Playing in the Sand – Fraser Island Part 5

Our association with Fraser Island has not been close but it has been long. We first visited almost 40 year ago. We were on holiday from Melbourne towing an early model Jayco Swan wind up van. We did the Fraser Island tour from Urangan. In those days a passenger boat took tourists across to McKenzie wharf where the tour operators kept a covered truck with seats running length ways along its tray. We jolted over sand tracks to see the main sights, including Lake McKenzie, Central Station and various other points of tourist interest.

A final look at The Pinnacles

A final look at The Pinnacles

Then, about 25 years ago, with two mates, in my 28 ft yacht “Aegis”, I set out for Lady Elliott and Lady Musgrave Islands, which are like a couple of full stops at the southern end of the Great Barrier Reef. By the second night we were off Sandy Cape at the northern end of Fraser Island. There we ran into a night of storms. That was challenging but not much fun. Late the next day we encountered a 40 knot northerly gale that blew us all the way back to Mooloolaba. We abandoned our plans and came home.

A fresh water stream makes its way across the beach to the ocean

A fresh water stream makes its way across the beach to the ocean

The third visit was about 20 years ago. We came with friends and left our car at Urangan and travelled to the island in the back seat of their short wheel base Pajero. We stayed two nights at Kingfisher Resort, spending the intervening day being driven across the island to the eastern beach.

 

The first tour didn’t reach the beach and from the yacht the beach was a narrow strip of white against the green of the island’s vegetation. So, on this trip, we had our first introduction to Eli Creek, SS Maheno and Indian Head. As I recall, we had to reduce tyre pressures to get around Indian Head.

A last look back up the beach

A last look back up the beach

And so, our fourth trip had reached its last day. Check out time was 10.00 am but we had to wait for the tide to recede a bit before starting home. So, while we waited, we spent most of the $20 refunded on the deposit on the amenities key on coffee.

 

 

Part of the bistro at Happy Valley

Part of the bistro at Happy Valley

The only place of consequence that we had not visited was Happy Valley, so we made a short detour to check it out. The main store building has been rebuilt since we called there with our friends. It now includes modern flats and a complex containing store, coffee shop/cafe and a sizable bistro. The village now boasts a new holiday unit development. This looked most attractive, with its

Accommodation units at Happy Valley

Accommodation units at Happy Valley

proximity to those trappings of civilisation just mentioned. Just a short walk but by the time you reach the bistro your shoes would be full of sand. Oh well. You can’t have everything!

 

 

 

Approaching vehicles at Poyungan Rocks

Approaching vehicles at Poyungan Rocks

Waves were still lapping at Yidney Rocks, mentioned in an earlier post, so we had to use the inland bypass. Further south the same situation appeared to be the case at Poyungan Rocks, at least when viewed from the north. So we used the bypass, only to find that, when viewed from the south, there was a clear passage between wave and rock. It was when we stopped to take a photo that we were overtaken by the avalanche of southbound vehicles featured in the second part of the video clip included in a previous post.

The coloured sands at Rainbow Beach

The coloured sands at Rainbow Beach

The final run along the beach provided some great views of the sand hills of Rainbow Beach. There was only a short wait for the ferry and we easily fitted on board. With tyre pressures at 18 psi we drove slowly into Rainbow beach to the under body car wash facility that has free air hoses for re-inflating tyres. Much quicker that the 12 volt compressor that we carry with us.

On the ferry (not our car)

On the ferry (not our car)

With all that done we adjourned to a fish and chip lunch and then the 215 km drive home. The detailed washing and vacuuming of the vehicle will wait until the next day.

So Fraser Island gets a “thumbs up”. If we were to go back it would probably be to rent some more conventional accommodation, like a house or flat, for a week. That would give time to do some more exploring but provide time for leisurely walks along the beach and perhaps, even some fishing.

For anyone interested, the Inskip Point ferry costs $120.00 return. A Queensland National Parks pass for 1 month costs $46.65. One month is the minimum period for which a pass is available.

Five Days Playing in the Sand – Fraser Island 5   [youtube]https://youtu.be/itwnuWEmDQ8[/youtube]

Playing in the Sand – Fraser Island Part 4

Rocks at the start of the climb

Rocks at the start of the climb

We went south yesterday, so its north again today. I had decided to climb Indian Head.

We left the camp as soon as the height of the tide made it safe to travel on the beach. When we arrived at the northern end of Seventy Five Mile Beach there was only one other

vehicle there and its occupant was fishing. The first part of the climb is steep and rough but then the rate of attrition eases and an easy path leads ahead. I only needed two “breather” stops on the way up, so I didn’t do too badly.

The Climb - The View to the North

The Climb – The View to the North

The view from the top is magnificent in both directions. To the south the beach goes out of sight around a bend in the dunes but the the blue sea stretches to the horizon. To the north the beaches are shorter, divided by the small headland at the foot of which lie the Champagne Pools and then Waddy Point. Beyond Waddy Point the coast swings away to the north

The Climb - View to theSouth

The Climb – View to theSouth

so beaches past Waddy Point are not visible from Indian Head.

Having seen what lay beyond Indian Head, I was determined to get there. So, having descended from the heights, I asked questions of a couple of people who had arrived during my climb. I decided to give the loose sand that leads to the bypass behind the headland a try. The worst that could happen

Indian Head from the north

Indian Head from the north

was that we would get bogged. In low range and second gear we drove onto the hard sand to give us a bit of a run up and off we went.

Whatever was I worried about? The Challenger took the whole thing in its stride. In no time we were through and onto the next beach where we paused for a cold drink and to savor the achievement and our surroundings. We then drove to the northern end and up another sandy incline to the Champagne Pools south car park. Access to the pools is by a board walk and stairs. We walked to an observation point overlooking the pools and which also gave great views back towards Indian Head.

Stais to the Champagne Pools

Stais to the Champagne Pools

There are two pools. They sit together within the protection of stone walls. They are filled by the rising tide and if the tide is high enough, or the waves large enough, the surge of the breakers wash over the protective natural stone walls, flooding the pools with sea water and creating a champagne bubble effect. The backpackers love the place. The

The Champagne Pools didn't have much champagne

The Champagne Pools didn’t have much champagne

opportunity to swim there is on the itinerary of every tour bus or tag-along group.

 

 

 

 

To go further north requires passage through a particularly challenging bypass behind Waddy Point, so we left that for another trip and returned the short drive from the car park to the beach to eat our lunch. We did it buffet style, standing at the back of the car on the churned sand and enjoying the cooling sea breeze. Did I tell you that the weather was perfect?

Some of the structure of SS Maheno

Some of the structure of SS Maheno

We still had most of the afternoon so we returned back, past our camp to revisit the SS Maheno wreck and Eli Creek, both places worth multiple visits and which had their normal level of visitors.

The information kiosk at the back of the beach informed us that SS Maheno had been a luxury liner on the Tasman Sea trade but had been retired in the mid 1930s and had been sold to Japan as scrap metal. A rare winter cyclone IMG_4192coincided with the tow to Japan, the tow line broke and SS Maheno ended up permanently on Fraser Island. It was used by commandos for explosive training during WWII and the RAAF used it for bombing practice at one point. But there it remains, partially buried in the sand and washed by every rising tide. And during the course of a year it is examined and photographed by tens of thousands of tourists.

Eli Creek and the foot bridge

Eli Creek and the foot bridge

We then moved on to Eli Creek again. The creek below the foot bridge was lined by parked vehicles, including buses, with a number of gazebos and vehicle awnings extended to provide shade for relaxing adults and playing children. Eli Creek, after it exits the sand dunes, turns along the beach for a couple of hundred metres so it provides excellent parking opportunities for its fans.

A caravan by Eli Creek

A caravan by Eli Creek

Someone, towing a large caravan to a camping spot somewhere, had pulled up beside the creek and extended the caravan awning to maximize their comfort as they whiled away some time.

Those who were not relaxing were making the pilgrimage over the foot bridge and along the board walk to indulge in the joys of floating, swimming or wading down the creek. The attached video clip shows something of the popularity of this pastime, as a group who had just arrived in three 12 seater aircraft hurried into the fray. A very good time was being had by all.

Five Days Playing in the Sand – Fraser Island 4     [youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iHsAprtBxJI[/youtube]

Playing in the Sand – Fraser Island Part 3

 

We just love driving on a wide flat beach

We just love driving on a wide flat beach

Coffee rock at Poyungan Rocks between Eurong and Happy Valley

Coffee rock at Poyungan Rocks between Eurong and Happy Valley

We retraced our track down the beach for about 36 km to Eurong and then inland to Central Station and Lake McKenzie. This was our first trip on inland tracks, so it called for some different driving techniques to those required on the beach. Speed limits on the beach are generally 80 kph with 40 kph near popular and residential areas, but on inland tracks the limit is 30 kph so speeds are mostly less than 20 kph average.

Eurong Village is quite near to the beach

Eurong Village is quite near to the beach

 

We headed south, past a small crowd at The Pinnacles, past a larger crowd at the SS Maheno wreck and past an even larger crowd at Eli Creek. We were again forced onto the bypass track at Yidney Rocks where the waves were lapping at the coffee rock, making it impossible to drive by on the beach. Coffee rock is embedded in the sand and can be

Eurong Beach Resort

Eurong Beach Resort

more or less exposed after a single tide. It frequently runs all the way back to the foot of the sand dunes.

There is not much to see at Eurong. The resort dominates the commercial area and is complimented by some shops. The town has a bakery, police station and fire station.  Most of the residential area is hidden in the

The main shop at Eurong

The main shop at Eurong

trees. Queensland National Parks main office for Fraser Island is also located there.

Most tracks in the area where we travelled were one way. Lake McKenzie is probably the most popular feature on Fraser, with Central Station not far behind, so the area attracts a great deal of traffic including tourist buses and tag-along groups. The tracks are narrow and winding so to meet a large bus on a blind corner can be rather frightening. The tracks are sand so become badly damaged, particularly in dry weather. A good deluge of rain washes sand into the deep holes thus improving the track. At the moment an average of 20 kph is the best that you could hope for and for much of the journey it was less.

Ruth preparing lunch at Central Station

Ruth preparing lunch at Central Station

Central Station was the headquarters of the logging operation that werenpersued from the late 1800s to about 1950. Some historical artifacts are on display, including a logger’s cottage and a shed containing the artifacts, the walls of which are covered with pictures and text setting out the history of the early days, including Indigenous history.

A Strangler fig at Central Station

A Strangler fig at Central Station

There are extensive picnic facilities with tables aplenty, both exposed and sheltered. This is a favorite lunch stop for the tourist buses.

Palms line the creek

Palms line the creek

 

 

 

And then there is Wanggoolba Creek. Central Station was built on its banks, probably for the water supply. It’s almost clear water runs slowly over a bed of pure white sand that is tinged in places with the green of the mineral content in the sand, hence the sand mining in times past. Ancient green palms grow in its waters and its banks are lined with tall straight

The creek photographed from the boardwalk

The creek photographed from the boardwalk

trunks of trees reaching for the sun and the natural debris that nature produces in this kind of environment. All this can conveniently be viewed from a board walk that is part of a loop track that starts and finishes at Central Station.

 

A section of the boardwalk beside the stream

A section of the boardwalk beside the stream

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bathers at Lake McKenzie

Bathers at Lake McKenzie

It is a further 11 kilometres to Lake McKenzie. In busy periods the large car park there is often filled before lunch time as visitors seek out this unique spot. Dingo management has lead to the banning of food lake side, but a large fenced picnic area has been provided. Visitors love the clarity of the water and somehow the pure white sand that surrounds the lake seems to invite sunbathing.

Amenities and lake access at Lake McKenzie

Amenities and lake access at Lake McKenzie

By the time we had spent a few minutes at the lake, the day was advancing. One thing that you can never forget, if the trip that you are doing requires much beach travel, is the state of the tide. Our target was to be home by 4.00 pm and the distance back to the beach at Eurong from Lake McKenzie is about 18 kilometres, probably at about 15 kph for a fair part of the way. We made it to Eurong at a few minutes after 3.00 pm. We refueled here, as 91 octane petrol was $1.85 per litre instead of $2.20 per litre at Cathedrals.

A genuine Fraser Island dingo

A genuine Fraser Island dingo

The 39 km run back along the beach took about 45 minutes but was interrupted early when, soon after leaving Eurong, we spotted a dingo trotting along the beach, near the edge of the water. We were able to drive up quite close to the animal. We were totally ignored.

We parked Cathedrals on Fraser at just after 4.00 pm but we would have been OK travelling on the beach for another hour.  High tide was at about 7.30 pm.

 

Five Days Playing in the Sand – Fraser Island 3 [youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0Q6Ifg9D_Jo[/youtube]

Playing in the Sand – Fraser Island Part 2

Part of The Chathedrals

Part of The Cathedrals

The sun rose over the dunes, but was sharing the sky with cloud patches. We found ourselves at the end of the family group queue when we wanted to wash the breakfast dishes. Two of the men were on duty for dish washing. It took them forever. But finally our dishes were done so we had another cup of coffee and then went exploring.

Part of The Chathedrals

Part of The Cathedrals

Cathedrals on Fraser, where we were staying, is named for the coloured sand formations, known as “The Cathedrals”, because of their shape. They are formed from highly coloured, solid sand material and have weathered into their shape over eons. We made several stops for photos and for a short walk where a pathway has been provided at the area known as Red Canyon.  There are many really remarkable formations in this area.

Part of The Chathedrals

Part of The Cathedrals

The path at Red Canyon leads to the foot of solid sand cliffs that reach tens of metres up the side of the sand dunes. A viewing platform and information board is supplied.

 

 

Part of The Chathedrals

Part of The Cathedrals

The Challenger at The Cathedrals

The Challenger at The Cathedrals

More of The Cathedrals

More of The Cathedrals

Indian Head

Indian Head

Our objective was Indian Head, the rocky promontory that is the northern end of the Seventy Five Mile Beach. It was named by Captain James Cook during his passage along the Australian coast in 1772. As he sailed past, he could see a number of Aborigines standing on top of the headland watching him watching them. Our arrival today was similar. The vehicles of a tag-along group were parked at the bottom of the access path and almost all of the occupants were standing along the summit. Indian Head looked like it had had a buzz cut.

Soft sand approaches to Indian Head bypass

Soft sand approaches to Indian Head bypass

There is a great deal to see beyond Indian Head, including Waddy Point, The Champagne Pools and Orchid Beach Resort, not to mention Sandy Cape and the lighthouse. But the beach stops at the headland and starts again on the other side. To get to the other side it is necessary to negotiate a bypass track that is well known for its covering of soft. loose sand. We watched as the tag-along group and several other vehicles made multiple attempts to get

The northern end of Seventy Five Mile Beach

The northern end of Seventy Five Mile Beach

through the loose sand. All of them finally disappeared around the first turn and presumably got through, but not without considerable effort and further reduced tyre pressures. We decided that being on our own this was not our day to push on. We returned the 26 km to camp for lunch.

The Pinnacles

The Pinnacles

 

After lunch we travelled back south to Eli Creek, passing the wreck of SS Maheno, with its mob of admirers, on the way. We also stopped to have a proper look at The Pinnacles. They are a similar formation to The Cathedrals but have a quite unique formation.

 

Aircraft parked near The Pinnacles

Aircraft parked near The Pinnacles

Eli Creek boardwalk

Eli Creek boardwalk

The top activity at Eli Creek is to walk along a board walk that parallels the creek for several hundred metres and then to enter the creek and wade, float or swim back to the beach. This must be fun because people, including some mature folks, repeat the performance over and over, despite quite low water temperatures. I remember swimming down the creek with the flow many years ago, but we gave it a miss this time.

Eli Creek is the largest fresh water stream on the east side of Fraser but seems to be now much smaller, with a reduced volume of water, that it was in years gone by. But the flow is reliable and much enjoyed by its admirers. Visiting family groups will often spend the day there,in the shelter of gazebos or roof rack awnings. Children love it as do parents. It provides an ever changing supply of safe clean water. But it often closes the beach to through traffic at high tide as the rising surf washes into the creek’s mouth.

RVs beside Eli Creek

RVs beside Eli Creek

Any further thought of examination of Eli Creek was quickly dismissed when the day’s promised shower descended on us without warning, so instead of going on to Happy Valley we returned to base.

The large group mentioned earlier in the story went to Lake McKenzie for the day and were having dinner at Happy Valley on the way back, before returning to camp after the 7.00 pm high tide. They came in quietly a little after 9.30 pm. But preparing the evening meal was a breeze without them there.

I guess they are typical of groups who visit Fraser Island. The four ladies all teach as the same Sunshine Coast school and their children attend there too. One couple are seasoned visitors to the Island and seemed to ast as leaders on group outings. All friendly people with well disciplined children who made lots of noise while playing but went quietly to bed. They were probably exhausted.

Five Days Playing in the Sand – Fraser Island 2 [youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mwLvmTYgg_8[/youtube]

Playing in the Sand – Fraser Island Part 1

It was an adventure just getting there!

Our track along Fraser Island. Note the tracking line along the coast

Our track along Fraser Island. Note the tracking line along the coast

We woke before the alarm’s set time. Five am! Too early, but when the timetable depends on tides then it is smart to know who is boss. And it wasn’t us. “Time and tide wait for no man”, Geoffrey Chaucer once wrote.

But the early start allowed us to drive out of our gate by about 6.30 am. After a stop for fuel and a call at the ATM we were on the sparsely populated north bound lanes of the Bruce Highway, a little before 7.00 am. The south bound lanes were another story, but someone else’s story.

The vehicular ferry to the south end of Fraser leaves from Inskip Point, about 10 km north of Rainbow Beach. That’s about 225 km north of home. We arrived at Rainbow Beach at about 9.30 am, treated ourselves to coffee, topped up the fuel, bought a ferry ticket, went through the car wash booth for a protective spray to be applied under the car and headed for the ferry departure point for that all important deflation of tyres for sand driving.

The only just fitted us on

The only just fitted us on

I had a great plan to video the ferry before we boarded, but as we approached it appeared to be fully load. But as we were about to stop the attendant waved us forward into the last remaining space.  No sooner were we on board than the ramp was up behind us and the ferry was under way. The crossing only takes about 10 minutes ($6.00 per minute), and we were deposited onto the island. We paused to take the missed photos and by the time we were under way again all of our fellow passengers were out of sight.

Resting migratory birds near the edge of the ocean

Resting migratory birds near the edge of the ocean

If you are last off the ferry there is no one coming up behind you for a while so, all alone, we set off on the 80 kilometre drive along the beach. The beach first runs easy west but soon turns in a of north of north east direction. The beach is a series of small sandy bays but the dunes to your leafy stretch straight ahead as far as you can see. We did meet the occasional vehicle heading back towards the ferry.

There was a fair amount of cloud around, with the sun shining through most of the time and the sea that steely blue that often comes with those conditions. The sand was quite firm most of the time, except for when we were directed further up the beach at the places reserved for small passenger aircraft operation. The aircraft get the smooth flat parts and the motor

A fellow beach driver crossing a small fresh water stream

A fellow beach driver crossing a small fresh water stream

vehicle traffic is directed into the loose sand. But it was not too bad. Just a bit of slalom style driving for a few hundred metres as the tracks in the sand try to determine your direction.

Apart from aircraft and soft sand, the greatest hazard on Fraser is the frequent water courses that run across the beach into the sea. Rainfall is temporarily retained in the sand of the dunes but much of it makes its way to the edge of the beach and then through eroded sand banks to the sea. The sand embankments are most prominent and easy to see near the base of the dunes. From there they decline, depending on the height of the tides. So keeping one’s eyes open is mandatory.  Crossing where the banks are too high can be quite disastrous.

The bones of SS Maheno lie broken in the sand

The bones of SS Maheno lie broken in the sand

But there are other traps. I was driving with my window open, savoring the fresh sea air. We crossed at the seaward end of a stream. It was a bit deeper than I thought and I drove through just a tad too quickly.  The spray from the front wheel was caught by a rather brisk south easterly which blew it through the window all over me. Some of the spray even found its way onto Ruth. You may wonder if the water remains fresh right to the edge of the ocean.  It does.

Part of The Pinnacles just south of Cathedrals on Fraser

Part of The Pinnacles just south of Cathedrals on Fraser. One of the charms of this drive is the coloured sands

As we came north, we passed in order, Dilli Village, once the base of Dillingham Mining during sand mining days, now an education facility operated by the University of Southern Queensland;  Eurong, the largest settlement on the island, with its resort and residential areas; Happy Valley, probably the second largest community on the island, with a general store, bistro and residential area; Eli Creek, the largest of all the beach streams; the remains of the SS Maheno passenger liner, resident on Fraser since the mid 1930s; and finally, Cathedrals on Fraser, our home for the next four nights.

The shop and reception at Cathedrals

The shop and reception at Cathedrals

We are accommodated in a permanent tent that boasts a double bed, a towel rack and two plastic chairs as the total compliment of its furnishings. Our possessions are in bags arranged along the walls. We prepare and eat our meals in a camp kitchen that has plenty of refrigeration and freezer capacity but this is supplemented by the Waeco 12 volt fridge in the back if the car.

Our home for four nights

Our home for four nights

In our immediate area, besides us, there are four family tents which between them contain eight adults and about 10 kids, most of who are between the ages of four and ten. So until their bed time there is not much peace and quiet. Their biggest impact however, is in the camp kitchen at meal preparation time. It is hard to get a look in when half a dozen adults are preparing food for a group of almost twenty. Washing up is a similar story.

Our small canvas community

Our small canvas community

I had forgotten that, in warm weather, when sleeping in a tent, a balance has to be struck between privacy and comfort. The only method of cooling is the breeze. Fortunately, on this coast, the sea breezes are reliable, so we spent the night largely on display through the insect screens, but no one was watching. We were awoken next morning by the early light. The aspect of the camp  and our tent, was towards the east.

Border Country

I have been a bit slack. This material is almost a month old. It has taken me this long to get motivated to produce this blog post.

Canungra Creek runs along the back of the camping area

Canungra Creek runs along the back of the camping area

Our travel plans for 2016 include a reasonably substantial trip, which we will do, subject to a couple of contingencies.  We normally try to do a short run with the van to check that everything is working before setting out on the main event.  We have already found an issue with our Waeco portable fridge.  It won’t work properly on 12 volts. This means that it is not cooling while we travel. We need to have that fixed before we leave on the next trip.

Part of Canungra's main street

Part of Canungra’s main street

We have just completed a long hot and humid February and not much has changed with forecasts for the early part of March. But a bit of elevation normally means cooler nights, even if the days are just as warm. So our first camp site is at Canungra, to test the theory.

In a grassy corner of Canungra Showgrounds

In a grassy corner of Canungra Showgrounds

Canungra is not really in the hills but it is close. We have the heights of Mount Tamborine to the north east and a little further away, to the south, is that part of Lamington National Park that hosts the well known O’Reilly’s Rain Forest Retreat. They are both on our list of places to visit while we are here.

The caravan park at Canungra is

The camping area has a brand new camp kitchen

The camping area has a brand new camp kitchen

part of the local showground and is set within a bend in the Canungra Creek. Canungra is in the Canungra Valley.

Some sites are in the open, near the events area and exhibition sheds, but we have secured a site beside a clump of trees on a bank overlooking the creek. We are sharing the area with a tent and half a dozen vans of various sizes. It was quite warm as we set up, but as the sun’s passage took it behind the trees, the heat went with it, leaving us to enjoy an unexpected coolness as we sat outside of the van. We had been hiding inside with the air conditioning on before the change occurred.

Day 2 presented clear blue skies at sunrise.  Then fog filled the valley and quickly became rain clouds. The Weather Chanel’s prediction of 40% chance of rain became 100%. Drizzle continued until just before we left for our drive, but then cleared away to reveal patches of blue among the grey.

The road to O"Reilly's Rain-forest Retreat is narrow, winding and steep in parts

The road to O”Reilly’s Rain Forest Retreat is narrow, winding and steep in parts

O’Reilly’s Rain Forest Retreat, at Green Mountain in the western part of Lamington National Park, is 36 kilometres from Canungra, firstly along the Canungra Valley and then up the range along a sealed road. There are many short single lane sections, so there seems to be almost as many “Give Way” signs as there are trees. The road was dry for most of the way but that changed. O’Reilly’s is near to 1,000 metres above sea level. Canungra is at a little over 100 metres, so the climb is constant and steep in some sections, often with totally different weather at the top.

Rain drops on the windscreen and a grey sky

Rain drops on the windscreen and a grey sky

As is often the case with mountain tops, the clouds are not far above. The drizzle had returned, to make things inconvenient, so we looked around for a while, to give the weather a chance to improve, but it wasn’t cooperating.  It seems that a shower had moved through the area, as on the return journey the road was wet well down the mountain.

Back at the caravan, the sun was out and a pleasant breeze was keeping things comfortable. The creek seems to have a bit more water in it after the rain. On the far bank the farmer, mounted on his trail bike, has just rounded up his dairy herd.  It will soon be time for happy hour. Not for the cows, though. Its milking time for them.

The foot bridge and shelters at the Tamborine Botanical Gardens

The foot bridge and shelters at the Tamborine Botanical Gardens

Day 3 had a much cooler start. It was great to sleep under a blanket, probably for the first time in about three months. There was a bit of rain overnight, then some early fog, cleared to a fine morning.

It’s only thirteen kilometres up the mountain to North Tamborine, which is the first bit of commercial activity you come to after reaching the top. Then it is just a short run to

The busy roadway of Gallery Walk

The busy roadway of Gallery Walk

The Gallery Walk, at Eagle Heights, where the action is. The main street is lined with eateries, galleries and a host of other shops, intended to tempt the jaded palette of the Gold Coast tourist who goes up there to escape sun, salt and sunburn for a day. There are three cellar doors offering samples of the local vintage and at least two shops featuring fudge. And of course, massage operators and tarot card readers. And souvenir and gift shops.

Places to eat are plentiful at Eagle Heights

Places to eat are plentiful at Eagle Heights

Our first stop was the Botanical Gardens, where we made our morning coffee in one corner of the picnic shelter, to the back ground sounds of a young child’s birthday party. It was one of those events where young mums turn up with children, pushers, minute bicycles and soccer balls. We walked some of the paths and then moved on to do the mandatory walk down one side of Gallery Walk and back up the other side.

Another eating place

Another eating place on Gallery Walk at Eagle Heights

From there, we returned to Tamborine North to drive out to The Knolls National Park to enjoy the views back over the town of Tamborine towards Brisbane.and over the ranges to the west and south.  Rows of ranges reach into the distance. With sunshine and a pleasant breeze we decided that this was a great location for lunch so we drove back to Tamborine North for some food and returned to the park to eat. It was a very pleasant lunch spot. On completion we returned to the caravan for a nana nap.

In the early hours of Day 4, we pulled up the doona to supplement sheet and blanket. It was quite a pleasant experience after over three months of nothing more than a sheet. The day dawned sunny and had reached the point of warmth and humidity by the time we had packed to start the day’s journey. A very easy day had been planned, with less than 100 km to Woodenbong, a small town just across the border into NSW, just off the Summerland Way.

Early Saturday commerce in Rathdowney

Early Saturday commerce in Rathdowney

After refueling at Beaudesert, we continued on, past the turn to the Kooralbyn Golf Resort to the small rural centre of Rathdowney, for the obligatory morning coffee. At the butchery/coffee shop (yes I know, a strange combination), motor cyclists and the occupants of SUVs were having breakfast or morning coffee while next door, at the general store, others were buying in essential supplies, for their trip into the hills. It was Saturday morning.

Over the road, a visiting team of lady bowlers had arrived for that day’s competition. We did BYO coffee at a table in the small park that separates the shops from Mount Lindsay Highway.

Mount Lindsay, from the highway that bares its name

Mount Lindsay, from the highway that bares its name

We passed Mount Lindsay and 11.00 am in Queensland became 12 noon as we had crossed the border into NSW. Another 30 minutes saw us settled into the green and neat nomad community of the Woodenbong Caravan Park, in time for lunch and a quiet afternoon.  A breeze tempered the sun’s warmth and abundant shade provided suitable reading and dozing locations.

Another doona night was promised with a low of 13C. That is too cold for me as a daytime temperature but good for sleeping at night.

Motor homes in the Urbenville municipal camping area

Motor homes in the Urbenville municipal camping area

Mount Lindsay Highway wending its way through farmland

The road south runs through picturesque farm land

Day 5 dawned so quietly that we slept until 7.45 am. Not even a rooster in this small rural town, to wake us. As a result of our tardiness, there was a bit of a scurry to be out by the 10.00 am check out time, but we made it. We drove off into beautiful cool, crisp morning. The theory about coolness at higher altitudes has been proved.

We made for Urbenville, which was only a short distance into our day’s journey, but far enough to make it a coffee stop. We pulled in to look at the Urbenville camp ground, another council run facility similar to Woodenbong, but a bit less formal. It proved a suitable location for our coffee.

As we continued south, we first passed Old Bonalbo and then Bonalbo, which I assume is really New Bonalbo.  I had not heard of either town before, but there they were, in the middle of nowhere. Old Bonalbo is a collection of houses up a side street with a couple of business, including the post office, on the main road. A few kilometres south, Bonalbo, also mainly built to the side of the main road, is larger, with a substantial commercial centre. Some businesses were open on this Sunday morning. Shops were also open in Woodenbong and Urbenville. Such weekend services are different to how it was in country towns when I lived in the bush.

The bridge over the Clarence River at Tabulam

The bridge over the Clarence River at Tabulam

The Bruxner Highway is a good road over its entire length and this includes the Tabulam to Tenterfield section that we travelled, commencing with the magnificent single lane timber bridge over the Clarence River. Altitude increases by about 700 metres as the road crosses a couple of mountain ranges. We stopped at the small town of Drake, which is in a valley between two of the ranges, for lunch, reaching Tenterfield at about 2.00 pm NSW time.

We stopped at Tenterfield to add to our stock of provisions. It is only about 30 km from Tenterfield to Girraween National Park, our location for the next two nights. We arrived at about 2.30 pm Queensland time and settled into our site. This is a rare National Park camp ground with flushing toilets and hot showers. It is about 2/3 full of caravans and camper trailers. Everyone seems relaxed and friendly including the kangaroos and bird life.

Grazing kangaroos at Girraween

Grazing kangaroos at Girraween

When we arrived, a group of about 20 kangaroos were nibbling the green grass in a fenced area beside the amenities block.  For some reason two of their number, a mother and partly grown Joey, judging by their size, separated from the main group, hopped through the area around which the caravans and camper trailers are parked and began feeding a few metres from our van. They were

These two were quite friendly, grazing right by the van

These two were quite friendly, grazing right by the van

not the least bit disturbed by us moving around near them and were still there when we went to bed.

Another overcast morning for Day 5. A strong breeze was disturbing the upper foliage of the trees. It was good walking weather, so we did two morning walks.

The first was the Wyberba walk, a distance of about 400 metres that

Waterhole in the creek on the Wybera morning walk

Waterhole in the creek on the Wybera morning walk

starts at the main car park and runs along Castle Rock Creek, the main stream in this part of the park. Rock pools in this stream are used for swimming, but there were no swimmers about today. Perhaps some will appear later, if the sun comes out.

The first walk completed, we returned to the van for coffee, then drove towards the eastern end of the park to the commencement of

Dr. Roberts Waterhole

Dr. Roberts Waterhole

the Dr Roberts Waterhole walk. This is a 1.2 km return stroll along a well graded gravel path to one of the areas of the park used by early settlers. The large waterhole was a reliable swimming location, visited by groups travelling in carts and drays. It is named in honor of one of the main campaigners for the establishment of Girraween as a national park. It was well worth the walk.

A well placed seat has views along the waterhole

A well placed seat has views along the waterhole

Feeding Rosellas

Feeding Rosellas

Back at camp, fathered wild life paid us visits during the afternoon. Rosellas were feeding in the grass, with two of them coming quite near to us. They totally ignored me as I photographed them. Then, quite suddenly, what we later identified as a Red Wattle Bird, landed in the guy rope of our awning and was content to remain there as we had a close look and

The Red Wattle Bird

The Red Wattle Bird

took photos. The Red Wattle Bird is identified by small red dangling bits, not unlike ear rings, that hang just behind the eyes, on both sides of the head. We had neither heard of or seen a Red Wattle Bird before. Our bird guide tells us that there are Yellow Wattle Birds in the southern parts of Australia.

Day 6 was going home day. There is one of those days at the end of every trip and I never want to get to it.

This morning a second problem became apparent. The water pump was quieter than normal, a sure sign of a voltage drop in the electrical system. This was surprising as

The Pyramid is a prominent feature of Girraween National Park

The Pyramid is a prominent feature of Girraween National Park

the battery had tested at a satisfactory level last night. Then the lights on the refrigerator control panel went out. In a national park, with no power, the fridge was operating on gas. So we turned everything else off and the 12 volt control lights came back on but, the battery was showing about 9 volts. Way too low!

Hooked up, with the alternator in the car providing power, the problem was solved in the short term.

The next item on our itinerary was morning coffee with Ruth brother and sister-in-law, at Warwick. Said brother had a birthday in a day or so. We spent a jolly 90 minutes with them and were on again on our way.

Other prominent rocks near the Pyramid

Other prominent rocks near the Pyramid

All that was left was to drive home, which we did via the Clifton to Gatton Road, arriving at about 4.00 pm, after a lunch stop at the Heifer Creek rest area at the foot of the Great Dividing Range.

To hark back to the problem with the Waeco portable fridge, the reason for a flashing error light first appeared to be that the “house” battery in the back of the Challenger, that is there to run the Waeco, is past its use by date, so must be replaced. Subsequent testing indicates that the battery in the caravan has also reached the end of its useful life. So two batteries need to be replaced before we head off again.

But there is more. With the battery replaced, the error light on the Waeco was still flashing. So that piece of essential equipment is currently with the service agent for repair.

Better to have happened now than somewhere in the outback. But that’s why we try to do a small trip before we commence a big one.

Central Queensland Plus – Days 9 to 11

Day 9 25th April

Tenterfield to Jackadgery      220 km

I expect Tenterfield had a dawn service today so I hope those attending were well rugged up. It was only  7 C at sunrise. As we left town, just before 10 am, spectators were gathering to watch the ANZAC march. As we reached the edge of town we met an original US army Jeep, still left hand drive, driven by an old gent in his Sunday best with the windscreen laying flat on the bonnet, like any self respecting soldier on a cold morning.

Sand banks in the Upper Clarence

Sand banks in the Upper Clarence

We were on the Bruxner Highway heading east. Our objective was the small town of Jackadgery on the Mann River where it is crossed by the Gwydir Highway. But instead of using the New England and Gwydir Highways we were travelling via the Bruxner Highway and the Clarence Way. Unsurprisingly, the Clarence Way follows the Clarence River south from near the small town of Tabulam.

And talking of small towns, Jackadgery is really only a caravan park, without a town at all.

Day use and camping area beside the Clarence

Day use and camping area beside the Clarence

The Clarence Way leaves the highway by a sharp switchback turn onto a badly corrugated gravel road. But not for long, as we were almost immediately confronted by a road closed sign. A bridge is under repair 12 kilometres along. So we had to retrace our path about 10 km to another road that was the official detour. It was sealed for the first 25 km. Just before this detour rejoined Clarence Way, it crosses the river over a low brige at a place that is used by locals as a recreation area. There were a number of campers and picnickers, with children playing in the shallows and kayaks on the bank. We stopped there for lunch.

The road from here was mostly gravel with some sealed areas, mostly in places where the road would be likely to flood.

We were driving through country that alternated between bush and farmland. At one point we came over the top of a hill to overlook a large event involving horses and cattle in a flat area between the road and the river. Camps had been established and there were yards and enclosures that probably belong to a cattle station. We met several horse floats heading in that direction. Probably a long weekend event.

As we travelled, cloud had been building and it became darker as the day progressed. At one point we drove on wet road with a few drops of rain on the windscreen. By the time we reached Jackadgery it had started to rain as a storm came over. But we can’t complain. The weather has been perfect.

Day 10 26th April

Old Grafton to Glen Inness Road      260 km

The lantana is in flower

The lantana is in flower

Our reason for coming to Jackadgery was to drive the Old Grafton to Glen Inness Road. From its official opening in 1867 until the Gwydir Highway opened in 1964 this road was the only way to travel between the Grafton area and the region beyond the Great Dividing Range. With the completion of the new road up the Gibraltar Range the old road became simply a means of access to rural properties and national parks.

Buccarumbi Bridge over the Nymboida Rover

Buccarumbi Bridge over the Nymboida Rover

In more recent times it has become more of a tourist Road as word has spread of the magnificent scenery and significance of historical items along its path. The full length of the road between the two centers was about 170 kilometres but the section from where it leaves the Gwydir Highway near Grafton to where it rejoins is 128 kilometres. Our loop from Jackadgery towards Grafton, along the historic road and back to Jackadgery was 260 kilometres.

Campers at Buccarumbi Bridge

Campers at Buccarumbi Bridge

From the Grafton end, the first 30 km is typical narrow country sealed road. The road then becomes narrow gravel but it is generally in good condition and a fairly easy drive. Two wheel drive vehicles are adequate in dry conditions but 4WD a necessity if very wet.

The gravel road leads into the Nymboida Valley. Very soon you reach the Buccarumbi Bridge over the Nymboida River. This is a popular camping spot with almost every bit of flat ground playing host to a tent, caravan or camper trailer.

Piers and foundations of a flood destroyed bridge

Piers and foundations of a flood destroyed bridge

The upper reaches of the Nymboida are popular with white water enthusiasts but the lower reaches, including after it flows into the Mann River, is more suitable for canoe and kayak touring. The 40 km distance can take 3 to 4 days and is popular with school groups. The proprietor of the Jackadgery Caravan Park provides a service by which he transports groups with their boats to Buccarumbi Bridge thus solving the problem of how to get your vehicle back. He also rents canoes and kayaks just to make it easy. Is anyone interested?

Solitory camper by the river

Solitory camper by the river

From this point the road follows river valleys, only taking to the high country to cross to the next valley. For much of the distance the road clings to the hillside just above the stream. Our direction of travel placed Ruth rather precariously on the edge of the road when we met an oncoming vehicle. This happened frequently. Most people want to be next to the bank so they were coming the other way.

A very old butcher shop at Dalmorton

A very old butcher shop at Dalmorton

Only a butchers shop (closed) remains of the old gold mining town of Dalmorton on the Boyd River. Like so many similar towns, Dalmorton grew rapidly, only to diminish as quickly when the gold ran out. Some kind Government department has built a large covered picnic facility, which had been commandeered by a camera club who were keeping pace with us. We moved on and enjoyed a solitary lunch beside the pristine Henry River, a little later.

The tunnel by the river

The tunnel by the river

Not far past Dalmorton a stubborn buttress of rock runs to the very edge of the river. Not to be thwarted, the road builders simply dug a tunnel through it. But this was 1887 and they dug it by hand. It is one vehicle wide and of adequate height. A small caravan would fit through its 90 metre length. It is a fascinating piece of early Australian history.

The tunnel from the other side

The tunnel from the other side

The Henry River at our lunch stop

The Henry River at our lunch stop

We crossed the bridge over the Henry River and drove as near to the stream as we could. There were six cows grazing on the opposite bank. Two walked over the bridge and the other four waded through the shallow stream. Apparently the grass is greener on the other side of a stream as well as on the other side of the fence.

I have lived on a farm, but this was the first time I had really watched a

Boyd River

Boyd River

cow walk. Right hind leg, left fore leg, left hind and right fore leg. Always three feet on the ground. Fascinating!

Finally we reached the Mann River and after a few kilometres along its banks we came to the camping area at the Mann River Nature Reserve. A good spot, as national parks go and well patronised by campers. The river is interesting

Campers at the Mann River Nature Reserve

Campers at the Mann River Nature Reserve

here as it flows through a small gorge and over huge flat rocks.

Immediately you leave the camping area you pay the price for the easy gradients on the earlier parts of the road. In a climb of about 6 km you gain over 600 meters in altitude. It is quite a climb.

A few years ago, in a Glen Inness caravan park,we met a couple with a van but no obvious car. They had

Small gorge and river bed on the Mann River

Small gorge and river bed on the Mann River

blown a gear box towing up that incline. After climbing it, with nothing in tow, I can understand why. So to check out a suitable place to park the van in the area, as we returned along the Gwydir Highway, we drove 3 km into the Washpool National Park and found the Bellbird Camping Area with good accommodation for our size of van.

We continued to the top of the range and made our way down the twisting road back to the Mann Valley particularly enjoying the run beside the Mann River.

The evening was cool and we spent much of it sitting around our neighbour’s camp fire, getting to know a young family who we will probably never see again. Of such experiences are memorable trips made.

 

Day 11 27th April

Jackadgery to Home      384 km

Bridge on the Mann River at Jackadjery

Bridge on the Mann River at Jackadjery

We had planned to return home on 28th, hoping to spend out last night near the ocean. But the storms returned and clearly were to persist, so we kept on driving until we reached home, arriving at about 5.30 pm.

It had been an enjoyable few days. We covered  some new territory, saw new sights and met new people. Towing on gravel gave no problems. Very little movement in the contents of the van even on rough sections. No breakages and no dust inside the van even after quite dusty sections.  All good! We expect much more dust on our next trip.

Central Queensland Plus – Days 5 to 8

Day 5 – 21st April

Eidesvold to Taroom  248 km

Cracow Hotel

Cracow Hotel

Clear and sunny again, a temperature range of about 16 to 29. We bought fuel early just in case the service station closed early. A leisurely breakfast and we were off to Theodore via Cracow The road is excellent, but there are roadworks for 8 kilometers before reaching Cracow, resulting in a mix old tar and fairly good gravel. Cracow is an old mining town which is now not much more than a pub, a mine and a workers camp. The pub seems to provide all services as well as beer.

Gold Mine at Cracow

Gold Mine at Cracow

But there is still community spirit. The town won the County Spirit award in 2004 and in 2010 built a small building that contains honour rolls from two World wars and quite a lot of memorabilia of soldiers and wars. Beside the building they have fashioned a cenotaph. I expect there will be a march on 25th April with many of the participants both returned service people and returned residents.

View into the Dawson Family

View into the Dawson Valley

Theodore was the next stop and like most towns in the area during this Easter season was almost totally closed. The town is located on the Dawson River and the Leichhardt Highway. As we approached the town we noticed telltale tufts of white fiber, a sure sign of cotton products. Before long we were driving through irrigated cotton plantations.

 

Main street of Theodore

Main street of Theodore

We were out of bread but had to settle for bread rolls from the cafe at the service station. So while we were there we had a hamburger for lunch and headed for Isla Gorge. But we didn’t find it. There was a sign to Isla Gorge Lookout on a bend at the top of a hill with a narrow track running back at a sharp angle, but no sign of the normal National Park signage or the kind of turn you would expect from a major highway into a designated National Park. So we decided to press on. Perhaps next time.

Irrigation weir on Dawson River

Irrigation weir on Dawson River

So we came on to Taroom, a small agricultural town on the edge of the five kilometer wide Dawson River flood plains. At the bottom of the caravan park is the 11 meter flood mark.

11 Leichardt TreeA sign advises that at full flood 5 years normal water flow can pass in two days. The water in this river ends up in the Fitzroy. No wonder Rockhampton floods so badly.

We are now seeing signs of gas exploration. The caravan park is now owned by an energy company and workers accommodation takes up much of the park. And the rates have gone up.

Main street of Taroom

Main street of Taroom

Day 6 – 22nd April

Around Taroom    208 km

“Next time” came much more quickly than we thought. This morning Ruth and I decided to stay at Taroom for another night so that we can see some of the things that we did not know about and go back to find Isla Gorge National Park.

Dry Lake Murphy

Dry Lake Murphy

The year before Taroom was founded, explorer Ludwig Leichhardt travelled through the area on his 1844 expedition. He blazed his initials and the date onto a number of trees along his route. One such tree stands in the main street of Taroom. Leichhardt crossed and named the Dawson River. Soon after, he camped beside what is now known as Lake Murphy. Today Lake Murphy was out first objective.

Picture of a flooded Lake Murphy

Picture of a flooded Lake Murphy

Seventeen kilometers back along the Leichhardt Highway and another 13 kilometres to the west, the lake is to be found in Lake Murphy Nature Reserve. The final 13 kilometres is good gravel and is on the road to the Expedition National Park, a worthwhile place to visit in its own right. Lake Murphy fills with water when the Robinson Creek overflows. It then becomes a water bird wonderland.

But Murphy’s Law was in operation. There was neither water in or water birds at the lake. But we had morning tea in what is one of the best kept picnic and camping areas that we have seen. The facilities were opened in 1994 to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Leichhardt expedition. After 20 years it is still in great condition.

The under story of palms

The under story of palms

An interesting feature of the forest that is part of this reserve is the under story of Livistona palms that grow beneath the taller eucalypts . The same natural arrangement can be seen by the highway just north of Taroom.

 

 

Isla Gorge

Isla Gorge

Isla Gorge is 45 kilometres further north from the turn to Lake Murphy. As we were not towing the van it did not take long to cover the distance. The park is the eastern extremity of the sandstone mountain ranges that cover a substantial area of inland central Queensland and includes the better known Carnarvon Gorge.  The picnic and camping areas are only 1.5 km from the highway and are situated at the end of a ridge that protrudes into a valley. The point is called Isla

Isla Gorge

Isla Gorge

Gorge Lookout and gives a great view of the surrounding eroded sandstone cliffs, deep ravines and more distant mountain ranges.

The facilities for day visitors and campers are of a good quality and provide great views. A couple of the camp sites are almost on the edge of the precipice. Parents would need to keep a close eye on their children when staying in this park.

Glebe Weir

Glebe Weir

On the drive back to Taroom we did a side trip to Glebe Weir. This is an irrigation dam but is also used for fishing and boating. A small camping area has been provided near the retaining wall where there are toilets, water and power for $7 per night. There was also 4 bars reception on my Telstra phone. I could come here and still be in touch with the world.

In this area the Dawson flows through broad river flats that are not much higher than the normal level of the river. When the river floods the flats act as reservoirs that retain water and so slow its passage. It helps to explain why Rockhampton flood peaks take so long to occur and why the floods are so often very severe.

Day 7 23rd April

Taroom to Dalby via Tara      333 km

Today was a longer drive than planned.

Decorated water storage tank

Decorated water storage tank at Wandoan

Out first stop was for morning tea at Wandoan. This town is a rural and gas production center, about 60 km south of Taroom and about half way to Miles. From the number of mining vehicles on the road I think the gas industry is winning over agriculture as a growth industry.

We moved on to Miles, did some grocery shopping and had lunch by the Warrego Highway. The endless flow of traffic has to be seen to be believed. If anyone has doubt about the vitality of the Queensland economy they should sit beside the highways that serve the resources and agricultural industry.

A bottle tree at the Wandoan Rest Stop

A bottle tree at the Wandoan Rest Stop

It is interesting to talk to the locals about the industry and its impact on their lives. Those who work in tourist related jobs are concerned that the industrialisation alienates tourists, particularly the conversion of caravan parks to workers camps. Tourists tend to drive past if they can’t stay in the town. Then they don’t visit the town’s attractions but drive through to the next town. Some locals are worried about pollution and damage to the environment. But most benefit. Work is easier to find and the larger towns that host gas industry development and support facilities receive a very real economic boost.

The western entrance to Miles

The western entrance to Miles

As mentioned earlier, we saw evidence of the passage of Ludwig Leichhardt through the Miles area. As we sat by the highway having lunch, right in front of us was a sign advising that the creek, Dogwood Creek, had been crossed at that point and had been named by Leichhardt on his 31st birthday. He named the crossing point Dogwood Crossing.

A new motel in Miles

A new motel in Miles

I had heard, over a period of time, that the town of Tara, situated about 100 kilometres south of Miles, had been a beneficiary of the gas industry to the extent that what was a town down on its luck had received a boost. So we included it in our itinerary and planned to stay there overnight. But we couldn’t find a decent caravan park so we kept on going to Dalby.

If Tara has benefited from the gas extraction industry it is not obvious in the buildings in the main street but the shops in the street do suggest that there is money being spent. Development is a bit more obvious in some of the larger centres where there are new buildings in the main streets. I’m sure that a visit to industrial areas of these towns would show solid development.

Cotton almost to the horizon

Cotton almost to the horizon

We commenced the day driving through rolling hills including crossing part of the Great Dividing Range between Wandoan and Miles. But once past Miles the terrain became absolutely flat. The wheat stubble fields looked like huge furry billiard tables reaching almost to the horizon. In more than one place we saw flood warning signs saying “Road subject to flooding for the next 20 kilometres”.

We think this crop is sorgham

We think this crop is sorgham

There was evidence of recent rain through much of the area. There was not much barren ground and many of the roadside paddocks were stocked with cattle in good condition. When most of the animals are lying in the shade by lunch time there is plenty of feed about.

Day 8 24th April

Dalby to Tenterfield      327 km

We decided this morning to stick as much as possible to our original itinerary, which meant that we needed to be at Tenterfield tonight. When we stopped last night we found that we had driven off and left the step to get into the caravan where we had last used it; at our final afternoon roadside stop. So first order of business today, was to buy a replacement. That done, we headed out of town.

Silos behind the Cecil Plains rest area

Silos behind the Cecil Plains rest area

The first leg was to Cecil Plains, a small town about 40 km south of Dalby. I had no idea that so much cotton was grown near Dalby, but today we drove past hundreds of hectares of it; white flowers stretching almost as far as you can see and here and there harvesting equipment moving through the fields. White flowers mean harvest time. If you want to understand what broad acre farming means, come and take a look at this. Grain crops also are produced. In most cases wheat fields have not yet been ploughed but there are large areas of what we think is sorghum.

Harvest ready cotton

Harvest ready cotton

On arrival at Cecil Plains we discovered that the original Cecil Plains Station was where Ludwig Leichhardt first had the idea of an overland expedition to Port Essington,which was a port that had been established in Northern Territory prior to the establishment of Darwin. We also discovered that Cecil Plains claims all of the cotton grown in the area as its own as it is processed at a gin just out of the town.

A well known land mark at Millmerran

A well known land mark at Millmerran

Still travelling south, we crossed the Gore Highway at Millmerran and the Cunningham Highway at Inglewood. We continued on to Texas, on the NSW border, where we stopped for lunch.

Agriculture extends south of Cecil Plains but gradually the land gives over to grazing. There are several forest areas, particularly as Texas is approached. We drove past the relatively new Millmerran power station and under its multiple power lines.

Some very flat country

Some very flat country

Texas is, appropriately, a cattle town, but it also has a silver mine. We departed Texas to the east on the road to Stanthorpe but after 34 kilometres turned south into Glenlyon Dam Road, crossing into NSW at the mini town of Mingoola. Although the state border in this area follows a stream and the Bruxner Highway is near the border it is quite hilly so the last 50 kilometres was a slower than the earlier  part of the journey.

We are at a higher altitude at Tenterfield so will probably have a fairly cold night.

 

 

 

Central Queensland Plus – Days 1 to 4

Day 1 17th April

Home to Peach Trees   126 km

Jimna store and info center and park

Jimna store and info center and park

Packed and gone by 10 am.  A short call at the ATM then Bunnings and we were on our way.  A good run, except for impatient truckies to Kilcoy, where we refueled and had lunch in the park before turning north onto the Kilcoy Murgon Road.

 

Campers at Peach Trees Camping Area Jimna

Campers at Peach Trees Camping Area

Jimna fire tower - under threat

Jimna fire tower – under threat

Civic activity is centered on preservation of the famous Jimna fire lookout tower that stands beside the main road just north of the town.

Jimna village, the fire tower and Peach Trees Camping Area are all within Jimna State Forrest.  The camping area is located on Yabba Yabba Creek, which is a tributary of the Mary River, so from time to time provides some of the water that floods Gympie and Marlborough. The evidence of such excess lines the banks of the stream in the firm of flood debris.

The camping area was well occupied with Easter campers. A sign at the gate announced that the park was fully booked.

We found a spot by the creek, a good distance from other campers, although we were engaged in

Yabba Yabba Creek at Peach Trees

Yabba Yabba Creek at Peach Trees

conversation by two strolling couples, the second of which joined us for happy hour.  As if to emphasise our proximity to nature a large monitor lizard wandered by. We had been welcomed by some screeching parrots and as we chatted grey kangaroos came out of the bush to feed on the fresh grass. As our new friends were leaving, a possum casually walked between the van and the car. Back to nature!

It was a cold night and with no power we were early to bed to be lulled to sleep by the rippling stream.

 

Day 2 18th April

Jimna to Mount Perry    230 km

The sun came over the hill and shone into our front window, a clear signal that it was time to get up. It soon warmed up the van. Breakfast was taken outside in the sunshine. Packing complete, we said our goodbyes to our new friends and headed for the gravel road leading us north. One of the objectives of this trip is to put up some distance on unsealed roads. Our off road van has not done much work off road. I want to get more experience on dirt and gravel before we tackle more ambitious treks like Cape York and the Birdsville Track.

Ban Ban Springs Rest Area

Ban Ban Springs Rest Area

We had about 70 km of quite good gravel Road, the first 50 of which was through hilly forest and the final 20, plus some sealed road and highway, through undulating farm country.  There had been good rain through the area, so the grass was green and grazing cattle were scattered over the pastures.

The Kilcoy Murgon Road joins the Burnett Highway just south of Goomeri, so we motored on through that town, stopping 70 km further on at Ban Ban Springs for fuel and lunch. A further 12 km on we turned right towards Mingo Crossing and Mount Perry. This road alternated between tar and excellent recently graded gravel. In readiness for Easter tourists, no doubt.

Mount Perry Main Street

Mount Perry Main Street

There is a small caravan park by the Burnett River at Mingo Crossing that was badly damaged by flood water about a year ago. It has not been restored yet so we continued on to Mount Perry, getting the last powered site in the small caravan park. Our visit has coincided with the Mount Perry “Royal” Easter Show, so things are jumping in the old town.

 

Leopard tank in Mount Perry main street

Leopard tank in Mount Perry main street

Our site is in the back corner of a well equipped and quiet park. No rippling stream to put us to sleep but quiet will be a good start.

 

 

 

 

Day 3 19th April

Around Mount Perry   57 km

Mount Perry owes its genesis to copper, gold and timber. Copper was discovered in the second half of the 1800s. As the timber was cleared to access the copper its value was recognised and a timber industry commenced. Later gold was found. The problem of

North entrance - Boolboonda tunnel

North entrance – Boolboonda tunnel

getting products to market ultimately lead to a railway being built from Bundaberg. A tunnel was needed to access the Mount Perry valley so the longest unsupported rock tunnel in the Queensland rail system was built, opened in 1883 and was used until 1960. It was dug by mainly Chinese labor through the Boolboonda Range so it is known as the Boolboonda Tunnel. It is about 190 meters long and a

South entrance - Boolboonda tunnel - with light at the end

South entrance – Boolboonda tunnel – with light at the end

single rail width. The rails are long gone but the tunnel is now used as access to some farms and as a residence for a bent wing bat colony. We drove through and back again as have many others. There were four other vehicles there at the same time despite it being over 20 km from town.

Not far away, on the way back to town, we had noticed a winery, about 3 km along the to read to Monto. We decided to call. Wonbah

Sign at front gate - Wonbah Estate Winery

Sign at front gate – Wonbah Estate Winery

Estate has been there for about 13 years. They produce a range of wines including ports and liqueurs. They host a number of events during the year, including the chance to get your feet among the grapes in February and a Jazz & Shiraz event in August. There is space for caravans to overnight. Sounds good!

We made a modest purchase of a white, a red and a white port. We will take them home to share with family and friends.

Wonbah Cellar

Mount Perry from lookout

Mount Perry from lookout

On the way back to town a short detour took us to a lookout above the town, with great views of the valley and town area. The valley is rather narrow so the town is strung out along its main street with a few short streets on either side.. From this vantage point it was off to the show grounds to see how the locals entertain themselves.

There were hundreds of motor

Action at Mount Perry show

Action at Mount Perry show

vehicles parked inside and outside of the grounds. The area surrounding the arena was packed with horse and cattle transport vehicles. A lively program of ring events was under way, to the accompaniment of that kind of commentator that won’t stop taking while he has a microphone in his hand. People were flocking around side shows and food stalls almost uniformly dressed in long sleeve shirts, jeans and boots. But the

Camel rides at Mount Perry show

Camel rides at Mount Perry show

ladies dressed for the Easter bonnet competition provided contrast.

Equestrian competition is well supported throughout the area and the agricultural shows that are held on successive weekends through the area clearly provide opportunities to participate. I was interested to see the age range of female participants. Clearly it is not a sport just for the young.

Mount Perry show action

Mount Perry show action

We had lunched on hot dogs and chips so after a fair bit of tramping around we went back to the van for a rest, which became a nap. There was more to come. A country show is not complete without a fireworks display. At 8pm sharp the first rocket went up. It was the precursor to 10 minutes of exciting entertainment. Most of the day’s crowds were gone but a good group of 200 or so locals were ready to party on. But we left them to it.

Old copper smelter paved area

Old copper smelter paved area

The copper mine was in the hill behind the town with the smelter just below it. The last owners didn’t leave much equipment behind when they left, but as a sort of memorial, paving blocks cut from the slag residue have been laid over the original slag dump, with a picnic shelter in the center. Photographs depicting the history of both mine and town are on display. A gold mine is still in operation with workers bused to the site each shift. Some miners appear to be residents of the caravan park.

Day 4 20th April

Mount Perry to Eidesvold   92 km

The days have been sunny and warm with cool clear nights, not much cloud and only light winds. It is perfect travelling and sleeping weather. I wonder if it is always like this. Is there a real estate agent in town?

The road to Eidesvold crosses and at times follows mountain ranges, for the 80 km of the journey. It is steep in places with low gear warning signs for heavy vehicles. We travelled a few slow kilometers behind a sideshow truck moving on to the next show.

Ceratodus Rail Station

Ceratodus Rail Station

At the Burnett Highway we turned right for a few hundred meters to the Ceratodus rest area, both for morning tea and to see the memorial to the railway pioneers who brought rail transport to North Burnett. The memorial take the form of the original Ceratodus railway station which has been moved to the site and supplemented with written history in the station waiting room and in an adjacent barbecue area.

Old railway bridge over the Burnett River at Ceratodus

Old railway bridge over the Burnett River at Ceratodus

The rest area is located on the banks of the Burnett River. We looked down at what was a very modest flow and wondered how such a puny stream could wreck such devastation on Bundaberg. The river would have been 10 meters below the bridge but flood waters had lodged limbs in the branches of trees another 10 meters above the road.

RM Williams Bush Learning center at Eidesvold

RM Williams Bush Learning center at Eidesvold

We arrived in Eidesvold at a about midday to find that no fuel was available in town and that the first fueling point in our direction of travel was at the limit of our range. The R. M. Williams Bush Learning Center allows over night stops in their grounds, so here we stayed.

The Learning Center is a combined memorial to the great R.M., an information centre and an art gallery associated with the local Mari People. It is quite new and well set up. Williams moved from South Australia to a property West of Eidesvold about mid life. The citizens of the area regard him as their own.

A bronze sculpture of R.M. Williams and horse

A bronze sculpture of R.M. Williams and horse

Williams lived well into the video era. One of the displays is a recorded interview with him. At the conclusion he is asked how he would wish to be remembered. His reply was, “That I tried”.

There was not much else open in town. Fuel is available from 7 am tomorrow. The service station owner is not trying very hard at all!

In The Shadow of Mount Warning

We have friends who regularly spend time in their caravan at Kingscliff on the Tweed Coast. We often spend a few days with them, during their stay, normally straight down and back for a few days, but in November last year (2012) we decided to go the long way.

A few weeks earlier we did a day trip to Lamington National Park and on the way stopped for morning tea at a lookout with great views to the Numinbah Valley.

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Numinbah Valley from Rosins Lookout

We were reminded that it had been many years since we had driven the Numinbah Valley and decided that we should do so. So, why not go first to the Mount Warning area and then on to Kingscliff. An additional reason for going this way was that we had not done much hilly country since we changed to a Mitsubishi Challenger as a tow vehicle. On the Numinbah Road we could give it a bit of a work out.

Challanger & Coromal

Challenger & Van

We left the Gold Coast Highway at Nerang and headed for Advancetown and then turned south towards the border with NSW. Just past Advancetown a left hand diversion leads to the recently extended Hinze Dam. We did not take the diversion on this occasion as we had visited on the return trip from Lamington. Suffice to say that it is worth a visit if you are spending time in the Gold Coast region.

Our first objective was Natural Bridge which is just north of the border and a short drive from the main road. The drive through the Numinbah Valley follows the Nerang River for a substantial part of the journey. While bush land is always in sight the road is bordered by farm land for much of the drive.

Natural Bridge

Falls at Natural Bridge

Natural Bridge has changed since we were there with developed timber decked walk ways, and a good amenities area, near the spacious car park. To see Natural Bridge at its best it is necessary to descend fairly long flights of stairs. But the day was warm and we seemed to be feeling our age a bit so we were content to explore the creek above the bridge and to look down into the area where water gushes when there is sufficient to actually gush. No gushing that day, sad to say. Just a steady stream of water over the falls.

After lunching at the car park we continued south, covering the last bit of road that lies within Queensland. The border is at the top of a hill. On the NSW side the terrain falls away sharply and is probably the most spectacular entry that you can make from Queensland into NSW. The view of the Tweed Coast and hinterland is excellent and worth stopping for, but if you are towing a van, as we were, you need to plan ahead. It is probably best to stop in Queensland and walk up through the border crossing to take photos.

While Queensland owns the Numinbah Valley, NSW owns Numinbah township and you pass through it as you ease down the steep gradient towards the Tweed Valley. Second gear with a regular touch of the breaks to maintain a suitable speed saw us safely down. As we had encountered some decent up grades earlier we felt we had a good feel for performance by the Challenger in the hills. Not brilliant, but adequate.

We had booked for two nights at the Mount Warning Caravan Park which is on Mount Warning Road into which we turned shortly before we would have reached Uki. The park was a pleasant surprise. The original park area is fairly heavily populated with permanents. There are also cabins in the older area. But an extension to the park, which seems to be on reserve land,  was exclusively for tourists. Pets are not permitted so the wild life is friendly.

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Friendly Wild Life

Fire place and wood supply.

Wood ready to go!

You cross a small stream to access this part of the park. On the left is the unpowered camping area and to the right are located the powered sites. The area is grassed. At intervals there are power stands, each containing four power points and four TV cable points. Vans group in fours with a bit of space between groups. Each group has at least one fire ring. The bonus was several piles of fire wood obviously cut from fallen trees but sufficiently dry to burn.

Comforting Fire

Next time we will bring a camp oven!

During my teenage years my father was a timber getter. During school holidays I would accompany him to his work site where one of my jobs was to boil the billy, at least three times a day. Not expecting fire facilities we had no matches or newspaper, but three sheets of paper hand towel, dry leaves and twigs and with one more sheet of twisted paper towel to convey a flame from the gas stove to the fire place and in no time at all we had a successful fire, before which we sat to have our dinner.

But you can’t keep a good camp fire to yourselves, so we invited a couple from a Maui motor home to join us. They were Austrians who had come on holiday to Australia because the recent eclipse of the sun was to occur on the man’s birthday. They were on their way to Cairns for the event. Discussions about the current situation in Europe were also part of the night’s entertainment. Very interesting and informative!

Jackarandas at Tyalgum

Jacaranda in Tyalgum main street.

When we are in the Murwillumbah area we try to visit the small town of Tyalgum. As some of you will know, Ruth’s mother died when she and her siblings were relatively young. To avoid splitting up the family an elderly single lady who owned and operated the bakery at Tyalgum sold up and moved to Sydney to house keep, thus becoming something of a surrogate mother to the family. So imagine Ruth’s delight when we discovered that the coffee shop where we had stopped for afternoon tea is operated in part in the old Tyalgum bakery. It was almost like coming home.

Bakery was the right hand building

The old bakery is the building on the right.

Afternoon tea at Tyalgum

Afternoon tea.

To round the day out we drove up to the Mount Warning car park, greatly enjoying glimpses of the magnificent mountain peak and the rain forest greenery that decorates the sides of the road side stream.

Mt Warning thru power lines

Mount Warning viewed from near Tyalgum

We didn’t visit Uki this time, although it is a good spot for a cup of coffee and a look around, if you have some spare time while staying in the Tweed or southern Gold Coast area. Instead we packed and moved on to catch up with our friends at Kingscliff.