|CROYDON: 14th July. Goodbye to Normanton this morning as we headed to Karumba crossing the bridge over the Normanton River and travelling through many km of flood plains. This is the Gulf Savannah country and we were seeing a large number of cattle. There were a great number of water holes which could be seen from the road. In addition to the cattle finding water there, the water birds and especially the brolgas were in abundance. The brolgas were also seen grazing in the paddocks. It was only 70 km between Normanton and Karumba but as we drove further away from Normanton and became closer to Karumba the landscape changed dramatically with vast areas being salt encrusted and no plants able to grow there. With only a few km before entering the Karumba town boundary a group of about 10 black young wild pigs ran across the road in front of us and then a little further along there was a waterhole with about 8 horses and one bullock grazing nearby. Just on the outskirts of town we saw a few cattle being mustered, one ringer on a horse and the other on a 4-wheeled motor bike. We soon realised that these few cattle were the ones that had given trouble as we saw the Karumba Holdings cattle yards full of cattle being drafted by the ringers (cowboys). It was quite a sight to watch them separating the cattle into various areas.
We drove on to Karumba Point, near the entrance to the town which has a magnificent view out over the Gulf with mangroves in the foreground and the Gulf waters disappearing to the horizon. Fishermen from all over Australia come here for their holidays and to catch barramundi, fishing the unspoiled waters of the Gulf of Carpentaria. It was a very windy day but we walked a short distance along the beach and talked with a few fishermen who were not having much luck. Then we took a walk through a sandy mangrove area, enjoying the plant life and the views over the water.
Afterwards we drove the few km to the town of Karumba. Karumba's existence is connected to the simple fact that it is on the banks of the river and it is set on sand ridges which allow direct access to the Norman River and the Gulf of Carpentaria. The town went through something of a boom period in the 1960s and 1970s when it became the centre for the Gulf fishing industry. Today the prawn fishing industry and the barramundi industry earn over $130 million each year.
We found a café named Fishbreathe where we had a great lunch of fresh grilled barramundi, chips and salad as well as a very good expresso coffee. Afterwards we took a walk to the dock where the fishing boats were tied up to unload their catches. Nearby was a shop selling fresh caught prawns at a very inexpensive price so we bought some to have for our dinner and they were terrific.
Since it was only early afternoon we decided to move further on along the Savannah Way to Croydon. So we left Karumba, went back through Normanton and then headed southeast on the Gulf Development Road which is Highway 1. The Gulflander Railway Track parallels this road the entire way to Croydon and the train makes a once weekly trip to the town returning the next day to Normanton.
As we left the town of Normanton we crossed over the Norman River on the new bridge and saw the area we had viewed while travelling on the Gulflander several days previously. When we again saw Critters Camp we realised just how far we had travelled on the train. As we continued on our way toward Croydon we found we were again in the open woodland of the Savannah. Large numbers of cattle were in this part of the country as well as numerous waterholes and adequate grasses.
Approximately 60 km before reaching Croydon the railway track crossed Highway 1 at Blackbull Siding where in earlier days the steam trains could take on water. From there the track continued to parallel the road on into the town.
We reached the Croydon in late afternoon and booked into the Croydon Caravan Park, a lovely, shady park with lots of space and green lawns on which to park.