It was a long day's drive to Normanton, about 360kms and we didn't get away until 10:00. We stopped for lunch at Burke and Wills Roadhouse which is the only sign of habitation along that stretch of the Matilda Way (or Burke Developmental Road).
There is a free camp here by the Norman River but not many people seem to be using it and as we wanted to stay a few days we went into town. We are getting a pensioner discount at the Normanton Tourist Park and although we are pretty squashed in on strange slabs which must once have been intended for fewer vans, it is quite pleasant. It also has a warm spa - just a small one like you would have at home but with artesian water.
We have met some nice folk here. There is Phil and Carol from Geraldton with whom we spent happy hour last night and plan a BBQ with tonight (Sat).
Friday, 17th / Karumba
Today we made it to the gulf - the Gulf of Carpentaria! We decided not to take the van but just to have a day trip to Karumba and I think we made the right decision as there's not much to Karumba unless you like to fish and the van parks are very expensive. It is only 72km from Normanton and we drove up there, had morning tea overlooking the gulf, saw the town, had barramundi for lunch and were home by mid afternoon. The barramundi here is to die for. It just melts in your mouth. We've had 2 meals now and will have more before we leave. Pity we don't have a big freezer!
Saturday, 18th / Normanton
Today we went on the Gulflander. We weren't here on Wednesday to do the trip to Croydon so we did a Billy Tea and Damper trip this morning. It took an hour each way with an hour for morning tea at a billabong where the local cricket club had the billy boiling and morning tea ready. I didn't actually see any damper but we had a variety of scones, croissants and cakes and although not a tea drinker, I enjoyed the billy tea which was in a tin can and spun around and tapped with a stick to settle the tea leaves. I actually drank 3 cups and the Gulflander pannikins we had the tea in we got to keep as mementos.
On the trip we enjoyed the company of Barbara and Gordon Campbell (the Port Macquarie couple who know Joan Bird from bowls), whom we met up with again and another couple they knew, Brenda and Des, from Blacktown.
We have both done some bike riding here. It's very flat with wide streets so it's good for riding. I had one day when I felt a bit migrainy but without any actual headache - it may have been just a head cold.
Tonight we barbecued our dinner with Phil and Carol and enjoyed the evening chatting with them again.
No Anglican service today, that's next week, priest coming from Cloncurry, 360kms away. We had the choice of R.C., A o G or Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Inland Mission (Church of Christ) and we chose the latter in order to worship with real locals. There was also another Brisbane couple there who have been here for a few months doing volunteer work in part of their caravan trip, plus another lady from Vic. Who is holidaying here with family. The aboriginal people were very friendly and we enjoyed our morning. The service was taken by Pastor Cedric (Aboriginal) who is a recovered alcoholic who has also been in gaol but who is now a wonderful Christian witness. He doesn't want to be a Pastor but there is no-one else to fill the role at the moment. He seemed to do a good job with the service but it seems his organisational and leadership skills may need help. An Aboriginal lady, Gladys, asked us to pray for her as she has internal bleeding. Seems she may have bowel cancer. We have been remembering her.
While waiting for our fish and chips a young lady cop and some other young local ladies came in and were using their iPhones so I approached them seeking help with my problem of finding no service with my iPhone. At last it works again! They alerted me to the fact that it was probably searching for a 4G network and here (as in Winton) there is only 3G. Once I went into Settings and allowed 3G, voila, I have service again! All you need is someone young and local!