The Family Responsibilities Tour – Part 3

Note: A video covering the material in this post can be found at the foot of this blog post.

Excess water released from Hume Dam

We left Phillip Island amid showers sweeping across Westernport Bay and the adjoining coastal plains. Our route lead along the South Gippsland Highway, Monash Freeway, skirting around the city to reach the Tullamarine Freeway and finally to the Hume Highway. We were headed to Bright to see if Autumn had yet reached the area, famous for its Autumn colours.

Afternoon tea on the lawn
Bright Cenotaph
More colour in Bright
Rosella in the tree on the lawns

We only took necessary breaks, arriving in Bright in the late afternoon. Our motel backed onto lawns that run down to the path that runs along Ovens River. We look our afternoon tea to the lawn and were joined by some Parrots.

Early Autumn at Bright

The Liquid Amber trees were turning nicely but the Poplars and other deciduous trees had only just started to put on their show.

We left town next morning via Yackandandah, a nearby town also known for its colours, but it seemed to be running later than Bright.

We were bound for Hume Dam on the Murray River to see what it looked when when full. Excess water was being released to a huge roar, in sufficient quantities to fill the river down stream to the top of its banks. When we came through there on our way home from Tasmania two years ago the water level was well below the spillway and further up stream, cattle were grazing on river flats that had been exposed for years but now are inundated by the water in the dam.

Sunlit clouds over Goulburn.
Lake Hume, full to the brim

We made our way to the Hume Highway and continued on to Goulburn for the night.

Heavy rain was forecast for the recently flooded North Coast of NSW so we decided to cross the Blue Mountains and make our way home inland. But first we wanted to see the recently overflowing Warragamba Dam. Warragamba was not far off our track.

Warragamba Dam, also full to the brim
Water released into the Warragamba River.

We thought that refreshments might be available at the visitor center at the dam, but no such luck. We did our tourist thing under increasingly threatening skies. Walking back from an observation point I took a wrong turn and came upon a pair of Rosellas. Then a Wonga Pigeon landed on stairs behind me, the first of this type that I had seen.

The visitor centre overlooks the dam

Soon, after departing the dam, the sky opened and stayed that way. As we approached the Great Western Highway, traffic congestion was becoming an issue so a quick change of plans and we were on the highway heading west. With the rain still falling and a stop becoming necessary, we found a convergent McDonald’s and stopped for lunch. Back on the road the rain continued to well on the way to Mudgee, our next overnight stop.

Wonga Pigeon at Warragamba Dam

Mudgee is a week end town, thriving on visitors from the coast, so they have their weekend on Monday and Tuesday. We were there on Monday night and found most restaurants were closed. The Chinese restaurant at the Gold Club was recommended. They served excellent food in huge quantities. We only eat half the food served to us but were able to take the leftovers. They were sufficient for dinner the following night.

Silo artwork at Dunedoo in Central NSW

Next morning, we had passed through Gulgong and Dunedoo when a phone call from last night’s motel advised that I had left my binoculars behind. So, after returning the necessary 85 kilometres, we had coffee and started again. We left Mudgee, this time by the Ulan Road, then through Binnaway so saw some new country. Lunch at Coonabarabran and a stop for the last night at Moree to rest and deal with leftover Chinese food.

Vineyard near Mudgee

The plan was to do the last leg of the journey via the Gore Highway to Toowoomba and then the Warrego Highway to Brisbane but as we left Goondiwindi a roadside sign advised that the Gore Highway was closed. So on through continuing rain with a stop at Warwick and arrived home mid afternoon. 

Eighteen days and a bit over 5,000 kilometres with average weather and escalating petrol prices. But we saw all of the relatives that were planned and respects paid at two grave sites. In all a successful trip. 

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


Border Country

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

Canungra Creek runs along the back of the camping area

Canungra Creek runs along the back of the camping area

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

Part of Canungra's main street

Part of Canungra’s main street

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

In a grassy corner of Canungra Showgrounds

In a grassy corner of Canungra Showgrounds

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

The caravan park at Canungra is

The camping area has a brand new camp kitchen

The camping area has a brand new camp kitchen

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rain drops on the windscreen and a grey sky

Rain drops on the windscreen and a grey sky

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

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

The foot bridge and shelters at the Tamborine Botanical Gardens

The foot bridge and shelters at the Tamborine Botanical Gardens

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

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

The busy roadway of Gallery Walk

The busy roadway of Gallery Walk

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

Places to eat are plentiful at Eagle Heights

Places to eat are plentiful at Eagle Heights

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

Another eating place

Another eating place on Gallery Walk at Eagle Heights

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

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

Early Saturday commerce in Rathdowney

Early Saturday commerce in Rathdowney

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

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

Mount Lindsay, from the highway that bares its name

Mount Lindsay, from the highway that bares its name

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

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

Motor homes in the Urbenville municipal camping area

Motor homes in the Urbenville municipal camping area

Mount Lindsay Highway wending its way through farmland

The road south runs through picturesque farm land

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

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

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

The bridge over the Clarence River at Tabulam

The bridge over the Clarence River at Tabulam

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

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

Grazing kangaroos at Girraween

Grazing kangaroos at Girraween

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

These two were quite friendly, grazing right by the van

These two were quite friendly, grazing right by the van

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

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

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

Waterhole in the creek on the Wybera morning walk

Waterhole in the creek on the Wybera morning walk

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

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

Dr. Roberts Waterhole

Dr. Roberts Waterhole

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

A well placed seat has views along the waterhole

A well placed seat has views along the waterhole

Feeding Rosellas

Feeding Rosellas

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

The Red Wattle Bird

The Red Wattle Bird

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

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

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

The Pyramid is a prominent feature of Girraween National Park

The Pyramid is a prominent feature of Girraween National Park

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

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

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

Other prominent rocks near the Pyramid

Other prominent rocks near the Pyramid

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

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

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

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