This Adventurous Age

Adventures travelling and working around Australia.


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1998 Travels December 21

MONDAY 21 DECEMBER     TOOWOOMBA

After breakfast, had a big hunt for the video warranty documents. This involved searching through some cupboards, John’s collection of papers in about three different locations, and the small expanding file that is meant to hold important papers and is stored under the bed. Eventually found the warranty, but not the receipt for when we purchased it in Geelong.

John phoned Daewoo/Retravision and was told he’d need to do a Stat Dec, obtained from a Post Office, re the purchase details. They don’t make it easy!

So, we drove to the Post Office in Margaret Street, through the Xmas shopping traffic, in the centre of an unfamiliar city. At the PO, John was told that newsagents sell Stat Dec forms. This was beginning to assume farcical dimensions!

John decided to try the repair place anyway, since we were in the city centre – Dent’s Radio and Repairs. They were happy to take it on, but said it will take a week or two to get to it.

Then we went to Flohr, the Landrover dealer. Their Service Manager was at lunch, so we walked over the road to the Woolworths shopping complex, browsed a little, then bought lunch – pizza for John and a ricotta and spinach pastry for me.

I bought John the KKND 2 computer game – for his Xmas present. Cost $90.

Back to Flohr, where we saw the Service Manager. He will phone us tomorrow, as the State Manager will be there then and we can take Truck in for him to inspect the problem rivets and the roof rack that is peeling paint in large sections. It was a proper Landrover one, and should not be deteriorating like this.

Then, of course, we had to suss out a couple of bowls clubs – one by the Botanical Gardens/Queens Park, and one in Toowoomba South. John booked himself in for a game on Wednesday, and us both for one on Thursday.

While we were by the Gardens, we went for a walk there. They are most attractive. The walk was enjoyable, as the weather is mild here, compared to where we have been.

Drove to Picnic Point, which is in bush land on the eastern side of the city, and admired the view across the edge of the Range, past Table Mountain, towards Brisbane, down in the distance. It was pretty hazy, but I attempted a photo, anyway.

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The outlook to the east from Picnic Point, past Table Mt, towards Brisbane

Toowoomba is about 700 metres above sea level, perched on the edge of the Great Dividing Range, at a point where it rises abruptly from the coastal plains. This means that the road to Brisbane has some steep gradients! Its elevation means that it is much cooler than Brisbane. The area was settled in the 1840’s and the city grew as the centre of the rich Darling Downs agricultural district. Today it is, I think, a similar size to Geelong – about 120,000 people.

Back at the van, relaxed for what was left of the afternoon. I finished my first significant Hardanger project – a white table runner, destined to eventually grace the centre of our big red gum table at home.

Tea was cold rissole sandwiches for John, rissoles and salads for me.

The evenings here are so pleasantly cool – it is really refreshing.


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1998 Travels December 20

SUNDAY 20 DECEMBER   ROMA TO TOOWOOMBA   376kms

We left Roma at 6am.

The day seemed a bit cooler, but it was still hot.

Today’s drive was much less interesting than yesterday’s. It was through fairly flat country, with cows, crops, some cotton.

We arrived in Toowoomba in the late morning. Went to the Garden City Caravan Park, where I’d made a tentative booking, on an en-suite site, for three weeks. After a quick look, we decide it will definitely do. It is a Big 4 park. We get a free night, each week, but they only gave us the club discount for the first week. That cost $102.60, and the other weeks $114. A bit over budget, but we are still a few hundred dollars under what we’d allowed, for the year.

We have a pleasantly shady site. There are lots of permanent dwellers in this park, including around us. The pool looks very nice. This place will enable us to see out the very busy Xmas/New Year period, away from the great heat further north and from the crowds on the coast. It will also – hopefully – enable us to finally have the Truck roof repair done.

After setting up and having lunch, we went for a 30 minute walk around the nearby streets, to get an idea of what it is like and where there is to walk. There is a back gate to the park and from there it is only a large block to walk to a small shopping centre, which will be handy.

I made rissoles for tea, with salads.

Phoned all four offspring to let them know our whereabouts. V was at work, at Burswood Casino, where she looks after staff uniforms. I don’t think she ever envisaged doing such work!

The video machine seems to have lost its colour. It is only ten months old, so should still be under warranty. John says he will investigate having it repaired while we are here.

As we will not be moving on until next year, I tallied up the distance we have towed the van since we set off – 8220kms. Towing it has gotten easier, for sure.

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1998 Travels December 19

SATURDAY 19 DECEMBER   RUBYVALE TO ROMA   487kms

We were up at 5am and away at 6.15. We are getting good at this. It was not long after sunrise.

The early driving was pleasant, not too hot.

We stopped to take a photo at the Bottle shop/pub on the Tropic of Capricorn, between Rubyvale and Sapphire. So, today we officially leave the tropics again, after seven months. However, I suspect we will not notice much change, weather-wise.

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Leaving the tropics after seven months

We drove to Emerald, then turned south, going through Springsure, to Rolleston. There we turned south again, onto the Carnarvon Development Road. This took us through Injune and on to Roma.

The country from Springsure onwards, was interesting – dramatic hills around Springsure and then the Carnarvon Range was off to our right. We must return and explore these parts, sometime.

It became quite hot. We had a couple of drink and stretch breaks – at Rolleston and Injune.

We passed the turn off to Carnarvon Gorge National Park – another intended future destination, but not at this hot time of the year.

The roads south from Emerald were all sealed and quite good.

We reached Roma about 1pm. Got diesel – 70cpl.

Booked into the Villa Caravan Park for the night – $15. Did a quick set up, then had our sausage sandwich lunch. John then had a nap for a couple of hours.

Later in the afternoon, we walked into town – about a km – and had a look round. Being the weekend, all was rather quiet. Back at the park, I had a swim in their pool.

Tea was bacon and omelettes, and some of the yummy red grapes we’d bought at a roadside stall for $3 a kilo.

It was still hot at night.

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1998 Travels December 18

FRIDAY 18 DECEMBER     RUBYVALE

We were off out to Mt Leura again, at 6.30am. It was quite pleasant driving out there at this time of day. If one lived here, there would have to be a regimen of utilizing the cooler mornings, retreating in the heat of the day, and having early nights.

JJ and L told us we could go out to Katie’s Gully alone, as L had a bad night with a sore back and they would not be going out. I suspect the bad night – and morning – had more to do with the box of beer we gave them yesterday!

Anyway, it was good to be out there on our own, and we explored our hunches, digging up and bringing back four large and one small buckets of gravel for washing. Even though it was early, it was still hot work.

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Sapphire fossicker at work in Katie’s Gully – digging out a gravel layer

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Rough, dry, sieving the gravel to get rid of the dirt and large chunks of rock

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Is that an interesting bit?

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Thirsty work – pretty grotty too

Washed the gravel, back at JJ’s place. We got some small pieces of sapphire and one very big yellow and blue piece, bigger than my thumb nail. This generated much envy and disbelief from JJ, who confidently predicted it would cut beautifully and be worth thousands. Maybe $50,000! John was very pleased!

We said our farewells to the men – who we suspected might be heading out to Katie’s Gully in a hurry, to see where we had dug. Drove back to town and straight to J the cutter. She did not take long to pronounce that our big yellow chunk was too fractured to cut, or even polish. Well, it had given us lovely thoughts and feelings for an hour or so. We will certainly keep it as a little “treasure” – a piece of might-have-been.

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The chunk of parti-coloured sapphire we found

From the bits that we have found here, we did arrange for her to cut two stones for earrings, and set them, and one ring stone – a pale greeny one that she thinks will cut to nearly a carat, and set that too. So I will end up with some new jewellery from this stay – special pieces because of having found the stones ourselves. It will cost $270 for the cutting and setting. Good value, we think. When the work is done, she will mail them COD to a designated Post Office – and we will pay at the Post Office before collecting the goods.

We had a counter lunch at the pub, to console ourselves for the “loss”. We both had the seafood basket. It is a long way from the sea, here, but it was very nice.

Then we went and again admired the jewellery at the Rubyvale Gallery.

Back to the van and cool air and a nap for a couple of hours. All that temporary excitement was too much!

After that, although it was still hot, we packed up what we could. Sat outside watching the clouds build up and a most impressive lightning display.

John had sausages and bread for tea; I had some biscuits with tomato and cheese. Neither of us was very hungry, after the big lunch. The leftover cooked sausages will make a nice sandwich filling for tomorrow’s lunch.


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1998 Travels December 17

THURSDAY 17 DECEMBER     RUBYVALE

We left to go out to Mt Leura at 6.30am. Another early start to beat the heat.

The property is named for the nearby volcanic cone. It was the volcanic activity in the area that accounts for the formation of sapphire. It is pretty country out there.

JJ and L took us out to an area on the property called Katie’s Gully. We dug in a dry creek bed there and filled a half 44 gallon drum with rough screened gravel, and then took that back to the home area to wash and sieve. This saved having to cart water and more gear out there.

We were introduced to the Willoughby washing apparatus, which holds the sieve of gravel suspended in a half 44 gallon drum of water, and allows you to jiggle the sieve around to concentrate the heavier stones (hopefully with some of value) in the centre of the bottom of the sieve. That’s the theory anyway. It is much easier on the back than bending over and manhandling the sieve oneself.

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JTJ washing gravel – doing the final sieve

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John using the Willoughby to wash the gravel

We found a few little bits of sapphire and zircon.

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Picking over the sieved gravel looking for something of value

We were done by 10am and drove back to town.

John realized that he had forgotten my birthday, and got cross – with me, because it was somehow my fault!

The day grew very hot and we stayed in the air conditioned van for much of the afternoon.

However, I did do the washing when we got back from Mt Leura. It did not take long to dry.

We did venture out to go buy a box of beer to give to JJ, in appreciation of the effort he has gone to. He collected this from us, when he was in town, later in the day. He seemed very happy to receive the gift.

Walked the short distance to the Post Office at the front of the park. Our mail was in, containing bills, Xmas cards and some letters. I wrote cheques for the bills and got them ready to send. Read the cards and letters – it is great to start hearing from people.

Tea was chicken, bean shoots and cashew stir fry. It was very nice. We had a bottle of champagne that John bought at the same time as JJ’s beer. It was a belated birthday celebration.

It was a very hot, heavy, oppressive night and we kept the air con on all night, despite its noise. We have no neighbours to disturb and we were tired enough to sleep through it.


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1998 Travels December 16

WEDNESDAY 16 DECEMBER     RUBYVALE

It is my birthday today. John totally forgot about it.

We were up early, and left Rubyvale at 8.30am, to go bowl in Emerald – again! We played pairs and I played against John. We lost badly, but his pair won, so we got lunch vouchers – to be used at the club – for two. Had fish and chips, which were good.

It was very hot out on the green, even in the morning – much dripping of sweat. It is definitely getting hotter, by the day.

After lunch, did some oddments of shopping. Refuelled in Emerald – 65cpl.  Then drove back to Rubyvale. On the highway, close to Anakie, we had to pull right off the road for yet another two wide loads – two halves of a building. It really helps if one meets such things where there is a nice wide shoulder to the road!

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Exceedingly wide loads coming!

We drove 130kms today. Were very thankful for the air conditioning in Truck.

We did little for the rest of the day. It was too hot for activity. I did have a swim.

John had egg sandwiches for tea, I had leftover fish cakes.

I phoned K at night and he and P wished me a happy birthday and said they’d celebrate with some cake. At least, someone remembered.

I have had much better birthdays! Much, much better….


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1998 Travels December 15

TUESDAY 15 DECEMBER     RUBYVALE

We got a reasonably early start and drove out to the Washpool fossicking area. We had cobbled together some gear – using our outside camp table and stand, the portable stove stand, and one of our plastic storage containers. We kind of “borrowed” a screen that was sitting unused on a dug area – but returned it after use!

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We assumed this screening implement was left here to mark someone’s spot

At Washpool, we found a honeycomb of holes and diggings and tracks. There were some shacks and camps on claims out there too.

We dug and sieved as we went, rather than stockpiling a big heap. Used the big washup bowl for sieving in. Had taken a container of water out with us. Found a fat nothing.

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Washing the finer gravel at the Washpool Fossicking Area

It was impossible for us novices to tell whether we were going over previously dug ground, or even looking where there was a chance of finding anything. It all looks the same! The recent rains have stimulated grass growth, which masks a lot.

We drove back to the van for lunch, then went out again. Still no luck. The only gain from the day was some exercise! It was exceedingly hot work, too.

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Very makeshift gear. Very hot work. Very unproductive work.

That evening, the park owner told us to spend no more than one hour in one place, if nothing was found. Wish we’d known that this morning.

I made fish cakes for tea.


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1998 Travels December 14

MONDAY 14 DECEMBER     RUBYVALE

We got up early and got out to Mt Leura about 8.30am. Due to the heat, it makes sense to get an early start.

We went “specking” with JJ and his mate L, who lives in another cottage on the property.

We found a couple of bits of sapphire at their specking place. Then we followed them while they drove to explore another area. It was not promising at all, but it was interesting country. We found some lovely orchids growing there.

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Orchid found at Mt Leura

Where we stopped to open a gate, saw a Bustard – it just stood still with its beak in the air, looking very aristocratic. It is a large bird, as big as a goose. Early settlers called it the Plains Turkey, which was a clue as to how they used it!

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Mount Leura – volcanic in origin

Back at the cottages, we chatted with JJ for a while, then went back to the van for lunch.

In the afternoon, walked around the town, especially looking (again) at the jewellery at Old Mick’s shop and at the Rubyvale Gallery, which had absolutely beautiful pieces. There was really high quality settings and presentation there. Some single cut stones on display were large and unusual. One orange sapphire was priced at $90,000. I knew, from the earlier experiences of friends who had been up here, that sapphires come in a range of colours, but was surprised at the depth of colour in the orange one.

We then walked up Bedford Hill Road, and around much of the town, in a big circuit. John was really interested in the machinery on the claims we passed, the dwellings that were cobbled together on the claims, and the general set-ups in this area of many claims. Up on Bedford Hill most of the mines are shafts that go down maybe twenty metres – well outside the realm of the casual fossicker!

Building regulations must be pretty non-existent in these parts.

We gather that there are a lot of miners and fossickers here, who exist on pensions and live in the shacks and shanties built on claims. Just making do as they can. I suspect that, quite often, their finds are sold in unofficial circles, for whatever they can get. Everyone seems to know everyone in Rubyvale. As less than 700 people live here, that is not surprising.

Part of the township is called the Town Common – and it actually has cattle wandering about.

Our walk was a long one!

Tea was cold roast lamb with salads.


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1998 Travels December 13

SUNDAY 13 DECEMBER     RUBYVALE

We had to get up early, in order to be at bowls in Emerald for their 9.30am start. They play in the mornings, so as to avoid the heat later in the day. We miscalculated – it was further to Emerald than we’d thought, somehow – and had to really hurry. But they were late starting, anyway.

It actually seems a bit short sighted, to be heading back in to Emerald, just after moving out to Rubyvale – but never let common sense get in the way of a bowls game!

We were both happy with the games we played. My team drew its game. John’s team came in second, and he won an electrical power board – a practical prize. It was sweaty work, playing.

When we got back to camp, found that JJ had called in here during the morning and left a message to go out to his place tomorrow morning.  Good!

John watched cricket on TV through the afternoon. I read the Sunday paper I’d bought in Emerald.

Later in the afternoon, as it began to cool down, we went for a bike ride – out the Capella road, to the north east. That is the road that runs behind our site. It was a pleasant ride on a gravel road, with very little traffic. The claims, houses and shacks do not extend very far out that road. Rode out for just over 5.5kms, then turned and came back. Did 11.2kms altogether.

Tea was cold roast lamb, with salads.

I phoned K and asked him to send the mail express to here.


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1998 Travels December 12

SATURDAY 12 DECEMBER   LAKE MARABOON TO RUBYVALE   88kms

We did not have to get an excessively early start today, since we are not going far.

We had the usual straightforward pack up and uneventful hitch up and departure. Stopped off in Emerald, where we posted the insurance renewal for our rental unit, bought a paper and then visited the book exchange for a big buy up.

Thus well equipped, the run to Rubyvale was easy.

We set up in the Rubyvale Caravan Park, for $70 a week. The owner was very friendly and helpful. He is a similar age to us, has a sapphire mine, and a replaced hip. His wife runs the Post Office that is at the front of the caravan park.

We set up on a site on the side fence, with a road behind us, but with shade. The amenities block is pretty basic, but clean. There is a small swimming pool – good! It seems a pleasant place. There is one permanent dweller, and we are the only tourists in – so it is going to be very quiet. The park is across the road from the hotel, and it is an easy walk to the shops.

After setting up, we rode the bikes out of town to where a jewellery sale was advertised in flyers we’d seen pinned up. There were a couple of interesting looking items, but we did not buy anything. Saw many houses and shacks for sale, some on claims. Rode 5.4kms in total, which was quite enough in the heat.

There was no sign of JJ, who was supposed to look us up here, this afternoon.

I had a swim – the pool is quite adequate for cooling off in and a bit of exercise.

There was a cooler breeze in the evening, which was pleasant. We could hear lots of fruit bats squabbling in the trees around the park.

Tea was roast lamb and vegies. Probably not a great choice, in view of the weather, but nice.

Today, it was really hot in Melbourne and Adelaide – in the 40’s. Cyclone Thelma, which went very close to Darwin, as a Category 5 cyclone, a few days ago, is finally exhausting itself inland from Derby. It was a nasty one and really battered the Tiwi Islands. It has been responsible for some massive rain falls up north.

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