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The Rock-itt : May 2010
After the recounting of my adventures in Europe and the United States in the last few issues I thought I would look at something closer to home. Not that close though, a bit of flying is necessary and it does involve quite a bit of rail travel, oh, and maybe a bit of road travel as well! We are going to ride the Gulflander and the Savannahlander trains. I last did this trip three years ago but I doubt much has changed. I'll tell you how I diditandthenletyouinonan easier way! I flew from Sydney up to Cairns, from Cairns I had booked a flight with regional carriers Macair (sadly currently in administration) from Cairns to Normanton. Normanton International Airport!! Normanton is still in Queensland, 681 km from Cairns and in the bottom right hand corner of the Gulf of Carpentaria. It's about a two and a half hour flight in a pretty small plane. On arriving, we were hurriedly dumped on the tarmac, thankfully it isn't a grass airfield and one elderly lady and I were left to fend for ourselves. Thankfully the terminal, just a small hut, had a phone in it and Normanton has a taxi (just one) so, shoving the old lady out of the way I drove the 10 minutes into town (only joking!!) I was staying at The Gulfland Motel which turned out to be friendly and perfectly adequate for just a couple of nights. Normanton is really just one longish dusty street, it has three pubs. The Albion Hotel was my choice but The Purple Pub is more famous and the Central Hotel seemed to be the Aboriginals pub. I did try all three though; you have to do proper research when you are writing for the Rock-itt! The Purple Pub, Normanton I really liked Normanton, being a Pom I love to go to places that are different from what I'm used to. Instead of having a flock of pigeons in the main street, Normanton had a flock of fifteen Black Kites! Krys, over 8 metres long and made of concrete! It's also known for the life size replica of Krys, which was apparently, at 8.63 metres, the largest crocodile ever caught! You can't miss it, like everything else it's in the main street Welcome to Normanton If you like to fish, Normanton reckons it's the Barramundi Capital of the North and the Norman River is teeming with them. Strangely, I wasn't able to find any for dinner though! But I wasn't really there for Barramundi, I'm after railways. Normanton is one end of the famous Gulflander Railway line which was originally planned to service the beef industry by running to Cloncurry. However, they found gold at Croydon and redirected it. The line is a masterpiece of design; it utilizes special steel sleepers which allow it to get operational immediately after wet season flood waters recede. The Railway Station at Normanton is now listed as an historic monument. Normanton Railway Station, the Gulflander ready to roar into action The actual train only runs once a week, on Wednesdays, the line is 150 km long and stops at Croydon, that's the trip in a nutshell. It's a bit more than that, a real step back in time. The undulating track throws the train all over the place and a safe arrival ultimately seems like a miracle. It's a leisurely ride, departing at 8.30am and it arrives in Croydon at 1.30pm. The single trip will cost you $63 and if you want to return the day after the round trip will cost you $107. Morning tea half way in the journey will cost you $7, a bargain! Gulflander at rest in Black Bull siding for morning tea Trip taken, we are here in Croydon, its railway station is quite modern, it has a good pub, The Club Hotel and that's where I stayed. If Normanton was miles from anywhere this place is 150 km even further than that, a sleepy little town home to 6,500 gold miners in its