A Different Way There …. and Back – Post 1


Day 1 – 27th March – Home to Bell – 234 km

The early part of our trip has changed. Our visit to the Mount Moffatt section of the Carnarvon Gorge National Park has been cancelled. There has been constant wet weather across the Central Highlands of Queensland to the extent that a number of features in the park have been closed. Because of this  a number of participants pulled out. We were still going in company with the organiser until his wife, who suffers from MS, had a relapse and was ordered by her specialist to rest. So we have called the Mount Moffatt visit off for the time being.

That left us all dressed up with nowhere to go! As we had an arrangement to meet friends at Mitchell we decided to fill in the time exploring the Warrego Highway from Dalby to Charleville.

Ready for the road

Ready for the road

We expected to get away from home by late morning but finally rolled out the gate at a few minutes past 1.00 pm. We took our normal route when heading west – north to Caboolture and then follow the Daguilar Highway to Yarraman where it meets the New England Highway. There we turn south and then south west to Dalby. This time we turned north before reaching Dalby and came to the small town of Bell on the Bunya Highway about 40 km north of Dalby.

Bell CP 1

The amenities block was almost our en suite

Bell is a quiet country town on the Darling Downs. It contains some historic buildings which we will check tomorrow morning. We are resident in the Bell N Whistle Caravan Park. Except for a hand full of permanents we were the only guests. The northern migration of Victorians clearly has not started yet.

Bell CP 2

Perhaps this is the train from which the caravan park got its name

The rain has missed us so far. A storm passed ahead of us near Cooyar but we enjoyed a rainless evening, sitting out until after a very red sun disappeared over the distant, rather flat horizon.

Day 2 – 28th March – Bell to Roma – 307 km

It is normally an easy start when you have been on a drive through site. We did a small tour of Bell before leaving, to get some photos, but then encountered an unexpected problem. The still or image facility on my video camera that I use for most of my still shots that had worked at the caravan park refused duty when I attempted to take photos in the town. So for the time being I am using the camera on my phone or shooting short bursts of video from which I can cut still pictures.

Pictures taken (but later lost. My fault) we journeyed to Roma, refuelled both the car and ourselves and proceeded north west on the Warrego Highway; first stop Chinchilla for some last minute items before shops closed for Easter. Shopping completed we drove out of town for lunch at Chinchilla Weir, before moving on. I lost the pictures of that, too.

We have been hearing about the frantic mining activity on the Darling Downs, but as soon as we reached Dalby we could see the evidence. The highway to Roma is not much different to coastal highways in traffic density. Endless strings of vehicles including many very big trucks. The commercial centre of Chinchilla, which has a Woolworths supermarket, and a McDonalds, was almost like a city mall on Christmas Eve. We were glad to escape back to the relative calm of the busy highway.

We made a stop at Miles to see the well publicised and historic Pioneer Village. A bit pricey at $12 each to see it, but it has been very well done with authentic buildings brought in from their original locations. The buildings are well set up with all the things that I remember from my childhood. It is sobering to realise that your own early years actually reach back into “history”.

Miles Village 5

Village street scape

Miles Village 2

Half size model of Cobb & Co coach

Miles Village 4

I started my education in a school like this one

Miles Village 3

Have you ever heard the expression “Wouldn’t work in an Iron Lung”?

We would have spent the night at Miles but the two caravan parks have beeen converted almost entirely to cabins to capitalise on accommodation requirements for the mining boom. They both looked like building sites, which is what they were. So we phoned ahead to Roma and booked a site. We found later that we had got one of the last available in town. There is a major festival held there over Easter which includes a race meeting and many other activities, so all accommodation is booked out.

Tomorrow we will move on to Mitchell. Roma was only a short stop for fuel on the original itinerary as it is from here that we were to turn north to Injune and then Mount Moffatt, so the activities here would not have impacted us.

Day 3 – 29th March – Roma to Mitchell – 88 km

The cool nights of the west make for good sleeping. We had early morning coffee under the awning. The sun was about to rise, a pale full moon hung in the western sky just above a newly launched hot air balloon that drifted along the horizon. Just part of the rewards of early rising! But I lost those pictures as well.

We have been to Roma before. There was a great deal of evidence of the oil and gas industries when we were here in 2008 but there is a lot more now. The streets of this substantial town are crowded with mining vehicles and equipment in transit to mine sites. Trucks, including road trains, rumble through at all hours.

We called in at the information centre at the Big Rig where there is an exhibition if the petroleum industry and where a light show telling the story of local oil recovery is held most nights. After collecting some information we joined the queue of motorists at the Woolworths service station who, like us, were claiming their discount dockets and then probably joined some of them on the road to Mitchell. We were part of an extended procession of utilities and 4WDs packed with camping equipment some towing trailers with bush bikes, others towing horse floats and the inevitable camper trailers and caravans.

New bridge on the Maranoa River

Mitchell is getting a new bridge across the Maranoa River

The Major Mitchell Caravan Park is on the banks of the Maranoa River opposite the town. Our site was on the river bank on grass. We had a very quiet afternoon, reading and doing odd bits and pieces. Mitchell is known for its mineral baths and we had intended to visit them but in deference to Easter, or to a day off, they were closed. Maybe next time!

Mitchell CP

Settled in at the Major Mitchell Caravan Park

A relatively quiet evening at Mitchell!  At a van just across from us a “would be” country and western singer and friends entertained us for two hours or more. They packed up at about 8.45 pm so did not encroach on our slumbers.

Mitchell main street looking west

Looking west down MItchell’s main street

Day 4 – 30th March – Mitchell to Charleville – 181 km

The 180 km to Charleville follows the Warrego Highway to the Warrego River which flows through the town and frequently floods it. The terrain is mostly open farm lands with some agriculture but mostly grazing lands.  In times past it was Merino sheep territory but is now mostly beef, although there is a thriving export goat meat industry in the area. Many of the road trains were returning empty from moving cattle to somewhere. There is plenty of green grass but an acute shortage of drinking water for cattle due to recent lack of rain.

Morning Tea at Morven

Morning tea at Morven

The road also passes through some bush land made up mainly of the kind of scrubby growth that is common in western Queensland.

We were met at Charleville by temperatures in the low 30s with high humidity. A storm is due through tonight or early tomorrow, so there probably will be no relief until then. Unfortunately the air conditioning in the van is not as efficient as the unit at home.

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.


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.


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.