Outback 3 Route revisions
I get bees in my bonnet about place names. Fixated, you could say. Once, the names were the stuff of Californian folk rock or movies: Ventura Highway, Zabriskie Point. Then I moved to Europe: Saint-Germain-des-Prés, the Bridge of Sighs (Ponte dei Sospiri) and the plain of Lasithi.
In Australia, I will not rest until I have visited Esperance, Broken Hill and the Bungle Bungles.
Camooweal, a small town in northwest Queensland, more than 2000 kilometres from Brisbane and almost on the Northern Territory border, wasn't on any list until I heard a song entitled Luck, by Busby Marou. I guarantee, after a couple of plays, you'll get in your car and hit the road. 'From Camooweal to Katherine, from Lambert to The Kimberleys…'
At first, Camooweal didn't feature in the Outback trip that begins in a month's time – Brisbane to Adelaide, Alice Springs and the Red Centre, northwest Queensland not visited previously, and back to Bris. We were intending to cut across to Mount Isa via Urandangi from the eastern end of the Plenty Highway, which traverses almost half the width of the Northern Territory from the Stuart Highway north of Alice. Last weekend, however, my friend noticed the Camooweal Caves National Park, and that was it. Detour ahead.
This whole trip came about because, months ago, he noticed a Great Southern Rail advert for The Ghan which featured a couple of seconds' glimpse of cars being transported on the train. Prior to that, we were going to New Zealand. I only need the seed of an idea.
This morning I have been booking the Post Office Hotel Motel in Camooweal, shunting our reservations along the Flinders Highway on a day, and reducing two nights in Hughenden to one. Two previous Outback adventures involved changes en route – forced by bad weather or choosing to escape bad accommodation – so this still represents forward planning. The trip is longer but it is the fact that we are travelling further afield, more remotely, and with fewer accommodation options that presented a more time-consuming challenge. Even choosing dates involved checking school and public holidays in three states and a territory.
Diverting to Camooweal opened up another possible route across the remote ranges of the Territory between the Simpson Desert and the Barkly Tableland. The Sandover Highway branches off the Plenty not far from its start and crosses into Queensland north of Urandangi. I have studied drivers' accounts of the northernmost of the two options, which isn't called Sandover for nothing. And it is more vulnerable to disruption after a downpour. The Plenty is graded regularly – there's more traffic passing – and the landscape is more varied. I am inclined to stick with Plan A for this stage. And Gemtree might have zircon shops!
This may be the fourth major road trip, but every time extra items are required. Biggies this time included a second spare wheel – we already had a second spare tyre – a tent, and self-inflating camping mattresses! Plus bits and bobs.
This post was last edited on 1 July 2015