Archive for October, 2010

160. Sunday 31st October 2010. Lightning strikes more than once…

31/10/2010

Monday 25th October

This has been a long week so you will be pleased to see lots of photos as well as lots of words. I took 251 photos this week.

We are still at Lightning Ridge.

Wow!

The short time in the spa waters last night stopped the sandfly itch and I slept until 7.30. Donnis slept until midday.

I took a walk uptown and waited patiently for sleeping beauty to wake up. Eventually we took off for the western gemfields at Coocoran, The Sheep Yards and Glengarry, about 70 klm distant.

The outdoor bar stools at Glengarry Hilton

The trip was a real eye opener to see the contrast of primitive living conditions alongside the ability to come together as a community and provide some public facilities.

Donnis framed in the window of the opulent Glengarry Hilton.

We travelled some 14 klms of gravel road, most of it in fair condition, dodging the odd King Brown Snake and errant Red Kangaroos. Despite the dust and isolation we were impressed with the overall cleanliness of the pub.

Letter spacing and spellchecker are not needed when making signs.

We tried our hand at digging in the mullock heaps for a “bit of colour” but soon tired of this immense task.

People dig through this mullock in the hope of finding an opal somehow missed by the miners.

We also had a drink at one of the pubs and met some of the locals and got their stories.

Post Office at Coocoran centre of the western opalfields.

We again got an up close and personal encounter with an echidna and this time I got some great clear and in focus photos.

Mud encrusted echidna.

On our way home we stopped at a freedom campsite for a potential for a night or two.

Unique lighting system at the freedom campsite. Headlights shine on the stainless steel mirrow which reflects onto another mirror suspended above. From there it reflects down onto two more mirrors which reflect the light into the toilet. Neat huh?

Amazingly we ran into Frank whom we met at Surat a week ago. He has been travelling for 12 years with his dog. It seems that he has a lady friend way down in Victoria and they are talking about buying a lease out at the Coocoran gemfields and setting up a partnership of an old caravan or two, and drilling for opal. Good luck to him.

I should mention that every day we meet interesting people. Not only those on the road full time but those on holidays and those that escaped from the “other” world many years ago. Today we met a few characters at the gemfields and right here in the Crocodile Caravan Park.

There are also those who came here to escape from the world, from family, from ex-lovers and from the LAW. As I was taking a photo of a general store at Grawin Donnis noticed a man sitting at a table hide his face from the camera.

Ahem. We also went to the artesian spa at sunset.

Lightning Ridge Artesian Spa at Sunset.

I have not scratched at my sandfly bites all night. I am also ready, nay more than ready for bed. Goodnight!

Tuesday 26th. Still at LR.

You could say this was another Wow day.

Up early today. 7am for me 8am for Donnis.

Off on a bus trip to the Cave of the Black Hand. Now how do I explain this so you can get some idea of what we saw and experienced.

OK. The bus dropped us off at the entrance where we were quickly equipped with safety helmets which we were warned not to take off as the helmet and the following safety lecture were required under Occupational Health & Safety Regulations. With that behind us we descended down a flight of 82 stairs cut into the rock emerging at a showroom carved out of the rock 20 metres below the surface.

Descending the 82 steps in the Chamber of the Black Hand Mine.

From here we descended another 60 steps into the lower level where mining is carried out. Much of the early mine shafts from 1910 and the 1960’s and 1980’s. It was interesting as well as a bit scary to see what conditions the early miners worked under. I tried to imagine myself working that far underground in a shaft not much wider than my shoulders chipping away in the dark, waiting to hear the sound of the pick on opal instead of the soft thud of clay. Only then could I light a candle to see what I had found. The opal is only found in a narrow band of rock below the base sandstone but above the soft clay which was the floor of the ancient sea 100 million years ago. With no modern conveniences such as power tools, shafts over 2m high and a barrow size width, air conditioning, electricity, communications with the outside world and a facility to remove the dug out material as you work, I know for sure I could not work as they did in those days. Perhaps I could work in the modern conditions but it sure is a lot of work for, in most cases, little or no return.

Buckets of ore are carried from below up and over the arch and dumped into a truck. The ore is then carried to a puddler where it is washed and the remaining 5% could contain an opal.

After the mine tour we climbed those 60 stairs back to the showroom and were shown into the mine owners own collection of sculptures and paintings he has carved out of the solid sandtone. There are many chambers running off each other, well lit and all are familiar images well known to all of us. I particularly enjoyed the politicians gallery and the image of Kevin Rudd with a knife in his throat from an equally recognisable Julia Gillard.

Do you recognise Kevin Rudd being stabbed by Julia Gillard.

The image of John Howard on a pedestal took centre stage.

John Winston Howard

There were 450 images and carvings.

David

Tutankamen

We had a great 2 hours underground.

Back to the caravan park and we got into conversation with a Winnebago owner who arrived just before we went out. It seems he is here for the wheat harvest and he drives a header. (harvester) He mentioned they are looking for drivers of mature age with a clean driving record. Normal license is all that is required and full training is given.

Hmmm! It would be fun. Just for the season. Full training.

Later, talking at Happy Time (Long Happy Hour) it was mentioned the local 60 bed nursing home are looking for aged care nurses.

Hmmm. Donnis would not mind working for the next 6 weeks.

Maybe.

We went to dinner at the pub across the road.

I made an observation about caravan parks. We do not stay in many, but at least once a week for a night, maybe two. Most we have stayed in up north have been near empty. In fact the one at Dirranbandi had only two of us and the other person was a permanent. This caravan park at LR is full almost every night and the owners say this will continue until the end of November and die off until March next year when it starts all over again.

Before sunset we had our usual artesian spa and cleared up the remaining mozzie and sandfly bites. It also sapped us of energy and I am ready to snoo

Oozz

zze……..

Wednesday 27th October.

Woke early in Lightning Ridge as it is moving day.

Moving day is complex. Apart from the washing up and putting dishes away we have to stow things away so they do not fly around while we are travelling. Also all the windows and hatches have to be closed. The TV aerial is centred and lowered. The mats picked up dusted off and put away. Any outside furnitutre such as tables and chairs are folded and stowed away. The grey water tank is emptied and the hose rolled up and put away. The fresh water tanks are filled and the hose put away. The fridge is turned to DC power. If on mains power it is disconnected and the cable rolled up and put away. Garbage is emptied. The stabilising jacks are wound up. The awning is retracted and locked into place. When we leave a site we fill up with fuel and empty the black water cassette. All this takes about 2 hours before we can get on the road.

Today after doing all this we parked at the information centre and took the car into town to get my prescription filled. Now that I am a pensioner it costs $5.40 instead of the $27.95 I have been paying for the last two years. The prescription lasts 4 weeks and I have 5 repeats.

After that we went to an unsupervised, unguided mine inspection. Just Donnis and myself. Let me tell you it is a bit eerie walking around a mine with limited lighting and a weak torch and no signposts. There are tunnels within tunnels and dead ends galore.

There is opal at this minefeace.

Donnis needed to go to the powder room so climbed the circular staircase the 60 feet to the top. By the way, climbing a 60 foot circular staircase is tiring and murder on the inside hip and knee. Anyway, that left me down there by myself. No sound, except my own breathing and footsteps. Did I say eerie before? It was good for me to stay down there another 20 minutes by myself and conquer any fears of being underground.

Timber supports hold up more than 60 feet of sandstone above me. That makes me nervous.

Ummm. They are still not totally conquered.

Afterwards we did lunch at the Bowling Club before heading off on another car door tour, this time with the appropriate clues as to what we are looking at. Along the way we were excited to find an unusual bird which Donnis photographed. To the best of our research we believe it is an Australian Ringneck Parrot.

Beautiful Australian Ringneck parrot.

We also saw lots of old rusting cars and machinery too many to photograph all of them.

After that we left Lightning Ridge and travelled about 8 klms down the Castlereagh Highway towards Walgett but stopped at a rest area where we are camped for the night in a paddock a few hundred metres off the road.

Freedom Campsite near Lightning Ridge.

We had a wonderful dinner of cold boiled eggs, bruschetta, sun dried tomatoes, olives, shallots, camembert cheese, feta cheese, olive oil dip and a small side salad. Of course a glass of wine made it even more memorable. Later a cup of tea with cream filled lamingtons I found at the IGA.

There is no moon but lots of stars. The occasional car or truck rolls down the highway but apart from that it is black and quiet. No radio, no TV. We do have mobile coverage.

Time to read a page or two of my book. It has taken 6 weeks to read 284 pages.

Hmmm! I must be too busy writing these posts.

Cheerz

Thursday 28th October.

Woke early, near Lightning Ridge. I woke early because, I usually do. It was a bit chilly at first but the temperature rose by degrees each hour. I took a walk around the campsite armed with my metre long claw. This is a device with a thumb and forefinger style arrangement on the end of a pole. It has a pistol grip and a trigger. With it I can pick up rubbish with no need for gloves to protect my delicate digits. I picked up enough rubbish to fill two shopping bags, 99% of which was in the day use rest area near the toilets and picnic shelter. Only a few tissues were in the area generally used by campers.

Nuff said.

I do try to pick up rubbish when we freedom camp. It achieves two things. It cleans up the area in which we are camped and gives me a sense of putting something back and earning our stay.

A plaque in the picnic shelter states this is the area which first claimed the name Lightning Ridge. The story goes that a shepherd, his dog and 600 sheep were killed by lightning sometime around 1870. The conjecture lies in which hill it was. There is another higher hill nearer LR which also claims to be the original hill. The other is mostly ironstone as is most of LR. This hill, by my uneducated prospecting, is also ironstone so either hill could be the original site. We have seen photos of lightning striking the main street in LR and the locals all profess a healthy respect for lightning which they get more than their fair share of.

Yesterday, while dumping at the dump point, I discovered the usual screw on cap to the dump point has been bolted closed. As well, although a tap is included, there is no short length of hose as there is with every other dump point we have used. The only opening was a mesh covered grid. This means any solids or semi solids will not immediately wash down the grid. You need water to hose it all down. Guess what? No hose. Just a tap. This has to be the worst dump point we have used so far.

The toilet at the information centre was no better and is probably the second worse toilet we have encountered, the worst being at Tambo.

Maybe I should start a spread sheet on toilets and dump points and assign star ratings.

Anyway we love LR and could stay here longer but the information centre/Lions park entrance to town sure broadcasts a poor message to travellers with the sub-standard dump and toilet.

In case anybody is curious, we usually turn on our wireless modem in the morning and in the evening. If we are freedom camped we need to turn on the inverter to supply power. During the day we are either travelling or out exploring so we turn off the modem and computer as they are not needed. Often we carry the iPad with us but here too it is turned off when not in use. Sooo… we usually check emails morning and evening as well as make phone calls on the mobile during our free hour which is 9am to 10am and 7pm to 8pm depending on the clock in the state in which we are at that moment. We also call on Skype mornings and evenings but sometimes, using the iPad we call on Skype at any time provided we have mobile coverage.

We also need to keep batteries charged regularly. I have taken so many photos the battery is flashing low for the second time in two weeks. Not bad though, about 400 photos, many with flash on one battery charge.

Later the battery died as I was about to photograph a frill neck lizard. The lizard took a flying leap into the bushes. Little Orphan Annie used to always say “Leapin’ Lizards”.

We drove back into LR and did the final two car door tours we missed yesterday and retraced our steps on another to find a “church” built for a movie a decade ago.

Movie set church.

Lots of rusty relics at Lightning Ridge.

Another trip to the spa for a soak for Donnis and a shower for myself and we headed back to WWWGO for another night outside the town. All going well we will head south to Walgett tomorrow.

Friday 29th October

We finally broke the bond which was keeping us in LR. We would have no problem staying there longer but we do have things to do and places to see.

About 70 klms down the road we drove into Walgett. In only the short distance to the centre of town I made the decision not to stay and headed out of town on the Kamilaroi Highway in the hope the next town, Brewarina, would grab our attention. Although Walgett is where the Namoi and Barwon Rivers meet I did not like the feel of the town. Too many security screens on shops and the town looking at odds with itself.  On each side of the road between these two towns there was a yellowish grass growing. The strong wind was blowing a tumbleweed across the road. There were so many of these tumbleweeds being blown across the road it was like a moving yellow carpet into the distance. After a lunch on the banks of the Barwon River at Brewarinna we decided once more this town was not for us so we pushed on for Bourke, meaning a long trip of almost 300 klms in one day, more than we prefer. Bourke, is on the Darling River and has lots of historic sites for us to look at – tomorrow. Tonight we have a spectacular lightning display out west and I suspect it is heading our way. In case that happens I have attached tie downs to the awning.

We are camped at the Kidman Camp a nice caravan park with grass at every site and roses growing everywhere you look. The rose fragrance is particularly noticeable at night. The area has lots of places with the name Kidman. Not named after Nicole either. He was a cattle Baron in the outback.

Before hitting the sack I noticed friend Greg who lives at Ben Boyd in NSW logged onto Skype. We gave him a call and discovered he is not far off our rough travel plans so we will include a visit to their remote location. Sometime in the next few weeks.

The spectacular lightning finally arrived during the early morning hours but apart from two claps of thunder and a dozen drops of rain the rest of our night was undisturbed.

Saturday 30th October

We planned to go to Mt. Oxley today but on arriving at the Information centre to get a key, we were told the road to the mount is closed until Monday. So we travelled almost 200 klms in the Imprezza along mostly gravel / mud / sand to Lednapper Creek in the expectation of seeing a huge wildflower display. We did, however most of the flowers were on the side of the road before we got to Lednapper. However we did see over 100 emus. These shy and fatherly birds can run very fast and do not like to have their photos taken. Usually they saw us a few hundred metres away and took off into the scrub.

Emu Family photographed through the windscreen.

We also dodged literally hundreds of goannas

Western Goanna

and various bearded dragons

Bearded Dragon

both of which are also quite shy but when confronted they put their head and tails erect, making themselves larger. If this doesn’t work they puff up their beard and if this fails they flatten themselves onto the ground and leave their spikey scales pointing upward.

Donnis drove most of the way with me shouting instructions when and where to stop so I could take photos. We also saw a Little Eagle

The Little Eagle

one of only two true eagles in Australia, the other being the Wedge Tail Eagle. One other oddity was a lone Shingle Back Lizard struggling across the track. The track was often little more than a cars width, at other times it was as wide as 4 lanes. Some parts are still boggy with mud and water and other parts were deep red sand hills

Over 100 klms of red sand hills

which sapped the speed out of the car and constantly tried to alter our course. Out here the only two road signs were “DIP” where the road did dip and sometimes had mud or water. The other sign was “GRID” of which there were hundreds. We finally found a road sign pointing in the direction I thought we should travel! Only problem was it was overpainted green but on close inspection found it did say Bourke 95klms. 95 klms! It was also the deepest and longest section of red sand road and we were never sure we were headed in the right direction. We never saw another vehicle or person in the entire trip. Lunch was a couple of pies including a Back o Bourke Lamb pie. We wrapped them in a tea towel and stopped to eat at Lednapper Creek crossing. The pies may have been nice if it had not been for the overabundance of salt their maker chose to use.

Sigh!

Hmmm. This is a “let me share a thought with you” section.

In our travels, now and in the past, we note the big two supermarkets, Woolies and Coles, generally operate in the bigger centres closer to the coast. Once you travel over the Great Dividing Range those two supermarket giants have no interest in providing service to people away from major population centres. It is all about profit for them. This gap in the supermarket market in the smaller outback towns is supplied by IGA or Foodstores, mostly IGA. We have become fond of IGA, firstly because they are prepared to service smaller population centres but also because they generally stock more Australian owned, made and grown products. It also means there are different products to choose from. The other thing we have noticed is that many of the IGA stores are owned by the same people in different towns. For example the Cornetts Group owns around 40 stores mostly in Qld. The Khan family or Group owns around 10 stores in NSW and Qld. So it seems apart from a few independants even the IGA are owned by a few families. Hmmm. The old profit thing again.

NEWSFLASH.

You may recall in post number 158, “I love a sunburned country” how I described a mystery eucalypt.

Well… those lovely people camped next to us at the time, Matt n Di Z were watching TV last night and the plant was featured on Gardening Australia so they called to let me know. For those interested it is a Eucalyptus Macrocarpa and the following link will give more information.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Eucalyptus_macrocarpa.jpg

It is a native of Western Australia.

Sunday 31st October

Well here we are at the end of the week.

It rained last night. Not overly heavy but steady for a few hours. Although the rain could not cause flooding, the Darling is increasing in flood levels due to water further upstream. It seems the dam at St.George, on the Balonne River  is increasing as well so more water has been released. That water has now reached the darling and consequently water levels are rising.

Today was a rest day, so to speak. Donnis did a load of washing and I did a batch of savoury muffins. I took some time to look at the oldest vertical lift span bridge in NSW. Completed in 1863 it is a bridge over the Darling and is/was known as “the Gateway to the Never Never”. It is no longer in use but has been preserved as historically significant.

Vertical Lift Bridge over The darling at Bourke.

Together we took a drive into town and visited the cemetery where we saw the grave of Professor Fred Hollows renowned for bestowing the gift of sight to the poor.

Amazing headstone in an otherwise dreary location. Fred Hollows Grave.

Along the way hordes of grasshoppers (locusts?) were swarming across the road. Could this be the beginning of the plague NSW farmers have been warned about?

We also took a drive along a gravel road to view the paddle boat known as “JANDRA” currently berthed at a billabong behind the caravan park. With the rising river it cannot operate and even the road to its berth is going underwater as are the pontoons and walkways.

JANDRA and its sunken walkways.

Regrettably it is not a historical paddle steamer nor even a replica but it would have been fun to cruise up and down the river.

The most auspicious part of the day was that DIL Nicole, Errol’s wife, gave birth to a daughter at 7.09am. Amelia Dorothy Wilson weighed in at 6lbs 15oz. Mother is doing fine. The names were taken from the maternal great grandmother on both sides of the family.

Congratulations Nicole & Errol.

Welcome to the world Amelia Dorothy.

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159. Sunday 24th October 2010. Come rain or come shine. Come rain or come shine and so on… From Surat Qld to Dirranbandi Qld to Lightning Ridge in Northern NSW.

25/10/2010

Monday 18th October

Surat. It was warm when I woke at 6am. 11°, now that is warmer than yesterday at this time but still chilly. The sun is outside weaving its magic as it works at removing the thick veil of fog hanging around outside. The swollen river looks gentle with the mist rising from it. I did a bit of sticky beaking and rubber necking around town today.

First I checked out the free showers at the Tennis Club and another set at the Shire Hall. We will have our showers at the Shire Hall tonight. Lots of interesting old buildings including Cobb and Co stuff but overall I think the town is doing it tough although the riverside walk would have taken lots of dollars to install. I’m not sure if it is a good enough tourist attraction but I guess they have to try. It is a nice friendly town but many of the shops are old and closed.

The people around us are an interesting mix. One couple in a motorhome have been on the road 4 years. They have signed up with Australian Wheat Board to work during the harvest season, however long that lasts. 4, 6, 8, or 12 weeks. He will drive trucks while she has trained as a Sampler. Due to the rain, the harvest is delayed so they are waiting for a call to start work. Another couple in a converted bus are also waiting on the harvest but in their case the harvest will start in Moree mid November so they are doing a slow drive to that town, planning on stopping at Lightning Ridge for a week or two.

Another man, in his forties, is driving in a Toyota Van. He has been on the road 12 years and plans to buy a bigger van, such as a Coaster when he arrives in a bigger town. He has no work commitments or plans for wok.

Tuesday 19th October

After a lazy packup day we are on the road after emptying grey and black water, taking on fresh water and filling with fuel. We are on the Carnarvon Highway to St.George by 10.30. Not far out of Surat I drove over a very big and agro King Brown snake. Donnis drove past a few moments later, noting it was lunging at her car. See? I told you it was agro. Later a large reddish coloured Sand Monitor ran across the road in front of me.

We do a quick stock up at SG then hit the highway again and arrive at Nindigully

NINDIGULLY PUB. A movie called Paperback hero was made here in 1998. Starring Hugh Jackman.

our planned stop for ? days.

Sign on Mens urinal at Nindigully. The owner loves signs. Another on the highway say's "FREE BEER - YESTERDAY"

We can see where vehicles have become bogged in the rain and the rising Moonie River.

The red soil around here turns into a slippery sucking mud in a short time. We camp on the lower banks with a waterfront view only 5 paces from our door. I am keeping an eye on the water level and the weather. At the first rain I have an escape route planned to get to higher sealed ground. In the meantime this is a delightful spot and we will use it to our maximum enjoyment.

Campsite at Nindigully on the Moonie River. According to staff at the pub, water came up above our roof level alst week.

Last night we ate at the pub. (there is only the pub, a chicken farm, a private residence and a hall. No shops no petrol station.) We ordered the mixed grill which comprises two sausages, two chops, two steaks, two bacon rashers and two eggs with salad and chips. We asked to share but they would not give us another plate. We needed a doggie bag to bring home one steak and one sausage which could not be eaten. Although camping and the facilities are free, the publican expects you will patronised his establishment. That’s fair enough. Tomorrow night we will just go to happy hour.

Wednesday 20th October.

Had a walk around the area this morning noting that at 6am the temp was 17°. We had a pretty lazy day. Did a bit of reading, a bit of blog preparation, a bit of walking.

We went to happy hour, had two drinks, went for a shower and back to WWWGO to make dinner.

Oh yes, today I saw a,…gee I dunno. It was either a Purple Swamphen or Black Tailed Native Hen. Both of which get a bit agitated and make lots of noise and threatening gestures. Both can be found in this area. Both have similar colouring but one swims and the other doesn’t. However when I sighted it I was only a 100 metres or so from the water but I saw it in a dry paddock. Anyway it was fun to see its antics but hard to photograph.

Thursday 21st October.

Slept in!!! 7.30 am. Woo hoo.

It started out warm and got warmer.

This Nindigully sure gets lots of visitors but many drive in, look around from the security of their air conditioned vehicle and drive out again.

Us? We think it is a great location and very pretty on the river but we are fully aware it can be a pretty dangerous place if and when and how much rain falls. The tracks in the drying mud shows many people had trouble getting out of here only last week.

Today we drove into St.George to collect mail, get a few more groceries and come back to camp.

When driving or camped for that matter, we listen to the local ABC. In particular we like to listen to Richard Vidler and his Conversation Hour at 11am Monday to Friday. He always has interesting guests.

I used the iPad as we drove to obtain a weather forecast from the BOM.

Hmmm. Thunderstorms and showers. Likelihood of rain. After lunch I laid down for a nap and was woken by the sound of rain on the roof. We decided to pack up and move to higher ground just in case. We are not afraid of the river rising (in fact it has gone down at least two inches since we arrived) we were concerned the red dust will turn to a slippery mud and on a long slope we may not be able to get out. Other campers moved at the same time.

As I was cooking dinner, rain started again in earnest but stopped after we had eaten.

Nindigully. Nindigully.

Nindigully. Now there’s a name

Nindigully. Is lodged in my brain.

Nindigully rolls off the tongue

Over and over and over

Nindigully the name is driving me insane.

Hmmm! Think we better move tomorrow and find another interesting place name to stay at.

Friday 22nd October.

Hey. It’s tomorrow!

After a leisurely morning and after we had a coffee it was time to hit the highway.

We continued along the Carnarvon Highway as far as the outskirts of Thallon where we turned off onto the hmmm unnamed road to the Castlereagh Highway until we reached Dirranbandi and called a halt.

Dirranbandi Railway Station. The trains no longer come to town. It is now meeting rooms.

We have driven 87 klms today.

We stopped the information office which is also a bank agency, medicare agency,  Centrelink agency, state government office and a half dozen other agencies. The office is staffed by one person.

A storm seemed to be looming in the west and the only free campsite out of town is on the flooded Balonne Minor River where the banks are black soil, notoriously sticky and slippery when wet. We opted for the caravan park where we can do a load of washing, empty tanks, take on fresh water and top up all the battery operated equipment such as phones, laptop, iPad, iTouch and vacuum cleaner. The trip to Dirranbandi was across very flat and low lying territory and we could see by the water still lying beside the road how this area, particularly the roads would be quickly overrun with water. There was some roadworks in progress and we were surprised to see the gravel being used was white. Limestone, perhaps? We also passed a quarry which was partially filled with water which was a brilliant green blue colour.

The main industries in this area are cotton – harvest season now complete and wheat – harvest season waiting to get underway. Lots of harvesters sitting in paddocks waiting for the ground to dry out.

The largest cotton farm in Oz is Cubbie Station just outside Dirranbandi. Perhaps we will have a look at that tomorrow.

We heard on the radio the government has approved a billion$39 project in the Surat Basin to extract natural gas from underground. Wow! Could be some investment opportunities here.

Saturday 23rd October

Went for a walk early this morning, all the way to the main street and the shops. We need milk for breakfast. Hmmm! First shop is closed. I mean permamently as was the hardware store next to it. Next was the newsagent which will not open until 8.30. Further along the street is the Foodworks which also opens at 8.30 and closes at 1pm. Later in the morning about 11am I was in the main street and and and we were the only car and the only people on the street. That would be the reason for short opening hours. Could be that everybody was out at the fishing competition being held over the weekend.

All that aside the town still looks in decline.

After going into a caravan park to get a bit of power into everything we were horrified when preparing for breakfast that I had turned the fridge off DC yesterday and forgotten to change to AC. The fridge was defrosting! Grrr! Grrr! Grrr!

We moved to the Balonne Minor Bridge to camp overnight.

Campsite at Balonne Minor Bridge

The poor fridge is on gas and it will take 24 hours to get back to its proper cool self. It was a very hot day but we managed to sit in thde shade, listen to the flood waters gurgling by beside us and I managed to drift off to sleep. Donnis made a couple of Cinamon Rolls.

Tonight we are watching HeyHey Its Saturday.

My fresh sandfly bites are giving me hell.

Sunday 25th October.

We went to bed with a clear starry night. I was woken at 1.30am by what sounded like footprints across the roof. Not animals, but the wind had picked up and it was picking up the bathroom hatch and flapping it. We shot out of bed and instead of bringing in the awning we staked it down and went to bed. Sometime later it started to rain and the wind got stronger so it was out of bed in the darkness once more, this time to bring in the awning and pack away all the chairs and flooring which might get wet or blow away..

Back to bed we went and had a restless sleep. On waking at 6.30 it was raining steadily and our neighbours had all left. The ground  had become very soft and boggy. Luckily we were parked on grass and there was grass all the way to the highway. I reversed out, onto the highway. We fuelled at Dirranbandi – the most expensive diesel so far at $1.40.9 per litre.

Next stop was at Hebel,  70klms south, near the NSW border.

Hebel Pub. Not much else in town. A garage, a general store and small engineering place and ...

It was still raining steadily and water was across the road in several places. I had thoughts of maybe staying at Hebel for a night or two. There is a caravan park but no freedom campsites. There was nothing else of interest to keep our attention so we decided to push on another 90 klms into NSW and see what was on offer at Lightning Ridge.

The name say's it all.

Well the first thing we noriced there are no freedom campsites within cooee of the town and with the rain beginning to ease, anywhere was going to be wet, boggy and muddy. If that is what we have to put up with we may as well have power and be comfortable. So we chose the Crocodile Caravan Park which although tight and compact with neighbours  only a couple of body widths apart, it felt comfortable. The owners who are about my age are security conscious and have gates which are locked at night. We got the last spot. At $20 a night it is the cheapest in town but was also the most attractive and little or no mud unlike the others we checked out. I do not knows why but the town has an attraction and is not in any danger of being in decline. The opal and particularly the black opal mining attracts a lot of people. Every second shop buys and sells and cuts and mounts opal. There are mine tours aplenty.

After a quick shop at the Supa IGA we went exploring.

Miners Cottage. Circa 1916.

The town has car door tours. To start with you get a tour guide brochure from the Info service then follow the various coloured car doors and read all about each stop as shown in the guide.  We took a green car door tour but forgot to get a guide. The tours destination was the site of the first shaft, commenced in 1902 in the search for black opal. The shaft is surrounded by hundreds of others and hundreds of mullock heaps (what came out of the shaft) all over the hill.

First shaft sunk at LR seeking the Black Opal. Great view of the valley beyond.

In fact people are still digging on the hill today. They live in caravans or makeshift shelters. A bit like Ruby Vale really only a lot more people and money is in LR. It is also a lot closer to Sydney and Brisbane.

We also learned NSW time is an hour ahead so we had to reset our clocks.

LR also has a free artesian spa which we made use of at 7pm in the evening. There were a lot of Croatians “taking the water” when we arrive. A number of people obviously have some physical disabilities and believe the waters mineral content will help them.

In fact it does. The water temp is around 40° + or – and it is suggested no more than 10 minutes, get out, have a cold shower before entering again. I could not understand why people were mostly sitting on the steps around the edges.

I soon found out.

It is too hot to swim for more than a few strokes. Better to just stand chin deep or sit on the steps. As I entered my sandfly bites reacted immediately. By time we had our ten minutes and a hot shower the itchiness was gone. The bites are still there but not itchy.

By the time we had a late dinner I was struggling to stay awake although we are both eager to see what tomorrow brings.

Snore….

158. Sunday 18th October 2010. I love a sunburned country…

20/10/2010

So go the words of Dorothea McKellar’s epic poem. Except at the moment all the sunburned bits have been well and truly soaked and grass has sprouted everywhere along with wildflowers and flowering trees and shrubs.

Monday 11th October.

The morning started off quite cool and overcast. We packed up and left the van park just on 10am and drove to the Cosmos Centre as Donnis wanted to view the daytime event.

I elected to stay in WWWGO and do a bit of blog preparation. After the Cosmos event it was just on noon so we fuelled up and found a bakery for a pie. We have to stop eating pies as they are expensive unless we make our own which we will do further on down the track.

After lunch we left Charleville heading East on the  Warrego Highway 89 klms to Morven. I expected to find a roadside rest area beside the railway track and not much more. In fact we were in for a few surprises today and dare I say it? Adventure!

Before arriving in Morven I noticed a great deal of fresh cow manure on the road and wondered how it got there. Perhaps a road train had stopped or rolled. A little further on we were stopped on the highway by a huge mob of cattle on both sides of the road and on the road itself. As it turns out there were 1,700 head in the mob and only two drovers and 25 dogs to control them. They have been on the road for 6 months from Cloncurry / Julia Creek and are headed to the sale yards at Roma for the sales on 17th November.

We drove slowly through this large herd of cattle.

We slowly drove through the herd and they parted enough to allow us through then reformed behind us.

Arriving in Morven we found the expected plain, barren, bare campsite beside the railway lines. We drove in the Subaru out to the Tregole National park home of the rare Ooline trees (never heard of them!!!). These are ancient rainforest trees growing on the edge of desert regions.  It also marks a demarcation line between the brigalow and mulga regions. There is a 2klm guided walk which we plan on doing tomorrow, weather permitting.

On the way back from the park a large Emu darts in front of the car forcing Donnis to brake suddenly and at the same time avoiding another four Emus. Recovering from the near miss we drove on and found a tree hung with fox carcasses. We also found a campsite including water, toilets, hot showers and power and the cost is a donation.

Just had to include this cute kitchen photo. All the culinary skills are performed in this micro environment.

While setting up camp the huge mob of cattle arrived and filled the paddocks beside the camp site.

While barbecuing a couple of steaks on the outdoor stove the wind picked up, the temperature cooled down and the clouds got thicker. Perhaps we are going to cop the rain which hit Brisbane last night. At present we are dry and snug with facilities close to hand and can hunker down for a few days if need be.

Tuesday 12th October.

Well, we sort of hunkered down today. The expected rain did not arrive. Only a few wind driven flurries which did not reach the ground. It was cool in the morning. The temp hovered around 19° for almost the entire morning and gradually crept up to 23°. The wind made it feel cooler as did the mostly overcast conditions. We took the opportunity to do some relaxing or small jobs we had wanted to do for awhile. Donnis baked some cream filled, gluten free cookies and in the evening made a gluten free pizza. That will be the last GF pizza we make. The toppings were fine but the base just did not cut it.

After lunch we had a look around Morven but the museum was closed although I found the original hut made from kerosene tins of interest. The hut we saw has been standing for around 80 years and although beginning to rust and nowhere near waterproof was a good example how some unfortunates lived during the depression years. It is a one room hut and eating sleeping and cooking were carried out in the same room.

Hmmm. Not much different to WWWGO really.

We again drove out to the National Park and did the nature walk. It was helpful that all the trees and shrubs of interest being signposted and we could identify them with the self- guide brochure we obtained near the start of the walk. What was of particular interest to me was the Black Orchids

Black Orchid sighted in National Park.

and the size of their root system. Then the big highlight of the day was the…drum roll… Echidna. Yes a real live specimen in the Mitchell Grass. Once he realised he was being followed by an amateur photographer he was away looking for somewhere to hide. Once he found his spot he started to dig and curl into a ball. Gee, can these little guys throw a lot of dirt around when they dig! I got about a half dozen photos, 5 of which are out of focus while the one sharp clear photo does not show the head and snout. I guess if I had more patience and waited longer I would have some marvellous photos to show you.

Oh, well.

We also saw a wallaby which is best described as masked. He allowed us to within about 10 metres and then hopped away another 10 allowing us to catch up when he would hop away again.

We also saw a great specimen of a “wait awhile” bush. Brush up against one of these thorned bushes and your clothes and or skin would be sharply and painfully entangled and you would wait awhile to get untangled.

Wednesday 13th October. Actually I was not sure of the day and had to check the date on the computer.

This was a laid back hot sunny day with nothing planned and it was interesting, at least to us, how it turned out. I washed the front of WWWGo with the aid of two buckets of water. Donnis wanted to drag the washing machine out of her car and do a load of washing. Why not? So. We put the washing machine under the shade of a tree, ran a long extension lead across the grass. Attached a hose to the inlet of the WM and hey presto she did three small loads, including rinse and spin cycles and all the washing was dry by happy hour.

Our first load of washing in our Lemair washer. Under the trees and extension cord and hose can be seen.

After dinner, the wind picked up and I decided to bring in the awning in case it got real windy during the night. Just as I finished the rain started (unexpected) so I also packed up the tables and chairs and put them away.

That was our day.

Oh. I barbecued sausages for dinner.

Tomorrow.Aahh, tomorrow, we will head east on the Warrego Highway toward Mitchell but may find a freedom camp before we reach the town.

Tomorrow will evolve as tomorrows always do.

Thursday 14th October.

Today is the tomorrow I referred to in the blog yesterday.

The rain stopped 5 minutes after it started last night and today , so far, is fine and clear. Rain is predicted later today and tomorrow.

We woke early. 6am. It was a cool morning so we went for a walk to the billabong to feed the ducks, drakes, geese and ganders some vegetable scraps. They were on the other side of the billabong being fed by a council worker!!!

In town we walked for a while and found backyard sized garden maintained by council. I found a tree/shrub which was a bit confusing. At first glance it looks like a sort of thick vine, a better look and it appears to be a succulent but the leaves which are a silver colour are sharp and pointed but the older leaves are a sort of rounded shape. They look like a species of eucalypt. There is no trunk as such. Just a series of hose thickness branches shoot off from a main stem. The timber does not look like a tree. The branches look more like an orchid stem. It is in flower and what a giant of a flower it is. It looks like a flowering eucalypt only BIG.

The mystery plant which looks like a Blue Gum.

The leaves which are large are thick and leathery. I broke a corner off one and smelled it. Hmmm! It smells like a eucalypt. It seems the plant is as confused as I am. It has not decided what it is. See the photos below. Please refer this to your local horticulturist as I am keen to identify what it is. We asked a council worker whipper snippering in the street. Hmmm! He said. Dunno mate. Council did not put those plants in. They hired a lady landscape gardener from Charleville and that is what she put in. A woman walked by. He said she is a keen plant person, maybe she will know.

She didn’t. She knew the plant I was asking about but not what it was. She has collected seeds and started propagation but still has no idea what it is. She suggested I talk with Eunice who lives around the corner and looks after the garden. Our neighbours Matt n Di whose home is at Burrum Heads looked at the photos and believe, as I do, the leaves and flower look like a Sydney or even a Tasmanian Blue Gum…both of which are tall trees.

By midday we had packed up, dragged Donnis away from her embroidering and using the sewing machine and drove the huge distance of 79 klms to Neil Turner Dam near Mitchell.

I

At the Neil Turner Weir on the Maranoa River.

It is overcast and some clouds are black and threatening. A flood warning is current for the Maranoa River. We are on the banks of the Maranoa about 4metres above the current water level. If we get torrential rain overnight we will get plenty of warning if the river level rises.

Neil Turner Dam at Mitchell on the Maranoa.

Friday 15th October.

It rained overnight. Light rain. Nothing to worry about but the temperature at 8am was 20° while humidity was at 79%. A good day to laze around. The artesian pool in Mitchell has a number of pools of different temperatures. Some people say it is good value at $5.50 for a pensioner discount for an all-day pass. Geez I have to stay in the pools all day to get my monies worth. Donnis cannot get the discount so her entry fee is $7.30. I’m not keen on going to the pool on a wet day even if it is a hot artesian pool.

Donnis being broiled at the artesian spa at Mitchell.

Frank being simmered.

A severe weather warning for this part of Qld has been issued and winds up to 120 klm are predicted. A cold front will follow the wind. We have moved into town at the back of the Caltex garage. For $10 we have power, water, toilets and showers and across the street from the artesian spa so I guess we can soak in the 38° arteseian pool in the rain until the wind comes .

Well it was fun in the spa with cold heavy rain falling and us with our bodies submerged up to our necks and cold rain on our heads. We sat or stood around chewing the fat with other travellers until the skin on our fingers was wrinkled on the wrinkles. As instructed we drank water and took a break every 15 minutes and had a hot??? shower when we left. Same water basically but tempered with local cold town water. Here’s the drum on how it works. The water comes from about 1klm below the surface. Mostly it is pumped into a huge concrete tower where it cools and the sulphur smell disappears. It is then clean pure drinking water. At the spa the water comes directly from the pumping station, no additives, no cooling. It is monitored every half hour. If the water is above 38° coming out of the bore, they turn it off and let the water in the spa circulate for a while until the temp drops below that magic 38. Then they turn the pump on again. Sometimes the water coming out of the bore can be 47°. In other places around the state it can be 100° and you can boil an egg. The standing joke amongst the early stockmen was you could have a boiled egg, courtesy of the spa water or a fried egg cooked on a shovel left in the sun.

Late in the afternoon the sky was partly clear and we had a great sunset with some black cloud looming in the distance.

Back at WWWGO I prepared a beef casserole while Donnis embroidered. After awhile the wind began and we expected a night of WWWGO being buffeted. Then, the wind stopped. That was it! The temperature dropped and we put another blanket on the bed – it was needed – and we had a toasty good night sleep.

Saturday 16th October

Woke to a cool morning, 17° and 50% humidity, with a clear blue sky and no clouds. Ideal travel weather to see Roma about 87klms on the Warrego Highway from Mitchell. As it turns out there are no freedom campsites within 40 klm of Roma. We drove into Roma, found a Woollies – the first since Emerald – did a large shopping and left. Pity really as there is a good deal to see but I really wanted to find a nice campsite before dark. So it was we drove 77 klms, now on the Carnarvon Highway to Surat and found a site on the banks of the flooded Balonne River.

On the banks of the flooded Balonne at Surat.

A cool wind has been blowing all day and as we were eating dinner the temp got colder.

When we first arrived a bunch of fisherment tied their boats to this pontoon in the middle of the flooded river and started drinking!!!

We had a moment of panic when the hot water service was not working. Hmmm. Checked the on/off valve. It was on. Checked the fridge. The gas meter was off! Checked the stove. Not working. Gads! The gas cylinder must be empty. Luckily this happened while we were up and able to switch to the spare tank. If it happened while we were asleep, the fridge would be defrosted by the morning. A quick step outside in the cold with a torch held in my teeth I was able to disconnect the empty and connect a fresh full tank and we were back in business. That meant a hot shower and almost as important a hot cup of tea.

That is not bad usage. From one 9Kg tank we have had the fridge running, gas cooking and boiling water and running the hot water service and it lasted just on 4 weeks.

Sunday 17th October.

5.30 am it is 10° degrees.

Early morning at Surat.

The sun is creeping above the trees and mist is rising off the swift running swollen Balonne River as I trudged into town to have a sticky beak at the historical sites and to get the blood running in my veins, clear my head of the bad headache I woke up with.

Shire Hall at Surat

It was a wonderful sunny day but with a chill wind blowing. The temp never got above 23° but out of the wind it was relaxing. Donnis feverishly continued to work on embroidering the baby blanket. I spent the day walking the riverside trail, driving into town and exploring or riding the pushbike and doing the same.

It was interesting to note that the last Cobb & Co coach left Surat on 14/8/1924 bound for Yuleba 75klm away. A commemorative plaque sits outside the Post office.

I found free hot shows behind council chambers. Funny how you settle into a new lifestyle and look for things such as “free hot showers”. So we drove into town before dark and had an enjoyable hot shower.

I made chicken korma curry for dinner.

157. Sunday 10th October 2010. An interesting new week in the outback…

19/10/2010

At last we are back on the air. Our Big Pond Gateway Elite Wireless Modem stopped working at Ilfracombe halfway through this particular week. We had to wait almost two weeks for a replacement to catch up with us. This is being posted on Tuesday night 19/10/10 at 9pm sitting on the banks of the flooded Moonie River. So here is our post, somewhat late.

Monday 4th October.

This started out as a cool morning and got hotter as the day progressed ending up as another 36◦ day. Because it was cool, Donnis decided to do some baking. Before we left she managed to bake an apple pie and a batch of savoury muffins.

Somehow I managed to get bitten on the legs by what I can only think of as sand flies or midgies Normally, I am not affected by them but by mid-morning the urge to itch was overpowering but I still managed to ignore the urge.

The trip to Lonreach via the Capricorn Highway was straight forward until we pulled up at the tourist information centre. Donnis car was really making some terrible noises as she turned. We took it to a local mechanic who had the same problem locating the fault as the Ultra Tune man and the Airlie Brake & Suspension  man in Airlie Beach. However they believe it is gearbox related so drained all the oil to look for metal  in the oil. They found some. Not large peices but small amounts such as in iron filings. We have always had a gearbox problem so left the car with them to pull things apart tomorrow. We went to the local pool for a swim in the artesian heated water, a hot shower then off to the campsite near the Thomson River with Glenise n Erick. By now my legs felt like they were on fire and the itch was unbearable.

Sandfly Bites. Both legs and my arms look like this.

I put some cortisone cream on them as well as ice cubes in a cloth and took an anti histamine tablet and went to bed. Eventually I fell asleep with a cool breeze wafting in through the window.

The campsite here is disappointing in that it looks like a giant gravel carpark and no view of the river. I guess it was only intended as an overnight stop.

Our freedom campsite at Longreach was beside the swollen Thomson River. This old bridge - has been closed for quite some time - shows the water level.

Tuesday 5th October

I woke to itchy legs this morning and the bites have turned into big red angry looking blisters. Donnis announced it was too hot and no longer wanted to go any further West.

Or North.

We drove into Longreach to find the car was almost ready. It was a worn front wheel  shaft and by luck the mechanic had one in stock. While he was finishing up we drove out to the Qantas Museum

Outside the Qantas Museum.

and the Stockmans Hall of Fame.

Outside Stockmans Hall of Fame.

Due to the expense of the car repairs we decided we could not afford the entry fees. (on a side issue Donnis feels she cannot afford to go to Canada early next year. This is despite receiving an email from Centrelink to tell me I have been granted a small pension and a Health Care Card. On that note I went to the Dept of Transport to ask for a discount on the registration which I paid on Monday.

Yeeha. They agreed.

The car was ready late in the afternoon so we headed to Ilfracombe a short distance back towards the coast. Setting up in the van park so we could have some aircon I discovered we have no wireless signal and the TV signal is patchy. While on the phone to Telstra (who have diagnosed the modem is faulty and they will replace it) Donnis found a tick on my neck and removed it. Later in the shower I found another tick. This one had really dug into my thigh, near the crotch. Donnis tried to remove it but the head remained buried. After digging in my thigh for several minutes I asked her to give up as I was feeling faint.

Hmmm.

We need to fix the hot water or replace it. The nearest agent will be on the coast nearer Brisbane.

The toilet seal needs replacing or a new unit. The nearest agent will be on the coast nearer Brisbane.

I need to see a doctor about the tick still in my thigh and the sandfly bites which are looking worse each hour.

 

Wednesday 6th October

Another bright and sunny day. Also HOT.

We drove back to Barcaldine where we went to the hospital  to have the tick and sandfly bites attended to.  The hospital was nice and modern and the staff friendly. Nothing they can do for the sandfly bites except apply Calomine Lotion.

Which they did.

They injected the tick site – upper thigh, groin area – with lignocaine then used a scalpel to cut into the flesh to remove the tick head. We were in and out of the hospital in about one hour.

After a lunch whilst parked in the main street we decided to head south to Blackall.

Although only 106 klms away via the Landsborough Highway, it was not long before I was feeling drowsy. We finally found a day rest area so pulled in and I went to sleep in moments. Donnis sat up and slept at the kitchen table to catch any breeze through the door and window.

After arriving at the Blackall info centre where they told us their low price camp is closed due to the recent rain and the ground is too boggy. The next freedom camp site is at least 42 klms away and we are too tired to travel further so decided on a caravan park for the night.

The Barcoo River runs through town and there is a flood warning issued for the river and more rain is predicted over the next couple of days.

Sigh!

Thursday 7th October

We drove towards Tambo, still on the Landsborough Highway  and found a nice roadside rest stop. Amazingly it had very clean pit toilets as well as fresh water hand basin. We had coffee here before taking the final 80 klms to Tambo.

The drive was across mainly flat ground which is green as far as the eye can see. Sometimes the scenery changes to include some mulga scrub. As we got closer to Tambo we can see an escarpment in the distance. After talking with the Tourist Information Centre I am now aware this is the Western end of the Carnarvon Gorge and can only be accessed by 4WD. I also discovered another interesting place to visit is closed due to the rain and floods.

Tambo is a pretty town with a nice park and a lakeside picnic area. Clouds began to build up later in the morning with some clouds looking decidedly like thunderheads. We spent the rest of the day relaxing by the lake

Day camp area beside Tambo Lake.

then moved on to the freedom campsite at 5pm.

The fridge has been struggling in the heat and is not keeping the beer cold. Everything is cool but some things need to be cold.

Hmmm. The site was beside the Barcoo River and has a signpost noting the area is prone to flooding and a slippery surface when wet. The ground was a mixture of gravel and some black soil. We decided that if it rained heavily during the night we should be ready to move out quickly. We went to bed about 9.30 and a light rain had already begun.

Friday 8th October

During the night the rain got heavier. On waking at first light – 5.45am – it was raining heavily and small rivulets of running water were already formed.

Time to move.

Just as we were about to start the motor a big lightning flash lit the area followed by an almighty thunder clap. We drove back to yesterday’s picnic site and water was already running across the road. We drove back to town to look for a caravan park. With the rain which has been falling it will not be long before the roads will have water across them or even closed. The lady at the tourist info place advised the road is open at the moment with care. Meaning, there is water over the road in several places.

We found a caravan park which will give us a chance to ensure batteries, laptops, phones, vacuum cleaner and so on are fully charged. We might even be able to get a TV signal and watch the Commonwealth Games. I guess the only things we will see today is the regimented tiers of campsites in the caravan park grounds. As predicted by the lady at the front office, as it starts to rain travellers will begin to arrive rather than taking the chance on driving further in the rain and potential road closures.

The first three days of this week were around 38° C while yesterday it was around 32° with 42% humidity. Today, at noon, with heavy rain falling the temperature was 20° and 63% humidity. It is positively cold.

Sandfly bites are still itchy.

It is now just a little before 6pm.

All roads are closed. The Barcoo is running a banker. Where we stayed last night would be underwater. By 2pm we had 5 inches of rain and more is predicted. The motel is full but there are a few caravan sites still open.

There are quite a number of stranded trucks in town

Typical Road Train. 53 metres long.

and one we can see on the other side of the river. He would have come in from either Alpha or Springsure. While we were watching, a helicopter arrived on the other side near the truck and a couple of people

Across the flooded Barcoo River. Note the helicopter in the background.

ran over.

Flooded road to Alpha.

 

If this rain continues and so far it has, we will be here for at least another night.

We have turned the bathroom into a drying cabinet by hanging damp clothes and towels and turning on a little heater we have. Even so, outside there is a cold wind blowing (we watched a woman cross the road with an umbrella and the gusts turned it inside out) – which is turning my feet blue despite the fact I am wearing socks.

Hmmm. Time to dig out my furry slippers.

Donnis is relaxed and spending her time embroidering.

Saturday 9th October.

The rain stopped last night and when I woke this morning at 6.45 I heard a road train grind through the gears as it passed through town. I took a drive downtown. The road to Blackall is open – with care – while the road to Augathella is open – also with care. The road to Alpha is still closed by the rushing Barcoo floodwaters.

After a hearty breakfast and everything packed away we are on our way to Augathella or Charleville. The decision is made for us. Augathella is off the highway so we continued on to Charleville. Today’s drive was also with care as there was water over the road in a couple of places. As well, several groups of kangaroos came onto the road but thankfully moved off before I was close. There was plenty of fresh road kill lying around and the birds of prey were having a feast. At another location a group of sheep moved away from the main flock and onto the road. Thankfully, they also moved off the road but I was a bit concerned the main flock would follow after them as Donnis was driving behind me. We rolled into town and found no evidence of the huge flood which tore through the town earlier this year. The Barcoo River is running, muddy and swift but a long way from being a threat although the area has also had a lot of rain this week. Donnis wanted to see the Cosmos Centre but with the cloud cover they are not open tonight. We caught up with Glenise n Erik who will be here until Monday as a vital part of his hitching system has been lost so he cannot tow the camper trailer until a replacement arrives on Monday.

I really should say something about the roads after all we are spending quite a bit of time driving on them. Mostly, the roads out in this neck of the woods, umm err not woods really, more scrubby umm err scrub. Anyway, the roads out here are mainly flat and straight with a few humps tossed in to wake you up. The roads are beginning to fall apart due to the flood rains earlier this year and normally reapirs are carried out in the dry but and early wet and more flooding rain means those roads are now worse and the repairs cannot be carried out due to those frequent rains. One moment there is grass, yes green grass stretching in all directions. Next there are grey green mulga trees about 4m in height then grass again. We are told the green countryside only comes after heavy rain and it has not been green since 1990. The sides of the road are crumbling in many places which makes driving interesting especially if you want to cross the white line to avoid the potholes and there is a giant road train approaching you. At least there are two lanes and we can share the road although some roads are only one lane wide and road trains rule. OK? Of course the Mitchell Grass grows brown even in good conditions. The other interesting thing we are seeing are lots of roadside wildflowers. Please do not ask me to name them but according to the caravan park lady there are at least a dozen, not counting flowering trees and shrubs. Like most Ozzie plants which flower, they tend to be subdued and you have to look carefully for them. At the moment there are carpets of purple, lilac, yellow and white flowers along the road. Again we were told we are seeing the outback desert edge at its best. The red sand is everywhere and plays havoc by getting into my sandals when walking. Probably that is why all the locals wear jeans n cowboy boots. Pity, I threw out my cowboy boots before we left.

We had a happy, happy hour with them. Glenise opened a bottle bubbly and added her trademark frozen strawberry sorbet to the glass. We finished the bottle easily although one glass of that stuff makes me the life of the party – according to Donnis, Glenise n Erick – personally I think I am just being…me. Besides I can only drink one glass before I become light headed. Donnis n I then retired to WWWGO to cook dinner and watch a movie. On her return from the showers Donnis asked me to look at something near her groin. Damm! A tick is well and truly having a feast. We have no idea how long it has been there. I managed to get the tweezers near its head and by levering side to side, removed the tick, head and all. My tick site is still a bit itchy and the scar area seems to catch on my underwear. Annoying.

I fell asleep during the movie. We were in bed by 9.30.

Sunday 10th October.

Hmmm.  Strange day indeed..It was about 90% overcast all day and we had booked to the Cosmos Centre to see the stars through the $30,000 12 inch telescopes. They told us the event would go ahead with 20% cloud cover but would call us if the event was cancelled.

We had a lazy morning doing very little, except Donnis was hard at work embroidering. After lunch we drove 20 klms out of Charleville to look at a freedom campsite at Ward River.

Scenic Ward River, near Charleville, in flood.

The site was fabulous, on the banks of the river with huge gnarled river gums on the banks or growing out of the water. However it was really a campsite for 4WD vehicles and the soil is black. That means if it rained we could not get out as the black soil turns to clinging slippery mud at the first hint of rain.

Early on in our trip our hot water service stopped working. Thinking about it from time to time I wondered if, maybe, the gas tap got turned off. Sure enough, in the hold where we keep beer, books and other things not often used, the gas tap to the water service was off. Wow! A new heater would cost more than $800 plus fitting.

After dinner we went to the Cosmos Centre and viewed 4 stars through the telescopes and were fed a few astounding facts and after an hour we were on our way home. I was disappointed as I once had a 2 and a half inch reflecting telescope and could see much the same thing.

The caravan park we are staying at is a bit rough around the edges. For example all caravans and motor homes use a 15amp connection. This park is set up on 10amp connectors. So… they have made lots of illegal 10amp to 15amp extension leads for campers to connect with. Trouble is the connection is always turned ON. It could be a disaster for somebody trying to connect in the rain.

Talking of rain, there is more predicted this week. On Monday we are heading East to Morven or perhaps Mitchell.

The sandfly bites are still itchy and I have gained a few more these last two days. The locals tell us the rain has brought them and the mozzies out so always wear long sleeves and pants and wear insect repellent. I am repellent to using repellent but if it helps…

 

156. Sunday 3rd October 2010. Where we experience the beginning of the outback…

04/10/2010

Monday.

Thought I would include a photo of when we were at Melissa’s Horse Stud, after repairs were completed and waiting for the rain to stop.

Here we are in the shed between the horse float and the tractor.

Our site at Theresa Creek Dam.

Our first sunset at TCD.

Sunny and bright and quite warm, nay even hot. We walked around looking at the birdlife then took a trip into Cleremont for a bit of a shop. The town is not well endowed with shops although it is more than well represented with pubs. The selection of fresh meat and vegetables is minimal and of poorer quality. We know that as we progress further West the choices will diminish even more. On our way home we stopped to have look at historical Copperfield general Store

Historic Copperfield Store taken with Donnis mobile phone.

and the Copperfield Chimney. Strangely neither site, although within a few hundred metres of each other have any information of their history. Certainly there was a lot of information about who owned the land and donated it to the heritage council and who paid for the restoration etc there was nothing else. On Sunday, Glenise welcomed us with a roast leg of pork cooked on her gas Weber bbq. Tonight we did dinner of Tandoori Chicken cooked in our heat bead Weber bbq.

Tuesday was another delightful day and although the temperature, according to our weather station was 37◦, there was a breeze blowing all day and under the shelter it was pleasant. It seems we spent our day preparing for, then eating, all day. Donnis

Donnis swimming among the lilly pads. Hmmm. There were no lily flowers to be found. Either they were souvenered or washed away. The general store had some on display.

and Erick went for a swim while Glenise went for a walk in the water up to her waist while I stayed dry. According to everybody who went in the water, it was cold. Hmmm. Hot outside temperature seems to produce cold water. Later in the day we got the bike off the rack and had a ride around camp. We also discovered the rack hold down plate is bent. On reflection it was because of the way I put the bike on the rack in an unbalanced position.

After a dinner of leftovers and a spectacular lightning display in the distance we called it a night. As we planned to leave here in the morning I brought in the awning and put the mats away. Good thing I did as a strong wind moved in during the night followed by  lightning, thunder and heavy rain. When we woke, the water level has risen in the lake and the ground is slippery. The lightning display was worth being woken during the night. The good news is there are no leaks! Our water view site became a waterside site during the night. If the level rose any further we would be in the water!

Wednesday. This site has no power and no mobile or wireless signal so communication has to wait until we go into town. I have discovered my 300 watt inverter is not capable of charging the laptop. It will charge the phones and the iPad and will power the TV although we have not used the TV since leaving home. We tried last night but could not find a signal. That was not a surprise as the radio reception is pretty poor. Only two stations and both have background static.

The water level has risen considerably since we went to bed last night. In fact one campsite shelter has water running through it. After breakfast we were packed and ready to leave. Another camper walked over to tell us the three creeks between here and Cleremont are in flood and are impassable even for 4WD with snorkel. We checked with the camp store. Yep. Water is a metre over the road in at least two of the crossings but the levels are going down. So…like quite a number of others, we are parked near the store, sitting around and waiting for news that we can cross. Apart from the depth of water the current is swift and conditions are dangerous. We have not seen another car come into the dam area this morning. We took the opportunity to see the spillway… spilling.

Almost a metre of water going over the spillway. Note the large log falling in the centre of the photo.

After midday we headed out of the dam site to our first flooded crossing and waited for a few hours for the water level to go down.

Oh, well. There can be worse places to be stranded. The sun is out, it is hot, there is almost zero breeze and incredibly in this arid area we are in the middle of a flood!

Later… the water level went down enough for us to get through.

Waiting for the water level to decrease at Douglas Creek.

Donnis, driving the Subaru, tailgated behind Erick to take advantage of his bow wave, once they were safely on the other side, I started across, followed by Glenise. Once we were all on the other side we drove a few klms to the next crossing and did it all over again. Then on the road to Cleremont we encountered water over the road but we just kept on going. From Cleremont we drove to Capella where we elected for a caravan park for the night. I was tired and sunburned so was glad of the rest – as we all were. We woke to a chilly 16 degrees and a cold wind blowing.

Hmmm. Could be an interesting day!

Thursday.

Donnis and I went into Emerald for a bit of shopping while Glenise n Erick went direct to Alpha where we agreed to meet up for lunch. When we finally left Emerald, decidedly poorer, it was after noon. One of the items we bought was a filtration cartridge, plus fittings so we can filter water going into the fresh water tank. We are going into area’s where the water will be OK, it may have a smell and a taste which may not be to our liking. There will also be places where water is really scarce and could be suspect. So…filtering the water before it goes into the tank and filtering the drinking water which comes out will be the safest course.

The drive was interesting for a number of reasons.

Most creeks were running swiftly which is a far cry from their usual sandy, rocky dry, state. We could also see where creeks had closed the road on Wednesday.

By the time we reached Alpha it was after 2pm and surprise, surprise, we bumped into Glenise n Erick who had been looking around and found some good prices at the local butcher.

We had a pie from the local bakery. Now get this. Two pies and a vanilla slice cost $6.90. Gads. A pie at a bakery on the coast would be at least $4.20 for a plain pie and about $3 for the vanilla slice!!!

We arrived in Barceldine just before 5pm and headed out to Lloyd Jones Weir when we got a call from Glenise to say they had decided to stay at the Show Grounds with power for a few nights as she wants to watch the AFL Grand final on Saturday. After a dinner of lamb stew and a couple of bottles of bubbly we retired around 10.30. It will be great to sit still and just veg out for a few days.

I think a few words about Erick is in order. Erick arrived in Australia from Switzerland in 1956 as a 20 year old working on a cargo ship. He jumped ship in Hobart and went fruit picking for a month before going to the “authorities” who were waiting on him. Very soon he had his immigration papers (it was easy in those days). He only jumped ship so he could see the Olympic Games in Melbourne. After working around and seeing the games he decided to stay and became a citizen. Amongst his many talents he makes and sells stock whips from Kangaroo hide. He also plays the didgeridoo,

Erick playing his electrical conduit didgeridoo.

one of which he made himself out of electrical underground conduit.

Friday.

Woke to steady cold breeze blowing through camp which needed us to have layers of clothes but as it warmed up during the day we were soon back to shorts, tshirt and sandals. We went downtown to the business centre of Barcaldine to visit the Tree of Knowledge and a few other local attractions. I was last here in May 2007 at which time the tree was well and truly dead. In July that year the tree was picked up, roots and all and taken to Brisbane where it was treated for pests and then preserved. It was then returned to its original site where it had stood for 150 years. It is now covered by a huge timber “box” which, when I first saw it, considered it an ugly eyesore.

Tree of Knowledge Memorial by day. Look carefully and you may be able to see the shape of a tree.

However looking at the box from inside I soon found timber boxes of Ghost Gum ( the original tree was Ghost Gum) suspended on steel cables. The boxes blow in the wind and bump against each other making a clunky music along the principles of a windchime. The area around the tree has a glass floor where you can see the roots of the tree. The whole structure is lit up at night. Various outback towns are noted in the paving with lights pointing in their geographic direction.

Later, about 10pm Donnis n I went back to see the structure lit up at night. I was gobsmacked by the ingenuity of the artist/designer of this structure. The lights, the slats and the hanging boxes are positioned in such a way that, at night, it looks like a …TREE. The breeze blowing through the slats moves the hanging boxes and it is like the leaves moving in a breeze.n

Memorial by night. Click on the photo to enlarge it and you can see the shape of the tree.

I was impressed.

We also looked at the huge windmill which was the original 27ft diameter windmill installed  as the “First Free Flowing Bore” in Queensland at Back Creek Barcaldine. This windmill was manufactured by Sidney Williams in 1917 and is a C Pattern model. It was moved to Barcaldine about 30 years ago and now pumps water into the nearby fountain.

Oldest hotel in Barcaldine, the ARTESIAN built in 1887.

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For dinner tonight I cooked up a pile of Chinese omelettes using 10 eggs. I shredded a couple of carrots, sliced up the green part of a leek, added a generous couple of handfuls of mung bean sprouts, a cup of frozen peas and stir fried them for a minute. I beat the eggs with a cup of water, a generous slurp of sesame oil and the same of oyster sauce. Then using a small blue steel omelette pan on the outside gas stove, I added some veggies to the pan then poured the egg mixture to fill the bottom of the pan and let it cook until the edges started to lift, turned it over for a minute then repeated the process until I had cooked 14 omelettes. Each was given a small drizzle of oyster sauce then put on a plate in the oven to keep warm until I was finished. Meanwhile Donnis cooked up a pot of rice. They devoured the lot – no leftovers. It was filling, tasty and satisfying meal. We fed 4 people with a healthy meal for around $10.

Glenise n Erick have decided they want to move on to Longreach as they have a bit of a timetable to reach Brisbane before the end of the month and there is still a lot of sightseeing they want to do on the way. We will travel to Lloyd Jones Weir for a couple of days. If we can get a TV signal we may be able to watch the NRL grand final.

Saturday.

A bit overcast but mainly sunny and a cool breeze blowing from the East. Almost a duplicate of yesterday although not as cold.

We took our time packing up this morning and were down the main street by midday. Glenise and Erick had decided to push on to Longreach for a couple of days while we wanted to go to Lloyd Jones Weir on the Alice River.

We stopped downtown so Donnis could buy some embroidery thread. While waiting I watched a road train mosey through town. We have seen a couple of these in our travels, thankfully going in the other direction and on a sealed two lane road. I do not want to meet one of these monsters on a narrow single lane road or gravel track. There is the prime mover which tows three trailers. The overall length is 53 metres. Can you imagine that? Take 53 long strides and that will give you an idea of the length of these things.

Next stop was the weir. Donnis was unprepared for the sight which greeted us. The water was flowing, near enough to a metre over the spillway and rushing away in a mad torrent downstream.

Spillway at Lloyd Jones Weir.

There were probably another 20 campers already here. We found a near level site with a view of the river out of our rear bedroom window and the side bedroom window.

Our campsite at LJW overlooking the Alice River.

There is a lot of birdlife here including a flock of cormorants who seem to be doing OK on the fish. One lady told us she watched people scooping fish with hand scoops out of the turbulence below the spillway. Lots of Bony Bream seems to be the main catch although Yellow Belly is also taken. This place was known as a Redclaw haven but with the floodwaters, perhaps they are off the menu for awhile. The temperature was around 30 today but with a lovely breeze and sitting beside the river under the shade of the river gums it was somnambulistically cool.

The sound of the river convinced us to dig out our boogey boards and go for a dip in the river. We had to be careful where we swam as the current was very swift particularly below the spillway. Thank goodness for the flooded trees we could grab onto otherwise we would be away downstream, bouncing over rocks in no time.

Below the spillway where we swam carefully.

We have mobile reception but only with the use of an external aerial. We still have the problem we cannot run the laptop on the inverter. When we get to a big city we will have to look at getting an update to a 1000 watt inverter.

This is a lovely delightful spot and we will stay a few days.

Looking at tourism material there are lots of attractions in the district so we may base ourselves in Longreach for awhile and use the Subaru to explore the area. Of course nothing is set in concrete and plans can change quickly.

After dinner of fettucine and creamy bacon n mushroom sauce we sat outside, under the stars in our recliner chairs until about 10pm when we went to bed. Still no TV or radio (well I did listen to a bit of radio today but turned off when the Saints were getting slaughtered by the Pies) we also heard the news and about the terrible tragedies of the road deaths in NSW.

Sunday 6am. Brilliant blue sky not a cloud in sight. Perhaps a lazy day of reading under the trees beside the Alice River.

Sigh.

As it turns out, the day was hot hot hot. Donnis spent most the day sitting in a recliner on the waters edge under the shade of a Coolibah tree., embroidering.

Donnis embroidering at the Alice River under the shade of a Collibah Tree.

She got a little sunburned.

I spent some time with her but also socialised around camp. I knew the NRL grand final was on at 5pm and made a mental note to listen on the radio. Well, NSW 5pm is our 4pm so by the time I remembered to turn on the radio it was all over. Besides we had a wonderful happy hour with a couple of campers nearby.