Monday, May 12, 2008

DAY 200: Clem Walton Park to Mount Isa

Sun 11th May 2008
68 km @ 18.0 km/hr
Sunny, 30 deg C
Elevation of destination 340 m
Distance to date 11953 km (7471 miles)
Apart from a few animal noises - probably cattle and kangaroo - a blissfully peaceful night. I didn’t bother putting up the flysheet again since it isn’t likely to rain, so I could look at the stars as I lay in my sleeping bag. The only sound was the occasional noisy vehicle on the main road 1.5km away.
I didn’t have a big ride today - just 60-odd km to Mt Isa - so I didn’t have to get away so early, so I can enjoy some more of this lovely place. After muesli and jam butty breakfast I stationed myself in the shade again with binoculars and Simpson and Day, and watched the avian community and all its little dramas. I noted one or two birds new to me, and many of the ‘regulars’.
Around 10 I tore myself away from this tranquill scene and got packed up, and away about 1030. The traffic was heavier today with a lot more lorries / road trains, especially wide loads. One was so wide - taking most of the road up - there were 6 escort vehicles including 2 police cars, who required everyone to actually get off the road onto the hard shoulder.
The roadscene scenery was very pleasant again; rugged red rocky hills through which thye road twisted and turned. Undulating still, but today with steeper and longer hills - typically 5 to 7%, 1 to 2 km long, varying between 300 and 450m. It felt much harder than I’d expected, and I was feeling quite weary towards the end. The day was hotter than recently too, and the afternon sun radiated off the hot red rockfaces of the many cuttings. The shoulder wasn’t quite as good as recently either, quite narrow in parts, and the road surface was pretty bumpy.
With 20km to go the road flattened out somewhat, but an easy ride into town wasn’t to be - at 13km to go another long draggy climb went on for 5km, with no advantage from the wind which was on the south side of the mountain range. I finally rolled into Mt Isa at around 1500.
From first impressions this isn’t a pretty town by any manner or means - a collection of concrete boxes laid out in grids without a well-defined ‘centre’. I had expected this - after all it is a town, er city, built on the site of the worlds’ biggest copper refinery, and probably many of the residents work there.
I tried 2 caravan parks but they were both rip-off price of $20 so I just paid up and didn’t look pleasant at the second, and was even more miffed when I saw the dusty and crowded state of the camping area. Bang in the middle of the small camping area were a group of young Dutchmen which fed my paranoia about loutish behaviour.
I hadn’t wanted to linger here, there’s nothing to interest me here, but last Saturday I ordered parts for the bike to be posted to here for me to collect, but it doesn’t look as if they’ll be here by tomorrow after I phoned St Kilda Cycles today - they haven’t even taken delivery from their suppliers yet. In which case I’ll probably get them sent to somewhere further west so that I can move on. Everything is working OK now that I’ve shortened the chain, but I am concerned that I don’t have a spare chain if this one breaks.
After setting the tent up I showered and went to see what I could get for dinner as I didn’t feel like cooking, but all that appeared to be open in this town of 25,000 was McDonald’s - oh well, why not! It was OK actually, chicken cutlet burger-thingy with chips and coke for $9 - can’t be bad, and it filled a space OK. I couldn’t get anything sweet from the McCafe though because it was closed due to insufficient staff availability.
Nothing else to report, I hope for a quiet night...

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.