|Travelling Australia - Journal 2013
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17 July 2013
Normanton to Gilbert River rest area
The morning was the usual bright and sunny as we drove out of Normanton. The outside temperature was 24°C; there were no clouds in the sky but there was a wind which would become a headwind when we turned onto the Gulf Developmental Road heading east from Normanton through Croydon to the Gilbert River where we planned to stop for the night.
The Gulf Developmental Road from Normanton to Croydon is an unusual developmental road in that it is two good lanes of bitumen running in very long, flat, straight sections. There are no overtaking lanes, but traffic levels were so low that these were not needed. Traffic was predominantly caravans in both directions with a few heavy transports and a handful of sedans and 4WDs.
There are no official rest areas before Croydon but there are many places where it is easy to pull off the road, even with a caravan in tow, for a break so the lack of rest areas was not a problem.
For much of the way to Croydon the road runs alongside the railway line and today is the day the Gulflander train makes its Normanton to Croydon trip; we kept an eye out for the train which had left Normanton well before us but is seriously speed limited because of the train track, and we may have caught up with it. But we didn't see the Gulflander.
The Gulf Developmental Road runs through nearly flat woodland typical of this region for most of the way to Croydon. Cattle were commonly grazing along the road; waterholes still had water in them but they were far from full; most creeks the road crossed were close to dry. Road elevation rose slowly but steadily from Normanton's 8 metres, but increasing elevation was not obvious and could only be seen on the GPS display until the road approached Croydon when we entered the hilly terrain which had provided much of the gold for which Croydon was once famous. The road remained good.
We passed through Croydon 154 kilometres from Normanton at an elevation of 114 metres. The hills around Croydon are not isolated ones, they are part of a series of hills and ranges connected with the Great Dividing Range well to the east. These hills would have an influence on our driving for the next few days.
Croydon has retained many of the public buildings from the gold rush days when it was an important administrative centre; these buildings are presented to visitors as a Historical Precinct which works well and shows off the town. Although we had seen many caravans on the road we were still surprised at the number of vans parked in Croydon while the occupants looked at the Court House and related buildings in the Historical Precinct.
The developmental road was not quite as good once we left Croydon heading towards Georgetown, although parts had been rebuilt and there appeared to be preparations in hand for further rebuilding in the near future. Rebuilt sections of road were very good. The land remained hilly with numerous large boulders dotting the ground; the road continued climbing gradually. 24 kilometres from Croydon we came to a long climb from 174 metres elevation up to 205 metres - this is described on some maps as a jump-up and it certainly fits this Queensland term for a sharp rise in ground elevation.
Then the road remained roughly between 180 and 200 metres in elevation as it negotiated numerous hills; the road was rarely flat and seldom straight in this section and never both flat and straight. The road surface remained reasonable but not quite a full width, two-lane, road; and the bitumen edges were sharp with a 10 centimetre drop off the edge. Overtaking one caravan with another was not a clever move.
On the western bank of the Gilbert River we turned into the rest area to find we were first there so we had our pick of places to stop. Eventually five others turned up for the night and this rest area is so big that six caravans/motorhomes easily fitted. Watching arrivals decide were to stop was interesting because each driver has to juggle different requirements. Some want to park in shade to reduce heating of their van; but if they rely on solar power the solar panels on the roof need to be in the sun so they can work best. In addition, some travellers have roof mounted satellite dishes and the dish needs to be positioned so that it is not trying to receive satellite transmissions through trees. We compromise by having the solar panels in the sun with the caravan positioned so the caravan provides shade to the left (door) side during the afternoon making as much allowance as we can for the way the sun moves towards the west in the afternoon.
|Normanton to Gilbert River - page 2|
|Gilbert River bridge|
|Single lane bridge over the Gilbert River; no pedestrian access|
This rest are was quite large, there were no facilities (except a rubbish bin). It appeared to have been heavily occupied because the ground was covered in dust about 2 centimetres deep. Walking on the ground produced a cloud of dust with each step and when a vehicle moved, or the wind gusted, clouds of dust rose up. A walking track runs from the rest area down to the Gilbert River and it is easy to walk around on the dry, sandy river bed and to begin to appreciate how much water must flow down this river in the Wet Season to have carved a bed as wide as this one.