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.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Yep, I'm Still Going - Part 1

Boy, talk about some catching up to do ! ! !

I have a good excuse - well, I think it's good. I was out of range of internet coverage while travelling through the Northern Territory and when I got to Mt. Isa, I bought a new laptop. Didn't think to test it while I was in town and headed south towards Birdsville. The very first time I tried to log on to the internet - the bloody thing wouldn't work. Turns out that the Big Pond dongle I had wouldn't work with Windows 7 and there is a distinct lack of Telstra agents in SW Queensland. I finally found one in St George and they got me back up and running.

As a consequence, I am now 3 months behind in my reporting and this may be a fairly lengthy post, although I have been stopping for extended periods at some places, and a lot of the ground I have covered hasn't really been all that interesting.

To those people who responded to my question about whether anyone was reading my posts, thanks for your responses, it's nice to know I'm not just shouting in the dark.

I know I had decided to not work at all unless I had to (otherwise what's the point of being retired), but I think there may be an opportunity for me to hire myself out as a RAIN GOD. So help me, it hasn't stopped raining on me since April. I cut the Tanami Track, flooded out the Birdsville races and most recently managed to cut all of the highways in southern Queensland.

Anyhow, the last time I posted, [20th July] I was in the Northern Territory heading for Tennant Creek. The Story continues . . .

Saturday, 25 July 2010

Arrived in Tennant Creek only to find out that my brother and his family, who were also on the road in NT had passed through Tennant Creek the night before. I gave him a ring and he had already made it through to Alice Springs. I was hoping to catch up with him as we haven't seen each other for a couple of years, Oh well, gives me an excuse to go down to Tasmania in the summer.

Had a small problem with my van. I was packing up, ready to head off, and I couldn't lower the roof. I rang Jayco in Adelaide and they told me that the nearest accredited repairers were in Darwin, 1000 kms north, or Alice Springs 1000 kms south. They gave me enough info to work out what the problem was, and after about two hours struggling, bashing knuckles and swearing, together with a cup-head bolt I bought at the local hardware store for 20 cents, I fixed it and was able to head off.

First stop was Wonarah Bore, about 250 kms east of Tennant Creek. Nothing there, just mulga and spinifex, but I love the desert and went for some great rambles. A lot of spinifex snakes around so I dug out the boots which haven't seen daylight for a year or more. Fantastic sunsets while I was here.

Wednesday, 28th July 2010

Biiiiiig Troubles. I decided to give the van battery a good charge, so I pulled it out of the van and connected it directly to the 12V outlets on the generator and gave it a good boost for a few hours. When I put it back in the van I made a B I G mistake. The van, for some strange reason has black and white wiring instead of what you would expect, red and black. When I connected the battery I cross-connected and it has absolutely fried the wiring in my car where the wiring loom for the van cuts into the car's wiring. This will be a job for an auto-electrician when I get to the Isa.

I fuelled up in Camooweal and headed down the Urandangi Road to the Camooweal Caves National Park. Crikey! the road was nearly as bad as the Bungle Bungle track. Bit disappointing, the caves are not really caves, but just big sinkholes and there is no access to them. The campsite is on a big billabong, but it was very muddy and no birdlife to speak of, bit of a waste, but only 20 kms or so out of town. Mark that one down to experience.
Saturday, 31st July 2010

Into Mt. Isa - Baaaad idea, the rodeo is on and there must be 20,000 vans and mobile homes in town. All of the caravan parks have been booked out for weeks. I back-tracked about 10 kms out of town and found a gravel pit off the side of the road which will do me until Monday when I can see a sparkie.

Monday, 2nd August 2010

I guess I must be lucky. The electrician fitted me in straight away, didn't charge me an arm and a leg, and had me on the road again by 2:00 pm that day. Made a bush camp that night at Galah Creek, only about 40 kms south of Isa. Nice creek, well off the road, plenty of shade and some interesting walking by the look of it.

Sunday, 8th August 2010

Another 200 kms today, through to the Peak Creek rest area, about 40 kms from Boulia. Nice spot. The rest area is quite good, toilets and drinking water, it is right on the roadside, but there are plenty of nice parking areas behind the rest area, well off the road, so this'll do for a few days. I haven't been taking many photos, because to tell the truth, the landscape isn't all that photogenic. Mulga, Wattle and spinifex and that's about it, but I like this sort of country and the birdlife can be pretty amazing.

Friday, 13th August 2010

Big run today, 330 kms through Boulia and Bedourie and I have stopped at Nyama Creek. I'm on the dirt roads now but they're in pretty good nick. There has been some heavy rain through this area recently as the creeks have all got water in them, but the road surface is not to bad. This area has the first flocks of budgerigars that I've seen in my travels. I thought I'd see lots of them, particularly in the Northern Territory, but these are the first. They are the most incredible shade of green - they look almost luminescent. Also literally hundreds of hawks (or Kites I think they may be). Probably plenty of feed for them after the rains. I'm getting close to the channel country now and the land is as flat as a pancake. Every now and then, there is a pile of gravel for roadworks at the side of the road and no kidding, you can see them for 15 or 20 kms before you get to them.

I was tempted to head for Birdsville, but the races are on in a week or so, so the place will be full of tourists and the weather bureau is forecasting rain for the area. I don't fancy getting stuck in Birdsville when the rains come, so I'll give it a miss this year.

Thursday, 19th August 2010

237 kms today of abso-bloody-lutely nothing. The Nullabor Plain hasn't got a thing on this country except for grass. Not a tree or bush for hundreds of kms. Most of the creeks are dry, so with no shade and nothing interesting to see, there is not much point stopping anywhere. However, I did get to meet a mob of the locals as I was crossing the Diamantina River.
The book (Camps 5) shows a rest area at JC Hotel Ruins and my map indicates it as a point of interest, so I have made that my destination. What a disappointment. The hotel was originally made out of mud-brick and hasn't been conserved, so the ruins consist of a big pile of dirt with a couple of old wooden posts sticking up. I had a wander around the area and found an old cemetery about 1.5 kms away from the ruins. there were only about 20 headstones, dating from about 1885. So sad to see the number of graves of little children 1 or 2 years old. Must have been a bugger to survive in places like this in those days.

Friday, 20th August 2010

Through to Windorah today. Nice little town, only has a population of 60 but the local council has a caravan park with powered sites for $10 a day!!!. There is no park office so a lady from the council (the policeman's wife I'm told) comes around each day to collect the fees. I stayed two days and then decided to stay for another two and she tossed in one day for free. Commercial caravan parks, please take note. The information centre in town has free internet access (it's bloody slow, but it's free, so who cares). They reported that the roads are all open at the moment, but they're expecting quite a bit of rain.

The town boasts the first solar farm in Qld which produces 180kW of electricity and will theoretically save 100,000 litres of diesel a year, but I took three or four trips into town during the next two weeks, and never saw them pointed at the sun anytime I went past. Great idea, but I wonder why they're not using it???
Saturday, 28th August 2010

Well, the rain has come, right in time for the Birdsville races. All the roads are closed, the races have been cancelled because the track is under water, and the black mud around this area is (a) as slippery as oil and (b) as sticky as glue. I went for a walk and within 20 metres I had 3 inches of mud on the sole of each boot. A thirty minute walk and it took me an hour to get the mud off my boots.

I'm camped on the bank of the Cooper's Creek. There has been an incredible amount of traffic coming through, Mostly camper-trailers, although there were three greyhound buses through on Wednesday. All going to the races naturally, but now the rains have come, they're all trapped. They're saying on the radio that the roads won't be open for at least a week, so I'm squatting here until things dry out. The Cooper is only 10 kms out of Windorah, and it's a sealed road, so I'm able to get into town every couple of days to have a shower at the caravan park and buy bread and milk etc. They sure know how to charge out here, a loaf of sliced bread (frozen) is $4.75

Wednesday, 8th September 2010

Finally packed up and moved on after two weeks (and three separate lots of rain) at Coopers Creek. Lots of people fishing, although I didn't see too many catching fish. Fishing is one thing that has never interested me. I know a lot of people give me a strange look when I say that, but it just seems like a waste of time to me, especially if you're gonna throw 'em back. If you do catch one, you've got to scale it, clean it, fillet it, and so on - It just seems easier to buy it already prepared. People have told me that it's not the fish, but the activity - doesn't seem like much activity to me!!! Lots of sitting around doing nothing, I'd rather be walking through the bush scaring the crap out of kangaroos.

Rather than make this post too long to read, I'll close it off and continue catching up in part two.

See you then.