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                  Debbie & Geoff's

                  Australian Safari

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                                  Travel - Blog - August

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For previous Blog information about what has happened look at our Blog Archive page.

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Monday 28th August 2016 Great caravan park The Wild River and lovely small historic town Herberton . Visited the tourist information after we settled in and they have a small museum attached which explained all about the tin mining in the area and how with the price of tin going down the mines just closed and then the logging was banned and that meant another town was about to become destitute. Lucky Herberton invested in its heritage and with the help of tourists this town still is going.
The whole Atherton Tableland area is lush, green and cattle grazing in fields dotted with rain forest. Spent time going to the swamp area where there is a bird hide and hundreds maybe a thousand whistling ducks on the fringes of the swamp. Funny thing was seeing a whistling kite swoop down and settle itself among the ducks. The ducks couldn’t care less even though it stood head and shoulders above the pack. We did a great bush walk and Geoff spent time photographing birds whilst I walked on and got scared by a few creatures running on to the track in front of me that I think could have been tree Kangaroos or big rats or some sort of pademelon wallabies.
The area has amazing waterfalls which we visited in Millaa Millaa, and except the weather is quite cool up here you could go for a swim in the waterhole. We did the 15 km loop and got to see 3 waterfalls around the area, but I read there is actually 15 waterfalls here.

Millaa Millaa Falls     Ellinjaa Falls
Millaa Millaa Falls                               Ellinjaa Falls

Then it was off to the Nerada Tea Factory and plantation at Malanda where we had a look inside the factory that explained the process of harvest, cutting and drying of tea before it gets shipped to the packing factory in Brisbane. Again the area is lush, green and very happy cows in all the fields. They had a conservation forest area cordoned off and we were lucky enough to spot a family of tree kangaroos. Dad, Mum and the bub all up in the branches, sometimes coming down the tree trunks to snack on some succulent leaves. Not the prettiest of the marsupial families and someone said they were sloth like but Geoff and I were enchanted with them as they shimmied from branch to branch. Geoff got lots of photos so it certainly was a very good day.

Young Tree Kangaroo     Tree Kangaroo Family
Young Tree Kangaroo                               Tree Kangaroo Family

Sunday 27th August 2016 and we were all invited for brunch. Gary and Sue were leaving us today to head for Cairns as Sue was flying home. The brunch lasted well into the afternoon with the kids having pony rides on Charlie Brown a prize winning pony that is now 14 years old and great with the kids. The evening we were again out to dinner as a last goodbye to Andrew and Rosalie and looking forward to catching up with them in November.
As we didn’t want to outstay our welcome as we are going to be leaving our van at the property when we go Cape York, we moved house to Herberton.

Saturday 26th August 2016 is party day. But first a trip to the local markets. Brilliant fresh produce and all the assortment of craft, bric-a-brac, tools and yummy looking cakes. As my fridge was already way too full, I had to forgo any purchase that might have tempted me. Then a drive to Atherton with Andrew and Rosalie before heading back to the property where the all day party had started with breakfast, now lunch before the final of dinner. Geoff and I made it to bed about 11.30 pm when the others were mellowing around the camp fire. Must admit we didn’t hear a thing as we curled up in our little home on wheels just past their back door. Got told it was 2am by the time everyone settled down.

Friday morning 25 August 2016 was leisurely with bacon and eggs for breckie and a stroll around the compound checking out all the sheds. Some were amazing, one looked like it was all set for the family with the toaster and kettle on the bench next to the cups, coffee and tea. Others looked like they were brick houses, not so appealing as the rustic sheds that took up most of the area.
I forgot to mention that Geoff and I visited the golf club on Wednesday night and enjoyed the company of the barman and one of the locals ‘Simo’ who was also the only other person in the club. The local we talked to was a real bushy who had done everything from croc wrestling to bull throwing, quite the all-rounder and could tell some great tales.
Mid-morning we hit the frog and toad to make our way to Atherton . First stop though was the pub at Innot (yes this is a town name) where they have hot springs and a cool little pub with the usual paraphanalia but this also had a working gramophone that we played some of the funniest old records on. The four of us were joined by Dr. Michael and Lisa, Gary’s family who were also travelling for the party. Seems Dr. Michael is a bit of a character and when the race days are on he sets the “theme” for the event and not sure what the theme was a few parties ago but he makes a very glamourous Queen Elizabeth and next years’ theme is Mardi Gras and he is doing a bit of a feather idea. Can’t wait to see the photos.
Arriving at the property we were greeted by our hosts and dogs. Andrew who is turning 50 tomorrow (not our travelling companion who is over 50) and whose party we are attending, his lovely wife Delita and a curly topped little two year old, Hunter. Oh and the dogs, one who came up to my ankles and won my heart was a refuge dog MC. The other was a bull dog type who was a giant softy. Funny watching the two dogs play and interact with the cows. Farm life sure suited them.
We joined the team who were staying in accommodation at the Foxwell golf course for dinner, Rosalie had arrived that evening so it was so good to also catch up with her. It was a very dark drive home afterwards with funny creatures of the night deciding to dart in front of us. Long nose, small and furry they were some sort of bandicoot.

Thursday 24th August 2016 Geoff spent the day working on the truck and we pitched the tent to do a few repairs to it and let it air out before taking it up north. The boys arrived early afternoon and alcohol was consumed well into the night and was conquered with no casualties, well except Gary who was fine after being dripped fed with coffee.

Wednesday 24th August 2016 and we are on the road again and heading to Mount Garnett. Here we stayed in a Race/Golf/Rodeo course. I now a lot of people who would love to play golf while the horses run around the outside track could make a very interesting golf game. The shed were we are parked belongs to a friends’ family. This is so like Lightening Ridge and Rubyvale with the sheds attached to an old caravan on cement slabs, very humpty doo but up market with showers and flushing loos so no drop toilets.

Camp at Mount Garnett     Australasian Bustard at the Mount Garnett camp
            Camp at Mount Garnett       Australasian Bustard at the Mount Garnett camp

So here I sit waiting for Andrew and Gary to arrive as on Friday we all head to the Atherton Tablelands for family get together of Gary’s family. Oh I can feel a hangover coming on just mentioning those two and Geoff together.

Monday 22nd August 2016 and we were driving to Undara National Park to check out the lava tubes. This area is surrounded by 73 volcanos, all dormant but non extinct. The last eruption was 20,000 years ago so we were pretty safe. We did a walk up on the rim of one volcano and also did the lava tubes tour. You can actually walk into them and we were amazed how big they were. We were lucky enough to see micro bats but no snakes today for us.

Undara Lava Tubes     Undara Lava Tubes
                                        Undara Lava Tubes

As we head north the weather has been heating up. Days are sunny and range up to about 28 Celsius and evenings are balmy. Our second evening we went to the fire side chat done by one of the guides. He also is a grey nomad and very entertaining as he described his life on the road. He and his wife have been travelling for 5 years and working for about 4 months of the year to top up their income to keep travelling. Robert will be 65 next year and as they had sold their house and furniture they will probably buy a base soon but maybe just a shed to house their van and some land and just keep doing what they are doing. This is his first guide job and he applied for the gardener position, his wife applied for a reception position but is doing the housemaid work. Just need to be versatile.

Sunday 21st August 2016 making for a free camp at Greenvale. Another mining town (Queensland Nickle, Clive Palmer) that is no longer being mined. The population is 130 and the town has a great infrastructure but most of it closed, except for the Pub and the police station. The post office operates on Tuesday and Thursday they have a school but I don’t know how many children attend, a swimming pool and sports ground. Houses up for sale everywhere and you can buy a 4 bedroom house on a large block for only $79,000 but what would you do there?
The free camp was the old supermarket car park and had toilets that were clean and gravel on the ground. Oh of course the 3 Rivers hotel was just across the road. We had a drink and got joined by a drunk who wanted to talk football as that was what was on the TV. Don’t know why he thought I knew anything about the game as everyone knows I have no idea unless Souths are playing and then I still have no idea.

Saturday 13th August 2016 and here we have arrived at Townsville for a week. The main reason is to catch up with our beautiful Niece Prue, hubby Trent and daughter Trinity meet the newest edition, Zac who is now one month old.
It was wonderful to see them all as though we have had the joy of having our great niece Trinity over the years it has been 3 years since we have seen Prue and Trent, and the joy to meet their new little baby as one of the first of the family, just made it that more special. Not wanting to crowd them as any new parent will know we are staying at the Big 4 park just down the road. Sunday saw us going for a drive and picnic down to the beach with Bruce the dog. Bruce is a beautiful Ridgeback and as the beach was for dogs off leash he had just as much fun as us. Then a picnic lunch followed by a drive to towards town and a walk down the Strand which is right on the water from the beach to the Mariner. We strolled and had ice cream and Geoff took some lovely family photos in the park. It was a great day and little Zac took it all in his stride.

Prue, Trent, Trinity & Zac     Geoff with baby Zac
Prue, Trent, Trinity & Zac                     Geoff with baby Zac

Monday saw rain in Townsville, and as their dam is down to 20% and they are on level 3 water restrictions, every drop counts. The funny thing was Trent was cooking a roast pork in the camp oven, so fires and rain, don’t quite mix. The fire pit got moved into the shed as the guys gave up on fighting the elements of nature. Geoff is still doing bits and pieces on the van and bought a tool box to store the jack and to shift weight from the front of the van to the back. Between him and Trent they did a bloody good job. Now we shall wait for the next lot of corrugated roads to see if it actually holds and the jack stays put.
Wednesday we had Trinity and her boyfriend join us for an outing to the local Aquarium, it was a great day followed by fish and chips and more ice cream. I think I will be ice creamed out by the time we leave here in a week, but heck, that’s what holidays are all about and anyone that has apple pie ice cream will know, it’s worth the calories.
The aquarium also had a turtle hospital attached and we did the tour to meet the two patients that were in the pools. Both were being treated and will be released back into the sea.
Prue’s mum arrived today so it we bought seafood and headed back for a reunion and seafood BBQ. Unfortunately Trent was to leave us to go back to work on Friday so we took Prue and her mum to lunch at a pub just on the waters edge. The next day Geoff and I went for a long walk along the beach and out to the water as the tide was out and I mean way out! Saturday was our last night in Townsville and we went and had dinner with the family for my last cuddle with little Zac till we return in October. It was a great visit, I do so miss my girls, Prue and Trinity.

Wednesday 10th August 2016 and we are staying at Charters Towers for two nights. A gold mine town that has some unbelievable architecture that like other towns when the gold runs out they look for another industry. Seems like this town is big with Education and this is what keeps the town going, oh of course tourists also help. We did a town walk for $10 each which not only got us history but into some of the many amazing buildings. From the bank vaults where the gold was kept at the bank of NSW to the stock exchange of the past. Even visited a few hotels, one still serving beer but they did not offer us any tasters. Though we could have done more driving around the area we decided to hang at the van and do what all the other people seem to do…. Chores! No matter how small the home is there is still work to be done. Geoff is on a deadline to finish the Eaglecam book, so it is a priority at the moment.

Charters Towers Building     Debbie at the Pyramid
    Charters Towers Buildings

Leaving on the Tuesday 9th August 2016 we made for a free camp spot to break up the journey to Charters Towers. This spot was near a river but unlike the other rivers we have passed this one had a very dry sandy bottom. Campaspe River Rest stop had great loos, so much nicer to flush, after a few days of the national park drop loos that had quite an odour about them. It was right on the train line which happened to be the best spot to have phone access. Nothing like talking to friends whilst keeping an eye and ear out for the trains. Lucky they didn’t run during the night so except for a few road trains all was quiet at camp.

Monday 8th August 2016 and we were now in the National Park and where I filled out my senses form. Umm address, Pyramid Campgrounds at Porcupine Gorge. How on earth are they going to react to that address? Just as the name suggests this was the camp site close to the gorge. First day we did the walk to the lookout and Geoff was lucky to spot a Wedge Tail Eagle. Not that this was different but then he spotted the nest. We were lucky while we were there to also meet another couple who had been touring now for 3 years and also had sold their property. Larry and Jan were kindred spirits and Larry was more than keen to go with Geoff along the ridge to try and look down into the nest from the top of the ridge. Jan and I wondered back to our vans and through our chats I learnt heaps about living in a van and touring to remote places for a long time.
The boys returned and were thrilled with what they had found and we sat around and had a few drinks and as they had just spent two months up at Cape York the maps came out and note books and Geoff said he got more info from Larry than anyone he had talked to. I also was glad to have chats with Jan as she came up with great ideas on planning for the trip plus how we can utilise free camping more and what to do when you go to the caravan parks. We always wondered when we go to van parks people arrive, they set up and the man sits outside and they don’t seem to move. What a waste thought Geoff and I but Jan informed me that they probably free camp and when they come to the parks the first thing you do is wash, get that out of the way and do any housework before heading down to get supples. Then she also pre-cooks meals whilst there and freezes them. Now I get it!
Ok enough of that let me tell you about the Tuesday. First Geoff goes early to check out the Eagles nest and got so carried away with time it was lucky that I had the walkie talkie to call him home as we had organised to go with Larry and Jan at 8.30 for the walk down to the gorge. He was being swooped by the mum and dad eagle and he was trying to get pictures of the chick being fed and exercising its wings.

Wedge-tailed Eagle Nest     Debbie at the Pyramid
Wedge-tailed Eagle Nest               Debbie at the Pyramid

He returned and the four of us did the 1.2 km walk down into the gorge. The track was quite manageable with bush steps winding its way down. Once at the bottom we were lucky again that it had rain. When Jan and Larry were here 3 years ago there was only one pool of water. We had small rivers, and oasis with wattle and bottle brush. No wildlife was spotted except we did see signs with paw prints and poos. Found a frog and not sure if it was a cane toad or frog so we left it alone. Jan went for a dip in the pool which is a natural spring at the base of the pyramid. Oh the pyramid is part of the gorge wall that had no greenery on it and shaped like a pyramid – I bet you guessed that from the name! The water was very cold and she didn’t last long but she was the only one who was brave enough to go in. We noticed small fish swimming around, and insects feeding of the algae.

Saturday 6th August 2016 saw us driving from the park to Hughenden. This also was a dinosaur destination and a surprising town. When we arrived on the Saturday not much was open in fact the only thing open was one pub. We strolled down one street and met Hughie the dinosaur that I had my picture taken with. We went on a Basalt Byway 4x4 track (95 km) through the bush and travelled through grazing properties so I got to play the gate keeper. We arrived at one spot that had a sign “Lookout”. Both Geoff and wondered where it was till we looked behind us and realised we had driven up to the high spot and the view behind was amazing. It was here that I saw my first lot of camels which I must admit took me by surprise as I was saying to Geoff the day before that I haven’t seen emus for a while and I wonder if there are any camels out this way.

Debbie climbing the hill Basalt Way 4x4 track     Debbie found the Dinosaurs in Hughenden
Debbie climbing the hill Basalt Way 4x4 track        Debbie found the Dinosaurs in Hughenden

Staying two nights at this place was probably a bit of an overkill but by the time we arrive, settle in and get the lay of the land the first day just goes. Second day driving and discovering, also calling into the Tourist info spot to book our next destination, the Porcupine National Park.

Wednesday 3rd August 2016 and we are heading to Bladensburg National Park . After dusty drive into the park it was an oasis as we camped on the river bank. They also had their dose of unseasonable rain and you can tell from the spinifex, Mitchell grass and all the wild flowers that were transforming the landscape. There was about 6 other sets of campers doted around the grounds so we did not have to worry about feeling crowded in. Three night and days we spent 4x4 driving around the park. From Skull creek to Engine Creek and don’t forget Scrummys Gorge, lookout and pond where he drowned close to his home. We had Kangaroo families bounding past us and Geoff was happy with the myriad of birds especially raptors that flew overhead. Though no Little Eagles the Wedge Tails was spotted with two juveniles and one adult the stars of the show. Oh and finally got to take pictures of two Brolgas displaying their dancing techniques before hunger got the better of them and they just kept walking and eating. And my favourite, Budgies spent were all along the river bank chatting and squawking so they were easy to hear if not to see all the time.

Debbie checking a twisted tree     Camp at Blandenburg National Park
        Debbie checking a twisted tree               Camp at Blandenburg National Park

Ok everyone knows about my sense of direction…..um… none. So when I go walking by myself I now have a walkie talkie just in case. OK, after walking for a while I saw what I thought was the check in point for the camp in the park, there was a car just like ours, but I knew the Rangers also had a ranger as I saw them up at the Dinosaur Stampede site. As I chatted to Geoff I then realised the structure was not the check in point but the loo where we camped and the car that I spotted was our very own beast. Yep, I will start taking a walkie talkie with me.
The stars at night were amazing as I sat on a tree stump outside the van when Geoff went night walking looking for owls, or some other nocturnal creature. He had the walkie talkie with him so all was safe.

Tuesday 2nd August 2016 saw us travel 110 klm out of Winton to the Dinosaur Stampede National Monument. This building was erected to conserve the findings of the many footprints that were made by dinosaurs running in panic away from a predator. Please do not ask me what their names were but with the help of the guide you were transported 95 million years ago to the panic on the mud banks of the river as these dinosaurs were being chased. It was amazing to see and hear the story but the most amazing part for me was the landscape. You could imagine this would be the prehistoric valley even though I know it has changed so much over the years, yep 95 million of them.
I know Geoff will put up some pics to help you understand how much in awe we were of the beautiful landscape.

Looking for Dinosaurs     Taking advantage of any water
        Looking for Dinosaurs               Taking advantage of any water

Ahh Winton, the Dinosaur trail has certainly made its mark on the town, I guess if you have it tourists will come and so did we. After our arrival on the 1 August 2016 we set up camp at the caravan park in the main street and headed to the tourist info centre. It really is the first stop if you have no idea what to do and we also had some enquiries about the national park at Bladensburg to confirm we could take the van in. I was thinking I might get a start on learning the joys of tenting if the van might not make it. So we decided to do the afternoon tour of the Australian Age of Dinosaurs Museum of Natural History only 24klm from town.
Here we were treated to two tours. The first in a room that had the bones of two local dinosaurs and they explained how the bones were found by a local farmer who thought he had some sort of bone that was special. Oh yep it was and then we were taken to the lab where a very enthusiastic guide kept us interested in the process of finding the bones, how they pack them to safely transfer them to the museum and the process that reveals the actual bone.
It is very time consuming work with volunteers always needed so if anyone wants to sit at a desk drilling away at rock for hours just give them a call. We met a man from Victoria that comes up every year. He is retired and just enjoys the work. They live on site and bring all their own supplies and stay for up to a month or longer if they have the time. He noticed Geoff’s Eaglecam shirt and the conversation changed quicker than you could imagine as he has been watching the broadcast with the two chicks hatching. He also knew someone that had followed a nest that had hatched 3 chicks so Geoff asked if when he went back to please get the person to send us a photo.

Monday 1st August 2016 . Happy birthday to all the horses and off we gallop to Winton, the Dinosaur capital of Australia – or so they say! Tiny town and again lots of pubs and boy the water smells awful. But we are thankful that we have water and can shower even if it smells of old farts.

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