Monday, December 27, 2010

Third Xmas On The Track

To my (well-spread-out) family, all my friends, new and old, and to anyone else who stumbles across the blog, Merry Christmas and a safe, healthy and prosperous New Year. 

First, Catching up:  I was feeling a bit depressed in Mount Morgan and I headed out the day after the last post. I got to Biloela and had a bit of a look around, but nothing caught my fancy, so I kept going. My Camps 5 book shows a campsite at the top of the Coominglah Range, 22kms west of Monto, so that's my target.


What a delightful campsite. It is actually a little closer to Monto that the book says, only 18 kms from Monto, and no warning indicators (like, "Rest Area 5 km") as most are - just a sign indicating the turn-off. Quite a big area, toilets, plenty of water (although the sign says it is not drinkable, it is fine for washing, showering etc). The area is state forest and there are lots of big trees which would be giving great shade if there was any sun!

There is a forestry track which leads off from the camping area and just across a cattle grid is a cleared line for the power line, so I pulled in there. There is a great view east into the Cania Valley and looks like plenty of opportunity for bushwalking.

There was one other van here when I arrived, a solo guy named Roscoe and later in the day a couple (Steve and Wendy) pulled in in a monster bus, the Highway Hilton. A nice couple and I've added them to my links.

During the afternoon, Steve dragged a huge log into the campsite and got stuck into it with his chainsaw, so a fire tonight.

Grabbed a couple of beers and headed up to the fire, but it is pretty sad, the wood is r-e-a-l-l-y wet and pretty hard to get a decent blaze going, but what the hell! it's the thought that counts, although I'm glad that it is not freezing cold, when you really need a fire.


It's my anniversary ! ! ! Today marks 2 years on the road. One of the worries I had when I started this voyage, was that I would get bored on the road, but the last two years have just flown. And I have a list a mile long of places that I still want to see and things that I have yet to do, let alone the places that I want to return to.

I have taken a couple of runs into Monto to pick up bread, milk, fresh meat etc. and it is a lovely little town. It has obviously fallen on hard times, the Timber Mill and the Butter Factory have both closed down, but there seem to be a few new houses being built on the outskirts, and the people I have spoken to don't seem disheartened.

 I love the "concert hall" attached to the local shire hall, watch out Sydney, your opera house has a competitor.

 Have a look at the clouds over the main street. Lately that means that either it is just about to rain, or it has just stopped raining.


It is actually a sunny day today, and doesn't look like it will rain for a while, so I took the opportunity to do a bit of exploration. I took a wander up the cleared line of the powerline easement and got a great view of the valley and the further ranges to the east. If you click on the photo below, you can just see my van to the right of the power line in the middle distance.

 In between my campsite and Monto is the turn-off to Cania Gorge, the area's tourist attraction. There are several walks through the gorge which are well worth the trouble. It is a sort of temperate rain forest but without the vines and ferns etc. which you get in the more tropical areas. Lovely shady walks although the humidity was through the roof - luckily it wasn't all that hot to go with it.

The first walk leads to the Fern Tree Pool. Not as spectacular, perhaps, as some other locations I've seen, but  very pleasant all the same.

The total circuit is 5.3 kms and after leaving the fern pool, it climbs to the top of the ridge for a nice walk along the ridgeline through open eucalyptus woodland before coming to a lookout called the "Giant's Chair". For what reason, I am at a loss - I couldn't see anything that resembled a chair of any kind. Perhaps some form of explanatory signage would help?

The second area has two walks of about 3 kms each and as I have been getting a little cabin fever after being locked in by the rain, I tramped both of them, fearing that the weather may not give me the opportunity for a second visit. First stop was "Dripping Rock" Don't want to seem cynical, but just about every rock around here has been dripping for months.

At the end of this walk is "the Overhang" where a granite dyke intrudes into the local sandstone. Fantastic spot to sit and have a sandwich and a cuppa.

I think I may have overdone things a bit. I reckon I have tramped about 15 kms altogether today and I'm exhausted! From the feel of things, I think I may be a bit stiff and creaky tomorrow, but it was great to be able to get out of the van for a while.


I was going to move a couple of days ago, but guess what? It bloody rained again and the last thing I want to do is pack up everything while it is all wet. Yesterday wasn't too bad and as it didn't rain much yesterday or last night, and it wasn't raining this morning, I packed up and hit the road about 10:00am heading for Kalpowar, about 40 kms east of Monto. The road was bitumen all the way to Kalpower (population about 20 and I think half of those are cats and dogs) and then dirt through to Gin Gin. As soon as I left Kalpowar, there were "Road Closed" signs on both the Gladstone and Gin Gin roads. The water over the floodway on the Gin Gin road was only about 6 inches deep and the campsite I'm looking for is only about 3 kms further on, so I pushed on.

I reached the turnoff into the State Forest Recreation Area and pulled up to have a recce. There were two tracks leading off into the state forest and I went for a wander down to first one to see if I could spot a nice campsite. The track is very narrow and I don't want to drive in and find I have nowhere to turn around. I walked in about two kms and only spotted one spot which was passably suitable and couldn't see anything else nice so I returned to the car to try the other track. It has been raining lightly and I have got my big golf umbrella, so off I go to look at the second track.

After another 2 kms or so without spotting a good campsite, decided that the "passable" spot was the only one and set off to return to the car. It started to rain a bit heavier, and then it started to rain really hard and then it started to pour and then it absolutely teemed down and by the time I got back to the car, the track I was on had turned into a creek.

In the words of the ancient philosopher, bugger this for a joke. This is not funny and there is no way I am going to try to set up in the middle of a downpour. Back into the car and I'm heading back to the range where I came from.

The drive back to Monto was a nightmare. The visibility was down to nothing and yet most of the vehicles I passed on the way back were driving without their lights on. Are people crazy or what? I got back to Monto and bought some bits and pieces for Xmas lunch and then back up to the top of the range. It was about 3 in the afternoon and there was a foot of water across the road in at least 3 spots between Monto and the range.

I reached "home" and pulled up in the main parking area to wait for a break in the rain so I can set up. After two hours I am getting ready to sleep in the car tonight, but finally it let up for the few minutes I need. I am really over this weather, let me tell you. The clouds are so heavy that even my satellite dish won't pick up a signal and I am starting to notice a few mouldy spots starting to appear in the canvas.


Well, my third Xmas on the road. 2008 was at Springsure, not a million miles away from here, 2009 was near Streaky Bay in South Australia and this year in Queensland again. I have decided to treat myself this year so Roast Chicken, Prawns, three types of salad, hot Xmas pudding and custard and a bottle of bubbly. The perfect makings for an afternoon nap!


OMG, will this bloody rain never stop. It has been pouring virtually non-stop since Friday. I stuck a container outside the van on Friday and so far it has about 8 inches of water in it. 8 inches of rain in 4 days.

 According to the news, there are roads out just about everywhere in the state. I will stay here until the end of the year and then go down to Brisbane to see my brother and his family and then I'm going to head west. South west Queensland is out of the question, the last I heard the Cooper Creek is about 50 kms wide, so I will head down though NSW to Broken Hill and then maybe the Flinders Ranges again for a while. I think my travels for a while are going to be determined by what roads are passable.

With the long range forecast as it it is, Tassie is definitely out this summer, maybe next year.

See You Soon

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Central (Wet) Queensland

It's been a while since I last posted, not because I've been lazy (well, not this time, anyway) but simply because I haven't done anything interesting.

I pulled into Mount Morgan on Monday, 15th November and I have been here ever since. It has, literally, rained every single day since I've been here, including some days when it didn't stop raining all day. I have been into Rockhampton a couple of times and took a quick spin up to Mackay (the day before it drowned), but apart from that about all I have done is catch up on my reading.

Today is the first day I have seen the sun (again, literally) and even so, it is now 12:15 and the overcast is starting to thicken up. I was going to take off last Monday and head inland to try and get away from the rain. Lucky I didn't, there have been more floods everywhere and half the roads are closed.

My intention was to go back down to Brisbane over the Xmas-New Year period and then head down to Tassie, but bugger this! I'm going to head back to the west and get away from this "La Nina" effect which the weather bureau says is going to last all summer. Right now the Murchison and the Gascoyne areas are sounding pretty good.

See you in the New Year.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

South-East Queensland

Ho-hum, Trees, hills, paddocks - b-o-r-i-n-g.

The more I see of the country, the more I come to love the wide-open spaces and the deserts, where you can see to the edge of eternity.

I left Texas on the 21st of October and headed to a campground in the hills above Brisbane, but when I got there, I found that the caretaker was the rudest person I have come across in many a long year - I don't suppose it had anything to do with his Pommy accent? I gave him a spray and headed down to Brisbane to stay in a van park near to my brother's place. I'd stayed there before, but forgotten how much they charged. $40.00 a night is absolutely ludicrous. Note to self: Don't stay there again!

On the way, I drove through Cunningham Gap, merely because I hadn't travelled that road before and I actually hadn't planned to stop, but coming up to the gap itself, there was a bloody great road train up my rrr's so I pulled over into a little lay-by to let it go past and found that there were several walk-trails leading off from the lay-by. If anyone is interested, it is right at the top of the pass, on the LH side travelling towards Brisbane.
I spent a couple of great hours doing the short walk and will definitely be back sometime to do the longer walks.

The terrain is amazing, at one moment you are walking through sub-tropical rain forest with orchids and epiphytes growing from the trunks of the trees and within a few metres the canopy opens out and you are in an open eucalypt woodland.

The short walk which I did leads to a lookout with a fantastic view over the crater of an immense volcano.

I spent a few days with my brother and his family and took off north to see if I could find some sunshine.

Sunday, 24th October 2010

I was headed for Kilcoy, but when I got there, I was very disappointed with the campsite. Very small, quite un-even surface and right on the highway. PLUS, it was $10 a night, even with power, that's a lot to pay for what was a pretty poor campsite. I'm not overly stingy, but I do believe in value for money. I did a bit of shopping and headed for Benarkin, a few kms further on.

What a delightful stop. Free, level, shaded, HOT showers and I don't know if you are allowed to or not, but there were power points in the shelter sheds. The signs say 20 hours maximum stop, but I pushed the envelope a little and stayed for two nights. My excuse was that everything was wet as the Sunday night there was an absolute hurricane with thunder, lightning, wind and an tremendous downpour. The next day was very humid and overcast, but the Tuesday turned out fine and after I packed up, I took a walk along the old, disused railway line into the next town of Blackbutt and back before heading off again.

Tuesday, 26th October 2010

What a change, sunshine - I'd almost forgotten what it felt like. Headed onwards through Nanango and Kingaroy (not very impressive) and stopped for the night at Ban Ban Springs. A nice little spot, but right on the highway opposite the truck-stop, so a bit noisy at times. Again it's only supposed to be an overnight stop, but I traded on the friendship and stayed three nights. I have never been questioned yet, so I suppose that as long as one doesn't overdo it, it seems to be OK.

Friday, 29th October 2010

Onward again and went through a pleasant little town called Gayndah. I have seen a lot of the "big" things on my travels, the Big Pineapple, the Big Galah, the Big Banana etc., but I was quite surprised to find the Big Orange in Gayndah. I would have expected it in the Riverland of South Australia, but not in Southern Queensland.

I'm deliberately taking some of the minor roads and looking at some of the tiny towns and villages that are in this part of the country. The countryside itself is not all that impressive, lots of trees, hills and farms which all become the same after a while, but some of these little towns are quite interesting.

I've come to a place called Cracow, population 35 says the Irish Backpacker who works in the hotel, and it is a genuine ghost town.

There is a big gold mine on the outskirts, but they don't seem to use the town much, so it has died except for a few locals and travellers. It is interesting to make out the faded signage on some of the old buildings, such as Billiard Saloon and Boarding House.

The pub is stacked to the rafters (literally) with memorabilia, but a lot of it is anachronistic, or at least not local. I'm pretty sure Ned Kelly never got this far north.

I was going to camp here, because the book says that there is a campsite here. I enquired at the pub and it seems the campsite is in the park right opposite the pub. It is not level and it is only 50 metres from the pub so I can imagine the noise at night when the miners come into town, so I back-tracked about 14 kms out of town and set up in a clearing in the State Forest. Not as impressive as some forests I've seen, no really big trees, but peaceful, lots of birds and plenty of tracks to go exploring.

Saturday, 6th November 2010

kms as opposed to the 30,000 in the previous 10 months. Much more relaxing.

I stayed in the State Forest for 8 nights and then headed on through Theodore and Banana (named after a yellow bullock, if you don't mind) and pulled into a little place called Baralaba. It is interesting to note on these back roads, that when the old wooden bridges have become too ratty to use anymore, instead of up-grading them, they have just by-passed them, unlike the tropics where the bridges get higher and higher each upgrade.

I'm camped on the banks of the local weir and it is a delightful spot. About 1 km out of town, so I can get my daily exercise walking into town to get a loaf of bread. The book says 48 hours stop, but there are no signs around so I'll just plead ignorance if anyone asks.

I'm going to take off again tomorrow (Nov 10th) and head for another tiny town, but I don't know if I'll have coverage there, so I'm taking this opportunity to catch up.

See you soon.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Rain, Rain and More Rain

I'm still in Texas in Southern Queensland, waiting for the weather to clear up, but the way things are going, that may not happen soon.

It blew an absolute gale last night, at times I thought the caravan was going to blow away. At 11:00pm last night, I was out in pouring rain, putting the awning back up a after it blew down. When I woke up this morning, the river had burst it's banks and completely covered the old bridge.

The forecast is fine for the weekend, but there is supposed to be more rain coming next week.

Two photos of the river from the main bridge, taken 10 days apart, show how much the river has risen.

Photo taken 6th October, 2010

Photo taken 16th October, 2010

The old bridge, where I am camped, has completely disappeared. It's somewhere under the water, where the turbulence is showing.
When I pulled in, I was originally going to camp down on the river bank, but decided not to, as it was very shady, and I wouldn't have any sunshine for my solar panel. Just as well, that area is completely under water about 4 or 5 feet deep.
See you soon

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Yep, I'm Still Going - Part 2

Wednesday, 8th September 2010

I've made it through to Quilpie which is the legendary home of the Pub With No Beer. Actually, the pub doesn't have beer these days either, it isn't a pub any more, it is now a restaurant, and a couple of shops.
More Rain! I planned to camp for only one or two nights on the banks of Lake Houdrouman, which is only a few kms out of town, but it rained the first night and turned the whole area into a quagmire. Pretty much the same sort of soil as out near Cooper's Creek. I need to do some washing and fill up the water tanks, so I'll be booking in to the caravan park for a couple of days before I head further south.

The lake is quite pleasant, but not as much birdlife as I would have expected. A couple of pelicans and that's about it.
Quilpie appears to be a major Opal mining area, which surprised me a little. I was familiar with Coober Pedy, Andamooka and Lightning Ridge, but I had never heard of opal in association with Quilpie. The emphasis is on "Boulder Opal" which is evidently different to other opal, but they're all rocks to me (OK, so I'm a philistine). I don't know what the actual value of the opal is, but it is either the cheaper form of the gem, or the altar and lectern in the local catholic church are worth a king's ransom, because they are entirely faced with raw opal.
Tuesday, 14th September 2010

A pleasant surprise at the Caravan Park, one of the very few which have given me a discount because I am travelling solo. $18 a night instead of $24. There is a sign which says that you can have a shower without booking in to the park, but at $5 per person, I wouldn't think they would get many takers. The town operates on Artesian water, which stinks to high heaven, from the sulpher content, but surprisingly, it tastes fine, the smell doesn't stay on the skin or in clothing, and although it feels quite strange when showering, soap lathers quite easily. The locals tell me the water is not treated in any way (no chlorination or flouridating) so it will be interesting to see what it does after being in a jerrycan after a few days.

Thursday, 16th September 2010

I headed south from Quilpie after doing the housework, and came to Toompine, which is described as "The Pub With No Town" and that pretty well sums it up. All there is, is the pub.
I have never been to South West Queensland before, and a lot of the places I am visiting are referred to in old Slim Dusty songs, so it is interesting (to me, anyway) to see the places that I heard in song when I was young.

Thargomindah has a very strong association with Artesian water and has made it a feature of the town's persona. The town was originally powered by a hydro power plant powered by the pressure from the underground water flow.
According to the local information, the town was the third place in the world (after London and Paris) to have electric street lighting. Amazing when you think about it.
Just from an environmental perspective, it is interesting to see the effect of "civilisation" on nature. When the bore was first drilled, the plume of water blowing out of the bore was 70 feet high, but after years of drawing on the aquifer, the water barely dribbles out of the ground as can be seen in the photo above.

The water is very, very, very hot and every house has a tank outside which looks like a water heater, but is in fact a water COOLER.

Thargomindah was on the Cobb & Co coach run and looking at the crossing on the Bulloo River, it must have been a pretty adventurous way to travel.
From Thargomindah, I headed east, pretty much paralleling the NSW border all the way to the coast. A few kms on and I came to Lake Bindegolly, at which I stopped just to have a stickybeak. I hadn't planned to stop, and the reference in the Camps book says it is only a day stop, but just opposite the rest area is a nice big sign saying "Bush Camping". I checked it out and there are several really good campsites, so I'm here for a few days.

Sunday, 19th September 2010

More Bloody Rain! Welcome to sunny Queensland, they say. Still, look on the bright side (pun intended), without the rain, we wouldn't have attractive water features like this. A fair few water birds around, but different types to what I have seen so far. Black Swans, Grebes and, most surprising so far from the sea, silver gulls and terns.

Tuesday, 21st September 2010

Heading towards Cunnamulla. Crossed the Paroo at Eulo. The locals tell me that this is the first time the river has flowed for at least ten years, so I suppose I should feel privileged to be seeing the country in this condition.
I'm still in artesian country here and spotted some mud springs. These are spots where the artesian pressure forces up to the surface. I don't know how old these mounds are, but they seem to be pretty dormant, but they must have been quite a sight in the old days when the pressure was high enough to keep them active.
Wednesday, 22nd September 2010

In to Cunnamulla today, I'll stay at the caravan park, just for one night, as I need to do some shopping. Pretty ordinary caravan park for $24/night. Not very level and not much grass. There doesn't seem to be any rule-of-thumb for van parks as far as price relating to quality. I've seen parks which were quite delightful for $20 and parks which were quite frankly pretty ordinary for $26-$28. Seems to me there should be some sort of official rating scheme which would sort out the grain from the chaff.

There is a new statue in town, well, since I was last here 7 or 8 years ago. The "Cunnamulla Fella" made famous by the Slim Dusty song. Can't figure out why the tea doesn't slop out of his cup, but. Interesting to note that all the meat in the IGA supermarket here is already cryovac packed. Took the opportunity to re-stock.

Cunnamulla is on the Warrego River, and like all of the rivers through this area is in flood condition. It isn't a "flood" situation, that is the river hasn't over-flowed, but it is right up close to the top of the banks. One thing about the rivers around here, they all look pretty much the same. Muddy Brown.

Thursday, 23rd September 2010

No designated campsites along this part of the trip, so I've pulled off onto the old, gravel road which parallels the bitumen about 100 metres away. The trees are a bit bigger than they have been for a fair while. Still lots of Mulga and Acacia, but more eucalypts now.

I'm somewhere near Nebine Creek, but there are not really any features around. Went for a couple of bush-walks, but nothing much to see except for dams and more trees.

Monday, 27th September 2010

Headed East again along the Balonne Highway. The land here is very flat and becoming a lot more open for farming rather than the scrubby cattle country farther west. Into St. George on the Balonne River. This is cotton country, but the paddocks are all bare, they look as if their either ready for planting, or just recently seeded. No sign of any growth.

At last, a Telstra agent. Took the laptop in and got the extra software loaded to enable my dongle. F I N A L L Y I can access the internet. The biggest worry I had was that I wasn't able to access internet banking and transfer funds into my credit card, but I'm back on track now.

I didn't hang around St. George, just long enough to fuel up and grab some bread and milk and then off again.

I was heading for Goondiwindi, but I heard on the radio that all the roads east, north and south of Goondiwindi are closed due to flooding, so I have pulled off near Talwood and I'll stay here for a few days. I pulled into a gravel scrape, but on investigation, it runs into a stock route, which is basically just a cleared line through the bush. Lots of opportunities to have a wander around.

On of my neighbours has a favourite restaurant that he comes to each day for lunch right in front of my campsite.

Monday, 4th October 2010

The radio reports say that all the roads are open again, and I've allowed a couple of extra days to allow them to fix the worst of the road damage, so I'm on the way again, heading for Goondiwindi (pronounced Gun-da-windy) and parts east.

There is a L O T of surface water around, many of the paddocks are still flooded and the creeks are all overflowing.
Ther are still a number of spots where the water is still flowing over the road, but it's only about 300mm deep and not flowing all that fast so it's quite safe to drive through. These shots are just west of Goondiwindi.

We need to change from Slim Dusty to Tex Morton around here. Gunsynd, the "Goondiwindi Grey" is idolised here. Apart from the statue (which, incidentally is a very nasty, cheap and tatty poured concrete) the local tourist information centre is bursting at the seams with Gunsynd memorabilia. Oh well, I suppose if you're a little town, you have to take what you can get.
The town has also pinched the name of the "Tree of Knowledge" from Blackall. This one has been named because all of the locals would congregate and discuss the height of the river and whether or not it was likely to flood and how high it would rise. Must have been before the advent of television.

The Camps book tells me there is a campground at Yelarbon, between Goondiwindi and Texas, so I'll check it out. Nice spot! soft green grass, power, hot showers and well off the main road, and only $10 per night. Excellent value. It's sunny again for a change, so I'll stop here for a couple of days to charge the batteries (mine and the van's). Can't be more than a dozen or so houses, post office and a food shop, and not even a general store, but a lovely little village built on a lagoon. Somewhere along the line, the locals have put a lot of time and effort into turning the lagoon into a beautiful picnic area.

Right opposite is one of the finest examples of the "Queenslander" that I've ever seen.

Wednesday, 6th October 2010

Onwards, ever onwards. I had planned to camp at Cunningham Weir on the Dumaresq River which forms the Qld/NSW border, but there were three good reasons for not doing so. First, there were no really nice areas to camp, second, the whole are stinks of rotten fish. There were lots of dead carp laying around, so presumably the locals catch them and simply throw them on the ground to rot. I seem to recall reading somewhere that it is actually against the law to throw them back in.

The third reason was that the river was running a banker and the road wass closed because the water is over the bridge.

On to Texas QLD 4385 (to quote the words of the Lee Kernaghan song. (This is turning into a real Aussie Country music tour). A local tourist map shows a camping area down on the banks of the river, just 1 km out of town. Unusual, because there is a caravan park in town and they usually scream their tits off if anyone dares to camp close to town. This one is signposted by the shire as a designated campground. It has lots of grassy, level areas, plenty of cut firewood stacked up, you are allowed to stay for 14 days, and there is even a sign on a tree from the local store telling you not to bother un-hitching, give them a call and they'll deliver your order to the campsite. What more could you ask for. Seriously, places like this restore one's faith in human nature.
According to the tourist literature, the town has a population of 900, which is pretty small, but they seem to have everything here. There is a golf club, a pistol range, a skeet shooting range, I saw about a dozen kids coming out of a hall in their karate gear, there are two nice hotels and a very picturesque guest house and, best of all for us campers, there are free hot showers in the town park. Better and better.
Thursday, 7th October 2010

Did the tourist thing today, took a spin up to Glenlyon dam. Didn't realise how far it was, turned out to be about a 100 km round trip over some really winding roads. Quite picturesque, and from the lookout I could see a nice picnic area but try as I may, I could find out how to get to it.

After I got back to town, I tried to find the site of "Old Texas" which was the original settlement before floods caused the locals to move the town to the present site. Hard to find 'cos there are no bloody signs anywhere. Note to local tourist commission - Lift Your Game, folks. On the way came across and interesting site. It appears that Texas USA sent some Pecan trees to Texas Qld in 1988 to celebrate the bicentenary, and the locals planted them in "Pecan Park". Now I'm no expert on horticulture, but these would have to be the saddest looking trees I've seen in a loooong time.

I haven't got anything better to do with my time than drive around, so I eventually found the site of Old Texas. No signs or notices anywhere, just these sad old ruins out on the river flats. Sad in a way.
Friday, 8th October 2010

I knew it was too good to last. MORE BLOODY RAIN! Pardon my shouting, but I've just about had it up to here (points to throat) with rain. The whole reason for coming north at this time of year is that it is supposed to be the dry season. At least it isn't cold, just annoying. I can remember my Nanna telling me to always look for the good points. AHA, I've got it. My car is clean for about the first time in three months.
Well, finally I've caught up. I'll be staying here for another week at least and then heading for Warwick and a brief dip down into NSW to look at a couple of things I have my eye on.

See you soon.