This Adventurous Age

Adventures travelling and working around Australia.


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2009 Travels June 6

SATURDAY 6 JUNE     EMERALD

It certainly was a noisy caravan park, in the morning, with travellers packing up early, and residents doing their thing – a lot going off to work. A diesel mini-bus that was parked last night, just across from us, left about 5am, while it was still dark. It was definitely not a quiet bus. I thought it was ferrying workers somewhere. I was wide awake by 7am – and not particularly happy about it.

John ignoring the very close neighbours

I did two loads of washing. The dark items emerged from the machine liberally streaked with lint, of course. I couldn’t be bothered hand rinsing a lot of things, just hoped I could brush off the worst when they were dry.

We walked to the nearest shops – one of two plaza style centres in Emerald. John’s hip took a while to get going. He thought he’d have to turn back, but battled on, and it loosened up.

At the shops, John made a bee line for Target, to buy some new socks, and – in the interest of looking a smidge more respectable – a couple of pairs of his favoured Rugger shorts. Then, at a men’s shop, he bought a $40 set of braces, to hold up the shorts. That was in order to just look decent. I wished I could donate him some of my well padded backside to help hold up his trousers!

I bought milk and collected the papers and John bought a woodwork magazine.

After an early lunch John went off to the Bowls Club, to do some practice with a lady he’d encountered there yesterday. She was a learner and had asked him for some coaching. He was not away  for very long. She was well alcoholled up, so trying to give her pointers to try to improve her game was a futile exercise and he did not persist.

The day was warm – well into the 20’s. This was more like we were expecting from Qld. In the afternoon, a big cloud build up grew, coming in from the south west, which seemed an unusual direction to me. Eventually it started to look like there might be rain, so I got in all the washing, which was nice and dry. Apart from that, I read the papers, and sewed.

Tea was Mongolian lamb, courtesy of a Kan Tong sauce packet. The easy way, but that sort of product  saved trying to carry a lot of weighty bottles of ingredients in order to create anything remotely exotic.

John watched football on TV, as did I by default. Carlton beat Brisbane, so John was happier than some in the caravan park.

The cloud kept the night quite warm, so I packed away the fan heater yet again and hoped this was the last time it would be needed on this trip.

I stayed up till 11.30. There was very loud and pounding music coming from somewhere nearby in the park, but it quietened down by midnight. John played computer games after the football was finished. Another late to bed for him.


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2009 Travels June 5

FRIDAY 5 JUNE     CARNARVON GORGE TO EMERALD     240kms

A brilliant blue sky this morning, and sunshine. There had been a heavy dew overnight, though. Later in the morning, it clouded over.

Takarakka local – Whiptail or Pretty Faced Wallaby

We left Takkarakka at 9am. A number of other rigs had gone before us. The problem areas on the road out had been packed down by the prior traffic, but outside of the wheel tracks there was lots of surface slop. There were some parts that still seemed a bit slippy – we had been in low range from the resort driveway on, and stayed that way almost until reaching the highway. We got out ok but it must have been hair-raising for those who had left when it was still raining.

We passed a couple of churned-up places beside the road. Clearly, where rigs had slid off the surface, gotten stuck and, presumably,  had to be pulled out.

Once on the highway, it was a very attractive drive to Emerald, with lots of large and small hills about. It was an alternating mix of farmland and bush. The Staircase Range area, between Rolleston and Springsure, went through a lot of road cuttings that were interesting in themselves.

Springsure looked interesting, with dramatic hills around it. Another place noted that would be worthwhile for a future stay and explore. Not this time – we were feeling that, if we were going to make it to Far North Qld, it was time to focus on really moving north.

Near Springsure

That said, John wanted us to stay for at least the weekend in Emerald, so he could get in some bowls.

We had heard, en route, that Monday was a long weekend holiday – had kind of lost track of that sort of thing. I raised the possibility of seeing out the long weekend, with its increased traffic and people, in Emerald. John immediately latched on to that as a good idea – it might mean an extra bowls game….

Once we had a reasonable mobile phone signal, I texted daughter to check that the family hadn’t succumbed to the nasty ‘flu, then rang the Emerald Caravan Park. They were very busy, I was told, but could possibly juggle sites around to fit us in,  if we were going to stay for three or four days. After that, I had a sinking feeling that we were not going to fetch up camped on any prime spots!

Reached Emerald just after midday. It felt rather strange to be in a biggish town again, and in busy traffic.

Our powered site at the Emerald Cabin and Caravan Village cost $30 a night. We were allocated a so-called drive-through site, right on the corner of  internal roads. So-called, because had the site in front been occupied, we would not have been able to drive through at all! Gravel, but at least with a slab. As I’d feared, there was nothing attractive about the site, but it had all the services. It was clearly a squeezed-in area that was no-one’s first choice! Strangely arranged – the vehicle of the van next to us parked almost within touching distance of our awning. There was nowhere for us to park Truck, except for the empty site in front of us. Not sure what we would do if that was occupied. An en-suite style amenities block was nearby – very nice, but eight of the fourteen “rooms” in it were not in use – yet the Park was full! That seemed rather mean of them, at the outset and there were times through our stay when we had to queue for use of a bathroom. Thinking ahead was a good idea – it did not pay to be in a hurry…..

A lot of the rigs in the very full Park had obviously been here for a while – people working in the area. Emerald was big on the Harvest Trail that was followed by grey nomads and backpackers.

After setting up and having lunch, we drove to the Bowls Club – of course. John was rather put out to find he could not get a game tomorrow, but booked  both of us for one on Sunday. I guessed his memory of St George had faded! As far as I was concerned, I was still in bushwalk credit!

On to the Information Centre, where we did the obvious. At the Post Office, I sent off postcards to assorted family members, and a birthday card for my brother’s 60th. Sussed out the newsagent about the availability and times for tomorrow’s papers. We ordered fish and chips for later collection, at a shop recommended by the person who checked us into the caravan park.

The day had been nice and hot, but by about 5pm had gotten cold enough for us to need windcheaters and long trousers.

John drove off to collect our dinner, at 6.15. It was ready right on time. Cost $25. Fish seemed incredibly expensive in Qld. It was alright, maybe a bit on the greasy side. The serves were certainly generous and I couldn’t finish all mine.

We had TV again, of course, though the reception wasn’t the best. John spent quite a bit of time fiddling with the aerial and its direction.

I was really tired and had a much earlier night than the screen watcher.


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2009 Travels June 4

THURSDAY 4 JUNE     CARNARVON GORGE

I was woken at 7am by John, who wanted me to get a new packet of his Celebrex pills out from my medical store under the bed. Apart from me knowing where things were, accessing under the bed required that no one be in it at the time.

When John went to take a Celebrex, late last night, because of the painful hip, he discovered that the pack was empty. Of course, whenever he’d taken the last pill, he’d just put the empty pack back in the cupboard. So, down on the knees for me, lifted up the bed base – gas struts are a great invention – and fished out his medicine. A “discussion” ensued, along the lines that this was the last packet, this was not my poor organization, or fault, he’d been told quite clearly, back in March, that this was only a three month script rather than the usual six, etc.

By then, I was too awake to go back to bed.

When I took my coffee to sit outside, the sky was clear and blue. I watched the place come to life. Then, by 8am, cloud had started coming across again.

Busy apostle birds

There was an item on the news I listened to on my little radio, about the swine flu that had turned into an epidemic in Victoria. Despite the name, it was a nasty form of people flu. A week ago, there had been no cases in Qld, now they had twenty eight. Bit scary how quickly it had spread and grown. I just hoped it didn’t get in amongst the grey nomad population in Queensland, where we were heading.

When I wandered across to check if there was anything new, Reception had put a notice up – a fax from the Rolleston Police, saying the road from the highway to Carnarvon Gorge was closed to all vehicles except 4WD ones, and there was no towing of anything allowed. The penalty for ignoring this was a $4000 fine, plus any costs for recovery, repairs to road damage caused. So, they did have some teeth!

Perhaps they should have stationed someone at the road and highway corner, though? The young couple opposite us packed up their camper and left. They actually had to get another vehicle to tow the camper up the hill on the – closed – road, because something was broken on his toy 4WD. A few others left too, carefully removing the barrier tape across the track to do so! I could only hope that karma caught up with them, sooner or later.

John eventually woke up – late. We had a late breakfast (him)/early lunch (me, as I’d had my breakfast a few hours earlier.)

Went walking again. Followed the track along the creek, past a number of really pretty pools. The walking track joined the Park road near the Wilderness Lodge and we then followed the road to the Mickey Creek walking track.

This followed Mickey Creek up into a small gorge, and was a lovely walk.

Mickeys Creek Gorge walk track, and the creek
Thick bushland along the track; tree growing around rock

The gorge was small scale – miniature, compared to the main Carnarvon Gorge – but not as scoured out. Its appearance was more like I remembered the main gorge to have been. However, the creek was much smaller and could be stepped across.

We retraced the route as far as the Wilderness Lodge, then followed the road back to camp. It was shorter than the winding, creekside track had been, if not as pretty. I thought we’d walked about 8 or 9kms. It took us a bit over three hours.

When we reached Takkarakka, about 4.30pm, the road closed signs had been removed and several vans were leaving. They may have been worried that the rain would come back overnight!

Sausages and mash for tea, then an early night, being tired after all that fresh air and exercise.


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2009 Travels June 3

WEDNESDAY 3 JUNE     CARNARVON GORGE

I woke up to a wet world, grey and misty. However, the campground paths and grass were not too soggy. Not going to be a red mud in the van problem here….

As I had my coffee outside under the awning, watched a van pull out – and then come back and set up again where he had been! Both the road out to the highway, and the road from here to the National Park, were closed. There was a sign on the track, just beyond Reception, to that effect.

Whilst it had still been dark and I was lying semi-awake in bed, had heard some engine activity. Found out later that three or four rigs, anticipating that the road closed signs would go up, had headed out in the dark to try to beat the “official” closure. Selfish idiots! One of these – a 4WD and camper trailer – slid off the road on the first hill and had to be pulled out by a tractor from Takarakka. This, of course, churned up the slippery road on that hill even more. I had no sympathy whatsoever for the driver. There are always the inconsiderate few who think only of their wishes, and stuff things up for others. I hoped the resort charged him for the tractor retrieval.

Heard later that another of these rigs got bogged a bit further on. Don’t know who retrieved him, or if anyone did. Maybe they had to stay put for a while, which would have served them right.

After breakfast, we walked up the Takarakka drive track to the road. At that point, there was a fairly steep  uphill stretch in each direction. The one in the highway direction was a real mess, courtesy of the early departees. No-one with their senses about them would try to tackle that gradient with that much mud on it. I decided they were lacking in brains as well as consideration.

Even walking alongside the road in order to take photos was muddy and slippery.

Photos did not show how steep the road gradients actually were….

There were occasional episodes of rain – mostly drizzle – through the day. Maybe we should have just stayed home in Melbourne for the winter – the weather would probably have been better!

Two Rangers from the National Park came in to get gas. They said that the road to the Park could open this afternoon, if the sun came out. It didn’t. Apparently the road had a sandy and rock base and did dry out quickly.

Looking back downhill from as far as I could walk…

A police 4WD vehicle also arrived – from the other direction. They came to check there were no vital issues with the stranded campers. Some people were being inconvenienced, of course. Some were on ridiculously tight schedules that didn’t allow for hiccups like closed roads. Most were philosophical.

Anyone who had done their research before venturing in here would know that road closures were a regular event and, given that it was winter, planned accordingly.

It might appear – correctly – that I had no sympathy for anyone not able to take an extra couple of days to wait out the situation.

There was, for example, an American couple, with a little boy, who were booked on a flight out of Brisbane tomorrow morning, and had been expecting to drive there today. A mere 720kms – with a young child.

Camped further along from us there were a Britz and a Maui motorhomes – not 4WD ones, but the types that were not permitted to leave the sealed roads!

Later in the day, local staff did escort a vehicle out, up the hill – I was not sure why or who.

We went for another walk in the afternoon, just on the tracks around the resort and towards the road. John came up with the idea that we had to spot twenty different types of birds, before we could go back. Eventually, had to admit defeat, when we could only manage eight. The birds were, it seemed, finding it a bit wet to be going about their usual birdy business.

Pretty clear message……

Late afternoon, there were two or three local vehicles out and about, looking for two fifty year old ladies, camped near us, whose husbands hadn’t seen them since 11am. Apparently, they went up to the Resort for a cup of coffee, then decided to go for a walk – all the way to the Park, where they were “found”. It was a bit of excitement, but how embarrassing to have been them! Obviously, THEY didn’t think they were lost – it was all the men’s idea.

Tea was cold chicken, hot potatoes, and coleslaw.

The rain got heavy again, after dark. That wasn’t going to improve the roads any.

I read, then went to bed at 10pm. Times like these, it was good to have a stock of books. John played his latest computer game – till 2am, apparently.


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2009 Travels June 2

TUESDAY 2 JUNE     CARNARVON GORGE

There was a heavy dew overnight. When I got up, there were superb bush smells and lots of background bird calls, especially currawongs and lorikeets. There were some big family groups of apostle birds – Happy Jacks – and the odd, opportunistic kookaburra, about the camp.

There was a mist hanging in the valley, early, but it cleared away as the morning went on.

After breakfasting, we drove to the Gorge, only a few kms away. It was too late (one of us had slept in, as usual), to walk right up the Gorge, which John was considering doing. Our main target was the Amphitheatre, anyway, a return walk of almost 9kms.

Park map – current, so older creek crossings eliminated

At the Visitor Centre we read that the National Parks service intended to re-align the walking track along the creek, between Crossings 2 and 6, so that the track stays on the right hand side of the creek, looking up the Gorge. The reasons given were the amount of maintenance that always needed to be done on the crossings after each flood, and that the crossings were where most people had accidents. There would still be a number of crossings left, though.

John on one of the early crossings

The big floods, since we were last here in 2002, seemed to me to have really cleaned out along the track – it no longer felt so “bushy”. So the walk did not seem as attractive as I’d remembered. However, it was still interesting and worth doing.

The walking track, looking back to Boolimba Bluff

I remembered, last time, having to dodge pandanus fruits thrown down on walkers below, by the currawongs. That did not happen today. There were still cycads alongside the path, in places, but they didn’t have the orange nuts on now.

We criss-crossed the creek, on the variety of stepping stones and rocks placed to assist. I felt rather sad that some of these crossings would be removed. They gave lovely outlooks right along the  creek, and added to the sense of adventure of the walk.

The approach track to the Amphitheatre passed through a pleasant little side valley, towards the sheer wall, and the entry cleft part way up the wall.

The ladder up to the entry had been rebuilt with the latest in safe ladder structures. More evidence of awareness of changing public health standards – otherwise known as removing the adventure from adventurous outdoor experiences.

Ladder up to the opening to the Ampitheatre

After a short pass through the tall and narrow opening, the rock walls opened out to form the roughly circular Amphitheatre.

Looking into the Ampitheatre, from the top of the ladder

A hole in the rocks above was open to the sky and this allowed some light and rain to enter.

Looking up…..

Because of the opening above, there was a beautifully green growth of mosses and ferns in the “cave” part.

Inside the Ampitheatre

The whole formation had been carved out by water erosion, following fault lines in the rock, over time. The entry gap we’d come through was one such line of erosion.

Some of the rocks were an unusual pink colour

There were still non-eroded fault lines to be seen in the rock layers.

Fault lines – so straight they look like they were cut by a saw!

For about twenty minutes, we were the only people inside the Amphitheatre, which meant we could really enjoy the silent awesomeness of the place. Then others arrived and we tucked ourselves out of the way, sitting on some rocks, and ate our lunch.

The way out…..

John opted not to continue on to attractions further along the Gorge, so we retraced our way.

John found it hard going – his hip was painful. Along the track, we had a brief conversation with another walker, a man in his mid-50’s, who told us he’d had a hip replaced six months previously. He was walking extremely well, which gave John heart. It had taken him a lot longer than six months to become that mobile, after his ’97 new hip. Presumably the technology had improved considerably since then.

Actually I felt quite weary, too, after the walk. John realized, later, that he hadn’t worn his Skins on the walk – maybe that was why he battled so much?

Tranquillity – with duck

We decided to stay an extra night beyond the original three. That would enable us to have a bit of a rest day tomorrow, then maybe tackle the Gorge again, to see some more, the next day.

I went up to Reception and booked and paid for that, and bought some postcards. We were now due to leave on Friday morning.

I still had time, after our walk, to roast a chook for tea.

We had an early night, both being tired. That track had required a lot of concentration, so it was mental tiredness as well as physical.

John had to get up during the night and take Panadol because of hip pain.

Rain started during the night. The story of this trip! It was quite heavy at times and we could hear thunder echoing through the valley, in the distance.

I suspected the roadsĀ  might be closed in the morning!


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2009 Travels June 1

MONDAY 1 JUNE     ST GEORGE TO CARNARVON GORGE     440kms

The first day of winter. Definitely time to be further north.

John’s hip was sore through the night and he did not sleep well, so we got up just before 7am. The caravan park was noisy, even then. We were all breakfasted, packed up, and pulling out at the most unusual-for-us hour of 8.15.

John wanted to make distance today, and vetoed my plan to overnight in Roma. But he did agree – since we were kind of driving right past it – to go and stay near Carnarvon Gorge for some of the walking I was owed.

It was an enjoyable drive to Roma, through mostly grazing country, once the irrigated parts around St George were left behind. The road was better than I’d expected. We paralleled the Balonne River as far as Surat where it was still quite a respectable stream that we crossed by bridge.

We found a van parking area in Roma, only a block from Woolworths. Full marks to Roma! I walked to the supermarket to stock up on some supplies – and on cash – while John took advantage of the strong phone signal to get on the internet to pay the overdue Telstra bills. I phoned the Takarakka caravan park at Carnarvon Gorge, to ensure we would get in.

So we pressed on. Refuelled at Injune and ate our packed lunch in a small park there. Just south of Injune we had passed out of the Murray Darling Basin at last.

The first part of the side road to Carnarvon Gorge was sealed, but the last 20kms or so, to Takarakka was not. There were a couple of cattle grids that could have caused some damage, had we hit them too fast. But this was not our first time along this road, and John was cautious. The dirt section was well graded, and being worked on.

Reached Takarakka at 4.15pm, which was pretty reasonable, considering the distance we covered for the day.

We hadn’t stayed at Takarakka before. Last time, the National Park campground was open and we camped there. The commercial Takarakka cost $38 a night for a powered site. Gulp! With no current camping in the National Park, except for some limited times in school holidays, this place had a monopoly and could charge accordingly. We booked in for three nights.

Our site – in their more informal Echidna Circle area – was very pleasant, with the creek looping around the perimeter of this small section of the park, and a fairly bushy outlook. We were on grass, and able to hook up to water as well as power. The amenities were modern and clean. There was a big camp kitchen area, with gas BBQ’s. Clearly, as the closest place to stay to the Park, they had a pretty good business. There were still outfits coming in after dark.

There was no mobile phone reception here, and hence no internet. No TV either – I can pick ’em! John was disgruntled.

Feels like being back in the bush……

Before dark, we walked along the creek to the platypus pool. Apparently there was a family of four of them lived there, but we didn’t see any. Then, we walked around the campground to get a sense of what the rest of the place was like. The section on the northern side of reception was bigger, with a number of cabins, as well as smaller, more conventional powered sites. I liked our section much better.

Whilst walking, we saw a guy towing an Avan with an ordinary car, come in, driving very fast. We watched his back car tyre go flat, whilst he was in Reception. If his arrival was typical of his general driving style on the road in, we were not surprised he’d stuffed a tyre. Then we watched him make a real hash of trying to back this tiny Avan into a large site, flat tyre and all.

Although the night was on the chilly side, it was lovely to go to sleep to bush noises again.


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2009 Travels May 31

SUNDAY 31 MAY     ST GEORGE

I was awake early again. The morning was not as cold, because there was cloud cover.

John washed three sides of the van – the fourth was occupied by the awning. I cleaned the windows and door panels. He took off the back light covers. They were full of mud and filthy, and I cleaned those. I armouralled the vinyl stone guard at the front of the van. John washed and polished Truck. The rig looked much more respectable after all of that.

The rig before irs wash. Those skies still look threatening……

After lunch we went out sightseeing, but found the town was as dead as the proverbial dodo. Everything was shut for Sunday.

We drove over the weir and back – there didn’t seem much else to do. Drove out the Roma road for a distance. There were houses on ten acre blocks, fronting the river and a “fishing” camp ground, about 9kms out, with powered sites, that looked interesting.

So, back to the van. A couple from a few vans down had wanted to see our opals, because they were heading for the Ridge, so we had happy hour with them, till after dark. Before that, we’d taken down the awning roof, so it wouldn’t be wet in the morning, and packed up some of the outside stuff.

I tried something new for tea – pasta with cheesy crumbs, a recipe I’d copied down from somewhere, ages ago, but never tried. It needed a couple of modifications – I had to use our grain bread, with lots of seeds in it, instead of the white bread of the recipe, and a didn’t have the smoked cheese specified. But tasty cheese was just as good, and it was yummy. John was more enthusiastic about it than he had been about a meal, for ages. So, repeats of that one were a must.


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2009 Travels May 30

SATURDAY 30 MAY     ST GEORGE

I was awake before 8. We were back into the morning noise of a caravan park, and people packing up for early departures.

The morning was cold – there had been a heavy dew overnight. My moccasins got wet as I went across the grass on my way for a shower, and my feet stayed cold for hours.

A very different environment to Lorne!

I drove into town to fetch the papers and read them until it was time to get ready for bowls at 12.30.

The club had one synthetic green and they had received grants of nearly $100,000 to renew it, as part of a program to encourage sports in the country. John was cross when he heard this, because our home club, which caters for a lot more people, had to fund things like that without government help. They also had poker machines here, which our club did not.

The game was a farce and a total waste of an afternoon. Most of the numbers were  family groups  of mixed ages, from toddlers who kept wandering across our rink and in amongst the bowls, to their grandmas, all drinking much beer whilst playing. They all had more fun than we did! They even smoked on the new synthetic green – no wonder they had needed a new one!

It was an extremely boring afternoon. John and I played on opposing teams. One skip was intellectually challenged and really incapable of working out any strategy or giving directions. The other skip fancied himself as the town clown. He was excruciating. It was so bad that John later actually apologized to me – unheard of. And we paid $6 each for that….

I decided I was owed about quadruple bushwalk credits for the afternoon.

After the chill of this morning, and finding out that it could get to around zero at Mitchell and Mt Moffat in winter, we had definitely abandoned the vague plans of maybe waiting around for the road into Mt Moffat to be ok. We would head north quickly, needing some tropics. More rain was possible around here too. Due to a large high sitting over Central Australia, NW Qld had recently had quite a bit of rain, and what was left was heading our way. A strange year, really.

It was a chilly night. We needed the fan heater on.


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2009 Travels May 29

FRIDAY 29 MAY      LIGHTNING RIDGE TO ST GEORGE   245kms

We did not have too much to do, to get away, after doing most of the pack up yesterday.

We stopped in town. John wanted to buy the local paper, in order to read more about some local land possibly being opened up for mining! He had a quick look at a few opal stalls set up opposite the “craft market”.

Today’s was a pleasant drive. The country was varied enough to be interesting. At one point the highway passed close to the Coocoran Lake, but we couldn’t see any sign of surface water. Maybe it was mostly dry?

We stopped in Hebel, just after crossing into Qld, partly for a break, and partly due to curiosity. A previous boss of ours had lived here for a while, a decade or so ago. He and then wife had the store here, and he also dabbled in opal fossicking, presumably at Lightning Ridge. We wanted to see what the store was like, having heard O talk about it.

Hebel store

It was interesting, although I found the downhill slant of the rough interior floor a tad tricky. We got chatting to one of the residents. They were under the impression that our previous boss had totally owned the property where we’d worked, instead of being a part owner and resident manager. They also thought his recent marriage was to a Parisienne lady, rather than a nurse from Brisbane. I knew the bush telegraph could distort things, but really?

Hebel was one of the tiny settlements that made you wonder how it kept going. Just a store and a hotel. It would originally have been established as a border station, back pre-1900, when customs duties existed between the states. Hebel was only a couple of kms from the border.

Central Hebel. Compare the size of our rig, on the right, with the road train!

After Hebel, there were increasing signs of irrigation and cotton farming, though the latter was not as obvious as I had expected.

We stopped for lunch at Dirranbandi, a little town trying hard to be attractive, but the number of businesses with For Sale signs, indicated that the town was battling.

Dirranbandi

John was getting sleepy by the time we reached St George. He had gotten out of travel mode.

We had a look at one caravan park, but thought it looked too small and crowded. So drove on to see what the Pelicans Rest was like – much nicer, newish, on the edge of the town. They had a long row of drive through sites, as well as conventional ones. All were well grassed. Grass! Green! The amenities were modern, nicely tiled, clean. All very pleasant after the rather rough and ready Lorne. $22 a night – good value.

We set up, then followed the usual ritual in a new town i.e. drove to the Bowls Club. There was no-one there. At the newsagent I ordered tomorrow’s papers to be kept for me. Checked out the location of a cafe for fish and chips – it had been a while since we had a bought fish and chips indulgence.

In cruising around the town, we found the Information Centre, so had a browse there and I bought some items. These included a card for younger grandson, with a picture of a bush curlew on the front, which when opened makes the sound of a curlew. Reckoned he would love that, though it might give him a fright when first opened. Not sure how well it would be received by parents, either, come to think of it. They might not thank me….

Went on to have a look at the Balonne River, which edges the town. This was bigger than I expected but made more so by a weir that held back water – presumably for irrigation. The highway to the west crossed the top of the weir, which had impressive towers along one side, that were part of the system for raising and lowering the weir gates.

As we drove back past the Bowls Club, there were signs of life. John went in and came back saying he’d booked BOTH of us to play tomorrow. He was going to owe me a lot of walking now!

From the cafe, we ordered our fish and chips, for collection at 6.30. Then it was on to the supermarket so John could buy a brush to dubbin his shoes, which had dried out from the white dust of the opal fields. I had a tin of leather dressing in the van, for my leather handbag, but usually applied this lightly with paper towel – no good for John’s shoes.

The caravan park had become quite full; probably a lot of overnighters.

We were allowed to wash our vans here. That was unusual, these days, but could help explain the lovely green grass.

After an adequate fish and chip tea, had an internet session.

We had TV again, after wonderful weeks without. John would be watching it long after I had gone to bed. I had, over the vanning years, trained myself to go to sleep despite background noise from the TV, or computer games – or both at once…..


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2009 Travels May 28

THURSDAY 28 MAY     LORNE STATION

The morning was cloudy.

T had not been sighted by the time we left to drive into town. Funny, that.

We went to the Opal Bin shop, where the lady rubbed down three of John’s opal pieces. I wasn’t sure if these were bits we bought or found; they’d sort of gotten mixed together. A nice looking piece that from the side had great green flashes on blue, came out plain blue on top, and so no good. She said the other two bits were worth cutting and directed us to a man who did cutting for other people. He agreed to cut the two stones and we could collect them later in the day.

This rather says it all about the town…..

While we were at the Opal Bin, I bought five pendants of rubbed/tumbled stone with little opal veins through. They were unusual and very pretty, not too expensive, and more modern than the usual opal jewellery. One was for me and the others destined for the family females – that was some of my Xmas shopping taken care of!

Did a quick supermarket shop, then it was back to camp.

It had begun to rain while we were in town, and I had this worrying idea that we were going to get rained in at Lorne yet again. But it was not as heavy, out at the station, and eased off. Then, mid-afternoon, there was a huge dark cloud looming, so we packed up much of the camp, hitched the van up and moved it to the more solid ground in front of the Hacienda. We still could access our power and water there. Just hoped the cottage wasn’t going to have any guests this afternoon.

Then we had to unhitch again, to go back to town to collect the cut stones.

Moved the van from there, around to the front of the Hacienda……..

We finished up with a small, irregular shaped stone that would be good to have set into a ring, and a larger, paler one, that could be for a pendant. I liked them, but John was disappointed. He’d expected them to be bigger – and also worth more than the $20-$40 the cutter valued them at! But, back at camp, they were admired by one of the lady campers.

I went up to the office and paid up what we owed. The $100 a week had been healthy for the budget.

After tea, a final sit round the campfire, with D.

We  had not intended to be here for this long, but it had been a great stay, and I’d loved it (except maybe for the few ultra muddy days).