BRB & beyond – Final trip stats

Camping costs

Free Camps
Hillston Rest Area – 1 night
Cobar Old Reservoir – 1 night
Bourke Boat Ramp – 1 night
Wyandra Warrego River – 1 night
Tambo Barcoo River – 1 night
Qantas Founders Museum Carpark – 1 night
Longreach Caravan car parking – 1 night
Long Waterhole, Winton – 1 night
Middleton Hotel – 1 night
Eyre Creek, near Bedourie – 1 night
Birdsville Common – 2 nights
Bashville – 6 nights (included in the cost of Big Red Bash tickets)
Boulia Racecourse Reserve – 1 night
Quamby Rodeo Ground – 1 night
Gregory Downs riverside – 1 night
Julia Creek RV Park – 2 nights (free but made $10 donation)
Sapphire riverside – 1 night

Gindie roadside gravel pit – 1 night
WWII Plane Crash site, Carnarvon Rd – 1 night
Injune Rodeo Grounds – 1 night
RV Park, Walgett – 1 night
Wheogo Park, Forbes – 1 night

Low-cost Campgrounds

Charleville CMCA RV Park – 1 night $6
Lara Wetlands Campground – 2 nights $50
Apex Riverside Park, Longreach – 1 night $5
Winton Showgrounds – 1 night $20
Oondooroo Station Farm Stay – 1 night $25
Lara Wetlands – 3 nights $75

Caravan Parks
Longreach Tourist Caravan Park – 1 night powered $40
Argylla CP, Mt Isa – 2 nights powered $98.88
Adele’s Grove CP – 4 nights unpowered $160 (paid for 4 but only stayed for 3)
Emerald Cabin & Caravan Park – 1 night powered $44
Takarakka Bush Retreat – 3 nights powered @$55 = $165
Ups & Downs Caravan Park, Roma – 1 night unpowered $20

Total Camping Costs
Free Camps = 29 nights Cost = $0
Low-cost Campgrounds = 9 nights Cost = $181
Caravan Parks = 12 nights Cost =$527.88
Total = 50 nights Total Cost = $708.88

Hillston $$69.27
Hillston $47.09
Cobar $65.31
Bourke $45.84
Charleville $101.33
Tambo $54.71
Longreach $92.70
Winton $64.74
Boulia $110.33
Bedourie $71.87
Birdsville $48.30
Bedourie $95.30
Boulia $53.11
Mt Isa $84.55
Cloncurry $32.49
Burke & Wills Roadhouse $55,52
Gregory Downs $44.88
Burke & Wills Roadhouse $88.08
Julia Creek $65.21
Hughenden $81.37
Longreach $115.12
Alpha $77.83
Emerald $49.70

Rolleston $$91.72
Roma $89.06
Lightning Ridge $113.46
Dubbo $93.64

Total Fuel = $2,002.53

Lara Wetlands – 2 x $15 = $30
Longreach – 2 x $10 = $20
Cloncurry – 1 x $15
Julia Creek – 1 x $14
Oondooroo Station Farm Stay – 1 x
fire pit & wood $10
Emerald $26

Total Wood = $

Bourke $32
Longreach $23
Winton $34 (most expensive 4.5kg bottle of gas ever!)
Birdsville $32
Julia Creek $14
Alpha $28

Emerald $18

Total Gas = $1

Back O’Bourke Exhibition = $42
Hotel Corones Tour = $56
Cosmos Centre = Free
Royal Flying Doctor Visitor Centre = Free
WWII Secret Base = $16
WWII Secret Base Tour = $66
Longreach Hall of Fame = $136
Qantas Museum Tour & Luminescent Longreach = $160
Longreach School of the Air = $20
Waltzing Matilda Centre = $50
Age of Dinosaurs Tour = $170
Dinosaur Stampede 3/4 day tour = $290
Big Red Bash (including 2 day early entry) = $1,380.25
Helicopter Flight at BRB = $585
Outback at Isa (including Riversleigh Fossil Tour, Isa Experience & Hard Times Mine Tour) = $176
Kronosuarus Korner, Richmond = $40
Flinders Discovery Centre, Hughenden = $5
Corfield Store, Winton = $2
Australian Workers Heritage Centre, Barcaldine = $16
Miners Heritage Mine Tour, Sapphire = $35
Australian Coal Mining Museum, Blackwater = $80
Big Rig Oil Patch Guided Tour, Roma = $34
Roma Saleyards Tour & Interpretive Centre= Free
Helicopter flight at Moolyamber Gorge = $450

Total sightseeing = $3,809.25

Hillston Tyres – $40
Cobar Tyres – $65
Bridgestone Emerald – $38

Total other = $143

Total trip costs = $6,959.66

Total kilometres traveled = 8,051

Leaving home on 16 June 2021

The last leg: Forbes to Home

Brrr what a freezing cold night. Thank goodness for diesel heaters! Flannelette sheets and the microfibre blanket helped to keep us snug and warm overnight.

After breakfast we set off for the final leg of our journey. I’d updated our trip stats page and, wow, we’d done nearly 8,000 km on this trip. This had been the longest and the most number of days we’d been on a trip in our motorhome since we bought it way back in 2016.

Since we retired in 2020 we have been fortunate to have done three long trips, one exploring northern NSW for 6 weeks, another following the Murray River from Albury to the mouth of the Murray at Goolwa in SA. That took us 4 weeks and now this latest trip at just under 8 weeks. It has made such a difference to our travel now we don’t have a deadline to be back at work. The trip really does becomes a meander. If we like a place we can stay, if we feel we’ve seen everything in that place we can move on.

As we drove further south on the Newell Highway we reflected on the last 8 amazing weeks. We had left our home in Griffith, NSW on 16th June and traveled northwards though the NSW outback towns of Hillston, Cobar and Bourke. We had a tyre valve fixed and visited friends in Cobar. In Bourke we visited the Back O’ Bourke Exhibition, Fred Hollows Grave at the historic Bourke Cemetery, the historic weir, the wharf precinct, and the Back O’Bourke Gallery.

We crossed the border into Queensland on 19th June and visited the town of Cunnamulla where we saw the statue of the Cunnamulla Fella and visited the Visitors Centre & Museum. Next stop was Charleville where we spent a busy couple of days visiting the Historic House Museum, the Visitors Centre, the Royal Flying Doctor Service Visitor Centre, The Cosmos Observatory, did a guided tour of Hotel Corones, and did a tag along tour of the Secret WWII base. While in Charleville we stayed in a CMCA RV park for the first time and thoroughly enjoyed that experience.

Then it was on to Tambo where we visited the famous Tambo Teddies store and Blackall where we visited the historic Blackall Wool Scour and saw the sculpture of legendary shearer Jack Howe.

Before we got to Barcaldine we discovered one of our favourite camp spots at Lara Wetlands. What a fabulous spot and one I’m sure we will go back to. It was one of those places that just appealed to us. We went in for just one night and stayed for two.

Then we traveled further outback to Longreach. It was here that we first realised how crazy it was in Australia with so many people traveling in their RV’s. People couldn’t travel overseas so we think they’d decided to see Australia instead. RV’s of every description. We saw camper trailers, rooftop campers, caravans of all sizes, camper vans, motorhomes and even a few 5th wheelers. Longreach was inundated with travellers. To make matters worse it was raining and so the low-cost RV park at Apex Park alongside the Thomson River was just a sea of mud. The two caravan parks in Longreach were full to bursting and people were camping in the council caravan car parking spaces. It was here that we ‘stealth camped’ in the carpark of the Qantas Founders Museum. That was an experience to remember. Our motorhome looked so tiny parked under the wing of a giant 747.

There was lots to do in Longreach however and we visited the Qantas Founders Museum, the Longreach School of the Air, and the Stockmans Hall of Fame. It was in Longreach that our dear friends, Kevin & Sally caught up to us and we got to camp with them out at the RV park once it had dried out after the rain.

Continuing on we arrived in Winton where we visited the Waltzing Matilda Centre, toured the Australian Age of Dinosaurs and Lark Quarry to see the dinosaur footprints.

The excitement of going to the Big Red Bash in Birdsville was building when we left Winton and headed west towards Boulia. We camped with Kevin & Sally at the Middleton Hotel in the middle of nowhere and enjoyed a cold beer at the old pub.

Sadly the next day Kevin & Sally got their third puncture on their car and as they no longer had any spare tyres they made the decision to return to Winton. This was a sad time as it meant they would probably miss going to the Big Red Bash and we’d planned it for so long.

We continued on through Boulia and Bedourie and finally arrived at Birdsville on 2 July. It had taken just over 2 weeks to get there. It was here that we met up with the rest of our group of 14 that would be going to the Big Red Bash. We camped on the Birdsville Common for a couple of nights and it was great to catch up with everyone’s travels and how they’d got to Birdsville. Those couple of days were spent in preparation for our week out at ‘Bashville’. The challenge is that you have to take all your own water and make it last for the week and there is no dump point out there.

I remember being quite excited on the morning of our rollout AND our gas bottle ran out in the middle of the night! That meant we had to be up very early to get to the roadhouse and get in the queue to get it refilled. What a nuisance!

The others waited for us where the tar ended and the gravel road commenced and it was a convoy of 7 that made it to Bashville on Sunday 4 July. We had all bought 2 day Early Entry tickets. The next week was spent enjoying the great company of our friends, sitting around the campfire, enjoying the fabulous music, exploring the Simpson Desert and generally having the most fabulous time. Highlights of that week have to be listening to Paul Kelly play his set, the helicopter ride over the desert and the dust! OMG the dust! It got into everything! The motorhome had never been so dirty. Surprisingly we managed our water usage really well and still had water left over at the end of the week AND we both had showers every day (they were pretty quick ones). Also we didn’t have to use our second toilet cassette. We both used the BRB composting loos during the day and only used the motorhome loo at night. this meant we only had one full cassette after a whole week of camping!

Going to the Big Red Bash was another big tick off our bucket list.

Following the BRB we were off to Boodjamulla National Park but first we had to travel northwards to Boulia and Mt Isa, Cloncurry, Bourke & Wills Roadhouse and Gregory Downs. We had a couple of days in an awful caravan park in Mt Isa. It was awful because the sites were so small and we were crammed in like sardines in a tin. Our site was so small that we couldn’t even put out our awning! However a couple of days there enabled us to give the motorhome a good clean and do multiple loads of washing. It felt so good to get rid of the dust.

A highlight of our visit to Mt Isa was doing the Hard Times Mine Tour with our dear friends Mandie & Pete.

Camping alongside the gorgeous Gregory River was another highlight. We even had a swim! The water was cold and very fast flowing but it was crystal clear and it really is a little oasis down on the riverbank.

We spent the next few days camping at Adel’s Grove and visiting Boodjamulla National Park. Here we caught up with cousins Robert & Catie, Mandie & Pete, Brian & Helen and the two Judy’s (longtime friends of Catie’s). Paddling both the lower and upper gorges with Catie and Mandie & Pete was a highlight of our stay at this remote, incredibly beautiful location. Sadly we had to say farewell to Mandie & Pete as they needed to head for home to return to work and farewell to Robert & Catie and Brian & Helen as they were continuing northwards to the gulf. We’d had a great time together.

We really put our motorhome to the test by taking it to Birdsville and Boodjamulla NP. The road to Birdsville via Boulia and Bedourie was mostly tar but there was still some 50-60km of rough gravel road. Brian assured me that it was really a good gravel road but not in a motorhome with rigid truck suspension! The road to Adels Grove was much worse. It took us 3 1/2 hours to go 90km. We let the tyres down to 50psi and just had to go very slowly over the worst of corrugations. I was really impressed with how well the motorhome handled the rough roads. Nothing fell off in spite of the shaking!

The trip to home from Adels Grove (almost on the border with the Northern Territory) took us nearly three weeks. It’s a very long way from the gulf country of Queensland to the Riverina in NSW. Our route home included Julia Creek, Richmond and Hughenden, Winton and Longreach and another 3 night stay at Lara Wetlands. I think I’ve said it before, we love that place. On our way home we found that Richard’s cousins Ross & Jenny were also in Queensland and we arranged to catch up with them at Lara where we had a lovely few days relaxing and catching up.

Next it was on to Emerald then down to Carnarvon Gorge. There we stayed at the Takarakka Bush Retreat for 3 nights while we explored the gorge and did a walk each day. We both really enjoyed our stay in that lovely spot. A highlight there was doing a helicopter ride over the unexplored and remote Moolyamber Gorge. I wonder what treasures are to be found down there one day?

Then it was on to Roma, Dirranbandi, crossing the border at the tiny town of Hebel and back into NSW. Lightning Ridge, Walgett, Dubbo and Forbes and finally home again. 50 days and 8,051kms traveled. So many wonderful memories to cherish.

Like all of our trips though, the best part is coming home to our beautiful family. It was so good to see my 85 year old mum, our three children, their partners and our seven amazing grandchildren. Oh we miss them so when we are away. FaceTime is great but nothing compares to the reality of being hugged by those gorgeous little people. It’s safe to say they were very glad to see us too.

Now to clean the motorhome, get a new windscreen because we got hit by a stone and it has caused a big crack, do some minor repairs and get her ready for the next meander. I wonder where that will be?

Some of our group at The Big Red Bash (missing is Robert, Paul, Mandie & Pete)

Walgett to Forbes

A big thank you to Walgett for providing the RV Park at the Alex Trevallian Rotary Park on the southern edge of town. What a great spot. The park has lots of flat spaces to park, toilets, a dump point, potable water, BBQs and a lovely little lake with a fountain. There is a brand new concrete walking path to take you into town. Self contained travellers can camp for 24 hours. Well done Walgett.

After getting a load of washing done, using the dump point, and filling up with water we set off to continue our journey southwards to home. We were really starting to look forward to getting home after 7 weeks on the road.

Crops in the area looked amazing. They must have had such good rains. Vast fields of green crops, probably wheat, look so lush and healthy. Herds of cattle could only just be seen above the grass as the grass was so high. Again we saw emus.

The tiny town of Coonamble has a painted water tower and we pulled up so I could get pictures of that. The theme of this art work was galahs. I could see why. As we drove through this area we both noticed that there were lots of galahs.

The river in Coonamble was very full and we commented to each other how green the lawns were around the houses of this little town.

We arrived in the tiny town of Gulargambone and stopped to have a look at the fabulous bullock sculpture. The sculpture is the work of local Coonamble Brian Campbell who has created a bullock team pulling a wagon. the six individual bullocks are made from steel rod and recycled wire netting and the sculpture took 6 months to complete. It is really impressive.

Scattered around town are galah sculptures made from old corrugated iron. They are fabulous.

Artist John Murray, whose works we have seen before on painted water tanks, has painted the bus stop with his quirky bird paintings. Love them.

The water tower in Gulargambone is painted with a gorgeous painting of a Kingfisher. We went for a drive along the small main street and I loved the colourfully painted shop fronts. Gulargambone has a lovely big park next to the river.

The further south we went the colder it became. The sky became overcast and cloudy. Only 20km from Dubbo it started to sprinkle. We were traveling on the Newell Highway after passing through the town of Gilgandra. We’ve been through Gilgandra many times before so we didn’t stop at all. Along the Newell Highway we noticed that the wattle trees were in full flower. They looked so pretty with their bright yellow flowers against the green of the trees and shrubs.

It was hard to believe that we’d been in shorts and t-shirts for weeks and now we were back to Winter weather. Brrrr.

We stopped for fuel in Dubbo then tried to find a park in the CBD. This wasn’t easy as most of the streets in Dubbo’s CBD have angle parking. That’s no good for our 8m long motorhome! We eventually found a parallel parking space opposite St Andrews Chapel and walked a couple of blocks to meet up with our cousin Fiona at the Commercial Hotel in Dubbo. We were so pleased she was able to meet us for lunch. We really enjoyed seeing her and hearing all her news.

It was such a miserable rainy day and cold. It was only 11 degrees after lunch. We had to park a couple of blocks from the pub and it was miserable walking back to the motorhome. As we crossed the big bridge over the Macquarie River in Dubbo we saw the river was very full. Major roadworks were being done to the intersection of the Newell and Mitchell Highways so it was slow going getting around the corner.

We continued on in the miserable afternoon and arrived in Forbes about 5pm. That was far enough for one day. Forbes has a free camp at Wheogo Park for self-contained travellers and we have stayed there many times so we headed straight there and were a bit surprised that there was no one else there already. We’d only just got set up when there was a knock on the door and we found a couple of council rangers there wanting to know if we’d checked in using the QR code. As we hadn’t done that we were able to do it with them.

It was so cold we put the diesel heater on, put on our PJ’s and got into bed to watch a movie. What else do you do on a cold night? We were both looking forward to getting home the next day.

Roma to Walgett

It rained softly during the night. I love hearing the sound of the rain when we are snuggled up inside our warm little house on wheels.

We had to be up bright and early as we wanted to do the tour at the Roma Saleyards and it starts at 8.30am every Tuesday. You need to be outside the Saleyards Interpretive Centre by 8.15.

At the saleyards there is a large carpark for visitors with specially marked long bays for parking of caravans, motorhomes and vehicles towing a trailer. How annoying is it to get there and find single vehicles parked in those spots? Especially when there are still lots of single car spaces still available. We got the last of the long bays though.

I was surprised to see how many people were waiting outside the Interpretive Centre. There must have been at least 50 people ready to do the tour.

We were split up into groups and allocated to a guide. All the guides are volunteers and most of them are retired farmers or stock & station agents. Our guide was a very tall retired farmer named Jim. He was a wealth of knowledge as he had been a cattle farmer and his family are still involved in the industry.

Roma Saleyards is the largest cattle selling centre in Australia and 300,000 – 400,000 cattle are sold there each year. The Maranoa area around Roma has a long history of beef production however cattle sold at Roma can come from as far away as the Northern Territory and even Western Australia.

Every Tuesday is a sale day and the price set at the Roma Saleyards sets the benchmark for the rest of the country. Cattle are usually sold by cents per kilogram of their live weight but in some cases such as small weaners, pregnant cows or cows with calves they can be sold at dollars per head.

8,230 cattle were to be sold on the day we visited but the Saleyards can cope with up to 12,000 on any one day.

Roma Saleyards also hold regular bull sales and these are held in an especially built bull sale arena. This arena is a semi-circle shape with tiered seating around the arena for the buyers. The bull being sold is paraded in the ring at the bottom.

Jim informed us that the bull sale arena is also used for other events such as musical performances.

Jim explained how the yards worked and how each beast has to have a National Identification tag on its ear. This has a chip that can be read by a reader and all details of that animal can be found on the National Database. You can find out how old it is, where it was bred, who it’s parents were etc. A beast can live up to 25 years and can change ownership a few times. All of that is recorded.

It was fascinating watching the auctioneer standing up on top of the pens with his support crew alongside and listening to his patter as he sells the pen of cattle to the buyers down below. I couldn’t understand a word the auctioneer said! It sounded like gibberish to me!

Once the pen of cattle are sold they are moved along the lanes and into the weighing scales. Roma has two scales, one big one and one small for smaller pens of cattle. The cattle are herded into the scale where the gate closes behind them then the entire pen is weighed and the average weight and average price per beast is shown on the electronic board based on the cents per kilo that the buyer earlier agreed to.

I though it was interesting that most of the yard workers, including the ones on horseback, that are responsible for moving the cattle from pen to lane to scales and back out to pens are women. Apparently cattle react more calmly to women yard workers than they do to men and to minimise stress for the animals women are employed for this job.

Once the pen of cattle are weighed they are then moved forward out of the weighing scales and placed in pens to await loading onto transport. The sale starts at 8.00am and sometimes does not finish until 6-7pm so it’s a long day for all involved. Sometimes if the cattle are not to be transported immediately they can be placed in large yards and fed and watered until they are ready to be collected. The saleyards sit on 123 acres so there is plenty of space.

What a fascinating tour. I wasn’t really expecting it to be very interesting. Oh yeah I thought. A cattle sale. Boring! However it was really interesting and we thoroughly enjoyed the tour. Without a guide it would have been a little hard to understand as it all looked like organised chaos but once Jim explained how it all worked it made sense.

We finally left about 10.30 and got on the road heading south.

Our first stop along the way was in the next little town called Surat. We stopped to have a look at the Cobb & Co Changing Station Museum. This building was originally one of the Cobb & Co Changing Stations and is now home to the Visitors Centre, a museum, Art Gallery and the Library. It is a Gold Coin donation entry fee for the Museum and we were fascinated by the huge 250,000 litre freshwater aquarium in the foyer. It held lots of fish that are native to the Balonne River such as Murray Cod, Catfish, Silver Perch and Yellow Belly.

The excellent museum houses original artefacts and memorabilia from the area and even has a replica Cobb & Co Stagecoach. Residents of Surat district were still receiving their mail by Cobb & Co Coach right up until 1921. The last Cobb & Co Coach made its run in 1924.

We had an early lunch in the coffee shop across the road from the Cobb & Co Changing Station before setting off again to head further south.

Check out the beautifully restored Shire Hall in Surat. Isn’t it gorgeous?

We crossed the border into NSW just after the tiny town of Hebel. At the edge of town Queensland Police had a roadblock set up checking all vehicles entering Queensland from NSW. There was no one on the NSW side of the border but we had already filled in the online Travel Pass so we were ready if we were stopped.

I was reading about the Hebel Pub the other day and, because of Covid, they have gone from serving over 80 meals a night to just a few. How do these remote places keep going?

We stopped for some fuel in Lightning Ridge and had to quickly duck into the hardware store across the road to purchase some disposable face masks as mask wearing is now compulsory in NSW. The hardware store had packets of 50 for $25 so we were all set.

When I went in to purchase the packet of face masks, which were on a table out the front of the store, the cashier looked at met askance but I explained that we’d just entered NSW from Queensland and needed to buy some masks. He was OK with that and let me purchase them however while he was serving me a lady came into the store and she gave me a filthy look because I was not wearing a mask. Something we will have to get used to.

Between Lightning Ridge and Walgett we saw lots of emus. We hadn’t seen emus for a very long time. We also saw a couple of wild pigs. As we approached Walgett we were surprised to see the billabongs overflowing and then we crossed the Namoi River and it is in flood. There must have been some serious rain in the area lately.

Walgett has a very nice RV Park for travellers. There were about 12 campers set up when we arrived and a couple more came in after us. The Alex Trevallion Park has a dump point, BBQs, toilets and drinking water and self contained vehicles can camp for free for 24 hours. Mr Have-a-chat was off chatting to the neighbours while I typed up this post. It had been a long day from our early start and then putting 486km behind us.

We are on the home stretch now. Only 688km to go and we’ll be home.

Roma, Qld

After a good overnight stay at Injune Rodeo Grounds we continued our journey south and into the town of Roma.

Neither of us knew much about the town of Roma and were surprised to see how large and affluent it was. The town had a really nice feel about it. Roma has a population of about 7,000 people and a large central shopping district.

Our first stop in Roma was to check out Roma’s Big Bottle Tree. It is enormous. It has a height of 6m and a crown of 20m and the trunk is 9.51m in diameter. Bottle trees are planted all around Roma. They are not to be confused with Boab trees, although both get called bottle trees. They are different species. Australia has 12 species of Bottle trees however there is only 1 Boab. The Boab is only found in the remote Kimberley region in the northern part of Western Australia. Boabs are one of the oldest living things in Australia and in the rest of the world. The bottle trees planted around Roma are Queensland Bottle Trees or Narrow-leafed Bottle Trees and as they age the trunk becomes fatter and ‘bottle’ shaped’. The trees are not hollow and the swelling is due to water being held in the fibrous truck. They are very long lived trees and can live naturally for over 200 years. Roma’s Big bottle Tree was transplanted from a local property in 1927 and is over 100 years old.

Our next stop was the Big Rig Visitors Centre. I had thought that Big Rig must have referred to trucks however we discovered that Roma is at the heart of Queensland’s oils and gas industry. Big Rig refers to the the drilling rigs they use to drill for the oil and gas. Well who knew that!

The centre has a guided tour each day at 2pm of their outdoor display called ‘The Oil Patch” so we thought that would be good to do later. We used the time in the meantime to go and get some fuel, groceries, wine and we stopped beside the Big Bottle Tree to have some lunch. There is a lovely park that runs along the Bungil Creek so it was a nice spot for lunch.

Back at The Big Rig Centre we arrived in time for the 2pm tour. The outdoor displays are very good and begin with an acknowledgement of the Marandanji people, the traditional custodians of the land around Roma.

Oil and gas were discovered in the 1920’s when drillers were looking for water for the town. They didn’t find water but they did find coal seam oil and gas. Our guide explained the process used for drilling for oil and gas and showed us the equipment that has been used over time. They do have a very good display of mining equipment. The centre is in the process of having a huge metal construction built. It is being built to resemble a drilling rig. It will have stairs and a lift to access the platform at the top and there is going to be a bridge going out over the Bungil Creek. It looks like it will be a fantastic addition to the museum. Mining makes a large contribution to the economy in Roma and many businesses support the mining industry.

After the informative tour we drove out of town to the Roma Saleyards to visit their Interpretive Centre. This fabulous centre houses a world class interactive display of the development of cattle production in Australia and it is free for visitors. The Interpretive Centre is part of new additions to the Saleyards that include the Interpretive Centre, Public Toilets, a Cafe, offices and the new Bull Sale Arena. There is a very large carpark alongside with especially marked spaces for caravans, motorhomes and vehicles with trailers. We spent a couple of hours at the centre and decided we would go back the next morning to do the guided Saleyard Tour. The tours run every Tuesday and Thursday (on cattle sale days) at 8.30am. I recommend a visit to the Interpretive Centre to any visitors to Roma.

We camped the night at a farmstay we found on WikiCamps called Ups & Downs Farmstay. This is a small caravan park about 6km out of town on a 200 acre working farm. They’ve turned their front paddock into a small caravan park with 10 powered sites and 14 unpowered sites. They also have a donga with three rooms and a shared bathroom. There is a rustic camp kitchen and another donga set up near the camp kitchen with 3 unisex bathrooms and a laundry. The place was almost full when we arrived and were greeted by the resident caretaker. It cost $20 for an unpowered site but each site has access to a water tap.

It was a quirky place and the whole farm has old machinery on display as well as lots of quirky displays of other odd stuff.

The caretaker lights the fire at 5pm each night so that people can gather and chat around the fire. We enjoyed a couple of hours around the communal campfire meeting the other guests.

Last day at Carnarvon Gorge

We both got a lovely surprise in the morning. Tony called over with a small gift for us. It was a lovely card with a few sentences thanking us for our company and especially to the ‘master’ (Richard) for showing Tony how to light a campfire. How thoughtful. What a lovely young couple.

We packed up and left the lovely Takarakka Bush Retreat and headed into the NP again for a last walk in Carnarvon Gorge. This time we wanted to make it to Moss Garden.

It was very cool and overcast when we set off on the walk but by the time we returned a few hours later the sun had come out and it was quite hot.

We made it to Moss Garden and it was worth the walk. It is just a beautiful spot. The permanent creek tumbles over a little waterfall and water constantly drips from the limestone above making it a perfect spot for moss and ferns to grow. It is a very peaceful spot. We met another lovely couple on the boardwalk in Moss Garden and quickly discovered they are fellow motorhomers.

On the way back we came across a gorgeous python wriggling his way across the track and up the hillside. What a stunning creature.

Earlier we’d seen a couple of wallabies bounding away up the hillside.

After a 12km walk we were hot and sweaty by the time we arrived back at the motorhome. Time for a cool shower and change before driving back to the Wilderness Lodge to have some lunch. We’d heard that they have a French chef and the food was good. We were not disappointed. The food was good, the beer was cold and the French pastries were scrumptious. I definitely recommend a stop at this spot if you are in the area. Even just for coffee and a pastry.

Check out those French pastries!

We set off after our delicious lunch and our first stop was to drive into Sandstone Park to check out the camp area. Sandstone Park is a large private campground set on top of a ridge with 360 degree views. There is a loop road along the top with well marked out sites on either side. All the sites have amazing views. There is a dump point, rubbish bins and portaloos. John & Robyn that we’d met at Moss Garden were camped right on the end of the ridge with a fantastic view across to Moolyamber Gorge. We stopped for a chat and swapped phone details. We were very happy to be shown though their very lovely Latitude 27 motorhome.

We left the Carnarvon area and headed south again. The road is a wide tar road and there was quite a bit of traffic and a lot of road trains. The road surface is a bit of a roller coaster probably due to those huge heavy vehicles using it all the time. A little while later I received a message from Robyn including a picture she’d taken of our motorhome as we left Sandstone. How cool!

We arrived in the tiny town of Injune, We found the dump point near a huge truck stop. There was a huge paved area where road trains can park and manoeuvre to change trailers. I find that fascinating to watch.

We found a camp at the Injune Rodeo Grounds. This is a free camp and has a large area for campers to park and also has access to potable water. Injune also has a caravan park and low cost camping is available at the Showgrounds.

Carnarvon Gorge – Day 3 A ‘down’ day

Every now and then you need to have a ‘down’ day. One of those days where you just do jobs around the motorhome, clean stuff, read a book and generally have a relaxing day.

That was our day at the lovely Takarakka Bush Retreat. I spent most of the morning washing everything. It was time to change the sheets and towels etc. Richard just doesn’t ‘get’ why I love my little washing machine so much!

Once everything I could wash had been washed it was time for some maintenance. A cover strip was coming off the laminate in the bathroom so that had to be glued. The screen door was becoming hard to keep closed so that needed attending to. The electric step is playing up so Rich got underneath and sprayed all the fittings with Silicon spray to see if that helped. The floors got washed.

How good are MukMats? Have you got one? We have three. We bought a large one to put on the ground at our doorway and I am amazed how much sand, dirt and leaves are trapped on the mat and no longer make their way inside. I was forever sweeping the floor inside but no longer have to do it as often. We loved out big mat so much we bought two small ones to use as car mats in the cab of our motorhome. They make brilliant car mats and trap dirt, grass and leaves from our shoes BEFORE we move inside the motorhome and take those things with us. A quick shake of the mat and it’s all clean again.

‘Down’ day at Takarakka Bush Retreat

In the late afternoon we both went for a wander around the lovely park. I did the walk along the creek but I didn’t see any platypus.

While we were sitting outside reading our books one of our neighbours that we’d sat next to at the bar the other night, Tony, came over to see if we had any matches. He had never made a camp fire before and wanted to give it a try. Richard asked if he wanted some help so off they went to organise a camp fire. At Takarakka you can have a camp fire but only in their designated fire pits. Tony chose the fire pit that was closest to the bar area and around 5pm we took our chairs and some drinks and nibbles across and set up around the fire pit.

Richard showed Tony how to stack the small twigs and then the bigger twigs so that the fire would draw. He used a small piece of fire lighter and lit them up with our gas lighter. Tony was so pleased to have ‘made a fire’. Tony and Clare set up their tripod so it was all recorded on video. The four of us then sat around the lovely little fire for the next few hours and shared stories. We heard more about life in Taiwan and what it was like to move to Australia having only school English. Clare told very funny stories of going to language school and how she got her first job in Australia. They have both traveled a lot and we loved hearing about Tony and Clare’s world travels.

We were later joined by another young couple Al and Kat who were camping in their tent not far away. We both love meeting people on our travels and hearing their stories. Kat is originally from Austria and came to Australia seeking adventure. When I asked them how they had met they replied ‘Tinder’. That is such a common way that young people meet these days. What a lovely young couple. They are both software engineers and live in Brisbane.

What a lovely relaxing day with a perfect finish sitting around a campfire sharing stories.

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.