse about the fact that Dajarra was the largest rail cattle-trucking station in the world (even bigger than Albuquerque in the US) and fill our water drums with rainwater from tanks behind the public hall. Sadly, the store has closed, the railway station has been demolished, the old boy at the museum has gone and his collection of street-side memorabilia vandalised. These are the changes going on in the bush. Stores can no longer compete, bored youth look for things to destroy and the characters have died or gone into retirement. Evolution or progress? Whatever it is I don’t like it much. The only thing that hasn’t changed is the hot shower at the park and of course the hotel is still operational.
If you rub your hand over a ghost gum trunk (something I can never resist) you will have on your hand a white powder, which Aboriginal people used as a natural sunblocker; they also used it for body decoration.
Spinifex pigeons are one mighty tough bird because when the going gets tough (drought) they stay put, unlike a lot of other birds which move on to better pastures. Spinifex pigeon country can be incredibly hot in summer, ground temperatures reach sixty degrees Celsius and for the Spinifex pigeon, which spends most of its life on the ground, it would no doubt suffer hot little feet at times. Nature has provided the bird with some trick survival cards and that includes the ability to breed in any month of the year and a low metabolic rate, which means they require less food and water. Unfortunately, their nests are a scrape in the ground and being low down they are vulnerable to predators such as snakes, goannas and, worst of all, the dreaded fox.
Now that I am into creating my first blog I realise that there are copyright considerations when it comes to acquiring and posting images from the web. I have read some of the forums relating to copyright and nicking images and I have come to the conclusion that if I want an image I will track down the copyright holder and seek their permission to use same. The photograph of the Spinifex pigeon is with permission from Matt & Cathy Gilfedder, Wildlife Photo Gallery.
The landscape between Dajarra and Mt Isa is in stark contrast to what we have seen since leaving home; the mountain ranges look as ancient as they are believed to be. The experts suggest the ranges were formed 545 million years ago. There are shales, siltstones, mudstones, conglomerates and metamorphosed rocks here so it is easy to understand why the area is so mineral rich. When driving through such a complex geological region I try to imagine how it all began. Looking at the rock profiles in road cuttings helps as they are a window into the past, it is however frustrating not being able to interpret what I’m looking at. If I had career choices again I think I would study geology.
After replenishing the larder in Mt Isa we pushed on north. Originally we were going to Lawn Hill National Park and the Riversleigh Fossil site but roads to the north of Lawn Hill NP are still impassable due to flooded rivers so it looks like tomorrow we will have to go to Borrooloola via Cape Crawford and backtrack across to the Stuart Highway and follow it to Darwin. It was well into the afternoon by the time we left so we were soon looking for a camp. We have one as a waypoint in our GPS but the grass was too long and dry to contemplate camping there. The first campsite we selected near the Lawn Hill NP turnoff was not the best due again to dry grass; fortunately Bev walked further up the road and found a better spot. We are now camped just a little way up the Gregory Downs road off the Barkly Highway. It is in fact the road we would have taken if we had been able to get past Lawn Hill NP.
The reason for calling this camp the Road Train Camp is because of the sound of passing road trains. The road we were on today is one of the main east west trucking routes and trucks, on main routes are huge so you give them plenty of leeway when encountering them. When we meet one coming in the opposite direction on a single lane road we take to the bush well beforehand and give them the whole road as they do not move over. I never overtake a road train on a dusty road as there could be a second vehicle coming from the opposite direction hidden in the dust. One thing I notice that has changed in the bush relating to trucks and dust is that at the entrance to towns there used to be signs that read ‘TRUCKS STOP HERE AND DROP BULLDUST’. The BULL has been removed over recent years in an attempt, I suppose, to sophisticate our road signs, a backward step in my mind. I liked the colloquialisms of the outback. Bulldust is dust that gathers at the outer edge of truck tyre rims, forced there by centrifugal force. If a truck doesn’t drop its bulldust before entering the town the dust drops when it slows in the town proper and the townsfolk prefer their streets not paved in dust, hence the signs.
All great travellers see more than they remember and remember more than they have seen.