A Christian friend once told me the answer to everything was contained in the Book of Revelations. That may be so but as we drove to Gregory Downs Hotel we found revelations that raised more questions that were answered.
First off the road itself south from Burketown was a revelation. After more than 800km of gravel, dirt and corrugations it was sealed. Lord love us, it wasn’t like that when we were there 27 years ago and it didn’t appear that was on our maps but sealed it was.
Tony and Phil are not that fond of bitumen. They fear too much of Australia is being made too accessible and soon it will be hard to get away from it all to anywhere. Tony likes to tell of exploring unmarked tracks along riverbanks in lonely areas of Australia, looking for a secluded hideaway known only to a few locals. You crawl down a rutted and barely visible goat track and, lo and behold, at the end of it is a Victorian in a caravan.
The Gregory River Downs pub is a must-do stop on the way to Adel’s Grove and Lawn Hill. Jo Start owned the pub when we were last there but I didn’t get to meet the lady then. I did this time and was fascinated.
Jo is a cross between Hetty of NCIS Los Angeles and Audrey of To The Manor Born. She appears to be somewhere on the other side of 70, tiny, ramrod straight, wearing a light tailored suit among the ultra-ultra casual style of clients.
She probably makes Hetty and Audrey look a wee bit soft as she keeps a gimlet eye on staff and clients. She spared me a few minutes.
She bought the Gregory Downs Hotel in 1984 when she was based in Mt Isa. She lobbed up weekends for now and then for a few years, apart from a few years spent in Townsville. Sixteen years ago she took over full-time.
“The wet season is the best time here. It’s beautiful in the wet with all the wildlife. You can relax a bit and enjoy the company of locals.”
So the tourists keep her busy in the dry season? Not so much the tourists, she said. Consutrction camps. One lot had moved out that morning and another crew would be arriving tomorrow.
Still, the tourists seemed to be pretty steady. A carton of Northern cost $62, which wasn’t too bad for that area. Certainly better than Burketown where there is none to be bought at any price. Ed bought a carton and we decided we had enough to get through. Bad move. We weren’t counting on the vagaries of licensing laws at Hell’s Gate and Borroloola.
I decided I wanted a photo of Jo Start so trotted back to ask if I could get one. “Well, hurry up girl,” came the imperious reply. I snapped two frames and she marched off. Jo Start was finished with the interview by this scruffy tourist.
Another revelation awaited us a few hundred metres away at the lovely Gregory River. We had camped there when the kids were little almost 30 years ago and had been disappointed to learn campers were no longer allowed to relax there.
That’s was the books and the signs say but another revelation was waiting at the bridge. Dozens of caravans, motor homes and camper trailers were parked there, blithely ignoring council signs. Everything was neat and tidy. A camper said a council truck came around regularly to empty the rubbish bins.
Apparently the council has a cunning plan to put up a barricade that will mean only tent people can camp there. Interesting. The Grey Nomads perched on the Gregory bank all appeared to have well set up and self-contained travelling arrangements. Tent people, on the other hand, are often not as scrupulous about their footprints.
But it would take more than a Book of Revelations to give clues about the wonders of council deliberations around the world.