Monday, May 12, 2008

DAY 199: Cloncurry to Clem Walton Park

Sat 10th May 2008
57 km @ 16.8 km/hr
Sunny, 25 deg C
Elevation of destination 309 m
Distance to date 11885 km (7428 miles)

As I didn’t intend to go all the way to Mount Isa today I didn’t rush to get up, but once the sun came over the trees it was full on sun for the tent, so I stirred myself reluctantly. I got away from Cloncurry around 0930 after iced coffee and apple slice at the excellent bakery - everything I’ve had from here - bread; cakes etc., has all been delicious and very fresh.
There’s a bit more traffic on this road compared to the Normanton to Cloncurry road, but still not that much - maybe a couple of vehicles a minute on average today - but a significant number are road trains, many with 3 trailers. They usually gave me a wide berth though, and there is a good shoulder on this road anyhow. My mirror fell apart this morning so I’ll have to get used to looking behind me again, until I can replace it. The transmission feels much better for me shortening the chain yesterday though. It’s a nice sunny day but not too hot - just what I was hoping for in the north Australian winter - a nice temperature to ride in.
The scenery is much more interesting now - lots of red rocky mountains, well, hills at least - probably no more than 350m high - and the road undulates and bends continually. Lots of roadkill is apparent, some very smelly stuff....
After 40km or so is a monument to explorers Burke and Wills, who crossed through here on their journey from south to north Australia, and within another km is another, larger monument to the indigenous people of this area. There are some lovely words inscribed as follows:
“You who pass by are entering the Kalkadoon Tribal Lands. Displaced by the Europeans. Honour their name. Be brother and sister to their descendants.”

Up the track that’s now a road
Spear in hand, brown Adam strode
His was everything
Bare the back that knew no load
Naked, but a King!

Bounds the Kangaroo they stalked
Cattle graze where the wild men walked, and their camps have been
Silent bush where they laughed and talked
And their slate’s wiped clean.

Spear can never conquour gun
Man no more the horse outrun
By the gunblast tossed
Still in death lies every one
And the battle’s lost

River and Rockface and Tree
Taken and cut off from me
In heartache and fear
Scattered the wild and the free
And broken the spear

Earth and the Sun and the Sky
Knowing not wherefore or why
They each saw me roam
Happy to live and to die
My Bushland my Home

Age upon Age, slow time crept
Swift to the space age I leapt
At the hour’s decree
Back to the past turned and wept
For that timeless me...

I found it quite moving, especially with the close proximity of the path of Burke and Wills who helped open up this country. The face of an Aboriginal man in the plaque has several bullet holes in it - mind you, you can’t read too much into that since practically every other road sign has been shot at too - it seems to be a national sport as popular as throuwing glass bottles out of the car window. For Aboriginal read Red Indian, Pigmy, Highlander etc. etc.
A few km further west I came to a sign for Clem Walton Park, and pulled over to look at a large notice, that advised of Blue-Green Algae at the lake in the park. As I was reading it a car pulled up and a guy told me that there was a very nice camping area in the park, and lots of birds - nice of him. This was a bushland park of course - by the sound of it a ‘Non’ National Park - possibly privately owned and bequested. I had to go and investigate then, and rode the 1.5 km of gravel to the area in question. I was blown away when I went over a little rise to see the blue lake below - really pretty, and lots of birds of all kinds dotted around and on it. There was no-one else here either, and I found a perfect campsite on top of a little knoll overlooking the lake and about 150m away. For accuracies sake, the gravel road actually splits into 3, and the guy had advised me to take the first left then next right - all ways lead to the lake but at different points. I should mention there’s also a gate at the start of the track but it just has a loose chain wrapped over to hold it closed.
It was around 1430 when I arrived here, and quickly had the billy on for afternoon tea and apricot jam butty, and sat just admiring the wonderful view - what a find! I then sat under a shady tree with the binoculars and my Simpson and Day bird book Jim Crumlin style for about 2 hours. I knew most of the birds - there were flocks of Pied Cormorants, Brown and Pacific Black Ducks, Egrets, a White-Faced Heron or two, Kites, a poor lonely Pelican (awww), and having consulted the book I think there was a small flock of Yellow Thornbills, plus lots of others too numerous to mention. The cheeky little Willie Wagtails were everywhere, the most common bird here. I loe the way they leap and flit about - never still!
I also saw a few kangaroos grazing nearby, but most of them scattered when a car came by. Someone has had a fire here before so I went off and gathered some wood to do the same, and lit it just before dark.
I just saw 3 other vehicles before nightfall, so I am on my own now. I just heard a lot of clomping around in the dark, and this must be some cows wandering around. ( Oo-er!) It’s strange how the wind dies away at night -it nearly always does this - and the night is then utterly quiet, as it is now.
OK enough, time for supper - tea and Butternut Snap Cookies.

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