Normanton also has an excellent information centre. Sitting outside it we found a bunch of Victorians who had caught fish. Heaps. Wall to wall mud crabs and barra galore. The only catch is that they had been into Staaten River Station and it was really, really expensive.
They had been able to get a drive-in reduced rate but usually guests were helicoptered into the place and waited on hand and foot. The sum of $7000 for five days was mentioned. Fishing has different scales.
Over 700km of gravel and dirt roads the boys had flicked their lines into a couple of rivers but nothing was doing. We considered camping down by the river in town and checked out Leichardt Lagoon but the story was the same. No real wet season for a couple of years; too cold; no fish.
Big snowfalls in the south had sent cold winds north and the barra were staying tucked up in their flannelette sheets.
We took Ed and Rita to do the things people do in Normanton: get your photo taken with the giant croc model Krys and at the Purple Pub, which is looking more vividly purple every time I see it.
Krys is named after the remarkable woman who killed the world record monster with a single, perfect shot beneath the eye on the banks of the Norman River in 1957. The saltie measured 8.63m, a size that still raises eyebrows.
Krystina “One Shot” Pawlowski and husband Ron had been the most famous husband-and-wife of the crocodile hunters on Cape York Peninsula in the middle of last century. They had both immigrated to Perth after World War II trauma in Poland. Ron endured the brutality of the Nazis. Krystina’s family suffered under the Russians.
Ron was a roo shooter and prospector. He stayed at the Perth boarding house run by pretty blonde Krystina. They fell in love, married and went off to shoot crocs in the Gulf. As you do.
Krystina was only 30 when she went into the Guinness Books of Records and said she instantly regretted knocking over the two-ton giant. "I would never shoot one like that again. It was such a magnificent specimen."
Photos and measurements taken by Ron were lost in the 1974 flood. The life-size replica in Normanton was recreated from other sources, including Guinness.
We waved goodbye to Krys and set out to where some said fish were being caught: the Little Bynoe River on the way to Burketown.
We camped on a high camp, the boys threw in lines and we contemplated the wondrous glory of the everlasting stars. When our necks became sore we shone torch lights – and Ed and Rita shone flashlights - into the Little Bynoe to see how many sets of red eyes we could see. No fish were seen.
PICTURE ABOVE: Ed and Rita outside the Purple Pub. "Interesting," said Rita.