In my recent travels I passed through a locality called Golden Gate, once a prosperous mining community approximately 10 kms West of Croydon.
The only sign that a township existed here can be seen on the southern side of the highway marked by a number of metre high steel posts and a sign saying no camping. In the background is a small mound of earth which was the railway station. Travelers here should be careful as there is a single strand of wire strung between a number of the trees at caravan height.
The railway station that once handled a lot of passenger traffic along with the freight that was needed to support a growing community now lies dormant except for the passing of the tourist train from Normanton on Wednesday and from Croydon on a Thursday.
A short walk to the Northern side of the highway and through a fence onto a cattle station I found some more stark reminders of a prosperous past. These boilers were once used to generate the energy needed to raise the ore from deep under ground and be processed to extract the fine golden metal.
This area is fenced separately from the rest of the property because of the dangers these old diggings present to anyone who passes by, including the cattle. If you fell into this pit you would almost certainly die. It took a couple of seconds before the sound of splashing water was heard when I threw a stone into the pit.
Sunrise in the main street There isn't much that remains of that part of Normanton that was on the north bank of the Norman River. There is a popular freecamp on the western side of the road to Karumba (only when it is dry) and this tower on the eastern side. At the northern end of town is the old Burns Philp building where either everyone worked or shopped. This is now the information centre. This is where the shire of Carpentaria (64,373 km²) is administered.
In the main street, Landsborough Street, you will find these cast iron plates over the gutters. They were manufactured in Croydon. Two of the hotels in Normanton. The Central in the foreground and the Albion on the left.
The Albion hotel was once owned by Emily McDOUGALL, the author's grandmother, in the 1920s. She sold it to Mrs. Lee in 1929 when she went to Croydon for the day to seal the deal. The third hotel in Normanton is the Purple Pub, which in a previous incarnation was the National hotel. Further down the street is a cafe with petrol bowser. Another prominent business in town is Gallagher's butcher shop which specializes in beef that is paddock to plate. Road trains in the main street of town are not unusual and we see here some braham cattle that are off to be made into tomorrow's roast beef. Nevile Shute stayed in town for a while.
Woke the other morning to discover there was no 240v power in the van. Went to check the pole outside, no, it's fine, back inside to look at the circuit breaker.
the old one
The circuit breaker is inside a small cupboard and when I open it I notice a couple of very small brown ants wandering around apparently lost, I mean, why would they be in here, there's no bread, no sugar and nothing else that they would like. Wrong.
the new one
The circuit breaker is a nice secluded place to hide where the little brown ants can get in but nothing else can. It doesn't take many of the little buggers to mess with the internal workings of the circuit breaker. They are a sealed unit just to stop us OAPs from playing with them and so they have to be replaced. $99 and ten minutes later, I get to make my toast and coffee. Now I have to spend more money to buy some chemicals to try to keep the little buggers at bay.
The good thing about not having a plan or timetable, is that you can do things on the spur of the moment. Today I did a one day trip to Mt Isa. It is only 121km from Cloncurry on a good road which is shared with a number of road trains, mostly four wagon side tippers going to and from Mt Isa. 70km west of Cloncurry is the once thriving Mary Kathleen uranium mine and today there is just a small sign showing where it is.
The whole of the mine site is now on private property and this is the view of the entrance on the Barkly Highway. I saw one section of road on the property which is out of bounds to visitors and you do have to keep an eye out for cattle. If you have a four legged companion with you, be aware that 1080 poison baits are distributed on the property.
These next three photographs are of the original township. You will see a number of caravans parked in this area, allowed by the property owner, for free camping.
All that remains of the township are the roads and some concrete slabs, which I assume are where the car ports stood next to the houses. (click on any photo to see a larger view)
This area is well patronized and I saw about a dozen caravans parked in here. You have to be self sufficient with your own water and power. There is more than enough room so that you don't have to be right next to another van with a generator. No fires are allowed on the property.
There is a bitumen road (lots of potholes, farmer wont have the resources to maintain it) from the entrance of the property on the highway leading back into the property and if you follow it you will find the main entrance to the township shown on the right.
Following the road back behind the photographer in the last shot for a few kilometers you will come to the end of the bitumen and barely 50 meters further on the right you will find a two wheeled track leading to the right.
A short distance later you will see these concrete structures and if you continue to the left of these you will arrive at another road at which you turn right. At the end of this road, which has been blocked by loads of big rocks to stop you driving any further, you will find some walking tracks that lead to the big pit. It is a nice place to explore and on a future trip I will stay here and explore the rest of the property.
It wasn't a pleasant start in Ilfracombe on Saturday morning. Once the inside of the van was sorted I had to go out in the rain and prepare everything and hook up the van. Just after 9am I headed off through Longreach and north to Winton 212km away. Still wet but I stopped to have some lunch. I went to the local bakery where I saw some pies and asked for one with meat in it. "All of our pies have meat in them" came the reply, so I had a plain one for $4.00. Back to the van and made a cup of tea to go with my meat pie. I'm guessing that there was meat attached to the gristle at some stage, but it wasn't in my pie. Disappointing, very disappointing. Fuel in Winton was $1.26 a litre. I decided that Cloncurry was only another 361km to the north and that I should be there by 5.30pm, so once again I headed off. All of this trip I am only doing a maximum of 90km per hour and soon the southerners were passing me, obviously in a hurry to make the most of their limited time where I don't have a timetable so it doesn't matter how far I go in one day. About 4pm I found a large truck stop 60km south of Cloncurry S 21 01.267 (01' 16.0") E 140 56.355 (56' 21.3") and decided to stop there for the night. Being a large truck stop and having seen several road trains around I decided to park on the dirt up close to the farm fence about 30m away from the bitumen area. It was mostly hard and the few soft patches were easy to spot and avoid and it turned out to be a good choice. A refrigerated road train came in during the night and I was glad I wasn't parked next to it. Sunday the 17th I arrive in Cloncurry where diesel fuel is $1.29 a litre and I have settled in at Wal's Camp on the south side of town. It is still overcast and drizzling at times.