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Comming August 2016


Thursday morning 28th July 2016 and on the road again with our first stop Barcaldine, another amazing town that the train stops at on its way from Longreach to Brisbane. Saw the Tree of Knowledge, where shearers gathered around to organise a strike back in the old days, though the tree is dead as it was poisoned a few years ago, they have made a magnificent wood sculpture surrounding the trunk of the tree which is one of the coolest things I have seen. We went to the museum for the AWU, which gives you a history of the town strike and waves the union flag which did not interest us at all. In fact though it had some good points the museum was not something we would have chosen to see if we knew what it was about.
Now to Longreach for the evening. This town had not seen rain for 8 years till June and what a difference it has made to the town. The girl who took my job at work was previously employed here at the School for Distance Education so it was one of our first stops. Things have certainly changed from the days of school of the air, and we got to see a lesson in progress plus a tour of the facilities. The caravan park we are in is huge and has over 300 caravan sites. I think if I walked to the front and back of the park I would make up my 10,000 steps without a problem. You can tell they have had a bit of rain and they have just had a grader in a few days ago to get rid of all the ruts.

Qantas Museum     Cuzzy Bro. Barcaldine
        Qantas Museum               Cuzzy Bro. Barcaldine

From the school to the Qantas museum as it was founded up here in Longreach. If aeroplanes are your thing well then get on up here as it has everything you need to know about Qantas. We even had an Airforce plane land with their crew having a guided tour for the afternoon we were there.
Next came the Stockman’s Hall of Fame. I found this the best out of the two with displays and short videos of the country and the men and women who worked it. They also had the best coffee we have had for ages and I bought myself a hat and I think it’s pretty cool, literally as it has mesh on the top to let in the air.
The highlight for me was Outback Dans tour. This was a tour of a property now owned by Dan and his brother and they are the third generation of farmers in the area. To be explained about farming, the seasons and how the drought had effected them, also being taken into the original homestead which had been added on through the generations. We were taken to the dam from where the pumps bring up hot water from the artesian basin and treated to homemade scones with jam and cream. Dan and his brother are a couple of larrikins and told a few reporters as a joke that they were starting the Outback Yacht Club in the dam. Of course we put our name down to become members as soon as they got their liquor licence.

Outback Yacht Club     Outback Dan - Camdon Station
                Outback Yacht Club         Outback Dan - Camdon Park Station

Weather is starting to warm up nicely and the nights are still cool – perfect for sleeping.
I am not sure if I told you about the drive up to Longreach where on the side of the road there were termite mounds. Someone had taken time to put arms out of sticks on them and dress them in T-shirts, scarves and hats. Unfortunately I didn’t a picture as it is just a bit hard to find a safe spot to stop with the van and a B-Double can come whizzing past at any moment. We also had the joy of the Christmas Creek signs being festive with tinsel and low and behold in Longreach at the radio station they had a Bra Fence, took a pic of Geoff trying to find my size by hand.

Wednesday 27th July 2016 sees us in Jericho. A town that has made a home for grey nomads as the population is about 60 – said the publican, with 11 children attending the school. They have set up the Redbank free camp which is on the river just near town. The area is spotless, the toilets flush and have poo tickets and it has a wonderful safe feel about the whole place. It is by donation only so I hope everyone who stays gives.

Jericho RedBank Free Camp     Jericho RedBank Free Camp
        Jericho 'RedBank' Free Camp

Trying to spend a dollar or two in town is not easy. They have the pub, which is for sale for about $400,000 and has 8 motel rooms attached. A post office that serves as the tourist info centre and a general store. The butcher and café closed down a long time ago. The town that had to re-invent itself when the railway stopped the maintenance site which employed 25 people in the town. People left, things closed down but the area for the travellers is wonderful. The town is wonderfully tidy. They have a drive in movie theatre that operates as a fund raiser for the school once a month. It was first opened in 1969 and has the original speakers on the poles. The park across from the pub has old steam engines and an amazing sculpture called the Crystals with the story about Jericho from the bible. The school P&C holds a pancake and sausage sizzle breakfast every weekend to help raise funds but we missed out on both of these occasions. Hats off to the people of Jericho on keeping their town alive.

Tuesday 26th July 2016 Geoff was droning again as the Heritage walk in mine asked for some photos, then in town we called in and saw our neighbours sister who owns the caravan park in Rubyvale. We had a chat with Vanessa and Mike and as they also wanted drone pictures we decided to call in on our way out of town to do some shots. OK so by the time we finished talking to the people at the Heritage we decided that we might just stay at the park that night also and make the most of it with the free internet to do some updates and go to the pub with Vanessa and Mike for dinner. I guess our next destination can wait another day, there isn’t any rush.

Rubyvale Caravan Park     Rubyvale Caravan Park
        Rubyvale Caravan Park                         Rubyvale Caravan Park

Friday 22nd July 2016 and we are 0n the road again and heading for the Gem Fields with our first stop Emerald and if you have never been there it is a bloody big town. We were only stopping here to decide on what the weather was doing. If it still looked wet inland we turn towards the coast, but the Gods were with us so seems we will still see the inside of Aus.
We contacted friends of our neighbours from home who have a claim out in Rubyvale and they were more than happy to have us park the van at their place as they had a pad for the van and our very own drop toilet just near where we park. Now what can I say about Colleen and Ted. They live in Rubyvale for 6 months of the year and go back home new Newcastle for the sailing season. Both are tiny in stature and in their golden years with age, they are kind and welcoming and so informative that we never had a dull moment and spent many hour listening to their stories.
Our first evening was a BBQ with about 16 neighbours. All from different areas and like Colleen and Ted have houses elsewhere and come to the Gem Fields yearly to socialise and do a bit of mining. During the late afternoon Ted puts out bird seed for the Lorikeets, Galahs and Pretty Faced Wallabies come and gather in the back garden. In the evening as we sat around the camp fire still talking through the night we were greeted by Bitten, a small marsupial like a wallaby with tiny front paws. All very cute that if we could , we would have taken one with us. Though water is scarce and they have to buy it in we were lucky to be there just after the unseasonable rain so their water tanks and dam was full and the grass was sprouting.

Colleen & Ted's Mine     Colleen & Ted's Mine
        Colleen & Ted's Mine                         Colleen & Ted's Mine

Ted played tour guide on Sunday and we walked through the local markets. I have never seen a market that every store has DVD’s for sale alongside of the most magnificent sapphires. Stones that have settings, stones that don’t. Uncut stones, sapphires of blue, green, yellow and some called Parti – which has two or three colours in them. Also star sapphires where they looked opaque in the stone but have a star shining inside them. Oh that’s not the right way to describe it, you have to see one to understand. But all of them were beautiful.
We took a drive out amongst the claims and like Lightning Ridge the dwellings are an old caravan with attachments. Some were quite impressive and as there is no building code for these places they can do what they like. The tracks were rough either from the rain or everyday use and tracks can be moved depending if someone starts a new claim where the road might cross. They were everywhere and when I went for a walk I found it quite easy to get lost. You might think that’s nothing unusual for me, but out in those tracks its quite confusing and there isn’t any houses or street names to get bearings. Sure I had phone service and phone but if I called Geoff what do I say? Oh I am near a tree with a black stump and a pretty green tree with big leaves? He might have sent the drone up to spot me and guide me home.
Sunday night is roast at the RSL for $13 – bargain and we ate at a long table joined by the friends from the BBQ last night. Wednesday Colleen does water painting lessons and Friday is darts for Ted. They both have a very busy social schedule how do they find time to mine?
Ted showed us how to divine for sapphires with two rods, it was amazing, when you look for something and walk around with these two pieces of wire. They move and you follow the direction then when they cross its where you start to dig. If whey you come to the spot then stamp your feet and when you reach how many feet beneath you they are the rods pull down towards the earth. Of course I had a go and got an amazing response from the rods. Don’t know how it works and no I didn’t start digging to find my fortune but it was really really cool to feel the rods turn of their own accord.

Wednesday 20th July 2016 and we have made the decision after talking to travellers in the park to try the access to Carnarvon Gorge. I got us booked into the Takarakka park for 2 nights and we headed in. Ok the road was a bit rough and there were a few water crossings but the ranger took it in stride and carried us and the van through. Our friends have been telling us to go to this place and I am so glad we finally had the gorge open after being closed for 4 days and working in with us still being in the area. If we hadn’t nearly run out of diesel we would have missed the opportunity – at least for this tip.
We arrived at lunch time and set out to do a few quick walks, the first being Mickey Creek Gorge. Nice and not to hard with a few river crossing that I managed to not fall into. The next walk on our agenda was the nature walk, but as this started from the info centre and the crossing was well and truly underwater, we decided to leave it for the next day. We explored the parkland around the info centre and spent ages on a watching an echidna who could not give a fig about us and how close we got to him. I realise they are used to people but I swear he looked up and saw the camera and just posed before snuffling away to look for more ants. We would have spent about ½ hour in his company, just watching as he snuffled around. Geoff decided it had become his favourite native animal.

Moss Garden    Debbie stepping the stones
        Moss Garden                         Debbie stepping the stones

Thursday dawned bright and clear and we decided to try the 14 ½ klm walk. Please do not forget Geoff thinks I walk like a drunken walrus, so the tracks do not worry me but I do not like river crossings and looking at the map there were 14 of them. Starting out at the visitors centre the crossing from the day before was now uncovered and with bare feet I managed to keep body and soul whole and dry. Stopping at the other side we sat, dried our feet and put on our hiking shoes. After the 6th crossing we gave up on the whole thing and Geoff walked barefoot and I used my thongs when I could. Each crossing was different and most were over my ankles so shoes were not an option if I wanted them to remain dry. The redundant shoes got piggy backed around strapped to our backpacks, lucky shoes!
The walk was amazing and we headed towards the Art Gallery. Sandstone backdrop with Aboriginal art in colours of ochre, white and reds. It was quite breathtaking the effect as we sat and had our lunch looking at the stencilled paintings and also carvings of vulvas. I seem to recall a Sex in the City edition with such pictures, but these wall carvings were a sacred woman’s site and used in rituals.
Lunch finished we turned around to head back the way we came but also to venture into other walking tacks that lead off the main track to visit some very special sites. First was Wards Canyon , then Moss Garden both worth the detour and the myriad of creek crossings. I think my favourite was the moss garden with its rock formation covered in moss with water dripping from it and a waterfall that found its way into a pool. It was really really beautiful, the colours and shadows and sound of the water worth the whole trip and all the river crossings combined.
Thank you David and Margaret Moncur for my walking stick as I think many a time I would have ended up wet if not for the aid of this gift you supplied to me. I still haven’t quite got the hang of it but Geoff was happy that not once did I complain about the crossings and I managed to keep lunch dry.
By the time we got back to our van we were both a bit exhausted , it had been a big day and even though 14 klms is not far and we certainly did not rush taking 6 hours to do it, with stopping frequently for birds, lunch, and for the first half drying feet and putting shoes back on, it was still a full on day and I am so happy the princess in me decided I could tackle this with many more to come.
Oh if my sister is reading this, Carole I cut my fringe. Sorry but it was getting to be annoying.

So Monday 18th July 2016 saw us heading to Emerald. We decided that it was way too wet in the direction of Winton and Longreach which was our route, so now it is head towards the coast.
We were travelling fine and got to Rolleston where we were going to put some diesel in the tanks. Umm, Houston we have a problem. Yep they have fuel but the pumps are not pumping and they are not sure when they will be fixed.
Now Rolleston has a pub, general store and a caravan park. A lot of people stop here before staying Carnavron Gorge, which because of the rain is also closed.
Walking through the town I kept thinking what Billie Connelly would say in his broad Scottish accent, what a wee Brilliant town and amazing characters. They had a diner – now closed- called the Corrugated Iron Cuisine. Not sure what it served but the building itself was an impressive carrying the theme of the corrugated iron in its design. The place had been closed for a long time just by the look of the dust and spider webs adoring the building.
Sharon ran the pub and is from South Africa, great lady to have a chat too, but had only been there two months so not up on the local history. Oh and there is Robby who is a Kangaroo who calls into the dining room a few times a day for a slice of bread. They have a school and at the moment our Caravan Park host is doing the school bus run to fill in for the lady who lives down the back. The local petrol station is the post office and general store, and if you had to rely on it for food, go to the pub!
We sat in the pub for a chat with a park ranger from the gorge who was also stranded and was supposed to be on duty but couldn’t get into the park, also two hikers who were planning on doing the 6 day walk and now if they manage to get in tomorrow will have to push it and make it in 4 days.
No fuel and not likely to get any till Thursday, if lucky with parts being purchased from Melbourne. So what to do? The caravan park owner has offered to drive us to Springsure for a 70 klm trip to fill our jerry can – how’s that for hospitality? Just before Geoff left another caravaner gave us 20 litres so we then drove to Springsure, filled the car and his jerry can, and headed back to the van at Rolleston. So here we are for one more evening with the van park full of grey and not so grey nomads (‘m still fighting the grey thing).

Wednesday 13th July and we leave the Ridge to head towards St George. But make sure you stop at Hebel on the way for a pie. Hebel has a pub, a General Store and caravan park and umm, that’s it. So it wasn’t hard to work out where to get our pie that we were told to stop at.
Big news today , our niece Prue had a little boy at 1pm. Yeah we shall get to see all the family in a few weeks and have the first cuddle of little Zac.

Hebel Pub    A few local Emu
        Hebel Pub                         A few local Emu

So arrived in town and staying in a small van park that is working distance to the shops and river. We went for a stroll down to the river and through town. 4 pubs with 1 closed down, 4 banks, IAG and Foodworks – this town is quite big and to top it all off we are here at the same time as the Yellowbelly Country Music Festival.
Thursday morning we have booked on a day tour which starts with a river trip, bloody oath it was cold and I have heard there I snow all down south so the winds were coming up from there. The boat was open and we were supplied blankets if we wanted them. The operator of the barge was certainly a local and if he is going to talk about bird spotting he better start learning what they are. No a Cormorant is not a Darter and a Pacific Duck is not a Wood Duck. He also kept saying port side and starboard which is fine for anyone with boat knowledge but just say to my left or right might be more appropriate on this type of trip.
Then back in the bus to go on a vineyard tour. Been to lots of wineries but this is the first time I got to go into the field and learn about how much work goes into the growing of grapes. I found it so hard to fathom how much work goes into that wonderful grape I eat and the wine that I drink. Of course then came the tastings followed by a light lunch. Back on the bus with a cotton farmer who introduced us to farming in the district. Cotton is the major crop and the river is the main water supply. They are only allowed so much water per property from the river and if they don’t use up all their allocation for the cotton crop which is planted in October when the soil has to reach 14 degrees to March when the harvest takes place they can plant additional crops for the year. We saw onion, garlic and was told broccoli was being harvested on that day but we never actually saw that crop even though we did drive around a bit to try and find it. All in all it was a dam good day.
Oh the weather! Bucket loads of unseasonable rain has been falling all through central Queensland and every morning we check BOM to see which way would be best. Looks like west might not be in the equation so we head towards Roma for a night or two just cause we can and have no other plans. Staying at the Roma village park for a few nights seemed to be the option of keeping under the radar for the weather man. Now surprising Roma was quite a large town and yep they had a Crazy Sams too, but we didn’t bother going into it. Of course it was raining so when at the tourist info the event of the Big Rig was cancelled for the evening. Seems that gas and coal are mined in the area and later found out that Prues husband works in Roma quite often.
So here we are Saturday and Sunday in Roma, we did a few walks around the Railway Dam and in the parks around town, the rain had stopped for the moment but the ground is super soggy. I keep thinking how lucky we are to be on this trip and see water everywhere. And I mean everywhere ! Driving out in the bush there is water laying on paddocks, or puddles by the side of the road. I can’t wait to see it in a month for the benefits of the showers.

Friday 8th July 2016 and its time to say goodbye to Narrabri and head to Lightning Ridge. Wow this sure has changed since I was there about 45 years ago. We are staying at the Lightning Ridge holiday Park which is in town. This has just been taken over by new owners who are young and working hard to please. We arrived at our site to be met by a group finding the afternoon sun and sitting outside their vans. A vey “special” lady greeted us and her and her parents have been coming up here for years. Her name was Debbie and her dad was Geoff so you can imagine the bond that she felt. I sat near her for our first happy hour where our wonderful host supply fresh made pizzas from their pizza oven and spent time talking to her. Other people drifted in and out of our conversations as we felt our way around socially. All had great stories to tell and things we could learn.
It’s green! The red soil that I remember is green as they had quite a bit of well needed rain in June and even last week had 8 inches, so there is water on the ground and the grass is growing. Our first full day we started the car door self drive tours. Through the mine fields and past the shanty of houses, up to Lunatic lookout and follow the colour car doors. Stopped at Amigos castle which an Italian built by hand from gathering rocks from all over the area, to one of the houses made of bottles, all quirky and you look and go wow, but why? Old trucks and machinery scattered around and now we know where the old cement mixers go, up to the ridge to become tumblers for the clay to start the separation process to see if you struck it rich.
We can fossick or they also call it Noodle in the mullock heaps that a miner has slaved to bring to the surface and you never know your luck about finding something. But alas, we still haven’t come across anything. A guided tour on the Sunday was a must with more information imparted about the life on the Ridge. Our guide was a miner and had arrived from England over 25 years ago. We went to Fred Bodels camp and peaked into the old mining hut which was his home over many years. Great to look at but not my style. The days can get over 50 degrees Celsius and there was no air con in his day.
We followed the orange car door self drive to the new mining area of The Grawin and had a look at the Club in the Scrub with a golf course of 18 holes and had lunch at the famous Glengarry Hilton for a burger and beer. Tried our hand at noodling again but still no black opal crossed our path.
I really can’t believe how much the Ridge has grown and it is nice to see so many tourists heading out west.
Our last day was Tuesday 12th so we made the most of it by a walk into town and a visit to the fossil museum, talk about 6 degrees of separation as the person sitting behind the counter was Dave who had the facial piercings that would make the average person cringe but I looked at him and remembered a person I met at the Easter show who as I walked towards home laden with show bags would pick me up in a buggy that was doing rounds and drop me off close to home. I had the pleasure of chatting with Dave a few years running and here he was at the Ridge!

Beer Can House     Black Hand Mine
    Beer Can House                               Black Hand Mine

Then off to the Historic society where we met a very chatty American lady who was on duty at the old house and hospital. Not much to see but still managed to keep us there for nearly an hour. The top of the day was the Chambers of the Black Hand. With the mine not paying in opal the owner decided to start carving into the sandstone and with over 700 carvings and spending 18 years plus doing them they can say they earned the $40 per person entry fee that they charged. OK. I started down the stairway of 85 stairs and then with people streaming in behind I had a bit, no a lot of a panic attack. I did not think I could manage this even though I had done many mine tours. Geoff was ahead and just said, well you can’t just stand there, you have to move, so I had no choice and took a couple of big breaths and took one step infront of the other to get to the next level.
It was worth it as he sculptures and paintings were amazing. We were so lucky to also meet the owner as he was planning his next work of Star Wars Hans Solo and he drew the figure out for me then started to chip away. Anyone headed out there, it is a tour worth doing and something very special.

Tuesday 5th July 2016 we said goodbye to our wonderful friends as they headed home and we start the next stage of our journey. First we had some chores for the van to do and took it to get a blueslip and change the rego to match the new compliance plate. The next day it was a trip to the Old Gaol in Narrabri, this is run by volunteers from the historic society and we had a wonderful old chook who kept telling us she was a farmer’s wife and how she volunteered a few days a week. Very happy to have her first set of visitors for the day she took us from room to room and explain what everything was used for. Geoff would be trying to take a photo and she was racing off the next room and starting her lecture before we even caught up to her. I can tell you all the things in town that she was not happy about including the election and how she wanted to have gas mining on her farm, if they put a shaft on her land even without working it she would get $30,000 per year. She also lectured us about the different geography of NSW to Queensland which has fracking and I felt like a school kid being lectured by the headmistress.
We also got told about the Namoi pub specials, and being Wednesday we could have rissoles, now don’t go for the $10 plate as you would never eat it all, just have the $8 plate, and she was right it filled us up with mash and vegies and don’t forget the onion gravy. Oh and Geoff finally got a hair cut and very handsome he looked indeed.
Our last night was on Thursday 7th as if you paid for 6 nights the 7th is free, don’t you just love that word! Every Thursday night they have a free sausage sizzle and you can donate to the Royal Flying Doctor Service if you wish. We even had music with a couple who had been touring full time for over 6 years. I think they were in their 70s but not sure and come from the Atherton Tablelands in Queensland. They have a 50 foot rig and a poodle, and just keep on keeping on. I enjoyed the chat with them as they also knew people who I knew when I worked up that way many years ago.

Friday July 1 2016 Time to move again as we head to the big smoke of Narrabri . Staying at the Big Sky we set up our vans and had a wander into town which was a 5 minute stroll. Crazy Sam is a variety shop and we all had fun perusing the shelves for the essential caravan accessories. The boys went to the gadgets and hardware and the girls to storage and containers. All in all Crazy Sam loved having us in town. We strolled up and down the main road ducking into shops and checking out the merchandise before heading back to the vans for the afternoon. We decided to check out the RSL as it was down the end of the road and we deserved a night on the town. Loved the restaurant set up like an old country saloon with a mural on the back wall and lots of old country charm.
Saturday was a trip to Mount Kaputar to view the Sawn Rocks. We have visited this sight previously and still find it breathtaking from both the lookout and also when we walked the floor at the cliff base. Everything looks better when the sun is out and the sky is a brilliant blue.

Camp Cyprus at Baradine     Camp Cyprus at Baradine
Big Sky Caravan Park Narrabri                   CSIRO Compact Array

Sunday was a rest day for the group and being bright sunny day I got all my washing done including stripping the bed so it all smelt lovey and fresh. And yes I have washed the sheets on this trip at Stockton so they weren’t walking out the door by themselves. This also gave time for Julie to have some time out as she caught a bad cold from the devil child (grandson) who shared his germs with Larry then Julie.
Monday our last day for exploring as a team and we ventured up Mount Kaputar to do some amazing scenery walks. As we drove up to the summit it seemed to disappear and was hiding in the clouds. Walking around with ice on the ground and a cold wind that blew right through us, we ventured down to the lookout to find the world below was gone, into the world of grey. Umm, we decided to drive back down to another lookout and check to see if the world was there. Found it, stop looking! But just in patches as we notice the valley below was still in sunshine. Our well made plans to have lunch changed to a chocolate cake break and head back down to home for lunch. We never expected the change of weather to come through so quick, but never mind, it was still fun being in the clouds with ice on the ground.