West, Centre and Flinders – Days 1 to 4 – A Bridge and Aviation History

Dickabram Bridge

Dickabram Bridge

Some time ago, someone posted somewhere, a photo of Dickabram Bridge with a comment about an adjacent peaceful camping area. I noted it for future reference. When we settled with the Keith an Linda Giles on Burnett Heads as a meeting point we were committed to yet another trip up the Bruce Highway, but we wanted an overnight stop away from highway traffic. Dickabram Rest Area was just the ticket.

The Mary River upstream of the bridge

The Mary River upstream of the bridge

The turn from the highway is to the left at the small town of Gunalda, about 15 km north of the intersection of the Bruce Highway with the Wide Bay (or Bunya) Highway. The road is narrow but sealed and passes through woodlands and cane fields. The bridge carries the road over the Mary River near the remains of the town of Miva. The road then joins the Bauple Woolooga Road. This makes it something of a short cut to the South Burnett area, as we found during the afternoon and evening.

The bridge in the morning fog

The bridge in the morning fog

The bridge is heritage listed, as it is one of two of its kind in Australia. It has two lanes, one that carries road traffic and one that formally carried the railway. The line has long been closed, but the rails remain. The bridge is mainly of timber construction with a planked deck, the planks running at right angles to the direction of travel. We lived within hearing distance to a bridge planked in this manner when I was a child. They are a recipe for noise.

A cloud bank illuminated by the sun rise behind the camping area

A cloud bank illuminated by the sun rise behind the camping area

A unique feature of the bridge is the steel tube trusses that support the centre part that is actually over the river itself. The other trusses are of timber. The bridge was opened in 1886, completing a link to Kilkivan. The structure is 191 meters long and stands 23 meters above the river. Its decking has only once been under flood waters, quite early in its life, in 1893, but many floods have raged between its trusses since then, without bringing it down.

The deck of the bridge with the rails still in place

The deck of the bridge with the rails still in place

There is not much left of Miva. Its heyday seems to have been during bridge construction, when it was one of those towns that boasted a butcher, a baker and a candle stick maker and three pubs!

The camping area was quite, except when a vehicle was crossing and that occurred frequently during the late afternoon and quite a few times during the night. We were the only residents overnight but did entertain a travelling couple to afternoon tea. We took pity on them. Their caravan was damaged and they had been waiting for two weeks for it to be repaired and were living in a cabin at Gunalda while they waited. They had visited the bridge to help fill in some time. We assisted by extending the time taken for their visit to the bridge.

Pelicans at Burnett Heads

Pelicans at Burnett Heads

The next day we made our way back over the bridge as we moved on to Bundaberg and Burnett Heads. As had been the case the day before, we met an endless stream of caravans coming south. We arrived at the Burnett Heads Caravan Park at about 1.30 pm to find Keith and Linda Giles two caravans ahead of us in the check in queue.

A crimson sunset

A crimson sunset

The arrangement was really about spending some time with them, but on Wednesday we went together to visit the Hinkler Hall of Aviation. Almost everyone has heard of aviator Bert Hinkler and most people know that his home was in Bundaberg. He came to fame in Europe but it all started in Bundaberg.

 

A tribute to Bert Hinkler at Mon Repos Beach

A tribute to Bert Hinkler at Mon Repos Beach

I had no idea that he designed and built his own glider, taking inspiration for his design from the study of the ibis. His glider actually flew a mere ten years after the Wright Brothers first successful flight, on what is now Mon Repos Beach, now better known for its popularity with the Loggerhead Turtle as a breeding ground. It was named after Hinkler’s home in England. This house now stands in the gardens at Bundaberg North, having been reconstructed brick by brick after being dismantled and moved to Bundaberg.

The beach where the first flight took place

The beach where the first flight took place

We visited the house several years ago. Now it stands next to a large building that contains the story of Hinkler’s life and many of the aircraft, some of them replicas, with which he was involved throughout his life.  He became a pilot, served with distinction during the First World War, reaching the rank of Squadron Leader, and of course was the first aviator to fly solo from England to Australia. But he was a gifted engineer and inventor. Many of his inventions are still in use today.

A Bert Hinkler cutout in front of his famous aircraft

A Bert Hinkler cutout in front of his famous aircraft

The Hall of Aviation is an extensive building with a roof shaped in the style of an aircraft wing. Inside is an extensive display that features several aircraft but has video booths, wall mounted illustrated story boards, flight simulators and even simulators that allows visitors to experience the sensation of flying a glider of the type that Hinkler built.

The Hinkler home relocated from England

The Hinkler home relocated from England

A visit is to be absolutely recommended.

 

 

 

 

A Hinkler designed amphibious airfraft

A Hinkler designed amphibious airfraft

The aircraft wing shaped roof of the building

The aircraft wing shaped roof of the building

Gardens and cafe from the house balcony

Gardens and cafe from the house balcony

Cruising yachts on the Burnett River. The rum distillery is in the background.

Cruising yachts on the Burnett River. The rum distillery is in the background.

We returned to the city area to lunch, overlooking the Burnett River and after a bit of essential shopping returned to Burnett Heads for a second communal evening meal. This morning Keith and Linda continued their journey home to Castlemaine and we moved north to Baffle Creek for a couple of nights. We will post from Baffle Creek if anything worth reporting should occur.

Baffle Creek, incidentally, is south of the town of Seventeen Seventy. This part of Queensland is known as the Discovery Coast.

Central Highlands and Mackay – 9 to 14 June – Finch Hatton to Mackey and Home

Day 8

A still morning at Marian Sugarmill

Steam rising almost vertically on a still morning as we passed Marian sugar mill

Moving on to Mackay was the main item on the day’s agenda. We drove the 70 km or so to Mackay, turning north at Marian to the Bruce Highway and approaching Mackay from the north.  The morning was clear with almost no breeze. We quickly settled into the Andergrove Van Park. We have been here before so know our way around.

 

Birds feeding near our caravan

Birds feeding near our caravan

We arrived just before midday, set up the van and had lunch. But there were delays while we chatted with a West Australian couple, of about our vintage, who arrived at the neighboring site, as we were setting up.

Then to chores that needed our attention, so washing and a trip to the shops completed the day.

Day 9

We were visited by a group of ducks

We were visited by a group of ducks

Last night Ruth encountered some problems with access to the Internet, with her computer and pad, while trying to connect to the Internet through the mobile hot spot facility of her mobile phone. So first order of the day was to get it sorted. A young technician at the nearest Telstra shop solved the problem in about two minutes, but there was a bit of a wait for his services, so we did not return to the van until lunch time.

Sunset Beach at Shoal Point

Sunset Beach at Shoal Point

After lunch we went for a drive to the near northern beaches. I love this part of Queensland and could easily live here. Three promontories point northward into the Coral Sea, giving ocean views to the north and to a certain extent, to the west. Each has elevated terrain at their northern extremities and locals have taken full advantage of high ground when building their homes.

Dolphin Heads from the deck at the Eimeo Hotel

Dolphin Heads from the deck at the Eimeo Hotel

We started at Shoal Point, which is furthest from Andergrove, and returned through Bucasia, Eimeo, Dolphin Heads and Blacks Beach. We called at the Eimeo Pacific Hotel for Devonshire Tea. The hotel is a beautiful old building, situated at the top of a hill at the most northern point of the promontory. It has an extensive deck with umbrella shaded tables.  Views are over neighboring Dolphin Point including the Dolphin Point Resort and to the not very distant outlining islands, that are part of an island chain that runs all the way to the Whitsunday Islands.

Eimeo Hotel deck

Eimeo Hotel deck

Lamberts Beach and Mackay Harbor

Lamberts Beach and Mackay Harbor

We returned back south and past our caravan park to drive in the other direction to Slade Point. At the tip of the point is a car accessible observation point that provides panoramic views of Mackay Harbor and the marina with its village of high rise apartments and hotels. In the distance, to the south and east, views are to be had of the twin coal loading facilities of Hay Point and Dalrymple Bay, with their cluster of loading ships and the armada of waiting empty bulk carriers out to sea.

Yacht entering Mackay Harbor

A yacht entering Mackay Harbor

We finished the day by driving out to the end of the harbor breakwater. The parking area there gives another view of the coal loader and waiting ships plus a view of the harbor facilities. At that time of day they were silhouetted against the setting sun. About 25 years ago I had close commercial involvement in this part of Queensland. It was fascinating to see the development that has occurred during the last quarter of a century.

Day 10

Beach at Cape Hilsborough

Beach at Cape Hillsborough

Today we did a tour of the more distant beach locations north of Mackay. We repeated the first few kilometres of yesterday’s trip but then cut across through the small town of Habana to the Cape Hillsborough road. The drive was through more cane fields in an area of undulating terrain where each hill top seemed to be crowned by a house.

Mountains behind the beach on Cape Hilsborough

Mountains behind the beach on Cape Hillsborough

Cape Hillsborough has a caravan park, where we stayed for a few days about six years ago. Today we parked at the picnic area in the national park for coffee before taking a walk on the beautiful beach. The beach is not beautiful in terms of brilliant white sand. The sand is grey in colour and muddy nearer the water, as the tide was out. It’s beauty comes from the rocks sculptured by waves, wind and rain over the ages, the steep hills that fringe the beach and the dramatic mountains that form a backdrop. And then there is the implied romance of off shore islands, partially obscured by haze.

Beach side houses at Ball Bay

Beach side houses at Ball Bay

In then, in turn, visited Ball Bay, Halliday Bay and Seaforth. These towns of varying size each has its own bay , beach and a residential area of old fishermen’s hut type houses with newer residential and holiday homes built among them. Each town has an esplanade behind the beach, a park with facilities and a swimming enclosure to keep box jellyfish and crocodiles at bay.

Birds feeding under a tap.

Birds feeding under a tap.

We lunched under a picnic shelter at Seaforth, the largest of the towns. A family, returning from the beach, stopped at a tap near to our table to wash sand off their feet. The resulting pool of fresh water was quickly taken over by ducks and seagulls that seemed to enjoy a long drink of fresh water. They showed no fear and provided us with entertainment as we had our lunch.

Empty swimming enclosure at Seaforth

Empty swimming enclosure at Seaforth

This latish lunch marked the end of our outing, so we headed back to the van for some preparation for our departure next day for home.

 

 

 

Picnic facilities at Seaforth

Picnic facilities at Seaforth

Days 11, 12 & 13

We had allowed ourselves three days to travel home. The weather was deteriorating as we came south and getting colder.

Water birds being fed at the caravan park

Water birds being fed at the caravan park

The first day brought us to the minute town of Yaamba, which is on the highway not far north of Rockhampton, for an overnight stop in a road side parking area. Once again we had heavy traffic thundering by with trains in the distance. But we are becoming immune to truck noise and enjoyed a good night’s sleep. There was heavy rain over night but we did not hear it.

A bulk carrier on its way into the Gladstone coal terminal

A bulk carrier on its way into the Gladstone coal terminal

For the evening of day two we had arranged to call on my former secretary from Mayne Nickless days. We had some time to spare before arriving at her home so drove into Gladstone and found a parking spot with views of the harbor and shipping activity. There we relaxed and had lunch. Two empty coal carriers were escorted to their births by tugs while we watched.

Former secretary Sandy has a brand new husband who we had not met, so we accepted an invitation to dinner and to park overnight in the spacious grounds around their house, on the northern fringe of Bundaberg. They are developing the property into a wedding reception and conference centre. The attractive property has areas of forest and lush green lawns. We enjoyed their company and the meal prepared by hubby Ian and learned much about the challenges of establishing such a business.

There was a bit more rain overnight and more as we came further south, with frequent showers passing.

On our way back south we discovered the missing caravans from our trip north. They were all coming north on the Bruce Highway. The spare spaces that we had seen in caravan parks were in process of being filled.