Fierce winds gave Bertha a sandblasting last night! We woke to clear blue skies but the strong winds were still there and reduced the temperature some-what. For the first time in quite a long time we both put on long pants and windcheaters! We did umm and errr a bit as to should we stay or should we go, but in the end decided that it was probably going to be windy on this stretch of road anyway, so off we left the relative comfort of Barkly Homestead and hit the road.
Today was always going to be a driving day with the aim of making good progress along the Barkly Highway towards Townsville.
Our first stop after struggling with the cross-winds was at Wonarah Bore, just to stretch our legs and have a quick walk around. This is quite a big area but is a bit exposed to the road if you were to stay here overnight.
The next stop, for coffee and a break from driving, was at Soudan Bore rest area. This is another good sized area with 24 hour camping permitted and has some facilities including shelter, fire-pits, a water tank, etc. We found a nice semi-sheltered spot in which to park Bertha and we enjoyed our coffees out of the main force of the wind.
For lunch we stopped at the Avon Downs Rest Area, which is somewhat unique in that it has its own police station over the road. From that perspective it should be a safe place to stay overnight. This rest area has toilets, shelter, a water tank, and more, and 24 hour camping is permitted. Ann whipped up an omelet with muffins for lunch – we do eat well while we’re travelling!
So far today we have seen a lot more livestock in the paddocks beside the highway. We have seen a number of horses and lots of cattle, including some full cattle-yards presumably waiting for a truck to collect the cattle and take them to market.
About 55 kilometres from Avon Downs we reached the Northern Territory/Queensland state border. Not exactly a huge occasion but worthy of a photo anyway. This also means that all our clocks are now incorrect and must be changed forward from SA/NT time by 30 minutes. It also means that we can no longer drive Bertha legally at 130 kph! Damn!
The road surface seemed to improve once we were on the Queensland side of the border, which was a bit of a surprise, but a pleasant one. The winds also seemed to be less obvious – another good thing. There were even more signs of cattle in the paddocks, and we noticed a roadside sign we had never seen before – it does make its point quite obvious.
We soon arrived at Camooweal, where we had intended free-camping at the Billabong rest area. We saw the area coming into town and there was plenty of space still available, and it looked pretty enticing. The first thing we had to do in town was fill up with diesel ($1.599) – the strong winds have played havoc with Bertha’s fuel economy. We then took a quick drive around town before heading back past the hotel, and the caravan park behind the hotel – it was bursting at the seams!
Heading down the track to the free camp we soon came across a huge rut across the track (wish we’d taken a photo). We weren’t going to even attempt to continue past that point and we’re sure that not many other vanners would have either – hence so few people in the free camp and so many in the caravan park. What a missed opportunity for Camooweal as we weren’t the only vans or motorhomes that had to bypass the town in search of overnight accommodation. It would only take a couple of Utes full of gravel to fix the problem!
So that was that for today’s Plan A and Plan B. Plan C was to go further along the highway to the Inca Creek rest area (Camps 9 Q320), but we both missed the turn-off. Plan D was to stop at the David Hill rest area even further along the highway. This is a nice big area but apart from one caravan leaving just as we arrived, there was no-one else there, which doesn’t usually bode too well, so we didn’t stop there either.
Plan E was to continue along the highway all the way into Mt Isa if necessary! Fortunately we didn’t have to go quite that far and found a great place to stop at Gunpowder Rest Area (Camps 9 Q318), which is only 50 kms from Mt Isa. This is a huge area with plenty of level camp sites, toilets and even a dump point.
It was nearly 5.00pm when we arrived so we still had time for a cup of coffee before catching the sunset.
It’s been a longer day than we had expected and we’ll both sleep well tonight!
Still enjoying the motorhome experience!