Archive for October 25th, 2010

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….

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