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.
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.”