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

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.


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.


2 Responses to “158. Sunday 18th October 2010. I love a sunburned country…”

  1. Marg Clifton Says:

    Hi Frank & Donnis
    Have been really enjoying your blogs.
    Looks like your having a great time, even though you’ve had rain & cold. Glad to see Donnis is madly embriodering, that’s when I get most of mine done as well, travelling.
    Anyway safe travels


    • frankeeg Says:

      Hi Margaret, thanks for keeping up with us.
      It seems to be rain then shine then rain and lots of swollen or flooded rivers.
      Donnis finished the blanket and mailed it to her DIL earlier this week. She now has enrolled in some courses in order to maintain her nursing license. Sigh. More “$%#@*&” study. Grrr.


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