Normanton

We had thought we would see a lot of road kill on the Nullarbor instead we saw it on the road to Normanton. The birds of prey were having a feast. Several times an eagle or kite flew up from the carcasses giving us an angry look for disturbing their lunch. It surprised me that we didn’t hit anything along the way.

I am not sure what Normanton’s claim to fame is. Maybe it is the purple pub or it could be the old goal. Or it could have been the replica of the largest saltwater crocodile shot in the world. And it was big. Real big. It was shot by Krystina Pawlowski in 1957. The croc was named “Krys the Savannah King” it reflects on the increasable feat of the lady who shot him. A feat recorded by the Guinness Book of Records. Well done Krystina. Krys was measured at 8.63 m (28ft, 4 in) and estimated the weight would have been about 2 tons. Not bad considering a healthy male saltwater croc will range from 4 to 7 meters long and weigh in at about 770kg. No wonder the salty holds the record for being the largest living reptiles.

We stopped at Normanton bush camp. It is just across the river on the edge of town. It is an interesting bush camp set right beside the river. Several kangaroos dined on the grassy area. You could fit hundreds of van into the site but the council allows only ten vans at any given time. To police this caravaners have to go to the tourist information centre to get a permit and rangers check every day. The town has 2 van parks and this system is one way to keep everyone happy. If we didn’t get into the bush camp we were going to continue on. Having the bush camp kept us in the town for two nights. We did some grocery shopping and we had lunch at the purple pub after a walking tour around the town.

The walking tour started as a “what is there to do in town” thing. To start with it the tour seemed really boring but as it was only 11:00am we decided to give it a go. It wasn’t long before it went from being so uninteresting and bad to being fun as we look at building and drains.

We saw the old jail first, which was built in 1888 and closed in 1945, the building continued as a watch house until 1991. Sitting beside the jail is the trackers quarters. Neither of the buildings were open to the public.

We then moved on to the “Cast Iron Gutter Plates, Stone Pitched Guttered and Hitching Rail”. We learnt from the information board the Gutter Plates were forged in Croydon in the early 1880 and cast with “Normanton Municipal Council” around the edges (boy were they built to last, 136 years later and they are still going strong.) The Stone Pitched Gutters was laid in 1880 and the stone was quarry from local stone. For me the best part of the information board was the bit that told me “The Hitching Rail was used to tie up horses in bygone times.” Good to know that.

Then there was the artesian bore, which looks like a big tap. The bore was put down in 1895 and is 2330 ft deep. It once supplied the town with 293,800 gallons per day of water. Not to be confused with the town well and the street lamp. The town well was still used up until 1965. These days the water for Normanton and Karumba comes from the Norman River. Next to the well is one of the original town lamps. It cost a mammoth 2 pounds in the 1880 to install and was fuelled by kerosene.

If you thought the walking tour was over, no, no, no, there was still more. The Oldest surviving bank in the Normanton (built in 1886 and is now the only bank in the town) has a display of two safes, records and scales once used to weigh the Croydon Gold.

By this time we were walking past the purple pub and had enough of all the fun although there was more to see we called it quits.

After lunch we took a look at the Normanton Station. It still runs a train to Croydon once a week coming back the next day. (You can go half way and a bus brings you back the same day.) It wasn’t running the day we were in town. The station also has a little museum, which we wandered around in for about half an hour.

The tourist information centre is an interesting place to visit. There was a lot of information about crocs and about the explorers Burke and Wills. On one sheet it said Burke, who had been made leader of the group, had no experience and was impatient making bad decisions so was not a good leader. To make matters worse, he had little to no bushcraft and no experience of how to live off the land. It seemed the only good thing he did was to appoint Wills as his second in command (who was said to be a good bushman.) This was something I was not taught in school. They were the first to cross the continent from south to north but didn’t make it back alive; their bodies were recovered by a search party and buried in Melbourne.  That bit I was taught in school.

For the second night the clouds started to come over and Adrian and I talked about if it would rain or not. The wind was picking up a little and the humidity was giving me a glow. We didn’t think much more about it until the local ranger came knocking on our door telling us to move out of the camp because the rains were coming and the bush camp would became very slippery when wet. Thinking we would be up for a night in a van park Adrian asked him were the best place to go would be. The ranger told us to go to the boat ramp car park area, as we would be ok there. The clouds become darker and the wind just that bit more savage. It didn’t take us long to move. The humidity added to my already glowing face and the rain never came.

We had seen several pairs of Brolgas scatter along the side of the road as we left the town and I was very impressed. They did seem far from water, not that I know much about the bird but it did seem strange to me as I had only seen them in a river setting. About 50 k past Normanton we saw a lot of Brolgas. There would have been hundreds of them on a billabong beside the road. Totally amazing. I had never seen so many in one place before. There was not a real place to stop and Adrian had to travel further up the road before finally pulling over. I ran back to take some photos. The birds weren’t too happy with my presence even though I was still some distance away and so most took flight. I stopped running and tried to look like I wasn’t interested in them but that didn’t work. By the time I was close enough the Brolgas were down to a handful. So disappointed.

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