On To Adele’s Grove

brolgas coming in for a landing

Derek got some awesome snaps during the night and early morning of the moon.

A quick breakfast, a quick tidy and we were hooked up and on our way.  We planned to make our way to Adele’s Grove where we wanted to stay at least a couple of days and maybe more. Just a short trek up from Firey Creek, we drove through Gregory Downs which had lovely green, full connection campsites as well as free camping down by the river which would have been nice as it was shady and the river was actually running.  I could immediately see why Derek had tossed the possibility of this site – just mere minutes from Firey Creek.  Actually I need to remind non Canadians that I am Canadian.  We may not have much of an army and be very good at peace keeping and we may be incredibly polite but it all breaks out into passive aggressive sarcasm and totally violent curling bonspiels.

The place was packed.  Of course, Firey Creek was deserted.  We had tons of room.  That was the reason, right?  One thing we started noticing is that the HEMA camp book’s information is not always correct. It states that people are not allowed to camp along the river anymore, apparently that is not true. There have been other little comments that we have found not to be true as well. Best to check on something if you are really wanting to do it or are altering your plans because of something that has come up.

Still, the bitter part of me wanted to dress in some military type looking outfit, carve a wooden gun and go to each caravan and yell at them and tell them they are not supposed to park there.  I wanted to show them where it said that and then make them all go spend a night alone in the dirt.  That part, the bitter part, was firmly seat belted into a speeding truck hauling a caravan and Derek locked the window controls until we were miles down the road.

Derek says he likes the fact I speak my own mind and it was one of the reasons he married me but I am beginning to question that.

Then we hit about 85 miles of rough road that was going to be a real test. Dirt roads, sustained corrugation and bull dust – dust so fine that it is like layer after layer sprayed on everything and hard as heck to get off. You breathe it, you feel the fine grit of it on everything you touch and anywhere there is moisture or even the slight grease from a finger mark, it clings to it. Many a marriage has been ruined by bull dust. How do you explain hand marks where there should not be any, when you were not home?  Life gets difficult as you age.  The children move out and there are fewer people to blame for things.

Traffic was thinning out the further north we travelled.   Many of the caravans had chosen the opposite direction when we turned to go to Julia Creek. They headed towards Cloncurry and Mount Isa. This is where it starts to matter what kind of a vehicle you have and how your caravan or whatever you are sleeping in (and believe me there are sooo many “whatevers” it is amazing).  Some of the people we had camped with up to this point, simply would not have been able to complete the drive.  The road was not as rough as some of the ones we would be traveling and certainly not as rough as the true blue off road camper warriors do. Those people travel places that seem both impossible and insane. Even though Derek and I qualified on those two points, and Fluffy was a partial off-roader, there is no way we could ever do those roads.

Derek drove the road to Adele’s Grove like a pro and I was fine. Being raised on a farm in rural Alberta meant I was well versed in unpaved roads that could shake your teeth right out of your mouth.  In fact we had an bowl at the front door with extra sets of false teeth so people could chew their dinner.  Sometimes you had no idea where yours ended up but centuries from now they will find old wrecks of farm trucks and pull bucket loads of false teeth from them and make up some really compelling, documentary worthy crap that will spawn a whole new generation of conspiracy theories.  I like to think that will be the leading tease for the new television season in Heaven at some point.

We followed the weaving path, our eyes on the hills off in the distance that had to be “Boodjamulla National Park.” This was formerly known as Lawn Hill. You will note that many of the names once used in Australia have changed. This is due to a program in the 90’s, I believe, where they started to change the names of these important places in Australia back to their original native name. So, for example, it is no longer “Ayers Rock” but “Uluru.”

It was a dry and dusty trip.  Think Montana along Highway 2 next to the Canadian border, or areas around Drumheller as you get into the Badlands.  It also reminded me of the areas southwest of Penticton, BC.   Dry, desert like conditions, with the odd struggling, dwarfed tree, and a bit of scrub. We drove that and finally, just about the times we were ready to give up and draw straws on who was going to be the cannibal and who was going to be the cannibal canapé, we came to the gates of Adele’s Grove.  The signs cautioned us about the extreme dust danger and insisted we park our rig in the parking lot dust bowl that was covered with fine shattered glass. We were to park there and register before we came through the second gates. Signs at the second gates advised that the only speed allowed in vehicles was walking speed. I could see a few trees around a main house and my heart kind of sank. 2 days in the desert heat?

While I waited I watched the many interpretations of “walking speed.”  We clearly had some Olympic champions and had I been able to see the occupants of the vehicles in the dust clouds they created, I might have secured an autograph.  Everything was going to end up filthy in the place.

Derek came back all signed up and told me our spot was further up the road to the back as we had a generator. We drove through the scraggly bush, avoiding the circles of sharp jagged rocks that defined the camping spaces AND the roads.   The map they gave us was missing a whole section that we were seeing and it was not long before we were totally confused.  We had left the groups of caravans clustered together, who had generators and were way off in the bush.  The numbers were even more confusing but thankfully one of our fellow campers took pity on us and pointed us in the right direction. I think he was sick of us circling round and round, stirring up dust and interupting his quiet privacy.  WAYYYYY back in the back, a long way from where he was parked, which already seemed like out in the back 40, we found our spot.  We were in the last area, the furthest area away from the camp. A dirt road ran behind us.  There was a sign warning of extreme dust danger and telling people to slow down but come on … did anyone think the Olympic walkers were going to be able to read THAT sign?

We set up without a problem. We had water which we were advised not to drink without boiling, and that was it. We could use our generator which we were now completely convinced was not throwing out 240 volts like it was supposed to. (insert scream with as much hair pulling as you can afford to pull out without going bald because you can be angry but never angry enough to forget fashion)

Then we walked back to the main building which had a restaurant and a small store. We needed milk. They had none.  They had canned meat, cake mixes and such but no milk. When we got there I found a lovely building set up with tables, chairs and shade. Coffee and water was available at the side of one wall. People could order drinks or food. Washrooms were available. It was open to the grove and the swimming hole part of the river that pooled in lovely, picturesque lagoons as it lazily snaked its way across the camp. There were raised tents of wooden pads with cute little front porches so they could sit and watch the river go by. Amenities were conveniently located. We noted a cute little fish and chip place tucked up in the woods and banks of seating around fire pits that invited intimate little gatherings of your own choosing. There were picnic tables and all kinds of perfect little spots to lie down on a towel or sit and just do whatever pulled at your heart strings. At night the whole place was lit with fairy lights. It was just so calming and relaxing. You could sit there all day and feel like you had spent the day at some luxurious resort. The trees were tall and varied and blended into the lush tropical vegetation that framed the river. The trees, planted by a French Botanist named Albert De Lestang was commissioned by the government. He had purchased the land in 1930 and by 1939 he had managed to successfully grow some 1,000 species of shrubs and trees. There we were, enjoying the results of his hard work and passion.

Camping inside the grove was restricted to only those that could fit their vehicles in and those without any generator. The only other place that offered electricity was in the main dining room. One plug was available. The main building had access to internet and phone – but did not provide any free access for data. Each camper had to have their own program set up and work off wifi.

As no pets are allowed in any national parks in Australia, it can limit the travel plans of many. Due to Adel’s ideal location just outside the National Park, they marketed themselves to not only welcome pets, but to offer babysitting services so that owners could have the best of both worlds. It is a lovely idea, however it meant that there were a lot of animals, many off lead when they should not be and I was surprised to see cats being allowed to wander. Poor unsuspecting wildlife!

People come from all over the world to work here, voluntarily, for their room and board and food. What a wonderful opportunity for those young people taking advantage of the “work while traveling” programs afforded to Commonwealth Countries. 6 weeks or so in paradise AND you get trained in every aspect possible. Everyone takes turns at all the jobs so the learning curve would be challenging but you are working with people like the rangers, some of whom have been here over 20 years. Imagine the wealth of wisdom they gain from the whole experience. Priceless!