Saturday, August 20, 2011

2011 Trip: Longreach to the Sunshine Coast

Friday 12th August
We left Longreach after the performance at the Stockman's Hall of Fame and headed east, bouncing all the way. Through Ilfracombe and into Barcaldine.

It's entertaining driving through QLD, trying to work out how to pronounce all the place names. I'm usually wrong. I reckon all the letters of several alphabets were tipped into a hat and picked out randomly. (All in fun, I know WA is well endowed with weird names too.)

Take Barcaldine, our coffee stop this morning. I was happily pronouncing it barkle-dyne, when I learned that it is actually pronounced bar-CALL-d'n.

The best thing about Barcaldine is that the main street has FIVE pubs, one after another. Now that's a great town!!

We turned south east and headed into Lloyd Jones Weir to stay overnight (QLD Camp 346 in CAW 6).




Saturday 13th August
Continuing our bouncing way down the Landsborough Highway we had a look at Blackall and then stopped at Tambo for lunch. Here we bought a couple of Tambo Teddy Bears. http://www.tamboteddies.com.au/

One for Robyn and one for little Izaak back home. Our other 2 grandsons are a little past the teddy bear stage and we will have to rack our brains for something for them before we get home.

Continuing on the Charleville we booked into the Bailey Bar Caravan Park http://www.charlevillebaileybar.com.au/ for 2 nights. Tonight we went to the Cosmos Centre http://www.cosmoscentre.com/ which was pretty good. We looked at Saturn through a telescope. The rings were clearly visible and even a couple of its moons were too.


Sunday night we enjoyed a camp oven group meal at the caravan park which was just superb. Irish stew, mashed potato, apple crumble and custard. Yummo.

It was here, during the day, that I got an email from Wayne & Lesley Gardiner. I knew they were somewhere in QLD. Wayne said that they were going to be in Charleville on Tuesday. Tomorrow was Monday and we were heading east. That left Monday night.

So I rang Wayne and said that we intended to spend Monday night at Wallumbilla showgrounds (QLD Camp 646 in CAW 6). He said that they had planned the same place. Amazing!!


Wayne and I worked in ATC at Perth airport for 25 years or so and both left in 1994. He went to instruct at the ATC college in Melbourne and I went to the short-lived one in Brisbane. He applied for, and got, the Dick Smith shop in Albany and, with his encouragement, we applied for and got the DSE shop in Mandurah. We both sold out at similar times and they now live in Busselton.

And here we are in country QLD enjoying their company. Just incredible.

On Tuesday morning we said our goodbyes and continued eastward. Wayne & Lesley were heading west on their way home.

At Dalby we turned north east to Cooyar and camped at the Swinging Bridge Park behind the Cooyar Pub (QLD Camp 480 in CAW 6). What a nice spot.


Wednesday 17th August
We drove through Yarraman and Blackbutt to Kilcoy. The drive through the hills near Blackbutt was interesting. Apparently half the mountain had fallen away during the floods and there were huge roadworks happening. There was only a single lane and everyone either went up, or down, but not both at the same time.

Lunch was spent at Kilcoy. Robyn and I had stayed at Memorial Park a couple of times in the past but this time we continued down the hill into Caboolture. We had intended to stay at the Caboolture Showgrounds but there weren't any sites, at this stage, that had both power and water. We went over to the Caboolture Caravan park and drove in, and drove out, as quickly as we could. A ghetto, I'm sorry to say.

Ken & Lyn went back to the Showgrounds and by this time a vacancy with power and water existed so they stayed there. It's close to Spinifex where they need to get a couple of things looked at this coming week.

I rang Maroochy Palms caravan park where we have a cabin booked next week while our van is at Bushtracker. They allocated us a grass site down near the lake, almost apologising. But what a great site. Just beautiful.


Next Monday we take our van to BT and come back here to a cabin while a few repairs and modifications are made to the van.

Last night, Friday, we caught up with our friends Gordon and Narelle Hayes up at Peregian Beach and enjoyed a meal with them.

A comfortable 10 days or so in Maroochydore. Life is good.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

2011 Trip: Winton and Longreach

Sunday 7th August
This morning we left Mt Isa heading through Cloncurry. After a brief coffee stop we turned right onto the Landsborough Highway. This proved to be a bitumen goat track all the way through to Dalby. What a shocker.

At Winton we camped overnight at the Long Waterhole (QLD Camp 361 in CAW 6). This was quite nice, if a little dry. It's man made and the south side was pretty full with other vans so we drove over the levy bank to the north side. Much quieter.


The next morning we re-located to the back of the North Gregory Hotel. A $10 note at registration time with the publican was handed back at the bar later that afternoon and spent on beer. How civilised.

We spent an enjoyable few hours at the Matilda Centre (http://www.matildacentre.com.au/). The history of the song, Waltzing Matilda, is interesting and the Nth Gregory Hotel played a part. So did a brass band in Victoria.

Tuesday 9th August
We drove through Longreach to set up at the Ilfracombe caravan park, 25 kms east. This park is very pleasant, not cramped and has a good Happy Hour each evening.

On Wednesday, Thursday and Friday (the morning of our departure eastwards) we went into Longreach and visited various places including the Qantas Centre. Winton and Longreach both claim Qantas as their own and Longreach has a terrific Qantas Founders' Museum.
http://www.qfom.com.au/
It has a Boeing 747 and a 707 0n display. We went through both, and Robyn had the obligatory engine and cockpit photos taken.





One of the best things we did in Longreach was go to the LSODE, the Longreach School of Distance Education, or School of the Air (http://longreacsde.eq.edu.au/wcms/). What a fascinating tour, conducted by a staff member who obviously loves her work. This facility, one of a few around the country, provides lessons to kids who live in remote parts of QLD. It used to be done with HF radios. These are still part of a backup system but now it is primarily by computers and some very clever software.

What a group of dedicated educators. We all came away very, very impressed. Highly recommended when you visit Longreach.

We also visited the Stockman's Hall of Fame (http://www.outbackheritage.com.au/) and enjoyed a live one-man, several bullocks, show out the back. Some of his jokes were a bit corny but I am one of those people who likes corny jokes. It was a good show.

There is an authentic Cobb & Co coach available for rides and we were up on the back seat, facing backwards. It could do with a suspension upgrade, believe me.
We were taken out to the town Common where the horses were allowed a gallop. I would rather have faced forwards, I think. Then we did a trot up and down the main street of Longreach. Great advertising.

Later, on Thursday evening we went out to the Thomson River for a cruise, dinner and a bush poet recital. All pretty good.


The Cobb coach and river cruise were put on by Kinnon & Co (http://www.kinnonandco.com.au/). The Kinnon family had to diversify into tourism in order to keep the family cattle properties afloat and are doing a pretty good job. They all take part, including the kids, and provide a very entertaining day out.

The three towns we visited this week were interesting. Cloncurry is an iconic outback name but is withering on the vine a little, unfortunately. Winton was nice. Plenty of activity and things to see. Longreach was very enjoyable. A bigger place with a lot on offer for visitors.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

2011 Trip: Into Queensland at Camooweal and then Mt Isa

4th August
I always feel good when we cross into Queensland. I just feel sort of at home. I reckon QLD and WA are very similar.

This afternoon we camped at Camooweal Billabong (QLD Camp 315 in CAW 6). This is on the Georgina River just on the western outskirts of Camooweal.



There was quite a bit of birdlife there, including some very graceful Brolgas.



This is a very popular free-camp site and there were plenty of vans there when we arrived. All the good spots were taken but many travellers left in the morning and, if we had been staying longer we would have moved into one of them.

As it was we drove into town and got in line at the BP servo ahead of 43, that's right 43 !!, Army vehicles all wanting diesel. There was a steady stream of army vehicles, low loaders with tanks etc, heading back to their base in Darwin from a couple of months in Townsville.

With full fuel tanks we continued eastwards.

5th August
This afternoon we entered Mt Isa. We haven't been here before. We booked into the Big 4 Argylla Tourist Park. It was nice. Here we bumped into Lyall and Trish, owners of a Spinifex van I had communicated with several months earlier and Ken & Lyn had met them at the Spinifex factory. It was a pleasant afternoon talking vans with them. We passed on greetings from Dave & Shell because I knew they would want us to.


Robyn and I drove up to a lookout and behind us was this house sitting on this flat top hill. What a view. It was for sale too.

We also drove out to Lake Moondarra. What a beautiful spot. We should have come out here for a picnic lunch. It was delightful.

There was also a very nice picnic area at the back of the lake as well.

We went on the Hard Times mine tour which was well done. This is a specially created underground mine specifically for tourists. The strange thing is some bright spark decided to ban tourists from taking cameras but they take our photo and try to sell us a paper copy for $10. Who on earth lugs around paper copies these days? Why not put the price of the tour up by $5 and allow us to take our own photos?


I wasn't expecting to enjoy Mt Isa, but we did. It's a nice place.

2011 trip: Darwin and Kakadu

28th July
We arrived in Darwin and stayed at the Big 4 Caravan Park in Howard Springs for four nights.

Darwin seems to have everything. Plenty of heavy and light industry. Shops all over the place. I went to ARB and bought a Bushranger rubbish bag that sits over one of the spare wheels on the van and went to Enzed and had the end of the hose on the air compressor changed to make it easier to use.

Both places were very helpful.

The Big 4 CP was nice. We were put down the back in an area that had larger sites. Thank goodness. The sites at the front of the park were pretty tight.

We had a Whizz-Bang behind us and I had to educate them about minimising the use of their sliding door in the middle of the night when they had to trot off to the facilities.

We went to the Mindil Markets on Thursday night. It was pretty good. We are still bemused by the number of people lining up at the beach to take photos of the sun setting over the water. It's an everyday sight for West Aussies.

Tours were mostly booked out and we had to wait until Sunday before we could get on a light aircraft and go for a flight over Kakadu. This was in a Cessna 210 and we were the only passengers.

It was a little smokey but the scenery was excellent.







This is Ranger Uranium Mine near Jabiru.

We landed at Cooinda and went on the Yellow Waters boat trip. This is a billabong on a tributary of South Alligator River. It was pretty good and we got close to a couple of salties.




 
We flew back to Darwin and arrived home late afternoon.

While Robyn and I did this flight, Ken went on a barramundi fishing trip. Lyn was going to go but backed out when she found that the boat didn't have any shelter or toilet facilities. If you had to go you were expected to hang your nether regions over the edge like everyone else. Just a bit too blokey. A completely understandable decision.


1st August
We left Darwin and drove out to Jabiru on the Arnhem Highway. Ken and Lyn had a helicopter flight booked here and saw much the same as we saw yesterday (another Robinson... yikes!!). I'm glad we did the airborne tour. The view of the surrounding countryside from the Arnhem Highway is non-existant. Just boring bushy trees.

We stayed at the caravan park at Cooinda Lodge which was nice. If you go there, go down to the new section at the back of the park. Better grass, roomy sites with power and water. Excellent.

2nd August
We rejoined the Stuart Highway at Pine Creek and headed south, through Katherine and overnighted at Bitter Springs near Mataranka. We all walked down to the thermal springs and jumped in. Beautiful warm water. Fresh water too, no bouyancy.

3rd August
Continuing south we stopped at Daly Waters for fuel. We passed through here last year on the way from Cape Crawford to Top Springs.

Tonight we stayed at Banka Banka Station (NT Camp 91 in CAW 6). I came away with mixed feelings about the place so the less said the better. 

4th August
At Three Ways Roadhouse we refueled and turned left to head east to Queensland along the Barkly Highway. We stopped and had a look at the Barkly Homestead Roadhouse but didn't need any fuel. We camped out the back last year before heading up to Cape Crawford.

At the end of a long day's drive we crossed the border into Queensland.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

2011 Trip: Mt Bundy Station

Monday 25th July
We left Kununurra this morning heading east into the Northern territory. The first thing we noticed on the NT side was the speed limit: 130kph. It used to be unlimited but sanity prevailed and it was set at 130. By the time we finished our visit through the NT I came to the conclusion that if any other road rules got in the way of NT drivers getting to 130kph, then it was their duty to ignore them.

We stopped at the Vince Connoly Crossing rest area (NT Camp 192 in CAW 6). Like most published rest areas it was pretty full and anyone turning up late had to squeeze in.

Tuesday 26th July
Pushing on we refueled in Katherine and headed north on the Stuart Highway. My aim was to get to Mt Bundy station (just outside Adelaide River) tonight to meet, for the first time, a man I had communicated with through ExplorOz. Doug Tilley, despite his humble background is a profound thinker and astute observer. We arrived at Mt Bundy about midday and set up camp down near the river.



Before today I had come to the conclusion that Doug was a compassionate man. Now I'm not a dog lover, but just look at Doug's website and read his tribute to Dusty. http://www.doug-and-dusty.id.au/ If you have a dry eye after reading it you're just not human.

Doug's passion is researching sites around Mt Bundy that were used in World War 2. Just over the entrance road is a series of concrete slabs that used to be buildings used by the US Navy to eavesdrop on Japanese radio traffic to try to get an advantage.

Doug used the internet to get in touch with veterans' organisations in America and also spent his own limited resources to download information from archive websites.

He then used these to identify what each building was used for. And using skills that forensic detectives would be proud of he even identified the trees that were in the photographs and even a rock that was in one.

Here's a photo of some Australian soldiers playing cricket at the base.

Here's the cricket pitch now.

Doug at work, investigating.

Here's one of the original photos Doug got. Doug's research revealed that the soldier is watching a football game.

But here's Doug up the same tree.

Doug has mounted the laminated photos in front of the building remnants so visitors can get an idea of what activities were carried out there all those years ago.

He has brought a great deal of pleasure to the families of some of the US Navy personnel who served there. They are absolutely amazed at Doug's reseach and care. So am I. There is so much to see and appreciate that I urge readers to visit Mt Bundy and talk to Doug. He loves to talk about his research and show people over the site. If you do go there may I suggest you supplement Doug's reseach funds, which are limited.

A few months ago Mt Bundy went through a scare about arsenic in the water. It was a grossly inept bureacratic bungle and media hype that had damaged Mt Bundy's reputation as a tourist destination. It was all utter rubbish. Please go there, talk to Doug and learn about our history.