Karumba

That’s Karumba on the Gulf of Carpenteria not ‘caramba’ as exclaimed by Bart Simpson or Speedy Gonzales. It’s the extremity of our travel before we drive south tomorrow and then east the next day as we begin to head for home.

Morning in Croydon was pleasantly cool by comparison with yesterday afternoon, a mere 24ºC by 7:30 am when we had finished breakfast and were packed to go. Majella had been looking at a brochure about Croydon and suggested we drive 2 km south of town to look at the cemetery before leaving town. We parked and walked around for a while noting the young ages of some of those buried early last century or before. There were many children and young adults remembered on tombstones. It was evidently a hard life then. Another intriguing feature of the cemetery was the presence of sea shells on many of the graves. Several of them had multiple shells in a variety of shapes.

Majella had also noted that the Gulflander train (rail motor) was in town and set to depart for Normanton at 8:30 am. We played for a moment with the idea of one of us taking the train but surmised it would be a slow trip with nothing more to see than we would see on the road. We did stop by the station on the way out of town to see the train and Majella got out for a photo and a closer look. The seats looked comfortable but, with less than 30 minutes to go until departure, there was not a large crowd of passengers waiting to board.

I drove on toward Normanton. The 150 km took us just on two hours with a couple of brief pauses in response to signs marking historical sites. The first had an old boiler but no explanatory signage and the second was Blackbull railway siding where there were a couple of people who may have been waiting for the Gulflander. The road was mostly in very good condition with a full lane in each direction but there was one short narrow section where it seemed work may have been started and interrupted since the centre line was not centred. The countryside was flat and mostly covered by grass and low scrub. Occasionally we saw a few taller trees.

In Normanton we viewed some of the signage on the outside wall of the library which was originally a Burns Philp building but was bought for shire use when no longer in use. We parked in the street near the Albion Hotel and made coffee to drink with fruit cake for morning tea. We were tempted by the pub but resisted. We did walk a little way up the street to see Krys, the statue of the largest (8.63 m) crocodile to have been shot in the region.

Some of the signage had suggested that the Mutton Hole Wetlands were great for spotting birds in the wet season but dry at this time of year. We passed them by but paused by the old wharf on the Norman river before driving on toward Karumba.

The road to Karumba was mostly through cattle country and we saw a few mobs of cattle as we passed. The country was low and flat with numerous floodways but dry at present. We did see a flock of brolgas by a waterhole beside the road and stopped to watch and photograph them. As we drove on we saw several more brolgas in the fields.

At Karumba we drove first into the part of town on the river where we visited the Les Wilson Barramundi Discovery Centre. We were too late for the 11:00 am tour but spent some time with the informative displays and watched the video about Karumba fishing development before looking for lunch. Ordinarily it as available there but they were short staffed today and not doing meals. On the way out we watched some kites swooping over the pool. We assumed they were trying to catch a fish meal. There were about a dozen more birds sitting on a rail across the pool waiting for their turn.

I drove the 10 km to Karumba Point, the other part of town, where we were booked into a van park. A couple of people, including the woman where we had sought lunch, had suggested Ash’s Cafe for lunch. We paused there to buy 500 g of cooked prawns and some chips before driving on to check in at the van park. Lunch was prawn sandwiches with chips in the comfort of our air conditioned van.

A little after 4:00 pm we ventured out for a walk along the beach. It was still 28ºC but the breeze helped with that. We stopped by the Sunset Tavern to check whether we would need to book for dinner but they expected to have plenty of room since their COVID arrangements provide for 300 people and this is not the busiest time of year. Where the beach had sand it was mixed with shells, mostly broken but some intact. There were large sections where the shore was slabs of a hard aggregate of sand and shells. In parts it had broken off in pieces about 20 cm thick and up to a couple of metres long and wide. 

We were back at the van around 5:00 pm to relax before walking back for dinner at the aptly named Sunset Tavern. We arrived there shortly after 6:00 pm, ordered our barramundi dinners and drinks, and then sat back to enjoy the sunset show. There was just enough cloud in the sky to make sunset interesting. When we arrived there was a warm golden glow in the west. We watched the sun slide down, disappear behind a thin band of cloud, and reappear before finally dropping below the horizon at 6:35 pm. The show went on for almost 30 minutes after that with changing colours on the clouds and faint rays appearing as the sun went further past the horizon. There was still a faint glow in the west as we got back to the van just after 7:00 pm.