Last night we slept well even though the occasional truck rumbled by. Early this morning I spoke with the driver of a very classy rig who had on board a huge dump truck destined for Port Hedland in northwest WA. It was a $30 000 load, meaning that’s how much it cost to transport the dump truck from Newcastle NSW to WA. The driver said it was his first trip to WA so we discussed in detail the route he was taking. After the Port Hedland drop off he had a backload down to Perth and across the Nullabor back to NSW.
The striking feature today was driving the Ranken Road running northwest from just west of Camooweal to Brunette Downs on the Barkly Homestead / Cape Crawford Road. It’s a shortcut, taking around 120km off the journey. The Ranken Road cuts across the Barkly Tablelands and through some of the most productive black soil Mitchell grass grazing lands in Australia. For most parts the road is simply two wheel tracks, grass even growing up the centre of the road. On past occasions we have seen property owners bailing the Mitchell Grass, which is most uncommon.
The name Mitchell was given to items of value or quaintness; Mitchell Grass is excellent fodder, a Major Mitchell parrot is a beautiful cockatoo. Major Mitchell was one of Australia’s early surveyor generals and he was revered by all those in the colony, hence the connection. He was a good bloke!
Cape Crawford, is where Heartbreak Hotel is located. There are no other buildings other than the hotel and outbuildings associated with the camping area. The grassy campsites are set among hundred year old African mahogany trees, a real positive for those seeking shelter from the tropical sun. Every couple of days when on the road we need to stop and have a breather to do the washing and attend to other domestics. Our camp under the mahogany trees might be a good spot to do just that.
The name Heartbreak came from a builder’s utterance, ‘It would break your heart’ when referring to the fact that building materials never arrived on time.
One feature of the Heartbreak Hotel camping area other than shady grassy campsites is the fact that cane toads abound. They hop around the amenities blocks mostly seeking damp spots like shower cubicles where they catch insects attracted to the lights. Tonight in the shower recess I met six and Bev said there were equal numbers in the ladies. Cane toads have few positive aspects but one is they can’t climb so there is no fear of them climbing up your legs as you shower; fortunately they are earthbound.
This cane toad was caught by Frog Watch, an organisation in Northern Australia whose aims are to raise people’s awareness to the dangers posed by the cane toad on our native wildlife and to advise strategies how to rid the environment of this menace. A story appeared in the Daily Telegraph newspaper relating to this gigantic toad find.
‘A cane toad the size of a small dog has been caught by a pest eradication group in the Northern Territory. Frog Watch, a group culling the introduced menace across the Northern Territory, has found a toad measuring 20cm long’. A spokesperson for the group said, ‘I reckon I’ve probably seen 50,000-60,000 cane toads in the last 12 months and there is nothing even remotely close to this thing 20cm in length and weighing 860gm.’ The Bufo photograph is courtesy of the Daily Telegraph.
Cane toads, native to Central and South America, were introduced and released onto sugar cane farms near Cairns in 1935 in an attempt to control the native cane beetle which caused untold damage to sugar cane crops. Their introduction has been an environmental disaster. Everything that eats them, including big tough crocodiles, die from the poison they excrete. An interesting point to note is there is no evidence that they have had an impact on the cane beetles they were introduced to predate. It is estimated that cane toads migrate at an average of 40 kilometres per year and they are now found in northern NSW to the Kimberly region of WA.
During the years we were running Backtrack Tours we stayed at Heartbreak Hotel for the sole purpose of having Sandra, the founder of Cape Crawford Tourism, take people into Lost City just a few minutes helicopter flying time from her pad opposite the hotel. Some of our clients had a fear of flying but just the same they were not going to miss out. One lady closed her eyes from when the helicopter took off to when it landed in the Lost City precinct. Whilst she was in the air she counted wheelbarrows as some people count sheep in an attempt to overcome insomnia. Another lady had a fear of heights so she sat in the rear seat with her eyes closed; however both ladies mentioned opened their eyes on the way back out and the one afraid of heights sat in the front leaning out the doorway so as to get best photographs.
There are a number of geological features in Australia called Lost City but of all the ones I have seen Sandra’s Lost City is the most dramatic.
Following is the blurb from the Cape Crawford Tourism web page and for images we hope to find one for the blog. We have many of our own but they at home in NSW and we can’t access them easily. In the meantime, google Cape Crawford Tourism for lots of images. It is certainly a spectacular landscape.
Indulge yourself in these natural wonders. Being only accessible by helicopter, this tour is a spectacular and exciting experience. Flying the 11 kilometres from the base, you will be overwhelmed by these ancient columns of sandstone rising up to meet you, as you land amongst them.Your flight takes you over the Abner Escarpment onto a plateau of the Abner Ranges situated on McArthur River Station. From the air you will see exactly how these natural sky scrapers were formed. The area was once an inland sea, the water seeped into the rock and eroded it, breaking it into columns up to 25m tall. At 1.4 billion years in the making, these rocks are some of the oldest in the world. They consist of 95% silica and are held together by an outer crust made mainly of iron, giving them their red colour.
If the reader intends going up Cape Crawford way get onto Cape Crawford web page and see what you’re in for then contact Sandra and she will organise the tour. Sandra at the moment operates out of Borroloola but soon she will have her own office across the road from the helicopter pad at Cape Crawford..
We have decided we may stay in the Heartbreak caravan park for two nights, do the washing and catch up on other domestic chores tomorrow.
A real traveller has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving.