May - August 2018
  • Day92

    DALBY up to SYDNEY

    August 19, 2018 in Australia ⋅ 🌬 13 °C

    DALBY TO SYDNEY 21/7 to 8/8/2018
    During our stay in Dalby we investigated the city and caught up on some shopping. We headed for the new Aldi store which Frank was keenly anticipating only to find it still surrounded by a construction fence – its opening delayed by over a month. Needless to say he was devastated!!! Our coffee pods had run out and so had his favourite chocolate. We found a camp draft event underway at the showgrounds so spent a couple of hours there watching the horses and riders competing. After our Dalby stay we headed south-west along the Moonie Highway along straight roads through mostly flat countryside to the town of Mooney where we stopped for lunch and then continued south to Goondiwindi where we stayed overnight. The next morning we had a wander around the city centre which has lovely wide tree-lined streets. On a prominent corner of the main street is the striking Victoria Hotel with its black and white timber façade and square tower. The city is situated on the Macintyre River which forms part of the Qld/NSW border. We saw the historic bridge and customs house and a statue of Gunsynd, the famous Gundiwindi grey race horse near the banks of the river.
    We then set off down the Newell Highway towards Narrabri, stopping at Moree for lunch and a look through the information centre where there was a display of information about the local cotton industry. It housed an enormous cotton harvester which we climbed up and sat in the cabin. Cotton is a big industry in central western NSW and the flat plains have enormous ploughed paddocks which stretch to the horizon in places. All the cotton had been harvested but who knows if it will be planted for the next season now that the drought has really taken hold. After our short stay we continued to Narrabri where we set up for the night. We decided to eat at a nearby pub where Frank took up the challenge to eat the huge mixed grill for dinner. (See photo) He managed to finish it!! The next morning we had a look around the city centre and the headed out towards part of the Mt. Kaputar National Park to see an unusual formation called Sawn Rocks. It is a geological formation known as organ-piping which is enormous and spectacular.
    We continued from Narrabri down the Kamilaroi Highway through flat agricultural land with the Nandewar Range on our left. We could see the effect of the drought on the land, which must be devastating for the farmers. We stopped in Boggabri for lunch and continued to Gunnedah, a city of 10,000 people with a large business district which boasts an Aldi store among its supermarkets. Yay!! During our stay in Gunnedah we visited two lookouts, one on either side of the city. The first and highest – called Porcupine lookout gave great views across the flat plains to distant mountain ranges in every direction. The second – called Pensioners Hill, had sandstone sculptures depicting the history of Gunnedah as well as views of the city. We also visited the statue of Dorothea Mackellar acknowledging her connection with the area and displays of plaques with some of her poetry. In keeping with the influence of some famous Australian poets in Gunnedah’s history, there is even an unique amenities block in the centre of the city called the “Lyrical Loos” with murals on the outer walls and recordings of poems being played inside where the doors are named and verses of poetry printed on the inside. It seems that a lot of country towns make their toilet blocks look more attractive with murals painted on the outer walls.
    We drove south-west towards Mudgee through more drought-affected countryside which became more hilly with mountain ranges in the distance. We stopped for lunch at the NSW version of the Black Stump near the small township of Coolah and then turned onto the Castlereagh Highway heading towards Gulgong. The countryside seemed to have a slightly greener tinge with lots of sheep and some cattle in the rolling, cleared paddocks. We stopped in Gulgong mid-afternoon and found and amazing town with lots of historic buildings, narrow streets and gold-rush history. The town featured on the original $10 note and has a historic opera house where Dame Nellie Melba once performed and has a strong connection with Henry Lawson. It was totally different to any other country town we had visited on this trip. A real gem!! We continued to Mudgee and set up at the caravan park near the centre of the city. While in Mudgee we wandered around the streets of the city centre admiring the well-preserved historic buildings dating back to the 1800’s. These days Mudgee is all about wine, gourmet food and interesting shops. We made a day trip to Rylstone where my father’s family came from in the hope that I may be able to find some information on the family. Rylstone is a small town with a lot of very old buildings, some made of rough cut sandstone dating back to the mid 1800’s with lots of character. We started off with lunch at the old Globe Hotel where the barmaid told us to enquire at the shire office about historic records. Whilst the woman in the shire office was not very helpful, we were lucky that a man sitting in the waiting room overheard my enquiry and said he knew the owners of the property once owned by my uncle and aunt in Cudgegong and recommended we go to see the woman who worked at Kandos museum only five kilometres away. So off we went to meet Daryl Clapham at the museum where she gave us directions to find the old Cudgegong cemetery where we went and found the graves of my grandparents and other members of the Perram family. (I had previously been told that the cemetery was underwater when the Cudgegong River was dammed to form Lake Windamere). It was a really fruitful day and we were so lucky that the man in the waiting room overheard my query. Daryl also invited us to drop in and visit her at the property which was once owned by my uncle and aunt and where I had spent a lot of Christmas holidays with my family when I was young.
    After packing up camp in Mudgee we headed off towards Cudgegong and turned off on Perrams Road to visit the farm (now named Hazelbrook) which is now partly subdivided but the majority is owned by Mitchell and Daryl Clapham where they raise cattle and a small number of sheep. Daryl showed us around some of the old buildings and shearing shed and we shared lots of information about the past farm history which was really interesting. We then continued our drive towards Lithgow past some hilly pastoral countryside and stunning mountain ranges where we viewed the enormous Capertee Valley from a lookout. We arrived in Lithgow just before it started raining and set up camp. The next day we drove up the steep climb to Mt Victoria where the views of the mountain scenery were amazing and continued past Katoomba, descending to the eastern side of the Blue Mountains. Heading south along the Hume Highway we turned off towards Wollongong where we planned to spend three days visiting old friends while staying at the Corrimal Beach caravan park.
    After an enjoyable time in Wollongong we headed to Sydney to the Lane Cove River caravan park where we stayed for six days and enjoyed our time with Janette, Rich and Olivia visiting parks and playgrounds and walking around the newly developed Barangaroo waterfront area between Darling Harbour and The Rocks area. We also took a ferry to Cockatoo Island and looked around the historic buildings used as a prison for convict second offenders and also the ship building area of more recent years. It was hard to leave our beautiful grand-daughter but it was time to head back to Melbourne. We had an overnight stop in Gundagai before continuing down the Hume Highway in the rain all the way to Melbourne. At least the countryside was green and the livestock in the paddocks looked in good condition – something which we hadn’t seen through western Queensland and NSW where the drought conditions were terrible.
    In all our trip took us 11 ½ weeks and we covered 10,400 kilometres. We zig-zagged our way up through western NSW and Qld. to the Gulf of Carpentaria and then back south again by a different route. We saw some truly stunning scenery including beautiful gorges and met some really great people and learned a lot more about this amazing country of ours.
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  • Day73

    Charters Towers up to Dalby 12/7-20/7

    July 31, 2018 in Australia ⋅ ☀️ 17 °C

    CHARTERS TOWERS TO DALBY 12/7/18 to 20/7/18
    While in Charters Towers we enjoyed walking around the city admiring the lovely historic buildings as well as re-stocking at the supermarket and enjoying lunch in the historic Stock Exchange Arcade. Frank also arranged to have the Pajero serviced while we were there. We drove about 10 km out of town to see the picturesque weir on the Burdekin River which was built to provide a permanent water supply for Charters Towers. We had a very enjoyable three day stay and then headed off on the long drive south to Clermont along the sealed Gregory Developmental Road which was quite rough in places. The countryside was flat and dry with very little grass beneath the eucalypts and the road was straight to the horizon in places. We stopped for lunch at Belyando Crossing (not a town but a general store/service station in the middle of nowhere) and continued our journey. As we drew near Clermont we passed mountains of spoil from the huge open-cut coal mines near the town. After our overnight stay at the caravan park we looked around the town with its wide empty main street – being a Sunday no shops were open. At one end of the main street was a large, well-maintained corner hotel and opposite were four old rail wagons with murals painted on the side depicting the history of Clermont. We also drove to the information centre where there was a huge piece of equipment from the local coal mine, called a drag line bucket which was so big our caravan could have fitted inside it.
    We drove on to Emerald and checked in to the caravan park and enjoyed happy hour entertainment around the fire pit in the evening. During our three day stay we walked around the botanic gardens beside the Nogoa River, the town centre, admiring the restored old railway station and lovely tree-lined main street with its striking sculpture, and neat parkland with a giant easel and painting in the centre. We also spent a day visiting the gemfield towns of Sapphire, Rubyvale and Anakie. The area has lots of piles of dirt which has been dug from small mines. Rubyvale is the larger town and has a few houses, a hotel and some gem shops where gems or jewellery can be bought. I learned that sapphires are not only blue but also red (these are rubys), green, yellow and multi-coloured (called parti-coloured). The golden yellow and parti-coloured gems are the most stunning and highly valued. There is a strong German influence in Rubyvale and all the towns have old rusty mining equipment lying around and lots of character. After looking through a couple of gem shops (but not making any purchases – damn!) we returned to Emerald.
    Continuing south on the Gregory Highway we visited Lake Maraboon where we overlooked the huge lake from a lookout near the Fairbairn Dam wall. The effect of the drought was apparent as the lake level was low and no water was flowing over the spillway. We drove on towards Springsure and the landscape became more hilly as we neared the rocky Minerva Range. The rocky outcrops of the mountain range are a backdrop to the neat little township of Springsure. We drove further through the town of Rolleston and as we continued past dry farmland we encountered several huge herds of cattle with drovers moving slowly along beside the road and railway line in the opposite direction. The yellow, dry grass is obviously nutritious enough for the cattle to be fattened on their journey to the saleyards somewhere north. Each herd had a water tanker and troughs to supply water. We hadn’t seen herds of this size on the move before. We checked into the caravan park in Moura after crossing the wide Dawson River on the edge of town. The next day we had a look around the small town which has a large grain silo next to the disused rail line and little old station. The silo had a beautiful mural depicting a budgerigar and some cotton plants painted on the side. We headed east to the town of Banana (yes, and it’s in Banana Shire) and then turned south down the Leichhardt Highway through more farming countryside. As we approached Miles we crossed a mountain range with rocky outcrops and headed off road along a very rough dirt track to a lookout at a spot called Isla Gorge where had lunch and enjoyed views of the forested and rocky mountains and gorge. Continuing, we crossed the dry Dogwood Creek on the edge of Miles and stopped at the caravan park which supplies towels, bath mats and toiletries in their en-suite style amenities block! That was a first!!
    Before leaving Miles next day we visited the Historical Village Museum where we spent a couple of hours looking through the old buildings in a streetscape setting filled with lots of memorabilia. We then headed south-east along the Warrego Highway passing enormous man-made mountains of spoil from the huge open-cut coal mines nearby. We arrived in Dalby caravan park mid-afternoon and spent a couple of days in the town which has a large business centre.
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  • Day63

    Georgetown upto Charters Towers 5/7-11/7

    July 21, 2018 in Australia ⋅ 🌙 15 °C

    We arrived in Georgetown mid afternoon and after setting up camp, we walked through the town which, like many outback towns, has some restored historic buildings, well-kept gardens and wide main streets. The wide Etheridge River flows through Georgetown, but only in the wet season. It was a completely dry wide bed of river sand as we walked across it. The information centre also has an extensive gemstone and mineral display of more than 4.500 specimens and we enjoyed having a look through it. After spending a few hours the next day in town we headed off for the short drive to Forsayth on partly sealed and partly gravel road. We passed through forested and hilly countryside with some rocky outcrops in places. After checking onto the van park we set off to investigate the small but friendly town which has a combined pub/general store/post office/coffee shop, a police station which is manned by one officer, a railway station for the Savannahlander train and a hospital which is run by one nurse who is on duty from 9 am to 4.30 pm, five days a week. If you get sick out of those hours, you have to drive to Georgetown for medical help! Oh, and there is an air-strip and the flying doctor comes in once a fortnight. We really take for granted our facilities in the cities!! All the towns in this part of the world were established in the gold rush era of the late 1800s and usually have relics of gold mining equipment on display. Leaving the van, the following day we drove on mostly rough dirt road to Cobbold Gorge where we were booked on a gorge cruise. Arriving late morning, we had time for a walk beside the dry bed of the Robertson River. The day was very warm so we enjoyed lunch on the covered deck of the café which overlooks an infinity pool and dam which are for the use of the campers who stay there. We then boarded the bus with other passengers and a couple of guides for the short drive out to the gorge, driving across the dry sandy bed of the Robertson River on the way. This river only flows in the wet season, however water continues to flow underground and is pumped up from a bore in the river bed to supply water for the resort and camping ground. On arriving at the gorge, we were broken into two groups with one group going on a hike to the escarpment to overlook the gorge while our group had first turn to go on the flat-bottomed boat which quietly motors up the gorge. We spotted a fresh-water crocodile on the sandy bank at the start then entered the spectacular and narrow gorge. The rich brown and orange coloured sandstone cliffs towered above us and in places were no more than two metres wide. The water is fed by an underground spring and is about 9 metres deep and the surface of the sandstone has been worn smooth over thousands of years by the power of the water which becomes a raging torrent in the wet season and can then only be viewed from the air. After motoring back down the gorge we swapped with the other group and it was our turn to walk up to the escarpment with our guide giving lots of information about the vegetation and geology until we were able to look down into the deep gorge from above. We thoroughly enjoyed our day and returned to Forsayth where we treated ourselves to dinner in the pub. We were the only customers as everyone else from town had driven to Georgetown for the evening to watch the rodeo.
    We headed off from Forsayth towards Einasleigh along more gravel road which was freshly graded in places but still had sections of corrugation. We pulled up across from the pub which is one of the few buildings in the very small town and headed off for the short stroll to see yet another gorge. This one called Copperfield Gorge is strikingly different but equally beautiful. The gorge takes its name from the Copperfield River which flows through it and is formed from dark grey basalt which has been worn smooth by the water and the rock has strange circular shapes eroded into the surface. The river was barely flowing but is obviously a torrent in the wet season. We returned to the pub where we found the owners preparing a barbeque for lunch and even had a singer for entertainment so naturally we decided to stay for lunch. We then continued along more rough and corrugated dirt road to the remote Lind Junction where we camped for the night at the Oasis Road House which is the only building there.
    The next day we continued our journey south on the Kennedy Development Road which was partly sealed. The countryside was flat and mostly eucalypt forested with herds of pale grey Brahman (or cross breed) cattle congregated around dams or waterholes. Often they wander across the road in unfenced areas. As we journeyed further the landscape became more hilly and densely forested. We turned off towards Porcupine Gorge lookout which is about 3 Km off the road, parked and walked a short distance to the lookout. From our vantage point we overlooked the deep gorge with its layers of basalt and richly coloured sandstone which is known as Australia’s little grand canyon. There were intermittent waterholes and some vegetation lining the base. From there we continued to Hughenden where we set up at the caravan park.
    Hughenden is situated in Queensland’s dinosaur country and we visited the information centre and museum which has lots of information about the dinosaur fossils which have been discovered in the area and a huge life-sized replica of a dinosaur skeleton which was found near Hughenden. There are also other dinosaur sculptures in the streets of the town. All the main streets of outback towns are really wide – usually with parking down the centre of the road as well as on either side. Frank enquired at one point why this was the case and was told that they were made wide enough for bullock teams and wagons to be turned around in years gone by. Another thing we’ve noticed is that many towns have sculpture parks and/or murals painted on the side of buildings or even public toilet blocks. Art is big in the outback. We looked around Hughenden and crossed the bridge over the dry bed of the Flinders River and walked along the river bank through well-kept parkland with metal sculptures. Frank had been craving some Chinese food and we found a restaurant where we enjoyed a surprisingly good Chinese meal that evening. The next day we headed east along the sealed Flinders Highway and stopped for lunch in the small town of Pentland. We then continued to Charters Towers. At one point we were forced to pull off the road and stop to let an enormous load of equipment on the back of a semi pass in the opposite direction. We suspect it was to be installed at a new solar and wind farm being built near Hughenden. We checked in to the Dalrymple Caravan park in Charters Towers where we had stayed three years ago. What a great park – home-made slice for everyone on arrival and a spit roast was organized on the first night of our stay which of course we enjoyed. We met lots of Victorians there (I wonder what they would all be doing up this way???) Parked opposite us was a couple who came from Bendigo but after talking to them we found that the chap named Ray Wilson used to live a couple of hundred yards up the road on the corner of Munro Ave/Dent St when Frank was a teenager. Small world!
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  • Day55

    BURKETOWN up to GEORGETOWN 25/6 to 5/7

    July 13, 2018 in Australia ⋅ 🌙 18 °C

    BURKETOWN TO GEORGETOWN 25/6 to 5/7/18
    We headed off from Adels Grove along dirt roads which were rough in places, passing through dry and flat countryside with thousands of termite nests among the yellow grass. After crossing the Gregory River we came to Gregory Downs which is not so much a town as a group of buildings and a homestead of the property of the same name. There were a lot of caravans free-camping along the banks of the river. From there we headed north towards Burketown through similar terrain and reached the small town which consists of a fuel stop/general store, a couple of other shops and a few houses. It also had a caravan park where we stayed for the night before setting off the next day along a sealed road towards Leichhardt Falls. We crossed the Leichhardt River and drove off road in search of the falls but the road was not fit for towing a caravan so Frank had to manoeuvre a U turn on the narrow dirt road. I headed off on foot to see the falls but it turned out there was no water flowing although the cliffs and gorge were impressive. We drove out to the main road in search of the free camp by the river which we had heard about but with no luck as there were no signs and no way of seeing it from the road. So we continued towards Normanton along dirt the roads of the Savannah Way through eucalypt and yellow grassland with some herds of cattle congregated around waterholes or wandering across the road in places. Again there were some areas densely populated with termite mounds which sometimes looked like a derelict ancient graveyard full of old headstones. On the way we crossed the Armstrong Creek and Flinders River which were very wide and the bridges very low. In the wet season these roads would be under water. We pulled in to see the memorial at the Burke and Wills camp 119 which was the final camp of their expedition before they headed south to try to reunite with the rest of their party on the Cooper Creek in S.A. Then we continued our drive to Normanton where we checked in to the caravan park for our four night stay.
    We enjoyed our stay in Normanton. The owners of the van park encourage everyone to wash the dust off their van and car as there doesn’t seem to be any water restrictions and they were happy to have plenty of water on the ground to encourage the grass to grow although I think it was a losing battle with the grass! We took full advantage and spent half a day getting rid of a lot of red dirt off everything. The amenities block was unique – made of rusty looking corrugated iron but clean inside with lots of quirky plaques and posters on the walls. I just love the outback humor. The dump point was inside an old Telstra phone box! While in Normanton we visited some points of interest including the old wharf on the Norman River, the old gaol, the historic shire council building and old pubs and the replica of an 8.6 metre salt water crocodile which is the largest ever killed by a croc hunter in the world. We also went on a short trip on a vintage rail motor – RM60 built in 1931. It is really an old bus which was converted to run on rails with bogie wheels replacing its wheels and tyres. There is a rail line between Normanton and Croydon which is totally isolated from the rest of the Qld. rail network and this is the route of the historic Gulflander train which still runs from Normanton to Croydon on a Wednesday and returns on a Thursday, a five hour journey each way along the line which still has the original steel sleepers laid between 1888 and 1891 which were used to withstand flood waters. Ours was a short trip of only 45 minutes on the rail motor but quite memorable, noisy and bumpy. The historic railway station is beautifully kept and contains a small museum.
    After leaving Normanton we travelled north to Karumba which is situated right on the Gulf of Carpentaria where we had booked to stay four nights at Karumba Point caravan park at the mouth of the Norman River. Along the way we saw lots of brolgas in pairs or small groups near marshland or on the flat, dry looking plains. We were fortunate to arrive on a Saturday as the van park put on a free fish dinner with entertainment in the camp kitchen area on that night. On the Sunday morning we walked about a kilometre to the small town centre where a weekly market is held and then enjoyed lunch of local prawns and chips at the seafood shop. Another Karumba experience was a guided tour of the Barramundi Discovery Centre which is the hatchery where the southern strain of the gulf barramundi is bred before being released into rivers and lakes in the gulf region. Barramundi can grow up to 1.8 metres in length and we were all given the opportunity to hand feed a piece of squid to the large breeding fish in the holding tanks. That was quite an experience as the fish take the food with such speed and a loud snap that you can’t really see what just happened! We also went on a sunset cruise from Karumba township where we motored up the Norman River for about a kilometer where we spotted a croc on the river bank and also saw a family of Jabiru (Black-necked Stork) which are large (up to 2 metres) striking looking water birds. Their head and neck is an iridescent shimmering green and purplish colour. This family had become used to the tour boat and waited for their feed of fish. We motored out of the river mouth and watched the sun set over the Gulf while enjoying drinks, nibbles and fresh prawns. It’s a hard life!! We thoroughly enjoyed our Karumba experience, seafood and sunsets.
    We then backtracked along the same road through Normanton and turned off in a south-easterly direction towards Croydon. The Gulflander rail line follows beside the road and we pulled in to a way-stop near a tiny siding at a station called Blackbull which is the half way point on the rail line in the middle of nowhere where we had some lunch before continuing to Croydon. We stopped at a freecamp at the rodeo grounds near the edge of town. It happened that a large group of about 200 bike riders and support crew were also staying there for the night. They were on an annual ride from Cairns to Karumba. Croydon is typical of a lot of small towns in the outback where historic buildings have been restored, parks are well kept and local history is highlighted. In Croydon’s case it revolved around the gold rush of the late 1800’s. Before heading off the next morning, Frank played golf on the 9 hole “course” next to the rodeo grounds. The “fairways” were rugged with tufts of dead grass and lots of gravel but the greens were very upmarket – covered in artificial grass! He only lost two balls in the rough (more like scrub). After another outback golf experience we headed off along the Savannah Way towards Georgetown through grassland and forested areas which became hilly in places. We crossed the wide Gilbert River and the sealed road reduced to a single vehicle width with wide graded dirt on either side. When the huge road trains approached there was no option but to pull over onto the dirt and let them pass. You never argue with a road train!
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  • Day40


    June 28, 2018 in Australia ⋅ ☀️ 29 °C

    The annual Cloncurry show happened to be on the day we arrived so we wandered into town and spent a couple of hours looking around. All the shops in town were closed for the show even though it was a Friday. After checking out the Cloncurry bakery for their famous pies, we headed off through more hilly, red soil countryside along the Barkley Highway. At one point we almost hit a huge wedge-tailed eagle which was feeding on road kill. They are very slow to take to the air and are very slow to decide it’s time to make a move so Frank has started to sound our horn when we’re approaching. As we drove nearer to Mount Isa the terrain became more rugged with rocky outcrops at the top of the mountains which had been eroded over time. We stopped to see the site of the Mary Kathleeen town which was abandoned when the huge open cut uranium mine closed down. There is nothing more than the concrete slabs where buildings once stood and lots of decaying sealed roadways. We didn’t venture further to see the old mine as we were reluctant to tow the van into the area so we continued to Mount Isa where we stopped at the caravan park on the main road into the city. That was probably a mistake as the huge road trains thundered past until about 11 pm and our site happened to be very close to the road. We had booked three nights!! Nevertheless we enjoyed our stay, going on a Hard Times Mine underground tour with a guide who had worked in the mine for 40 odd years and who gave us lots of information about mining in the past. First we donned our orange disposable overalls, a hard hat (with light) and gumboots and were taken down into the mine in an alimak cage. The mine was purpose built for tourism but contained all the old equipment and machinery, some of which was still working. We each had a go at drilling into the wall with the huge drill and experienced the sound and vibration of an explosion underground. We even had smoko in the underground crib room before being driven out of the mine. Mount Isa has three operating mines and the deepest one has tunnels that are two kilometres underground. They mine mostly copper, lead and silver. The city is flanked one one side by the enormous pile of overburden from the mines, a bit like a man-made mountain. It is a major inland city with supermarkets etc. and traffic lights which we haven’t encountered for about 3 weeks. We made sure to stock up on groceries ready for our travels further north. We also drove to the nearby Lake Moondarra which was constructed to supply water for the city of 21,000 people as well as the mines. It was a huge lake with picturesque parkland and picnic areas around it. We returned via the lookout which overlooks the city, the huge mullock pile and the processing plant where the ore is crushed and treated to extract the metals.
    After setting off from Mount Isa we headed west again through hilly and eucalypt forested countryside with some rocky outcrops. The landscape became flat again with grassy plains, very red soil and thousands of red termite mounds. Some people get a kick out of dressing some of the termite nests in old clothing like workers hi-vis shirts and hard hats or even dresses. Approaching Camooweal we pulled in to the Drovers Camp Museum where we were taken on a guided tour by a chap who had spent his life in the outback and told us about many of the old items on display and gave us an insight into the life of the drovers over the years. We then checked in to the Post Office Hotel caravan park where we ate an evening meal in the pub. There are not many buildings in Camooweal now but it was once a major centre for drovers and stage coaches etc. These days it falls in the shire of Mount Isa and is considered an outer suburb – albeit 188 kilometres away.
    We then backtracked along the Barkly Highway for 70 km before turning north towards Gregory Downs along sealed road for another 70 km. Then we turned off towards Adels Grove along dirt road for the remainder of the journey. Some parts were very stony, some corrugated and some reasonably smooth but overall it was pretty rough. The landscape changed from flat to hilly with the Constance Range in the distance and as we turned left onto the Riversleigh Road we came closer to the rugged range with its rocky outcrops of red sandstone. We finally arrived at the Adels Grove camping ground mid afternoon and after setting up, walked along by the very pretty Lawn Hill Creek. During the four days at Adels Grove we spent two days at Lawn Hill Gorge which is a 10 km drive from the camp ground. One day we went on a four hour hike along the gorge where we saw the Indarri Falls before continuing to the upper gorge lookout where we looked down on the emerald waters from the top of 70 metre cliffs. The paths were steep and rocky in places but the scenery spectacular with areas of lush green vegetation – pandanus and cabbage palms etc. lining the edge of the water. The second day at the Gorge we hired a canoe and paddled up the picturesque lower gorge until we reached Indarri Falls where some people were having a swim. Here we had to haul our canoe out and carry/drag it about 30 metres to a point where we entered the water in the upper gorge and continued our paddle upstream. It was heavy and awkward work but worth the effort to experience the upper gorge. We paddled to the furthest point that we could reach where the water is bubbling out from the undergrowth, called the cascades. This is near the source where the water emerges from the underground basin which feeds the Lawn Hill Creek year round and it never dries up. We hauled our canoe out of the water and had a swim in the beautiful clear water which was about 25 degrees, so not cold. There were no crocs to be seen anywhere so we took the plunge! One evening we went on a sunset excursion to a lookout near Adels Grove with a group and a guide where we enjoyed drinks and nibbles while watching the sun set over the Constance Range. On another day we went on a bus trip to Riversleigh Fossil Field World Heritage site where our guide told us all about and showed us some of the Mega Fauna fossils which have been found embedded in the limestone rocks in that part of the Lawn Hill National Park. On our last night at Adels Grove we enjoyed a roast dinner in the restaurant in the camping ground. All in all it was a really enjoyable stay.
    We have included a photo of the skeleton of a crocodile head in the rock face. See if you can make it out.
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  • Day30


    June 18, 2018 in Australia ⋅ 🌙 12 °C

    LONGREACH TO CLONCURRY 8/6/18 to 15/6/18
    Our first day in Longreach we visited the Australian Stockman’s Hall of Fame where we spent several hours looking around at the displays of the history of the outback pioneers and explorers and aboriginal workers who all shaped our country. There was so much information about the ordinary people who did extraordinary things in years gone by. One story really caught my attention. It was about a chap who was a shearer who married and went on to have 12 sons and 8 daughters. (Yes, 20 children!!) All his sons were shearers as well and one daughter was a qualified wool classer. His wife was the cook for the shearing sheds so she was a pretty busy lady!!! Unfortunately nobody ever thought to get the whole family to shear at the same shed at the same time or they would surely have set a world record that would never have been broken. There was also one area with information and history of the Flying Doctors.
    The next day we again drove in to Longreach and went to the Qantas Founders Outback Museum which can’t be missed as the great red tail of the decommissioned 747 jet can be seen from kilometres away. Right next to it and dwarfed by it is the restored Boeing 707. Once again we immersed ourselves in history, reading and watching videos about our national airline formed in Longreach and Winton. We had a guided tour through the original hangar where more historic planes and equipment were displayed. Late in the afternoon we boarded a bus outside the railway station to be taken for a sunset cruise on the Thomson river and dinner and show in an outdoor café called Smithy’s. The cruise was magic! The Thomson River is the water supply for Longreach and although the water looks muddy, after filtration it is fine. (According to our skipper, there is no “P” in Thomson!) There is a weir above and below the huge billabong which we were sailing on and the water was glass-like so reflections were stunning. The skipper pointed out the huge nests of whistling kites in the top of coolibah trees lining the banks and also gave information about the other vegetation and animals. We even saw several trees where aboriginal people had carved shields from the trunks leaving large permanent scars. We stopped to see some river turtles which have obviously become used to being fed by the owners of the boats. We then went ashore and enjoyed our outdoor camp-oven dinner and were entertained by a singer who played songs from our era. The weather has been very warm with clear sunny skies and even the nights have been quite mild. The following day we drove in to have a look around the centre of Longreach noting the old pubs which are a feature of all these outback towns. Being a Sunday you could have shot a gun down the wide main street and not hit a thing.
    The next day we set off along the Matilda Hwy for Winton, travelling through very flat dry countryside with yellow Mitchell grass and few trees and only the occasional sheep or cattle to be seen. As we approached Winton we noticed a range of mesas in the distance and 12 km out we turned off towards the Age of Dinosaurs exhibition. The road led up to the top of a mesa or “jump-up” as the locals call it where the centre is located. The views were impressive and we went on a tour of the dinosaur canyon which was formed when huge boulders which formed part of the crust had fallen down due to erosion over thousands of years leaving spectacular scenery. Our guide gave information about the types of dinosaurs that have been discovered in the area. We then continued our journey to Winton and set up camp in a van park in the main street. Winton boasts three historic pubs but only two of them are open at the moment. The North Gregory Hotel is reputed to be the site of the first public performance of Waltzing Matilda and the Tattersalls Hotel is a very popular spot as well.

    The following day we drove out 110 km along a partly sealed road through flat spinifex and scrubland to a site called Lark Quarry Conservation Park where hundreds of fossilized footprints of a stampede of dinosaurs occurred 95 million years ago. We watched a short video explaining the three types of dinosaurs which left the impressions in the mud. One was a large carnivorous dinosaur which was chasing all the smaller ones. We then got a close-up view of the footprints from the walkway. The site is now inside a building to preserve it and is situated on a jump-up or mesa with great views of the countryside. The weather was over 30C. After driving back to Winton we decided to eat at the North Gregory Hotel for dinner which was great tucker.
    Then our luck ran out with the great weather we’d been having. It rained all day the next day and through the night but I was able to visit the Waltzing Matilda Centre which tells the story of the iconic song and A B Patterson as well as the history of Winton in hi-tech digital displays. The centre was totally destroyed by fire in 2015 and the brand new centre has only been open for a few months. We had planned to attend the historic outdoor cinema that evening but unfortunately the weather caused its cancellation.
    The next morning we headed north in the rain along the Landsborough Hwy through very flat Mitchell grass plains to Kynuna where the Blue Heeler Hotel is about the only building in town. The rain began to ease as we continued to McKinlay where we camped for the night at the back of the Walkabout Creek Hotel made famous in the first Crocodile Dundee film. There were also a few houses, a police station, a library and a fuel outlet. I think without the pub, the town would probably be non-existent. We enjoyed an evening meal in the pub which is adorned with plenty of Crocodile Dundee memorabilia.
    We continued up the highway under blue skies again through flat grassland with very red earth and thousands of small termite nests until we reached Cloncurry. On the way we were unlucky to hit a black kite (like an eagle) which was feeding on roadkill and was very slow to take off, then turned and flew right in front of us. No damage to us as it glanced up the bonnet and windscreen but I doubt it would have survived. The countryside near Cloncurry became a bit hilly with a mountain range in the distance.
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  • Day24

    St George to Longreach 29/05 to 06/06

    June 12, 2018 in Australia ⋅ ⛅ 28 °C

    While in St George we visited a little shop called the Unique Egg which had a display of carved emu eggs. A Greek man named Stavros has been carving and displaying his works of art in illuminated cabinets for over 50 years and they are definitely unique and beautiful. The town of St George is in the middle of the cotton growing area and has recently built a new cotton gin for processing.
    We continued north to Roma and camped at a caravan park beside the gun and clay shooting club on the edge of town. We watched from their clubhouse as some of the members practiced their clay target shooting. Our next morning was an early (and cold) start to be at the cattle saleyards for a tour which was very interesting and informative. The huge saleyards are the biggest in Australia and the day we were there was the auction of the prime (fattened) cattle which go to the abattoirs. Roma has big wide streets and the main street is planted with bottle trees which are native to the area and each tree has a plaque in memory of a fallen soldier from WW1. We also saw the largest bottle tree with an impressive girth of 9.5 metres. So far the weather has been mild and sunny during the days but nights get down under 5 degrees.
    From Roma we set off on the Warrego Hwy towards Morven, stopping at a tiny town called Muckadilla with only a couple of houses and an old pub displaying more country humour. We then continued through Mitchell and on to Morven where we stopped for the night in a campsite near a recreation ground on the edge of town. Everywhere the countryside is very dry and most campsites are very dusty, this one no exception but well patronized with some powered sites with water and amenities for only $10 per night.
    We continued north-west stopping at the small town of Augathella for lunch in the pub. Many towns have murals painted on the side of buildings which adds to the interest. This town also boasts the “giant meat ant” sculpture in a pretty park beside the Warrego River. Further up the Highway we stopped at the town of Tambo for the night. The caravan park put on a happy hour around the fire where we met more great fellow travelers. Tambo main street has some lovely old heritage buildings and a famous teddy bear shop where they hand make the bears from Australian sheepskins and stuff them with wool and a couple of local ladies sit in the shop making them while the customers brouse.
    The next stop along the road was Blackall where we camped in an area at the back of a pub in the main street which had been recommended by fellow travelers. The countryside along the way changed from crop pasture to scrub and cattle farmland and still very dry everywhere. Blackall is a neat town with big wide streets and some old restored shops and buildings. While there we went to see the historic Blackall Woolscour plant which operated from 1908 to 1978 when sheep farming was in its prime. Woolscouring is a process where wool is washed and combed to remove excess oil and dirt etc. before it is dried and baled. The steam driven woolscour still operates and is the only one left in Australia. Blackall is also the site of the famous “Black Stump” which was originally a surveyors point for the town but became legend with the saying “beyond the black stump”. Most of the towns in this part of Australia use bore water from the great artesian basin as the town water supply. This town has permanently hot water on tap so locals have to cool the water for drinking. Unfortunately the water has a strong smell of hydrogen sulfide gas which dissipates if left to stand or boiled but when having a shower the smell is pretty bad!
    Off we went beyond the black stump, heading for Barcaldine through more dry, scrubby countryside and camped at a van park at the back of a service station. This was another camping ground recommended to us by fellow travelers and where the owners put on a happy hour complete with freshly cooked damper, billy tea and a couple of singers to entertain us. There’s no doubt that the van parks that put on a happy hour like this are rewarded because of the word-of-mouth recommendations. Barcaldine’s history includes the great shearers strike, the workers union and the start of the Labor movement. During our stay we visited the Australian Workers Heritage Centre with displays and information on many aspects of life in the 1800s and early 1900s.
    Our next destination up the Matilda Hwy. was Ilfracombe, a small town only a 20 min drive east of Longreach and another recommended camp ground with nightly happy hour and entertainment. We plan to stay for four nights and go to the attractions in Longreach. Ilfracombe has a pub, a general store, a railway station and a few houses and an impressive “machinery mile” adjacent to the highway with all sorts of restored old tractors and steam engines etc.

    The Caravan Park at Roma was unique as it was in the bitumen carpark of the Gun club. They put on a BBQ on Thursday nights and you could shoot 8 shots for $10.
    The tour through the Cattle saleyards was informative as the tour guides were retired cattle producers and Station owners. After the tour we spoke with a bloke who explained the history of the area and after asking where we were heading he casually mentioned that he used to own a lot of the land around. He gave us some information as to what to see and where to go including a shop in Tambo where they make the Tambo Teddies.
    We have met a different type of caravanner on this trip and as a consequence we are staying at more alternative styles of parks and recreation grounds. These people are happy to spend days and weeks at places where there is very little and some of the descriptions of the stopovers are at best over stated such as “ the toilets are old but clean and showers are hot.” In fact there was 1 toilet and 1 shower in a tin shed, but they were hot and clean.
    The roads up this way are getting narrower and more undulating and bumpy. The roadtrains are becoming more frequent with some of them having 3 trailers. The speed limits on most of the highways are 110km/hr despite their width or lack of it.
    The woolscour at Blackall was very interesting as I never knew these plants existed and apart from the plant itself there were a lot of interesting old farm equipment lying around in the paddock.
    We are currently at a caravan park in Ilfracombe and opposite is a town attraction called the “the machinery mile” which as the name suggests is a mile of old machines. We arrived in middle of “the Van Park Olympics” so the first half hour or so of Happy Hour was taken up announcing winners and distributing winners medals.
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  • Day10

    Melbourne to St George 20/5/ to 29/5

    May 29, 2018 in Australia ⋅ ☀️ 26 °C

    MELB TO ST GEORGE 20/5/18
    Well here we are again on the road, currently in St George after Happy Hour with Pizza supplied by the caravan park.
    Nothing much to report other than we stopped at a cairn marking the geographic centre of NSW on the way to Nyngan and then to one of the largest Solar Farms in Australia which was closed because we happened to be there on a Friday, the only day of the week that it’s closed.
    We went to a place called Grawin Opal Fields which is about 40Km West of Lightning Ridge on a very dusty and rough dirt road and stayed out the back at the Glengarry Hilton. I was lucky enough to play 9 holes at the Glengarry golf club with a bunch of locals. The first tee is off the back of a truck and the third is out of a boat. Tee up and preferred lies are compulsory everywhere and there is an esky on the third and seventh tee which comes back past the third. Nine holes cost 5 bucks, a can cost $2.50 and they even have a Mower and a Slasher that fits on the back of a Tractor. (see photos)

    Well we’ve been on the road for 8 days and have made it over the QLD border. The weather so far has been great with days in the low 20 degrees and nights not too freezing. We travelled up via Wagga Wagga where we visited an old friend then continued on to Griffith, passing through Narranadera and Leeton. This was mostly a citrus growing area with quite a few vineyards around as well. Griffith is a nice country city with huge wide main street shopping strip and the layout was designed by Walter Burley-Griffin so the centre has a series of circular streets and there is a low range as a backdrop to the township. The strong Italian heritage in the area is evident in the many pizza shops. We drove up to the range to take in the view and walk to see the many natural caves and caverns among the huge rocks and boulders where an Italian hermit made his home in the early 1900s.
    Our next stop was Hillston on the Lachlan River passing through cotton and grain growing areas. There were lots of grain silos and rail lines in the mostly flat countryside which was very dry looking. All the crops had been harvested. We continued along the Lachlan Valley through the town of Lake Cargelligo situated on the edge of the lake and drove on to Condobolin where we camped in a van park by the Lachlan River. The roads up this way are littered with dead roos so it’s a bit like a slalon course sometimes. There are lots of emus in paddocks and in the scrub.
    Setting off for Nyngan we drove via the Bogan Way (yes, we were in Bogan Shire) through more flat farmland with some enormous paddocks which were bare after crops (probably cotton) had been harvested. Some huge semi’s carrying enormous rolls of harvested cotton often pass us as we travel and the sides of the roads up this way are littered with balls of cotton which have blown from them. We decided to take a detour about 50km before Nyngan and go to see the cairn marking the geographic centre of NSW. The 70 km detour turned out to be a very rough and dusty dirt road but we got the photo to prove we got there! Some of Frank’s dust prevention work on the van worked, some not so good!!! It seems to be impossible to prevent dust getting in through fridge vents and then into cupboards and inside the van. Overall though, it was better than the last trip on the dirt. We stopped at the Nyngan Riverside caravan park where they had a mini-zoo with some tame camels, donkeys, alpacas, goats and roos. As Frank mentioned, he was cheesed off when we drove out to see the solar farm only to find the gates locked. We headed off to our next stop at Brewarrina which is situated on the Barwon River. While there we went on a tour from the Aboriginal heritage centre where our guide took us to view the 30,000 year old fish traps in the river. Large stones placed in the river in C shapes trap fish which swim upstream and are easily caught then placed in square shaped traps where they can be kept alive until needed.
    Our next destination was Grawin near Lightning Ridge in the heart of the opal mining area. We had heard about a pub called the Glengarry Hilton which sounded interesting so headed in along more dirt roads (only about 11km this time). We parked at the back of the “Hilton” among the mullock heaps and met some of the locals (some colourful characters) in the pub which is really not much more than a crude corrugated iron structure but with plenty of character. It had a flat screen TV on the wall and after it had been turned on in the evening the screen soon stopped working so the barman went over, picked up a billiard que and began whacking the bottom edge of it (really laying into it) as the dust rained down from the back, and after about a dozen blows it miraculously started working again! You don’t see that every day. Frank enjoyed his golf the next morning and we headed off at lunch time to our next stop at Hebel on the QLD border. Nothing to say about Hebel where there is a general store and a pub except that the bore water in the taps is very smelly!!
    We are now in St George, arriving at lunch time at a lovely little caravan park which is really popular as it’s full up. The owners put on a good happy hour and supply fresh home made pizza and we met some great fellow campers.
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