It has been over two weeks now since we arrived back from our maiden voyage with ‘Black Betty’ and I am still getting through all the washing from the trip. We arrived back late on the Sunday night and were straight back into things again with new workers starting about Blue Sky, visiting travellers staying and the Mareeba Rodeo all straight up! It felt like our holiday had never happened all within 24 hours and I am really struggling to claw my way back onto the ‘organised’ and ‘tidy house’ train – aaaaaaargh!
Anyway, I’m dying to share all of our little adventure with you as we had a great time and we couldn’t be happier with the camper!
We finally managed to get away from Mareeba and head off on our trip at about 12.30pm on the Saturday after a morning of crazy packing and trying to leave the house ‘sort of tidy’! Matt was madly doing some last minute mechanical checks and ended up stripping one of the nuts on the camper tyres which was not ideal to head off with it like that but we decided that we were feeling lucky and would cross our fingers and hope we had no trouble with that particular tyre!
We headed out from Mareeba and had a quick toilet stop at Chillagoe – about an hour and a bit down the road – no visit to the caves there this time as we are leaving them to do with the cousins one school holidays soon.
From Chillagoe we hit the dirt and the start of the Burke Developmental Road.
As we had gotten away so late in the day we really had no idea where we were going to camp, so we just made a pact with ourselves that we had to be stopped somewhere no later than 4pm, so as not to be setting the camper up for the first time in the dark! There was a beautiful spot on the Walsh River just outside Chillagoe but we decided that we needed to get a few more kilometres under our belt so we pushed on and managed to find a beautiful first night campsite on the Walsh River another hour or so further out from Chillagoe. We were able to camp in a lovely sandy/rocky little spot right beside the river. Unfortunately there could be no swimming due to crocodile risk – much to the kids disappointment as the water was lovely and shallow and crystal clear!
We hit some trouble as we pulled up the hill at the Walsh River Crossing with Peter Prado just not moving! Foot flat to the floor and nothing!! Matt put the car in low range and this worked to get us in to our campsite and set up for the night. We all went to bed feeling very anxious and grumpy that we would be heading back to Mareeba the next day due to car problems, but we crossed our fingers and hoped everything would be fine in the morning!
So, we packed up early the next morning and then had our second mishap for the trip in under 24 hours! We locked the camper keys inside the camper! This was a real problem as we had no access to our food and water! Luckily for us Peter Prado seemed fine so we decided to continue on towards Normanton and headed straight for the nearest station to see if we could get some bolt cutters to cut our padlock off the camper! However, we came across a road crew working on the road first and they managed to help Matt smash the padlock off with two hammers – phew! Just in time for a lunch stop beside the road!
Our second day on the road proceeded without mishap, but it was a pretty boring stretch of road for Day 2. The road was in great condition with lots of work being done on it so we were very lucky as we had heard it could be quite rough.
Our second night camp was another free camp about 100km’s outside Normanton the banks of the Norman River. It was another lovely spot but again no swimming and not a lot of water in the river at this time of year.
The next day we arrived in Normanton fairly early and grabbed a few groceries – namely to replace the sausages and mince I had forgot to pack along with the tea and sugar! We also gave our mechanic a quick call to have a chat about what had happened with the transmission on the car and concluded that is was perhaps just some steam from our water crossing playing games with some of the car’s sensors. So, with our minds at ease that the car seemed ok, we had enough groceries on board and could access them, we headed off to Leichardt Falls for yet another great spot to free camp for the night.
We had a lovely experience at Leichardt Falls where just on dark, a trumpet started playing from a campsite a little further down the river from us. The camper played just a couple of songs as the light disappeared and it was just beautiful! Clapping and cheering rang out from all around the river when the trumpeter finished! We have to admit that we were a little disappointed with Leichardt Falls as there was no water flowing over the falls at all and again there was no swimming due to crocodile risk, but it was a pretty spot to free camp so we can’t complain too much!
Although it was a little bit of a bumpy start to our trip, we still enjoyed the Burke Developmental Road with some of the nicest free camp spots we have ever come across! Have you ever travelled the Burke Developmental Road? Stay tuned for a post about that next part of our trip where we think must be one of the best free camp spots in all of Australia!