Archive for July, 2011

203. Sunday 24th July 2011. Yes, we are still in Finch Hatton…

25/07/2011

LOTS OF PHOTOS THIS WEEK. CLICK ON AN IMAGE TO ENLARGE IT.

Monday 18th July 2011

We woke to a brilliant sunrise with the valleys below us filled with mist. Pity I do not wear a camera strapped to my head all the time.

Donnis had a day off so we drove to Mackay to get a few items.

The morning proved difficult for me as each place I went to did not have what I was after. My inherent impatience was sorely tested at each location to the point where I was ready to lash out verbally at some poor individual who does not know anything about the products she sells. Sorry ladies, all the people who served me were women. Main item on my list was a patch lead which fits my external aerial and screws onto the aerial fitting on our BigPond Gateway Elite Wireless modem. I tried Dick Smith Electronics, Dixon Communications, Auto One and the Telstra Shop without success.

We visited Centre Link re my pension and got stuffed around some more.

We went to Bunnings where I got all the items on my list because I know where to look and they always have stock.

We visited my sister Sandra who is unwell and is home from work for a week.

Then it was a grocery shopping and arrived back at the stud after dark.

Whew!

It was a long and tiring, mostly unproductive day.

Tuesday 19th July.

Not much happened today. Tidying up inside WWWGO and re-arranging how we store items when settled for more than a few days. One thing which really irks me is the stuff we store under the floor which is accessible by an internal hatch. Items we often use are the pressure cooker, the new turbo oven and my wine cask. Mostly we use one or more of these every night. It means lifting carpet runners to get at the hatch and while one person holds the hatch the other gets the items. Yesterday at Bunnings I bought two plastic boxes a little smaller than the size of milk crates. I set them in the driving cabin between the seats. They are a snug fit and give a nice level area to store regularly used items. We only have to lift a curtain to access the area. I also used the area to store a slab of beer and a few pairs of shoes.

I made another loaf of rye bread today. Not as good as the first as I pulled it out of the oven thinking time was up.

Wrong! It still had another six minutes. I put it back in the oven for another 10 minutes but the damage was done. After a couple of slices there was a gooey centre not cooked at all. It could also be that using the silicon loaf pan did not allow the heat around the bottom.

It is all a learning curve.

Wednesday 20th July.

Another quiet day.

I got ready for a ride on VIRAGO but when I turned the key nothing happened. Nothing that is except a sound like electricity arcing.

Not good.

I pulled off the seat and checked the battery connections. No arcing. Perhaps the bike was still partially in gear? I moved it backwards and tried again. This time it tried to turn over but still an arcing sound. I moved it some more and hey presto, it turned over but the battery seemed a little drained before it fired into life.

Destination today was Teemburra Dam for no specific reason other than to give VIRAGO a run to keep the battery charged. Unless you are a keen angler with a boat there is nothing to see.

Boat ramp at Teemburra Dam. The signs which advise water storage capacity and other useful information are missing.

I have not been to the dam for several years. Last time Donnis and I noted the limited facilities were a bit run down and the water level was low, low, low. In fact, so low the 250m of concrete ramp was nowhere near the water. Today the water level was lapping at the top of the ramp. Apart from that there was really nothing to see apart from the fact that few facilities are now beyond maintenance and are in the overgrown or replacement stage. Signs are missing. Speed advisory signs are also missing or turned facing the wrong way. These signs are important when riding a motorcycle especially when the speed sign indicates a max speed of 30 kph. It is sad to see the dam infrastructure in such a sorry state. Is it a lack of funds from the state government? This is a Sunwater Dam and there are several across the state so it would be interesting to look at other dams and compare.

Hmmm. Eungella Dam is also Sunwater controlled. I might have a look sometime in the next month.

The little town of Gargett as seen from the lookout at Temmburra Dam..

In the last couple of posts I have mentioned a little about the cane harvest. I have not been able to to provide photos. Until today.

This is a diesel cane train locomotive which hauls the laden bins to the mill where the cane is crushed.

The loco is hauling an average size load of 80 bins.

Threre they go, loco with 80 bins headed to Marian Mill. Along the journey they will cross Cattle Creek and Pioneer River and pass through the villages of Pinnacle and Gargett and the town of Mirani before reaching the mill at the town of Marian, a trip close to 40 klms.

I also had a little luck on my side today. Since Monday I have been trying to get somebody at BigPond to sell me or tell me where to buy a patch lead or external antenna for the Gateway Wireless Modem. After a few emails, one of which, from me, was dripping with sarcasm and annoyance finally came the response with a phone number. I called and the helpful person within a minute was mailing me a patch lead. How good is that?

A few emails with Rolla Roof Racks located a set of roof bars for TERIOS. They are a superseded model but some $100 or so cheaper and they are also being mailed to me.

Thursday 21st July

Have ya eva had wun o those days when ya thort, “wadidido t’day?”

Well that was me a short while ago but piece by little piece I remembered.

What did I do?

Not much it seems.

From the house verandah I watched harvesters in nearby fields. The fluffy flowering at the top of the cane usually signals it is ready for harvesting as the cane is at peak sugar content.

I did become a ball thrower for the dogs.

I did help hold the horses while they had their hooves filed. Anita from Nebo over the mountains showed up with all her horse hoof maintenance gear. She lifts each leg and works away at grinding, chipping, clipping, filing and sanding. Sometimes the horse does not co-operate and kicks. Anita knows where to stand, just in case.

Most endurance riders seem to be running their horses “bare hoof”, that is, they are not shod. The only maintenance therefore is a regular trim and file.

The external antenna was mounted, temporarily, in the bathroom. It gave me a constant three bars of signal on the mobile phone, sometimes 5 bars. Prior to attaching to the antenna I would only recieve, at best 3 bars of signal, dropping to zero. The joys of living in a remote or rural area.

I also put the external antenna mount on the back window of WWWGO,

Antenna base and antenna mounted on the rear window. The good thing about this type of mount is that I can remove the antenna and attach it to a magnetic base for use in the car..

attached the interior fitting,

Interior antenna connection and base.

attached the antenna to the external mount, screwed the cable to the inside fitting and tracked the cable under the overhead cupboards to where the communications hub is located (communications hub = TV, Gateway Wireless Modem, power points, tv antenna outlet, wireless headphones base station, 240volt  surge protector, 12volt outlet and 300 watt modified sine wave inverter. Now it includes an external antenna cable which will be connected to the modem once the patch lead from BigPond arrives).

Friday 22nd July.

It was off to Eungella today on the trusty steed VIRAGO. (pronounced “young-gullah” and means Land of Clouds) “Eungella” is pronounced “young-gulluh” and means Land of Clouds. “Eunella” is pronounced “young-gulluh” and means Land of Clouds.Eungella” is pronounced “young-gulluh” and means Land of Clouds.

One of the signs proclaiming you are in Eungella.

I had a quick look around the village and some of the roads I will be travelling on when carrying out my Census duties. I also visited Peases Lookout

Virago at the lookout.

View from Peases Lookout. The distant water is part of the Teemburra Dam.

and a lookout in the village.

Picnicers at a stonehenge type table at the town lookout.

This SWinnebago Leisure Seeker is camped at On The Edge Caravan Park, has its own gazebo and camp kitchen and is only 5 metres away from the edge of the escarpment and stunning views over the valley.

I then travelled on to the Broken River to try my luck at spotting a Platypus.

Sign beside the Platypus viewing platform.

Is that a platypus burrow? It looks remarkably like the burrow shown in the sign.

I have the same luck buying lotto tickets.

Nothing. Zilch. Nada.

Classic example of a Strangler Fig slowly choking off the host tree. Located in the Platypus Viewing carpark at Broken River.

The road to Eungella is very steep with eight switchback turns, three of which are signposted as 20kph. The road crosses a number of creeks and where this occurs, metal grids are placed in the road so the water can expand upwards at flood times and not tear the road apart. Those metal grids are no good for motorcycle traction, the rear wheel gave a little wiggle at each one. Although the day was fine n sunny in the valley, the temperature, especially in the shade, dropped, the closer I got to Eungella. I am sure it was a good 10° cooler in the mountains.

I made Beef Cheeks in the pressure cooker. Included were tomatoes, wine, herbs n spices, celery, onions and an hour of cooking. I served it with polenta parmesan and peas. This was the first time I have found beef cheeks and did not know how to cook them. They are a real cheap cut of meat which cost about $7 for 6 cheeks. It was a hit with Steve who went back for seconds, Melissa could not eat the polenta and Donnis thought I overcooked them. I enjoyed them as well as the polenta so we have two leftover cheeks for another night.

Saturday 23rd July

Saturday morning confusion, its Saturday morning confusion…so go the words of the hit song by Bobby Russell in 1971. (Gosh, was it been that long ago?). Luckily the only confusion I had was there was nobody home. They had all left for work at some dark cold hour and left me to sleep in. I then had to make a decision what to cook for breakfast. How does mushrooms in butter and a bit of left over polenta from last night. Mmm!

Today was a ride on VIRAGO to the Owens Creek Loop Road which took me through rolling, mostly cane farming properties.

Cane Train Bridge over Cattle Creek along the Owens Creek Loop Road..

Most of the road was gravel with no speed advisory signs on the corners. After passing through what was once the Owens Creek community, now a series of small properties and the old school was nowhere to be found while the community hall is falling down.

Owens Creek Community Hall (or what is left of it)

The road took me to the village of Garget where I turned back towards Finch Hatton. In all, stopping for photos and a general meandering ride and walk it took 90 minutes. I did see a strange sight of two large rocks in a field. Rocks which really do not below there. Perhaps a geologist is a reader and could confirm if these rocks could have been moved here by glacial action during the last ice age?

Rocks in a field devoid of any such other rocks. (actually there is a third, smaller rock on the right, out of picture) The nearest example of similar rocks is at Finch Hatton Gorge at least 10 klms away.

Sunday 24th July

A very quiet day. It was Donnis day off so we spent most of the day doing house tidying and washing of clothes and bedding. We took time for a walk to Cattle Creek and back. Although only a klm distant, it was quite hot in the early afternoon sunlight and of course neither of us carried any water.

That was our day.

For those who are interested here are the lyrics…

Here they come, warming up
I hear the pitter patter of little
People on the living room rug

Woe is me, there goes the TV
Now it’s Popeye and Bluto
Batman and Bozo

Don’t spill the corn flakes
They’ll break at lunch break
Home from the office
Why did I stop to
Have a beer with the boys
Now my head’s ’bout to pop

It’s a Saturday morning confusion
If you think you can sleep, it’s illusion
Cause you’ll probably get a rude
Intrusion from Harry the dog

Harry the dog is as big as can be
And Harry the dog had puppies last week
We couldn’t tell if it’s a he
Or a she, now we know

It’s a Saturday morning confusion
If I could just get to the bathroom
And get a cold rag and an aspirin
To help how I feel

But here come the twins
And they’re screaming at me
What is the deal and turn off the TV
Go ask your mother and quietly
Your daddy is ill

There he is, cousin Jack
You got the leaf rake too
Keep at it till I get it all back

Hanging round my yard
Snooping in my garage
I tolerate him because he’s my cousin
He’s nice to the kids
And Harry just loves him

It’s a Saturday morning confusion
And if I could just hide in my attic
‘Cause I can hear my wife yelling
Take ’em all to the show

I’ll take the whole
Neighborhood to the show
I’ll just walk out in back
Where the money tree grows
Grab me a handful
And off to the show we’ll go

It’s a Saturday morning confusion
And if I could just get a transfusion
Or maybe go hide in the bedroom
Till five o’clock

Let it be known that at five the TV
Is gonna be tuned to the game of the week
And that goes for dogs and twins
And the whole family

It’s a Saturday morning confusion
It’s a Saturday morning confusion
Day is done

Cousin Jack, in his yard
Cooking steaks on a grill
That I’ll never get back

The twins in front of the TV
Harry with his family
Sis on her date and Mom at the door
Smiles as she surveys the sight
For the first time today
The kingdom is quiet

Lord, let us thank you for Saturdays
And may they remain my friends

Cause I work all week long
To keep strong till they’re grown
And next Saturday then
We’ll do it again

Here they come, warming up
I hear the pitter patter of little
People on the living room rug

Woe is me, there goes the TV…

Cheers,

See ya next week.

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202. Sunday 17th July 2011. Another week at Finch Hatton, not the centre of the Universe…

17/07/2011

Monday 11th July 2011.

Another fine sunny day but with a touch of cool in the shadows and breeze.

We drove Melissa to Mackay for a Physiotherapist appointment.

While there we collected our awning ends from Mackay Camping & Canvas (also known as True Blue) and did a quickish grocery shop before collecting Melissa and returning to FH. While away, Steve arrived home from work and was waiting to take Melissa to work. Yes, work. Although in a good deal of pain she wanted to go to work. She sat on a stool and worked the cash register all afternoon.

Steve started to pull the gearbox out of the Toyota Hilux then Donnis and I assisted in feeding the horses.

In post 189 I wrote my grandchildren would be taking part in a Tae Kwon Do championships in Melbourne in July. Please pardon my confusion as it seems they are taking part in a karate competition. Grandchildren Shelby-Rose and Anakin have been in Melbourne this last week competing in the Shotokan Karate Australian Championships. Shelby-Rose was awarded third place in Kumite (fighting) and first in team Kata (series of movements and techniques put together). Anakin won second in Kihon (basics) and a third in Kata. Both have qualified for the world titles in Lithuania next year.

WooHoo!

Anakin & Shelby-Rose display their medals.

Tuesday 12th July.

While Donnis was at work I started on my census workload training, review, familiarisation and planning. I became the master multi-tasker. One of my projects was to write a set of numbers or my name and mobile number on about 800 pieces of stationary. While doing this I also watched an instructional DVD, read the training manual and reviewed the workbook. Boring and repetitive as some of the tasks were I still managed to put in about 6 solid hours and will do a similar amount tomorrow.

Of course while all this was happening sitting at my table inside WWWGO the sun was shining outside but it was a bit cool anywhere in the shade and breeze. From where I sit the view looks over a couple of horse paddocks on the gullies and hillsides. From the back (bedroom) window the view looks over vast sugar cane fields undulating towards Mackay, unseen and unseeable, in the distance. At the doorway, the three dogs, Ochre, Pearl and Red wait patiently in the shade for the next time I throw a ball for them to chase.

Sigh! Although it is a workday, the surroundings and warm sunlight just bring a measure of contentment to the tasks.

In the meantime Steve continued to pull out the Hilux gearbox and clean the gears. At least one bearing was broken and the main thrust shaft was badly worn. It looks like another work day for the four of us tomorrow.

Wednesday 13th July

Clouds rolled in for part of the day although the temperature did get up to 26° in the afternoon when it was sunny.

I spoke via Skype with a friend, Margaret C from Bomaderry in NSW. She was telling how the temps were way down and at mid-morning was still around 10° and colder gloomier weather was on its way.

Steve continued to work on the HiLux gearbox, Donnis went to work at Nanyima, Melissa went to work in pain at the garage and I continued on with my census materials, refreshing knowledge and packing the delivery bag.

Apart from that, the usual routine of feeding horses, chooks and dogs continued. Oh, of course throwing a ball for the dogs at various times.

With the cloud cover the temperature has not dropped at night and we were down to one blanket and at one stage that was kicked off the bed and we slept with just a sheet.

Sigh! Winter in the tropics can be tough at times.

Thursday 14th July

Melissa and Steve went to a funeral today while we stayed at home waiting for delivery of a custom built innerspring mattress.

It did not arrive! Without a Con Note number we could not call the delivery people to track where it is and when we can expect a re-scheduled delivery.

Sigh!

While waiting we did yet another re-organisation of our storage compartments and hatches resulting in a few items being thrown out while others have been packed more efficiently.

Mobile and Internet signal have been woeful these last two days. Perhaps it is my imagination but the poor signal, dropping in and out, coincides with the overcast weather rolling in.

Friday 15th July

Donnis left for work at 6am while Melissa left at 7am. Steve drove her to the farm gate while she drove the giant F250 from there. Steve retired to the work-shed and spent the day working at putting the HiLux gearbox back together.

Internet signal has improved today but still drops in and out although not as often and not as long. Mobile signal does the same. I hooked the mobile up to an external aerial and have a constant 5 bars of signal. I will buy a patch kit to fit the aerial and the Big Pond Elite Mobile Broadband Network Gateway Modem. Whew! What a mouthful. (I tried to buy a patch kit before we left last year but both the local Airlie Beach Telstra shop and the Dick Smith shop did not have any. They offered to order one in for me. In cases like that I say no because ordering stuff in can take weeks. (I planned to get one along our travels. Needless to say I forgot until now) When it works (that is, a good strong signal) it works wonderfully well. When the signal is poor (as it is at Finch Hatton) it is so frustrating trying to accomplish the most simple of Internet tasks. Although the modem is showing an internet signal and my laptop is telling me I have internet access, there is just not enough signal to be able to access the internet. Strangely, I still have Skype signal and although patchy in conversations it continues to work while internet is denied to me!!!

Late in the afternoon our custom made mattress from Made to Measure Mattresses arrived. The good truck driver brought it all the way to the front door. It is a good deal heavier than the old foamy and is about 75mm thicker. It is a perfect fit, allowing 15mm all round to allow room to tuck in sheets and blankets. By the time Donnis and I struggled to get it inside WWWGO and while I was clearing away the packing, Donnis started to make the bed.

The bed base awaiting the new mattress.

I really wanted to get a photo of this very attractive, well made and comfortable mattress. I did manage to get a photo after Donnis had put the extra pillow top mattress protector in place. This mattress is firm but soft and we no longer roll into the middle of the bed.

The latex feather top innerspring mattress is beneath the foam feathertop mattrees overlay (protector?)

Saturday 16th July.

After a comfortable cosy night, Donnis was off to work at 6am while I stayed in bed and dozed for another hour.

Today I crawled around on my stomach and my back to finally solve why our spice drawer sticks. It always has, ever since we bought WWWGO. I finally found the problem. In the original construction of the cupboard, it would seem the framework was not square so the chippies stuck little wedges of wood behind the drawer rails to straighten things up. In the process the drawer rails were out of alignment and once closed, the drawer wheel dropped off the track. This could only be seen by removing the drawer below, and while laying on my back armed with a bright LED torch, watch the drawer movement. I used the same chippy technique by moving the wedges further to the rear of the tracks and hey presto it works as it should.

After that I looked at the best place to mount our mobile/broadband antenna. Originally it came with a window mounting kit. I will mount it on the back bedroom window, high up on the outside and run the inside cable under the overhead lockers. I checked and can get 5 bars of signal with the antenna and only one bar without it.

Sunday 17th July

Donnis went to work at 6am and the day dawned overcast, drizzly rain and low lying cloud. As the day progressed the sun came out in patches and by mid afternoon there was a reversal of activity and sunny skies with patches of cloud appeared.

I took the opportunity to take a ride on Virago further along Finch Hatton Gorge road, virtually to the gorge itself but mainly to investigate a Forest Flyer activity. (http://www.forestflying.com/main.html)

The grand entranceway to Forest Flying.

I got as far as the sign on the gate. There was one lonely vehicle parked on the track outside and no sounds or visibility of anybody in the area. I decided not to walk past the gate as the tour costs $60 to ride on the flyer. The fee was 415 just to enter the property. Further up the track, after riding over three creek crossings I stopped at Platypus Camp

Left hand entranceway to Platypus Bush Camp. Only two campers were in evidence.

which also seems to be suffering from a lack of activity.

Right hand entrace to Platypus Bush Camp.

I should mention this part of Finch Hatton is in perpetual damp due to the thick rainforest, high rainfall, hundreds of creeks

One of dozens of constantly flowing creeks criss crossing this area of Finch Hatton.

and hilly terrain. There are many private properties with signs on the gate reminding you they are private. Further, most of them remind you to “Keep Out” while other signs soften the attitude a little by saying “Friends Welcome”. I cannot help wondering what it is they need to hide as the forest is so thick, no houses can be seen from the track. This part of Finch Hatton is a few klms from the sugar can growing flats near the valley floor. This area has never been cleared for cultivation. The other interesting thing I noticed were the other signs on the gates declaring this is a Wilderness for Wildlife property. The people who live here would have a constant battle keeping the jungle from the door not to mention the constant damp and most would only see a few hours of sunlight on a good day. There is no mobile or internet or TV coverage except by landline. Very few houses have power. None have town water and all have some sort of septic system. No solar panels were sighted.

So we come to end of another week.

201. Pubs…

17/07/2011

In our travels we often visit a pub to slake a thirst, have a meal, slake our thirst, view historical buildings, slake our thirst, buy supplies for the wine cellar (yes, we really do have a wine cellar including spirits, liqueurs and a fermenting couple of bottles of cumquat brandy which will be ready in a few months) and of course to slake our thirst.

Some pubs are just a convenient location, some are boring architechtually, some are interesting in a historical context and some serve great meals although the great days of a counter lunch seem to be long gone. One great disappointment, for me, is that rarely can we get a simple pie n peas, a traditional meal at a pub once upon a time. The good old mixed grill has not been seen on a menu in a long time except in a few outback locations. Most pubs these days seem to be more intent on a fancy dining room with fancy prices to match.

Anyway…

Following are some of the pubs around the country we have visited. Regrettably we have not taken photos of every pub in every town. Remember, as always, to click on a photo to enlarge it. Click again to enlarge even more.

Have a happy pub crawl.

Apollonian Hotel at Boreen Point near Noosa on the Sunshine Coast.

Criterian Hotel at finch Hatton. The external walls have historical murals of the cane industry..Sugar cane was and still is the major industry in the area. We have eaten here and had a few drinks on a few occassions in the past. The last time I ate here there was a mixed grill on the menu but no pie n peas.

Imperial Hotel, Eumundi, Qld.

Oldest hotel in Barcaldene is the Artesian built around 1887. They still do good pub meals and have a delightful front verandah with tables. Donnis last car, the wonderful Subaru Imprezza is parked out the front.

Known as the Glengarrie Hilton, this pub is a series of iron sheds and concrete floors in the bush about 60 klms west of Lightning Ridge. Access is via some very dusty, rutted, winding, corrugated gravel roads. hardly where you would expect to find a pub. In fact there is not a real town and starnge but true, two other pubs operate within a a 5 klm radius and do a good business. Yes they do meals in the historical way. Well worth a visit and permission to camp on the grounds and use the bush camp showers is easily forthcoming.

Hamers Hotel at Strahan Tasmania. This place has gone the way of having fancy expensive bars and dining rooms. It overlooks the harbour. That is our previous motorhome, a converted Toyota Coaster bus, parked out front.

Railway Hotel at Imbil, Qld. The railway has gone - except for the twice weekly Valley rattler tourist train from Gympie.

Retreat Hotel near Nebo, Qld. Once popular, fell into decline, now popular once more. Free camping available on the grounds. Some power is available. Good meals. Interesting visitors.

Rubyvale Hotel at...Rubyvale, Qld of all places. Fine example of an old log cabin style construction with a huge fireplace in the dining room. Great meals especially in the winter with lots of patrons and a roaring fire to keep the cold outside. Good atmosphere.

Wallangara Hotel at Wallangarra which straddles the Qld / NSW border on the New England Highway. The sign on the wall says "Last Pub in Qld". A sign on the other side of the building says "First Pub in Qld".

More pubs to feature sometime in the future.

200. Sunday 10th July 2011. Another week at Finch Hatton and the Census is a little closer…

10/07/2011

As always, please remember the photos can be enlarged to 4 times their size by clicking on the image then a further click to enlarge a second time.

Monday 4th July 2011.

Independence Day in the US of A.

No celebrations or fireworks here in OZ. Just another regular day.

Sort of…

Donnis had an Orientation Day at CQ Nurse so I dropped her off at their office at 9am while I took the Terios to Bob Jane T Mart to have them check on a slow leak in one of the tyres. It turns out there was a nail in the tyre and we need new tyres on the front.

Darn!

When I went to collect Donnis, two fire and emergency trucks passed with their sirens wailing. Donnis and all the people from the building were standing out in the street as the emergency alarms had sounded and everybody was evacuated. The fire trucks had also arrived. It may have been an electrical fire or fault for although we could not see any smoke we could smell burnt plastic.

From there we went to North Mackay to have additional flaps sewn onto our awning ends. I have a plan to enclose the awning ends and to make it, if not waterproof, at least water repellent especially over WWWGO door. As usual the guys at True Blue Canvas were less than helpful and their attitude needs a good dose of humility. I have dealt with them, on and off, for around 20 years and they have always had a superior attitude.

Their web site has not been working, at least for the 4 or 5 weeks I have tried to access it.

I digress.

In the morning, while waiting for Donnis and the tyre repair, I took a stroll down Victoria Street in Mackay. Imagine my surprise when I bumped into Gurdeep as he was delivering satchels of papers. He works as a courier driver. We worked on the recent Qld Transport Survey. He took time out of his busy morning to have coffee with me. I asked him many questions about his background and learned something about him and his home region of Punjab in India. We spoke about food. He is a chef and loves his food and on the basis of our talk I have decided to make a chicken Tikka Marsala this week.

When camped at Finch Hatton, we are about an hour away from Mackay. Whenever we have real shopping (as opposed to just needing a litre of milk) we go to Mackay. It ends up being a full day of going to various shops and having lunch. Normally we share a Subway and a coffee and that costs us around $8.00. Today Donnis had a craving for Sushi. That alone was $13.00 but then she felt like Honey Sesame Chicken – another $10.00. Next time we are going back to Subway.

Tuesday 5th July

At 6am this morning the sunrise was a giant blood red glow across the eastern sky. From our vantage point looking down and over the sugar cane fields the sunrise had a counterpoint of mist sitting in the hollows between fields.

We had a few jobs planned for today, including washing Terios to get the Diggings Road mud and clay off and a few loads of washing. Just as the first load of washing was underway and I was washing Terios, Donnis phone rang. She has been offered a short shift with Qld Nurse on a Respite Care job. By the time she got showered and dressed it was time to head off to work.

I managed to get the other tasks done and sent her off to work with a clean car.

Today was like a summer day with temperature around 31°. I spent much of the day in just a pair of shorts.

Spoke with Melissa tonight. She is out of hospital and staying at Innisfail and should be well enough to travel home tomorrow. I offered to cook dinner.

Wednesday 6th July

Another blood red horizon at sunrise. Donnis was leaving for work and I heard her exclaim “WOW” as she walked to Terios.

I rode Virago to Finch Hatton to deliver my Census test papers to the Area Supervisor who was not home so I slipped them under the back door.

While out and about on Virago I rode around some of the back paddocks and watched part of the harvest going on. After a sugar harvest morning I thought I might mention a little about what happens at this time of year.

Harvest usually begins mid-June and continues on until October or as late as November depending on weather. Most farmers still burn the cane before harvesting. This burns off the “trash” but not the cane itself. It seems that cutting burnt cane is easier on equipment but does have a downside of floating embers and fallout of blackened cane fronds landing on houses and particularly any washing still on the line. Burnoff is carried out at twilight when winds have died down.

The day after the burn a harvest begins and tractors towing “bins” move into place beside the harvester.

A harvester and accompanying tractor with bin are in full harvest action. Enlarge to see the cane blowing into the bin and the trash being ejected at the harvester from end.

Once a bin is full, the tractor tows it to a railhead for collection while another tractor with bin moves in beside the harvester. This goes on all day and sometimes at night. The bins are collected by a cane train and taken to the nearest mill for crushing. It is not unusual to see a train towing 150 bins. I have seen one train with 300 bins behind it. The train tracks criss-cross all over the Pioneer Valley and reach far out farms or railheads.

Virago is a good scale to show the size of cane. This cane is not partiicularly tall but is a good example of the everage height.

This is the time of year to be especially vigilant when driving on the roads in the valley as there are many crossings, some are on blind corners or where heavy growth can hide a train approaching a crossing.

Tonight, while waiting for Melissa and Steve to arrive we witnessed a cane fire across the street from the stud. The cane paddocks, no more than 200 metres from the house and just a narrow dirt road from the property boundary were erupting in flames.

Although a little out of focus the photo of a cane fire conveys the excitement most people feel when they see this spectacle the first time and every other time thereafter. It becomes mesmerising.

This fire is no more than 200 metres from the house verandah. Burning embers drifted around for 10 minutes. Next morning Terios and WWWGO were covered in black ash.

The horses in the paddocks took fright (as you would) and galloped to the furthest corner away from the flames.

This photo, taken in fading light and on full zoom is a little out of focus but still shows the concern of the horse as they galloped to a place as far away from the flames as they could get. Note how they are all facing the fire.

The noise of the crackling fires, horses hooves as they galloped and their whinnying added to a sense of apprehension. The fire died out within 10 minutes and the horses gradually drifted back to where they started.

I roasted a chicken in the turbo oven for dinner and baked a chocolate swirl butter cake to welcome Melissa home.

My chocolate swirl butter cake. Welcome home Melissa.

She is in a great deal of back and hip pain.

Tonight was also the final game in the 2011 State of Origin Series. Steve is a staunch New South Wales supporter and becomes annoyed if they are losing. Tonight his team were down 24 nil so he left the room to “look after the horses”. While he was away New South Wales scored two quick tries to make the score 24 to 12. When Steve returned he felt happier as there was a chance his team would score again after half time or even win. After half time my team scored again so Steve went to bed in disgust. Shortly after he did, his team scored an eight point try but were eventually beaten 34 to 24 and Queensland went on to win the series six years in a row. A record for origin rugby league.

Thursday 7th July

Donnis worked and Melissa n Steve drove to Mackay for her MRI and doctors visits. I stayed home and weeded around the house, then emptied all the horse troughs, cleaned the mung n drool and weed n grass from the bottoms and cleaned out the drainage then re-filled all of them. As well I mucked out the three stables and carted the manure away down one of the back paddocks to a lemon tree. All this was done in 28° heat (remember this is winter) so I was feeling kinda tired by 4pm at which time I started preparing for dinner. I made a large meatloaf with plenty left over for sandwiches.

Friday 8th July.

My first training day with the Australian Bureau of Statistics and the 2011 Census team. We discussed our respective area of delivery and collection and as I expected, my area, geographically, is larger than anybody else. Mostly it is farming properties and they are well scattered. I have now named my area Texas. One of the other collectors, Murph has offered to take part of my area as I have to drive through her area to reach Eungella Dam. As well, she has agreed to spend a day with me driving around my area and pointing out where each of the properties is located and indentifying my boundary.  Thank goodness for that bit of help.

The team, including a reserve, are all women and all known to each other and all selected by the area supervisor.

Saturday 9th July

Just a day doing odd bits n pieces around WWWGO and the farm. Melissa is still shuffling around in pain and is hanging on to a comment, made by the MRI Technician, she will be OK in three days. That comment was made on Thursday and the three days is up tomorrow. Unless a miracle occurs overnight I think she will be shuffling in pain for a few more days yet.

Steve left this afternoon to return to work at Moranbah but will be back Monday afternoon. We fed the animals in the evening and I cooked a chilli chicken and vegetables in a coconut cream for dinner and Donnis made an apple crumble for dessert.

This afternoon I chopped a few small logs for the fire. I say a few as that was the number I chopped before most of my back began to protest. Oh dear! I thought my back problems were, if not gone, then at least improved. Not so, it seems. Each evening, just before dark, I have been lighting the fire and we keep feeding the split logs until yawns begin to overtake – usually by around 9pm. Tonight was no different. Melissa still cannot sit at a regular chair at the table so she sits in the leather recliner with our stable table and eats there in reasonable comfort. (http://www.mileskimball.com/MilesKimball/Shopping/ProductDetail.aspx?TID=_MilesKimball&CID=MKOfficeandBooks&SCID=MKDeskandComputerAccessories&P

Hmmm! With Steve away at work for a couple of days I am going to have to do a bit more wood chopping if we want a fire each night.

The days this week have been just great. Fine n sunny with temps up around 27° and even reaching 31°. Once the sun sinks behind the mountain range behind us, the temp plummets dramatically.

Sunday 10th July

A bit of a lazy day for a change. Melissa still in pain and barely managing a shuffle. I did a little preparation work for the census and planning my route around Texas. Donnis did a bit of tidy up in WWWGO and found a few things we have not used and which Melissa has no use for so in the bin they went. Animals got fed about sundown. Donnis cooked up a thick n hearty vegetable soup for dinner.

See yo all next week.

199. Sunday 3rd July 2011. New campsite, new jobs and a bit of bad news…

05/07/2011

Monday 27th June 2011.

Packed up and left the Bucasia Beach CP by 10am. Donnis drove to Mackay to do a big grocery shop in case we do not get an opportunity for grocery shopping until next week. She also took a bit of time to look for a pair of work shoes and new blouses.

I drove directly to Finch Hatton but did take a stop at Marian where I made coffee. I parked in the grounds of the Dame Nellie Melba House, a museum dedicated to the Dame who lived in the area for two years commencing in 1881.

http://www.qhatlas.com.au/content/dame-tropics-nellie-melba

I arrived at the stud just on midday but spent another hour setting up WWWGO with power, water, drainage and of course levelling. The wind was blowing non-stop around thirty knots and was very cool. Rain clouds were building up.

On our last visit we had the task of feeding the chooks and the duck, the dogs and three horses. Last week either a dingo or a feral dog attacked and killed one chook and the duck. Melissa had that duck for ten years and she was devastated with its loss.

This time we feed the chooks and dogs and 9 horses. The horses get frisky at feeding time and we had to dodge a few flying hooves in the early evening gloom.

Hmmm! Note to self. Feed the horses earlier so we can see what they are doing.

We had some drizzly, on n off rain around dinnertime.

Tuesday 28th June.

It may have rained during the night but I would not have known. I slept all night, only waking when Donnis alarm went off at 5.30. She went off to her first day of work at Nanyima Nursing Home just after 6am. It started to rain as she was opening the farm gate. I was sitting in my cosy bed watching the taillights in the dark when she stopped to open the gates. It was at that moment the heavens opened.

The day was wet and windy with strong occasional gusts. Temperature did not get above 20° all day.

I managed to make a loaf of rye bread. This was my first attempt at making bread and it was done by hand. I am quite proud of the outcome.

Note the texture, note the clour, note the crispy crust, note that a few slices are already missing. I feel the urge to make another loaf any day now.

Donnis does not normally eat much bread. Today when she arrived home from work she smelled and then saw the rye loaf. She devoured three slices laced with butter. Yummo!

In the morning I ordered a custom made innerspring mattress with a memory latex top. It will take about two weeks to make and allow another week for delivery. Donnis is looking forward to the delivery day.

Horses and chooks were fed before dark but the poor dogs had to wait until after we had eaten before they had their turn.

Tonight, as per the weather forecast, the wind picked up even more and was threatening to rip the awning off the roof. In driving rain we struggled to haul in the awning, partly because in my haste I did not follow the correct procedure and there were a few dramatic moments as in the dark I found the holding latch, brought the awning back out and tried again. We did this three times before finally securing the awning. Shortly after we dragged our sodden bodies inside, dried off and changed clothes, the wind eased off. We are not fooled by this lull as we know it will come back stronger during the night or in the morning.

Wednesday 29th June

Hmmm! Only a third of a loaf of yummy rye bread left after 24 hours. Where did it all go?

Toasted, with a slice of camembert cheese, scrumptious.

The morning was wind and rain free but gradually during the afternoon both came back with a vengeance. Feeding the chooks, the horses and the dogs in the horizontally driven rain meant I was soaked, despite wearing a water repellent jacket. Unfortunately I was not wearing waterproof pants.

Thursday 30th June. The end of the financial year.

Another windy and wet day although both came in fits n starts. When feeding the animals this afternoon I wore my yellow waterproofs, including pants. Darn! The rain stopped as soon as I put on the wet weather gear.

It was a busy morning for us as I collected the mail and found my new contract with the Australian Bureau of Statistics for the Census collection. I called on the area supervisor and collected my training pack. I have to read the training manual, view a video and complete a test prior to next Wednesday.

Donnis is on afternoon shift for the next two days.

She prefers to work in a smaller, happier, working environment. Don’t we all?

Friday 1st July

The sun made a few appearances today. It was glorious not having to tramp around in the wet during the day.

Sitting at the table eating breakfast I noticed two dark dog shapes running toward the stables. I checked our three dogs to be sure they were still locked up. I found the two dogs, which seem to have bull terrier in their breeding, down in the horse paddock and spying me they left the horses alone and came running up to me. Although I shouted at them they kept running at me. Despite their barking and snarling, their tails were wagging. After speaking with Melissa, she believes, from my description, the dogs belong to a neighbour. It may be they are the dogs responsible for the killing of the duck and hen last week. Melissa will speak with the farmer when she returns.

Temperature got to about 24° in the early afternoon. I put the wet and dripping awning back out this afternoon. Just my luck, no sooner was the awning out when the wind picked up from nowhere. The sun stayed until late afternoon and the wind dropped but temperature dropped as well.

Saturday 2nd July

Wow! The sun was out today. It was lovely and warm except when we went to the Skywindow.

We drove twenty five klms to …Eungella. Just to have a look around at some of the area I will have to work when doing the Census. At the bottom of the mountain range there is a warning sign. It advises a very steep climb for the next 5 klms and trucks, caravans and trailers should proceed with caution especially in wet weather. The road is steep, narrow, winding and in several places the corner speed advisory is 20Kph with difficult ingress and egress. Maximum speed limit is 80 Kph. Those 20Kph corners meant going back to 2ndgear, even in the Terios. The view, for the passenger as the driver is too busy, is spectacular.

The Pioneer Vally looking towards Mackay. A ribbon of bitumen is the Mackay-Eungella Road and the winding snake of water is Cattle Creek which winds through the villages of Netherdale, Finch Hatton, Pinnacle, Gargett and beyond.

First up we had lunch at The Eungella Chalet

Eungella Chalet. Current owners have spent some money on renovations but it still needs more money spent on it.

which sits at the top of the escarpment on the very edge

The chalet from the edge of the escarpment.

of the perpendicular drop to the Pioneer Valley below.

Frankeeg sitting on the edge of the escarpment overlooking the Pioneer Valley.

Hang glider pilots, launch from a platform here and are often seen soaring over and down to the valley below.

Once on this framp with their hang gliding equipment, the gliders take a leap of faith as well as a leap of exhilaration as they soar above the valley floor.

This point is 80 klms from the city of Mackay. The coast and Mackay is somewhere in the distant haze.

A little further along the scarpment is the On The Edge Caravan Park and cabins. As the name implies, it is "on the edge" of the sheer vertical dropoff. Just step outside the cabin door and there is no protective barrier or fence.

Next stop was a quick drive around the nearby streets and houses built in the rainforest. Shee-eet, maybe this will be a more difficult job than I anticipated. Many of the houses appear to be part of the rainforest. Then we drove along the Diggings Road to the National Parks campground at the old gold mining shafts. The road was umm err not so much a road as a track. The track deteriorated to the point where I had to select 4WD on the Terios gearbox.I counted two roads heading off to a couple of farms and was curious if there were more farms further along the diggings road. (A later conversation with a woman at the Broken River kiosk confirmed there are no farms beyond the two I already saw. Whew! Finding all the farms for the census in the area is going to be a bit of a 4WD experience.)

From here the track became much worse with deep wheel ruts and slides and washouts. All downhill of course. The ground was wet and greasy clay.

The track was becoming more and more of a challenge

We just took our time and drove slow and steady.

and discretion dictated I should not put our Terios at risk so turned back before arriving at the diggings.

At least we know the Terios can handle the type of terrain we were in. Even more so if you travel with others. We have recovery gear but it was all packed away in WWWGO.

A pity really as I wanted to show Donnis the abandoned vertical shafts which still dot the steep hillsides. The rough, gutted, muddy and boggy terrain did not deter the Terios (nor the driver) and not once was ground clearance a problem.  The track sees little traffic and there was no mobile signal in this remote hilly area. Next time, joining other drivers and vehicles would be a safer option.

Later at the Skywindow

Entrance to the Skywindow lookout platforms loop trail.

looking down into the valley I can confirm that in the shadow of the rainforeset and standing on the observation deck hanging over the drop-off the temperature was easily 10 degrees lower than the valley below. It was like being in a refrigerator and our breath was hanging wisps of vapor.

Before leaving Eungella we dropped into the Hideaway Café for a coffee. (This was once called the Rainforest Café and was mentioned in the Rusty Stuff post (198). The owner has glued glass beads to animal and flower figures and spread them through her gardens. The beads sparkle in the sunlight and give the garden a magical touch. A group of children were enchanted by the garden and all the surprises they found.

Glass bead birds at the Hideaway Cafe.

Sunday 3rd July

We were woken by the mobile phone at 5.30. It was the nursing home. They wanted Donnis to come in for a shift. As she was having breakfast a shower of rain pattered on the roof. Oh darn we thought. After a great sunny day yesterday a rainy day today was not expected. By 8am the sun was clearing the horizon to the east but the black clouds to the west still looked menacing. The clouds were so low the mountains were hidden from view while the hills around the farm were laced with wisps of fluffy grey cloud.

I managed to clean the top and underside of the awning. I have been wanting to do this since before we left home last year. I used a product called 30 Seconds. It works!

I spent a few hours this afternoon doing some study for the Census. I also completed a test which took almost two hours. I am going to earn every cent when this Census is complete.

This evening I called Melissa for a progress report on her marathon ride this week and when she will come home. Husband Steve answered. Melissa is in Atherton hospital after suffering a fall during the ride. Although nothing is broken – except her pride – she is in a great deal of pain and cannot travel for a few days. It seems she was on the home stretch and had completed 385 Klms and was leading the field by a huge margin.