10/09/17 Rosedale Hotel – Binnowee Bush Camp – Iron Ridge Park – Doon Villa Campground, Maryborough
Resuming our trek back to Maryborough after three days at Futter Creek, we travelled 140kms south to cross a very rattly old timber railway bridge into the small township of Rosedale, and camped out back of the pub. At best, it was a pretty basic campsite in amongst a large yard of discarded junk and scrap but in Rosedale for $10 you can’t expect the Hilton. It was OK for just an overnight stop and the price did include power, hot showers and laundry facilities, so it was kind of a bargain. We didn’t use the latter but both of us delighted in the long and gloriously hot shower after three days of navy washes at Futter Creek in our shower. You can overlook just about anything if the shower is hot and stays hot long enough.
The one night at Rosedale Pub was enough. The following morning, we trekked a mere 44kms to Binnowee Bush Camp, just north of Bundaberg, to a lovely spot at the edge of a large dam bordered by paperbark trees. The bird life kept Di occupied and she spotted a new bird – a Little Grass Bird. Each evening meal was cooked over the campfire. It was a very enjoyable three days at a very pretty spot. We met up for campfire scones, and then later for drinks, with fellow travellers, brothers Ken and Murray, and their wives Ann and Ann (not hard to get the girls names right). Ken’s Ann presented me with a pair of knitted slippers that have had a lot of use during the cold nights while I’m sitting up reading. My tootsies are very warm and happy.
Our last stop before Maryborough was back at Iron Ridge Park near Childers for two days. In town, we met up again with Ken and Ann for coffee and I took the opportunity to restock the dwindling wine cellar in the Kruiser with more reds from Brierley Wines. Purely medicinal, mind you; it’s good for the blood.
We arrived back in Maryborough to collect my uncle from the base hospital where he’d been treated for a break in his lower right fibula. The following week saw us assisting him at his home – Di couldn’t help herself and got stuck into a major clean of his house while I arranged for some disability furniture aids to make him more comfortable.
Further medical complications resulted in him being flown to Brisbane and we are heading there as well to see how he’s getting on. It was fortunate that we were there with him when the complications arose. These unforeseen developments have brought our planned travels to an early end but, on the positive side, going home will allow us to get stuck into some major flooring renovations that need doing and Di has some dental renovations to be completed as well.
Sometimes the road of life takes an unexpected turn and you have no choice but to follow it to end up in the place you are supposed to be.
27/08/17 After weeks of glorious weather – clear blue skies and mid-20s temperatures – we crossed the Tropic of Capricorn at Rockhampton. The next two days were very hot and uncomfortable with temperatures up into the 30s, though, happily, this unpleasant weather was short-lived, followed by a couple of days of cold blustery winds and extremely cold nights and mornings. Whenever we’ve crossed the Tropic of Capricorn, regardless of where in Australia, it’s been associated with a marked and immediate change in the temperature.
A short fifteen minute drive west of Rockhampton, we camped next to the Kabra pub on the busy Capricorn Highway. Lots of semis were barrelling both ways, carrying goods to and from the Bowen Basin in the west, and immediately across the roadway, the dual rail line was busy all day and night with long coal trains from the Bowen Basin coal mines heading east to Rocky – multiple locomotives with up to 100 coal wagons – and empty ones returning west for refilling. We camped there for three nights, awaiting the arrival of tyre pressure sensors to replace those on the van that had started to fail shortly after leaving home. In the past three years, the system’s low pressure alarm has saved a few tyres from complete destruction and I was reluctant to tackle any gravel roads without a properly working tyre monitoring system.
The Kabra pub is unusual in its construction. We were told that the original old timber pub and adjacent hall were originally located nearer to the town. The pub, owned by a wily old lady, burnt down and while insurance was being arranged, a temporary bar was set up and the hall used for bar storage. Insurance came through, but then the hall subsequently burnt down and was subject to a further insurance claim. The story goes that insurance paid out again but on the proviso that the new pub was to be constructed of concrete block with cement floor. The new pub is built like a bunker. You can just about clean it out with a fire hose. No more fire insurance payouts, I assume.
Just to the north of Rocky at Yeppoon, we caught up for the day with locals Vic and Bronwyn, 5th wheelers we’d met recently at the Futter Creek camp, and had lunch with them at the yacht club over a nice piece of local beef.
Our travel plans have now changed due to an accident involving my uncle, the one we’d recently visited with in Maryborough. A fall and subsequent broken ankle laid him up in hospital and we’re heading back there to help him get back on his feet after he’s discharged. As we get older, we don’t seem to bounce as well as we used to when we were spry and nimble.
We’re now working our way back south and are again camped at Futter Creek for a couple of days.
You know that point you reach halfway between being awake and asleep – that numb state of drowsiness when thought is slipping away. I was in that lethargic state, reclining back in the chair, soaking up the sun, nodding off…when an angle grinder started up and blew it all to hell. Hardly what you’d expect to encounter at a pleasant little creekside camp spot in the middle of nowhere.
It was all the fault of the guy in the van just across the way. He started the whole thing. It was laundry day and out came the portable washing machine and generator onto the grass beside his van. Now, if it was me, I’d have put it all around the back to block the noise, but that’s just me.
Anyway, next thing, Old Mate from the van next door spies Washing Guy’s generator and, seizing on an opportunity, trots over and plugs an angle grinder into it and starts grinding away at some God-Only-Knows-What thing he’s got going on.
In no time at all, Grinding Man triggers some deep primal urge in Old Mate in the van on the other side of Washing Guy, who proceeds to get out his own grinder and gets stuck into his own noisy God-Only-Knows-What project.
Our once-serene campsite is now reverberating to the cacophony of washing machine, generator and angle grinders.
Offering a discordant accompaniment to the tune of the “The Laundry and Construction Orchestral Trio” are Ma and Pa Kettle in the mobile home on the other side – Ma with her irritatingly loud nasally voice that I’m sure could easily etch glass if she tried just a little bit harder, continually berating downtrodden-looking Pa Kettle for daring to breathe; and Pa hollering to whoever’s on the speakerphone that they are camped in such a nice quiet spot and that their toilet pump isn’t working. Makes sense now. I thought they were full of it. And their little spotted Rat Dog’s perpetual struggles to cough up that permanently stuck fur ball just rounds off the complete symphonic package.
Serenity is such a fragile and fleeting thing. Angle grinders pale compared to Ma Kettle’s dulcet voice.
“We’re out of here first thing tomorrow.” – Pete
20/08/17 After a night at the Futter Creek camp, we headed west through lush cattle country that is undoubtedly the reason nearby Rockhampton promotes itself as the Beef Capital of Australia. The cattle we saw were glowing with condition – the fats were very fat and the bulls very bully. Our intended campsite at Biloela and another further north at Goovigen were both bypassed as we’d been making good time and chose to go on to Mount Morgan for a couple of days pursuing family history links.
I was last in Mount Morgan as a seven year old holidaying with my family, and for that short time my elder brother and I were enrolled at Calliungal North State School where our maternal grandfather, Connor Connell, was the principal and sole teacher from 1950 until his retirement in 1965. My memories of that time are very patchy – Grandad circulating around the single classroom as he taught each of the year level groups; sitting with the other students on bench form seats in a vaulted-roofed music room singing “A Scottish Soldier” with Grandma playing the piano and occasionally emphasizing with her hand the metre of the song; the musty smell of wooden school desks, chalk dust and wet writing slates; constructing meccano contraptions on the front veranda of the school residence that seemed the size of an aircraft carrier deck; collecting eggs each day from the wire and corrugated tin chook yard out the back – so I was looking forward to seeing if the buildings still existed and if they evoked any additional childhood memories of that time.
On the outskirts of town, after asking a local for directions to the old school, we very soon pulled up at an old school building now functioning as a private residence. We introduced ourselves to the very elderly owner who was more than happy to chat and recount stories about the building and school days. After an hour or so, I remarked that the school residence didn’t seem at all familiar, so my grandfather may have lived elsewhere away from the school. I said he’d been listed on a number of census returns for that time as living in Baree – to which she responded that Baree was the next community just out of town. “Well then, I guess he must have lived away from the Calliungal North State School to have that address on the census returns.” “This wasn’t Calliungal North State School,” she said, “This was the old Walterhall State School. Calliungal North is further out of town at Baree.”
We had a good laugh, realising that for the past hour we’d each been speaking about totally different schools and still making good sense of it all. Regardless, she was a lovely lady and the chat had been a very enjoyable reminiscence of those times. Now following her directions, Di and I headed off to hopefully locate the correct school. A wrong turn on the way and we pulled over once again to ask directions from a chap standing in his front yard.
“G’day. I’m looking for the old Calliungal North State School. Would you know where it might be?”
“I should. I did my primary schooling there.”
“My grandfather was principal there for fifteen years,” I said. When I mentioned my grandfather’s name, he said “Old Pop Connell! Yes, he taught me the whole time from Grades 1 to 6. Great teacher and great bloke!” After introductions, Keith asked us inside his home and we chatted for an hour or so, with him digging out old photos and ringing his sister a few doors up the road to see if she might have any others that included my grandparents. He also asked after a couple of my uncles who were at school with him in those days. Lovely guy. Keith promised to have a look for more photos and we met up with him again the following day. What’re the odds of a person you meet quite by chance knowing your grandfather and some of your uncles really well! Small world. But then again, Baree is a very small place. Keith had been born and raised in the small weatherboard cottage that he still lived in.
Once again, and now following Keith’s directions, we went off to find the school; this time with success. There it was perched on top of “that bloody hill” that the kids trudged up and down each school day. Tooting the car horn at the rather large guard dog sign on the front gate, Di and I introduced ourselves to the owners, explaining why we were there. They very graciously allowed us a tour of the building that had opened as a school in 1904, closed at the end of 1971, and was now a family home.
Keith had confirmed that my patchy recollections of the internal layout were pretty accurate. But the original internal timber walls had been removed some time ago and the arrangement of rooms considerably altered. The impressive old building has undergone a number of transformations in the almost half century since it ceased being a school, including conversion into flats and for a few years as home to a rather dubious and secretive religious cult till that faded away. The exterior, though, has remained very much as it had always been, aside from the addition of a few windows when a false ceiling was installed inside.
Through renovation gaps, we caught glimpses of the glorious original vaulted ceilings of tongue and groove timber and the original double-height windows now lighting the unused void above the false ceiling. I could see why, with such raking ceilings and windows, I‘d remembered the classroom being like a cathedral; a high lofty space. Thankfully the current owners wish to retain as much of the authenticity of the building as possible as they continue to renovate it into their home.
They took us next door to the old principal’s residence and introduced us to that owner, who was pleased to show us through and relate what she knew of the buildings past. We had a very pleasant chat with both owners about the history of their buildings and the area, and most especially with Keith, the past student, who shared several warm memories of my grandparents.
In all, we spent six days in Mount Morgan. The town’s past, present and future focusses very much on the gold mine that in its day was the richest in the world. It’s been closed now since 1990. The locals hint at the possibility of rejuvenation due to modern techniques for extracting gold from the old tailings, but they seem unconvinced much will happen soon. With very little other industry in town to support the community, the general downturn was evident. It’s a great shame that the once wealthy, vibrant and historic mining town now appears to be in its twilight years.
“Towns are like people. Old ones often have character, the new ones are interchangeable.” – Wallace Stegner
16/08/17 A Fair Call
While the two of us motored along, I was quietly musing on the number of caravans travelling in the opposite direction. I was doing more waving than the Queen Mum and developing RSI in my wrist. I remarked to Di that about 1 in 4 vehicles coming the other way were travellers heading south – travellers being caravans, motorhomes, camper trailers and whiz bangs. To Di, 1 in 4 seemed a lot. Was I indeed correct?
On the road you look for anything to pass the time and we latched onto my latest theory like a magnet, resolving to put it to the test. Fact Check it – Fact or Fiction? Firstly, we deliberated and then agreed on the required statistical groups – Travellers vs Non-Travellers – and which vehicles fell into each category. It was then determined that a 10 minute survey would provide a reasonable and (for that time of day) representative statistical sample. Having laid the basis for our test, we then commenced a tally of oncoming traffic for the requisite time duration, with Di recording the count.
Calculation of the results proved that, indeed, my original estimate had been sound, with 24 Travellers recorded compared to 60 Non-Travellers, representing 28.57% of southbound traffic being Travellers. Close enough to 1 in 4 – well, 1 in 3.5 actually, but you can’t realistically have 3.5 vehicles….Hey, c’mon now, wake up! I hear you snoring. I know it’s not very riveting stuff, but it did help pass the time for a while. And besides, I like being proven CORRECT.
A good wife always forgives her husband when she’s wrong.
14/08/17 The drive up through the heavily wooded hills of the Warro Forest Reserve was a slow haul, along a snaking gravel road and across a narrow wooden bridge that I thought best to walk over first before clunking across the rattly wooden bridge deck with the rig. Shortly after descending the far side of Mt Warro, we came to the small village of Lowmead, and over the level rail crossing of the main north-south line to set up in the large shady backyard of the pub.
Over a drink in the pub a little later, Di asked the publican and two guys sitting at the bar how many people lived in Lowmead.
“Six” they all agreed after counting it up.
“No, six people.”
With the two guys at the bar, the publican, two others sitting across the room, and both of us, it was pretty much full house for Sunday lunch.
We unhitched the van and took an afternoon drive to nearby Agnes Waters and the Town of 1770. Di loved the long curving white beach at Agnes Waters, but 1770 didn’t appeal to us much at all – too hilly, too isolated and too many backpacker whiz bangs everywhere. Bustard Bay, dotted with many boats and yachts moored offshore, was certainly scenic and would be a great place to stay if you were a boatie. But we weren’t.
With the shadows lengthening in the late afternoon, we enjoyed a drink beside the van looking across the paddocks to Baffle Creek at the far tree line. An impressive Spotted Harrier on the hunt, skimming above the tops of the tall grass seed heads, proved faster than Di could locate her camera. She settled for just a distant hazy image of this new bird to her list. We had a very quiet and peaceful camp site, tucked away in the back corner behind the pub, despite the occasional horn toots of trains approaching the nearby level rail crossing. Thankfully, they didn’t blow their horn at night.
The next morning, we packed up and headed north through Miriam Vale and Calliope to a camp at Futter Creek. The days are becoming steadily warmer as we travel further north. The nights are still cold and we’re hitting the sack much earlier, our sleep patterns very much dictated by sunset and sunrise.
“Knock Knock! Who’s there? Tibet! Tibet who? Early Tibet and early to rise!”
13/08/17 Ambrosia and Camp Fires
The last two campsites have been terrific.
We stayed for three nights at Brierley Wines, 6km out of Childers. Camping was free as long as you bought some of their wine which I was quite happy to do as the tasting was rather nice. They grow the grapes and make their own organic wines on site, and my long-held notions of what I like in a Shiraz have been totally destroyed by this nectar. I have to honestly say that after their wine, all others in my mobile cellar tasted insipid as I forced myself through the remaining stocks. From the first glass it just blew me away. I’ve gone through the couple of bottles we picked up and we’re going for a drive to get some more today. Their mulled wine is going to have a delightful place on the Christmas table this year when we get home. Along with their Honey Mead, for something a little ancient and different. Wassail the wine!
Our next camp was a hop of only 21kms through Childers to Iron Ridge Park – my idea of what all caravan parks should be like. For the two weeks beforehand, we’d been camping on solar, and headed to Iron Ridge only for the power because the forecast was for a few days of solar-killing grey skies and rain. Despite the clouds eventually clearing, we kept extending our stay, to 9 days in all. The place was like a 5-star bush camp, owned by a couple who had done lots of travelling themselves and knew what they liked in a campsite. In a bushland setting with lots of trees, the sites were quite spread out from each other, with lots of space and a fire pit each. Free wood could be gathered from the bush in the wheelbarrows provided and we sat around a fire most nights. So it was like how we choose to camp, only with extras – like a concrete slab, toilets, showers, laundry, power and water. Not real hard to take at all. This was a good base for day trips into nearby Bundaberg and the beaches at Woodgate, Bargara, Innes Park and Elliott Heads.
Unfortunately, Di was a magnet for the midges and has been scratching like crazy for days. I read that midges are attracted to carbon dioxide, and my suggestion to try keeping her mouth closed and holding her breath wasn’t received in quite the same warm and caring manner that it was offered. Oh well, there go all my brownie points again…
AAAAAGH!! – Di (scratching)
7/08/17 What the Flock!
There’s always one in every bunch. We were camped up in a large grassy area, a few acres in size with lots of flat open space. Everyone just found their own spot, with heaps of separation from those around. Very pleasant. And then this guy pulls in! Obviously a lover of caravan parks who can’t deal with open spaces or personal space. Parking close was the first sin; then what little space did separate us was taken up by his bloody BMW; and to take out the trifecta he set up his generator on our side of his van! What the!? Time for us to leave.
We came across a great article on campsite flocking behaviour at https://www.thegreynomads.com.au/lifestyle/in-the-spotlight/flockers/ that explains it so well.
It’s time someone developed a scrambler that establishes a silent zone of electronic garbage for a reasonable distance around your van, scrambling every electronic device except your own, and overlaying a voice message to all their audio devices “This is the much neglected voice of your social conscience speaking. You have parked way too close to your neighbour. Show them some consideration and move away”. Priceless! I’d buy one!
“Out of all my body parts, I feel like my eyes are in the best shape. I do at least a thousand eye rolls a day.”
28/07/17 Apartment living has many advantages. Parking space for a caravan isn’t one of them. So, to get it ready for the trip, we had a couple of days at the caravan park just up the road from home to clean the Kruiser and pack it up. Di’s LISTS came out, the gear went in and the dust came off. With every box ticked, we spent the second night in the van.
Given the long break at home, we had to recall some of those things we routinely did in the Kruiser that used to be second-nature. “Now, what was that inverter setting again?” Thank goodness I labelled everything when we first got the van or over time as we worked out how a particular something worked in it. There are labels everywhere, on the inside of cupboard doors and next to control switches, to assist with the vagaries of memory. Those little label makers are worth their weight in gold. But, pretty quickly we got into the swing of things (Read the labels!), headed out of the park and north to Marg McIntosh Reserve, a nice little free camp west of Gympie with a small creek on one side and horse paddocks over the back fence, two one-lane bridges from the small town of Widgee.
The Landy needed a little tweak so two days later we ended up in Gympie at Gold City Land Rovers for some TLC from Allan and the boys. The guys back home at MR Automotive were terrific for advice about what was happening, and shipped parts up overnight so they were there in Gympie first thing the following morning when we called in. When you’re travelling, it’s great to have reliable people you can call on when needed. By lunchtime, the re-tweaked Landy was heading on to Maryborough.
Both my parents’ families, the McFarlanes and Connells, have long roots in Maryborough going back to the mid-1800s. I’d been looking forward to spending a few days there doing some ancestry research and catching up with relatives. The local Family Heritage Society provided a wealth of information and we spent some time at the old cemetery where a few ancestors were buried, including my paternal great-grandparents, William and Martha McFarlane, who emigrated to Maryborough from Ireland in 1863. As this was their first landfall in Australia, they are considered to be among the group of Pioneers of Maryborough.
Maryborough is a lovely town with many original old homes and commercial buildings. The Maryborough I remember from my childhood is now relegated to being almost a satellite of Hervey Bay, the nearby community that has grown enormously since its sleepy beach village days. The quiet little beachside Hervey Bay where I spent most childhood Christmas holidays is long gone, overtaken by progress; developed and homogenised to now look like everywhere else. I guess that’s why Maryborough appeals to us. It’s been bypassed by the developers’ wrecking ball and retained its individuality and heritage.
We caught up with my uncle who we hadn’t seen for quite some time, and afterwards went exploring to find the site of the Dundathu sawmill, just outside of Maryborough beside the Mary River. This was where great-grandfather William was employed as a sawyer after arriving in Australia. To the casual eye, nothing now remains at the site, having long ago reverted back to bushland, but with the aid of GPS coordinates, we were able to navigate to where the sawmill had existed and locate some signs of it in the bushscape.
We also visited the house of my maternal great-grandfather, and were delighted to meet the current owners who turned out to be my second-cousins. The house has remained in the family since 1916, and I have a wonderful photo of my mother as a young child sitting up with her parents and grandfather in a horse-drawn buggy outside this house, circa 1928.
Maryborough is a place we’ll definitely be coming back to. There is so much family history yet to be done.
When there is a very long road upon which there is a one-lane bridge placed at random, and there are only two cars on that road, it follows that: (1) the two cars are going in opposite directions; and (2) they will always meet at the bridge. – Murphy’s Law of the Open Road