Friday, 1 August 2014

Borroloola

At Daly Waters we turned east onto the Carpentaria  Highway. It's called a highway but the traffic is delightfully sparse. It's a sealed road but for many kilometres it's a single lane so whenever we passed a vehicle going the opposite way we slowed almost to a stop to prevent windscreen damage - most other travellers are courteous and do the same.

Carpentaria Highway
Grey-fronted Honeyeaters and White-throated Honeyeaters taking advantage
of a tub of water beside a tank at a rest stop.
Open woodland all the way to Borroloola but never boring because it changes as the underlying geology changes. Only one building in nearly 400 kms, the Heartbreak Hotel at Cape Crawford. Several rest areas along the way. Some drought tolerant cattle, because we were driving through cattle stations.

Brahman cattle
And a mine I never knew existed but apparently there was a lot of kerfuffle here when Peter Garrett was the Environment Minister. It's the McArthur River zinc mine, one of the largest in the world. When I get home I'll have to do some more background reading.

McArthur River Mining, near Borroloola

We drove to Bing Bong on the ocean where the loading facilities for zinc from McArthur Mining and iron ore from somewhere up near the Roper River. We were talking to other grey nomads out there who said that last year they enjoyed a walk along the beach near the zinc-loading works but this year they couldn't because of the iron ore conveyor belt. Things have changed. The vegetation near the port has certainly changed, from green to red because of the dust.

Several large front loaders busily moving iron ore from one place to another.
Iron ore on a conveyor.
A truck arrives at the zinc storage shed at the port.
Mangroves and mud flats now inaccessible.
Dust-covered vegetation
At Borroloola we saw the big bridge over the McArthur River, and on a shed we noted the measurement markers for the anticipated flood levels. It reads 13 metres. If the water reaches that level the bridge is under water. That's a lot of water!

McArthur River, Borroloola
Flood marker above bridge height, Borroloola.
We also drove to King Ash Bay on the McArthur River estuary where the Borroloola Fishing Club has a campground, shop, mechanic, fuel and a clubhouse with a restuarant and entertainmant for the campers. A lot of people from all over Australia come up here each winter and stay a few months to fish and soak up the warmth.

Mangrove-lined McArthur River estuary, King Ash Bay
McArthur River estuary
Batten Point
I had no concept of what Borroloola would be like apart from a vague idea that it was an Aboriginal town. Which it is. But a lot of things about the area have surprised me.

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