Dululu – Monto – Boondooma Homestead – Linville – Scarborough (Queensland)

14/08/18  While at our Flaggy Rock camp, the cellar ran dry. Aaagh! The plan was to take on refreshments at Dululu, our next destination west of Rockhampton near Biloela but as often happens with plans they went awry. We arrived in Dululu to find the tiny community’s only pub boarded up, undergoing a major rebuild following a fire. Damn! I was once told that pub fires are often caused by “friction” – in the filing cabinet, “friction” between the loan statements and the ledgers. Can’t say for sure that’s the case, just something I heard.

After a dry overnight camp, we headed on the next morning through more very parched country to Monto and checked into the caravan park to deal with the sizable pile of laundry and top up the dwindling on-board water. Pantry and, of course, cellar were restocked as well.

We spent a great day at Cania Gorge, a short drive north of Monto. The walking track in to Dragon Cave and Bloodwood Cave was enjoyable apart from the many, many, MANY steps up to the lookout at the top that challenged Di’s knee. Both caves at the base of the imposing gorge walls had been sites of aboriginal habitation and would have provided protection from the elements. Nine other caves in the area aren’t open to the public, being presently surveyed by archaeologists. On the way back from the caves, we were extremely lucky to have a close encounter with a pair of Whipbirds feeding on the forest floor just off the walking path. They’re generally very hard birds to see as they populate thick rainforest but here they were, a pair, cavorting around just metres from us, seemingly unconcerned by our presence. We finished off the day with a bush picnic beside Three Moon Creek, and a look around Lake Cania. We liked Monto. It’s a pleasant little town, and our intended two-day stay extended out to four as we settled in for a relax.

Some of the country we’ve been through west of the Great Divide is just heartbreaking. People are doing it tough out here and all around the country with the worst drought in generations. We’re continually seeing hay being moved by road trains, trucks and utes to feed livestock, and have noticed many properties have turned land over to the growing of leucaena, a bushy crop that we’re told is good quality fodder for cattle particularly in drought times like these. We spoke to one local who appreciated the donations but reckoned the best way to help was cash, as it could be used to buy food, produce, and so forth in the towns to keep the local traders in business as well. Makes good sense.

It was a bitterly cold -1 degree morning when we left Monto; a crisp biting cold where you didn’t want to get out of the warm bed even to turn on the diesel heater. We arrived at Boondooma Homestead, between Munduberra and Dalby, to hear they’d had a big frost that morning; everything was white. And the forecast was for the cold weather to continue…wonderful. Tell me again why we’ve come back south?

Boondooma Homestead is a heritage-listed property settled by two Scottish brothers in 1846. It’s now owned by the South Burnett Regional Council and operated as a museum and heritage complex, and a farm stay as well. The timber homestead and outbuildings are still original and intact and offer a good impression of what a homestead must have looked like in the late 1800s. We got to meet the small group of enthusiastic Boondooma Museum & Heritage Association members who were busy preparing for the annual “Scots in the Bush” festival that was happening in ten days’ time. We blended right in, being McFarlane’s and Mackay’s, and it turned out one of the ladies had a McFarlane grandfather…huh! Everyone around the fire seemed to have a Scottish heritage. “Tha fios agam, tha e doirbh a chreidsinn!” (Look it up on Google Translate). As much as we’d have liked to have stayed on for the festival, it clashed with our service booking back home. Something to look forward to next year. We stayed five days in all, joined the Association and did some volunteer work helping to tidy up around the homestead and gardens in readiness for the festival. It was good fun.

Our last camp before home was at Linville, a pleasant little village in the hills out from Moore, on the site of the old railway station.

Linville (Qld)

This trip has been shorter in duration than what we usually do but it’s been long enough to travel with good friends, call in on some good friends, make new great friends along the way, visit with close relatives and those separated by distance and time. And all the while, seeing some wonderful places – a couple we’d easily relocate to in a heartbeat – and some places suffering hard through a heartbreaking drought. As ever, we’re glad to be back home, and equally looking forward to heading off again. Tasmania’s next in October…woohoo!

Signs like these are seen hanging behind the bar at some outback pubs. So you don’t have to pay for your curiosity, here’s what the acronyms mean:
“WYBMABIITY ” – stands for “Will you buy me a beer if I tell you?”
“YCWCYAGCFTRFDS” – stands for “Your curiosity will cost you a gold coin for the Royal Flying Doctor Service.”

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Glen Erin – Hold It Flats – Ilbilbie – Flaggy Rock – Marlborough (Queensland)

3/08/18  This trip is winding down. We’re two weeks out from a booking on the Sunshine Coast to have one of the van’s diesel appliances serviced, and the route to get us there on time has pretty much been mapped out. Once home, it won’t be long before we’re off again, though, as we’ve booked to take the van across to Tasmania in November for five months and are really looking forward to that. Why does everyone highlight the horrendous boat trip across Bass Strait? My mal de mer is dreadful enough without all the horror stories being offered up. They’ve just had unusually bad crossings, right? Won’t happen to us, OK? We’re going at night. The sea’s calmer at night. Everyone knows that. Dark sky at night, she’ll be right…

Heading south from Home Hill, we went back for a couple of days to Glen Erin farmstay near Bowen. That’s where we’d first met our Frenchie friend, Clemence, when we were heading up north in May. The next few camp spots after that were all about bird watching. Between Proserpine and Mackay, we had a couple of days at a nice little farmstay called Hold It Flats, beside the headwaters of the O’Connell River. Then, two days at a farmstay near Ilbilbie, south of Sarina, again beside a little creek. Both these places contributed some new birds to Di’s twitcher list. And it was at Ilbilbie that we learned of the forced liquidation of Kimberley Kampers, the builders of our much-loved Kruiser caravan. That was sad news, but no great problem for us as we’re well out of warranty anyway and the van is performing well. Hopefully, a phoenix might yet arise from the ashes of the company.

A short way south, we pulled in at Carmila Beach for a look-around and perhaps stay, decided against it and pushed on a little further to the small community of Flaggy Rock where we camped in the grassy grounds of the old primary school. The school closed in 1996 and is now maintained by the local Council as a nice little set-up-where-you-like campground. We stayed for three days. There aren’t too many $10 a night camp sites that can boast a beautiful swimming pool.

Moving on, we turned off the highway to the tiny village of St Lawrence for a leg stretch, and were approached by a rough-around-the-edges local with many black tats and a single black tooth who said he’d seen us taking a photo of the pub and thought we’d like to have the photo he had in his hand. It was an 8×10 he’d taken of a motor cycle gang parked outside the pub, bikes all in a row and bikies standing around in groups. He said he’d been waiting to give it to someone who’d appreciate it, probably a tourist. And we were the fortunate ones. Then off he went, leaving us with the photo. It was even signed. Hmmm…not the sort of thing that happens every day.

Marlborough Free Camp (Qld)

When Di and I relocated to Townsville in 1978, we drove the 1,300 kilometres north from Brisbane in our XA Ford Falcon. The trip was uneventful until we reached the small roadhouse in the middle of the dreaded Marlborough Stretch of highway between Rockhampton and Sarina. In those days, it was a long and notorious stretch of road where travellers occasionally disappeared. Like a scene from an Alfred Hitchcock movie, the Falcon broke down near the roadhouse. Being a resourceful and handsome fellow, I was able to get it going again and we survived. Fast forward 40 years, and we were back there again, camped overnight in almost the same spot in a small clearing down a side road. Still long and lonely, the Marlborough Stretch is not so notorious today. It’s still a monotonous drive, though, seeming to go on forever through some pretty dry and uninspiring country. And still next to no signs of habitation to be seen from the highway. We survived it again.

Note to Self: Next time you feel the urge to stomp on a branch to break it up for firewood with just thongs on your feet…don’t. It’ll bugger your foot for the next three days.

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Murray Falls – Forrest Beach – Home Hill (Queensland)

23/07/18  Very reluctantly, we decided not to stay on at Sybbies for the Eureka Creek campdraft. Much as we’d have loved to, Sybbie kept bringing out Cadbury’s Hazel Nut Chocolates to have with the Baileys, and Clem and Di kept baking all those cakes and biscuits, and the bathroom scales were no longer Di’s friend. Me, I had no problem at all with chocolates, Baileys, or bakery things…bring them on, I say. I just loved all the Green, and browsed through the local real estate listings. It’d be so easy for us to live up there. And it was so hard to leave, but we had to at some stage. You know what they say about visitors and fish. And besides, Di had ran out of drawers to clean in Sybbie’s kitchen. So we bit the bullet and are now heading south, making our way slowly towards home.

Before leaving East Palmerston, we spent a lovely day in Cairns catching up over lunch with Anne and Ian, neighbours from back home who were wintering in the warm weather of FNQ, and Deborah, another ex-neighbour now living up there.

Our next camp was at Murray Falls in the Girramay National Park near Tully where we’d pre-booked for two days. The falls were amazing. A little way downstream, we had a swim in flowing pools and gentle rapids among granite boulders – breathtakingly cold but wonderful. We lay back soaking up the sun on granite slabs, watching brilliant blue Ulysses butterflies fluttering overhead among the trees. It was a lovely peaceful spot we’d have loved to have stayed longer at but the weekend had arrived. The campground filled with camper trailers, tents and marquees, the quietude shattered by echoing toddler tantrums. So we pulled stumps, headed to Ingham and nearby Forrest Beach where we’d camped in June on the way up north.

We were welcomed to Ingham by Peter and Debbie. Peter had spotted the Kruiser while we were off doing some food shopping and wanted to know more about it and caravanning in general so we ended up back at his place for a cuppa and chat for a pleasant couple of hours. (Hey, Kimberley Kampers, any commission from a future Kimberley sale to Ingham we are claiming as ours. OK?)

It was nice to have beach sand between the toes again as we took a walk along Forrest Beach. Nice but frustrating as swimming is not recommended because of crocs from the nearby creeks. Was still nice though.

Di wears one of those Fitbit things that gauges her activity by counting the number of footsteps. Despite having a fairly inactive day, she was surprised that she’d recorded 7,500 steps. Now, the thing is worn on her wrist, right, not her ankle. So how does it count footsteps? I reckon it counts hand movements. I reckoned she’d probably done like 2,000 footsteps and 5,500 hand waves, mostly while giving me jobs to do. You know what I mean, right? It’s not just a verbal thing with women; there’s all that hand movement that’s directly connected to jaw movement. So, I suggested that she sit, take note of the Fitbit count, then give me some jobs to do, delivered with all the usual hand and finger gestures, and see if the count goes up. Simple test, right? She failed to see the humour in it. I was being totally serious, though. Anyway, I reckon the count went up a lot during the resulting conversation but wasn’t allowed a look to check.

In Home Hill, we caught up again with my cuz, Lorraine and her partner Tony, for dinner. We felt a bit like celebrities as Lorraine had arranged for the local Bridge Restaurant to open that night just for us Southern visitors. It was great they did too, because the food was terrific.

It was agreed by all at Sybbies that Di has CDO. It’s like OCD but all the letters are in alphabetical order…as they should be! – included at the risk of clocking up an even higher count on the Fitbit.

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Undara – Pinnarendi Station – East Palmerston (Queensland)

15/07/18  After a couple of days at Cumberland Chimney, our next stop was 165kms east at Undara near Mount Surprise. We were off to see the lava tubes and, typically, pulled in without a booking. We kept forgetting it was school holidays. Not that we hadn’t tried to book ahead – they weren’t answering their phones the couple of times we called. On arrival, we were told they were fully booked – bugger. However, after some sweet talking, they put us in the overflow area located near the lodge, right beside the pool and pool amenities block. “OK, I think that should be fine.”

We were the first ones in the unpowered overflow area and set up on a large concrete slab (the only one in the whole place), big enough to take the Landy, Kruiser and an area for our chairs. The lady in the office also said we could plug into power on the side of the amenities block. Sweet! So we went from despair – “Sorry, we’re fully booked” – to having the best caravan site in the place. A walk around the caravan and camping areas a little later confirmed that. What a top spot. We extended the booking to three days.

Undara Resort (Qld)

Undara Lodge is a well-designed complex of buildings constructed to incorporate vintage wooden railway carriages. A number of carriages provided boutique accommodation suites, and the restaurant area was particularly well done with carriages converted to individual dining spaces, a bar and kitchen facilities. These formed three sides of a semi-open-air central dining area.

From a couple of different lava tubes tours on offer, we chose the Archway Experience. With boardwalks and only 395 or so steps, it would be the kindest on Di’s knee. The other tour was way more active, clambering over boulders with twice as many steps. We really enjoyed the informative two hour guided tour of the Archway tube. The formation was certainly impressive. In the darkness of the far end, our voices and lights disturbed a small colony of micro bats.

At the end of a three-day stay at Undara, we’d no sooner hitched up and left than we pulled in to Pinnarendi Station Stay and Cafe, 45kms down the road. This working cattle station also operates a farm stay and café that didn’t help our waistlines with delicious home-made ice creams, biscuits and cakes. The first night, we tucked into their terrific all-you-can-eat pizza dinner before helping the Maroons win State of Origin game three. The next day, Di got lessons in how to make sourdough bread in batches of 30 loaves – we’re planning to scale down the process for just us two.

We’re now back at East Palmerston, with Sybbie, Julie and Clem. For how long hasn’t yet been determined, but Sybbie’s dropping big hints about what good value the Eureka Creek campdraft is going to be, coming up in two weeks. I’m not sure if it’ll be safe staying that long – Di and Clem are back into baking pastries and biscuits again.

“No matter what I do, I cannot lose this 18 pounds… I mean, I have tried everything short of diet and exercise.” – Gene Pompa

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Bird Watching – Mount Carbine To Cumberland Chimney (Queensland)

7/07/18

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Cumberland Chimney (Queensland)

7/07/18  From Dimbulah, we travelled 66kms west on the Burke Development Road to Almaden, then turned south onto the gravel Gingerella Road which took us 130kms through Gingerella Station and Barwidgi Station to the Gulf Development Road near Mount Surprise. Gingerella Road is an alternative route for the Savannah Way. The road was reasonably good, with interesting scenery, but in parts was little more than a narrow track. Progress was generally no more than 60kph. We came across a few camper trailers coming the other way – no caravans fortunately as many sections were only one vehicle wide. “Not Suitable for Caravans” signs at both ends probably had something to do with the absence of vans. At one point, we came upon an unfortunate bloke who’d lost a back wheel on his 4WD camper ute, doing the long wait to be trucked out. In the three hours he’d been waiting there, he’d set up camp in the shade and had done some washing, and he was in for a comfortable wait at least. He had plenty of water, so we left him to his pleasant unplanned campsite and continued on, carefully snigging past his vehicle that was up on a jack in the middle of the track.

We needed fuel at Mount Surprise. The first servo’s awning was too low for the van so we pulled out and went up the road to the other little two-bowser servo, which already had a caravan in its short bay. We’d have to turn around anyway to come in to the bowser on the correct side so we went up the road a little, did a U-turn, came back and parked on the opposite side of the road to watch and wait for the caravan to finish up and clear the bay. Five minutes later, we’re still waiting. Another five minutes and the bloke finally sauntered back to his car, hopped in and began to pull out. I thought “You beauty” and headed over to come in behind him. Half-way out, though, he stopped. “What the…?” His wife appeared with a dog, probably been off doing pooper duty, and fiddled around fitting Fido into the back seat. Meanwhile, I’m only half in behind him with the tail end of the Kruiser sticking out on the roadway. She finally sorted out the dog, went to the front passenger door, opened it… grabbed her purse, and started to walk away. “What the…?” That’s when I thought I’d remind them I was there in case they weren’t already aware so I could get in off the road. So I gave them a toot of the horn – not a big angry toot, just a little friendly one. Well, she spun around mid-stride, a murderous look in her eyes, fist in the air, saying things I’m glad I couldn’t hear. I thought “WHAT THE…?” She slow-walked away, stopped, turned and glared, slow-walked some more, stopped, turned, glared some more. My life was flashing before my eyes. I thought “I’m done for as soon as I get out of this car”. She slow-walked to the porch of the pub next door, turned and held a long cold glare before going inside. Gulp. While my attention was frozen on her, Hubbie had pulled out with the van and parked up the road. I moved forward, fuelled up and paid. As I got back in the car, there she was again, doing her gunslinger slow-walk past us, stopping, turning, glaring some more daggers at me. Man, what a demon! We were lucky to get out of there unscathed. I thought I’d be a dead set headline in tomorrow’s paper. Poor Hubbie! I wouldn’t have parked up the road if I was him. I’d have kept driving while she was in the pub.

To further make our day, on a one-lane bitumen stretch near Georgetown we copped a sizable chip in the windscreen from an oncoming car and caravan driven by Allan Moffat, wheels in the gravel throwing up rocks. Bugger. It’ll probably need replacing in Innisfail if it ends up cracking. I’ll be very lucky if it doesn’t.

Mid-afternoon at the end of a long day’s drive, we finally pulled in to the free camp at Cumberland Chimney, west of Georgetown, only to find the place chockers with caravans, motorhomes and various camper setups, shoe-horned in to the designated camping area with no more room for us. “The day was just getting better and better,” I thought. The place is located next to a large waterhole with lots of birdlife and waterlilies and we’d heard a few people comment favourably about it. But while doing a quick recce on foot, I noticed that you couldn’t see the water from most of the campsites. It was only when I walked back to the van left parked outside up the track a little that we both realised we had a good water view from where we were. So we dropped anchor and put down stumps right there. To our left was an unobstructed view of the waterhole; to our right was an unobstructed panorama of the setting sun. No neighbours close by, just a few grazing cattle. Over in the camp area, everyone was knocking elbows, generators going, music, smoky fires, dogs barking, people barking at dogs barking – hardly Serenity.

It had certainly been one of those days. But our campsite ended up being good.

The Cumberland Chimney was the site of a gold mine and town in the late 1800s with a population of around 400. All that’s left now is a tall brick chimney standing sentinel in the scrub above the waterhole that was once the dam servicing the community. We’d come there for the birdlife around the waterhole and Di got busy with her cameras.

After 4 years of travelling and searching, we were excited the next morning to see our first flock of budgerigars wheeling over the waterhole. The flock of around 30 birds circled so quickly, it was difficult to get a good picture but Di was able to get a couple of very presentable shots. In an unguarded moment later on while she was snoozing, I grabbed up one of her cameras to capture a Masked Finch (a new bird) while I was lounging outside reading a book. She was disappointed to have missed it herself as she’d been on the lookout for one for a while. I consoled her with “I was just reading my book, looked up, saw it sitting on the wire, and took a picture. How hard is this bird photography.” Should have known better.

Another reason for coming back this way was to go to Cobbold Gorge. Pictures of the boat ride through the gorge looked impressive but when we heard it’d cost $100 each, we reconsidered. It wasn’t about the affordability; that price just seemed a bit steep. $50 each – yep, no worries; that’s a reasonable price for a boat ride. But $100 – nah. We could do a lot more better things with $200… like buying a gold detector, hey Di? Kids, if you’re reading this, Dad wants a gold detector for his birthday. Hint, hint.

“Say what you will about women, but I think being able to turn one toot into a life and death melodrama takes talent.”

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Dimbulah (Queensland)

5/07/18  A couple of years back, we decided to leave the generator at home. At that time, we’d been travelling for two years, and only used it once. And we figured it was a heavy thing to carry around all the time just for that rare occasion it might be needed. The solar panels on the Kruiser do a good job of keeping everything powered up, but obviously they rely on the weather being right. Protracted overcast conditions can restrict our off-grid camping to short stayovers, and when energy consumption is greater than generation and battery levels drop too low, we pack up and head off so the Landy can recharge the van as we travel along. This setup has worked pretty well for us.

For the past week, though, we’ve had overcast and wet conditions which looked like continuing for a further week, and we decided to go on power somewhere and wait it out. We settled on a nice little Council-run caravan park at Dimbulah.

After unhitching the van, we took a leisurely drive around town… and arrived back 5 minutes later. Dimbulah was really not that big a place. So then we took a leisurely walk around the caravan park… and arrived back 5 minutes later. The park wasn’t all that big either. Google offered up “The 10 Best Things to Do in Dimbulah 2018.” I was thinking “Now this looks encouraging” until I checked out the list and its proviso “We found great results, but some are outside Dimbulah.” In fact, all ten were. So, really, there were zero best things to do in Dimbulah 2018. But, to be fair, we did see a kangaroo while driving around town. Now, we’ve seen plenty of them before, but this sighting did cause a small tremble on the Dimbulah Excitement Meter. And we were planning on staying a week…?!

Still, on the upside, Dimbulah had Optus and 4G internet reception. Netflix catch-up, here we come!

We “hubbed” out around the area, doing day trips in the Landy.

We drove 50 kilometres north to the ruins of the old Tyrconnell gold mine and then on to the remnants of the Mount Mulligan coal mine at the base of the massive sheer escarpment of Mount Mulligan, looking like a huge wave of sandstone rearing up. The now deserted and mostly disassembled Mount Mulligan town was the scene of Queensland’s worst mining disaster when, on 19 September 1921, a coal dust explosion ripped through the mine killing the entire shift of 75 men. In our travels, we never cease to be amazed at how mineral discoveries came to be made in such isolated parts of the country, and also at the fortitude of the miners and their families who worked and lived in such areas 100 or more years ago. They must have faced terrible hardships, as testified by the ages on headstones at the old cemeteries. On the gravel road in, Di added a new bird to her scorecard – a Squatter Pigeon – and stopped to give way to a pair of strutting Bustards, a bird that seems to be popping up everywhere up this way.

On another day, we drove a 200km loop from Dimbulah west to Petford, then south on the winding gravel Herberton Road to the historic tin mining towns of Emuford and Irvinebank, then east to Herberton, north to Atherton and Mareeba and finally west back to Dimbulah. There wasn’t much at Emuford, just some remnant habitation ruins in the scrub beside a Cobb and Co marker, but Irvinebank had some lovely old timber buildings being restored and maintained by the local progress association. Our hopes for a pub lunch at Irvinebank were dashed when we learned the kitchen was only open Thursday to Sunday, so instead tucked into a couple of packets of crisps with our drinks. While we were munching, a woman paraded past with plates of toasted sandwiches for a group of two elderly couples at the end of the bar. Hang on, after just being informed the kitchen was closed, what warranted the special treatment for those people? Turns out, one of them was the daughter of local WWI Victoria Cross Medal recipient, Henry Dalziel, in town on the 100th anniversary of his receiving it. That explained the red carpet toastie treatment. We came across the same group a little later at the local museum which featured a WWI militaria display including a section on her father.

Our final day trip was west to Chillagoe. The road from Dimbulah to Petford was sealed, but from there on alternated between random stretches of wide bitumen and bull dust gravel. There seemed no logic to why the whole length wasn’t sealed. But if the world was a logical place, men would have been the ones who rode side-saddle. We shared the gravel stretches with a few oncoming road trains that left us momentarily driving on instruments in a cloud of white bull dust.

The town of Chillagoe wasn’t at all what we’d expected. We thought it would be more of a regional centre, larger and with more facilities; but it was very small with two pubs, a cafe, a guest house, and a little hardware that sold Nannas pies as well as hammers. A couple of caravan parks provided for travellers stopping over to see the old smelter and the main drawcard – the limestone caves. We’d done some early research, and most of the cave walks involved several hundred steps, some very steep on ladder-like structures, which Di’s gammy knee wouldn’t have coped with, so we skipped those and went to Balancing Rock, and an aboriginal rock painting site and Mungana Archway which we thought was amazing. It was a little eerie walking in among the imposing limestone formations and into the cool interior of the caves that would have made ideal habitats for the first people.

Dimbulah – View From The Van (Qld)

Waiting out the showery weather in Dimbulah, we stayed a week and came to like the small town. The caravan park was very well cared for, with green lawns, shady trees and good facilities. The decision to wait it out there was a good one. Every day, I’d intended to wash the car and van, but you know what they say about good intentions. And with all the gravel roads and bull dust, I was glad I hadn’t bothered.

“Dust and mud will wash off but the memories will last a lifetime.”

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Lions Den – Cooktown – Mount Carbine (Queensland)

28/06/18  Travelling from Laura to Cooktown, we made the spur-of-the-moment decision to overnight at the Lions Den, the iconic 4WD pub at the northern end of the Bloomfield and Creb Tracks that run from the Daintree north to the Cooktown Road. From where we were up at the Cooktown end, it was an easy 4km drive in with the van. We pulled in a little before lunch, set up and went in search of the message written on the pub ceiling during the “Boys to the Tip” Cape York trip in 2013 when Simon, Andrew and I stayed there after doing the Bloomfield Track. I had a good idea where it should’ve been but couldn’t find it, so back in the van the 2013 trip photos were consulted to determine exactly where on the ceiling it should be. I located the exact part of the ceiling but the whole thing had been replaced at some stage due to cyclone damage. Damn! So much history destroyed. So Di and I selected a section of front wall that looked pretty sturdy and added our names to the thousands of others left by 4WDers.

Di badgered me into a swim in the Little Annan River, just behind our camp site. It was a very picturesque stream and I admit to having a very enjoyable hour or so sitting among the rocks in the rapids, being massaged by the fast flowing water. Further downstream near Cooktown, the Annan is a very wide river, but up at the Lion’s Den, it was a flowing mountain stream. And no crocs they said, which was good. We didn’t see any either, which was even better.

At Cooktown, we stayed in the free camp at the racecourse. Despite the overcast skies and drizzly rain, uncharacteristic for this time of year according to a local, we both liked the small town. It seemed vibrant and well-presented with many new homes and community facilities. The place was filled with kitted-out 4WDs, towing camper trailers and caravans or racked up with roof tents and swags. You had to keep a ready eye out stepping onto the road, as some of them thought they were still tearing it up along the Development Road.

From Grassy Hill lookout, the spot that Captain James Cook climbed to looking for a passage through the reefs while repairs were being made to his beached ship, HMB Endeavour, in 1770, we took in a sweeping 360-degree view of the town, river and ocean.

The forecast for the next week for coastal areas north of Innisfail was not looking good – overcast and showers. We could see little point in continuing through with the plan to go north of Cooktown to Elim Beach and then down to Wonga Beach near the Daintree, so these bookings were cancelled. There’s nothing worse than camping at a beach in the rain – except maybe not being able to even swim because of the possibility of being eaten. So… we pulled stumps at Cooktown and headed south in search of clearer skies. On our way north, we’d recently crossed the Rollo Gallop Bridge and I thought at the time “Now that’s a long way down.” I learned later that it’s the second tallest bridge in Queensland after Brisbane’s twin Gateway Bridges, which is pretty weird considering it’s located in the northern-most parts of the Great Dividing Range just south of the small town of Lakeland – so basically in the middle of nowhere. So on the way back south again, we gave it a bit more attention, but unfortunately there was little space to pull the van over to have a good look at it.

Near Mount Carbine, we camped again at Gloria’s and had the place and her dog Jack to ourselves. Jack showed us around again and took us down to his favourite cooling off spot at the old crossing over the Mary River. Back in the day, everyone heading north or south had to ford the river at this spot, and if the level was up too high, had to camp and wait it out for it to go down.

We’ve decided we’ve been eating out too much lately on pub lunches and dinners. To my delight, a few weeks ago I reacquainted myself after a very long absence with the last hole on my belt, only to recently lose it again, altogether too quickly. Why do we suffer so for things that taste so good?

“To keep my lithesome figure, I do diddly squats.” – No, I’m not going to say who said that.

Categories: Travel News, Travel News - Queensland | Tags: , , , , , ,

Laura (Queensland)

25/06/18  Our reason for going to Laura was to see the aboriginal rock art. I’d been there with Simon and Andrew on our “Boys to the Tip” Cape York trip in 2013, and Di was looking forward to seeing it herself after hearing us talk about it.

It was a good drive north from Mount Carbine, along the Mulligan Highway through Palmer River and Lakeland, where we turned towards Laura. There’s certainly some pretty country and lovely scenery along this stretch that took us up and over the northern-most end of the Great Dividing Range. Di was surprised how green and lush the country was. She’d imagined it being much drier and sparser, more like in western Queensland. So she was really pleased we’d come up this way to see the area for the first time. The large banana farms near Lakeland were also a surprise.

We pulled in to the Split Rock site just before getting to Laura, parked the rig in the turnaround and walked in to see the beautiful aboriginal rock art galleries of Split Rock, Flying Fox and Tall Spirits in huge boulders on the edge of the escarpment. Parts of the short walking track were steep and rocky, but Di managed it quite well using her hiking stick and me for support.

The tiny town of Laura is a few buildings, a roadhouse and a pub on the main Cape York road, the Peninsula Development Road. The section from Lakeland to Laura was excellent – sealed, wide and well maintained. From Laura, the road changes to red, rocky, bumpy and very dusty. There’s a definite frontier feel about the town. We camped out back of the Laura pub among a few caravans, 4WDs and camper trailers either heading up to the Tip in clean vehicles or on their way back in red vehicles.

I watched State of Origin game two at the bar. No tap beer, only cans and stubbies. The steak sandwich was good, the beer cold and the crowd boisterous. I ended up spending the evening chatting with a bloke who was the previous publican of the Laura pub, a bloke who was the previous publican of the Goondi pub and a bloke who was in town to help set up the annual Laura Races being held the next weekend. I think I killed a few short-term brain cells because I can’t recall their names, but the current publican was Kevin (a Blues supporter) and Neon was the Chinese girl behind the bar serving drinks (who had no idea what football was all about). I asked her what the national sport of China was. She said “Ping pong.” – huh! State of Origin Ping Pong. Doesn’t come across quite the same, does it?

Origin on a Sunday night…there are some things that should not be messed with.

“…the custom of ‘shouting’ drinks is rightly decried, yet there is something salutary about a convention that forbids a man to drink alone.” – Letters from Laura, 1892-1896, by Mallias Culpin, an early Laura school teacher from England commenting on the Australian tradition.

Categories: Travel News, Travel News - Queensland | Tags: , , , , , ,

Bird Watching – Ravenswood To Mount Carbine (Queensland

23/6/18

Categories: Bird Watching | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

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