Carnarvon Gorge – Day 2

We slept like logs again! Our bed in the motorhome is so comfortable.

After breakfast I packed some lunch and filled our water bottles. We were making good use of our Scenic backpacks that were a gift from Scenic when we did our European River Cruise. Thank you Scenic!

We unhooked all our connections but left everything set up for our return then we set off to Carnarvon Gorge again. It takes about 15 minutes to drive to the National Park Car Park then it’s a 300 metre walk to the Visitors Centre.

We did a 16km walk to The Art Gallery and Wards Canyon. We left the carpark at 9.30am and finally returned at 1.45pm. To get to Art Gallery you have to cross Carnarvon Creek 6 times, each time having to use the stepping stones to cross the fast flowing creek. It was worth the walk though. Art Gallery has over 2,000 engravings, ochre stencils and free-hand paintings along a 62m long overhang in the sandstone wall of the canyon. Art Gallery contains some of the best examples of stencil art in all of the country.

Art Gallery has been a spiritual place for thousands of years for the Bidjara and Karingbal people and all of the images have symbolic meaning and purpose. The free-hand paintings that look like fishing nets tell us that this is also a burial site and there is a sign before you approach asking that you treat the site with the same care and respect that you would when visiting your own family’s burial ground. The area does have a sense of mystery and, I guess, spirituality, about it. I noticed that people spoke in quiet voices whilst there.

On the way back to the main track we came across a conveniently placed seat and stopped for a bite to eat and a well-earned rest. It was very peaceful sitting and just taking in the beauty of this special place.

We decided that Art Gallery was as far into the gorge as we were going to go. We’d leave the rest for the experienced bushwalkers.

As we made our way back along the main track we came to the turnoff to Wards Canyon. It’s a 540m round trip up a very steep climb around a waterfall to arrive at Wards Canyon. My legs were screaming by the time I climbed to the top of the steps. The sight of the waterfall was just a sign of things to come. Oh my! If I thought we’d stepped back in time before, now I knew we had. This narrow canyon with its beautiful creek tumbling along the bottom is home to the most spectacular ferns. This tiny canyon holds the last remaining inland remnant of the once great rainforest that grew all across the eastern coast.

It is cool inside the canyon and the little creek tumbles along over the rocks and makes that beautiful noise of running water. Don’t you love that sound? I do.

King Ferns only survive here because they have access to permanent water. The fronds of the King Fern have no woody tissue. Water fills the fronds keeping them rigid much like a fire hose full of water. The fronds can be up to 5m in length and they are amongst the largest ferns in the world. The King Fern shares the canyon with tree ferns. These magnificent plants are just stunning.

It didn’t take much imagination to see dinosaurs running around in this magical spot. This was my favourite spot so far in the gorge, however Richard’s favourite was still the Ampitheatre.

The walk back seemed to take longer on our tired legs and we were glad to see the number 1 creek crossing. That meant we were almost back at the Visitors Centre. We had a well earned rest here and ate the rest of our sandwiches.

Back at the motorhome we really enjoyed a cup of tea and a shower to freshen up. We left the park behind and drove for about 15 minutes to the site of the Helicopter Flights. The Helicpoter setup is on Bandana Station just out of the park. We arrived there to find other people waiting for their flight so the flights were running behind. We would just have to wait our turn. We checked in, got weighed, listened to the short safety briefing then waited our turn.

Our 20 minute flight in the lovely little, 4 person, Robinson R44 took us over Bandana Station, a 44,000 acre cattle property and the a cross the spectacular Moolayember Gorge. This gorge is part of Carnarvon National Park however unlike its more famous neighbour this gorge is still largely unexplored. Who knows what treasures lie down there. There may be even more spectacular things yet to be discovered. Our pilot, Travis, talked non-stop about what we were seeing below. He banked the helicopter so I could get great photos of the Three Sisters and the stunning sandstone cliffs. All too soon it was over and we were skids down and back on the ground.

Back at camp we enjoyed a lovely evening chatting with our neighbours Greg and Deb before retiring to a welcome rest.

While I was typing away at this blog post I was sitting outside under our awning. I had spent the morning being domestic (the bloke in the van next door even sang a few lines of ‘Sadie the Cleaning Lady’) and Richard was sitting under the awning reading a book. I had just made a cuppa when along came a very friendly wallaby who must have decided that we were no threat at all as she wandered right between our chairs then plonked herself down to have a snooze. She remained there for a couple of hours. How special is that?


Carnarvon Gorge

Wow Carnarvon Gorge, you did not disappoint! Carnarvon Gorge is stunning.

We left our lovely quiet little camp site at the Dakota Air Crash Memorial and traveled into Carnarvon Gorge National Park. On the way we passed the Helicopter Flight Centre, the entrance to Sandstone Park Campground, the entrance to Takarakka Bush Retreat and finally, just before the park, the Carnarvon Gorge Wilderness Lodge.

We arrived at the car park of the National Park and found a flat spot to park the MH. We put the fridge on gas so it would stay cold while we were away on our walk. About 300 metres from the car park is the Visitors Centre. This centre is usually unmanned, except in school holidays, but houses displays of the history, flora and fauna on Carnarvon Gorge. There were quite a few animal specimens in jars and I always find them very creepy for some reason.

Outside the visitors centre are a few storyboards displaying maps of the gorge and the various walks, how long they are and what you can expect to see there. The walks are graded for difficulty. As we are not experienced bush walkers we opted for the Grade 3 track. This is for people with some bushwalking experience and is suited to most ages and fitness levels.

The main gorge walking track is 9.7km long and winds its way, criss-crossing Carnarvon Creek until it reaches Big Bend. From there the graded track system ends and the remote hiking trail begins. Branching off the Main Track are side tracks including the Nature Trail, Boolimba Bluff, Moss Garden, Amphitheatre, Wards Canyon, Art Gallery, Cathedral Cave, Boowinda Gorge and finally Big Bend. From Art Gallery the track becomes a Grade 4 track for experienced bushwalkers so most people end their walk at Art Gallery before turning around and making their way back.

Our first walk into the gorge saw us walk to Ampitheatre. This is an 8.6km round trip. Wow. The gorge is truly an oasis. It feels like you are stepping back in time to when the mega fauna roamed the land. Carnarvon Creek runs through the gorge and on either side are the high sandstone and limestone cliffs, some over 200 metres high. It is cool down in the gorge as the tree canopy and the high cliffs keep the temperature down. The track crosses the creek many times and you need to be quite nimble to cross on the stepping stones.

The fauna is spectacular with huge cycads, some as tall as a house, and tall cabbage palms and the usual eucalyptus providing the canopy. The ground cover is reedy grasses and ferns. I’d never seen so many cycads in one place and they all looked amazingly healthy.

The track is a mix of flat, packed, sandy track with occasional steps made from stone. Where the track crosses the creek you have to be careful as you have to walk across the round pebbles and boulders.

We made it to Ampitheatre and here you have to scale a metal staircase ladder up into the chasm. The ladder is probably about 10m high. Wow. Once you get to the top you walk though the chasm with tall cliffs on either side, at this point the chasm is only about a metre wide, and then it opens out into a wide chamber with towering 60m cliffs all around. It is very serene in there. A great spot for some quiet reflection, that is until a school group of Year 9 students arrived and totally spoilt the atmosphere! They were all very well behaved and polite but a large group of teenagers really don’t know how to be quiet so we ate our sandwiches and left them to it.

There is only one way back to the carpark and that is back along the main track. Lots of people were walking the track and we saw people of all ages.

After our long walk we left the Gorge and traveled back along the tar road to Takarakka Bush Retreat. We were booked in for 3 nights at Takarakka. Takarakka Bush Retreat is situated on private land just out of the park and it is a large bush park. As we drove in in the late afternoon a mob of very cute wallabies were munching on grass along the side of the road.

The Reception Centre is in the middle of the park and we were quickly checked in. They had given us a large drive through site opposite the amenities block. We noticed a sign as we entered reception that they do a spit roast 2 course dinner for $20 pp. We thought that sounded really good so paid for that. There is a little bar near Reception that is open from 4-6 each night. At 5pm each day a video presentation is shown on a big screen in the bar area. The presentation is all about Takarakka and Carnarvon Gorge.

The spit roast dinner was to be served at the tables on the deck later that evening.

Takarakka has a variety of accomodation options including powered and unpowered camp sites, studio cabins, a cottage and a couple of ensuite cabins and safari tents, some of which have ensuites.

The Reception Centre is also a General Store and stocks basic grocery items and a range of souvenirs. The park has three amenities blocks, camp kitchens and a few campfires. Fires are only allowed in the permanent fire pits.

There are a couple of nature walks as well. One goes upwards to a lookout and the other follows the creek where you might be lucky to spy a platypus.

We quickly set up camp on our very large site and I took advantage of power and water to do some washing. We met our neighbours Greg and Deb who are from Tasmania. They are on their shakedown trip in their new off-road van. It is all set up for off-grid camping and even has a composting toilet. You do meet interesting people traveling.

Around 4.30pm we packed up our plates, bowls, & cutlery and some drinks and wandered down to the bar so we could be settled in to watch the 5pm presentation. The video was very professionally done and showed all the different walks you can go in the Gorge. A friendly wallaby wandered amongst the tables. He wasn’t the least afraid of any of the humans.

We met a lovely young couple from Brisbane who were sitting behind us. Tony & Clare were both originally from Taiwan but they’ve lived in Australia for 12 years. They are traveling in their caravan and they love it although they have to store it at Tony’s parents place in Brisbane as their place is only on a 400sqm block. They asked about where we lived and Clare was amazed that we live on 6 acres and have a 3 acre garden. They only have a courtyard!

At 6pm we looked and found a little table up on the deck reserved for us. You have to bring your own plates, bowl & cutlery and when dinner is announced you line up at the end of the deck in front of the old caravan that has been turned into a servery. Dinner was roast beef, potatoes, pumpkin, peas and gravy followed by rhubarb crumble or chocolate brownie and cream. It was delicious AND I didn’t have to cook!

We wandered back through the bush to the MH and we were all settled into bed by 8pm. I think I was asleep by 8.10pm.

Springsure & Rolleston

We came to the small town of Springsure, south of Emerald and set about finding the Fort that we’d heard about.

The Old Rainworth Fort complex is situated on private property at Old Rainworth. We had to open the front gate as cattle were grazing in the front paddock. We arrived at the complex after traveling a couple of kilometres along a dusty track and crossing a couple of floodways. There were already a couple of campers parked. There is a little tin shed manned by a grouchy old lady who explained that she was the sister of the current owner. She was obviously on for a chat but we curtailed that, paid our $20 and went to explore the old buildings.

The main building at Rainworth was built in 1862 by an English stonemason employed but the owner of Rainworth. The building was primarily used as a store house. The stone used is local basalt and the wall plates and bearers are hand hewn cypress pine. The rocks are joined using an adobe mix of sand, lime and crushed rocks. The iron roof was the first one installed west of Rockhampton. Paving stones were used for the floor. There is a ladder staircase leading to a mezzanine and steps lead down to a cellar below. It is a remarkable building.

It was to Rainworth that the survivors of the nearby Wills Massacre fled to for help in 1861. The story goes that the main building was built to withstand attacks by Aborigines and that is how it came by the ‘fort’ name however there is no evidence that this ever happened.

Also in the complex is the original Cairdbeign Homestead and the original Sandy Creek School. Both of these historic buildings were moved to this site so they could be preserved. The homestead is a slab building and the school is clapboard. They are both filled with fabulous historic pieces and memorabilia.

Back in town we visited the Historic Woolshed & Visitors Centre. Outside is a huge Comet Windmill. This windmill was built in 1935 and has a diameter of 2 feet. It had a pumping capacity of 8200 gallons per day.

The historic Woolshed was recreated from the original roof trusses of the Arcturus Woolshed. The original building was brought to Arcturus Downs form England in 1901. It was sent out as a kit. In 2001 it was reassembled to be used as the visitors centre and museum.

It now houses local memorabilia and is manned by a group of dedicated volunteers.

We stocked up on groceries at the Spar and bought some meat at the butcher. As we walked past the public school the children were all outside under the COLA eating their lunch. I love to hear the happy sound of chattering children. Missing out grandchildren again!!

Between Springsure and Rolleston we crossed over a range of hills called the Staircase Range. We stopped for a lunch break at the lookout. What a lovely view across the valley and there was a nice breeze.

We continued on and the road was a very bumpy roller coaster of a ride. There was quite a lot of traffic including road trains and wide loads carrying mining equipment. Nearing Rolleston we passed the entrance roads to two coal mines.

Entering Rolleston we stopped for fuel then looked for the dump point. There was a queue of caravans waiting at the dump point and water point. We would just have to wait our turn. Mr Have-a-chat did his usual thing and got chatting to the caravan ears whilst I checked out the historic Post Office and slab hut that are displayed in the park next to the dump point.

By the time I got back to the dump point he’d found out they were all travelling together and they were from Parkes in NSW. They would also be going out to Carnarvon Gorge. Maybe we’d see them all there. Richard dumped our cassette and we waited for the water point to be ready. It didn’t take very long and they were all full. One of the guys said just move your motorhome up and use our hose before we take it off. That was very kind and appreciated by us. We only had one empty tank so we were full in no time.

The caravaners all set off and we waved them goodbye. Our next task was to find a camp spot for the night.

We left Rolleston heading towards Injune. We took the turnoff to Carnarvon Gorge and not long along that road we came to an historic marker. It was at this spot in 1943 that a C47B Dakota aircraft carrying US Airmen, Australian Airmen and Australian Army men crashed. There were no survivors. The plane was enroute from Darwin to Brisbane and ran into a violent electrical storm. A memorial to those brave men who served their countries has been erected on the spot using some of the wreckage of the downed plane. There were some picnic tables and chairs around the little area and it looked like a good spot to camp. There were no signs saying we couldn’t so we pulled up next to one of the picnic tables that also had a little fire pit and set up camp. Although it was close to the road we didn’t think the road would be busy after dark. We were surrounded by bush land and were not far from a creek that had fast flowing water. Apart from the occasional vehicle all we could hear were birds. It was very peaceful.

Blackwater & The Australian Coal Centre

The Capricorn Highway leads from Emerald towards Rockhampton. We followed this road to the town of Blackwater. Along the roadside were lots of small fluffy pieces of cotton left over from the recent cotton harvest.

We saw quite a few trucks carrying the huge bales of cotton. As we went through Yamala we passed a huge cotton gin and outside there were hundreds of those huge bales of cotton waiting to be processed. I’d never seen so many in one place before.

Doesn’t it amuse you to see the strange things on the roadside that people have created? We’ve seen all sorts of things on this trip like the Bra Fence, the Shoe Tree and even a Bicylce Tree. Along to road to Blackwater from emerald, perched on top of a road cutting are The Magnificent Minions. These are a group of very clever sculptures that looked like they had been made out of various sized gas bottles. Some people are very clever.

We arrived in the small town of Blackwater, population 4,749. Our first stop was to visit the Blackwater International Coal Centre. The centre is home to the visitors centre, a Japanese Garden, a cinema, a cafe, a craft shop and the Australian Coal Museum.

The museum houses over 20 seperate exhibits that explore the past, present and future of the Australian Coal industry. It also has modern training facilities and conference rooms. While we were visiting we saw a group of miners in one of the training rooms that looked like they were taking some sort of test.

There was a really interesting display that showed a tree and all the different branches showed things that are made from coal and coal byproducts. I didn’t know billiard balls were made from a coal product called Bakelite.

We learnt all about the Bowen Basin. Bowen Basin is a long narrow basin on the eastern side of Australia that subsided in the Early Pemian period about 290 million years ago. In the Mid Permian much of the basin was flooded by sea. In the Mid Triassic 235 million years ago the basin was cut off from the sea permanently by earth movement. Today the basin extends from Collinsville in the north all the way to Theodore in the south and covers and area of 60,000 square kilometres.

The coal in the basin was formed in Mid to Late Permian times and the basin has the largest coal reserves in Australia. It is also the largest bituminous (black) coal deposits in the world.

Coal was first discovered near Blackwater but the explorer Ludwig Leichhardt in 1845. Early attempts at mining in the 19th and early 20th centuries were not successful. In the 1960’s large coal reserves were discovered near the town and the first large scale open cut mining began. Long trains transport the coal to Rockhampton.

Australia is currently the 5th largest producer of coal in the world but only the 10th consumer. China, India, US and Indonesia are the four countries ranked higher. We have an estimated coal reserve that, at current consumption levels, could last for 1,231 years.

After touring the museum we had lunch in their cafe then visited the lovely little Japanese Gardens. I’m afraid we’ve been very lucky to have seen one of the best Japanese Gardens in the world at the Irish National Stud in Kildare, Ireland so this one was a little disappointing but we still enjoyed the walk.

We had a little drive around Blackwater and it looks like a mining town with most of the houses being transportable.

On the way back to Emerald we came across a huge coal train with two engines up front and two more in the middle. It must have been at least 2 kilometres long.

You have to take care on these roads, especially when there are mines about as the machinery they use is huge. Check out this huge wide load that we had to get off the road for.

Back in Emerald we stopped off at the Botanic Gardens to do more of the walking trails. I found the Maze, the Palm Grove, the Rose Garden, the Rainforest Walk and the Marbles in the Park sculpture.

We needed gas so ran around to all the service stations in town, none of whom had any small bottles, only to end up back at the Emerald Cabin & Caravan Park where we stayed the other night. They fill gas bottles and we were able to get our filled for $18.

We needed some firewood and, after calling the local Mitre10 to see if they had any, went to get some from their garden centre. We got 2 bags of hardwood for $12.95 each. One to fill up our wood bin and the other for a fire that night.

We finally headed out of town on the Springsure Road and found a great spot just past Gindie. It looks like it was an old gravel storage area but was nice and flat with a good lot of trees between us and the road. We set up as far back off the road as possible and Rich quickly got a lovely little fire going. I was so surprised that there was no one else already camped at that spot. Everywhere we’d been lately there was such a crowd. How peaceful to be just us. Shame there was no water view!

Hanging around in Emerald

After another great night’s sleep we woke to find it was a gorgeous sunny day. I took advantage of being in a caravan park and got a couple more loads of washing done. I hung them in the motorhome and they could dry during the day. Richard sat outside for a bit and lots of brightly coloured parrots instantly became his friends especially when he found some dried fruit loaf to feed them.

Our Tyre Pressure Management System (TPMS) let us know that we had a tyre with a slow leak so we thought we’d better get that seen to before we did anything else. We set off and found the local Bridgstone service however they couldn’t look at it until 11am so we heade out to the Botanic Gardens for a wander.

We wandered through the lovely gardens for an hour until it was time to return to Bridgestone. The Botanic Gardens in Emerald are very large and situated on both sides of the Nogoa River. There are many paved pathways and most of the plantings have names so you can identify the tree or shrub. Emerald also provide a free camp in the car park at the entrance to the Botanic Gardens. It’s not the best one we’ve seen as it is just an asphalt car park and it’s right below the main highway so it would be noisy. However over the couple of days we spent in Emerald it the RV Park always had lots of campers.

Back at Bridgestone it was quickly detriment that the problem was the valve, not the tyre itself. This was the same problem we’d had right at the beginning of this trip. Luckily Richard had bought a couple of spare valves and it was fixed in no time at all for the grand sum of $38.

Richard really wanted a haircut so our next stop was the Central Highlands Marketplace where we were able to book him in for a haircut at 3pm.

We had spied an Irish pub called The Irish Village in the Main Street opposite the historic railway station and thought it might be a good spot for some lunch. We did enjoy our lunch. I had Guinness pie and Rich had Bangers & Mash and I washed mine down with a pint of Kilkenny. The pub has a real Irish feel about it, apart from being way too big. Real Irish pubs are not usually that big.

Next stop was to Mitre 10 for some stuff that we needed for odd jobs on the motorhome and then it was time to go back to the shopping centre for Rich to get his haircut. While that was happening I took the time to enjoy a little retail therapy. I hadn’t done that for a while.

I did go to BIGW and got some photos of our grandchildren printed so I could update the photo wall in our motorhome. We didn’t even have a photo of our youngest, Theo, and the one of our second youngest was a baby photo. Victor is now nearly 2. It was time to update them.

We decided to drive out to Lake Maraboon and see if that would be a good camp for the night. Not far out of town we came across an orange orchard. That’s the first one we’d seen since we left home over 6 weeks ago.

The name of the dam is Fairbairn Dam but the name of the lake is Lake Maraboon and when full holds three times the water in Sydney Harbour. We found the water level was very low.

You cannot camp around the lake and Lake Maraboon Holiday Park was very full. The vans were all so close together that didn’t appeal at all to us so we turned around in the driveway and headed back to a place we’d see on the way called Higher Ground Farmstay. For $8 per night we got to camp in a sandy paddock. We had a fire pit and a friendly horse for company. Much better than being jammed in like sardines!

Sapphire, Rubyvale & Emerald

Don’t you love the names of these towns? I do.

Sapphire and Rubyvale are twin small towns only 6km apart that sit in the heart of the Queensland Gemfields. The Minors Common is an 11,000 acre property that contains both towns. The property was created in the 1890’s and within the boundary a miner was able to mine, build a dwelling and run a few livestock. The Miners Common is the last of such titles remaining in Queensland. Miners are still able to access these rules and build a dwelling but current mining laws do not allow for permanent dwellings on mining claims so there are some very interesting buildings in both towns.

We had booked via phone to do the Miners Heritage Centre Mine Tour and arrived about half an hour early and found a park near a huge dump truck. The Heritage Centre is also a jewellery store and we browsed thier collection of gorgeous jewellery while we waited for the tour to commence.

Our guide for the tour was a 3rd generation local lady named Kate and, after giving our group a short safety talk, proceeded to lead us down into the mine. The first part was easy, it was a set of low steps that led down to an underground museum that we could check out on our way out. Then we went further downwards until we were 17m underground.

Kate explained that the main diggings in the area are to be found along Retreat Creek at Sapphire and Policemans Creek at Rubyvale.

John Archibald Richardson first discovered sapphires in the area in the 1870’s and by 1890 commercial mining had begun in Retreat Creek. Kate also explained how in the old days mines were dug with a pick and shovel in open pits or trenches. Sometimes they also built square shafts that they would climb with their back braced against the wall of the shaft.

We were shown where to find gems in the layer of ground called ‘wash’. This is the layer just above the granite bedrock. This layer can be just inches thick or five or six feet wide.

During the 1970’s the price for rough sapphires led to large scale mechanised mining which resulted in huge amounts of gems. During this time Australia produced over 80% of the worlds sapphires. This amount has declined however we still produce around 50% of the worlds sapphires.

Sapphires are very hard, only diamonds are harder gems. This makes sapphires very suitable for jewellery. I didn’t know that sapphires come in all sorts of colours. I always thought they were blue but they can be all shades of blue, green, yellow and even pink and purple. They can also be multi coloured. Yellow sapphires are very rare so they are highly valued.

Some very famous gems have been found in the area including the ‘Pride of Queensland’, the largest cut yellow sapphire in the world and is 169 carats. It is owned by a private collector in the US.

These days tourists have a big role to play on the Gemfields and can come out, purchase a fossicking permit and can fossick at the 5 different designated fossicking sites. You never know when you might find a beauty.

In 2000 a lady tourist found a 200 carat sapphire and she named it ‘The Millenium Sapphire’. She said it was just lying there. It was sold the following week at the annual Gemfest for $85,000.

Kate showed us some tiny ‘microbats’ that live in the tunnels and cling to the roof. They are tiny little creatures only a couple of centimetres long and they like to snuggle into the holes made by the jackhammers.

Our mine tour lasted for about 45 minutes and we thoroughly enjoyed it. I was glad to get back above ground though as it was quite dusty down in the mine.

We had a bit of a laugh at some of the amazing dwellings in these little towns. Kate had explained that while there are some freehold blocks in the towns you cannot mine where there is a house and you cannot build a permanent dwelling where there is a mine. So many of the houses are put together using all sorts of scrap. There was a lot of caravans plonked on sites. When a mining lease is over all tunnels have to be filled in and the site has to be cleared hence nothing permanent can be built.

The gorgeous looking pub in Rubyvale is built from logs and local stones. We loved the look of it.

We left The Gemfields and headed further east to the town of Emerald. As we neared Emerald we came across the first irrigated paddocks that we’d seen for a long time. Irrigated wheat and cotton is grown there. We saw huge round bales of cotton that had obviously just been harvested being loaded onto trucks to be taken away for processing or sale. We passed a few B-Doubles with up to 10 of those huge bales on the trailers.

After a drive around the town to orient ourselves we stopped off at Coles to pick up some groceries then found a lovely shady spot next to a large park for a spot of lunch. Prawns, salad and fresh crunchy bread…yum.

We decided that we would book into the Emerald Cabin & Caravan Park for the night so that we could go to the movies. That’s something we hadn’t done in a very long time. The new Avengers movie Black Widow was showing at 6pm.

However we really wanted to give our motorhome a good wash first. We tried both the car washes in town however we were too tall to fit in either of those. What to do??? We spied the Showground where there is a public Dump Point. Maybe they would have a tap we could use to hose the motorhome down. Sure enough we found a good grassy spot, not far from the dump point, where there was a set of taps and set to work cleaning off ‘The Outback’ dust from our little home on wheels. Wow….she looks so much better now. All sparkling and white again.

We checked into the caravan park and quickly got set up on the grassy site. We even had a concrete slab for under our awning. Oh it is nice to have a long shower without having to worry about running out of water. That’s probably the thing I enjoy most about staying in a caravan park but I would still much prefer to be on our own camped near a creek, river or billabong.

Off to the movies we went. It was about a five block walk to get there and we met a friendly lady along the way who was on her way to work at one of the local motels. She walked some of the way with us chatting away. What a friendly lady. Just the sort of person who should be in hospitality.

Black Widow was certainly an action movie. I haven’t seen all The Avengers movies but Richard has and apparently they are all like that. Action action action. It was full on. It did have a bit of a storyline though.

Back at the motorhome I got some washing done, Richard checked our portfolio on his MacBook and I sat down to write this post.

We’ve booked into Takarakka Caravan Park at Carnarvon Gorge for three nights from Thursday so we’ve got three days to explore around the area. Wonder what we’ll discover tomorrow?

Farewell to The Outback

We packed up our camp at Lara Wetlands, said fond farewells to cousins Ross & Jenny, and departed Lara around 9am. What an enjoyable 3 days we’d had. Great company and one of our favourite camp spots.

While Ross & Jenny went for a drive to see the Lake Dunn Sculpture Trail we spent the day reading and relaxing. It had been very windy during the night and the wind kept up most of the day. I ended up putting our awning down in the early afternoon.

The wind finally eased up in the late afternoon and I took my kayak out for a paddle. While I was out on the water Ross & Jenny returned from their drive. They only ended up doing half the sculpture trail as it would have taken them all day to do the whole 200km of trail. Jenny enjoyed seeing the sculpture however Ross thought it was a waste of time. He would much prefer to have the sculptures in a park where you can wander around and view them all instead of having to drive for miles. They did enjoy seeing Lake Dunn and thought it looked like a good place to camp.

Our first stop after leaving Lara was the small town of Barcaldine, only 28km north of Lara. Barcaldine has a population of 1,500 and was established in 1886. The little town sits on the junction of the Landsborough and Capricorn Highways. Barcaldine still has 5 pubs but at one time it had 11. All the streets of Barcaldine are named after trees.

The Tree of Knowledge is Barcaldine’s most famous landmark and it sits right on the Main Street in front of the historic Railway Station. The tree, a Ghost Gum, became famous because it was there during the Shearer’s Strike in 1891 that shearers would meet to discuss their struggle for fair pay and better conditions. It was under this tree that the beginnings of the labor movement began.

Sadly the 200 year old tree was poisoned in 2006 and tree died. However the whole tree including its root ball was excavated and treated for chemical preservation. This process took over 12 months. The new memorial was constructed over the tree and the hanging timbers above represents the leaves of the tree.

My next stop was to visit the Australian Workers Heritage Centre. This fabulous museum is dedicated to Australian workers and our working history. The museum is housed on a few acres with 14 different buildings each housing displays. You can just wander at your own pace around the garden and into each building.

The buildings themselves are all of historical significance such as the Kunwarara Railway Station, The Toogoolawah Police Lock-up, The original Australian Bi-Centennial Tent Theatre, The AWU Shearers Hall, and the Torrens Creek one teacher school. The displays inside feature all manner of workers from police, railway, teaching, shearers, state politicians, postal workers, health workers, women in the workforce, roads workers, emergency services and even power workers such as those who worked on Snowy Hydro.

I spent a couple of hours wandering this fabulous centre.

I met up with Rich back at the motorhome and we continued on the road east towards Jericho, The countryside had become thick grasslands with lots of trees. I felt we were leaving The Outback behind.

Along the way we saw lots of termite mounds but why do people feel they need to dress them in t-shirts and shirts? It just looks weird!

Stopped for fuel in the tiny town of Alpha and had to get a photo of the very clever sculpture of a bull, all made out of barbed wire. Next to him is a sculpture of a cow and calf made from scrap metal.

Alpha, population 350, is known as The Gateway to West. So heading east from Alpha we were no longer in what is considered The Outback. We were now in Central Queensland.

About 60km east of Alpha we came to an area of low hills and small mountains. These are the Drummond Range and we called in to check out the Drummond Range Lookout. There were a couple of caravans that looked like they were getting ready to camp the night but as it was only 3pm we decided to keep going.

We turned off the Capricornia Highway and went northwards into The Gemfields. We cruised into Sapphire and went to check out their RV Camp but unfortunately it was full and the only spots left were on a sloping hill. What to do? Looks like we’d be stealth camping again!

We turned back and took the gravel road out to the Cemetery that follows the banks of the dry river and we found a spot opposite the cemetery. It’s a no through road and there’s only a couple of houses at the end so I don’t think we’ll be disturbed at this spot.

We’d only just got our chairs out and dinner on when a car and camper came along. They were obviously looking for a camp spot too. They turned around and a little while later I spied them on the other side of the river still looking for a spot. I think I can just see the camper through the trees so they’ve found a camp for the night.

Oondooroo Station – Farm Stay

Oondooroo Station is situated north of the outback town of Winton on the Winton-Hughenden Road. You turn off the tar onto a dirt road and travel for 7km before reaching the entrance gates of Oondooroo. Oondooroo Station is a working cattle and sheep property but a few years ago the current owners, Jason and Kerry Turnbull added farm stay camping as another source of income.

Upon arrival at Oondooroo Station we were met with a warm country welcome by Jason. We paid up and followed Jason on his 4 wheeler and he showed us to a grassy spot. It costs $25 per night for 2 people and they also have fire pits &to wood available for $10 per night.

There are two toilets and a shower available for campers use. Water taps are scattered around the campground and they are artesian water from their bore.

Oondooroo Station has a rich history and was originally purchased by the Shollock family in 1878 and they stocked it with 23,000 sheep. The Shollacks aim was to establish ‘refined living’ and the cost of constructing the many fine hand-hewn sandstone buildings almost left them penniless. They sold the property to the Ramsay family in 1886.

In 1886 a shearer’s strike for better pay and conditions commenced and it is said to have begun at Oondooroo Station. The original 26 stand Woolshed was burned down during the strike.

In 1895 Banjo Paterson was staying on nearby Dagworth Station where he met Christina McPherson. Together they put Banjo’s poem ‘Waltzing Matilda’ to music. However Dagworth Station didn’t have a piano but Oondooroo did, so it was in the lounge room of Oondooroo Station that Waltzing Matilda was sung for the first time.

In 1990 the family business, Landers Creek Pastoral Company, purchased Oondooroo and Bill & Jean Tudehope lived at Oondooroo for 17 years before the current custodians, Jason and Kerry (Bill & Jean’s granddaughter) Turnbull took over in 2004. Jason and Kerry continue to live at Oondooroo with their two children Toby and Chelsea.

Many of the historic buildings still stand at Oondooroo and the family continue to live in the homestead. The homestead has been added to over the years and now consists of the original central sandstone building which boasts pressed metal ceilings, a main living room and four bedrooms. Another two bedrooms and wide verandah have been added which help to keep the house cool.

Oondooroo is situated on grasslands and, although they have had droughts, in a good year the Mitchell Grass, which is rich in nutrients, can fatten livestock well.

As a working property there is always something going on at Oondooroo and families will enjoy seeing the animals. During our stay there were kids (baby goats), puppies, many farm dogs, and friendly horses waiting for a pat.

You can take the short walk down to the Woolshed and see examples of the wool that is shorn at Oondooroo.

On the evening we arrived Jason told us they were trying something new. They were making hamburgers, using their own beef, and selling them to campers for $10 each and Jason would even deliver them to our camp. We said yes please to that and I’m glad we did. The hamburgers were excellent and beautifully presented wrapped in paper with a couple of onion rings on top. I hope this idea was a success and others get to experience one of those delicious burgers.

Oondooroo Station to Lara Wetlands

After a very pleasant evening around the fire pit with our neighbours, Allan and Toni, from the caravan next door we set off from Oondooroo Station heading to Longreach via Winton. We needed groceries, wine, fuel, a dump point and to fill up with water.

We arrived in mid-morning at Winton and I wanted to have a look at the Corfield Stores, something we didn’t do when we were there a month ago. The heritage listed store is now a local craft shop and houses a small museum that you can visit for a gold coin donation. The small museum has displays of boulder opal and opal mining equipment, a historic shop display showing goods that the store might have sold in the old days, a large life sized diorama of the dinosaur stampede at Lark Quarry and an excellent display of the history of wool and sheep in the area.

I even found an old photo of Oondooroo Station as it was in the height of the wool era.

We also paid a quick visit inside the historic North Gregory Hotel. The hotel was burnt down and rebuilt in the 1950’s. The architect must have liked the Art Deco period though as the building has many Art Deco features including light fittings, the railings on the staircase and the etched doors into the dining room.

Back on the road and we headed further south east to Longreach. The road is long and straight and traffic was heavy with lots of road trains. We noticed lots of roadkill along this stretch and each of them was being eaten by huge birds. We made pretty good time though and arrived in Longreach around 12.30pm. We went directly to the carpark where we knew there was a dump point and a water tap. We got those jobs done, had a bite to eat for lunch and continued on. Our next stop was the IGA then the bottleo. We were restocked, full of water, cassette empty and ready to go again.

We’d made contact with Richard’s cousins, Ross & Jenny, who had been in Emerald after visiting Carnarvon Gorge. We arranged to meet up with them at Lara Wetlands. It wasn’t really on our way as we’d planned to continue east to Emerald but hey, Lara Wetlands was one of our favourite spots on the way north and we were more than happy to detour to there for a few days.

We passed through the tiny town of Ilfracombe with its Machinery Mile, a roadside display of old farm and earth moving machinery.

Further along we came to Barcaldine and, again, we just drove through, like last time, without stopping to explore. We wanted to get to Lara before the office closed at 5pm. We made it just in time and arrived at 4.45pm.

We were quickly checked in as we already knew the check in routine and we paid for a couple of nights. The owner, Jodie, was sitting outside the office and I said hello and told her we’d met her friend Jason at Oondooroo Station. She seemed pleased but sadly she was nursing a broken arm. I’m not sure how she did it but she’d broken it in the last month since we were here.

We found cousins Ross & Jenny all set up on a waterside spot and there was room next to them for our motorhome. They had reversed in so we drove in so that our awnings were facing each other and we all enjoyed the next few days relaxing, reading, going for walks around the wetlands, soaking in the thermal pool, paddling my kayak and meeting the neighbours. We love this place. It’s definitely one of our favourite camp spots. After two nights we decided to stay for one more.

On the third morning Ross & Jenny went off for the day in their car to check out the Lake Dunn Sculpture Trail. This is a 200km loop featuring over 38 metal sculptures by local artist Milynda Rogers. It is a gravel road so that was not on our list to do. We’d find out all about it when they got back.

We only had one bar of Telstra service at Lara which is really only enough to send text messages so uploading photos would have to wait.

Julia Creek to Oondooroo Station (near Winton)

After a lovely couple of days staying at Julia Creek RV Park with our perfect camp spot right alongside the creek we set off on a clear sunny morning to head eastwards towards Richmond.

We’d enjoyed our little stay at Julia Creek RV Park and especially our socialising with our camping neighbours. We both love meeting people and hearing their life stories. One of our neighbours has spent a lot of time in the US going to music festivals and plays multiple instruments. He brought over a couple that he has made himself and we got to listen to the fabulous sounds of a ‘picking stick’ and a ‘cigar box guitar’. These fabulous instruments were beautifully made and it was a special night sitting outside under the stars listening to Tony picking out some familiar songs. What a clever man!

It was a cool morning, such a pleasant change after the heat at Adels Grove. The road eastwards was straight and the countryside was vey flat. The natural grasslands looked like good cattle country. There was lots of traffic including many road trains and many of those had four trailers. They create quite a wind and suction as you go past. The road was a wide one though so we didn’t have to leave the road to let those monsters go by.

Most of the way to Richmond the highway runs alongside a railway line and for quite a few kilometres the rail line was being repaired. Huge mounds of gravel and piles of new concrete sleepers were ready to be used. We came across where the crew were working and it was interesting to see how the rail line is lifted, the old sleeper removed, a new one put in place and then new gravel is put underneath and lastly, the line is lowered back down onto the new gravel bed. I haven’t seen that before.

We arrived in Richmond mid-morning and went directly to Kronosuarus Korner. Kronosaurus Korner houses the Information Centre, a cafe with toilets, and the fossil museum. We paid our entry fee for the museum then had a lovely morning tea in the cafe.

The museum displays many fine examples of fossilised marine reptiles and dinosaurs that once lived in the huge inland sea that covered most of inland Australia 100 million years ago. Kronosaurus was one of those and a life sized statue of one is out the front of the building. Richard was dwarfed by this massive creature. The massive jaws held rows of sharp teeth. It would have been a fearsome predator of the seas.

The highlight of the museum is the full skeleton of a 100 million year old pliosaur. Found in 1989. This precious piece of our history is housed in its own special glass display case with a life sized model hanging from the ceiling above it. It was another huge creature.

We spent a couple of hours exploring Kronosuarus Korner and recommend it to anyone with an interest in our earth’s history. It’s hard to believe that once Richmond was 40 metres underwater in the Eromanga Sea and these huge creatures swam above.

Richmond is a small town on the bank of the Flinders River, the longest river in Queensland. The river runs in ‘the wet’ but is mostly dry for the rest of the year. The town has a population of around 1,000 people. A recreational lake was constructed and named Lake Fred Tritton after a former mayor. The lake offers picnic areas, water skiing, fishing and swimming.

You can go fossil hunting just outside of Richmond. There are 2 Fossil Hunting Sites and once you have your permit from Kronosuarus Korner you can try your luck at unearthing a treasure. You never know you may find a new fossil.

On the drive into Richmond we couldn’t help but notice strange round rocks. These rocks, known as Moonrocks, are common in the area and range in size from a golf ball to huge boulders weighing several tonnes. They are found in the black spoil of the Downs country. Moonrocks are formed by the accumulation of limestone in the mud on the ancient sea floor. They are not fossils but can contain fossils.

We continued our journey eastwards to the next town on the Dinosaur Trail, Hughenden. The countryside was again quite flat open grasslands and we little signs of life apart from large hunting birds.

The Main Street of Hughenden was having a facelift with new kerb and guttering and brick paving of footpaths and centre medians. The street was blocked off to traffic so we had to go around the detour and park away from the shops and walk the short way back. After a snack for lunch, a sandwich for me and Chinese for Rich, I made my way to the Flinders Discovery Centre around the corner. The centre is home to the Information Center and a museum. It was a $5 entry fee to enter the museum and the first thing that greets you is a huge replica skeleton of ‘Hughie’, a Muttaburrasaurus. There are other fossil displays, a mini theatre showing a film on the formation of the earth and in particular the formation of Porcupine Gorge, located not far north of Hughenden.

There is a display called ‘Shearing the Stragglers’ and it tells the story of the demise of the sheep industry in the shire that once held over 1,000,00 sheep and now there are none.

Scattered around the town are sculptures by local artists. I found Darby the Dinosaur, a large wall sculpture of a Muttaburrasuarus, Leannosaur – a life sized sculpture of a pterosaur, and Ammonite sculpture made from windmill parts, and, of course, the huge sculpture of a Muttaburrasaurus.

The Federation Rotunda made from two huge Comet windmills sits in pride of place in the middle of the Main Street. However it was fenced off due to the street refurbishment so I couldn’t get a good photo. The two windmills are 20ft (6m) wide and were used to pump water at Bogunda Station for over 45 years. They make for an interesting sculpture.

Hugenden is another small town with a population of 1,136. It is also on the Flinders River and in 2019 a recreational lake was built to provide boating, fishing, water sports and picnic areas. Hughenden has a large RV park on the banks of the Flinders River but as the river was dry we decided to continue on and try to find a better spot.

Leaving Hughenden we headed south and on our east we could see the towering Mount Walker. Mount Walker, at 478 metres above sea level, is 152m above the level of the town. It is just 10km south of Hughenden and I’m sure the views from the top would be spectacular but the road is not suitable for motorhomes or towed vehicles so we’d give it a miss.

The road from Hughenden to Winton is a wide tar road but OMG it is a roller coaster of a ride along that road. We bounced up and down all the way to Winton. Again the countryside was flat open grasslands. The only thing to break the monotony was the occasional entry to a station or a large dam. We saw little signs of life. Nearing Corfield Rich excitedly pointed out a couple of emus near the fence on the roadside. They were the first emus we’d seen since around Bourke so long ago.

Looking in WikiCamps I found a farm stay along the Hughenden-Winton Road and thought we’d give them a try. I only had enough service to send a text so I sent a message to see if they had room for our 8m motorhome for one night and very quickly got a thumbs up reply. We turned off the main road onto a dirt track. We both commented that we wouldn’t like to be on that road if it had even just 1mm of rain. It would become impassable. However it was nice and dry and not too rough. After 7km along that track we arrived at the entrance gate to Oondooroo Station. We could see other vans camped from quite a long way away.

We were pleasantly surprised by the amount of green grass. They must had good access to artesian water out there. As we drove up to the homestead dogs barked and a young bloke wearing a hat came out to meet us. He introduced himself as Jason, the owner, and, after paying the fee, showed us where we could park for the night. We had a lovely stay at Oondooroo Station.