Ted Egan's: Gulf Country: The Road From Mt Surprise

try to understand this bland Australia taker ‘she is a mooted mysteries mother of the soul beneath the southern cross in her frame of peaceful scenes try to understand this lambda square maker ‘she is of the mysteries mother of us all they make the southern crust in her frame apiece desolate lifeless salt Plains nothing moves except the hey James well almost I’m on the Gulf of Carpentaria in remote northern Australia near the coast and this desolate type of country is perhaps what you’d expect to find but I want to show you a different Gulf the place of constant surprises in fact our starting point as a town called mount surprise near Mount Surprise we’ll explore Australia strangest and least known natural wonder we’ll travel west through Georgetown to a legendary gold rush town called Croydon we’ll ride Australia’s most isolated railway to the normanton bush races finally at Caramba we’ll fish the sparkling waters of the Gulf itself I can promise you no more salt plains but much to wonder it on the road from mount surprise for a hundred years the Gulf has been first and foremost cattle country in the old days these were about the most isolated cattle runs in Australia it’s different today helicopter mustering is one sign of progress this they’re called road trains they’re the undisputed kings of these cattle roads Australia’s outback is the only place in the world where they operate the job of these monster rigs is to haul cattle to ports and rail heads further south the old days Stockman walked the cattle down on Overland tricks that took months rode trains do the same trip in a day less romantic but much more practical one of the strangest sights along this road is actually on a cattle station place called tel Arun as the greenery suggests there’s a water hole here but it’s the strangest water hole I’ve ever seen last century a Stockman riding in this area heard an explosion and the sound of gushing water he stopped to look and this is what he found teller Oh hot springs and they are hot

up to 70 degrees centigrade not quite boiling point but hot enough to burn your finger tella rue station is owned by Elizabeth and Jared Lyons but even they don’t know where this water comes from well it could be fed by spring hundreds of kilometers away at certainly coming from underground and the suggestion is probably six kilometers down for the temperature of water that’s coming through to the surface and this whole region is apparently relatively close to the Earth’s core and consequently it’s getting heated up and just happens to come through on this week’s board the old carbon code coach Road used to pass through here so travelers have been calling at Telugu for over a hundred years some even claimed miracle cures more practically passing Stockman used these pools to cook their beef so I thought I should give it a try traditional Tucker beef and potatoes they’ve been in the water about eight hours no idea how lovely this is beautiful as you may have guessed this is volcanic country and this little pool is a perfect model for what I want to show you next imagine this is a volcano and this a lava river now imagine it all magnified on a giant scale millions of years ago the Mount Surprise region was the heart of a vast system of active volcanoes their lava flow spread as far as the eye can see today these Plains hold a fascinating secret and those dense green patches are the key their cabins holds in the roof of an extraordinary system of underground tunnels over 50 kilometres long the tunnels are called the and ara larvae tubes still only half explored they’re already recognized as one of Australia’s strangest natural features to explore them we’ll be climbing down through the cave-ins because that’s the only way in to visit the under a lava tubes I’ll need some help here in the Gulf that’s not hard to find thanks to a network of local experts they call Savannah guides Bruce Butler spends most of his time showing people the under assistant Jerry Collins knows the tubes equally well they’re on a cattle station owned by his family and they’ve been exploring here for 70 years right ed this is the first of the ones they were going to see this collapse here this is the first we call this the archway right here just here without these collapses you would never know that this tube line is underneath this ground right here so it should be on one right here certainly now they’ve got three meters on either see right underneath it being like a side effect yeah that’s about all of these whatever you expect nothing quite prepares you for the scale of these tunnels the first time you see them

Bruce and Jerry call this the archway this short section is one of the few places where daylight enters the tunnels letting you see the vastness of their scale the archway is 18 meters 60 feet high and 26 meters nearly 90 feet across major flow of lava from the actual land Erich Raeder actually followed a riverbed in the underlying granite country it flowed down this particular riverbed cooled very quickly on top most like a skin on a custard and it actually as it cooled it insulated or more and more and it kept flowing down this particular tube when the volcano expired the lava just ran at the end of it and left this long hollow cylindrical tube which runs horizontally under the ground and era is much more than just a local novelty these are the best-preserved lava tubes of their age in the world and probably the longest the second tube is typical of most of the system dark echoing and fast you could run two Express trains through here side by side the tunnels don’t stay level where they dip the floor has often silted up so the roof comes down to meet you the chance for a closer look reveals some surprising features including tiny stalactites the tunnel walls show a surprising variety of colors and textures in some places dripping lava has left a pattern like lace work the cave-ins are as remarkable as the tunnels a moisture and shelter protect the last remnants of a rainforest was once widespread there are plants here but no longer survive anywhere else in the Gulf these fork phones are both rare and ancient much older than the tunnels they date back to the age of dinosaurs so they not only survived the eruption they found refuge in the tunnels it left behind our final exploration is Bacchus tube it’s the longest penetrable tunnel in the system and we’re going half a kilometer in and we’ll get a one for you do you like that these lights have been specially installed for our visit we’re witnessing something but only a handful of people have ever seen what I place here’s another one at the bet the tunnels are home to thousands of bets this far in the air already has a funny smell and it’s made worse when our shoes kick up dust from the bat droppings breathing becomes quite unpleasant you meet some other unexpected visitors down here too in their determined search for moisture the roots of a fig tree have found their way down through the roof and all the way to the tunnel floor there’s more life down here than you might expect insect life some species have been found that aren’t known anywhere else others are only too familiar one of my first thoughts coming in here

was to wonder why there’s no Aboriginal art in these natural galleries then I realized that without our lights the tunnels would be pitch dark the kind of place Aboriginal people would absolutely avoid well I can honestly say that was one of the greatest experiences of my life the under eternals have only just been open to visitors I wonder how many people travel through here in the past and never knew what a strange subterranean world lay just beneath their feet these hills hide another of the Gulf’s secrets gold mine you it’s hidden in an awful lot of Gulf even so prospectors have come here looking for gold since the 1870s the country around Georgetown is littered with relics of the search and they tell me this country still yields gold we’re heading from Georgetown to Croydon traveling the old gold rush trail there are plenty of signs of progress along the way but you also see a great deal than a survived from earlier days in fact that’s one of the fascinations along this road in most parts of Australia would be hard-pressed to find buildings like this here they still stand where they always have vivid links for the time when the Gulf was much more remote than it is today for prospectors on the Gold Rush trail to the Gulf Croydon was a legend not just for its gold fields but because it took a feat of endurance just to get here the rush started in 1985 and life on the field was tough and harsh drought the first year typhoid the next but there was gold and the hopeful diggers came in droves by the 1890s a thriving City had grown up here literally in the middle of nowhere a commuter train even ran to Croydon suburbs as on every great field I said Croydon streets were paved with gold for a while maybe they were Pat Wilson’s store is one of the few survivors from gold rush days as you’ll see it’s no ordinary store Pat’s shop has never stopped trading perhaps that’s why stepping inside is like stepping back in time ah snow or deny show you got here the store yeah pretty old

any chance of a look around oh yeah it’s the other side of that store that really takes you back a hundred years these shelves only stock the goods of the past and most of the things that are in the museum here now would have been sold from this store in the early days first I will do been gradually coming back in now sure justice who who’s collected all this over the years well a lot of it was in the store here that had had stayed in the store and then people from the town brought in things when they knew there was going to be a museum mm-hmm they all till there belong to the butcher shop one of the butcher shops in town a beautiful piece of equipment and the scales here they were actually used in the store here to buy the gold when it was brought in because the miners used to change I suppose that was the currency yeah yeah now used to bringing their gold and then they’d get surprised and check out for any LED lights on the one side yeah that’s a Buddha from brass porter that was found out Oh the area around here brought it by associates much too many people know it’s a sausage machine oh so important it’s like 30 so what’s this a recording something tralala this was used to pull the or up from a federation I’d that’s a meat hanger is to hang the meat on the hooks here and fill the fun of this water so that the ants couldn’t walk across by the 1920s Crichton’s reefs had produced by today’s values half a billion dollars worth of gold but by then most of the gold was gone at coordinates height six thousand people lived here today the entire population of Croydon Shire is less than four hundred wooden once had 30 pubs today was just one not quite a ghost town of Croydon is surrounded by the ghosts of the past relic southern age that vanished long ago relics of a town of golden memory treat her with respect she has a tale to tell a tale for you and me a tale of history a rolly sheykh reminds us all of better day long ago a ruin now but think of what those walls would surely know an engine which beat like a heart when gold was found the rusty winch that took the sturdy – underground they came here full of hope in Croydon as golden past they couldn’t understand their fortunes would not last lonely chimney smokeless now abandoned shocked silence where once men and women worked into the relics of an age that vanished long ago relics of a town of golden memories treat her with respect she has a tale to tell a tale for you and me a tale of mystery a tale for you and be the tale of history Croydon isn’t quite Dead Yet despite the pain a Mayan abandoned the yesteryear is yielding gold again yielding gold again hardly a gold rush but one mine is back in action here how well is it doing how long will it last as with most gold fields no one can say

the gold rush brought the railway to Croydon as far back as 1891 a line built in the kind of rush of blood to the head and so often comes with gold but lines like this often vanish to the Gulf Lander is still in business not bad for a train they first talked about closing down as far back as nineteen hundred and ten today they use the rail motor not a steam engine thanks to the flattop it’s a very practical way of getting us from Croydon here to Normanton it’s still 150 kilometers west built to link the goldfields with the ports of the Gulf this railway doesn’t link up with any other line what’s going to the connecting links were never built the Gulf Lander remains Australia’s most isolated railway cut off from the rest of the railway system the Gulf Lander still provides a genuine link between two very remote Outback towns that of course is part of its charm today the Gulf Lander runs just once a week rocking and rolling along at 50 kilometres an hour the journey to Normanton takes four hours but at least a train still runs what kept it running one answer is that this train became so much part of the Gulf but no one was ever game to close it down some said that without the train the town’s at either end of the line would go back to push whether that’s right or not the Gulf Lander survived long enough to become an institution today the trains future looks good this trip is recognized as one of the great little railway journeys of the world in fact for a regular service it offers something more sophisticated railways would like to match a rare combination of business and pleasure everyone seems to enjoy a trip on the Gulf land but no one more than the driver the coal ship the beauty of it is you see over there but the people are sitting right next year and they come and talk to you and ask you different things as you’re going along and it’s a it’s sort of listen that the next step from the steam engine come on you know you can hear that the engine noise right next year and when it comes under load and goes off load and yeah it’s an clickety-clack of the wheels and the bangs and kicks with it go along with it broken Raul o eiko Marius section to us and Alan this is pretty good here in a swampy ground he rocks around good experience oh yeah twice a week Tonya quirk and her daughter Chrissy meet the Gulf Lander with refreshments for the passengers living nearby on Mae Vale cattle station the train has always brought them mail and supplies but Tanya and Chrissy are also fulfilling a long tradition someone from may Vale has been bringing refreshments down to the gulf flounder ever since the line first opened in 1891 right here get yourself a nice piece of homemade cake

I’ve seen more palatial refreshment rooms but none too bit of the service or atmosphere of black bull siding it’s one more unexpected touch on a most unusual journey yeah working miss hitting bush go back behind the joint they’re hidden bush good right Colin Casey and his team work full-time to keep the track maintained back in the 1880s the designer of this line faced a real challenge termites they eat everything in the bush including wooden railway sleepers the answer they came up with was hollow steel sleepers packed with earth and laid directly on the ground they’ve worked well for a hundred years yet to my knowledge they’ve never been tried anywhere else in the world finally a town of normative terminus for the golf lair what a great little train I can only hope that it keeps running for another hundred years Norman turn was just about the first town in the Gulf settled as a river port back in the 1860s in those days if you needed groceries all you had to do was send an order down south and then wait until your ship came in on average that took about three years these days normanton is a center for the cattle industry in the Gulf but the town preserves its past and some fine old buildings and some fine old pubs the purple the central and my bed for the night the Albion it’s going to be a big day in Normanton and that means an early start it’s the day of the annual Busch races trainers and jockeys have arrived in town overnight and most important of all so have the horses funny I let somebody know $30 got 30 $30 on your nail Charlie a $30 30 or 30 any 30 more food 48 49 48 49 that’s $40 50 other beyond into that 5815 on there this is what they call a kill and it’s probably my best chance of a win today Calcutta they auction off the horses in a particular race if you buy the winning horse you in all the money in the pool I guess Rio then straight on tiddly and

thanks very much well you never know your luck in the Big Smoke like all Busch races this is a social occasion for many and a serious business for some particularly in the wedding ring outspoken is certainly being well-groomed I’d say he’s looking good and he’s in good hands with a lady jockey I wonder what’s in think our chances are he lays a face out of a horse won one race in Townsville led a field of 12 I think he’s got a show tensions building outspoken prices shortly I must say all the signs are looking good on him they’re all in line right now lolly then comes elbowing running third then on the fences sound of frost here comes the Lord Derby winner lothario lad being set alight quickly around the outside is fire echolalia break back then $2 a day on this outside is outspoken and double ties the trailer on the home turn now the Jim White Memorial Golf Club first and turn is elf open lothario late but I’m fast in the center lothario layers but the lead down by Oracle on the beach followed by outspoken they are the outsiders double tight Dollar Baby Altaf REO led lothario let’s roll about three or four legs in front down they’re running there were 400 red is a great winner lothario Laird wins the Jim Watson will come 3rd 2nd places outspoken third double tie elbow is fake oh well apparently we just weren’t quite outspoken enough on the day still you can’t complain about second place right at the start I promised you no more salt plains I didn’t say the country might not get a bit flat but don’t worry there’s a real surprise coming up it’s the sudden change from the dry scrublands back there to the blue waters of the Gulf that makes arriving here such a contrast and there are more surprises in town this is Caramba the town they call the outback by the sea you can see why there was always a small settlement here but

the town has mushroomed in the last 30 years what happened here in the mid 1960s was like a modern Gold Rush that’s when the almost untapped Gulf was found to contain one of the treasures of the sea these fellows call it a prawn Paula the shrimp either way they’re solid gold and the Gulf is one of the richest prawning waters of the world Caramba today lives for prawns it’s the supply base for a huge fishing industry centered on the Gulf for a long time the Gulf was Australia’s most underestimated waterway it’s a shallow tropical sea and in teams with life over 200 trawlers converge on the Gulf for the prawning season each boat is worth a million dollars plus mind you horns aren’t the only traitor in these seas brow man who fished the rivers of the Gulf on a very different scale to the piranhas their catches a no less famous delicacy barramundi the Barrow men are the characters of the Gulf and we’re going upriver to meet them Duck Creek is just a few hours of the coast from Caramba it’s a tidal estuary a heart of barramundi and the men who fish for them vĂ©ra fishermen usually work alone a day-long round of setting and checking nets in high season a day’s catch could be 90 fish I’d be lucky to find anyone with time to chat so I’ve come late in the year and all we’re really had to do is catch a feed for dinner not only barramundi get caught up in these nets some accidental catches need to be handled with great care a stingray has a nasty barb in his tail and getting him disentangled is no easy job stingrays aren’t the greatest danger the Barrow men also share these estuaries with the deadliest man hunters of all saltwater crocodiles that’s nice the big fellas probably at 11 foot 10 foot or somewhere that you’ll get him snagged up in this role you know oh you thought uh you sort of wait till I drown and go and get him here okay was great respect in do they ever come along and try and Rob your catch yeah you know they take fish out of in it’s lots of times you’re checking if there’s one big bugger up here these other in type of fish yeah so you come through in Italy is he a big head you just got Daniel come up behind you while you’re working in the chi-chi’s most Barrowman camp ashore but a few spend the whole season afloat their boats become home transport and factory all rolled into one you go hey I like they’re finished you verify they denied this video party is not only coming to dinner he’s taking me in search of our second course yet another golf delicacy mud crab these men take care of their River they don’t take undersized crabs females Jenny’s go back to the water to ensure future supplies perhaps for the markets are sent out alive that means crabbers like RT have to learn a particular skill tying mud crabs to neutralize claws that could easily take off a human finger the worry is artis only showing me how to do it because he thinks I should give it a try

quality toys they come this day they come undone and then they like it less I just chew the others plant that listen fine it yeah question my wife will just stick like this tobacco yeah and just come from behind pick him up by that then stick it on the seat okay there we go a real girl – different Barrowman and crabbers are a breed apart their lifestyle is quite a sharp contrast to the mechanized world of the modern prawn trawlers nine months of the year they worked from riverbank camps like this going to town for supply is about once a month they need to get on together otherwise the life would be hard to take some would call this a tough lifestyle others would say it’s idyllic but no one could call this meal anything less than a bank really the wet season will start soon and they’ll pack up their camp until next year but they’ll be back and I can see why they forego a few luxuries here but not the one luxury they’ve all their independence and just calmly pants down at the start of this journey I promised you a road of surprises I hope that’s what it’s turned out to be but there’s something more to the magic of this trip and for that matter to the Gulf itself this is still travelers country not tourist country still a bit off the beaten track so maybe that’s why there’s a special feeling in the air what kind of feeling I’d call it freedom try to understand this bland Australia taker ‘she is a mooted mysteries mother of us all beneath the Southern Cross in her frame of peaceful scenes try to understand this Landis Bay Baker ashiya’s of murder mysteries mother of us all they make the Tsar cross in her bag peaceful