About Kevin & Ruth Sheather

We are both parents, and grand parents, and will never see 70 again and recently cellebrated our 50th wedding anniversary. Ruth has retired and Kevin has done so partially but with an arrangement that allows extensive periods of travel in out Coromal Magnum off road pop top caravan towed by a 2001 3 litre turbo diesel Holden Jackaroo. We love the outback with its rugged scenary and wide open spaces but are a bit constrained by the need for regular internet to meet work committments. But we love the coastal areas as well. The purpose of this blog site is to keep interested people informed of our travels. We report in as often as we reasonably are able with recent doings. So stand by. The next trip is never too far off.

A Drive in the Country

The recently departed long, hot and wet summer and early Autumn was far from ideal for travel. And after all, that is what my blog posts are mostly about.

Two planned trips to Queensland’s Granite Belt and New South Wales New England, were aborted for both family and weather reasons. Although that trip may still occur, it is not yet bloggable and may never eventuate anyway.

But good things come to those who patiently wait. The weather forecast for Queensland’s Labor Day public holiday was predicted to be a ray of sunshine between the clouds and so it proved to be.

Kenilworth bakery and doughnuts
Kenilworth Friendly Grocer

Still hankering after Autumn colours, I recalled some Facebook comments from months ago, where a grove of trees near Kenilworth seemed to present possibilities. Unless you have word from the horse’s mouth, there can be no certainty about the timing of the appearance of Autumn colours.

We left home after breakfast, stopping at Wild Horse Mountain or coffee. At the north end of Nambour, we turned inland to Mapleton, followed the precipitous descent of Obi Obi Road and then Obi Obi Creek, to Kenilworth. Everything is so green at the moment. It was an enjoyable drive.

A Queue for the Loo
A visit from a Blue-faced Honeyeater

Lunch time had come, so we found a parking space after a bit of a search. Kenilworth is a poplar town on a sunny public holiday. We then walked the short distance to the Kenilworth Dairy, where lunch and cheese were both offered. Lunch first, then cheese.

As we waited for lunch to arrive, I took  couple of photos and rested my camera on the table. Suddenly, like out of nowhere, a Blue-faced Honeyeater landed on the adjoining table. There was no time for bird photography settings. It was grab and shoot and the bird was gone. You be the judge of the resulting photo.

Obi Obi Creek, near Kenilworth

We walked around town, as you do, while I took a few photos. Then we drove out to the grove of trees that, if they possessed an decency at all, would have presented leaves with all the colours of the Autumn spectrum. But no such luck. I am sure the I had located the correct trees, but my timing was obviously out. But I photographed them I took some photos of Obi Obi Creek as well. The grove of trees is at the head of this post.

The day had improved from its quite reasonable start. There was more blue sky than clouds and the temperature was delightful. Of the alternatives available to us we chose to drive toward Noosa. A recollection of a desire to climb Mount Tinbeerwah, located between Cooroy and Noosa, surfaced, so that is where we went.

Lake Cooroibah on the Noosa River

Ruth stayed with the car and I took the track to the summit, not sure if I would go all the way. But once on the track it was hard to turn back and the views improved as I climbed. The track is concrete with inlaid stones for most of the way with some sloping bare rocks and a few short flights with steps. Where needed, the stairs have handrails.

THe Summit of Mount Tinbeerwah

A roofed observation deck is at the summit. Rails enclose the area, as the peak is surrounded on three sides by precipitous cliffs. There were half a dozen people up there, all much younger than I am. One young fellow said that he was staying to photograph the sunset. The path down would be quite safe, even in declining light.

Dredging is currently in progress at the Mount of the Noosa River. We drove through Noosaville, appreciating the beauty of the river in the late afternoon and deciding that we would return for fish and chips in the twilight.

Noosa town and river through afternoon haze
The Noosa River bar in after noon light

Noosa Heads was its normal busy self. We patiently made our way to Hastings Street and slowly followed, as part of the traffic, along its narrow way. Almost every parking space along the road that leads to the river was taken. Those vacant were too far back to allow for an easy walk to the river.

This tree is a survivor of fire beside the Tinbeerwah car park.

We turned and slowly progressed to Noosaville, securing a parking spot adjacent to the river, a short walk from the vender of fish and chips. We found a table in the alfresco dining area and placed our order. There are always too many chips, but there certainly was adequate fish and assorted sea food. Quite a feast

More photos were taken at Noosaville, of course, ensuring a pleasant couple of hours next day as I processed them. Some accompany this blog.

We always enjoy Kenilworth and Noosa. I think this was the first time that we had visited them both on the same day.

In case you were wondering, the day after the public holiday was another nice day, despite the forecast to the contrary.

Cruising at Day’s End. Noosa River.
Noosa River Sunset

Tramping Around Brisbane – Gardens, Towers & Bridges

Note: A link to a video of the walk appears at the foot of this post.

When your hobby is photography, then you must take photos. And the more photos the better. With digital photography, taking photos continues to be both an indoor and outdoor recreation. Outdoors to take photos and afterwards, with the assistance of a computer and appropriate software, to process the photos. I find processing to be every bit as satisfying as actually composing the photo and pressing the shutter release. Just like it was all those years ago with black and white photography in the darkroom.

The Signature Bougainville at Southbank

I hadn’t been out for a while. Expected opportunities evaporated for a couple of locations, so a determined effort was needed. On Monday morning of the week of 27th November 2023 I got up early, showered, dressed and breakfasted and drove to Sandgate Railway Station. I chose Sandgate as the Cleveland train departs from there and passes through South Brisbane Station, thus avoiding a change of trains at Central Station.

The Brisbane Eye Against City Background
Using Colour in Architecture

My first objective was coffee on the Goodwill pedestrian bridge, one of the links between the south and north banks of the river, adjacent to the Queensland University of Technology Gardens Point Campus. This walking route took me down Grey Street in South Brisbane and past the western boundary of the Southbank Parklands.

Goodwill Bridge from Near QUT

The winding trellis of Bougainvillea that runs like a spine through the gardens at the Parklands is at its blooming best. The tropical wetland feature area was lush with spring greenery. We have received some very handy rain showers over this part of Brisbane in recent weeks, so the tourist areas at the back of the parklands had that freshly washed look about them.

The approach to the elevated bridge provides fine views of the river and the development along its banks. At its western end the bridge passes above the Queensland Maritime Museum, providing good views of HMAS Diamantina in its permanent dry dock and the many additional items displayed outside of the actual museum buildings.

Deck of the Goodwill Bridge

Goodwill Brew is a coffee dispensing caravan part way over the bridge. I had a choice of seating, so enjoyed my coffee watching pedestrians, cyclists and scooter riders crossing the bridge, Rivercats and other craft fussing about while I changed the lens and set up for the next stage of my walk.

As I have grown older I have become more interested in making videos. The interest first arose when I wanted to turn the still images of our travels into a more internet friendly form. I had a video camera for a while but when technology passed it by I decided to return to a Single Lens Reflex camera. But by that point SLR had been replaced by DSLR. The ability to produce still images and quality video was a winning combination.

Queensland Maritime Museum and HMAS Diamantina
Goodwill Bridge and QUT

About 18 months age I purchased a Canon EOS 90D with kit lenses but upgraded to a decent telephoto for bird photography and a 18-250mm zoom for general use and videos. I have recently bought my first prime lens in a long time, a Canon 50mm lens. It is fondly known by owners as a “nifty fifty”. At f1.8 it is by far my fastest lens.

QUT Ferry Terminal and South Bank

I did give some serious consideration to buying a new mirrorless camera body but decided to stick with established technology. I am very happy with the Canon EOS 80D.

The purpose of this outing was to capture video of two large building projects under way in Brisbane. They are the Queens Wharf project that will house, among other things, a new casino and a new pedestrian bridge to link the lower east of the city with Kangaroo Point. Both are multi billion dollar and multi year projects. Both are well under way. Between the two sites I walked through the Brisbane Botanic Gardens.

The Queens Wharf Projext
The Bridge Between the Two Queens Wharf Buildings.

As I mentioned, the first part of my walk was through the streets to the west of Southbank Parklands. I fitted my newly acquired Canon 50mm prime lens. I am happy with the images produced by this camera and lens combination. After coffee I changed to a Sigma 18-250mm zoom lens which serves as my walk around lens and my video lens. To complete the setup I added a telescopic monopod with a pan and tilt head to mount the camera. There are advantages in using a tripod to shoot video but the monopod is much lighter and easier to carry.

Southbank Entrance to Goodwill Bridge

The Queens Wharf Project is under construction in the vicinity of the old Queens Wharf, which occupied part of the site on the bank of the Brisbane River, about mid city and overlooking Southbank and the motor-way that leads to Captain Cook Bridge. The almost complete Neville Bonner Bridge will provide a pedestrian link between the new casino and Southbank Parklands.

Flowers in Queensland Botanic Gardens
THe Work Area for Kangaroo Point Footbridge

The building nearest to the river is the shorter of the two. It is a horseshoe shape with the adjoining tower built at the open end of the horseshoe. The tower will rise to the level similar to neighbouring buildings. The online promotional blurb claims the site as an integrated tourist precinct including a casino, hotels, retail and accommodation.

When completed it will be well worth visiting and will, as claimed, raise Brisbane’s profile as an international tourist destination.

Artists Impression of Finished Project.

From Queens Wharf I walked via the entrance to Queensland University of Technology, through part of the Botanic Gardens to the riverside pathway that leads to the Eagle Street Pier area. The old pier area is under major reconstruction but the part that was of interest to me on this walk was the new Kangaroo Point pedestrian bridge.

The bridge is quite a structure. It is well under way. Its defining characteristic is a mid-river pilon that will support the cables that in turn will suspend the walkway at a level that will allow river traffic to pass underneath. Construction has cut the riverside walkway at this point, so it is necessary to return to the city streets to make your way past this obstacle.

Kangaroo Point Footbridge and Storey Bridge

The pier area, had previously housed several restaurants and provided moorings for the Kookaburra Queen paddle wheel restaurants that we still had from Expo 88. But it looks like the paddle wheelers have gone. Major construction will take place when the bridge works, that take up a large area of shore space, are completed. The current bridge works area takes up much of the footprint of the final development.

St Stephens Cathedral is crowded by a cluster of high rise buildings.

Having reached this point I had seen what I came to see and photograph, so I grabbed some lunch and walked to Central Station for my train, via the grounds of St Stephens Cathedral and Post Office Square.

The Road Home – The Manning Coast & Home – October 2023

First glimpse of the Sugarloaf Point Lighthouse at Seal Rocks near Bungwahl, NSW.

Our destination that day, Tuesday, was Harrington at the mouth of the Manning River, near Taree, the town where I was born almost eighty-four years ago. We stopped for coffee at Raymond Terrace, then kept to the highway that now bypasses Bulahdelah, the town of my youth. We were headed for Seal Rocks, on the coast near the eastern end of the Myall Lakes.

The rocks on which the sighting of Seals generated the name of the area.

Seal Rocks has some significance to me as it was a place that my father always wanted to go to fish. But around thirty years ago it was the first landfall sighted on the second morning of our voyage when I sailed a yacht bought in Sydney up the coast to Brisbane. I climbed to the lighthouse on my recent visit to look down onto the rocks from which it gets its name. They are low and flat and not all that conspicuous from the water, hence the lighthouse that is still in operation. The rocks do however appear much more significant from the deck of a small yacht, particularly one that you own and must navigate safely past the rocks.

Surging waves at the base of the headland of Sugarloaf Point.
Lighthouse Beach at Seal Rocks, NSW.
Seal Rocks lighthouse is an active lighthouse but long since converted to automatic operation.

Like much of that coast, it is a very attractive with a surprising number of good quality houses and a caravan park. Its popularity is drawn from its kindness to the fishermen who visit it and the pleasant beaches that keep families happy and compensate for the attention of the fisherman (hunter gatherer?) being directed elsewhere.

An original lighthouse keeper residence and the local lifesaving club building at Sugarloaf Point.
Boat Beach, Seal Rock. The lighthouse is over the hill to the right.
Number One Beach at Seal Rocks, NSW.
A juvenile Osprey waiting for food at its National Parks provided nesting platform north of Tiona on The Lakes Way, NSW.

After Seal Rocks we returned to The Lakes Way and continued towards Forster, pausing at a Osprey nesting platform to photograph a juvenile bird that was perched, probably waiting to be fed. After a quick lunch for ourselves in Forster, we continued on our way to Harrington to occupy our cabin.

Crowdy Head Harbour at the mouth of the Manning River, NSW.

We had booked Harrington for two nights but were offered a third night at half rate, which we accepted. But when we checked in their booking system was down. “We will fix the problem tomorrow”, they said. But when tomorrow came and the system was back online, they discovered that the cabin had been booked by someone else for that night. They didn’t offer an alternative and we didn’t ask. Instead, we booked one night at a motel in Taree.

Great Eastern Egret at Cattai Wetlands, Coopernook, NSW.
A gliding Brahminy Kite at Cattai Wetlands.
Australian Darter and Little Pied Cormorant. They wouldn’t need to travel far for food.

On our first day in Harrington, we spent the morning catching up on washing followed by a sea food lunch at neighbouring Crowdy Head. A sea food meal as we watched the sea, with Whales frolicking in Crowdy Bay wa just the ticket. We weren’t complaining at all.

There were multiple hectares of waterlilies at Cattai Wetlands.
More waterlillies

After lunch we drove back past Harrington to the Pacific Highway at Coopernook so that I could take a walk around the 2.5-kilometre track at Cattai Wetlands. The position of the sun was a problem, morning would have been better, but I saw and photographed a few birds and viewed wide areas of water lilies. I am a bit of a fan of water lilies. The walk was most enjoyable but was terminated at increased speed when I realised, about three quarters of the way around, that I was running out of time. The area closed at 3.00 pm, just 20 minutes away.

The famous Gantry. So well known that an eating place in town is named after it, The Gantry.

Finally, before we returned to our cabin, I did a walk along the rock training wall at Harrington. This wall was a favourite fishing site for my father from the days of his youth and a site to which he took us on holidays a number of times. It was also a favourite with my late brother Ivan. Despite the pleasantness of the afternoon there was not a fishing person in sight. I walked about 75% of its length, pausing to read many of the memorial tributes to departed fishermen that have been fixed to the rocks along the wall.

The stone wall has a bridged gap, known as The Gantry. I recall it being one of Dad’s favourites fishing spots. The wall is built out to an island that is near to the river bank which together with the wall forms an anabranch of the river. The Gantry allows for the ebb and flow of the tides into the lagoon, formed by the wall.

The Eastern end of the Harrington training wall.
The main training wall at Harrington with the river to the left and the lagoon and anabranch of the river to the right.
Manning Point on the southern bank of the Manning, through afternoon salt haze.
Pilot Hill at Harrington. Ships were guided over the bar from this vantage point in the early days of settlement.
The Training Wall and Manning Point from Pilot Hill. You can see the size of the lagoon. Tidal waters flow to and from it through The Gantry.
Norfolk Pines in Harrington’s main street with the lagoon behind.
The main street of Wootton and The Wotton Way.

Thursday was exploring day. We turned south and turned into Wootton Way which, when we lived on it was called plain old Wootton Road. It was part of a string of roads that lead from near Newcastle to Taree. In their early married life my parents tried to eek a living out of a soldiers settlement block on Newmans Road, that joined Wootton Road at Wotton. The road is still mainly gravel with some patches of sealed road where the road crosses streams. I lived there as a baby and again about 75 years ago, so was not surprised that much did not look familiar. I suspect that the old house is long gone. I think I identified the location, but it was hard to be sure.

Myall Lake at Mayres Point on The Lakes Way.

From Wootton we accessed The Lakes Way via Wattley Hill Road, a road that has been there since first settlement in the area, but one over which I had never travelled. We drove in to Myall Lake to check out the sight of Sunday School picnics of three quarters of a century ago. It is now all overgrown.

The Boat House at Smiths Lake, south of Forster, NSW. The building contains a cafe and boating facilities.
The sand bar that separates Smith Lake from the Pacific Ocean. The town of Sandbar is to the left, right on the coast.
Blueys Beach is just off The Lakes Way near Pacific Palms. It was favourite beach for locals in my youth and had only beach shacks.

We called in to several beaches that we frequented in younger days including Smith Lake, Pacific Palms, Blueys beach and Elizabeth Beach. We again stopped at Forster for lunch.

On our way from Forster to Taree we diverged so that we could look at Harrington across the river. The diversion lead us over some of the islands that make up the Manning River Estuary. Harrington is clearly visible from there. Manning Point has some tourist facilities but is much smaller than Harrington.

Jetty near the shopping centre at Forster, NSW.
The old Forster fishing cooperative now sells fishing supplies, has a cafe which of course sells coffee.
Pelicans roosting on the boat shed roof at Forster, NSW.
The shark proof swimming enclosure at Manning Point.
Harrington through the Pine trees at Manning Point.
The mouth of the Nambucca River at Nambucca Heads, NSW.

We spent our night in Taree, setting out next day, our last day but one, on the four hundred plus kilometres to Ballina. We made two diversions. The first into Nambucca Heads trying to find a coffee shop. We ended up at the service centre back on the highway. The town was parked out, but we did get to a couple of lookouts and one beach. Nambucca Heads is worth a longer visit.

Shelly Beach at Nambucca Heads, NSW.
The coast south of Nambucca to Scotts Head and Smokey Cape (South West Rocks) in the far distance.
The Anglican Cathedral at Grafton, NSW.

Finally, we drove through Grafton to find lunch and photograph Jacarandas. There seems to be less of the distinctive purple trees than I remember from previous visits. Lunch done, we departed the town over the new bridge over the Clarence River and re-joined the highway at Tyndale, to continue the drive to Ballina.

Jacaranda trees at Grafton NSW
Jacaranda trees at Grafton NSW
Jacaranda trees at Grafton NSW

After another brief and pleasant visit with Joe and Thelma we proceeded home, arriving mid afternoon. So ends another drive along that most familiar coast.

The Road Home – The Great Northern Road – October 2023

Before our 10.00 am checkout we took the elevator to the roof garden on 15th floor. That vantage point provides views of the area, including the Sir Kingsford-Smith Airport.

Sydney Airport from the roof garden of Meriton Suites Hotel in Mascot, Sydney.

Enjoying reduced traffic, we headed north through Sydney suburbia. As we approached the Hawkesbury River we were experiencing caffeine withdrawal so we turned into Brooklyn, to the Brooklyn Corner coffee shop, across the street from the Brooklyn Hotel.

A solitary coffee drinker at the next table struck up a conversation with us, probably after seeing our Queensland registration plate. He had just returned to his old hometown after forty years living in the Brisbane suburb of Windsor. He lives in Mooney Mooney, where we had lunch the previous day. Coffee cups empty, he headed home, and we returned to the car to resume our journey.

Historic culvert on Great Northern Road, Wollombi, NSW.
A plaque at the sight of an historic culvert on the Great Northern Road, Wollombi, NSW.

Our day end destination was Cessnock, but we turned from the highway at Calga and took the road through Central Mangrove to the historic town of Wollombi, a very pleasant drive of 78 kilometres, through mostly farmland and bush. Near the locality of Bucketty, the road that we were on intersects with the old Great Northern Road. The Great Northern Road was the first road ever built between Sydney and Newcastle. It was convict built so is over two hundred years old. That’s old for a structure in Australia. Some road works, particularly culverts, have been preserved and memorialised. Although they no longer carry the road they are intact and serviceable.

ST Johns Anglican Church, Wollombi, NSW.

The road from Calga to Bucketty is George Downes Drive. Together with the Northern end of the Great Northern Road it still provides a useful link into the Hunter Valley. The road appears to be popular with motor bike riders, as it is part of a circuit to and through the Hunter Valley wine region and back to Sydney via the M1 Motorway. Calga to Wollombi provides lots of those sweeping curves so beloved by motorcyclists.

Eating establishments in the main street of Wollombi NSW.

Tourist traffic has kept Wollombi a viable town. Two roads lead into the wine region from there, either via Broke or directly to Cessnock.

Wollombi has a number of eating establishments in its main street, plus a tavern at the southern entrance. There are two historic churches and an old wares shop with an aging but stately Bentley for sale at the entrance. The town also has one of the best constructed and maintained amenities blocks at its rest area, that we have seen in a long time.

St Michael the Archangel Roman Catholic Private Chapel and the old wares shop. complete with a dated Bentleigh car.

We left Woolombi along Wollombi Road that runs beside and crosses Wollombi Brook, a stream that ultimately makes its way to the Hunter River. Broke is a small town on the fringe of the wine area. We passed many vineyards and wineries with their supporting infrastructure. I love the disciplined order of vineyards, particularly when they are set out on undulating ground, the rows forming parallel threads of green. It is particularly so now, as the vines are set with juvenile bunches of fruit.

Wollombi Tavern – on the left as you enter the town from Sydney.
Tavern outdoor area. It was a light day for motor bikes.
Grape vines in the Hunter Valley near the mountains that form its southern boundary.

We reached our cabin in Cessnock via queues of traffic caused by road works on the only access street. We had replenished our supplies for a quiet night in after reaching town, so didn’t have to experience the delay a second time. The following morning, as we approached the exit road to execute a right hand turn, we were confronted by a line of banked traffic reaching out of sight to our left. But as the traffic control lights changed to green a kind lady at the head of the stream of traffic signalled to us to enter. We appreciated the kind gesture.

The NBN transmission tower on Mount Sugarloaf

The previous night we had decided to start our day with a visit to Mount Sugarloaf, the mountain behind Newcastle on which the television transmission masts are located. The shortest route from Cessnock took us over country roads. At one point we passed the large decorative gates of the homestead on a grazing property. We could see a waterway behind the house as we turned a bend in the road and drove up a hill. The increased elevation provided a view of a huge modern house built on the edge of a very large dam. Not far from the main house, also on the water’s edge, was the remains of an old brick building, possibly the original homestead. It was such a tranquil scene that we continued to look at it for several minutes. The featured photo at the head of this post is our view after driving past the property.

It is many years since we had last visited Mount Sugarloaf. We found it is virtually unchanged. Despite the views over the Greater Newcastle area, including the Port on a clear day that it provides, no work has been done to turn it into the tourist attraction that it could undoubtedly be. I passed on the walk to the summit. It was a bit steep for my old legs.

To cap things off, visibility was not good due to a heavy haze, as the photo below demonstrates.

The view over the Newcastle area from Sugarloaf. The city is out there in the line between land and ocean.

There is more to come from the activities on this day. That will be part of the next blog post.

South to Sydney – October 2023

Our daughter Kara works and lives in India. As she is an Australian citizen, she must return to Australia at least every five years to renew her visa. Kara is involved in that process right now.

Visiting Relatives and friends fills a great proportion of her time. We chose her necessary journey to Sydney to offer transport and combined with a visit to relatives and friends, thus killing to birds with the same stone, as the saying goes.

Pleasure boats anchored at Warners Bay, near to our Newcastle motel.

We departed Redcliffe on Wednesday 4th October but only travelled to Ballina, where we spent the night with friends Thelma and Joe, who have been mentioned in these pages previously. They are among our oldest friends and have known Kara all of her life. As usual they provided a pleasant overnight stay.

On Friday we covered the six hundred plus kilometres to Newcastle with the next day spent calling on two of Kara’s aunts and an uncle. There our paths diverged. Kara caught a train back to Port Macquarie to spend time with friends there while Ruth and I continued on to visit daughter Briony in Sydney, after spending Friday night in Newcastle.

We first called on Briony at her Erskineville unit where we were unable to stay as she currently has a visiting English flat mate. We had booked at the Mascot Merriton Suits, so with Briony in tow we went to book in. Formalities complete we walked around the corner for lunch.

Frenchman’s Bay, La Perouse with jetty construction on the left.
The Macquarie Watch Tower was built by Governor Macquarie in 1821-22 to house troops keeping watch for smugglers at La Perouse on Botany Bay. It is among the oldest Colonial structures remaining in Australia.

Rather than just sit around and talk we took a drive to La Peruse for some great views of Botany Bay on an almost cloudless day. We found a parking space after a search so that we could enjoy the views and absorb the history of the place. A new ferry terminal is under construction. It will become the northern end of a ferry service from a matching new terminal at Kurnell.

On our way to dinner at one of the outside restaurants at the new Marrickville shopping centre, we drove through that east coast residential area that parallels the coast from Cape Banks to Bronte. Every available square centimeter has been built on already, but they still find space for more. Literally thousands of million dollar plus houses. Who could ever assess their value?

Sashimi entre at the Japanese restaurant at Marrickville.

Eating with Briony is always an adventure. This Saturday evening was no exception. A Japanese restaurant provided the location for our culinary adventures. I had not dined on Ramen cuisine previously and I am afraid that I can’t remember the names of dishes, but it was very tasty and satisfying. The food met the requirement to be easy to chew, a present necessity as Ruth breaks in a new upper denture.

Pleasure boats in the Empire Marina at Bobbin Head.
Waterside Bistro at Bobbin Head.
Part of the picnic area at Bobbin Head in the Kar-ang-gui Chase National Park
Part of the picnic area at Bobbin Head in the Kar-ang-gui Chase National Park

Briony didn’t have any place that she wanted to visit on Sunday. She said that we were the visitors and should go where we wanted. But when I said that we would head for the water ways of the Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park she miraculously discovered the Hawkesbury River Oyster Farm at Mooney Mooney. It is not a coincidence that she loves oysters.

A Pelican at Brooklyn with its head pulled in.

We coffee’d up from the takeaway at Briony’s units and headed north over the Harbour Bridge and along the highway to the most northern turn to Bobbin Head. All was relatively quiet on a Sunday morning, but the cafe at the Empire Marina had a reasonable breakfast morning and their lunch trade was making its way through the gate in reasonable numbers.

Our lunch booking was for 1.30 pm, so we had some time to spare. We called in at Brooklyn where we were entertained by Pelicans looking for food. The solitary fisherman retrieving his boat had let them down, it seems. With time to spare we returned to the rest area by the Hawkesbury River.

The Hawkesbury River road bridges. both new and old.

The restaurant is at the bottom of a step pinch on the riverbank which would have been a scramble for Ruth and her walker but a departing customer provided a vacant parking space right at the front door. Sometimes you get a win.

Oysters Mornay at Hawksbury River Oyster Farm. My favourite way to eat oysters.
Entre of Scallops Mornay at the oyster farm restaurant.

The restaurant takes bookings, but there is no table service other than for delivering hot food. Orders are placed at the counter. You carry cold dishes to the table yourself. We had a combination. Fresh King Prawns, Oysters mornay and mint flavoured and battered fish with salad. In Brooklyn Briony had acquired three small bottles of Champagne. The tables are right beside the river. The queue waiting to place orders didn’t seem to get any shorter even though the service was quick. Very pleasant!

Diners waiting to place orders at Hawkesbury River Oyster Farm.

We drove back towards Sydney, cutting across suburbia to Terry Hills where we took the turn to West Head and Church Point. A sign warned that the West Head Lookout was closed for renovation, but we drove out there anyway. Briony had not been there before, although she was with on many of our river excursions when resident in Castle Hill. The road temporarily terminates before the view is in sight. We retraced our steps and turned for Church Point.

Dining by the Hawkesbury River. Photo just after we had vacated our table.

Church Point was an important place in our lives during one of my business transfers to Sydney. Our small yacht was moored there, so it was the starting point for many of our aquatic adventures.

We returned to the south side via Mona Vale Road and Ryde Road and the Pyrmont Bridge. It was back to work for Briony next day, so we dropped her off for a quiet night and returned to Mascot for a quiet night of our own.

We make our way home in the next blog.

Visiting Relatives and Alpine New South Wales

Those of you who have followed our travels will be aware that we give a high priority to keeping in touch with family and have done so more frequently as we have all aged. We have seen this as a responsibility partly, at least, brought about by our frequent moves, particularly the move to Brisbane about forty years ago.

Increasing age does not make travelling any easier. We had suggested to my two remaining siblings that Victoria was a long way from Brisbane and that they might make the task easier for us by meeting us half way, or at least some of the way. Earlier this year they called us on the offer. I am always on for a trip to the alpine regions outside of the snow season so we agreed that meeting at Jindabyne in the Snowy Mountains was a suitable compromise. The southern most relatives to visit on this trip live at Bowral in the Southern Highlands of New South Wales. Not that much further to Jindabyne.

But it was a close-run thing with the snow season. A week after we visited, areas around Thredbo, not far from Jindabyne, had snow.

Poplars by the highway south of Glen Innes

We chose the New England Highway as our route to Newcastle where our first call was to be made. A drive through the Granite Belt and New England areas is not to be missed in Autumn. The colours did not disappoint but our opportunities to see them did. We were delayed for an hour just south of Wallangarra by a two-vehicle collision that blocked the highway for over an hour. Darkness accompanied our arrival at Armidale for the night and low cloud and drizzle greeted us next morning for our drive to Newcastle.

Autumn colour opposite our motel in Armidale.

The next morning, Friday, we first called on sister-in-law Marjorie in her retirement home that overlooks Lake Macquarie. We then moved on to call on Ruth’s sister Judy and Alan her husband at West Wallsend. Finally, after a call to brother Ivan’s newly completed grave at Ryhope cemetery, we completed our journey to our daughter’s unit in Erskineville, through Sydney Friday afternoon peak hour traffic.

Visiting Rainbow Lorikeet on Briony’s sixth floor balcony rail.
Newtown street scene. I don’t know why the young lady was sitting there.
Lots of quality graffiti artwork. It adds to the ambiance.

We spent a quiet morning on Saturday. In the afternoon I walked to near-by Newtown to do some street photography. On Sunday morning Briony accompanied us to brunch at Mount Annan Botanic Gardens Café where we met Ruth’s sister Dorothy and her family. We returned via Costco at Casula for some bulk shopping. Later in the afternoon I spent a couple of hours photographing birds and humans at Sydney Park which offers wetlands and an elevated viewing position overlooking that part of Sydney. The park is right across the street from Briony’s unit.

View from the top of the hill in Sydney Park. Looking towards Redfern.
An Australian Darter at the Sydney Park wetlands.
Family group at brunch at Mount Annan.

An 8.00 AM departure saw us at Ruth’s younger brother’s home at Bowral for a coffee stop. Wallace is in advanced stages of a wasting disease that has robbed him of movement and speech but not mental capacity. But he never complains and communicates to the best of his ability. Ruth is particularly close to his wife and her sister-in-law Ginny. The visit was both a sad and happy time.

Bernard and Aileen had arrived at the caravan park at Jindabyne where our cabins were located when we checked in. So we had a bit of a chat over a cup of tea and went out to dinner. We were at Jindabyne for three nights. We dined at three different eating establishments on the three nights and spent the days seeing the sites.

The Snowy River near to its source.

On Tuesday we drove to Charlotte Pass, diverting to visit the Guthega power station and follow the Snowy River until we turned into a gravel road that took us back to Kosciuszko Road at Smiggin Holes.

Charlotte Pass viewed from the lookout above the resort.

The car park at the lookout above Charlotte Pass village was busy but we grabbed a parking spot for long enough to walk the board walk to the lookout that gives such a great view of the Kosciuszko range, including Kosciuszko’s peak and the Snowy River making its way through the valley at is feet, to the dams that interrupt is path to the ocean at Marlo in Victoria. This view always makes me want to don my hiking shoes and take off into the mountains. Instead, we drove to the village for a late morning coffee, or in Bernard’s case, a cup of tea.

The pipeline leading to Guthega power station.
Jindabyne from the Mount Kosciuszko Road.
Jindabyne Dam that holds back the waters of Lake Jindabyne on the Snowy River.

After a stop for photographs of Lake Jindabyne and the town we visited the dam that holds back the waters of the lake. Water levels are quite high as we could see as we drove over the road the previous day. The dam serves as a platform for the main road into Jindabyne and the Snowy Mountains.

On Wednesday we drove towards Thredbo on the Alpine Way, first stopping for a look at Crackenback Resort. What a beautiful place, with attractive accommodation huddled around the lake. A Eurasian Coot completed the picture as it coasted across the calm waters, creating its own ripples.

Reflections of Crackenback Resort on Lake Crackenback.

Before calling at Thredbo, we drove on to The Pilot Lookout, Dead Horse Gap and the Cascades on Dead Horse Creek. Reports have it that wild brumbies can be seen at Dead Horse Gap, although a place so named seems an unlikely place for brumbies to gather. The only thing of note was a sign advising that a section of the park was closed for vermin eradication. Perhaps the brumbies had been warned, although the sign did say that they were excluded from the cull.

The Cascades on the Dead Horse Gap Creek near the junction with Thredbo River.
The Thredbo River near the alpine resort town of Thredbo.

We drove into Thredbo but found it to be largely inaccessible due to tourists and tradesman who had got there before we did and areas barricaded off by witches’ hats by the workers. We had intended to ride the tourist chair lift that takes visitors to the main skiing area and the track to Kosciusko but we could not park close enough to the lifts to make that an achievable objective.

We hadn’t even managed to get ourselves a cup of coffee, so we returned to our units for a soup and toast lunch and a cup of coffee. It was good soup weather, although better than we expected. Both touring days provided brilliant blue skies and temperatures in the low twenties. Nights were cold, well below 10C.

The view towards Thredbo from Dead Horse Gap on the Alpine Way.

On Thursday 27th April we departed Jindabyne, Aileen and Bernard for a few days at Merimbula and we to return home but by an indirect route. We had enjoyed our few days together and departed resolved to repeat the exercise before too long.

The western end of Lake Eucumbene at Providence Portal.

Ruth and I drove back to the road to the Snowy Mountains Highway and Tumut. We drove through relocated Adaminaby and stopped in at Providence Portal where water from elsewhere in the mountains runs into the western extremity of Lake Eucumbene. From there we paused for a comfort stop at deserted Kiandra, then proceeding through Tumut to Gundagai, where we stopped for lunch.

Tumut is the location of much of the work on Snowy Hydro II but we saw little activity, most of which was off the beaten track or underground.

Cowra sunset.

We spent Thursday night at Cowra, proceeding through Blayney, Bathurst and Lithgow and along the Bells Line of Road to Mount Tomah to visit the Blue Mountains Botanic Gardens. Two previous attempts to visit had been frustrated by fog and rain. The wait was worth while. The garden is actually a series of small gardens comprised of mostly trees and shrubs with fountains and rockeries with waterfalls and pools. There is an excellent visitor centre with a very handy café.

Autumn in Mount Tomah gardens.
Fountain Terrace, viewed through the archway at Mount Tomah.

We journeyed on through Kurrajong, Richmond and Windsor to Vineyard where we spent the night at a large hotel with an attendant motel. A very nice seafood dinner ensued.

A damp morning followed for our drive along the Putty Road to Singleton. The Grey Gum Café at Putty normally teams with motor bikes on weekends but motor bike riders had been discouraged or delayed by the wet. We shared the establishment for coffee with a couple of motorists and a solitary motor bike rider.

Our overnight objective was Tamworth with a side trip to Nundle. Nundle is one of those towns to which signposts point as you drive by down the main road. We knew of it from our regular use of the New England Highway and my transport days involvement in the New England area. More recently, for some unknown reason it had started popping up on my Facebook news feed.

Nundle is a small and attractive farming community with the addition of a historic woollen mill, one of the last operating in Australia. The mill is still owned and operated by its original founding family who started it over a century ago. The brilliant Autumn foliage really lifted the town on what was by then a very dull afternoon.

With the day drawing in we drove up to Hanging Rock Lookout with rain threatening to return. To be able to see the hanging aspects of the rock clearly required a different vantage point but the lookout did provide great views of the surrounding mountains.

Entrance to the Nundle Woollen Mill.
Part of the manufacturing equipment at Nundle Woollen Mill.
Autumn colour in the park at Nundle.

On our drive to Tamworth, we passed Chaffey Dam on the Peel River, of interest to me because of my involvement in the transport of materials to the sight during its construction.

Rain had returned by the time we reached our Tamworth motel and the forecasts made it clear that the precipitation would continue next day. We had planned to visit a couple of other places connected with my earlier association with the area but when we realised that we could still cancel our Inverell motel we decided to do so and head home a day earlier.

More New England colour near Glen Innes NSW.

We departed Tamworth with the clouds well below the surrounding mountains. Rain and drizzle continued but by the time that we stopped at Glen Innis for coffee the temperature was up to 10C. By lunch time at Warwick it had reached 15C. Once we had crossed the Great Dividing Range it increased further. We arrived home on rather a balmy evening, reminding us of one of the reasons that we live here.

So, another successful trip of around 3,500 kilometres completed with most objectives achieved. We don’t have any other travel plans currently although we will probably do something else in the near future. What ever it is we will keep you informed.

Interrupted Journey – North Queensland 2022 – Part 7

Travelling Home

A video link appears at the bottom of this blog post.

On Board the Magnetic Island Ferry

On disembarking from the Magnetic Island ferry, we headed directly to Bowen, pausing only for necessities and roadwork. We stayed at the Bowen Arrow Motel. Now, who could resist it with a name like that?

More roadworks south of Bowen. One 20 km strip with 15 km at 60 kph and the other 5 at 80 kph. Traffic was not heavy, so the drive was pleasant. The skies were partly cloudy with enough sprinkles at Proserpine to kick the automatic wipers into action for a swish or two.

We used the Mackay Ring Road for the first time. It completely misses the city, leaving the Bruce (north bound) at the BP truck stop south of town, runs west for about 3 km and then turns north to re-join the Bruce near Farleigh sugar mill. Three km at 80 kph and 8 at 100 kph. Saves a bit of time and city traffic.

Ferry Arriving at Nelly Bay.
Nelly Bay Harbour Entrance from Inside.

If you break a Bowen to Brisbane trip into three days travel, then Marlborough is where you end up on the first night. We have stayed there in the caravan, but never used the motel. It is dated, perhaps bit tired, but so are we. But we had a comfortable night and a good meal in the restaurant. There are also workers camps on site, so they get good patronage from camp occupants.

Our Lunchtime View at Clairview.
BarraCrab Caravan Park at Clairview.
Caravans at Marlborough Motel & Caravan Park.

We stopped for lunch at Clairview. The caravan park has grown and is now called the BarraCrab Caravan Park and boasts a bistro and bar. But we ate our sandwiches seated in a picnic shelter overlooking the Coral Sea….with the tide out.

The final two days of our trip were just more driving but keeping daily distance to about 400 km. We did morning coffee at a pie cart at the south of Rockhampton.

We turned off at Fred Haig Dam, just north of Gin Gin. This dam holds back the waters of Lake Monduran. It supplies irrigation water to Bundaberg primary producers. We had spent a night there about 12 years ago. It has a good caravan park, built below the retaining wall and patronised by Barramundi fishermen.

We spent Saturday night at Childers in a pleasant motel on the southern end of town. Childers proved to be the start of cool wet weather. We had intermittent rain all the way home.

A View From the Top Deck of the Ferry.

South of Maryborough, in fact south of Tiaro, a sign by the highway advises of a tourist drive through Bauple. We have both seen and ignored it many times. But this was the day that we finally succumbed to curiosity and took the drive.

The Retaining Wall at Fred Haig Dam.

Bauple is a small, old town but that is about all. Not much there but we did see a sign advising of a “bypass meeting” which suggests that the highway diversion around Gympie might just be diverting through Bauple. We didn’t stop for photos

It was too wet for a picnic morning coffee so we called at The Coffee Club at Gympie. This store of TCC has about the best range of cakes of any and seems to be a popular meeting place for Gympieites. It is always busy.

We arrived home at about 12.30 pm and got on with unpacking. Another successful trip under our belt, despite being interrupted.

Guest Cabins Overlook Lake Monduran.

Thanks, Ruth, for agreeing to being dragged around the bush again. I am never so happy as when I am driving down another remote country road, in pursuit of another bit of Australiana. Ruth knows that you can’t take the bush out of the boy. Even when he has become an old boy.

Interrupted Journey – North Queensland 2022 – Part 6

Attractive Magnetic Island

Note: A video link appears at the bottom of this blog post.

HMAS Adelaide in Townsville Harbour.

The ferry departed on time, turned in the limited width of Ross Creek and slowly made its way down the channel and out into the broader waters of Cleveland Bay. The harbour activities were on our right, including HMAS Adelaide, probably in port replenishing its supplies since it is a supply ship.

Reminder: Click on pictures to expand to full screen size.

Drilling Platform for Extension to Port of Townsville.

Substantial work is under way to increase the size of Townsville Harbour. As we cruised past we could see where work has commenced to construct footings for a sea wall to enclose a large area which will ultimately be pumped dry and filled, to allow the building of wharves and freight handling facilities. I understand that the existing port is literally bursting at the seams.

Distant Bright Point and Harbour Entrance
Luxury Units & Hotel on Bright Point, Nelly Bay.
SeaLink Ferry passing Luxury Units on Bright Point.
An Allied Rock Wallaby on a Rock. Eating.
Nelly Bay Beach. Picnic Bay is just over the point.

On our first day on the island we took it easy, with a slow start, although I did take a walk out onto the west side breakwater which was just down the street in front of our resort complex. After coffee we crossed the island to Horseshoe Bay and stayed for lunch. We returned in stages, looking at items of interest, such bays and headlands and other features.

Adele’s Café at Horseshoe Bay. Lunch venue on the first day.
Large Banyan Trees are a Feature of the Horseshoe Beachfront.

The ferry base is at Nelly Bay, near the southwest corner if the island. When you leave the ferry, if you drive to the left, you reach Picnic Bay, so named because in the early days Townsville residents would cross by boat to the nearest point on the island, for a picnic. It is a short drive. Just along Nelly Bay Beach, over a ridge and down to the town area, which is clustered around an hotel.

Allied Rock Wallaby Habitat.
Picnic Bay Jetty
A Container Ship Passed Magnetic Island on its way to Townsville Harbour.

If you turn right from the ferry the road leads through Arcadia, then across the island to Horseshoe Bay. A national park occupies most of the island, which is in reality a huge pile of tree covered rocks with a coast which alternates between bays with sandy beaches divided by rocky promontories.

Picnic Point Hotel

The population centres are more a series of small residential towns than an island of holiday resorts, although some high-quality holiday accommodation and higher priced residential units have been built in recent years. Most residents commute to Townsville to work via the SeaLink passenger ferry. Parking spaces are at a premium during the day anywhere within walking distance of the ferry terminal.

We went looking for sunsets in the late afternoon, but the sun sets behind mangrove covered shores on the largely inaccessible north-western corner of the island, making the exercise a bit difficult. At least that is where the sun set while we were there. We gave up and went back to our unit.

The Original Vehicle Track to the Fort Area.
Balding Bay from the Fort Track.
The Observation Post on Top of The Highest Peak.

Because the island is mountainous there are not many easy walks, certainly not that lead to elevated lookouts. On the morning of our second day, with no other plans made, I decided to set out on a walk to the area of military installations from WWII days. The access road that visitors use to access the site is the one built during the war. It is a fairly easy walk to the site of the camp but when you get there you are confronted with a long flight of rough stone steps, that lead up to the gun platforms and lookout posts. The ammunition magazine is part way up.

The Main Amination Magazine
One of Two Main Gun Mounts.
The Remains of the Range Finder.

The planners really did use the topography to advantage. There were two large guns, one placed higher than the other but placed to increase the arc of fire. There are two observation points for lookouts and signals, set on the highest rocks and a range finder to tell the guns how much powder they needed to reach the target. The construction would have been a huge challenge and I am glad that I was not one of the soldiers with the task of getting ammunition up to the guns.

A Sleeping Koala

There are Koalas on Magnetic Island and the walk to the fortress passes through some of their habitat. I saw two of them, but not very clearly. They were not at all keen to show their faces.

I was rather tired when I got back to the unit. My smart watch told me that I had climbed the equivalent of sixteen stories. So we had a quiet lunch and rested up, making a final visit to Horseshoe Bay later in the afternoon to enjoy an ice-cream, as we looked out over the blue water at the small boats on their moorings..

Bush Stone-Curlews, Parent and Fledgling.

Just before lunch our attention was drawn to a Bush Stone-curlew family, parents and one young bird, who were making themselves at home in a garden bed under an ornamental tree. As we were having lunch, we looked out the door and there they were, looking in at us. More photos and they finally moved on. They are apparently regulars.

We were on the mid-day ferry back to Australia, so with check out at 10.00 am we had ample time for a leisurely brunch before we queued up to board the ferry. We stopped off at Scallywags Café, up the street a bit from our unit, for a very pleasant brunch. We even had some time left to read and watch the waters of Cleveland Bay, before boarding the ferry.

Scallywag’s Café, our Brunch Location.

Interrupted Journey – North Queensland 2022 – Part 5

Dinosaurs and Brolga

Note: A video link appears at the bottom of this blog post.

A gliding Black Kite.

All along the highway from about Blackall, roadkill was attended by birds that I thought were a type of Kite and black Crows. Once I got a photo, I was able to identify them as Black Kites. Their appearance and behaviour, such as their swooping flight and that they were in flocks. I posted about Plumed Whistling Ducks and Crested Pigeons in the previous post. So that’s it for Birds at Longreach.

We departed Longreach early to reach Winton in good time as we had a drive of about two and a half hours after Winton, to reach our overnight stop at Hughenden.

Australian Age of Dinosaurs layout. Entrance road is in the lower left hand corner.
The Dinosaur footprints, recovered from swamp country and reinstalled in a temperature controlled building for display and preservation.

The location of The Australian Age of Dinosaurs is on the Longreach side of Winton, so that helped. Part of the success of this attraction is the brilliant sighting on top of a jump up. The top is quite flat, probably a couple of hundred metres above the grassy plains of the grazing area. Huge rocks have broken away around the edge and moved a short distance to where they have become stable. All of the buildings are on the plateau, but some displays have been built on and among those huge rocks around the plateau rim.

March of the Titanosaurs Building where the footprints are displayed.

We arrived about an hour ahead of our tour and presented ourselves at reception. We were given an earlier tour start. The session required a short trip on a shuttle to the Dinosaur Canyon Outpost. This part is relatively new. It is in a large fully enclosed building into which has been moved a large area of fossilised rock that was found in the lower country. It is part of an ancient swamp where Dinosaur footprints of various sizes have been frozen in time. The guide points out some differences between the footprints and what it is thought the creatures were doing at the time.

A board walk extends to the Dinosaur Canyon Walk.
A diorama of Dinosaurs in stampede mode.
Tumbled boulders at the edge of the Jump Up.

The displays that have been built among the rocks on the side of the jump up, are in this area.

About 50 km away on the Jundah Road south of Winton is the site of the dinosaur stampede. We saw it years ago and found it to be most interesting but inconvenient to get to, because of the condition of the road. So to have this display of similar footprints so easily accessible is a great convenience.

Digs, recovery of fossils and storage of fossils awaiting processing.

The next part of the tour required a drive or walk of about 500 metres to the laboratory, where the fossils are prepared for display or further research. We were taken through the detail if how digs for fossils are conducted and the fossils secured and brought back for further processing so that the item can be positively identified. Finally we watched as the workers used a variety of tools to remove foreign material without causing damage to the fossil.

Work in progress
Two volunteers working to on fossils.
Recovered and restored fossils.

Finally, we returned to the museum at the main building for a presentation of how the finished fossils are used to recreate the original creature, or part of a creature, using genuine parts or parts fabricated to replace the missing bit. These are displayed as models, a leg for example, and in photographs or sketches. There is an interesting display of parts that don’t fit with anything else but are genuine.

More recovered and processed fossils.
An example of the use of fossilised parts to recreate a body part,

Since the café is in the same building as the museum, we had coffee and a sandwich and drove into Winton for a petrol refill at $2.02 per litre. But that now seems cheap compared to $2.15 that I saw on a pump at Redcliffe yesterday.

A view from the museum grounds of a distant jump up. Part of Winton about centre left, just below the skyline. The flat topped mountains are a feature of this part of Queensland.
A typical small jump up or mesa in the area.
Corfield Hotel, currently closed.

The drive to Hughenden is on sealed road except for the first 15 km that is currently a dirt side track running parallel with an almost completed new road. We stopped at the tiny town of Corfield for a break. This “town” boasted a pub and racetrack. The pub is now permanently closed but I am not sure about the racetrack. They used to conduct a “Corfield Cup” but a lot of those country events were cancelled during the Covid epidemic and have not restarted.

 There are no real towns along this road, just one other notable locality, Stamford that has a school.

Brolga near Hughenden
Rainbow Lorikeets on our door step at Hughenden.

About 30 km short of Hughenden, we came across a group of Brolga. The Brolga were in a paddock about 30 km south of our destination. I was separated from the Brolgas by a 4 strand well maintained barbed wire fence, when I took some photos. They kept moving away until I reached the fence. Then they turned around and looked at me. I wonder if they knew that I could not get through the fence.

On our arrival at the caravan park in Hughenden, our doorstep was taken up by Rainbow Lorikeets being fed by a resident. Most flew away but some stayed to see if there was more food on offer.

The area at the summit of Mt Walker. All lookouts are joined to the central area by gravel paths.
Lookout to the Southeast.

About 10 km south of Hughenden is Mount Walker, named in memory of the leader of an expedition to find Bourke & Wills. It is about 450 metres above sea level but stands well above the surrounding terrain. It is part of two adjoining stations, the owners of which combined with the local council to install a road and visitor facilities. There are about six lookouts that face in all directions, each one providing panoramic views. We made it our first call of the morning, before heading east.

View to the Northeast. The road to Hughenden can be seen below.
Tables and seats are scattered around the area.
White Mountain National Park near Torrens Creek

There are only small towns on this stretch of road, until we reached Charters Towers with its approximately 9,000 population. We did coffee at Torrens Creek and experienced the “excitement” of a 60-truck fertiliser train passing through.

Memorial to the Completion of the Sealing of the Hervey Range Road.

A geological feature of some note, the White Mountain National Park, is a further 30 km. You need a 4WD to get into the park but some of its signature white stone is visible from a rest stop by the highway.

We continued amid little traffic to Charters Towers, where we arrived at about 1 pm. It was pleasing to see petrol at around $1.70 per litre.

After a restful afternoon and evening, we left next morning for Townsville and the ferry terminal, but went the long way. We drove north-west on the Gregory Highway until we reached a place called Basalt, where we turned east into the Hervey Range Road. We stopped to see a memorial to the completion of sealing the road. Hervey Range Road is part of the network of “beef roads” that criss-cross Northwest Queensland. This one takes beef to the processing works at Townsville.

The Burdekin River upstream of the Hervey Range Road Crossing.
The Hervey Range Tea House without customers. A very present place to stop for a break, Wednesday to Sunday.
Ah! The Tropics! Beach goers relaxing on Townsville Beach.

We then crossed the Burdekin River and stopped at the Hervey Range Tea House. The day was Monday, and this is a weekend drive location for Townsville residents. The tea house is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays, but we knew that. There were no coffee stops available until we reached the suburbs of Townsville. Topped up with coffee and with some time to fil in before the departure of the ferry, we found a parking space in The Esplanade where we were able to see Magnetic Island and enjoy the beach, fresh air and sunshine. We caught our ferry with time to spare,

Magnetic Island from Townsville beach.

Interrupted Journey – North Queensland – 2022 – Part 4

Jumbo Jets & Old Machines

Note: A video link appears at the bottom of this blog post.

Reception & Tours Areas at the Qantas Founders Museum

Over our many years of caravan travel we have passed through and stayed at Longreach many times. We have learned that if arriving from the East the first thing you will now see is the roof that shelters the aircraft at Qantas Founders Museum. The roof has not always been there. For the previous few years, the first sight was the tail of the Boeing 747. Prior to that it was probably the water tower at the roundabout, adjacent to the Longreach CBD.

Starboard Fuselage and Wing compared to humans demonstrates the size of the aircraft. The engine seen under the fuselage is a spare allowing replacement engines to be transported.
Jumbo nose wheel with DC3 and Boeing 707. Plus air conditioning to keep the display aircraft cool.
The orange items are the aircraft “black box”.
The door mounted raft/slide is an Australian invention.
Boeing 707 with boarding stairs in place.

Thursday 28th September was Qantas day. We had booked the Museum Tour for Ruth and I and the Aircraft Tour for me. All those steps! Then we were both booked to return in the evening for the Light Show. That left time for a nap in the afternoon.

Boeing 747 City of Bunbury.

The museum tour is confined to the original museum building and is all at ground level. It includes a Catalina Flying Boat in the grounds, a wide range of aircraft and vehicle models inside and the old workshop buildings that were the original Qantas Longreach hanger. Basically, it tells the story of the founding of Qantas and of its growth until 1934.

Visitors clustered around the doorway of the DC3.

The story from 1934 to the era of the Jumbo Jet is told in the aircraft display, now housed under a huge canopy, a sort of hanger without walls. The Boeing 747 is so large that some of the other craft are under its wings. Three of them are accessed by permanent stairs to their side and rear doorways. The Douglas DC3 is small enough to be examined from the ground.

Super Constellation with boarding stairs in place.

There are three tours of the aircraft museum. The one that I did takes visitors through the aircraft, with a very informative guide to explain what you are looking at and relate to you the history. The next is more expensive. It is for smaller groups and includes the opportunity to climb onto spaces normally only accessed by the crew and allows you to sit in the pilot’s chair and stand out on the wing for a photo. Then there is an evening sound and light show, where the Qantas story is projected onto the mostly white fuselages of the three larger aircraft.

Boeing 747 instrument paned on the earlier three crew Boeing 747s.
Catalina Flying Boat is located at the museum building.
In the early days of the Boeing 747 having your photo taken standing in the engine cowl was quite the thing to do.
The orange items are the aircraft “black box”.

On display is the Douglas DC3, the Lockheed L-1049 Super Constellation, The Boeing 707 and the Boeing 747 Jumbo.

Cockpit on the Lockheed Super Constellation
Cockpit of Boeing 747
Cut away section to expose the frame of the aircraft.
The Lockheed DC3 was an Early Workhorse of the Airline.

The Boeing 707 is an interesting exhibit. It was purchased by Qantas and joined the international fleet. When it was retired at the end of its passenger carrying life it was acquired by a business that converted it into a five star flying hotel suite. It later became a luxury charter aircraft used on one occasion by Micheal Jackson, during a tour. It was finally retired to an open field in the south of England.

Dining table in the converted aircraft
Table for a meeting in flight. Perhaps as board room?
The luxury extends to cockpit seating.

Someone connected with the museum heard about this aircraft and recognised its historical significance. It was purchased and restored to flying order by a team of volunteers who travelled to England for several months to complete the task. It then flew to Longreach to join the fledgling museum fleet. I remember when it arrived.

The light show is particularly well done. Visitors sit or stand on a concrete area between the aircraft. Seating is on high stools. Just grab one if you get tired of standing. As the program is projected onto the sides of three aircraft it is necessary to be a bit mobile.

Rolls Royce Jet Engine for a 747.
Inside the Catalina Flying boat.
DC3 with seating removed for freight.

On the morning aircraft tour, one of the tour members was a retired Qantas Boeing 747 captain, who was able to add to the information provided by the guide from his personal experience.

Stone pitching for water control
An example of Stone Pitching at the site south of Ilfracombe.

On Friday morning, five days after leaving home, we made an early start to head back to Ilfracombe where we turned south to Isisford. About 20 km south of Ilfracombe, at a rest stop, we drove a few hundred extra metres to an area where stone pitching had been used to retain and divert water into a dam. The work is over one hundred years old and may have been carried out by Chinese workers, although the skills were probably brought from England.

Roadside flowers. “Pitilotus nobilis”

Stone pitching is building structures from natural stone without mortar to hold the stones in place. So, each stone is held in place by those around it. The structure is particularly useful in sandy soil where running water quickly washes earthen structures away.

More roadside flowers.

When we were in this area back in caravanning days, we spent a couple of nights in the riverside camp at Isisford, on the Barcoo River. There was an excellent museum there with a display of the ancient forebears of the Crocodile. It had an excellent cafe /coffee shop for such a small and remote place. The cafe is in the museum building, which partly explains why it exists in such a small and remote community.

On that occasion we had morning coffee at the van before going into town. We said that it would be nice to go back. And so, we did. Sadly, some of the fossils that were on display have been moved elsewhere. Probably to another museum where more people visit.

Natural History Museum at Isisford.
Whitman Café at the Natural History Museum.
Barcoo River at Isisford

Roadside flowers were in abundance, particularly towards Isisford. The grass is a brilliant green. The Barcoo has been in minor flood three times this year, so there is a lot of water, on its way to Lake Eyre. The Barcoo and Thompson Rivers join near Windorah to form Cooper Creek which feeds the lake, if there is enough water to travel that far.

The Wellshot Centre at Ilfracombe.

We returned to Ilfracombe and visited the Wellshot Centre. The building was the police station in the town but was converted to a museum to display items from nearby (we passed it on the way to Isisford) Wellshot Station. Wellshot Station was one of the first stations in the area. It was developed with Scottish money and Australian know how.

Southern Cross Water Boring Machine
A well kept Ferguson Tractor.
Tracked Earth Moving Tractor

Ilfracombe has a “Mile of Machinery” as a memorial to the pioneers. It stretches along the north side of the highway for most of the length of the main street. I took a walk along most of it. Included is an example of the ubiquitous Ferguson 35 tractor. I learned to drive on one.

A line of road graders.
A bullock cart that probably was used for transporting wool.
A full stop of Bougainvillea at the end of the machinery queue.
Plumed Whistling Ducks

We returned to Longreach for a pie and coffee before returning to our unit for a nap. Late afternoon we went out looking for a sunset but tonight it was rather ordinary. The sunset the previous evening looked to be a beauty, but we were occupied at the Qantas sound and light show.

In the waning afternoon light, I found some Plumed Whistling Ducks at a waterhole at the north of town. I was trying to get closer for a better shot when they took off. Above the ducks, on the power lines, some Crested Pigeons were sunning themselves and looking a bit surprised. But they just sat and didn’t move.

The ducks after take off.
Crested Pigeon in the afternoon light.

We returned to the cabin for our final night at Longreach. Tomorrow we are off hunting Dinosaurs.