I’m not sure if you could tell from my last blog posts but I was slightly apprehensive and a tad less than excited about our upcoming trip. Ben had forewarned me that Mareeba would be the last place I would be able to get telephone/internet reception for a few days so I used this opportunity to call my boss to ensure there was no pressing need for me to return home immediately. Unfortunately, all was good and there was no imminent crisis that warranted me to quickly hop on a flight home. Bugger. I tearily switched my mobile off as we drove away from Mareeba. Then the strangest thing happened. I began to relax in a way I hadn’t relaxed in years.
The wonderful thing about having such low expectations of a place is that you are almost certainly guaranteed to be pleasantly surprised (unless you are staying in a truckstop, no matter how low your expectations – it will be a million times worse!!) so as we drove through the picturesque countryside I stared out of my window marvelling at the beauty – something I never normally do.
We stopped next to a beautiful billabong and had some lunch, which was ham and salad sanga’s I pre-made the night before.
Our destination for the day was a campsite on the Palmer River, not too far from Maytown. Maytown isn’t actually a town – anymore. It’s the remnants of a thriving gold town that existed from the 1870’s to the 1940’s.
I was a bit dubious as we drove up to Dogleg Creek Campsite, where we were planning to stay for 2 nights. It seemed dusty and barren and void of any shade, water or beauty. We drove along the banks as the dry creek merged into the Palmer River. It was certainly beautiful, but didn’t seem to me to be ideal for camping. I finally piped up with “lets try another campsite shall we???” Ben agreed and we began to look around for somewhere to turn around which is no easy feat when Frankie is pulling Trampy. Ben sighted a little place next to the river where we could turn around and drove in. “How about we stay here?” Ben suggested. I looked up from my map and saw that we had pulled in to a nice sandy, flat area next to the flowing river. There were plenty of trees around and it was totally isolated. Paradise.
I was quite excited as we set up. The water was clear, it was peaceful and completely untouched. To reach the area you need serious 4wd equipment and a lot of know how. So it limits the amount of traffic the area receives and those that do come, are generally responsible campers who know how to dig holes as to not contaminate the place with human waste (from what I’ve seen). Yep. 5 paragraphs and I’m discussing bathroom business again. I’ll briefly say that there are no amenities here so you need to use more primitive methods.
It took the kids about 30 seconds to get in the river apart from Rohan, who was having a melt down. He was concerned that Isabelle was going in the river in the nude and worried that her bum might contaminate the water. This meltdown lasted a good 45 minutes until Ben finally calmed him down by convincing him to make youtube videos of bush skills. He busily set about making a fish trap out of sticks and vines whilst I had to sit very still and record him. His fish trap turned out to be a bit of a dud (couldn’t find the right materials) so after another 10 minutes of inconsolable crying I convinced him it would be okay for him to make a fish trap using a water bottle for his youtube channel. So he set about making the video with Ben while I patiently filmed it. I must admit. It’s bloody funny. It’s a ripper of a video. He was quite pleased with himself as he was watching it back but then Jazzy piped up with “Do your realise that Isabelle is running around naked in the background?” More tears. Naked Isabelle had spoiled his swim and now his video. Ben reckons we can blur her out with the right technology but I’ve got a better idea that I’ll follow up on tomorrow. It involves using Ben’s phone to film the video playing on my phone and using little leaf to hold over Isabelle, as she darts to and fro in the background in all her glory.
His trap caught a fish. I’ve got an awesome pic of him holding it up with the fish inside. Unfortunately Isabelle is grinning wildly in the background – still naked.
His next bush skills video is of him trying to start a fire next to the river using steel and flint or as Rohan likes to call it – his primitive fire starter. I have about 10 minutes of footage of him making sparks but failing to get anything going. Mind you, he is certainly able to fill the 10 minutes of footage with not-at-all awkward babble about why his primitive fire starter is not working. Very Steve Irwin-esque. I gave him some matches.
We ate our dinner (dream pot Beef stew – will try to link recipe) around the campfire then roasted marshmallows. Ben told the kids all about the stars and local geology. Rohan listened, mesmerised by the amount of facts he was learning and would be able to spew out when presented with a person in need of knowing facts. Jazzy and Kylah didn’t even pretend to be interested. They were both engrossed in their kindles. Don’t know what Isabelle was doing but I’m pretty sure by this stage she was clothed.
After dinner Jazzy and Kylah put the younger two to bed for us. Ben and I spread a picnic rug beside the fire and snuggled together under the dome of stars. It was absolutely magic. The sand around us glistened as brightly as the night sky due to it being peppered with silica, or as Isabelle called it, fairy dust.
Our second day on the Palmer River was just as good. We woke early. I prepared a cake to cook in the dream pot and we set off exploring Maytown. There isn’t much left of Maytown. The cobbled sidewalk is pretty much the only thing that stood the test of time. At one stage this little town hosted 3 different pubs, a court house, police station, post office and numerous shops. Now, apart from the sidewalk, there are just stumps where the buildings had been and plaques telling you what had been where. Everywhere you look there are pieces of the past just lying on the ground. Bit’s of old bottles, from a time when glass was 3/4 of an inch thick, old fashioned nails, horseshoes and bits of pottery.
The graveyard was fascinating. We spent a great deal of time walking around the graveyard with the kids reading the headstones. The kids were shocked that most of the graves were occupied by children and babies. It really makes you appreciate the time we live in where having to bury a baby/child is much less of an occurrence than it was during the late 1800’s.
We also visited some of the old mine sites and the kids climbed all over the old, rusty machinery.
I probably appreciated this step back into the past a lot more than I would have a week ago as I had just finished reading a book about the Gatton Murders. It’s a true story about 3 family members who were killed in Gatton in the 1890’s. Yes I realise that Gatton is a looooooong way from Maytown but the lifestyle and values of the people were very similar. Whilst reading the book I was transported back in time and my fascination extended to envisioning the same types of workers struggling to survive in this harsh climate.
Returning back to our campsite in the early afternoon Ben and I hand washed all the clothes, using water we carried up from the creek (did I say we?? I meant Ben). The kids made friends with some children at a campsite a couple of hundred metres away so Ben and I were able to enjoy some quiet time again while the kids used their new friends canoe.
Dinner was DELICIOUS!! We cooked marinated lamb steaks on the fire (Ben bought a fire plate!!) and had them with a brown rice and quinoa dish. I had a “dump” bag (refer to earlier blog) with veges, onion, stock etc in and I cooked it up with the brown rice and quinoa. The combination of the rice dish with the lamb was sensational!! Who said camping food was boring or bland???
Tomorrow we are heading off to Coen. Ben says we probably won’t get there and will have to stay somewhere along the way. My expectations are again quite low. Apparently there are a lot of billabongs, but you can’t swim in them because of crocs. There are also a lot more people up that way so there will be no more opportunities Isabelle to air her differences.
Thank you for reading!!