We had originally planned to drive the Gregory Developmental Road from Charters Towers to Emerald and find a caravan park or cheap stopover in Emerald for one night. However, a couple we met at the roast dinner the previous night recommended a caravan park a little past Emerald on the shores of Lake Maraboon. Until then, we had not heard of that lake.
On Monday morning, we left Charters Towers and drove through grassy woodland. It then became drier as we proceeded south. Ian noted the lack of rest areas on this road, despite it obviously being a popular route for long distance travellers. The land greened up again around Clermont and Capella, which is a coal mining area. We stopped briefly for a driving break just north of Clermont, then stopped again at Clermont itself for a pie and the use of good toilet facilities. While there, we booked a night at the Lake Maraboon Holiday Village.
We stopped at Emerald for fuel after having driven 474 km from the previous night’s caravan park. It was only another 18 km or so until we saw the impressive Lake Maraboon and drove across the Fairbairn Dam wall. We reached our destination in time to book a table at the licensed restaurant at the caravan park. Although we had planned to cook, the idea of sitting in a restaurant instead was very attractive after a long drive. We had to pick from the menu at the same time as booking, so Ian chose the Red Claw pad Thai while Katie chose the sweet and sour chicken.
We set up camp and fed Dexter, then settled Dexter on the bed in Matilda while we walked up to the restaurant. Ian had some Red Claw beer from the tap, which was nothing to rave about. Both of our meals were big and delicious, but Katie could not finish hers. The restaurant was packed. The large holiday village is about 20 km south of Emerald, where the nearest shops and presumably restaurants are, so with a reputation of good food, the restaurant is bound to do well.
As you can see from the above sign and offerings in the restaurant, Maraboon Lake is renowned for Red Clay Crayfish. This is a relatively large fresh water crayfish that is native to tropical Queensland, the Northern Territory and south-eastern PNG, but it is tolerant to a broad temperature range that has facilitated its range spreading to all other parts of Australia except Tasmania. Signs near the lake indicate that the species is considered invasive in this water body, and therefore you do not need a fishing licence to catch them and there is no minimum size limit. However, somewhat inconsistently, there is a bag limit of 40. We understand that there are also commercial Redclaw fisheries. It is a pity that carp are not as tasty.
Back in Matilda after dinner, we could not get any TV reception. We decided two things: (1) We would stay another night and have a rest day tomorrow—cannot get too much rest! (2) We would complain about the TV reception as we had just missed the ABC’s Q&A for the first Monday night of the trip. We had a cup of tea and an apple turnover we bought at Clermont, and hit the sack earlier than usual.
On Tuesday morning, Dexter enjoyed his first swim for quite a long time. Lake Maraboon water was brown, but Dexter didn’t mind. Katie made breakfast for a change—grilled avocado, tomato and cheese on toast.
We sorted photos and did some chores in the morning. Ian was able to borrow a TV coaxial cable to plug a TV into so we could access the TV network in the park, which was a first for us.
We had lunch of leftover lamb kebabs with couscous. Some noisy birds would hang around and stir up Dexter, but we forgot to ask the locals what they were. Since originally posting this, one reader, Sharon, identified them for us as Apostle Birds. The name arises from them commonly hanging out in groups of 12. They are also known as CWA birds because of their constant noisy chatter, which is very apt. Thank you Sharon.
In the afternoon, Dexter went for another swim, and this time Katie came down to the lake for a walk.
After playing guitar for a half an hour, we sat outside and relaxed with a drink. It was nice to watch the different vehicles enter the park for the first time. We noted that most motorhomes were towing another vehicle, either on an A-frame or on a car trailer. Readers may find this next bit hard to believe, but it is true–you just can’t make this stuff up! We recalled that we had made a very considered decision to tow nothing behind Matilda, and we were thankful for that decision. However, Ian commented that if he was going to tow anything, the ideal vehicle to tow would be a Mini Moke. A few minutes later, a large Jayco motorhome pulled in with a bright green Californian Moke with full canvas covers on a car trailer. Ian could not help but go over to speak with the couple who owned it, once they had some time to set up camp.
There was an enthusiastic discussion about Mokes, our adventure on Magnetic Island, and how RV manufacturers are generally terrible at providing service to their customers when they are travelling. The Moke’s owners’ one year old Jayco motorhome had stopped charging the house batteries, so they were now dependent on powered sites. It was probably going to be a challenge to get this fixed on the road. This would have certainly taken the gloss off our trip if it had happened to us.
Ian’s new friends also mentioned that they had stayed at a farmstay near Roma on the previous evening, and recommended it. They said that they liked supporting the farmers who also accommodate travellers, and their traditional farming business was being challenged with the drought.
Ian put his mind onto options for accommodation the next evening at Roma. The farmstay mentioned by the Moke owners was about 10 km out of the way, but another farmstay called Ups N Downs was on the Carnarvon Developmental Road 5 km north of Roma. A quick phone call to Ups N Downs received a positive response, so that was sorted.
We made pumpkin and feta pasta with garlic, zucchini, pine nuts and olive oil for dinner. This went down beautifully with the rest of the Hope Estate Cracker.
Like the caravan park at Charters Towers, this place organises functions during some evenings. Tonight was to be a guitarist and singer performing in the camp kitchen. We intended to go along, but Ian was rather tired after a big “rest” day, and Katie was keen to focus on writing up our travel blog. Dexter was also exhausted after two swims. We did hear him from within Matilda, where it was also a bit warmer. We watched some TV using the coaxial cable, which worked fine.
We got away after 9:00 am on Wednesday morning and made a detour to have another look at Fairbairn Dam. We found a great lookout not far from the caravan park, so we did not have to go much out of our way. We talked about coming back here to try our luck at fishing and catching some Redclaw.
The above three photos are looking south, from east to west.
Back to the main road, we turned Matilda’s bonnet south towards Roma and closer to home.