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TOWNSVILLE to BIRDSVILLE

1.8.10 August already, and I wonder where the year has gone. I have packed so much in since the 4th January. Thank goodness for photos and video to refresh those memories. Even reading back through the diary blows me away. Where was I? We packed up, said goodbye to Tony and Sue (the WA couple), and hit the road south. We travelled through Brandon, before reaching Ayr. The information centre advised us that there wasn't a lot to see in Ayr, and so we filled our water tank and proceeded south.
We had found a problem with our A/C, and were advised by Ibis that they had repairers in Mackay and Rockhampton, and so we were making an effort to reach Mackay. But not without Calling into other places on the way. We arrived in Bowen, had a look at Queen Bay, and a lagoon situated in the middle of town, which had the usual water birds present, and a heap of seagulls which we hadn't seen for some time.
Time was marching on, and so we found ourselves a camp spot a few kms out of town, and decided we would go back into town tomorrow morning to do our food shopping.

Townsville Pics

2.8.10 We awoke to find once again that we had a neighbour sharing our spot on the roadside. We headed back into town, did our food shopping, and then headed down to the front beach. Bowen had the distinction of being chosen to play the part of Darwin in the epic "Australia" with Nic and Hugh. A complete set had been built on the shore front, just for the movie. It has all gone, and the area is finally having some restoration performed on it.
Bowen was also chosen to replace Port Moresby during WWII as a Catalina base. A memorial has been set up at the Front Beach in memory of the servicemen from Oz and the USA who served from and in the area.
It was time to move on, We arrived in Airley Beach, which is a tourist mecca and access point for the Whitsunday Islands. Having spent so much time in outback Australia of recent times, and being spoiled with the retention of much of our historical past, it really hit home when we arrived in this tourist town with all of it's trashy (to my mind) front, that we didn't stay long enough to gain a proper impression of the place. Trying to tow a 30' van thru the town was a big enough hassle, and the garish buildings placed on beautiful countryside by developers helped our decision to turn and skedaddle.
We arrived in Proserpine, had lunch, and departed. We found a town without character, but it did have a sugar mill.
Midge Point was a disappointment. It promised so much as a great little holiday or retirement town, but it has been very neglected.
We found a truck stop just outside Bloomsbury, and parked up for the night.

3.8.10 Seaforth was our first port of call, followed by Ball bay and Halliday Bay.After yesterdays disappointments at the care of the some of the areas we had travelled thru, today we found well presented villages. We found our way into Cape Hillsborough NP, and finally reached Mackay. Apart from the A/C, we had a washing machine that doesn't work, and so I had also contacted Dometic, who gave me a repairer in Mackay, and so that is where we headed, to find that he was off work seriously ill. And so, we will follow up in Rockhampton.
We had spied a good spot to camp on the way into town, and so we headed back and settled down for the night.

4.8.10 Tonight, we are in Finch Hatton, which is about 60km west of Mackay. We dropped into Pinnacle Hotel on the way thru, to sample their home made pies, and we weren't disappointed. My Steak and Pepper pie had the appropriate amount of bite and Lesley was happy with her Steak, bacon and Cheese Pie.
On our arrival here, we dropped the van off at the showground, and headed out to Finch Hatton Gorge. The scenery in this part of the country is sensational. We arrived in the carpark and made the steadfy climb towards Araluen Cascades, the final approach being downhill, naturally. This means off course that you have to climb back uphill, before you make the trek back to the car. This is ok if you are fit, and a bit of a struggle if not. I won't admit to which class I am in. Having had a look at and taken photos and video the Cascades, we chose not to continue on to the Wheel of Fire Falls, as we wanted to get up to Eungella to try and see some Platypus'. And so we returned to the car, to be rewarded by the sight of three kookaburras all sitting side by side in about 60cms of tree space.
We hit the road and headed towards Eungella, and wound our way up the 4.9km steep incline to the village. We are starting to get used to driving with a 300m wall on one side, and a 300m drop on the other. It doesn't make it any easier to grab a quick look, regardless of which side of the car you are sitting in. The Platypus sighting area is 5kms beyond Eungella at Broken Creek. Today, again, they didn't come out to play whilst we were there. There were about 7 or 8 turtles swimming around however, so that was the consolation prize. We had a look at a couple of lookouts before winding our way back down the hill to our camp for the night.

5.8.10 It was time to start heading south. I have to be in Rockhampton for the weekend, to the air conditioner sorted. It has decided to run cool air on limited time, and then throws an error message at me, and it just doesn't heat at all - just another error message. The Air con guy reckons he can fit it in on Saturday arvo or Sunday. We called into Hay Point, which is a coal export port, but were unable to access the viewing platform, and so we moved on down to Half Tide and Salonica Beach (got some strange names up here), Sarina Beach and on to St Lawrence. By now we were looking for a camp spot, and got the surprise of our lives to find the campground at St Lawrence chockers. There is nothing of interest in the village, and we hadn't been looking at our Camps Australia guide, but obviously, this was one of the suggested camping spots. We skedaddled, passing another 3 vans on the way (it is about a 6km drive in off the road), encountered another van turning in as we rejoined the main road, and then found a perfect camping spot about. another 400 metres down the road. Perfect .......

6.8.10 Another uninterrupted night, and we packed up and moved on South, arriving in Rockhampton about midday.
lesley had damaged her glasses, and so we went looking for an optometrist, and to Lesley's surprise, we found one, now occupying the house where she had lived for a short time in 1985. She had lived in Rocky for 10 years in a past life. Then it was on to Mt Morgan to visit my Cousin Desley and her partner Wayne. We were given alternate directions by a hairdresser in town, and so we found ourselves attempting a 17% gradient which we achieved after changing down to first gear (having used up all the others as we climbed the hill). The only other place I have had to do that so far is climbing the Flinders Range out of Port Augusta.
We then found that my cousin (who had offered us the use of her yard to park the van) lived on the side of a hill, and manouvering the van into the yard was a tad tricky. However, after studying the angles and a couple of failed attempts, I managed to get the van into the yard, much to the surprise of the onlooking ladies. Was never in doubt really ................
After dinner and yarning and all that sort of stuff, it was time to retire for the night.

7.8.10 We didn't get moving too early, but when we did, we took a run into town, taking in Mt Morgan's great architecture, swinging bridges, lookouts, old railway station ...... the town is all hills, and the lookouts give a fantastic overview of the town. The town is an old mining town, and if you book a tour, you can see the old mine, and the towns caves, which apparently have dinosaur footprints featured ......... We also visited the local weir, which is used as a recreation area, as well as the town water supply.

8.8.10 About midday, we extricated the van from Desley's back yard, and headed down the steep, winding road out of the hills down to Rockhampton (they're ALL steep winding roads up here). I had to have the van at the Air Con guys house by 1.30pm for him to try and suss out what was wrong with it, and hopefully fix it. Well, he sussed (stuffed sensor), but didn't fix, cos he didn't have the parts. At least we have half of the problem solved. We then booked into the caravan park at Gracemere.

9.8.10 We decided to have a look at the beaches, which are some distance from town, about 45kms to Yepoon. The tide was out (as usual) and so we cruised the coast looking at sand, rocks, and in the distance, water. There were some nice lookouts where the ocean was more obvious. We drifted down the coast to Emu Park, and then having had a look at the singing ship (a monument to Captain Cook who named Keppel Bay), before wending our way back into town. We took a detour to Keppel Sands, where every one seems to be built on a flood plain. Now that is something that happens over here that I don't understand.
We picked up Lesley's grandson Reece, and took ourselves to the Gracemere Hotel for dinner. Very nice.

10.8.10 Another steep winding road up the side of a hill, as we climbed Mt Archer to the lookouts, some 600m above Rockhampton to have a look at the town and surrounding areas spread below us. It was hazy, but not so bad that we couldn't get a fair idea of the general layout of the countryside. There is housing up here, and many on the side of a cliff (or so it seems). It would give me great confidence to live in a house with the front door on the ground, and the back door suspended some 10-15m above the footings ........
Back into town, and after replacing my thongs with a new pair of sandels, we walked around town, before moving a couple of streets across to the river. This area was the original site of the town, and the many old buildings are a testament to times gone by, when this was the wharf and business area of the town.
And so to the Criterion Hotel. This old lady has played host to kings, queens, sporting icons, and American Servicemen. It was also the pub where the towns gentry and news hounds gathered after a days business. There is a room called the Newsroom (the newshounds retreat) which now features as a bistro, and it was here that we dined for lunch. An open Fish burger with salad and chips, and an open Chicken and Avocado burger with chips and salad (generous helpings) for $10 each. Outrageous.......
Then to visit a lady that Lesley had worked with years ago, and her husband, who had his share of storys to tell, We needed to vote and today seemed as good a time as any. So we found the voting place, and after being sorely tempted to put the Sex Party as my first preference (after all the rubbish we've been fed so far), responsibility kicked in and I voted the way I knew I should.
We then went chsing a lagoon and the birds we hoped it would present us with, found the lagoon ....... you know the rest ....... no birds ..... bit like Bayswater Hire Cars really ...... WA readers will know what I am talking about.
And then, Top Gear. As a mug with a video camera, I am blown away by the camera, editing and audio ability of the Top Gear team. To my mind, simply the best team on television.
Tonight, it is raining, and has been for a few hours. Maybe more of the same tomorrow.

11.8.10 Wow, we had about 2" rain last night, and the ground in the caravan park is pretty sodden. Lesley had one of her old work mates call around, and they chewed the fat for about 3 hours. We then decided to go into town and get a part that will help my radiator stay in place on rough roads. Somehow, I lost one of the securing bolts from the top of the radiator, probably on the Tip Trip.
That done, we went in search of more birds at a couple of the lagoons that abound in this town. We found a few ducks, and not much else. We did find how much water there was on the ground around town tho. We also went looking at some of the magnificent examples of old Queenslander houses that are found in this Rockhampton.
Tomorrow, we leave Rocky, and have decided to head west towards Emerald, before looping back around to Gladstone, and eventually down to Bundaberg.

Rockhampton, Mt Morgan and environs Pics

12.8.10 Watched Grant Denyer on Sunrise this morning, reporting from William Creek. It appears that Lake Eyre is full, and all the birds that we've been looking for here in Queensland, are apparently at the lake. I've got a few things to do this weekend, and by the time we get to Bundaberg, I will have covered most of what I want to see over here. I need to be in Brisbane by the end of September. And that leaves about 5-6 weeks of what do we do next ........ you get where I am going with this?
But first things first, we decided it was time to head bacvk into the bush, and so we left Gracemere, and headed for Emerald. Now there are some funny names for towns out here, and we passed thru Dingo, Bluff, Comet, as well as Duaringa and Blackwater. Explorer Leichhardt marked a tree near Comet, with the inscription "Dig" . The tree was apparently removed from the property it was found on and handed to a museum for safe keeping. Curiously, there are two replicas of the tree in the Signal Stop rest stop in Comet, one in a cage.
Emerald is a town of 14,000 people, and has a very helpful Information service. The town provides a free camp site near the Botanical gardens ( which I imagine would go down well with the local caravan park proprietors), but if you are towing a van, the road system is a nightmare in the shopping precinct. The streets are narrow, traffic is redirected so that you can't turn right into the main street if travelling West, and parking for bigger rigs is non existent - very different to what we experienced at Charters Towers.
We decided that we will have a look at the towns attractions tomorrow, and so, as we do, we decided to head out of town and find somewhere far from the maddening crowd to spend the night, and again, found a great spot in what looks like an old roadworks site over the railway line about 6kms out of town. And it's getting chilly - about 4 degrees projected for tonight ..... lovely ......
13.8.10 We hit the road early and arrived at Lake Maraboon and were immediately surrounded by a flock of at least 30 Rainbow Lorikeets, which were so tame and anxious for the cake that Lesley had, that a number landed on her arm and shoulder to try and get their share. We then crossed the Fairbairn Dam wall and made our way back into Emerald, where we stocked up on a few supplies, before making our way to Springsure. Australias worst massacre happened near here in 1861.
"The Aboriginal resistance to the encroachment of Europeans was courageous and violent. At Cullin-la-ringo (north-west of the town) a group of Kairi warriors killed nineteen people in the largest recorded massacre of whites in Australian history. It is likely that the massacre was prompted by a combination of frustration at the loss of land and as an act of revenge for the atrocities which were being committed with monotonous regularity by both the whites (who were eager to rid themselves of the Aborigines) and the dreaded native police who had stolen tribal women. It is ironic that the massacre at Cullin-la-Ringo was probably as a result of an attack made on the local Aborigines by Jesse Gregson who was manager of Rainworth Station. The local Aborigines had 'stolen' 300 sheep (they probably thought they had a right to them as when Gregson arrived at their camp they invited him to share their meal) and Gregson responded by shooting a number of them." (www.smh.com.au)
Cattle duffers, the Kenniff brothers overlanded to Springsure in 1891 after being convicted of stock stealing in northern New South Wales. They undertook bush work, raced horses and opened books on the local race meetings, before moving on to more dubious activities on the Upper Warrego (remember we first met the Kenniff Brothes when we went to Mt Moffatt, followed by their capture at Mitchell, and James Kenniffs gravesite at Charters Towers)
The Minerva Hills National Park invited us to have a look, and so we dropped the van off in the main street, and hit the 4WD only track to the lookouts, which gave up some wonderful views of the surrounding countryside. Then back to pick up the van, and a trip out of town to find yet another Metal Dump to park up for the night. It had been an interesting day.

14.8.10 We had a neighbour last night, (or at least he had one, as he was already in the metal dump before we arrived). After a quick chat, we had a target of 300kms to achieve today, as I have to be in Bundaberg early on Monday to have the washing machine and air-con looked at in the van. We arrived in Rolleston to find a market being conducted in the Rest Area. Mainly plants and baby clothes, and hot dogs - not a lot of interest for travellers, or apparently for locals, as the sellers seemed to be talking mainly between themselves.
We arrived in Bauhinia, which was a service station come general store, a school, and a few houses spread on what looked like 2-5 acre lots. It seemed that tere was a working dog competition happening up in the showgrounds, and being that this was for working cattle dogs, we decided to have a look. It turned out being the Australian Championships, and is mainly supported by Queensland and New South Wales Graziers. The championships alternates between the states each year, and today, Bauhinia had the honour of hosting the competition. The task was made more difficult for Dog, cattle and overseer, as the normally hard ground had been turned to a sodden mess by 50mm of rain in the past week, and now looked more like a fresh potato patch than a competition ring. We managed to obtain a full rundown on the rules of the competition and other subtleties re the dogs breeding etc from one of the competitors. The dogs are either Border Collie or Kelpie, as they have a natural tendency to round up the animals, whereas the Blue Heeler is more a chasing dog.
Curiosity satisfied, we again hit the road, with Biloela as our destination. We were by now at about our 300kms for the day, and with just 300kms left to get to Bundaberg, we decided that we could still see Gladstone, and get close to Bundy by tomorrow night. It is wonderful to not have set plans, because you never know where you are going to be in the next hour, let alone that night.
And as we approach Calliope, we have found a great little spot beside the road for tonight, the dish is up, and I intend watching the Eagles tonight. Nice to see the Dockers supporters brought back to Earth this afternoon ...... hehehe

Emerald - Springsure Pics

15.8.10 4am, and we woke to the sound of a truck stopping almost beside our van. The engine kept running and no activity was evident, and so I stepped out with a torch and found flashing lights and what looked like a semi trailer (it was dark) parked about 20m away from us. Despite my waving the torch around, (and they could obviously see me in their lights) there was no contact from them, other than a conversation over their 2 way radios. After a while, one of the vehicles moved slowly past us, while the other(s) held station. About 5am, and the rest of the vehicles slowly moved past, and finally I spotted a sign on the back of one of them - Line Marking. It turned out to be a road maintenance crew line marking and laying rumble strips (hence the slow rate of progress) at an hour designed to avoid excessive interfence to the flow of traffic on this outback road. We passed them at 9am, just 2km down the road, and shared a joke with them as we left them behind.
We arrived in Gladstone and had a brief look around before heading for 1770. This town is where Lieutenant James Cook, went ashore near Round Hill Head on Wednesday 24 May 1770 with a party of men in order to examine the country, accompanied by Joseph Banks and Dr Solander. Cook's ship, the Endeavour, anchored about 2 miles off shore. This was Cook's second landing in Australia and his first in Queensland, hence the Town of 1770 being referred to as the birthplace of Queensland. Agnes Waters is the main townsite and commercial area. There is some conjecture about the origin of the name ''Agnes Water''. Some believe the area was named after the schooner ''Agnes'' which disappeared from nearby Pancake Creek in 1873. Others believe that the area was named after Agnes Clowes, the daughter of the first European settlers, Daniel and Rachel Clowes, who built large stockyards and ran cattle on the miles of unoccupied coastal country in 1878.
1770 for me, is the most picturesque piece of seaside locality that I have seen this trip, and would be hard pressed to be beaten by any other town or area that we have been in. unfortunately, it has been discovered, and I fear the influx of developers and tourists will spoil the place.
Finally, Bundaberg, and again we pushed our luck and found a rest area on the main drag to it's coastal suburb, Bargera, and on pulling in for a "cup of tea", found our way to bed without the ignimony of being "moved on".

16.8.10 We awoke without incident, packed up, and drove to the repair place who were to look at the washing machine. We dropped the van off, and then just cruised around, making arrangements for other jobs that were to be done whilst we are in town. Despite it sounding that we are having a lot of problems with the van, it must be remembered that this "hotel" has been subjected to roads and conditions that it wasn't strictly designed to do, and some of the problems are manufacturing faults on third party products fitted to the van.
Late in the day, we took a run out towards the port, and found our way to Mon Repos, which is a turtle rookery. Wrong time of the year for turtle spotting, but interesting nevertheless. Then back to the electrical firm where the washing machine wasn't giving any joy. They graciously allowed us to spend the night in the van securely locked behind their gates - another dollar saved.

17.8.10 With the washing machine needing parts sent up from Brisbane, we drove to a camping store, where we ordered an Oztent RV4 tent. Our camping trip to the tip had finally convinced me that crawiling out of a tent and rising from ground level was not as enjoyable as it once was, and having a couple of stretchers sitting on the roof of the Cruiser not doing anything, I decided it was time to make the purchase I had been promising myself for nearly twelve months. This thing is 2 metres long, but takes less than a minute to set up and pack away, is big enough to use a couple of stretchers in and still have room, can be stood up in, and ............ We intend leaving tha caravan at Roma and then spending the next 3-4 weeks on the road doing the Birdsville Races, Birdsville Track, a flight over Lake Eyre, the Strzelecki Track, hopefully Cameron Corner, before returning to Roma to pick up the van and head to Brisbane - That is the plan.
We then drove down to Innes Park, and generally cruised the beaches, and then we started looking for somewhere close to the Air Con company to stay for the night. We found a park near the swimming pool which suited us down to the ground. As we turned in to do a recce, one of the levelling bars and its fitting snapped off the vehicle, thus posing yet a new problem for me. Deciding not to let it get the better of me tonight, I said to Lesley as we cruised thru the park that the Police would in all probability patrol this roadway thru the night. No sooner had we pulled up, and turned off the lights, and a patrol car cruised past - they didn't worry us all night.

18.8.10 We arrived outside the door of the Air Con company at 7.30am, dropped the van off, and headed into town for breakfast. The air con was fixed by 10.30, and so we picked it up, and headed to Caseys RV REpairs to see if they could help re the Levelling bar situation. They referred me to a machine shop to straighten the offending fitting. In the meantime, we replaced the by now very brittle covers over the shower and toilet, the smoke alarm (which didn't survive a fall) and a window winder in the kitchen. Amazingly, things were being done that I thought wouldn't be able to be addressed until I returned to Brisbane.
We then headed out to have a look at Hummock Lookout. This is the only hill near Bundaberg, and was once a volcano, and it is responsible for all the black Volcanic rocks found lining the shore at Bargara Beach and in cane growers paddocks around the area.
Having decided that we are going to go to Birdsville, we needed to start stocking up, and so a visit to the supermarket was in order, before returning to spend a second night at our little roadside park that we had found on Sunday night.

19.8.10 Awoke and started repacking the car, setting up the food box for the start of the road trip once we drop the van off at Roma. Having done that, it was time to go and pick up the new tent that had arrived from Sydney, and then back to have the washing machine re-fitted back into the van. It hadn't been quite as straight forward as it was hoped, with the PC board needing to be replaced, and then the drain motor faulting, which meant another part to be shipped in from Brisbane.
Then across to have the new DVD/Car Radio fitted to the bedroom. However, once we started pulling the old one out, a test was done on the wiring, and the outside speakers were creating a hassle, and so I told the tech to disengage them, as we didn't use them anyway, and the unit reset itself, and worked better than it ever had - $349 saved ........ Then we went to make a cup of tea - no water pump - WHAT? - Back to Casey's RV Centre, where they inspected the unit and removed a restriction valve, which wasn't needed as the pump is self restricting. Problem solved - why do caravan manufacturers do these stupid things?
Then we decided to go back to our park by the swimming pool, and settled down for the night, relieved that the hassles all appeared to be over. It's fair to say that I was stuffed........

20.8.10 Today, we had planned to do the photo and film thing around town, seeing as how our attention had been placed on other stuff during the week. But, where the weather had been brilliant all week, we awoke to drizzle, cloud, and dodgy light. Nevertheless, we drove into town, where I replaced one of the hoses on my C-PAP machine @ $19.50, I figured that if this hose and fittings was that cheap, that I would replace the short, thinner tube that hooked into my facemask. The price tag was $62.95. That's bullshit. Shame on you Resmed. The mask is made of a piece of surgical rubber, and cloth headgear, which would cost just a few dollars to manufacture, and that costs over $265 - same from all manufacturers. No wonder our private health fees are so high.
We did the photos, and then hit the road, arriving in Childers about lunchtime. I posted off the two DVD orders I had received, took a look at the Childers Historical Complex, and we made tracks for Gayndah. About 16kms shy of the town, we found a perfect spot to camp for the night.

21.8.10 Got off to a good start this morning, the sun was shining, and we arrived in Gayndah, which claims to be the oldest town in Queensland, and was first settled in 1849. However, I refute that. Apart from the fact that there are other towns making the same claim, Queensland didn't exist when Gayndah was first settled. The Eastern side of Australia was called New South Wales.
The colony of the Moreton Bay District was founded in 1824 when explorer John Oxley arrived at Redcliffe with a crew and 29 convicts. The settlement was established at Humpybong, but abandoned less than a year later when the main settlement was moved 30km away, to the Brisbane River. Another convict settlement was established under the command of Captain Patrick Logan. On 10 September 1825, the settlement was given the name of Brisbane, but it was still part of the New South Wales territory. The area was opened up for free settlement in 1838, and in 1839, there were calls to cease transportation to Moreton Bay. On 4 May 1842, Moreton Bay was declared a free settlement.
Now, the point of all this - In 1859, Queen Victoria signed Letters Patent, which declared that Queensland was now a separate colony from New South Wales. On 6 June 1859, the former Moreton Bay District was granted separation from New South Wales, and given the name of Queensland, with Brisbane as its capital city. Gayndah already existed, and therefore, the first settlement populated after 6.6.1859, strictly speaking, would have to be the oldest town in Queensland.
Really doesn't matter, does it?
Anyhow, we arrived in the town, and prepared to take a wander down the street, when I discovered my wallet was missing. And so, we pulled the van apart, pulled the car apart, and tried to remember when it was last used. I rang the chemist in Childers, who confirmed that they had in fact found my wallet, and handed it in to the police. And so, we headed back to Childers to recover the missing purse, cos without it, we were stuffed - we would have to remain where we were until all credit cards, drivers licence, and associated important stuff was replaced.
We headed back via a different road, (a) because it was 6kms shorter, and (b) we had been the other way, hadn't we? The wallet recovered, we decided to return the shorter way, because we had seen a sign to a bridge, which promised to be interesting. 4kms down a dirt road thru paddocks, and we reached the Historic Chowie Bridge. It is a cement rail bridge built in 1908, and had a unique arch design, crossing a waterway called Deep Creek.
Back to the road, and we arrived back in Gayndah, this time driving through the town, until we found a metal dump a short distance out of town, where we set up for the night. In all, we had done 220 kms for a net gain in distance of about 40kms since last nights stopover.

22.8.10 Departed our metal dump and made tracks for Mundubbera. Having arrived in town, we had a look at the weir, and then moved on, aiming to reach Chinchilla. However, we hadn't counted on stumbling upon a pioneer homestead that obviously required our attention and inspection. it was 1847 when the Lawson brothers established the Boondooma Station. Like most of the stations during that period, sheep were pastured, thus making wool their main income. Many of the shepherds employed by the Lawsons were of Chinese and German origin. As with isolated stations in the early days, the homestead and surrounding acreage was built with the basic necessities similar to a small village.Over time, with several changes of ownership, severe droughts, bushfires and the scourge of spear grass, Hereford cattle replaced the sheep. Buddy Thomson is a direct descendant of one of the owners, and when he found that the Wandai Shire, having purchased the property, were doing nothing to preserve it, formed a group of people help start to restore the place. The Friends of Boondooma run a heritage Day and Music Muster each year, along with other functions to raise money help with the restoration. It also hosts camping by all types of organisations, and has been used as a wedding venue.
Having taken a bundle of photos and video, we moved on. The weather was starting to turn on us, and when we reached the Canaga Pioneer Hall about 25kms shy of Chinchilla, we decided to pull in and set up camp. The fact that the Nascar Race replay was due to start at 4pm had no influence in the decision of course.

23.8.10 We woke to a shitty weather morning. The rain had moved in again overnight, and I have to admit to wondering what we are going to find as we venture further west. We packed up, and made our way into Chinchilla, where we filled our water tank, and chatted with another couple from Bunbury who had intentions of towing their van to Birdsville, but were becoming increasingly worried by the potential of the weather We are set up, so that at any given moment, we can drop the van, and head off and be fully self contained camping, even down to the fact that the car is stocked with food as well as water.
Leaving Chinchilla, our next destination was Miles, where I recalled that the service station at the western end of town was a good 15c a litre dearer last time we came thru town. He was 10c dearer today. We arrived in town, and grabbed a pie and pastie at the local baker, having recently decided to see which town had the best bakery. So far, it is a split decision between Gordonvale and Miriam Vale, with a further difference of opinion as to where Pinnacle stands in proceedings.
Further west, we crossed the railway line to have a look at Jackson, a small village that has seen much better days. The public toilets however, were spotless, and fully serviced by the local CWA.
Finally Roma, and we had rung ahead to secure a booking to store the van at a local caravan park. We manouvered the van into place, and it being between showers, whipped the new tent off the roof and opened it up - it took about a minute, because being the first time, I mucked up opening one side - but 30 secs as claimed is certainly possible - I must add, that does not include Pegs and guys. But amazingly quick, nevertheless........ Why do they never pack as neatly as they come delivered? ....... we WERE trying to beat the rain - that'll do as an excuse. Tomorrow morning, a repack of the car, transference of gear between car and van, and we should be away by lunchtime ....... or Friday .

24.8.10 The morning was spent preparing and loading the car, and at a whisker after midday, we hit the road. We were soon reminded of the condition of Queenslands SE roads, as we were thrown all over the place, remembering the job we had towing the van over these roads a few months ago. For all that, it took me quite a while to catch a van that was being towed at the 100 legal speed limit. Bet there was a bit of a mess when they got to their destination. We stopped for a pie at Mitchell, and again, it didn't rate in the top 3 pie makers so far in our books. Approaching towns from the opposite direction to where we entered them back in May confused me a bit, but then, I am easily confused. The weather kept changing and we just hoped for a relatively calm night, so that we could ease our way into the new tent.
We found our campspot for the night, and had our first erection in anger,,,,,,,, the tent guys, the tent. And it was up in a flash (it HAD to be the tent in that case). It took a fair bit longer to find all the guy points and tie it down securely, and then to try and remember how the stretchers went together - it had been 4 years since they were last used, and as for water proof bags - rubbish..... I then discovered that tho the tent was designed to take stretchers, that was standard sized stretchers, and because of my height, I had longer ones, didn't I. So instead of North/South, we set them up East/west, which means the first one into bed had to climb over the other bed to get in or out.
We got ourselves all set up, and then it rained. The tent did the job, and because it was cold, and dark, and we had nothing better to do, we were in bed by 8pm. I feel a long night coming on..

25.8.10 It wasn't as bad as I thought. Lesley however, didn't gell too well with the stretcher, and had a restless night. It apparently rained a bit last night, and this morning, the inside of the tent was wet - I put that down to condensation. We were out of bed just after six, and took a bit of time to photograph the birds that were feeding from the bushes near us, before having breakfast, and packing up. It's a bit of fun trying to keep the dry stuff dry, and pack the wet stuff so that it doesn't mess up the dry stuff ...... if you get what I mean - also trying to pack it without filling the car with mud, for indeed out here at the moment, it is wet.
Into Charleville, and the Gully, the waterway that runs through town, which was dry in early May, was now flowing, and the caravan park where we had stayed in May, was now a muddy mess by comparison. We fuelled up, and made our way out to Quilpie, noting the amount of water on the road. A check of the weather Observations did not reflect the water present. Also the Charleville pies failed to make the list, altho the pastie wasn't too bad.
Arriving in Quilpie, we enquired as to the road conditions ahead, and confirming what we were hearing over the two way, the road to Windorah is open (and bitumen), but the roads to Birdsville and the Birdsville Track are all closed. And to quote Top Gear, On that bombshell, we chose to book into a Motel, get some video work done, and reassess things in the morning.

26.8.10 The sun was shining, and the day promised to be a beauty. We repacked the car, did a bit of top up shopping, and cruised quietly out of town just before lunchtime. We were now on roads we hadn't travelled before, and were amazed at how green and lush everything seemed to be. We took our time, stopping to photograph birds, flowers, and anything that didn't move too quick. Eventually, we found ourselves a nice open piece of ground about 150m from the road, and it being only about 3 o'clock, and the weather being so good, we decided to stop, setup, and allow the tent and other gear to dry out completely before setting it up for the night.
We found that the tent is a breeze, it took about the 30secs claimed, but then you spend another 5-10 mins doing the guys and hammering pegs into concrete like ground (this was supposed to have been drenched). It actually took longer to set up the stretchers than the tent. Finally organised, time for a quick nap, tea, some night time photography of a rising full moon, and again in bed at the ridiculously early hour of 9pm.

27.8.10 We got a nice sunrise this morning. Again, the cameras got a workout, and the road which had been quiet all night, was filled with the sound of a dozen Road/Trail Bikes passing our campsite. We initially thought it was a plane taking off somewhere in the near vicinity.
The birds were making a din as they went about their morning business, and so needed to be shot (with cameras of course). Finally after identifying them with our bird book, it was time for breakfast, a rethink on packing the car - Bed stuff first, so that the chairs and tables can be packed after, and come out first. Finally, the tent, and we were ready to go. 500m down the road, and there was a rest site on the other side of the road. Sign posting in Queensland is terrible. There are not a lot of rest areas/truck bays, and when there is one , there is rarely a warning sign that one is coming, and very nearly always, no P sign at the area set aside for the pullover - and I describe it as such, because they are rarely wider than a car width, and usually on the side of narrow roads....... So we didn't realise that the rest area was there, but in hindsight, we were much better off where we were.
The dingo fence was unexpected. I last crossed it between Coober Pedy and William Creek a couple of years ago (at least I think it was the same fence). It runs for 5400 kms from South Australia to Northern Queensland.
Coopers Creek loomed into view, and the rest area there is usually full of caravans and camper trailers taking advantage of the wide waterway and the abundant bird life on the banks of the creek. We stopped and spent some time filming and photographing, for indeed, that is what brought us here. The wildlife had departed the Eastern side of the country, and moved to the centre with all the rain and flooding from earlier in the year. After spending some time following a nature trail and the river banks, we moved on into Windorah. This is an outback town in all it's glory - 1 shop, 1 pub, 1 restaurant (owned by the pub I think), and 1 old fashioned service station, with a proprietor who was blind, and with self help pumps that didin't register a noise in the building as they usually do, to alert the operator to the fact that someone wants to use that pump. This guy was merrily filling a gas bottle, talking about something totally unrelated, and blissfully unaware that I had been standing at the pump waiting for it to start for near on 5 minutes. After approaching him and asking for it to be turned on, it took another two or three minutes to fire up. And then, I could have told him anything as to the price, and he felt his way around the Eftpos Machine. It was quite comical, but very time consuming. You have to remember you operate on Windorah Time out here.......
The Birdsville Road was opened to high clearance 4WD vehicles this morning, and so we decided we would start moving in that direction. But not before going back to photograph the towns Solar Electricity Grid, which produces something like 360,000 kw power per year, saving over $100,000 in the cost of diesel that would be required to run generators.
The country from here on was mainly flat, and very green. Sandhills were now beginning to run along the road, and the overall effect was just beautiful. We arrived at the ruins of the JC Pub, which stood where the town of Canterbury once lived. All that remains now, are a few timbers, and a small cemetery which eluded us.
We had afternoon tea, and as time was getting on, and the skies now started look a little worriesome, we got moving, until we reached the rest area at the Birdsville Turnoff. We decided that we would strike camp for the night, grabbed a spot by a picnic table, which would allow us to have a quick pack up tomorrow, because we didn't have to use our gear which we had packed at the back to get out first so that the bed gear wouldn't get dirty and of course we didn't need it DID WE, BUT WE DID NEED THE BED GEAR WHICH WAS AT THE BACK ON THE BOTTOM ...... hehehe God I love it when a plan goes WRONG hehehe
We did a basic tent setup, and set up the generator to recharge batteries, and to operate the computers for a few hours tonight - these 9pm bed times don't agree with us, we are night people ........

28.8.10 We had three cattle trucks park right outside the door of our tent at about 3am. Truckies run their engines forever before they shut them down for some reason known only to them, and then spend half the night trying to stand the cattle up in the yruck, and then start their engine again after having half an hours shuteye, and run them for another half an hour before moving off. I bet you don't know how I know this......
an hour or so after the trucks left, we awoke to witness yet another lovely sunrise, and yes, there were no rain clouds in sight. So, after packing up, we took the Birdsville turnoff and headed west. The road was supposed to be open only to 4WD high clearance vehicles yesterday, but we could see no sign to this point, why this should have been the case.
We arrived at the turn off to Innamincka, and discovered that about 50kms down the road was Haddon Corner, the state boundary corner between Queensland and South Australia - well, when you are in the neighbourhood ..... After signing the visitors book, we drove back to the turnoff, and had morning tea.
As we approached a creek crossing (dry), we noticed a number of hawks circling, and so we stopped and found a dam in the river bed, with a colony of ducks swimming therein. As we approached, they took off in unison, and then just circled the area until they felt it safe to land again. It was amazing to watch the navigation and communication skills of these birds as they performed their aerobatics without taking each other out. Amazing stuff. And so we moved on.
The next rest area took us off the road and up onto a hill, which overlooked the entire immediate world below us. This was called Deon's Lookout, after a young (20 yo) lad, who was killed in a helicopter crash near the area a few years ago. He was obviously well regarded in the district, as the memorial was supplied by the Diamentina Community.
Betoota was our next destination, and having run short on bread, we were looking forward to grabbing something to eat. We drove into the townsite, to find the only building was the pub, and that had been closed since 1997 just after the owner died. It being a big day in town, we decided to find the Betoota Racetrack, to see if food was available there. The Channel Country Racing Carnival is on at present, with Betoota today, Birdsville next week, and then Bedourie after that. We found a heap of caravans parked around a racetrack, and discovered that was all that was in the town. We watched one race, left, and ate our sandwich outside the defunct hotel.
Our next destination was Cuppa Creek, but not before stopping to have a look at Lake Moonda, which lay to the south, appeared to have water, but no means of approaching it. You don't try cross country when there has been this much rain out here. And so Cuppa Creek arrived, and we chose not to utilise the rest area proper after last nights truck experience, and instead found a nice little spot down by the creek, which we are cuirrently sharing with the entire worlds fly population........

29.8.10 Bugger, we have a problem. We drove out towards Big Red, apparently Australias biggest sand dune, and when I went to put the hubs in, the LHS hub was really hot. And so we abandonded the trip, and headed back to Birdsville. The brakes have been spongy for a couple of days, and this could be related. The mechanic starts at 8am in the morning.
Oh yeah, where are we - we are at Birdsville........ more of that soon.
We climbed out of bed to find the birds weren't as friendly this morning, and so we packed up and left Cuppa Creek. Not long, and we were into sand dune country, as the Stoney Desert started to switch toward what would be expected in the Simpson Desert, just a few Kilomtres down the road. We had checked Telstras coverage area, and Birdsville didn't rate a mention, so imagine our surprise as the phone beeped at me as we crested a Sand Dune about 20kms out of town. We rolled into Birdsville, and headed straight for the bakery, and let me tell you, masterchef they ain't. This was confirmed by a guy following the races as a trader, who had been coming out here for 20 years, so it wasn't just us.
A visit to the information centre, a hot shower at the caravan park, and we decided that we would do the town tour mid week. Our plan was to go out to Big Red, and then on to Poeppel Corner, the corner peg of Qld, SA and NT. This is 170-kms out in the Simpson Desert, and so we didn't expect to get back for about 3 days....... then the wheel problem.
On returning to town, we established that the mechanic was on tomorrow, and so we came down to the lagoon that skirts the town, to set up for the night, and then a wander down along the banks filming and photographing the birdlife.
The plan is to be at the mechanic at 7.45am tomorrow, to try and get first dibs ..... let's see what happens.

30.8.10 Not a lot to tell really. Parked outside the mechanics door at 7.40am, told him what the problem was, and then walked back to camp. Final analysys was, LHF Wheel Bearing stuffed, CV joints needed to be cleaned out, and my front diif had water in it, probably from the Telegraph track. All up with parts, labour and oil change - $900. Ouch. still, it could have been a lot worse - we could have had a wheel fall off in the Simpson Desert - not recommended.
31.8.10 We slowly got ourselves organised this morning, packed up, and left the site at about 9.50am. We wandered into town, had a look at the Birdsville Working Museum - one of the best I have seen - then a drink in the Birdsville Pub, Fuel, one last check of the net, and we departed once again for the Simpson Desert. We found ourselves on the opposite side of a lake to Big Red, watched a couple of guys having a go at it from our vantage point, worked how to get around to it, and decided we will have a look at it on our way back. And so we turned around, dropped the tyre pressure to 16psi, immediately over a huge sandhill, and we were on our way to Poeppel Corner. At about 4.30, we found a spot to camp for the night. We reviewed the days bird photo catch, andsettled down for the night. We have about 115kms tomorrow to reach our destination, and at the moment, it's all sandhill country.... Looking forward to it.

QUEENSLAND TRIP VIDEOS 2010

Simpson Desert In Bloom Posted 17/9/10
Waterfalls - North Queensland
Old Telegraph Track - Qld
Gillies Hwy - Qld

Cattle Muster Qld
Gulflander - Normanton - Qld

Sheepyard War Memorial - NSW
Back O Bourke Hotel - before the fire
The Ant Ordeal - Bourke

Mt Moffat - Top Shelter Shed - Carnarvon NP

 

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For more photos, visit Lesley's site. Queensland, Australia

Lesley Bray Photography

 

 

 

Updated 28-12-2010

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