My alarm went off at 4.30am, my hotel wake up call came through at 4.45am and my back-up for my back-up phoned at 5.00am. I wasn’t taking any chances!
I checked out at 5.30am and waited downstairs for my ride. This was to be day one of a week’s Adventure Tour from Cairns. As Ross, our guide for the coming days loaded my gear into the trailer he advised that there was to be a change of plans with regard to the route due to flooding in the region we were to be travelling through. This was likely to add another 650kms to the 3450km journey but better to be safe and more to see! We were travelling in a 4WD with a trailer because our group was going to comprise of three for the first half of the trip.
We headed for a backpackers down the road to pick up the next passenger, Domi. She was doing the tour in her break having taken leave from her job in Germany to see Australia and continue her studies for a semester. She'd spent five nights at the backpackers and was anticipating her departure with enthusiasm. So much so she'd packed her bag and headed down to check out the day before the tour was due to start! She was bitterly disappointed to find she had the dates wrong!
All aboard we headed out of town discussing the less appealing side to backpacker accommodation. Domi, who was sitting in the back said, “It’s okay but I don’t like all the cultures.”
Well that’s what we thought she said, with her German accent and our Aussie ears we were certain she said “cultures.”
“COCKROACHES!” she said. “Not cultures, I have no problem with cultures, there are plenty of cultures there!” Said Domi laughing.
We wound our way up and around the 263 bends of the Gilles Ranges stopping for the first time at Mt Garnet for fuel and a toilet stop. The toilet block was across the road, it was quite a long khaki coloured brick building. We headed for the ladies, Domi leading the way. We both expected to walk into a room of multiple toilet cubicles but no, it was just one. We both did a double take as we opened the door and I quickly retreated to wait my turn!
Further down the road we stopped to stretch our legs with a short walk to Millstream Falls before continuing on to Lynd Junction for lunch. Lynd Junction is home to the smallest bar in Australia - it was about the same size as the solo toilet cubicle at Mt Garnet. Ross set up a table and all we needed to make sandwiches and we kicked back in the carpark under the shade of the trailer enjoying the fresh air and each other's company.
We made lots of little stops for more photos; on long dusty stretches of road, floodways and roadside as we watched black cockatoos flaunting their red tails and cattle eyeing us curiously as we passed them by. At one point we decided to try for a closer shot so we approached them silently on foot, silently that is until Domi got the giggles and one cow suffered such a shock it fell over.
They must have incredible hearing or mine must be terrible because I heard nothing. I did capture the poor cow’s startled reaction - though I think said cow may have overreacted.
Porcupine Gorge was welcome surprise, a beautiful place to just zone out and stare out across the vast landscapes and towering cliffs of vibrantly coloured sandstone and dense vegetation, a stark contrast to the flat plains we were driving through.
We were set for long days on the road to reach Alice Springs in the same time frame but we were prepared for this and Ross was great, he kept us informed and got us involved in making decisions. Originally we were aiming for Hughenden on this evening but we pushed on for Richmond which would make the next day a little shorter - or at least have us to the next destination in time to set up camp and have dinner in the daylight!
Back on the road we sat behind a troop carrier with a fully laden trailer, of what we’re not entirely sure, nor are we sure if it was the trailer load or the driver that was causing him to drive down the centre of two clearly marked lanes. We overtook him carefully only to come upon roadworks and a red stop light. We pulled up and waited, Mr Troop Carrier drove around us and straight through the red light - had we missed something? The light went green and we soon caught up to him again and were close enough to watch him go through the next red traffic light. Okay so we’d not seen much traffic all day but red means stop, in the city or the outback!
We pulled into the Lakeview Caravan Park in Richmond before sunset. Great herds of dinosaurs once ruled the interior of Queensland, you can follow in the footsteps of dinosaurs if you know the right spots and Richmond is certainly one of them. Here you'll find the only museum in Australia primarily dedicated to displaying marine reptiles which make more sense when you learn that the area where the town of Richmond is situated was once part of an inland sea with water depths of 40 metres!
Anyway, back to the current day.
We’d had some rain on and off throughout the day and also wanted to be on the road again by 6.00am the next day so Ross had kindly organised cabin accommodation for us. Once we'd unpacked I went for a walk around Lake Fred Tritton to watch the sunset before returning for carrot grating duty. Domi had set the table while Ross was busy at the cooker with "spag bol" on his mind. We each had a generous serving and ate out under the stars.
It felt far later than it was, all tired we decided to call it a night by 8.00pm. I sat up writing until 11.00pm and Domi was across the room in her bunk editing photos on Instagram.
“I’m having trouble choosing a filter because I’m so brown you can’t see me on the road!” she said laughing.
She was right, fortunately one of the filters lightened the road and oh look, there she is! I didn't have that problem, no tan going on here yet!
Tip: Aeroguard your whole head if you plan to sit in the dark and work. The light streaming from my laptop was like a bug catcher.