Friday, 27 July 2007

Back to Cloncurry and on to Richmond and Pentland

After Mt. Isa we returned to Cloncurry for another night to start the journey to the coast. Our next stop was Richmond for one night and then last night to the lovely little (very little!) settlement of Pentland which was a real surprise.
On the way to Pentland we stopped at the pub at Prairie to see if the pictures in the brochure on country pubs were accurate. The photos you see attest to this! The beer and lemon squash were pretty good too! Great publican, a young family man who had run night clubs in Brisbane until coming to Prairie 14 years ago and loving every minute of it. When I returned after getting the camera I remarked that I was unsure if I had locked the car and he replied I would be the only person in town who took the keys out of the ignition! Aaahh life in the bush!
The caravan park was fairly casual, just as we like it. When Ian went in to ask if there was a vacancy he was told yes and pick wherever you like! There were only a few other patrons so we picked out a very nice spot and settled in for the night. The amenities were great and once you’ve been to 19 parks believe me you become an expert.
Whilst we were in Pentland Ian struck up a conversation with our neighbour who proceeded to bring out the display boxes of gems, opals and gold he has collected along his way. He told us he has been on the road for some years and although he doesn’t need the money, fossicking has become his preferred lifestyle. He certainly has some very pretty pieces of ‘bling’ and put our scratchings to shame.
Along the way we have met some interesting vehicles. We have found that as soon as you see the first pilot car looking for somewhere to pull off the road is a good idea. However yesterday we didn’t anticipate a road train coming towards us to be moving quite so fast and have a lovely big stone chip on the front windscreen!

Tuesday, 24 July 2007

Mt. Isa

What an amazing journey it was to drive here. The country is absolutely breathtaking and all we can say is if you haven’t been here you have to put it on your list of “things to do before I die”. It is “eye candy” nearly all the way. Constantly we are amazed at the tenacity of the settlers who came out here and settled the land. Even now we are struck by the contrast of grazing numbers. At home you can see the cattle and sheep all through the paddocks whereas here cattle pop up in groups of ten or so and then you might go miles and miles without seeing any more, obviously the land supports a lot less per hectare, its very stony and mountainous in parts looking to be more suitable to goats than sheep and cattle. Most of the cattle are Brahman varieties which are so unique in appearance.
We knew we were getting closer to Mt. Isa when a vehicle displaying lights and long wide load signs forced us off the road. The police car was definitely ensuring we stayed on the side of the road until the mining truck on a trailer passed us travelling right down the middle of the road with not too much space to spare. They are so enormous.
After we arrived at the caravan park we went off for our usual visit to the Tourist Information centre which are usually very helpful but this one not so enthusiastic but we came out after helping ourselves to the guides with enough to fill in our day and a half.
On Monday we went to the Royal Flying Doctor Service Visitors centre which was very interesting and also to the Underground Hospital at the Mt. Isa Base Hospital. The hospital was tunnelled out of a hill during the second world war when it was feared the Japanese would bomb Mt. Isa. It was initially excavated with the help of dynamite and then finished with good old hard work. It is in an “E” shape and contained a full theatre set up and was ready to take maternity, surgical and acute patients should the need arise. Many evacuation drills took place, some patients taking the drills so seriously that they insisted on taking all their possessions with them to the underground hospital!
Interestingly the hospital was not formally occupied, except by nurses after the war looking for a quiet cool place to rest after a long shift and was seemingly forgotten. Now it has been restored and is fascinating to see.
The rest of the day we spent relaxing and enjoying the sun which was very pleasant.
Today we had a brake issue with the car resolved and visited the School of Distance Education then returned to Cloncurry for a night. After that we’re heading for the coast after a change in plans (or the “no plan”) after we discovered the Winnebago group of 30 are still following or chasing us and making haphazard bookings difficult. We’ve found out where they’re going so we’re heading off the other way! Makes sense to us.

Monday, 23 July 2007


We arrived in Cloncurry on Saturday for a two night stay. Ian is getting quite used to the road trains which are huge and seem to overtake us with ease. We had the luxury of a drive thru site at the caravan park which is stress free although we’re getting pretty good at this game and the check list we use each stay is getting less use as our confidence grows.
We stocked up on groceries here as Winton was not particularly good for that. Today we went to the John Flynn museum which tied together lots of things we had learnt at Qantas and other places. We also went to a dam here and sat and admired the huge pelicans, heaps of wedge tail eagles and cormorants. It was a welcome oasis from the dry dusty country which is also beautiful at the same time. We are attaching a couple of photos this time including the dam and also one of the termite nests which appear along the road and also far back into the surrounding land in clumps.
Next stop Mt. Isa. So far we’ve covered nearly 7,000 kilometres and for those who are interested our fuel consumption has been just under 18 litres per 100 kilometres

Saturday, 21 July 2007


We’re really in the outback now! Dusty but beautiful terracotta earth and patches of green in all shades surround us. Our caravan park was interesting, brolgas greeted us in the park and the invitation to a campfire dinner and two poets made us feel right at home. Campfire dinners are a great way to meet people and Ian claims ‘he’s cooking dinner’!
After dinner and the poets which are an art form in themselves and each one different but all champion the challenges and victories of the bush with typical Aussie humour.
The water here is from artesian bores and is super charged with sulphur --- walking past the showers and laundry attest to this! We also had no water pressure in the van so we used the facilities here for the first time since South West Rocks. They were quick showers and I decided against doing the washing. Interestingly once the water is boiled it loses the sulphur taste and we were told it is very good for you. We’ll take their word for it.
The housing around Winton is in contrast to the Waltzing Matilda Museum which we walked to from the caravan park feeling in need of some work on the 10,000 steps again. The museum was so impressive we stayed until late and had lunch and tea together. We heard many versions of Waltzing Matilda and learnt a lot about swaggies and even the rules their union adopted!
In the many buildings which comprised the museum we again saw a plug and cord switchboard which we have seen at every museum we’ve visited so far, which I am finding a little disconcerting as I used these at a number of positions over the years – I am now feeling somewhat of a relic too! In fact we are familiar with a number of items in the museums! No comment required from Kate or Pete!
They also had a great textile exhibition here – how fortunate that in the absence of a quilt shop I was able to enjoy quilts on walls instead – I’m not sure how fortunate Ian thought he was though.
As a break from museums we drove out over the clay pans into a National Park seeing billabongs surrounded by dry sparse trees and bushes. To think that people actually worked here is unbelievable. In the museums you see photos of the English women who had to make their homes here and raise their children. Some of the letters they write give us an insight of how hard it was.
On to Cloncurry.

Tuesday, 17 July 2007


We arrived in Longreach on Sunday afternoon and found out that our caravan park was offering pickled pork, corned beef and veges for tea and a bush poet to entertain us so of course we booked in, paid our money and settled in on our site. You can tell the country is dry up here, not a blade of grass on the van sites so it’s lucky we could roll out our matting to keep the dust at bay.
Monday morning we went off to the Qantas Founders Museum which was terrific and the tour was very worthwhile. Just to show you I was paying attention I learnt some important facts about the black box. Its orange, located at the back of the plane because that part doesn’t back into mountains and lands last! Its orange not only because it stands out but because that is the international colour for distress. Orange also has a high resistance to fire ---- true dinks that’s what our tour leader told us so think carefully when you choose your seats next time you travel ---- I’m the one at the back!
It was a great place to visit and we watched some really interesting videos about the restoration of the 707 now located at the museum.
Today we started out at the school of distance education which was fascinating and we watched and listened to a year seven class doing their mathematics ---- smart kids, so glad they didn’t ask us for the answers! After the class we toured the school which has residential facilities for 50 students and families for the occasions when the students come in to the school for special occasions such as swimming sports and graduations and classes usually once or twice a year. They have a great library for the students who are allowed forty items each for six weeks at a time and there was plenty of variety for them to choose from including games and construction sets. Each family is given a computer for $250 which is reimbursed by the state government so is really at no cost to the family. Most students go to boarding school when they go on to secondary education and achieve very good results. Nowadays most of the responsibility for supervising the education of the children rests on the mums as governesses are rare because of the poor economy and the drought. When the students come to Longreach for cluster sessions the mums are also in sessions learning too so they can help the children.
Then we went to the Stockman's Hall of Fame and spent the whole day there being amazed by Australians from the early settlers right through to icons of a more recent ilk such as RM Williams. A great display and another really busy day – I’m sure we’ve walked our 10000 steps every day!
Beer o’clock sitting outside the van on our return each day is very welcome. Which brings me to the subject of weather ----- poor you all because we’re wearing shorts and T shirts.
Tomorrow off to Winton for two nights with plenty to see there.

PS Stocky, I bet Christine didn't see your comment about the bra shop, you're in for it now! No we haven't been looking, we've been far too busy checking out the Masonic Halls for you!

Saturday, 14 July 2007

Dinner with Dawn Fraser!

What a surprise Barcaldine (Barky to those who know) has turned out to be. We arrived here yesterday after a leisurely drive from Emerald passing through a town called Jericho which has the most fantastic drive-in still in operation with about thirty outdoor speakers and a great covered area with hammocks to lounge in to enjoy the show .If only we could have stayed for the show. They also have a great museum in the back of the post office – free of charge but a donation would be great and across the road sculptures to depict the 40 year treck of the Israelites to Jericho. Absolutely fantastic and no vandalism or graffiti to be seen.
Barcaldine is so friendly, you feel like you have stepped back in time in the best possible way. On Friday night at the caravan park there is free billy tea and damper (the best we’ve tasted), supplied by Tom Lockie who runs Artesian Country Tours and talks about his tour, telling ripper yarns and bush poetry. He says even his lies are true and we believe him. Then there is musical entertainment from Graham Rodger who is well renowned as a country singer and has won many awards at Tamworth. It was a great night.
Today we explored Barcaldine and went to a museum which opens at 7am every morning except Christmas Day and Good Friday. We’ve never seen anything like it and they even had an iron lung! I can’t begin to describe what they had in this place you’ll hear about it when we come home. Admittance via an honesty tin of $3.00 each. Nearly two hours later we emerged thinking we could spend another two hours and hardly notice the time.
We had a steak in one of the local pubs. There are plenty – some rebuilt after a number of fires – one in 1909 destroyed 6 pubs, after that they formed a local fire brigade – good move! Considering the quality of the transport to the fires it comes as no surprise to find out that there were many other equally catastrophic fires over the years to follow!
Whilst we were sitting on the veranda enjoying our lunch some local lads about 13 years old rode past and said “g’day, how you going! as they rode past to play league footy. The pub is directly opposite the present site of the tree of knowledge where folklore says the Labor Party was formed – well next week THEY’RE MOVING IT TO BRISBANE to put it in a glass cabinet – beurocracy strikes again!
Everyone in this town is on for a chat – the butchers were in a hurry to go home ‘cos they only get Saturday arvo and Sunday off, but they were still up for a chat as we bought some meat for tomorrow night. The lady in the patchwork shop was chatty too (probably ‘cos I helped the local economy quite a lot – well she was having a 25% off sale).
After lunch we went to the Australian Workers Heritage Centre – fantastic as well and the rest of the afternoon was gone.
Our park is the stop for a huge group of Winnebago travellers and the park turned on the same entertainment as last night and a sausage sizzle. Dawn Fraser is travelling with this group so yes we did have dinner with her. She has the biggest German Shepard I have ever seen so she is a very safe traveller – great lady, most unassuming. The mayor also came to dinner and spoke to us all, we were in very good company tonight all round.
If you can come to Barky allow plenty of time, there is so much to see, we’ll be back!
Off to Longreach tomorrow.

We love hearing from you as you read our blog ---- great to hear from Glen and Brenda -- you have to do this too!

Thursday, 12 July 2007

Emerald at Fairbairn Dam

We arrived here on Saturday morning and have stayed at the caravan park situated on the area immediately surrounding the dam. This place is the perfect staging point for fisherman – every second vehicle has not only a caravan but also a tinny on the roof. We have enjoyed watching the process of hitching the tinnies on the roof with a variety of pulleys both hand and electric, and disassembling the trailers used to take them down to the water, some hand made others very sophisticated ---- we won’t be getting one any time soon however.
We discovered the sapphire fields on Sunday at Sapphire and failed to make our fortune although it was an interesting process of sifting, sifting, washing and hoping a huge sapphire would jump out and say ‘take me home’. The areas around the fields look rather like craters where many have tried, some very successful others not to make their fortunes.
Monday was a lazy day (we need those sometimes!) and enjoyed the sunshine which has now been very kind to us overall.
After talking to fellow campers we decided to try our hand at Rubyvale in pursuit of ‘bling’. We took a mine tour there and learnt how hard it is to go underground searching for the elusive gems and decided against new careers. Areas of Rubyvale have tunnels everywhere which plays havoc with roads and even electricity poles which have a tendency to lean at a dangerous angle with monotonous regularity and interrupt the power supply frequently. However we tried again and ……….. failed but it was all good fun.
Wednesday was car service day in Emerald which seems to show that the pace is different here – it was finished at 4pm after being left at 9am, however I found a patchwork shop to amuse myself. They had some lovely fabrics which did say ’take me home’ so to avoid disappointment I obliged. We also both had hair cuts which really shows how long we’ve been away.
Today we went to the Agquip show and it was fascinating. We spent ages watching dogs rounding up cattle with only a short command or whistle to guide them. We also watched bull sales and horse events and before we knew it we had been there all day.
We’ve had a great stay here and now we’re ready to tackle Barcaldine and Longreach.

Wednesday, 4 July 2007

Kinka Beach and Crocodiles

We’ve settled into a really nice caravan park at Kinka Beach being really fortunate to find a spot at all along this part of the coast as school holidays are making vacancies difficult to find. Our theory and desire not to plan are being tested and we have even booked our next stop in Emerald partly because we need to have the car serviced. We will then go on to Longreach after doing some prospecting for sapphires at Emerald and Rubyvale.
However on to what we have been doing here first. We arrived on Monday and had a temporary site until yesterday so we spent some time settling in to our new site. In the afternoon we went for our 10,000 steps along the beach even with our bathers on hoping for a swim only to discover that with the tide out we would spend our 10,000 steps just trying to reach the water and then only knee deep! We abandoned that effort and walked along the beach watching the hundreds of crabs scuttling along the sands.
Today we went to the Crocodile Farm and as you can see we both held a baby croc long enough to be photographed. The tour was terrific and we learnt heaps. The crocs we saw today came with names to describe their character such as Wally (Wally Lewis). We were amazed at how soft the
belly of the croc was compared to the hard almost armour like feel of the back and head.
Tomorrow we’re off to discover Rockhampton.

Sorry no topless photos - I'm in charge of the blog! - Sue

For those who are following the comments - Kate found her phone!