Interrupted Journey – North Queensland 2022 – Part 3

Heading for Dinosaur Country

Please note the video link at the foot of this post to the Carnival of Flowers.

We set off on the morning of Monday 26th September to complete our Covid interrupted tour. Instead of going back to Townsville to start where we left off, we travelled inland via Toowoomba and took the opportunity to visit the Carnival of Flowers as we passed through, spending our first night at Chinchilla.

The flowers at Toowoomba were up to the normal high standard. As our visit was late in the carnival, most of the additional activities had finished. The flowers and a few food vans parked down the back was all that remained of the festive area. But we were there to see the flowers and were well satisfied with the offerings on display. The greatest challenge was to take a photo of a flower bed without an Asian tourist in the foreground having their photo taken.

A thin sheet of water over the face of Chinchilla Weir as the water flows towards the Murray River.

We drove on to Dalby for lunch having skipped morning coffee. In planning I had identified some likely bird locations to try before reaching our overnight stop at Chinchilla. I had no luck until Chinchilla Weir where we found greatly improved camping conditions from those we remembered from our previous visit. And we found a flock of Apostle Birds. I believe these birds are so named because of their practice of flocking in groups of about a dozen. Water was cascading over the weir.

A thin sheet of water over the face of Chinchilla Weir as the water flows towards the Murray River.
Recently germinated crops line the roadside in this part of the Darling Downs.
Boonagara, reached just before Chinchilla, built a public hall to commemorate success in using a grub to defeat cactus infestation.
Gil Weir is located just west of the Leichardt Highway, south of Miles

Friday saw us headed for Morven, a very small town where the Landsborough Highway branches from the Warrego Highway. It leads to Longreach as the major town in that direction. This piece of road is also known as the Matilda Way, but that is more for promotional purposes that accurate geography.

We checked for birds at Gill Weir, south of Miles and Judd’s Lagoon, south of the highway, closer to Roma. All that we found in both places was overflowing weirs and long term bush campers, most of which were in their highly equipped caravans. Rising water levels inundate water bird feeding grounds and I imagine, causes the birds paddle harder to stay in the same place. The birds are not silly. Thy go somewhere else.

Memorial to fettlers wives near Dulacca
The informative plaque that is part of the memorial.

Roadside, just before Dulacca out towards Roma, we came upon a memorial to the railway fettlers and the women who supported them while building the western railway line from Miles to Dulacca in 1978-79. In those days families had to travel with their breadwinners if they wanted to see them. No FIFO in those days.

Australian Darter, drying off following a fishing session.

After morning coffee at Roma’s Big Rig, we had a look at Roma Bush Gardens, located just off the highway past the town centre. Walking around the lake was restricted by flooding but I did see some Mallards and an Australian Darter, drying its wings in the morning sunshine after fishing excursion.

Neil Turner Weir on the Maranoa River at Mitchell was overflowing. We have not seen this in several visits.

We took our lunch break at Neil Turner Weir, a water storage on the Maranoa River near Mitchell. Mitchell is probably best known for its therapeutic artesian spars. We have used the camping area at the weir on several occasions but had not seen the dam overflowing before. It reminded us that so much of our travel through Australia’s outback occurred during the drought years.

The Pick-a-Box Motel at Morven
A Royal Flying Doctor Promotional Van Parked Outside The Motel.

The Pick-a-Box Motel was our resting place for the night. The motel is a small group of newish iron-clad cabins near to and managed by the Morven Hotel, recently rebuilt following a fire. The only excitement in town was a Royal Flying Doctor Service caravan in the shape of an aircraft fuselage, parked in the street outside.

So, from Morven on Wednesday morning, we turned north-west on the Landsborough Highway. First stop was a call at the first town, Augathella, a distance of about 90 km. The town is quite old and has been supporting the local agricultural community since its founding in 1883. Like many outback towns, it has upgraded its visitor facilities for grey nomads. Artists have painted pictures on its water tower, art silo fashion.

The Ellangawan Hotel bears Augathella’s original name.
The list of local water birds at Tambo. Most on the list were conspicuous by their absence.

Next, about the same distance further north-west, we arrived at Tambo, another pioneering town (1868) with good visitor facilities. We paused for morning coffee beside the small dam at the entrance of the tow. By the lake there is an information sign providing details of the many water birds to be found in the area. There were very few on display for us, although small birds such as Noisy Miners were busy in the tree.

Continuing, we crossed the Barcoo River and arrived at Blackall, which was built on the banks of that stream. Major Thomas Mitchell explored this part of Australia in 1846. The town developed in the 1860s as an agricultural service centre. Again, it has good tourist facilities. It is surrounded by vast expanses of open naturally grassed pasture, as is much of this area. We had been driving through it all morning.

The Barcoo River at the Landsborough Highway crossing.
An Eastern Great Egret perched in a tree over the Barcoo River.
Blackall main street is the highway.
Part of the billabong and camping area at Lara Wetlands

The next town along this highway is Barcaldine, but about 45 km before that we turned off to the left and drove the 16 km of dirt station road to look at Lara Wetlands. This is a camping area that almost surrounds a large waterhole filled with dead trees, so is probably the result of a dam. Lara Station is an operating cattle station. They run the camping ground in conjunction with the station. There are reported to be 164 species of birds identified in the area. But there is no power and only one cabin. Interesting spot, all the same.

A Brolga by the road as we drove into Lara Wetlands.

As we drove into the Lara Station, Ruth saw a large grey bird at the edge of the trees. I stopped and got some good photos of a Brolga. It was wandering up and down and seemed quite settled but as I turned back to the car, I heard the whoomp whoomp whoomp of large wings as the Brolga took to flight. I turned just in time to snap it disappearing behind some brush. Not a very good photo, sadly.

The Brolga landing in the brush by the roadside.

We refuelled at Barcaldine, paying for the first time just over $2 per litre for unleaded petrol. At Barcaldine the highway turns left and west through Ilfracombe to Longreach. Scattered cloud meant that the western sun was not too much of a problem. We had travelled quite a distance in pursuit of the setting sun since leaving Brisbane, so the days were ending quite a bit later.

The deck at the Woolshed Restaurant at Longreach.

We were able to get a booking at the Woolshed Restaurant at Longreach Tourist Park, where we had a cabin. Last time we were here they were booked out. They were again but we had booked in time. An excellent meal even if the entertainment was a bit loud.

While at Longreach we returned to Ilfracombe and also drove south to Isisford. That drive is covered in the next blog post.

Dalby to the Gold Coast

I would like to have visited the Cunnamulla area, to check out some of the better known birding sites in the area, but time available in between commitments did not allow for this to be planned. So instead we went only as far as Dalby and returned home via the Gold Coast, to keep an appointment for lunch with friends.

So on Tuesday 21st September we drove to Dalby via the Bunya Mountains. It’s not much further than the Warrego Highway, but does take a bit longer. At Dandabah, the tiny community centre of the Bunyas, it was blowing a gale and was about 10C, so no photos were taken and no walks attempted, but we did have lunch at Poppies Coffee Shop. The gale was still blowing at Dalby, with winds of 50+ km per hour, from the south west. So no Dalby photos either, but we did brave a visit to Myall Creek and I had a walk along the path beside the creek.

The attraction at Dalby was Lake Broadwater, 30 km to the south west. Had weather been normal we had intended to visit on Tuesday afternoon in an attempt to maximise the opportunity for bird photographs. That didn’t work out, so we did not visit there until Wednesday morning. The wind had abated and the surface of the lake was relatively undisturbed.

We had intended to call at Lake Broadwater during our caravaning days, but never did. We found a surprisingly good camping area and lots of day use facilities along the shore line. We enjoyed a Thermos morning coffee with a view over the lake. But of the 180 or so species of bird claimed to be resident in the reserve we saw but a few. I did make a first sighting of the Grey-crowned Babbler but apart from Magpies and Pelicans there was few to see. A bit too late in the day, probably.

From the lake we returned to Dalby and then drove south east to Toowoomba, via Oakey and a lunch stop at the suburb of Wilsonton. It being September and school holidays, Toowoomba was in the grip of the colourful blaze of Carnival of Flowers.

As the gardens at Laurel Bank were almost on our path through the town they were our first choice. But alas! No parking spaces were available. So we went to Queens Park and lucked onto a spot right near the gate. We wondered if the displays might be damaged from the high wind on Tuesday but there was little sign of damage. But, as usual, an exquisite display.

We wandered through the rather crowded area and gave ourselves plenty of time to view the displays. But as you leave you cannot help but enquire of yourself “Isn’t there another photo that I should take?”

Warwick is an easy 84 km drive south of Toowoomba. But we diverged at Emu Creek to visit the Steele Rudd Memorial Park. Rudd’s real name was Arthur Davis, who later used his experiences as a youth on the “selection” as material for his book “On Our Selection” and some of his other work. He was quite a prolific writer of novels and plays in the late 1800s and early 1900s. The old radio series “Dad and Dave” was based on his writing.

Surrounding Farmlands

The park is on the site of the house on the selection where Watson (Rudd) lived as a child. Recreated versions of the buildings of the day are on display, with a bit of farm equipment and numerous plaques that tell much of the story of his life.

The park is only about 1.5 km from the New England Highway and is well worth the effort to call. If you were diverging on a drive from Toowoomba to Brisbane, the park is on a road that leads to the Clifton to Gatton road that provides an alternative route from the Southern Darling Downs to Brisbane.

We drove on and spent the night in Warwick, where the temperature at 8.00 AM next morning was a mere 8C. So we lingered to a bit closer to check out time.

If time had permitted the previous day we would have called at Glengallan House as we drove past. This interesting piece of history is located about 15 km north of Warwick, beside the New England Highway, a couple of clicks past the intersection with the Cunningham Highway.

The mansion was built on one of the first grazing leases in the Southern Darling Downs. It has a long history and has had many owners. It fell into serous disrepair but was rescued and has been restored to some of its former glory. It is now owned by a trust purposed for its improvement. There is still a lot of work to be carried out.

Glengallan House Café

A café has been included in a reception building, with a gift shop and administration offices. It costs $10 to see through, and the tour is self conducted. Your effort is well rewarded by the picture that you will gain of life in the area in the late 1800s and the early 1900s. We had coffee before moving on.

We travelled to the Gold Coast via Killarney and Queen Mary Falls. I finally realised my ambition to walk down to the bottom of the Falls. The full walk was about 2 km and took about 45 minutes, including stops for photos. There is a good quantity of water flowing down the river at that point. Waterfalls are their own reward.

We then drove the mountainous and winding Spring Creek Road to Boonah and on to the Coast. We were lucky to have been able to do the drive, as roads between Queen Mary Falls and Boonah were to have been closed for major repairs. But because border closures have had such an impact on businesses in the area the work has been deferred.

We spent two nights at the RACV Royal Pines Resort at Benowa on the Gold Coast. On the intervening day we took a run up to Binna Burra. We hadn’t been there for a some time. The resort area and visitor facilities, of course, had been burned out in the interim.

The Visitor Centre/Café

The Binna Burra visitor area and other track head parking lots remains popular as access points to the eastern parts of the Lamington National Park. Groups of cars were parked at the start of walking tracks. At the visitor facilities, we secured the last parking space.

I walked the 1.2 km Rain Forest Circuit, during which I met a number of other walkers, some casual and some with back packs, as parts of the path are shared by other walks including the Border Track that links Binna Burra with O’Reillys Rainforest Resort.

The visitor area has been rebuilt since the fires with the old facilities renovated or replaced. It now has a modern appearance.

Our lunchtime view

The main change is that the original chalet building that was at the top of the mountain as you turned right at the T intersection has not been rebuilt. A large shed occupies that site. New luxury units have been built to the east of that area where they enjoy sweeping views of the coast and the privacy provided by a “Guests Only” sign. But you can see the top of the units from the road, just before you reach the resort entrance.

We had lunch in the café located in the visitor centre building, with coastal views through the vegetation, but views were obscured a bit by haze.

Binna Burra is always a pleasant place to visit.

Back at the hotel, room service sufficed for dinner. We couldn’t be bothered leaving the room, let alone the hotel. Increasing age has its effects.

With a lunch appointment at the Kurrawa Surf Lifesaving Club at 11.30 AM there was no hurry. Check out time was at 11.00 AM so there was plenty of time. After a leisurely lunch we made our way back to Brisbane along a pleasantly quiet highway.

Sunset Over the Mountains

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