This Adventurous Age

Adventures travelling and working around Australia.

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2002 Travels May 29


We had the alarm set this morning, for 6am, as it could be a big day. We were setting out into somewhat remote country.

We were out of Windorah at 7.30am – after paying our camp fees for the previous night.

There was some light cloud about in an otherwise blue sky – it was quite a pleasant day for travel.

Took the Diamantina Development Road west from Windorah. This was single width and sealed, and John had to concentrate hard driving on the narrow strip of tar. Still, we made reasonable time to the end of the tar, some 130kms from Windorah, by Morney Station.

On the way, we passed the old JC Hotel ruins, some 80kms west of Windorah, and about 20kms further on, the turnoff to Birdsville. There were occasional stark jump ups to vary the otherwise flatness of the country.

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Mesa formations seen from the Windorah-Bedourie road

Once we left the bitumen strip behind, John had to concentrate even harder. Today would not be an easy one for the driver. At least, there was very little other traffic.

Further on from Morney, we came to the multiple channels of Farrars Creek. Around this area, there were some occasional low red dunes appeared. The creek channels were mostly just distinguishable by lines of low trees intersecting the road, but occasionally there was a Floodway sign. The country had steadily become more arid and stony too.

We had no trouble finding the Palparara turn off – it was signposted to Diamantina National Park, too.

This was definitely a station track. It ran roughly parallel to the braided channels of Farrars Creek, as far as the Palparara homestead – about 56kms from where we turned off. There were frequent patches of bulldust – the fine, powdery dust in holes of varying depth in the road. We decided there must be a lot of truck traffic, moving stock off the property, due to the drought.

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The track through Palparara

We stopped at 10am, for morning coffee, near an abandoned bore.

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Derelict old windmill on Palparara Station

Near the Palparara homestead, our way veered off to the NW, to Davenport Downs homestead, about 100kms distant, and near the Diamantina River. This section of the track was better – probably there was less stock truck traffic? But there were still some hefty bulldust sections. Despite being very cautious, sometimes it was hard to see these, or gauge their depth, so occasionally we ploughed through one instead of crawling carefully around it, and raised a great cloud of fine dust all around and over us. I was concerned about how much of this might be finding its way into the van – I had opened the pressure hatch on the roof this morning, but reckoned this stuff must be penetrating everywhere, regardless.

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What happens when one drives through bulldust – note the dust on the dashboard

Mixed in with the dusty country, there were extensive gibber plains. On one of these gibber sections, I spotted a small group of birds on the ground and we stopped to check them out. Light brown, with some yellow, they were identified as the Gibberbird – a type of chat. We hadn’t seen these before, so were quite pleased with ourselves. It gets harder all the time to find birds we have never spotted before.

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Dry country on Davenport Downs

We stopped for lunch by a dry creek channel, a bit south of Davenport Downs homestead. Around this time, had begun to notice quite strange, low hills on the horizon – a low range with quite wide gaps in it. We speculated whether any of these gaps were the so-called Diamantina Gates, where that river’s many channels constrict to flow through two gaps, before spreading out again.

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Unusual hills in the distance

The track turned north just before Davenport Downs was reached. The entrance gate to the National Park was only a few kms north. We reached that about 2pm – the going had not been fast.

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As I was opening the gate, a 4WD came up behind us. This was the only vehicle we’d encountered since turning off the Development Road. The 4WD driver was amazed to see us there with a caravan, and wanted to know how we’d managed to tow it, on that track. He reckoned he’d nearly gotten bogged in the bulldust, as few times. Maybe we’d taken a lot more care than he had, but it really hadn’t seemed all that bad, to us. We certainly were going slower than him.

Continued north, running parallel to the Diamantina, until we came to the National Park headquarters. This was quite a substantial set of buildings, which we thought must have been the station homestead and associated outbuildings, when this was Diamantina Lakes Station, once briefly owned by Kidman. It would have been a bleak and lonely place, surrounded by the flat barrenness of the flood plains.

There was a huge solar panel array on one building.

The two men from the 4WD were there too, booking in. It cost us $7.70 a night, and we paid for four. They said they were going to the Gumhole Camp, as it was more sheltered. We opted for the Hunters Gorge Camp area, because it was right by the Diamantina River. I might add that when we got to Hunters Gorge, and felt the wind, we realized why shelter was significant!

The track to Hunters Gorge – and beyond that, to the Boulia road – crossed the Diamantina channels in cemented dips – interesting! They would be covered very deeply in floods! Just beyond the channels we turned right on the track to Hunters Gorge. Then we crossed a small but deep, dry creek channel.

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On the track in to Hunters Gorge

When we got to the camp area, which was just basically anywhere one could access along the river bank, we were the only people there. It was a bit dusty and had been well “stick-picked”. We found a fairly flat spot for the van, with a premium view over the big Mundaweira Waterhole – the deepest one in the park – to a reddish coloured bluff beyond.

The waterhole was great – clay coloured water, pelicans drifting about on it. From the outset, we thought it a magic place and well worth the effort to get here.

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Mundaweira Waterhole at our Hunters Gorge camp

There was a long drop toilet not too far away – but not too close! It was somewhat smelly, but better than none.

There was not as much dust in the van as I’d feared, given what we had been ploughing through. A quick wipe of all the surfaces, a floor sweep, and all was well.

A screw holding one end of the griller burner had vibrated loose and the burner was resting on a bread baking tin that I’d stored in the compartment. Good thing it was there because the burner had not been able to drop far, so it was all easily fixed by screwing it up again.

We pottered about, setting up camp and just looking at the waterhole and the birds.

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Looking along the waterhole towards one of the Diamantina Gates

John’s left arm and shoulder were sore from the driving – it had been a hard day for him. requiring total concentration and lots of gear and clutch work.

Tea was tinned mussell soup, then garlic and parsley pasta with a tomato sauce – I had some squishy tomatoes to use up.

After tea, we sat out by the fixed fireplace/BBQ that was by our site. We watched stars in a brilliant night sky. The moon rose about 8.30pm. John had set up his camera on the tripod and took photos – including a moon “staircase” on the waterhole (these did not come out!).

There were lots of fish splashing. We’d earlier seen a Pacific heron, on the opposite bank, catch and eat a big fish. It took him ages to mouth-maul it to the exact position he wanted, before swallowing it, head first.

The cruising pelicans made great phosphorescent streaks where they sailed across the moonlight path on the water.

It was a chilly night, though. So quiet – no people type noises at all.

Unfortunately, there were several feral cats about. They approached our camp soon after we set up and were around for the rest of the night. One even climbed into a gum tree, in the dark, about two metres from where I was sitting.

We were both very tired and did not stay up late.

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2002 Travels May 28


It was a fine day and not really hot.

After a leisurely start to the day – a rather early one, due to the fee collecting caretaker – we set off to do the Nature Drive.

The 12 km of the Nature Drive was on a dirt track, but was well signed. But given that most of it was over the Cooper floodplains and channel areas, definitely a drive for when it is dry!

There were a couple of historic aspects highlighted, like the old telephone line and site of the original road over Cooper Creek, but mostly it featured the varied plant communities and their key species. The latter were signed and named.

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We found it really interesting. It was a great example of a little town making a feature out of what it had around – in this case, basically bush!

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Dead Finish – so named because it is the last thing starving stock will eat

The drive ended up at Cooper Creek, downstream from the road bridge.

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Good camp sites are up along the Creek banks

The Thompson River, which passes near Longreach, joins with the Barcoo River which comes from the NE, just to the north of Windorah. Both of these rivers have formed multiple channels before they reach each other, so after the junction there is a real tangle of intertwining creeks. This system is one of those that is responsible for the floods that sometimes inundate the Channel Country. The shallow channels fill up, the waters spread out and flood widely. If the flow is big enough, the waters will flow into Lake Eyre, eventually.

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Cooper Creek was quite low level, in the prevailing drought

The periodic inundation can be a major inconvenience to settlers and travellers, but the great benefit is wonderful pasture growth after floods – the Channel Country has long been known as great cattle fattening country in the right seasons.

One of the postcards I bought featured Windorah surrounded by floodwaters.

There were quite a number of campsites evident along both sides of the creek, and both up and downstream of the bridge. There were quite a number of campers in same. If we come this way again, I think we’d find it very pleasant to camp out here.

The Creek was quite low, but there were pelicans on it and other bird life around. We saw a big Brahminy kite there.

It would be interesting to come out here not long after a big flood, when the creek was almost full – though I guess a lot of the camp sites would then be under water!

Back to town for a late lunch.

Then went for a walk. I took the book – duly read – back to the library and retrieved my $20. Posted the cards. Called in at the store.

Back at camp. John drove off to fill with diesel. We’d heard that there was a rally coming through, in the late afternoon, and wanted to be sure to get fuel ahead of them. In the event it did not seem to be a large group. Only a few of them arrived in the caravan park, though it was possible there were lots of others staying out at the Creek.

John reported back that the man at the servo was blind – but managed perfectly well! The fuel was $1.00 a litre. He filled the remaining two empty jerry cans – the ones that live on the back of the van. That effectively gave us 60 litres extra fuel – almost an extra tankful.

Dinner was a chicken stir fry with hokkien noodles.

It was a clear and cool night – very pleasant.

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2002 Travels May 27


It was another fine day.

No one was moving off early, including us. We chatted for a bit with the off road van guy; they eventually headed off in the direction of Innamincka, to the west.

The two old biddies from the camper trailer hung about like a bad small. It appeared they were watching us closely in case we saw something, or found out something they might miss. We were waiting for the lady owner to appear, in the hope that she might show us the opal. John also wanted to approach her about work in the area. next year – there is more than one way to get on to opal bearing properties, he thinks!

I went into the roadhouse cafe to buy an Eromanga sticker to display on the Truck side window. I rarely buy stickers, but this had been a memorable “different” place. The two biddies were there in the cafe, drinking coffee and writing postcards. Given what we’d seen and heard from them, to date, it must have hurt them to fork out for the coffee!

A bit later, we were all at our respective camps, and John went to walk into the cafe. They raced out and followed him. He changed his mind at the door and came back – and so did they! In the end, John was steaming. I thought it was quite funny.

Then, while they were tucked away in the toilets, we met the lady owner coming across the yard, and talked to her. She took us in the back door to see the water burning demonstration. The two biddies came rushing in the front door! When she turned on the cold water tap, a mix of gas and water came out. It just barely caught and flickered when she held a lighter near it. She said that, some days, it is all gas, and can be fully lit. I wondered what use that water would be in the event of being needed for fire fighting? There was no mention of the opal, though.

We left our contact details with this lady, in case of future work being available, and departed. We stopped at the hotel – had been waiting for opening time – and put our $10 in the Flying Doctor tin, as we’d said we would.

We’d asked about the condition of an unsealed road that was marked on my Road Atlas as cutting through from Eromanga to the Windorah road, and had been told we should be fine to take it.

So we drove the Kyabra road. The 95kms of dirt was fine, and saved us a 150kms backtrack route.

After about 45kms we came to Kyabra Creek. Its permanent water holes were very attractive, so we stopped there for lunch and a wander around. There was a large flock of galahs occupying a red gum tree that leaned over the water hole.

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Galah tree

The two ladies we had not liked at the Eromanga camp had been intending to come camp out here. I very uncharitably hoped they would be surrounded by things that went bump in the night!

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Kyabra Creek water hole

The track crossed Kyabra Creek at a dry point between waterholes. Crossed a few more creek channels between Kyabra Creek and the Windorah road. But none of these had water in or presented any challenge – hardly had to slow down.

Reached the “main” road right by Thylungra Station. This is also by a waterhole of Kyabra Creek, which runs SE for a distance, and then turns to the NW – we had crossed it on that leg – before flowing into the Cooper Creek near Windorah. It is clearly a creek that has some beautiful waterholes along its length. Thylungra was another of the historic Durack places.

The single strip of bitumen road that links Quilpie and Windorah demanded concentration. It was narrow and in places the shoulders were rough. There were occasional cattle grids to be cautious about, and the regular slight dips of floodways. The country was the usual Channel country grass and scattered trees, with areas of bare earth between grass patches – sometimes paler, sometimes more red. In a couple of places there were low red sandy rises – echoes of the desert country further along.

Because of this being the Channel Country, there were always lines of trees in the distance, marking channels.

Not far before Windorah, the road crossed the Cooper Creek. There were several streams and channels close together, but the actual Cooper Creek main channel was unmistakable, with a big bridge over it. There were obviously camping spots along the banks, that were well used. I was a bit tempted for us to camp there – with its poetic, outback connotations – but I really wanted to be able to shower and wash my hair before we continued on into the wilds, so caravan park it was.

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Bridge over Cooper Creek, near Windorah

Our first stop was the Information Centre in the township. It was in a pleasant new building and was well set up. It was also the Craft Centre and Library. The very helpful lady there let me borrow a novel, on a $20 surety. She told us that the track through Palparara Station would be the best route from this direction, into Diamantina National Park.

We found the little caravan park – obviously fairly newly set up, to attract tourists to stay in the town. There was a very nice, new, small amenities block, and freshly planted shrubbery. We thought it very pleasant and it was only $6 a night. A caretaker came round about 7.30 each morning, to collect the fees. It turned out to be a noisy place though, with truck traffic passing and the town generator in the background, all night.

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Our caravan site at Windorah and menity block

While John was pottering about the camp, I walked back to the store and bought some postcards.

At the Information Centre, we’d been given material on a Nature Drive, that looked interesting, so we decided to stay here tomorrow, as well, and do some exploring.

Tea was sausages and coleslaw.

I did some intensive reading of the borrowed novel.

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2002 Travels May 26


It was a fine day after a chilly night.

We left town, after checking for the Saturday papers at the shop. They had not yet arrived. Oh well, can’t win them all.

It was only about 100kms to Eromanga, the first 35kms on the same road as we’d already driven to go out to Pinkilla the other day. The road was easy enough driving – a reasonably wide single strip of tar and pretty flat country.

On our first pass through the hamlet, I could not see the Eromanga Caravan Park that the literature had indicated was in town. I asked at the hotel which was at the far end of the town and was told that it was behind the cafe/roadhouse. That, we had passed, so we returned there.

Booked in – $10 a night for a powered spot. I would not really call it a site. The fee indicated the overall level of facilities. It was, basically, just parking by a power outlet pole, in the middle of a gravelled area. On the other side of the pole from us was what appeared to be a permanently parked van.

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We were told there would be a BBQ tea provided tonight.

There was another occupant of the small caravan facility – a camper trailer, set up off power. Later, a couple of older ladies returned to it. They had been taken on a tour of the area – free – I gathered.

Very hospitable people here, though Eromanga is not exactly on the beaten tourist track.

Later, another offroad van – not our brand – arrived, and set up on power too.

We had an early lunch, then went for a walk and saw pretty much all of the town – a few houses, the hotel, a school, our roadhouse/cafe/motel, a police station. There was no general store.

There was a small oil cracking refinery across from the cafe and camp area, and it also sold fuel, but it was not cheap – a BP outlet. One would think that the fuel would be cheaper, in these circumstances, with no need to transport it distances.

The refinery product was taken to the pipeline at the Jackson oil field, near Noccundra to the south, by a specially licensed B-double-double truck – i.e. four trailers. I felt glad we were not taking the same route – imagine the sway on the hind-most trailer! The truck left every morning about 8am and returned about 8pm every night. The road had been especially sealed to take this traffic.

We walked out to the cattle grid at the entrance to town, to photograph the sign that says Eromanga is the “furthest town from the sea” in Australia. I found that somewhat hard to credit.

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On our walk, spent some time at a display of old machinery that was set up on a vacant block by the road. John became totally engrossed in this, and even I found it interesting. There was an early oil drilling rig, set up to be pulled and positioned by horse, it appeared, and a collection of different sized flywheels and the like.

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Early drilling rig

There was a machine whose appearance from a distance had us mystified until we could read the sign that said it was a machine for turning flat sheets of tin into corrugated iron.

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Corrigated iron shaper

John was most taken by a machine that tumbled and sorted opal. Eromanga is still definitely within the Queensland opal region. I could see John inspecting it and considering whether he could build something similar. Might be a bit hard to carry on the roof rack, though!

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The lady who had booked us in warned us that the local bore water supply was very smelly and oily, and that it had so much gas in it that it could sometimes be lit! So we decided to pass on showers.

We did decide to go to the BBQ tea as a way of meeting some of the locals and maybe finding out more about the area. There were quite a few people there – mostly family, it seemed, and some who worked for the earth-moving branch of the family’s businesses. They had all had a big night, last night, at the post-races party. What a pity that we hadn’t been a day early – we could have gone to a true country horse race meeting.

There was lots of food provided. Salads, sausages, meat patties, chops, steak, hot potatoes.  The roadhouse owners also own Kyabra Station, an historic former Durack property, to the north, but have to live in town because of their other businesses, especially the earth moving. They were developing the motel and cabin side of the place here. The motel looked quite nice.

The lady owner told me that she found it hard to get – and keep – staff, out here. She also told me that she had an opal they found out on their property, worth nearly $100,000. She might remember to show it to us tomorrow. I’d certainly love to see it!

They were really nice, friendly, generous people. She would not take any payment for the meal! We told her we would put a donation in the Flying Doctor donation tin at the hotel.

We spent some time talking with the people from the other off road van. He was some sort of professional sportsman – but his knees were shot, now. He had just had solar power put onto his van and was having problems, too. He did not seem to fully understand it all, either. His 240v charger did not seem to be working. He was not at all happy with the attitude of the company that made his van, towards their customers. We found them pleasant people to talk to.

We’d had a great day in a little township where we had not expected much.

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To top it off, there was a full moon rising and the dusk sky had that blue and pink layered effect that seems quite common in the arid outback.

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2002 Travels May 25


After breakfast, I did our washing.

John topped up the Truck fuel and also refilled the jerry can that we’d used at Duck Creek – 89cpl.

In the afternoon, John went off to bowls. There were only a few men playing, so he had an average sort of afternoon.

I cleaned the van interior and generally tidied up ready for moving.

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Quilpie site – not exactly crowded!

Could not have my usual newspaper fix, because the Saturday papers do not arrive in town until late today or sometime tomorrow.

We really had been here in Quilpie for a couple of days longer than it warranted – but that was mostly due to John’s conviction that we’d be doing lots of fossicking – including on Seven Wonders.

I cooked mutton chops for tea, with potato and broccoli. No lamb chops available here!

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2002 Travels May 24


John slept very late – not surprising.

I read and sewed. Then went to the shops and got my photos back. I was quite pleased with the Duck Creek ones.

After John had breakfast, he returned to the computer.

The country around here was originally settled by the well-known Durack pioneering pastoral family – before they moved on to take up land in the Kimberley. Ray Station, to the NW of Quilpie, is an original Durack place.

Later in the day, we drove out the Toompine road for a few kms, then drove on the track out to the jump up called Baldy Top, and then climbed the walk track up to its top, to the lookout. The view was extensive – of mostly flat country, all round. Flat plains, and more flat plains. Lines of trees marked drainage channels. It was a worthwhile little expedition.

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Quilpie country seen from Baldy Top

I cooked fries and battered frozen fish from a packet, for tea.

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2002 Travels May 23


We paid $10 each, and got a mud map to drive ourselves out to the caravan park’s own opal mine – “Deuces Wild” – on the Pinkilla field, to the NW.

Refuelled Truck – 89cpl.

Took a packed lunch and drove out the Windorah road. This took us across more drainage channels – yes, getting into Channel Country. This is so called because it is a huge area of south western Qld (and bits of adjoining states) that is a flat, arid, flood plain, cut by a great number of interlocking drainage channels, which can flood after good rains in their catchments to the north and east.

There were so many of these drainage lines – of varying sizes – that the road sign read
“Road subject to flooding next 30kms”, instead of warning of individual floodways that we crossed.

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One sign fits all

We passed some jump ups, too, so it was an interesting drive.

The turn off we wanted was 62kms out of town. Then we followed minor tracks for some way. We passed a little oil pumping rig, but there was no one around. We wondered if it was still functional? It looked like some pre-historic creature, out in the bush.

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Oil pumping rig by the track to Deuces Wild

Found the mining area with no wrong turns. It looked like there had been open cuts, since filled in. So, fossicking was through the mullock and surface spoil, for anything that may have been missed.

The opal out here occurs in boulders, so one really needed to wash the rock pieces to check them. It was hard work, and neither of us could get very enthusiastic.

There were other mines around. One had a shack on it. Another seemed to have had quite a substantial set up – a big shack,  a big aerial and a generator. But there was no sign of any opal mine machinery – or of people, that we could see from a distance. There were some water-filled holes/ cuts, and some big mullock heaps.

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Deuces Wild in the Pinkilla fields

It was hard to tell claim boundaries, so we really did not know where the Deuces Wild claim ended, so we were a bit hesitant about wandering about.

We did find a few chips in runnels on a mullock heap. I decided that the opal mining here, now, was more like that at Opalton – harder for the amateur. We did see some evidence of a pinky coloured sandstone layer, in places, though, but no discernable opal colour, or the boulders.

We did more wandering around than fossicking. Ate our lunch out there – it was pleasant just being out in the bush.

On the drive back, observed some surface blows in places where the surface was the sort of ironstone pebbly cover that meant ground bare of vegetation. There were also sudden outcrops of shincracker rocks. We wondered of this was an opal area where there were more opal occurrences to be found? We wondered about the history of the area. Was it a place of old diggings where the modern machinery came in after and dug cuts where there were lots of old shafts? If so, there could well be more opal to be found – if Stephen Aracic (writer of books about finding opals) is right that many of the modern miners do not know the “signs” in areas that have never been dug.

There had been a few drops of rain as we drove out to the mine area, and through the day there was a build up of grey cloud, but no rain of any note.

Back at Quilpie, we drove out to Lake Houdraman, to the NE of town. I was surprised how big this was. It was a lovely spot, with lots of trees surrounding the lake – would be a great bush camping place. There was lots of bird life to watch – including brolgas, pelicans, grebes, ducks and the like. I would like to go back out there for a longer time – it was late in the day when we got there today – and suggested we bring a picnic lunch out here, tomorrow.

On the way back to town, saw a family of five bustards – or plains turkeys – wandering in the grass and scrub – lovely!

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Bustard, aka Plains Turkey, aka Plains Wanderer

We bought some wine casks, to top up the supply. It could be a while before we get the chance again. They were $16 each for mediocre quality ones, but that was all that was available.

John tried to phone the lease holder of the property the Seven Wonders mine claim was on, to the NW of here. Whoever answered the phone said the boss was away on holiday. We had hoped to be able to camp and fossick out there, but the young couple who had set up a camping/mining operation out there, had split up, so the venture had closed. John has long been fascinated by the name and hoped that the lease holder might give us special permission to go out there – but not to be.

Tea was John’s choice – macaroni cheese with added tuna.

John played computer games till the early hours of the morning.