|Wednesday 8 June
Today's the day we were all looking forward to - The Gulflander Experience!
Up early to be at the Normanton Railway Station by 8.00am to sort out tickets and prepare for an 8.30am departure. We opted for the last carriage and although we had the sun on our side all the way we had plenty of room.
Although part of the Queensland Rail, the Normanton to Croydon railway has always been fully isolated from the rest of the state network. Affectionately said to go from "nowhere to nowhere" the railway is now heritage listed and the only line in Queensland still measured in miles!
Originally built to connect the once bustling river port of Normanton with the rich goldfields of Croydon, the Gulflander is now a tourism icon and a working tribute to not only the early pioneers of the Gulf of Carpentaria but to the local Queensland Rail staff who are obviously totally dedicated to their jobs. How lucky are QR!!
Heading out of Normanton we travel across typical Savannah country which at this time of year is looking quite green due to recent unseasonal rains.
Much of the line retains the original rail and sleepers laid between 1888 and1891. An ingenious sleeper system allows seasonal flood waters to flow gently over the line to prevent flood damage during the heavy wet season. The design is not found anywhere else in the world!
We parallel the main road for quite a long way throughout the journey crossing it twice, much to the enjoyment of other caravanners and road travellers, who even pop up at the side of the line in what appears to be very remote locations to take a video or pictures!
We delivered mail to Hyden Station and pass through the remnants of old wood cutters camps and long gone gold towns. Often the only sign of the past is the rusting remains of cast iron water tanks and old steam boilers that perhaps drove the ore crushers for the early pioneers.
Morning tea was a pleasant stop at Black Bull Siding which happens to be adjacent to one of the main road crossings. Needless to say we had a group of travellers waiting for us to arrive!
Here we enjoy a leg stretch and a mug of tea or coffee in our huge complimentary Gulflander mugs! Of course we had to have a muffin so we had something to wash down!
Ken, our driver and jack of all trades, provided a very enlightening commentary along the way. Plenty of enjoyable stories, perhaps a few "stretched" but lots of fun. He certainly new his stuff though!
He gave us some helpful information on the local flora species but he did miss one important species that proliferates throughout most of the country, even across the Savannah - it's the Canine Deceasedus, commonly known as the Dead Dog Tree - it has no bark!!!! Boom boom!!!
We finally arrived in Croydon on time at 1.30pm. The journey was slow and rocky in parts and a little faster and rocky on other areas, but the rhythm is not the familiar clackety clack but more a clunkety clunk!!
Lunch at Croydon was at the same cafe we ate at yesterday. We then had some time to look at a local yesteryear store that has incorporated the old with the new before hopping on the bus to take us back to Normanton. Even had a small "museum" in the store!
Back in Normanton we were in time for the Rodeo Parade up and down the main street. All the locals came out as did the tourists and the street was lined with well wishers and photographers.
All the locals participated including the police, ambulance, health providers, schools, pubs, etc.
A great evening had by all.
Back to base and prepare for a good sleep then off to Karumba tomorrow.