Harvey's Queensland Adventure.

This August (2001) Harvey (my Honda HRV) went for her first outback trip. Yes Harvey is female (her real name is Frieda but she'd prefer it if nobody knew that). She drove 4500K in 9 days. We visited Carnarvon gorge, the Undara lava tubes, lake Echam, Cairns, Babinda (boulders), Cardwell, Hinchinbrooke island and the Oslen's caves at Rockhampton.

Harvey thought she might get to rough it and play in the mud but we didn't end up going anywhere a reasonable 2WD couldn't have gone. If we had had rain it might have been a different matter but this is about as rough as it got. The scariest part was Charter Towers to Undara. It was night - along a single lane road with road trains, kangaroos and cattle. The were also a few dead pigs.

We saw lots of this, thousand of Ks of road. With hundreds of Ks between fuel pumps it pays to carry some extra fuel – or fill up when it says 270K to next petrol. I didn't do either and had visions of calling a cab for the last few K into Charter Towers. With air-con off and a slow 80KPH to conserve fuel we made it with a litre or two to spare. At 110 KPH and air-con on low the best fuel economy I got was 662K on 51 litres. Unfortunately Harvey does not have cruise control – this a major defect when touring.

Chris and I are both seasoned campers and own plenty of gear between us. I did however invest in a few new goodies. I already owned a "carribee" style folding chair, I bought a second one and a "carribee" table. This makes to packing a lot easier. I also bought a thermo-electric type cooler but this was probably a waste of money. Harvey is big enough for two people and I'd have no qualms about doing a longer trips in a HRV. She is a bit thin in the panels though and small flying stones will leave dents. I scored one small bonnet dent and a chipped wind screen.

We only saw one other HRV on the whole trip!! this was at Carnarvon. The road into Carnarvon was one of the worst – some 50K of dirt with some badly corrugated sections. Once again fuel is an issue. You can buy "emergency" fuel near the park - at a price - but there are no service stations within a 100K or so (depending on which way you are traveling). I've been repeatedly told the camping ground is closing and being moved out of the national park so be sure to check before rocking up. My closest call with a Kangaroo was driving into Carnarvon. A large Eastern Gray there seemed to want to become a hood ornament. Roos can be cute but they are extremely dumb with zero road sense.

The lava tubes were the main goal for this trip. Carnarvon was a stop off to break the drive. Lacking time or anywhere appealing to stop over we drove from Carnarvon to Undara in a day. This is around 1,100 K and 13 hours. Chris booked our cabin and tour when we had CDMA mobile coverage. So we were rushing to try and get there before 10PM to pick up our keys. In future I would avoid drive at night. I generally like driving at night but north of Charters towers it was not fun and there was plenty of large road-kill to make one cautious.

The drive from Undara to the tablelands was pleasant. The transition from dry scrub to lush rain forest is rapid. Just past Ravenshoe (Ravens hoe not Raven shoe) we found the "windy hill" wind farm. Yes it was windy, we stopped and I took another panorama. I'm a renewable energy supporter and it was good to see this site. I was disappointed that there was no information at the lookout. In particular I would have liked to know how much power it was generating when we were there. After this we stopped at Milla-milla – don't bother.

Our stop over was at Lake Echam. This crater lake is crystal clear with bluish water. I was surprised to find it full of rainbow fish because I believe they had been locally extinct and re-introduced rainbows were being eaten introduced predators. We stayed in a nice cabin a short drive from the lake. I booked Harvey in for her 30,000K service for the next day at Cairns.

Meet the locals.

The Cairns stop was mainly for the car service but we played tourist. I bought this orthacera fossil slab from "Nature's gems" in shield street. They come from Morocco and are over 350 million years old. We also went to a Peter Lik exhibition – stunning panoramas but out of our budget by a long shot. Originally we had hope to also go to Chillagoe but time was running short so we headed south along the coast. The first stop was Gordonvale – this was to buy a postcard for my father who worked there briefly as a cane cutter when they first came to Australia almost fifty years ago.

A little further south are the boulders. Yet another panorama then on to Cardwell.

Chris has had an ongoing love affair with Hinchinbrook Island and recently spent 5 days backpacking along the trails there. She tried to get us a camping permit but they were booked out till October. So we took a day trip there.

I've driven past "the Caves" near Rocky a few times and never had time to stop. This time I did. We stayed in a motel at the back of a pub a few clicks up the road. This was our last tourist stop, we had thought of spending the night at 1717 but opted to drive home. Back to work, computers hot baths and writing web pages.

Eddie Matejowsky September 2001,


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