We arrived at ‘The World’ (what Charters Towers was called back in the gold rush days) and immediately loved the town and the area. Originally, we planned to free camp somewhere but after some thought, called into Bivouac Junction campground and somehow one night turned into 7… Joe has a great campground and our spot under a big shady tree was perfect. We paddled and lazed around in the Burdekin River below the camp – which is running very low for the season as are all the creeks and rivers around here and further west. We ignored the ‘Achtung Crocodiles Inhabit this Area’ signs (Joe and his kids have swam, fished and kayaked in the Burdekin for many years and never seen a croc, so we felt safe). While enjoying one of the many 5:30 happy hours with Ken and Sharon the park managers and a lovely couple, Noel and Rose who had lived at the park for a year, Noel working as the groundsman, we were offered a week’s free accommodation in return for helping out at the park over the Easter break when close to 1000 stayers were expected. We looked at each other and said ‘sure why not?’

After a week we left to free camp at one of the spots we had previously checked and ended up at Macrossan Park with a few other couples in their vans. There are basic facilities, loos and cold showers (well they are fed from tank water which is warm most of the time anyway) and there is a breeze most of the time as we are on a ridge overlooking the river. Being only 20ks from Charters meant we could pop in to do some shopping and spend half a day at the swimming pool playing cards, eating fish & chips (well we had to treat ourselves occasionally!) and cooling off. A flood marker beside the road bridge over the Burdekin River records the flood heights since 1870, the latest recorded in 2009 was over 20 metres which would have put our camp on the ridge well under water!

The people you meet always share their knowledge and experience. At Macrossan our neighbours taught us how to catch yabbies and red claw using ‘opera house’ yabbie pots. We woke each sunrise to the clicking of grasshoppers and birdsong followed by bacon and eggs with mushrooms and tomatoes and a couple of perc coffees to start the day well.

One day we decided to check out the river on the other side of the river from our camp – and promptly got stuck in the loose sand when I slowed to turn to get back to firmer sand and became stuck. We just pulled out the recovery tracks (those great flexible rubber ones from SuperCheap), let the tyre pressures down a little, locked the Pajero centre diff and powered out of the loose stuff. All great fun and it helps with our confidence if we get stuck much further away from assistance. One thing I remembered (a little late, but I did finally remember!) from the 4WD training course was to switch of the ASC or auto stability control to stop the Pajero cutting the power when we needed it most to power through the soft stuff! A good tip for those with more modern 4WDs with electronic stuff that can get you into more trouble than they’re worth sometimes is to switch them off when driving in sand.

A day trip took us to Ravenswood on the way to Lake Dalyrymple, the old gold mining town began in 1868 with its gold batteries, the modern Carpentaria Goldmine and many old buildings including the tiny Butler’s Cottage that housed a family of 23. We climbed White Blow an amazing 10 metre high quartz hill. Then a stop for lunch at the old Railway Hotel and Andy was amazed to see old NZ beer bottles above the bar including Waitemata Pale Ale and DB Brown that he hadn’t seen for 30 years!