Backpacking Pensioners travel blog

Croydon main street on a Sunday morning

A notice board that caught our eye

The museum: can you find Sylvia?

Lake Belmont

A view over Croydon

Site of the Chinease Temple

Mount Surprise Hotel

A sunset at Undara

Sunset at Undara

A night tiger snake

Undara camp site

The railway carriage accommodation


I managed to get pictures of Sylvia using her washing machine, (well it's not mine, even if she wouldn't accept it as her birthday present), before we rushed off to be in time for the Croydon Town Tour. This constituted a talk in the office of our guide and tourist doyen for the area, a look around all of the memorabilia in the tourist office, and a guided tour of the three 'impressive' old buildings adjacent on the street to the tourist office.

Our guide, Chris Weirman, was a Savannah Guides Site Interpreter, Local Genealogist/Historian and Visitor Information Centre Manager for the Shire of Croydon. He had lived in Croydon for all of his life, but been born at Normanton because there had been no maternity facilities in Croydon at the time of his birth. He told us of his early life and that his relatives had owned and run the first motorised transport system for the area; soon gaining the contract for the mail run from Cairns to Karumba. As a child he had travelled alone several times from Croydon to Cairns on what would be today primitive transport on rough roads. His main interest was to help people trace family members who may have worked in this area in the gold rush days.

Croydon was declared a gold field on 18.01.1886, three months after gold was found. By August 1888 there were officially 6,500+ and unofficially 8,000+ people on the field. When water was scarce, disease and fever ravaged the population; there were four undertakers in the town of Croydon. The old timers used to say, "When one hearse was going to the cemetery another was coming back, and they sometimes worked into the night." There was more than 122 liquor licenses issued on the field before 1900, (not counting the sly grog shop come shanties), and up to 36 hotels within Croydon itself. Parts of some of the hotels can still be seen at Normanton.

Before leaving we visited Lake Belmore, a recreation area and water supply for the town, and took pictures of Croydon and the surrounding areas from a lookout point. On the same road was the site of a Chinese Temple. Chinese people first settled in Australia in the early 1800's to work as shepherds and domestics. During Corydon's gold rush period there were over 300 Chinese people in Croydon, many working as market gardeners. Although racism abounded in the Australian towns, this did not put off the people from buying the fresh vegetables grown by Chinese gardeners.

Croydon was a nice place to stay for one night, but now it was time to move east. The road had been an easy one to travel but when we entered the next shire we found the road narrowed to a single track which in some parts was not very well kept. We met lots of oncoming traffic, including road trains, and on these occasions part or whole of our van had to move off the road onto the hard'ish shoulder. The road had many hills and bends and the scenery was delightful. My desire to know what might be coming round the next bend ensured the 92 miles journey was conducted at a much slower pace than usual.

We arrived at our destination of Georgetown. Tonight was the barbecue with Garry and Lorna as guests at out van. I sharpened up my utensils and cooked the food we had pooled. Big blue flies kept going near to my utensils and I was not convinced they had only come as observers. When I served up the food to the plates, all of their big blue mates descended upon us and we literally fought them for the food whilst diving into the motorhome. A quick throw of the junk on our seats onto the bed, allowed us to sit and eat at the table. In commando style I sneaked out of the driver's door, (the other side of the van), and rescued the condiments and sauces from the abandoned outside table.

Despite picking the wrong place for an outside barbecue, the meal was nice and the company very good. The party continued inside for some time until we were trebly sure the big blue flies had gone to bed. During the night I had a very realistic nightmare that I had a barbecue to clean.

Next morning, after cleaning the barbecue, (I don't know what Sylvia was doing, probably gazing in adoration at her washing machine), we set off.

The road was mostly single track and the scenery still nice. At Mount Surprise you could go on tours to the yesteryear mining areas and also go fossicking. This entails picking up stones which you have no idea what they really are and maybe keeping them in hope they might contain something which is valuable. We gave this a miss. I took pictures of a very pretty tree and a hotel sign which I thought was imaginative and clever. The picture gives you some insight into my warped sense of humour.

On we went, stopping for lunch at a nice wayside spot, and then eventually came to the turn off for Undara Volcanic National Park. The very good wide tarmac road was a treat after the single track road but this gave way to an unsealed road and our speed dropped to between 6 to 12 miles per hour. After about 7 miles we were back to tarmac and soon entering the community area and booking in for three nights.

The accommodation is either in renovated vintage railway carriages, a tent village with the tents built on platforms and containing beds, tent camping grounds or powered sites. We took a tour of the site and wound our way through narrow twisting lanes past the tent site at the top of the hill, until we came to our own site. All amenities were near by and local wildlife bounding, or flying past us in this bush setting. This site was probably as nice a place to spend time, as we have found to date.

At reception we had booked the sunset tour for this evening. This entailed driving on local trails, climbing a small hill for fizzy wine, cheese, nibbles and fruit whilst watching the sun disappear behind a nearby hill, before going to see bats setting out for a night of batting. At the start, the guide asked if we had all used the ablutions as once away from the centre, we would find that the grass was spiky and the trees skinny.

From the look out point, all the land on view belonged to the national park and all the hills had been volcanoes. The bat cave was not impressive and we had to turn and face outwards to see the bats against the evening light. It got interesting when the Tiger Snake in the tree at the entrance appeared to have gone missing, but our guide eventually found it again with the aide of his torch.

Having learned of the route we should have taken from reception on arrival, we soon returned to the van for tea, after which we joined a group round the camp fire in the main area to listen to a guide singing to his own guitar accompaniment. He apologised in advance for the expected quality of his performance due to ragging tooth ache before trying his best. Between songs people of several nationalities tried, at his request, to explain what a mouth abscess was like and the treatment he may receive. A strange but enjoyable session which was part sing a long, before our entertainer cut short his performance and departed in pain. Well it could have been worse, it could have been me!

We returned to our van looking forward to the next two days. There are 'Bettongs' in this area. These are small friendly bounding animals which may approach and be happy to receive a friendly pat; but not from us on this night; may be tomorrow.

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