May 2015 - April 2016
  • Day346

    Glen Waverley

    April 30, 2016 in Australia ⋅ ⛅ 21 °C

    NELSON BAY TO GLEN WAVERLEY 6th August to 14th August

    We headed off from Nelson Bay for the drive south to Wollongong and set up at Corrimal caravan park near our friends Jean and Fred's house. We stayed there for a week and during that time caught up with other friends, neighbours and old work colleagues from my ancient past when I lived in Corrimal. We also travelled up to Sydney by train and spent a weekend with Janette and Richard in their flat in Bondi (where the young and buff people live!) They took us on a lovely walk across the harbour bridge and return for lunch at a cafe at the Rocks before wandering around the opera house and part of the Botanic Gardens. The following day we all went on a cross-harbour ferry and a spectacular walk along the foreshore, winding our way past little inlets with beautiful views of the harbour and out towards the heads.

    After our final couple of days in Wollongong we said our goodbyes to Jean, Fred and Christine and headed off on the last leg of our trip home. Our final night on the road was spent at Wodonga before the run home down the Hume Hwy.

    In all we spent approximately 12 weeks on the road and travelled 12,000 km. During that time we met some really nice people, saw some amazing places and enjoyed some memorable experiences. We also learned a lot and will no doubt use that knowledge to make our next trip even better or at least as good.
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  • Day77

    Nelson Bay, NSW

    August 5, 2015 in Australia ⋅ ⛅ 12 °C

    BUNDABERG to NELSON BAY 24/7/15 - 5/8/15

    FW. We got to Childers the day before their annual Childers Show and noticed the number of people in town. The local Peanut Van operator told us the population in Childers swells from 3000 to 40000 for that weekend so we bought a supply of peanut products and moved on.

    In Maroochydore we stayed inside a friend’s empty Factory and boy do those metal roof buildings make strange noises all night long.

    After Maroochydore we set off for Toowoomba and decided to tackle the climb with the caravan. We made it ok all but in 2nd and 3rd for most of the climb.

    Once we crossed the border into NSW we noticed the massive amount of new motorway that was under construction, roughly 400kms from nth of Byron Bay to Nelson Bay. They could afford to spend some money on the existing road surface though because it is pretty bad.

    The weather is getting colder and the wind seems to be following us down the coast.

    HW. After free-camping near a wetland area beside the Bruce Highway just north of Gympie, we drove on to Maroochydore where we enjoyed the luxury of parking the van inside an almost empty factory where we also had the use of a kitchenette and bathroom. Our friends Ross & Jenny were house-sitting an apartment situated on the river so we enjoyed a leisurely afternoon on their deck right next to the water. We also visited Australia Zoo during our time in Maroochydore and spent an enjoyable day there. (Finally we saw some crocodiles, even though they were in captivity!!) Couldn’t believe the number of people there on a weekday in the middle of winter.

    We headed inland to Toowoomba and found the weather decidedly colder at night. The climb up the hill to Toowoomba certainly made the Pajero work hard. While there we drove out to a local lookout where we had magnificent views of the countryside for many kilometres. We also went to see some of the gardens for which Toowoomba is famous although we were about a month too early for the spring floral displays. The Japanese gardens were really lovely. We visited the Cobb & Co museum which was very interesting with lots of exhibits and information on the history of Cobb & Co. The museum also had a workshop where a wheelwright was making wooden wagon wheels. In another section was a photographic display where we were lucky to meet an elderly photographer (Graham Burstow) who has won many awards in Australia and overseas for his work. He gave us information about lots of his photos and camera equipment on display.

    Next we headed South down the Pacific Highway, crossing the border into NSW and after a quick visit to see my cousin who lives on the edge of the mountain range above Byron Bay and has million dollar views up and down the coast, we continued on to Yamba which is on the coast midway between Ballina and Grafton. It is a lovely spot and we were met by a couple of friends who are spending a couple of months there in their van for the winter. The caravan park was magnificent and for only an extra $4 per night we treated ourselves to an ensuite site. Ron and Rhonda drove us round the area and showed us lots of places of interest during our couple of days with them. We visited the little town of Maclean which has a strong Scottish history and all the lamp-posts are painted in different tartans. The Maclean lookout provided great views – the rivers in northern NSW are enormous and winding. We continued down to Urunga, just south of Coffs Harbour where we stayed for a night at the caravan park. My mother lived in Urunga for more than 30 years so it was good to go back for a visit. We made our way south and had a look at South West Rocks which is a very pretty spot on the coast, then on to Forster where we stayed for a night at a caravan park right beside the lake. We had great views from our windows but strangely the place was nearly empty. The nights are getting colder!!!

    Continuing south we drove alongside lakes and waterways all down this section of the NSW coast which is really beautiful. Our next stop was Nelson Bay where we met good friends Jean and Fred who had driven up from Wollongong for a few days R & R. We spent a couple of days taking in the scenery, walking up an enormous hill to a lookout over Shoal Bay and enjoying a couple of meals at the local clubs.
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  • Day65

    Bundaberg, Queensland

    July 24, 2015 in Australia ⋅ ☁️ 24 °C

    PROSERPINE to BUNDABERG 8/7/2015 - 24/7/2015

    H.W. From Proserpine we drove south along the Bruce Highway, headed for Mackay and found a caravan park near the city centre. Soon after our arrival the couple in the next van had us organised to join them and two other couples for dinner at the local Bowling Club. We have met so many really nice people on our travels and these were no exception. One point of interest at this van park was the enormous amenities block with no less than 18 showers and toilets (and very few people using them). The next day we took a drive around Mackay which we found nice but not a lot different to any other city. After stocking up on groceries we spotted some smoke near the city so decided to go and have a look if it was a cane fire. Sure enough there was a cane field being burnt but it was hardly the spectacular sight we’d hoped for. Later back at camp our new friends told us they’d been to see a cane fire on a friend’s farm and from the vision on their iPad it made ours look absolutely pathetic! Missed out again…… Mostly these days the cane isn’t burnt before it’s harvested. On our long drives down the Bruce Highway we’ve seen many kilometres with nothing but sugar cane plantations beside the road. All the cane is ready for harvest at the moment so there are lots of cane trains moving along the narrow gauge rail lines everywhere and most towns have a sugar mill which can be seen from quite a distance with the plumes of steam from the huge chimneys.

    We continued south and free-camped near St. Lawrence in a good paved area. This one wasn’t quite as noisy as the last free stop where we not only had to contend with the noise of the trucks on the highway at night but the train line as well. From there we travelled on to Yeppoon where our friends from Melbourne, Gordon and Judy Dobie were staying in their motorhome for a couple of months as they do each winter. Also other friends, Alan and Gayle Gissing were due to arrive a couple of days later as they were on their way north towards the Cape. We spent a week in Yeppoon relaxing, socialising and looking around the area. Frank had a couple of games of golf and we enjoyed lunches and dinners etc. as well as driving in to Rockhampton to have a look there as well. The highlight while we were there was the day we spent at Paradise Lagoons Camp Draft which we’d heard about from the people at Mackay Van Park. It was a huge event for horses and riders where riders compete to cut out a cow or steer from a small herd and control it for a certain time before it can return to the herd. All in all there were about five or six arenas where events were happening simultaneously and there were about 700 competitors. In one event the rider drops the reins after cutting out the steer and the horse does all the work itself. They were just amazing.

    After saying our goodbyes to the Gissings we headed off in opposite directions leaving the Dobies to enjoy the rest of their stay in Yeppoon. We had a look at the beach towns of Tannum Sands, Agnes Water and Seventeen Seventy on our way down to Bundaberg. Agnes Water was the first beach where there were surfers riding waves as all the beaches to the north are protected by the reef. The town of 1770 was named because of James Cook landing there back in the day. It had lovely views along the coast from a small lookout.

    We camped near the centre of Bundaberg alongside the river which was very picturesque especially at night as the riverfront is illuminated. The following day we went to visit my cousin in the Base Hospital where she is in rehab recovering from a stroke which happened nine weeks ago. She is working hard with the physios and is hoping to be home in about a week. Later we went on a tour of the Bundy Ginger Beer Factory (the Barrel) with tastings of all the drinks they produce before a late drive around the botanic gardens.

    FW Back in about 1970, I did some work aboard a ship carrying frozen meat for export and we stopped to pick up meat in Rockhampton. It turns out the place was actually Port Alma which is just up the road. The interesting thing about the trip for me was the U turn the captain of the ship had to do in the river using only his anchors and rear propeller. (no bow thrusters or tugs in those days). The manoeuvre took about an hour and was very impressive. I thought it would be nice to show Heather and see the place again myself. Well the place is harder to get into than Fort Knox and the paperwork required could take 2-3 hours to complete as it is now controlled by Queensland Port Authority and Australian Quarantine Inspection Services due to most of the explosives for the mines entering through this port. After a short conversation with the Port Manager, he arranged for one of his Inspectors to smuggle us onto the wharf and show us around. The whole thing was a bit of an anticlimax.
    There were two incidents that Heather hasn’t mentioned, the first was before Yeppoon when a truck deliberately tried to force us off the road and into a bridge. It was only due to extremely skilful driving that I managed to avoid hitting the bridge or the truck. We wrote his number down and reported it to the Police.
    The other was when we got the two finger salute from a Toyota Landcruiser driver in Rockhampton. Not unexpected from the owners of that particular make of vehicle.
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  • Day51

    Proserpine, Queensland

    July 10, 2015 in Australia ⋅ ⛅ 22 °C

    CAIRNS to PROSERPINE 2/7/15 to 10/7/15

    HW. We’re heading south again towards Innisfail along the section of the north Queensland coast called The Great Green Way. As the name suggests everything is incredibly green and the rainforest scenery is so lush and dense, sometimes growing right up to the edge of the highway. The landscape if fairly mountainous and all of it is covered in rainforest which makes for some great scenery. We spent a couple of days exploring the Innisfail area and visited Mission Beach which was quite busy with holiday-makers. We also found an unusual winery at a place called Murdering Point where they make wines and liqueurs from many different fruits other than grapes. Naturally we sampled most and bought a few!! We also heard about a place called Paronella Park which everyone said was a place not to be missed so we managed to get a camp spot there for a night and drove up into the hills west of Innisfail. Paronella Park got its name from a Spanish chap named Jose Paronella who bought a section of the rainforest in 1930 and set about single-handedly building his “castle” amongst the jungle. Within his landholding there is a large waterfall called Mena Falls. He not only built several buildings but also huge concrete staircases to the lower levels, an avenue of Kauri pine trees, a tunnel through a hill leading to another smaller waterfall and many pathways through the rainforest. He then set about constructing the first Hydro-electric power plant in Australia which he then used to power his “castle” as well as floodlight the Mena Falls, and all of this in the 1930’s. He even had a big ballroom/theatre in his “castle” which had a huge mirror-ball suspended from the ceiling and his own cinema equipment. Unfortunately most of the buildings are now in ruins due to several disastrous cyclones and floods over the years but the people who bought the place about 20 years ago are in the process of slowly restoring parts of the property. The power plant is now working again and we saw the falls and other buildings floodlit at night.

    From there we drove to Tully (where, surprise, surprise it was raining) where we saw the iconic big gumboot and went on a tour of the sugar refinery which was very interesting. Everywhere around this part of Queensland there are huge areas of sugarcane which is all ready for cutting at the moment. Unfortunately the unseasonal wet weather of the past month has delayed the cane cutting and we were lucky that we saw the sugar mill in action.

    Our drive then took us to Cardwell which is a very pretty spot on the coast with views to Hinchinbrook Island. We then continued towards Ingham and drove to a camp spot we’d heard about at a place called Forrest Beach where we set up very close to the beach. Most of the beaches aren’t safe for swimming due to the “stingers” which may be present in the water. There’s absolutely no surf anywhere along the coast as the reef protects the coastline from swells. Here the palms and rainforest grew right down to the sand in places.

    Continuing on we spent a couple of days in the Townsville area. While the city is very “touristy”, it is also a very picturesque place with great views from Castle Hill across the boat harbour and to the many islands off the coast. The water is incredibly blue, the beaches stunning and the green backdrop of the forest make for some great photos. After Townsville we travelled down through Ayr where we looked through an interesting little nature display which was created by a man using more than 60,000 native fauna, butterflies, shells and rocks mostly collected around north Queensland. The landscape now became totally different as this area was very dry because apparently they had no wet season earlier this year. It was mostly flat with low scrub and looked quite desolate after the lush green we had become accustomed to. After a free camp near Bowen (the home of the Big Mango) where I sampled some Mango sorbet, (delicious), we reached Proserpine where we set up camp and drove out to Airlie Beach and Shute Harbour which are both stunningly beautiful places. It’s mostly green again around this area with lots of sugar cane everywhere. Airlie is a real tourist mecca with resorts built up into the hills overlooking the harbour which is full of very expensive boats.

    FW After depositing more of our Top End red dirt at the caravan park in Cairns during a rain shower, we moved on to the August Moon park just out of Innisfail where they had a wash down area which we took full advantage of. We thought the ground around our caravan looked really red but the red just kept coming out of every cavity when I turned a hose on it again.

    About a week and a half before we visited Paronella park they had 170mm of rain overnight and a considerable area of the park was under 1 ½ meters of water. We saw little evidence of the flood.

    A minor statistic of the Tully Sugar Mill is that 100% of the sugar goes overseas.

    Heather mentioned we stayed at Forrest Beach, what she didn’t mention is that the long term holidayers that have been going there for years threatened to slit our throats if we told anyone about it, so please don’t tell a sole.

    At Proserpine we stayed in a caravan park that backed on to a sugar cane plantation with the cane train line about 10 m from our caravan. The cane trains ran till almost midnight. (look closely in the photo behind the caravan for the cane train carriages)
    We seemed to pick the wrong time to take a look at the beaches as almost every time we drove to them it was low tide and trust me you know when its low tide because the water is almost a kilometre away.

    You probably don’t have to be a mountain goat to access the houses and resort accommodation built in the “hills” around Airlie beach but it sure would help. I don’t think a normal human being could actually walk up the roads they are so steep.
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  • Day42

    Cairns, Queensland

    July 1, 2015 in Australia ⋅ ⛅ 25 °C

    CAPE YORK to CAIRNS 22/06/15 – 1/07/15

    FW. During our last night at Siesia it rained which had a less than desirable effect on the dust on the caravan. The road back to the Jardine ferry was even worse than on the way up if that is at all possible. Speaking to one of the indigenous crew on the ferry about the condition of the road they blamed the Government for lack of funds. This is a different story than the one I heard at Bramwell station as they claim that they used to get the gravel from the local quarry run by the aborigines for free until a few years ago and in return Bramwell Contracting would maintain their roads as well as the state roads. Once the Aborigines started charging for the gravel Bramwell stopped maintaining their roads. Consequently no-one regularly maintains the roads even though the local indigenous community were supplied with brand new road plant and trained to use it about five years ago. The plant has never been used.
    On the way back we stopped at Bramwell station where we again were entertained by a guitar playing singer, then on to Musgrave Station. We stayed in the paddock out the side of the roadhouse which was amazing, one minute there were only a few campers and within an hour the whole place was full.
    Then it was on to Laura where we pumped up the tyres and had a chat to Harold who owned the Austin 7 who apparently had been to Melbourne years ago and met a few of the Austin 7 car club members. Then it was off to Cooktown where we stayed a few nights and took in a few of the Historical landmarks in town, including a counter tea at one of the three remaining of the fifty pubs.

    HW. Wow, was I happy when we reached the permanent bitumen roads at Laura!! By this stage everything inside the car and caravan was coated in a layer of red dust and our dust leaks into the under bed and lower cupboard storage areas was still a big problem despite Frank’s efforts with silicone sealant and tape. After arriving in Cooktown and having a wander along the main street that evening, with its historical monuments to Captain Cook etc., we spent the entire following day giving the inside of the car and van a major dust removal. Thank goodness I brought my little Dyson vac! The following day we visited the Cooktown Botanical Gardens and Grassy Hill lookout and old lighthouse where we had magnificent views of the Mouth of the Endeavour River and out to the Coral Sea. We also went to the James Cook Museum which is housed in an historic building which used to be a convent back in 1889. We had a great history lesson which brought back some memories of things we learned in primary school and saw one of the preserved anchors from the Endeavour and other artefacts.

    Our next night was at Kuranda in the hills above Cairns. We spent the following day exploring the township which is famous for its markets and handcrafts. It is a very pretty spot. We then drove down the very windy road to our next stopover in a caravan park in Cairns. By this stage the weather had begun to go from light drizzle to rain which became very heavy at times during the night. (What the…… this is supposed to be the dry season!!) Fortunately it eased and we were lucky that it remained fine while we went up on the Kuranda Scenic Railway through the rainforest, past gorges and waterfalls to Kuranda where we had lunch and then returned down to Cairns via the Skyrail cableway which had even more spectacular views and breathtaking scenery. Not long after returning to camp the skies opened up again and it rained most of the night leaving much of the caravan park underwater and boggy. Frank took the opportunity to get a bucket of soapy water and a broom and took to the outside of our very dirty van and removed a lot of red Cape dirt leaving the rain to rinse it off. The grass around our van now has a decidedly orange tinge to it. When we arrived at this campsite we met a couple in the next van who came from Cranbourne who had their young grandson up with them for the week and they told us that one of the things he wanted to take home with him was some red dirt from Cape York. How fortunate we pulled in next to them! This was just before the rain started so there he was with his brush in his hands scraping the caked on red dirt from our caravan wheels into a little container to take home with him on the plane to Melbourne the next day!! No doubt it will go to school with him for show and tell after the holidays.
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  • Day33

    Cape York, Queensland

    June 22, 2015 in Australia ⋅ ⛅ 23 °C

    WEIPA to CAPE YORK 18/06/15 TO 22/06/15

    FW. After enjoying a couple of days in Weipa we headed off to our ultimate destination for this trip, Cape York.
    We turned off to Batavia Downs about 65 kms out of Weipa and the dirt rd to Batavia Downs was great, like a bitumen rd.
    Back on the Peninsular development rd it was rough with sections of deep, deep corrugations.
    So rough was the road that while my phone was in its cradle it shook the sim card out of its holder.
    We stopped for lunch at the Morton Telegraph station and the only piece of equipment left of the Telegraph station was a concrete slab and one support for the Tower. Apparently we were about 45 years too late to see the station as it was when it operated.
    We stopped overnight at Bramwell Station an operating Cattle station of 540 sq kms.
    There are 4 businesses within the Bramwell Group, the Cattle Station, the Bramwell Roadhouse, Bramwell Contracting who maintain the roads for the Government (it’s a pity they don’t spend some time on their 7k driveway) and the Bramwell Tourist Park and Camping where we stayed overnight. A couple of caravaners staying next to us told us that both their caravans sustained tail end damage from the ferry ramp due to the steepness of the exit ramp, (4 wheel drive low range up the ramp)
    The Jardine River Ferry crossing was interesting. We arrived at 12.30 and the boys were on their designated hard fought for 1 hour lunch break. When we got there I pumped up the air bags and we got on and off with no trouble.
    The road into Bamaga from the Ferry was the worst we had experienced so far with serious corrugations and deep holes and never ending stupid speeding Toyota Landcruiser drivers. We were down to 20km/hr on some sections and driving along a side track on some of the sections where the ruts were too deep to drive over.
    On reaching Siesia I discovered the main electrical cable from the car to the caravan was damaged due to rubbing on the ground. Luckily it didn’t do any damage and was repairable.
    On our trip to Thursday Island we noticed some of the locals had modified cars (Otherwise known as Hoon cars to us Victorians) and they still do some Cruising.
    The 35km road to the Tip is a narrow dirt road that is only wide enough for 1 car so when oncoming traffic is encountered 1 car has to find a place to pull off the road to allow the other to pass.

    HW. Frank’s comments about the roads up this way don’t begin to describe how bad some sections are…. You’d only do this trip for the experience of getting to the top of Australia I’ve decided because it’s certainly trying. I’m amazed the car and caravan have held together after some of the bone-shaking corrugations and potholes we’ve encountered. There are a few sections of bitumen road which are just bliss! Frank has done all the dirt road driving as I just don’t feel at all confident driving in those conditions. The landscape after crossing the Jardine River is mostly flat but with different types of vegetation ranging from heath land to scrub and some sections of rainforest. Because the prevailing wind goes from east to west, all the trees and scrub on the western side of the road is brown from all the dust created from the passing vehicles, while the other side is quite green. I was surprised that we’ve seen so little wildlife on our way. We’ve only spotted a couple of goannas, a snake and a handful of roos as well as the cattle which roam and feed amongst the scrub. There are huge termite mounds everywhere too.

    When we stopped at Bramwell Station for a night we listened to the info session about the cattle station followed by entertainment from a musician who played all the old 60’s music which everyone enjoyed as most were fellow grey nomads. Apparently they have entertainment there every night during the dry season and many tour groups stay the night there in small cabins or tents. They provide meals too.

    After arriving in Seisia which is 40 km south of the Tip we enjoyed a walk along the beach and watched a lovely sunset. The next day we made the ferry crossing to Thursday Island. There are so many islands all around the tip of Cape York and we passed many of them on our way. Once on the island we made our way around on foot, climbing to the top of the hill overlooking the township and the surrounding islands. It was a really beautiful view. The hill still has the cannons and underground bunkers used during WWII to defend the Torres Straight area. We had lunch at one of the many hotels in the town where we enjoyed the stunning view over the bay and islands.

    We returned to Seisia late in the afternoon and while sitting at our caravan pondering on what we would have for dinner, low and behold along came a couple of local aborigines with a car fridge full of live Crayfish. We bought 2 for $10 each and had them for dinner. Another first for me, cutting up and cleaning Crayfish. The next day we drove up to the Tip (minus the caravan) over more bone shattering roads. The road was very narrow and the rainforest grew right up to the edge and above the road so it was a bit like driving through a lush green tunnel in places. After parking, we walked the last 500 metres or so, the final bit over rocks, to reach our ultimate aim, the northern-most point on the Australian continent. It was a bit like Burke St when we got there….. People were waiting their turn to get a photo of themselves with the sign but after waiting a short time most people made their way back and we did the photo thing and also made phone calls to our girls as there is reasonably good phone reception right at the tip which is quite amazing considering it’s really sporadic up this way. That evening back at Seisia we made contact with two other couples who we’d met up with at various stops along the Peninsular. They invited us to share their freshly caught fish with them for dinner which was very delicious and enjoyable. Tomorrow we will begin our journey south…..
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  • Day28

    Weipa, Queensland

    June 17, 2015 in Australia ⋅ ☁️ 29 °C

    MAREEBA TO WEIPA 13/06/15 - 17/06/15

    HW. Heading North again along the Mulligan Highway we made our way through the North Queensland tablelands towards Lakeland which is the junction with the Peninsular Developmental Road, our route to the Tip. Another 50 km along the road we came to Laura which is the first “major “ town and the end of the sealed road. We camped at the back of the Hotel which has power, showers and toilets. Frank enjoyed seeing the old Austin 7 which was driven to the Tip in 1928 and figured if it could make it, so could we!

    Next morning we headed off again, the start of the dirt road which we were told was in good condition. There were a few stretches of bitumen but mostly dirt which was a bit rough and corrugated in places. Most of the creek crossings (which were dry) were concreted so only required a slower approach in case of potholes on the edges. There were some roadworks in one section and as we passed we heard one of the workmen on our CB radio say that our van was leaking water so we pulled over and sure enough a stone must have hit the drain valve on the side of our front water tank and snapped it off. Fortunately the driver of a road-watering tanker pulled up and gave Frank a hand to find something to temporarily repair it while I held my thumb over the hole to prevent all our water escaping. ( I felt like the little Dutch boy who plugged the dyke in Amsterdam!) The dust is something to behold. Everything is now covered in red dust and it’s quite thick in places like the top roll section at the back of the van and the car and van wheels are just caked. I found it pretty scary when a road train came past in the opposite direction and the dust was so thick we just couldn’t see anything for 50 to 100 metres. There are some cowboys who drive past at great speed and throw up stones etc. as well. We continued on to Coen for our next night stopover at the back of the hotel. In hindsight we should have continued on a further 116 km to a place called Archer River where there is a camp next to the river. However we now know what advice to give others. It wasn’t all that bad I guess but we could have done without the pub owner’s dog barking on and off all night long only 20 metres away!

    Next day we hit the dirt road again for the drive to Weipa on the western side of the Cape York peninsular. There were some sealed sections of the road which were a nice break from the vibrations and dust of the dirt road. We arrived in Weipa mid afternoon and set up camp in the only camping ground near the centre of town. It was a nice spot and we met up with some other vanners we’d met along the way. Weipa is the site of the world’s largest Bauxite mine which is operated by Rio Tinto Alcan. We decided to spend three nights here in order to do a couple of tours of the area. First we went on a sunset Eco boat tour but unfortunately it wasn’t low tide so we didn’t see any crocodiles. However it was really lovely to drift up one of the small creeks while enjoying beer, champagne and nibbles and later watching the sunset over the Gulf of Carpentaria. We also went on a bus tour of the township and the mine which included lots of history and mining information. It was good to see that the mined areas are returned to their natural vegetation after the bauxite has been removed. Frank really enjoyed seeing the massive equipment used here.

    FW. As Heather mentioned our first stage up to Coen had some pretty deep corrugations and we were down to first and second gear through some of the creek crossings. Asking the locals about the road conditions didn’t help as you always got the same answer “ Ok I guess”
    We bought some rectangular plastic baskets of various sizes from the local 2 dollar shop in Mareeba and put the fridge items in them. No more booby-trapped fridge. After the beer flavoured Yoghurt incident, all screw tops or flip tops have now got rubber bands securing them.
    The road from Coen got a bit better and in the main was better than I was expecting. At the Quarantine station I again ask about the condition of the road ahead and the lady officer said it was good and that she had come from Weipa that morning and it had taken her about 2 ½ hours.
    Weipa is about 225 + kms away.
    The Austin 7 Warwick outside the Pub at Laura that Heather mentioned will do the trip again in a re-enactment of the 1928 trip.
    The Aboriginal tour guide on the Eco trip gave some really interesting insight into the local indigenous culture around here as Weipa is where he was brought up. The next day he was wandering around the caravan park and he noticed our Pajero number plate. He came over and explained that the Aboriginal clan name for the Weipa area was Wik and he was known as Frank the Wik man. When we told him that my name was also Frank and that Wik was my nick name from when I was a teenager he couldn’t believe it. I am now known as Frank the Wik man too.
    We have included some photos of the Haul Trucks which carry over 200 ton of Bauxite and weigh around 300 ton all up. They burn 120litres of fuel an hour and carry enough fuel to operate for 12 hours. Each tire costs in excess of $30,000. They load as much as possible into the trucks as they are paid bonuses on the mines productivity. The Miners food, electricity, fuel, holidays and housing is all subsidised by Rio-Tinto and the houses supplied by Rio can be bought for the cost of construction only. Apparently the only way to get a job at the mine is when someone dies and they have no relatives or the mine is expanded. Rio has made this a residential mine which means you must live in Weipa before you even apply for a job at the mine.
    The dust has effected everything, locks are hard to lock and unlock, catches stick, fridges struggle to maintain temp and it gets in everywhere.
    Tomorrow we leave for Bramwell station, another step closer.
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  • Day23

    Mareeba, Queensland

    June 12, 2015 in Australia ⋅ ⛅ 21 °C

    CHARTERS TOWERS to MAREEBA 8/06/15 – 12/06/15

    HW. On the move again we headed for Undara Volcanic National Park which is about 380 km North of Charters Towers. This road into the National Park was sealed and we arrived late afternoon at the van park which was in a lovely bush setting. That evening we listened around the campfire to a ranger talk about the termite mounds which abound in the area. Next morning we had booked to go on a tour of the lava tubes. In this area there are several Lava Tube systems, one which stretches 160km is the world’s longest lava flow from a single volcano. Our guide took us into a couple of sections of a tube which is like a big tunnel through the basalt (lava) rock. It was formed as the lava flowed over the landscape millions of years ago and the surface cooled and became rock while beneath the lava continued to flow slowly, finally draining out and leaving the tunnel empty. The ceiling of the tunnel we were in was 30 – 40 metres above us in places. Really awesome! During the afternoon we did another bushwalk to a nearby lookout which gave views over the mostly flat, bushy landscape where other extinct volcanoes could be seen here and there in the distance. We had another evening by the campfire where a different ranger played guitar and sang a few songs.

    On our way out of Undara next morning we took a small detour to a spot where there is a walking trail to the top of another extinct volcano and walked around the rim. The crater is all filled with vegetation now but once again we had good views over the surrounding countryside. We continued our drive North and stopped at a free-camp near the town of Ravenshoe (pronounced Ravens-hoe we learned). After unhitching we drove a few kms up the road to have a look at Millstream Falls which are reputed to be the widest single drop falls in Australia. There was plenty of water running over them despite it being the dry season at the moment up here. Very pretty spot.

    The weather up this way has been pretty mild for the past week or so with most days around 24C and overnight about 15C (no heater required in the van now). The rain started at the free-camp and has continued on and off while we have moved on to Mareeba which is just past Atherton. We visited the centre of both towns and stocked up on groceries etc. in readiness for our Cape trek and also had a look around the local area which has pockets of rainforest amongst the farming land. One small rainforest near Atherton has a famous curtain fig tree (strangler fig) which is huge.

    FW. The road from Charters Towers to the Savannah Way narrows to 1 lane wide so when you meet oncoming traffic both cars have to take to the verges and when it’s a road train you pull over and stop. The signs tell you they do not move off the bitumen.
    The day before we reached Ravenshoe there was a terrible accident where a car careered into a shop and hit a gas cylinder which exploded, badly injuring a number of people. When we drove in the shop was all boarded up.
    Ravenshoe boasts the highest bar in Queensland. Ravenshoe to Atherton was a tricky drive due to the rain (yes real unseasonal rain) and hilly winding roads.
    Tomorrow we begin the assault on Cape York’s Peninsular Development dirt roads.
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  • Day18

    Charters Towers

    June 7, 2015 in Australia ⋅ ⛅ 29 °C

    Carnarvon Gorge to Charters Towers

    HW. On the road again, heading for Emerald through scrubby countryside. Our drive out of Carnarvon along the dirt road was a lot less eventful with little dust inside the van and no disasters in the fridge! We stopped the night in a van park in Emerald and headed off again next morning – our mission being to get to the Cape within our time frame. More exploring of inland Queensland will have to wait for another trip. On the Friday night we free-camped beside the road along with at least a dozen other vans at a truck roadside stop with toilets. Met more nice people. Luckily there weren’t too many B-triples carrying cattle passing by in the night. (They sure are noisy and very smelly!)

    We arrived in Charters Towers late morning on Saturday 6th and the centre of town was bustling with people and traffic. After setting up at a van park just out of town we drove back to the centre mid afternoon and because it’s a country town, almost everything closes after midday on a Saturday and you could have fired a gun down the main street and not hit a thing. There are some lovely old buildings in the town which is famous for its gold mining and for having the first stock exchange in Australia. We drove up to Towers Hill nearby which overlooks the town and the surrounding countryside which is flat as far as the eye can see. As luck would have it there was a motor show and swap meet at the local showgrounds over the weekend so guess where we spent a couple of hours on Sunday?? We looked around some of the old beautifully restored cars and Frank had a fossick through the tools (both old and new) and got a couple of bits he needed. We had a nice relaxing stay here.

    FW. Including a few photos from Towers Hill (approx 300m high) where the view to the Nth, Sth, E, W is similar, flat right to the horizon. A lot of the buildings in the town have been restored and look fabulous, including the Police Station, a Mural depicting the town’s history and the Stock Exchange building which was supposed to be the first in Australia and the largest in the world in its time.
    As Heather mentioned she took me to the local swap meet and I am including a photo of some Fergi’s and other farm machinery for your interest Max.
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  • Day15

    Carnarvon National Park

    June 4, 2015 in Australia ⋅ 🌫 28 °C

    Lightning Ridge to Carnarvon National Park

    We took off from Lightning Ridge bright and early (10.30am) for Carnarvon along the Castlereagh hwy heading for our first overnight stop at a town called Surat. Never heard of it? Neither had we. Apparently Cobb and Co had a change over stop there for their stage coaches.
    We were told Surat had a great Free Camp. On the way we bought home made Pies from the General Store in Hebel which was also recommended for our lunch.
    Surat was great with adequate toilets and a nice shower block behind the civic hall which the local council encouraged people to use. We met some nice people around the camp fire that night and in the morning while preparing to leave for Carnarvon got to speaking with a bloke in the caravan next to us and discovered he had a lotus Cortina and 2 other GT’s along with the bloke next to him who also had a Cortina GT500. We left at around 11.30am.

    We decided we couldn’t make Carnarvon that day so we decide to drive to Roma and check out our options. Roma is quite a large town so we stocked up there.
    Roma has a large Stock Auction happening every Tuesday and they have turned it into a bit of a tourist attraction to support the Town. We didn’t stop to see them as I was an old hand at stock auctions having accompanied Max to one. The lady in the Tourist information centre suggested we stop overnight at a place called Injune and fill up with fuel as it was the last fuel stop until Rolleston. Never heard of that either. We stayed at the local Horse racing track which had 16 powered sites with water. The next day we set off for Carnarvon Gorge after filling up with fuel.

    Now Heather’s turn for some Blog input…. We had an interesting arrival at Carnarvon Gorge National Park. The last 15 km of rough dirt road produced a few problems!! On checking the caravan fridge I discovered one stubby of beer had released most of its contents over everything, the lid had popped off a yoghurt container (beer flavoured Yoghurt for breaky) and other items had become missiles inside the fridge also. Lesson learned – secure all lids with rubber bands and pack all free space with old towels to prevent any movement when driving on dirt roads. I WAS NOT HAPPY!! The dust problem coming from the wheel arches under our beds, which are storage areas, was not solved either. (More silicone and tape required). After cleaning up, calming down and having lunch we decided to head off on one of the short (3 km) walks to one of the canyons. We were amazed at the sheer stone cliffs which rose about 100 metres above us and gradually became narrower until we could reach each side with outstretched arms. The next day we headed off on a much longer walk to a large sandstone overhang where we saw Aboriginal stencil paintings and carvings (our first rock art experience). Then on our homeward trek we visited three other spectacular canyons, each quite different with lovely little creeks, ferns and moss covered rocks etc. All up we walked 16 or 17 km., rock hopping across creeks and climbing up and down many steps. This is a truly outstanding National Park and well worth a visit if anyone is ever up this way.

    To Gayle and Alan, if you plan to visit the Gorge take good Hiking boots and keep up the Gym visits. My ankles ached from climbing over all the stones and rocks, my calves and thighs ached from the thousands of steps and stairs, my shoulders ached from carrying the backpack, my ribs ached due to the continuous gasping of my lungs for oxygen. Oh yes and by back ached just because everything else ached.
    The cattle grids are particularly nasty on the way in to the gorge and as the sign says the roads are Unmaintained. Lower your tire pressures, a lot.
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