Travel News

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

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

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.”

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

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.

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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: , , , , , ,

Mount Carbine (Queensland)

23/06/18  The mostly vacant grounds at Malanda Falls Caravan Park steadily filled with camper trailers, tents and caravans during our final day; mainly young families, and mostly girls around the ages of our granddaughters, clutching My Little Ponies and waving bubble makers. From experience we knew what these little pony things were all about and could keep up. They helped to top up our grandparent tanks which run dry the longer we’re away travelling.

So far, we’d been lucky with the weather up in Far North Queensland, particularly on the tablelands where there’s a reason why it’s so green. Nights and mornings had been cold and the days pleasantly sunny. But drizzly rain set in on our last day and continued till the next morning as we packed up to head off. The next couple of stops were to be on solar so hopefully the clouds would be left behind us.

From Malanda, we travelled up through Atherton, then via the Kennedy Highway to Mareeba, and the Peninsula Development Road to Mount Molloy and Mount Carbine where we stayed the night at a pleasant farm stay called Gloria’s Campground, a few kilometres south of the town in an area called Maryfarms. The farm was owned by a lady named…yep, you guessed it.

The camping area was quite large, possibly a few acres, and the only others were a family camping in a horse float. Now, when campers set up a genie, the considerate ones think of others first and locate it around behind their vehicle to block everyone else from the noise, the less considerate ones put themselves first and locate it so as to minimise the noise for their own camp, and the couldn’t-give-a-rats ones just locate it as far from themselves as they can regardless of anyone else. The folks in the horse float had the longest power cord I’ve seen, connected to the genie sitting a good 40 metres away right in the centre of the camping area. It had the look of one of those “bugger anyone else” campsites. And the genie ran from when we arrived in the morning, all day. They must have had a bar fridge in the horse float that needed constant 240 volt power, as lots of floats have. Fortunately, the campground was big enough for us to set up as far from them as possible to not hear the motor noise.

“Sometimes you just have to accept that some people are shitty humans, and stop trying to see the good that isn’t there.”

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Kairi – Malanda (Queensland)

22/06/18  After our three-days at the Georgetown Campdraft, we headed back east to the Atherton Tablelands to meet up with Charles and Joy at Fong-On Bay camping area in the Danbulla Forest Park on Lake Tinaroo. They were still in Cairns and would be arriving a day after us. We rolled up to the entry road/track, to be met by two rather large and ominous signs, one saying “ROAD UNSUITABLE FOR CARAVANS” and the other “LOGGING TRUCKS USE THIS ROAD”. I thought “OK, that probably won’t apply to an off-road demon like the Kruiser”. But instead of just ignoring the warnings and forging ahead like I usually do, I played safe and unhitched the van, left Di to guard it, and drove the Landy in to check the road conditions. It was fortunate I did. In a pinch – and I mean a big pinch – we could have managed the winding, narrow bush track into F.O. Bay but it wouldn’t have been do-able for Charles’ and Joy’s van. At one stage, I had to pull over to let a motorbike through coming the other way. So erring on the side of caution (and vehicle insurance exclusion clauses), we gave the campsite a miss. After that debacle, I started using a more colourful name for Fong-On Bay, still with the F and O.

With all the stuffing around, it was by then late in the afternoon and we camped that night at a free camp opportunely located over the road from the pub at Kairi (pronounced Ki-rye – huh!). Convenience won out over thrift and weight control that night, as we got stuck into a nice pub meal and couple of drinks, and sorted out replacement lodgings where we could meet up with our Sandgroper friends the following day.

The next morning, I had visions of an early start as the van was still all hooked up and ready for a quick getaway. All that really needed to be done was check the wheel nuts with the torque wrench, as I regularly do. Two of them sheared off. Bugger! Same wheel – two broken wheel studs! The upside, though, was I only had to pull off the one wheel. I put the broken studs down to the wheels being removed for new tyres just before we left home, and the studs being over-stressed with a ratchet gun. So much for the early start – delayed a bit while I replaced the broken wheel studs.

The new arrangement with our friends was to meet up at the Malanda Falls Caravan Park, located beside the lovely waterfall on the northern edge of the town of Malanda; and despite its hasty last-minute selection, the park turned out to be a winner rather than a consolation prize – with grounds more like a parkland than a caravan park, and just a short walk through the forest to the falls and its pleasant swimming area. Joy and Charles arrived later in the morning and we settled in with coffees, followed by a few wines later on, to catch up on what we’d each been doing since last together near Home Hill.

Di was pleased to catch a fleeting glimpse of a Spotted Catbird (a new bird) in the rainforest beside the caravan park, but I had a sure feeling she wouldn’t be satisfied until formally documenting it with a good photo. Sigh! A hunt was again afoot.

We farewelled Joy and Charles who headed west on the Savannah Way towards Normanton and across to the Northern Territory. In all, we stayed five days in Malanda, having a nice relaxing time. Queensland school holidays have started and the more popular campsites will soon sound like school playgrounds at lunchtime. Around us family tents and caravans have begun to appear with people sitting and staring down at their palms. Time for us to go further bush.

“Casting a curious gaze down on planet Earth, extra-terrestrial beings could well be forgiven for assuming that we humans are programmed in every move we make, by a palm-sized, oblong, slab of glass. More perplexing than that, who on earth could convince them otherwise?” 
― Alex Morritt, Impromptu Scribe

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Forrest Beach – East Palmerston – Georgetown (Queensland)

16/06/18  Forrest Beach is a small coastal town an hour north of Townsville and 20km east of Ingham. We set up close to the water in a campground run by the local Progress Association – a large grassy area with shade trees – and in no time Di had us down on the sand to top up her Beach Babe tank. After just three weeks away from the coast, her Beach Separation Anxiety level was high. Sand between the toes quickly fixed that.

We shared the large camping area with just one other van, and the long beach was deserted apart from us. I couldn’t understand why no other people were here. This place was a gem – a store and newsagency across the road, and a pub within a short stroll – all the basic requirements for a top spot. I’m not going to be the one to spread the word around, though. Less travellers in the camp site suits me just fine. Please forget that you just read this.

The TV was tuned in ready for State of Origin game one while I tuned in with a glass or two of Shiraz to give the Maroons the benefit of my expert coaching skills. Origin is about the only time we watch TV – all the inane commercials and relentless sports betting ads drive me nuts. So much for my expert coaching, though. We’ll get the Blues next time.

Heading on from Forrest Beach, smoke coming from the stacks of the Victoria Sugar Mill signalled the start of the cane crushing season. From now on, we’re likely to come across harvesters in the fields and cane trains with loaded bins on their way to the mill or empties on their way back out.

Near Mourilyan, a backroad took us from the Bruce Highway, through the small villages of South Johnstone and Wangan and across to the Palmerston Highway, to camp at Sybbie’s cattle property, “Montarosa” at East Palmerston. We love that place. When we lived in Townsville, it was like our second home that we visited as often as we could to relax in its greenness, if there is such a word. You just want to soak up the pretty scenery – rolling green hillsides, permanent streams in the gullies, stands of African Tulip trees, dotted with grazing horses and cattle. It’s so lush, if you stand still too long, you start to take root through the soles of your feet.

We arrived to find Clem, the French traveller who we’d met earlier at Glen Erin, already there awaiting a cattle mustering job she was soon to start up on the tablelands. Sybbie had arranged the job after I’d given him a call. Until then, she was helping out at Montarosa.

Sybbie is always a great host. He took us all on a tour of the tea plantation, then to Etty Bay for a fish and chips lunch, where we were joined on the beach by a cassowary (a new bird for Di’s twitcher list) that strolled casually out of the rainforest onto the sand, and for dinner we tucked into some terrific wood-fired pizzas at The Falls Teahouse up in Millaa Millaa. Clem’s tiramisu that she made a couple of days later was to die for. It clinched her official entry to the family as we celebrated the anniversary of her first twelve months in Australia, and the approval of the second year on her visa.

Sybbie runs the harvested tea leaf up to the Nerada Tea Factory just outside Malanda two or three times a day. On one of these trips, we followed behind his truck and were given a tour of the tea factory in operation, tracking the leaf along conveyer belts to the various stages of processing into black tea product. The factory is noted for its resident Lumholtz tree-kangaroos in the surrounding grounds and, after much looking, we at last spotted one up in a tree. Di and I hadn’t seen one before and its agility among the branches was surprising. To me, it looked very much like a wallaby-sized possum.

Millaa Milla – Lumholtz Tree-kangaroo (Qld)

Before heading back for the day, Di, Clem and I stopped off at Malanda Falls and then Gallo Dairyland where we selected some yummy cheeses. We continued with more touristy things with Clem the following day, again visiting The Falls Teahouse for lunch, and doing the circuit drive to Millaa Millaa Falls, Zillie Falls and Ellinjaa Falls. A quick stop on the way back at Gooligans Creek produced a new bird for Di – a Woompoo Fruit Dove – with a platypus very close by in the large pool.

We had a change to the travel itinerary. The plan was to head further north, but Sybbie was taking a few horses to compete in the Georgetown Campdraft over the weekend, and Clem was going as well to hopefully have a ride. So we’re heading west with them to be their cheer squad. I’ve checked out the North Korean Olympic cheer squad on You Tube to get some pointers for what’s involved.

The drive from East Palmerston to Georgetown took about 5 hours, up the Palmerston Highway and through the Wooroonooran National Park to Millaa Millaa, then onto the Savannah Way to Ravenshoe, Mount Garnet, Mount Surprise and finally Georgetown. For the stretch from Millaa Millaa to Ravenshoe, the highest town in Queensland, we were at times down to 40kph with the very steep inclines and heavy vehicles. But the slow pace gave us a chance to take in the lush scenery around us.

Camp was set up in the Georgetown recreation grounds near the campdraft ring, in amongst an assortment of horse float trailers and goosenecks of all kinds and sizes (some seriously huge). The Kruiser looked for all the world like a very flash horse float, and drew a lot of attention and questions about what it was. At pretty much every camp in the past four years we’ve had someone come over for a look at the van. It’s all part of the Kruiser experience. When we hear “G’day, mate. What is it?” we’ve got the standard presentation down pat. It’s a great way to meet people, and a lot of folks are genuinely interested in it, especially horse people whose first reaction is to assume it’s some kind of strange horse float.

The annual Georgetown Campdraft event is a big part of the local community calendar and one of a number of similar events held throughout rural Australia. Competitors come from all over to compete and we were looking forward to our first campdraft. We had a great three days of close contact with horses, cattle, dust, beer, country music, big Akubra hats, blue jeans, spangles, boots and spurs. And met some wonderfully welcoming people out to have a good family time.

From Georgetown, we’ll be returning back to Millaa Millaa and going north, so on the final day we said our goodbyes to Sybbie who we’d be seeing again on our way south, and to Clem who was going out west to work in a contract mustering team for a couple of months.

“Cheerleading isn’t easy – if it was more guys would be in it.”

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

Townsville (Queensland)

5/06/18  Townsville was a chance for Di to have a tune-up with a chiropractor and therapeutic masseur, and for us to do a little restocking. We’d lived in Townsville for 10 years back in the Eighties, initially intending to stay just a year but quickly coming to love the NQ lifestyle (NQ also stands for Not Quick). The tropics are too hot for people to be anything other than laid back, and in no time we fitted right in, even picking up the NQ “eh” on the end of every sentence, like “Hot, eh.” “Yer, eh.” It took a fair while to lose that habit when we left. Both our kids were born in Townsville, so coming back felt like coming home again; but it also felt a little unfamiliar because, understandably, the place had changed in the 30 years since then – considerably larger, a little greener, way more traffic, way more stores, way more people.

Some things hadn’t changed, though. In the Eighties, you could get most things in Townsville, with a weeks’ wait while it was shipped up from down south – stores used to have lots of display stock but next to no sale stock. While we were in town, I wanted to pick up a replacement navigation tablet, knew which model I was after, and was lucky to get the last one in stock at Harvey Norman. Things were looking good so far. As the new tablet was bigger than my old one, I also needed a new Ram car cradle for it but searching around town, I kept getting the old NQ response of “Yep, no worries. Don’t have it in stock but can get it in for you. Take about a week or so.” Past experience tells me the “…or so” could mean anywhere from a week to when the Sun expands into a red giant during its death throes. So I conceded defeat and bought one online from Brisbane, to be shipped to an address we’ll be at in a little while. It arrived there the next day! Seems express delivery had improved since the Eighties. Though, I was surprised to get some odd-type replacement batteries for the fridge/freezer sensors that I had no luck finding in the last few towns coming north, and bought out their last four in stock – so tough luck the next guy looking for them. He’ll have to wait the “…or so”, eh.

We caught up with Robyn and Paul, friends from back in the day, for lunch at the Palmetum Gardens and spent most of the afternoon chatting and catching up with each other’s news.

Di and I took a stroll along the very pleasant beachfront on The Strand, had fish and chips at the pier and ice cream at Juliette’s Gelateria (recommended as a must-do by Clem, the lovely French backpacker we’d met at Glen Erin Farmstay) while taking in the views across to Magnetic Island and up to Pallarenda in the north. Afterwards, we went for a stickybeak at our old house. It seemed nicer in our memories; the neighbourhood had a rundown look of neglect setting in. I think the growth and development was happening in other parts of the city. Ah well, it was good for us while we were there and we have great memories of the years we lived in that little house. Driving around Townsville triggered many long-forgotten recollections – places, people, things we did, holidays on Magnetic Island, the climbing frame in the park that Simon fell off to get his forehead scar. Townsville was home to us for ten years.

“Isn’t it funny how day by day nothing changes, but when you look back everything is different…” – C.S. Lewis

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

Home Hill – Charters Towers – Ravenswood (Queensland)

2/06/18  The twin towns of Ayr and Home Hill sit either side of the Burdekin River, Ayr on the north side and Home Hill on the south. In Home Hill, we caught up with my cousin, Lorraine, who we hadn’t seen in many years.

Our camp was at Burdekin Cane Farm Stay on the outskirts of Home Hill, surrounded by cane fields, chooks and a couple of very large ducks. For our WA friends who’d never seen cane before, I cut a stick for them to have a sugary chew on. The farm was a very pleasant spot, but a night battling mossies and midges was enough and we made a move the next morning, with Charles and Joy heading north to Townsville and further on up the coast, and us going west to Ravenswood and Charters Towers.

Half an hour north, we stopped in at the small township of Giru for a cuppa and to have a look at the Invictus Mill. I’d worked there on the cane trains in my late teens and over coffee reminisced to Di about where I lived and what the work was like for a 17 year old long-haired lad from the Big Smoke.

Back in the Landy, we took a backroad from Giru to Woodstock, intending to head to the old gold mining town of Ravenswood. But, a change of itinerary can be dictated by many things – on this occasion it was a dump point, or the lack thereof at Ravenswood – so A-B-C became A-C-B and Ravenswood got bumped (or is it dumped?) down the list for Charters Towers instead. A quick stop along the way beside the Reid River for a sanga, and we hauled up the Mingela Range, past the Ravenswood turnoff and across the wide Burdekin River to Charters Towers.

There are still many lovely old buildings to be seen in Charters Towers and we spent the afternoon strolling along the two main streets that now make up the commercial centre of town.

The Towers was at one time the second largest city in Queensland, with 92 hotels to satisfy its thirsty miners. The biggest gold producer in Australia, it had 29 ore crushing mills operating, and in its heyday set the gold price world-wide. The now-restored Stock Exchange building and its arcade of shops was the focus of trading in mining shares.

We took in the view from the top of Towers Hill, and looked through some of the two dozen or so WWII munitions bunkers built into the hillside. We were also fortunate to spy some elusive and cute Allied Rock Wallabies close by amongst the boulders.

After two days at Charters Towers, we headed off to Ravenswood. On the way there, we’d been travelling pretty much on our own, but at the turnoff to Ravenswood a van coming in the opposite direction took the turn before us, then after we’d turned another came in behind us, and near Ravenswood yet another formed up in the rear. We arrived in a convoy of four with me thinking that if this was the trend, sleepy little Ravenswood was looking like being packed out. Turned out it was just coincidence, though; there wasn’t a blues festival or anything being held. We set up at the showgrounds, before checking out the old buildings around town and the derelict gold workings in the nearby bush.

Most of the remnant buildings and surface mining ruins in Ravenswood are heritage listed. I was gobsmacked to learn that despite that heritage listing, new foreign-owned gold mining ventures will soon destroy a number of 100+ year old brick chimneys scattered around near town, some old explosives stores and associated ruins, and a derelict 1920s-era swimming pool so they can expand their mining operations. Don’t worry that they’ve stood there for the past 150 years or so and they’ve been recognised for their cultural and historical importance. It seems that nothing stands in the way of the almighty mining dollar in Queensland, even heritage. Bloody disgraceful! Look up the Ravenswood listings on the Queensland Heritage Register while they’re still there.

After looking around that the old mining ruins (while they’re still bloody there!), we had a couple of cold beverages at the Railway Hotel and got a personal guided tour of the upstairs and cellar by the new publican who has some great plans to rejuvenate the old pub, including an enterprising idea to convert the town stormwater channel that runs next to the pub into an automatic gold sluice. Gilt-edged idea, mate!

The past couple of nights and early mornings have been very cold, and I’d just like to say how great it is that women have evolved with the need to be first out of bed to answer the call of nature – because they get to put the morning kettle on! Also, you can never say enough about the merits of a diesel air heater on a cold morning. There should be a monument erected somewhere to honour all diesel air heaters everywhere; preferably somewhere cold and the monument would blow out warm air if you stand close. How good would that be!

“In the end, our society will be defined not only by what we create, but by what we refuse to destroy.” – John C. Sawhill

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

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