|Travelling Australia - Journal 2013
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31 July 2013
Kennedy Highway to Fletcher Creek
The night was fairly cool followed by a sunny morning with many birds calling in the trees around us. We were soon away on the Kennedy Highway heading south, outside air temperature was 17°C, thee was a little wind and some cloud. Traffic on the road remained very light. The road ran through eucalyptus woodland with cattle sometimes visible among the trees. Road kill was quite light, comprising kangaroos, pigs, one raven (the first roadkill raven we can recall seeing), and one cow very recently killed. The road remained good two-lanes of bitumen all the way to The Lynd except for a single section of 8 kilometres of single lane. Long straight sections of road with gentle curves and shallow hills made driving pleasant. The road gradually sloped to the south so that after 56 kilometres road elevation had dropped from 946 metres to be 550 metres about 20 kilometres north of The Lynd. Then there was a slight climb.
A few kilometres before the turnoff onto the Gregory Developmental Road near The Lynd we learnt why there are so many road-kill kangaroos. We came around a bend to see a medium-size adult kangaroo standing in the middle of the road looking at us. Supersonic wind-driven whistles on the Pathfinder bull bars are designed to alert kangaroos we are coming so it is not unusual to have kangaroos already looking at us as we come around a bend or over a hill. But this kangaroo did not do anything else; it just stood there looking at us as we rapidly approached. I was able to slow a little and we were only doing about 75-80 kph anyway so the animal had a few seconds to react and hop off the road; it took so long to move that a faster moving vehicle unable, or unwilling, to slow down would have converted that kangaroo into road-kill. If kangaroos generally take that long to recognise the dangers of vehicles it is no wonder so many end up as road-kill.
Just north of The Lynd there is a Y-junction where south-bound travellers turn left towards Charters Towers on the Gregory Development Road, leaving the Kennedy Developmental Road to revert to a gravel road while it goes to Hughenden. The Gregory Developmental Road has been upgraded in the last few years and is mostly two good lanes of bitumen. In the 159 kilometres between the Kennedy Road and the turn-off to Townsville there were 23 kilometres of the old single road in two sections of 9 and 14 kilometres.
Signs along the Kennedy and Gregory roads mark "Call Points" where heavy vehicles are supposed to broadcast their presence on UHF channel 40 so other road users can react accordingly. These call points were initiated several years ago when these roads were nearly all single lanes of bitumen with narrow points (usually over creeks) where there was insufficient verge for an oncoming vehicle to pass. Mining industry road trains using this road had priority so other users were warned by the radio call to wait while the road train passed. But these roads are now mostly full width with two bitumen lanes and many narrow points have been eliminated. Call points remain although many serve no purpose and heavy vehicle drivers generally ignore them. This is unfortunate because two or three narrow points remain in locations where advance warning of oncoming heavy vehicle traffic via UHF radio would be useful.
We pulled into Greenvale to refuel. An unpleasant wind had come up but the sun still shone. The road had been gently descending and went below 500 metres elevation shortly before Greenvale. After Greenvale the road continued descending to be about 400 metres then remained at about that elevation (410 metres down to 360 metres).
93 kilometres before Charters Towers the Herveys Range Developmental Road turns off to the left to go to Townsville. This road appears more important than the road to Charters Towers which almost immediately reverted to the old single lane road with a quite good, but generally older, surface; the verges were level and comfortable to run onto when passing oncoming vehicles. The single lane continued for most of the way to the Fletchers Creek rest area 40 kilometres north of Charters Towers but a newer, two-lane road passed the rest area.
We turned into the rest area to be confronted by about a dozen caravans set-up at random near the toilet block with promising tracks heading off in the tussock grass surrounding the flattened area. We investigated one track and parked in a cleared patch of ground beside the track and well away from most other caravans and tents.
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Cold camp fire embers confirmed the cleared patch had been used by previous campers. Many travellers appear obsessed with lighting camp fires as soon as they stop for the night regardless of the temperature and many leave the cold embers in place and undisturbed when they move on; camp fire embers are well on the way to become the defining memento of caravans and campers.
After the brief setting-up process for free-camping I went for a walk along the track marked as leading to Dalrymple National Park. The limits of the rest area were undefined with tracks running through the scattered woodland with tussock grass understory. Wandering around among various species of woodland trees was interesting, especially as many had low branches so I could see leaves (and sometimes fruit) close up.
By sunset there were still many places available around us; the limits of this rest area were not defined and new arrivals could pull off the access tracks inside the rest area onto the tussock grass and stop there for the night.
|Caravan parked for night near eucalyptus in Fletcher Creek rest area.|
|Woodland in Fletcher Rest Area back from the road. The bloodwood in the foreground is typical of trees there. A caravan/tent is just visible in the left distance.|