This Adventurous Age

Adventures travelling and working around Australia.


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2001 Travels October 1

MONDAY 1 OCTOBER    YOWAH TO TIBOOBURRA   460kms

We packed up camp. The stay at the Yowah park – basic though it was – had been quite pleasant.

We had directions for the short cut through to the Thargomindah road on the Black Gate track. That would take us past Mike Sawicki’s Leopardwood mine, where John hoped to also camp and mine, next year.

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The distinctive bark of the leopardwood tree

The scenery along the track was pleasant, with the flowering beefwoods and wattles.

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A sign hung above the Black Gate Creek, in a Central European language, a clue about the origin of so many opal miners.

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Black Gate track and sign

We passed the entrance to Leopardwood – well signed. From there it was only about 10kms to the main, sealed, Bulloo Development Road. We turned to the west.

A few kms further on, we stopped at the Lake Bindegolly National Park, which was right beside the road. Had a quick look around there, where there were some birds on the lake.

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Lake Bindegolly

We reached Thargomindah about 11am.

There was quite a lot of cloud building up, but we had not recently heard a weather forecast for this region.

I went to the Tourist Information Centre to ask if they knew what the weather was likely to be, and also to ask about taking the shorter route towards Tibooburra, via Bulloo Downs, that was marked on my Road Atlas, rather than the longer way through Noccundra. The gentleman in the Centre said that the Bulloo Downs route would be alright with a 4WD vehicle – and that the cloud building up was “too high for it to rain”.

Foolishly as it turned out, I had faith in local knowledge, so we headed off on the Bulloo track, which trended generally SW.

The track was a pretty good dirt road for the 120kms to Bulloo Downs homestead, but after that it became more of a station track, across the flood plains and overflow area of the Bulloo River, which originates way to the north, but disappears in the swamps, lakes and sands of this area.

As we reached  Bulloo Downs, light rain was starting. So much for local knowledge! It got heavier as we continued on – and the track started to get slippery.

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Who said it wouldn’t rain? Wild life by the track through Bulloo Downs

It was some 120kms from Bulloo Downs homestead, to the Noccundra Road, north of the Warri Gate. So at this stage, we were about half way along.

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After negotiating a rough slippery section, in what suddenly became a real downpour, it became obvious that turning back would be no guarantee of being able to get through the way we’d just come – so we might as well continue!

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Rather obvious where we had slipped and slid along the track

This was a time when it felt good to have the HF radio – in case.

The tread on the tyres filled up with thick, sticky mud  so the directions Truck went did not always match the way John intended!

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Tyre tread not much use! Mud accumulating on side steps.

Whilst the rain continued – there were really ominous dark clouds building up by now – and while on the swampy country, it was an increasingly tense drive. We talked about at least having the capacity to camp by the vehicle, if we had to!

By the time we reached the Tickalara ruins, with only about 30kms to go to the Noccundra road, the rain had eased off and the track was a bit firmer. We thought the worst might be behind us now.

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Tickalara ruins

We stopped to have a look around the ruins. I was curious about these and had no information about them. Later research indicated that the homestead had been built in the late 1800’s and probably abandoned only a few decades later.

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It was a great relief to reach the more “main” Tibooburra to Noccundra road – still dirt though, but with the potential for maybe some passing traffic. All things are relative! We had not seen a single other vehicle since leaving Thargomindah. After all that, we only “saved” about 40kms by coming the way we had. Still – it had been an adventure, but I was not sure that the extra angst had been worth it.

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The corner of the Naryilco and Bulloo Downs roads

It had clearly been raining here too and the sky still looked threatening.

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Turned south, then stopped after a short distance to eat our packed lunch by a roadside waterhole.

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Pressed on south. By the time we reached the Warri Gate, in the Dog Fence, the sky ahead was black. The road got sloppy again, but it was not as bad as what we’d been through.

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The Warri Gate between Qld and NSW

To the north of Tibooburra are a series of jump ups. We crawled down the slopes of these, in low range. On the flat ground at the bottom of the hilly section, there was a temporary camp. Stockmen from Naryilco Station, with horses in trucks, had been to Tibooburra for a horse event. They had decided that they wouldn’t have sufficient traction on the wet surface to get up the jump ups, so they had camped to wait for the road to dry out enough.

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Camped and waiting for the road ahead to dry up

It was raining again by the time we arrived at Tibooburra.

Our original intention had been to set up the tent at the little caravan park/campground where we’d stayed once before.

It was obvious as we drove into town, that the place was packed. There were lots of new-ish looking, very muddy, 4WD’s with camper trailers. Families with school aged children. A couple of the rigs had little dings in them that indicated they’d slid off the road into banks or ditches.

The tension and anger hanging around was palpable! We constructed the likely scenario: dad buys his new toys, telling mum and the kids that this camping holiday is going to be an adventure. They encounter muddy roads and heavy rain – and camper trailer life is not fun at all! The kids are bored and cranky, mum is not coping with the mess and the kids and she is angry.

Under these circumstances, being squashed in the small camping park, with its limited amenities no doubt getting very muddy, did not appeal to us. We managed to get a room at the motel. Lucky were we!

Dry, warm, not muddy, a proper bed, a take away dinner, TV. We spent a very pleasant night. It could have all turned out quite differently, so we counted ourselves very fortunate.

We were not sure if the road south – the unsealed Silver City Highway – would be open for traffic tomorrow, but if we had to wait it out here, we would be comfortable doing so.

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Our travels through SW Queensland


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2001 Travels September 30

SUNDAY 30 SEPTEMBER     YOWAH

Today we set out to drive to see if we could find the Duck Creek area, and check it out for future fossicking.

As per directions gained yesterday, we went back north to the Eulo Toompine road, and took that for nearly 30kms, then branched out on the track to “Dundoo”. We followed tracks past the homestead and on to the north, passing through some station gates and not being totally sure we were going the right way.

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Gate at the entry to the fossick area of Duck Creek

Closer to what turned out to be the diggings, it became a maze of tracks, as usually happens, but fortunately with just enough rough signage to keep us headed the right way.

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Kangaroos out this way didn’t see much traffic!

Just where the diggings started, there was a warning sign painted on an old cement mixer truck – used sometimes for washing opal dirt – making dire threats against anyone trespassing on claims.

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Welcome to Duck Creek!

A sign beside the track led us into Mike’s place. He had a claim and sold opals. We talked to him and found out that he allowed camping on a large flat area at the front of his place – quite an attractive area, for these parts. John was instantly keen to come here next year!

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Mike’s place

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Some of the diggings at Duck Creek

We had a look at the opals Mike brought out for sale and ended up buying some. They were probably not great quality, but we felt a bit obligated, given the time he spent with us.

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Mission accomplished, we returned the way we came, to Yowah. It seems that next year’s trip is firming up to definitely include opal hunting in these parts. That is fine by me – the country is the semi-arid mulga type of country that I loved around Opalton, so I was quite happy at the thought of hanging about in that.

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Springtime Duck Creek

Through our evenings at Yowah, there were great sunsets. It was not just opals that shone brilliantly in these parts.

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2001 Travels September 29

SATURDAY 29 SEPTEMBER     YOWAH

We went to the weekly market, where a number of miners and fossickers set up stalls to try to sell their finds.

The Yowah opal is mainly form of boulder opal. It is known for its Yowah Nuts – little rocks with knobs of opal inside. From what we could tell, it is virtually impossible to tell these without cracking open the rock, Not easy for amateur fossickers like us!

I paid $5 for a chunk of rock with a tiny flash of opal in – I want it for a doorstop at home!

John talked to a man who runs a tourist accessible mine south of here, at Leopard wood. He said that people can go can camp at his place and dig for opal there – for a fee of course. It sounded reasonable, so that information was stored away for next year.

We also got directions for how to drive out to Duck Creek, a mining area to the north of here. John has wanted to go to Duck Creek and suss it out, for a while, now.

We drove a little way to the east of the township, to the Bluff which gave an outlook over the surrounding country.

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The outlook to the north from The Bluff

Then we went to the mining area on the southern edge of town. There was an area set aside for amateur fossickers, like us, and then there were areas where claims had been staked – off limits to the likes of us.

Our little bit of poking around in the designated area did not yield anything, but then we really did not know what we were doing! We had no idea how one went about looking for Yowah Nuts – whether they were found on the surface or had to be dug for!

I tend to think that places like this are very well dug over anyway, and the chances of finding anything worthwhile are remote.

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The diggings at the fossicking area at Yowah

The fossickers who come up here for a month or two in the cooler weather, generally have their own claim, I think, rather than relying on the open-to-all public area.

After that, we walked around the township, seeing some places with “For Sale” signs – mostly lean-to’s.

Back at camp, I decided to have a bath in the unique bath house that is part of the caravan park. This is an artesian bore area, and Yowah is reliant on its main artesian bore, which was in the caravan park, and which we had looked at in our wanders around the town. The water comes up into a type of well and some is piped off to the bath house. The bore overflow goes into the bore drain, which runs through town and out to the north.

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The Yowah Artesian Bore

The bath house does actually have baths, in cubicles – these have no roof – kind of open air bathing! The bath was hot but very pleasant and relaxing. There was a sign outside the establishment warning that it was for caravan park patrons only. I imagine otherwise there would be quite a lot of demand from miners who have no such facility out on their claims.

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The bath house at the caravan park

Earlier in the day, I took a couple of photos of quite a large dragon lizard in the campground. It allowed me to approach quite close. It was quite a fearsome and aggressive looking critter. I found out later that this area is also known as “Dragon country”.

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I am looking big and fierce, to frighten you away!

 

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The profile is my preferred angle

We’d had a rather full but enjoyable day. I decided I quite liked Yowah.


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2001 Travels September 28

FRIDAY 28 SEPTEMBER   CURRAWINYA TO YOWAH   190kms

Packing up camp did not take too long, though we didn’t particularly hurry.

The road north was good dirt, until we reached the sealed Bulloo Development road, a few kms west of Eulo. It was just over 100kms from last night’s camp. Basically, we paralleled the Paroo River north.

We detoured to have a look at the little township of Eulo, and were amused by the cows strolling up the main – one and only – street.

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Cows wandering the main road in Eulo

There was not much to Eulo. The most notable building was the Eulo Queen Hotel – another single storey affair.

The tourist information we had mentioned a date farm and wine making establishment, so we checked that out. Bought a couple of bottles of rather sweet date dessert wine – something different. One must patronize local industry!

Went west again for a few kms, then turned north to take the sealed road route to Yowah. This was a roundabout route that went north-ish –  on the Toompine and Quilpie road – for some 47kms, then turned off back to the south for another 25kms.

We found the Artesian Waters Caravan Park at Yowah, booked in and were allowed to choose our own spot to set up. An area partly surrounded by leafy trees appealed.

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After establishing the camp, we had time for a quick drive around and explore of the township, before settling down to the usual evening routines.

We had a powered site, so the Chescold was on 240v, and we had the electric camping light. Even better, there were hot showers! The water was a bit smelly though – artesian bore water.

Although we were now in a town, it was small enough for the night to be almost as quiet as it was back at our river bank camp.


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2001 Travels September 27

THURSDAY 27 SEPTEMBER     CURRAWINYA NATIONAL PARK

Today’s outing was to the NE, along the road to Eulo, that we would take tomorrow. It was a dirt road, of course, as were all the Park roads.

We wanted to look at the ruins of the old Caiwarro Homestead. This station was adjacent to Currawinya and is also now part of the National Park.

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Some of the ruins at Caiwarro

The Paroo forms the Corni Paroo Waterhole by the station ruins. There were more camping areas on the Paroo at this location, equally as pleasant as where we were.

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Corni Paroo Waterhole

Poking around the homestead ruins was interesting. The homestead was built in the 1880’s. There was some chimney still in place, and one could partly make out the former layout of the place.

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Caiwarro Homestead ruins

There were also old yards and fences, and the levee bank that was an attempt to protect the homestead area from floods.

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Caiwarro yards

The river at Caiwarro, though a little upstream from our camp, was wide an well-filled. Whatever country the Paroo passes through before it gets here makes the water a real clay colour.

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Clay coloured Paroo River

Sat by the river and had our packed lunch.

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Currawinya wild life – shingleback lizard

After that exploration, it was back to camp for our last night by the river.


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2001 Travels September 26

WEDNESDAY 26 SEPTEMBER     CURRAWINYA NATIONAL PARK

Although the nights are fairly cool, the days are very pleasant.

The tent is certainly adequate for this type of camping, although in wet weather it would not be big enough to “live in”, unless the bedding was packed up every day. But it is fine for sleeping and the big veranda provides shade for cooking and sitting. It is definitely going to meet the purposes we intended.

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Today we went driving, to the lakes area in the NW corner of the Park, some 30kms from camp. The track was good going, despite being tagged as 4WD only.

The country, of course, was fairly flat.

There were some trees in flower – we thought they were beefwoods. They were really spectacular, standing out from the predominant dull green mulga of the region.

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The two lakes – Numalla and Wyara – as well as a host of smaller lakes are central to what makes Currawinya so special. They fill from local rain and run-off, some from floods when the Paroo overflows and spreads out over its floodplain. The Paroo River originates from up to the NW of Charleville.

Unusually, Lake Numalla is a fresh water lake, Lake Wyara is saline. Only about 3kms of sandy country separates the two lakes, at one point.

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Lake Wyara

The lakes provide very different habitats and thus attract a wide variety of bird species. Over 200 species have been listed for the park.

We ate our packed lunch out at the lakes. looking first at Lake Numalla, then driving around to the access point for Lake Wyara.

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Lake Numalla

Despite their significance, I had to admit that we didn’t find the lake scenery particularly special. Nor did we see much in the way of bird life on the lakes. Presumably, it was the wrong time of year for the migratory ones to be passing through.

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Lake Numalla

Once we’d wandered about and enjoyed the lakes, drove back to the Woolshed area, where we sampled the showers. It was pleasant to feel clean again, though we did not linger – the water was cold, and I also felt quite exposed! If you were staying here with a group, you would get to know your fellow campers perhaps more intimately than expected!

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The showers at the Woolshed

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Inside the showers – communal style!

Back to camp and our nightly relax by the river and the camp fire.

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Afternoon reflections in the Paroo


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2001 Travels September 25

TUESDAY 25 SEPTEMBER     CURRAWINYA NATIONAL PARK

It was during today that I realized about John’s birthday.

After a lazy morning in camp and lunch of roti breads cooked over the open fire, we drove back up to the Woolshed complex, to have a look at that.

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Enjoying the morning by the river

Currawinya was a sheep grazing property in its previous life, and the rather grand old woolshed is one remnant of this, as are some bores that still remain, and some sections of fencing.

The current National Park status came about because of the wetlands of the river, swamp sections, and the lakes – together important enough for it to have Ramsar listing. It is an important site for migratory birds.

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Powdery, fine silt flood plain by the Paroo

The old woolshed was really impressive. Made mostly of corrugated iron, it was surprisingly large. We were able to wander around inside and inspect the holding pens, shearing bays with their ramps to eject the shorn sheep outside; there were even old wool presses left in there. The building still smelt strongly of sheep. There were piles of old manure under the building. We hoped that this shed – relic of past times – would be preserved as part of the Park.

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Currawinya shearing shed – corrugated iron construction

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Inside the shearing shed – 6 shearing stands here, sheep pens and hatches for shorn sheep to be despatched down

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Sheep yards – more corrugated iron

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Wool press

Apparently, this area is used for accommodation for groups of volunteer workers and the like. Showers had been constructed nearby, consisting of hessian “walls” on metal frames around the perimeter, with shower heads coming off a pipe in a row inside. As there were few interior dividing walls, I guessed it would be group showers! The water was cold, of course. I couldn’t tell if there was any water heating facility when they had a group staying.

After a good wander around the Woolshed area, we drove about 15kms out the old Thargomindah road, to the rock formations known as The Granites.

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The Granites

As the name suggests, these were substantial outcrops of rock. It seemed unusual to find such an outcropping in the midst of this sandy country.

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Then it was back to camp to watch the late afternoon reflections display on the water, while we drank beers and reflected on the day.

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Late afternoon at the Paroo