This Adventurous Age

Adventures travelling and working around Australia.


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2013 Travels July 22

MONDAY 22 JULY     BARCALDINE TO CAPELLA     371kms

We left Barcaldine at 9.30, on a day that was cloudy.

The Capricorn Highway, east, was good quality, without the lumps and bumps of the past few legs.

Today’s travel was varied enough to stay interesting throughout.

We did not stop in Jericho, as we had done so on a previous trip. A little patch of Biblical references here, with the town located by the Jordan (Creek), and Lake Galilee to the north. The Crystal Trumpeters monument was Jericho’s Bicentennial project, representing symbolically the story of the ancient Israelites and Jericho. It is an interesting departure from the usual local monuments one sees.

As we passed through Alpha, commented that this was where, on the 2009 trip, we turned south to take the shorter dirt route to Tambo – a somewhat eventful short cut.

East of Alpha, the Drummond Range involved some steeper, more winding road, and distant views.

Drummond Range gradient warning sign

One section is a gradient of 7%; much more comfortable to negotiate with Bus and its exhaust brake, than it was with the van!

We stopped for a break at the quaintly named hamlet of Bogantungan. These days, this is almost a ghost village, being bypassed by the modern highway. Hard to believe it was one a flourishing railway town. The railway is still used, but I doubted  whether trains ever stopped  here, these days. In 1960 there was a major rail accident near here, when a bridge across a flooded creek collapsed as a passenger train was passing over. Seven people were killed and lots more injured.

The area where we stopped, outside the station, was obviously used by overnight campers. It was spacious enough, and there was a toilet at the station.

Rest area at Bogantungan

We had coffees and the dog had a run.

On the way again, we passed the turnoff to the Willows gemfield, 11kms south of the highway. I’d have liked to go and stay there for a few days – a place we had not been to before – but John was now focussed on getting further north.

Took the turnoff to Rubyvale, as a shorter route through to Capella.

The little settlements of Sapphire and Rubyvale were busier than I’d ever seen them on our prior visits. It seemed the Gemfields had really grown in popularity as a tourist attraction. Places offering gems for sale, cutting services, buckets of wash to be sifted and sorted on site, had proliferated greatly. The caravan park at Rubyvale looked to be crammed full.

Gem mining area near Rubyvale

Between Sapphire and Rubyvale we crossed the Tropic of Capricorn, marked by a large bottle shop and bar. Back in the tropics, at last!

The road from Rubyvale to Capella was sealed all the way. It wound about a bit, initially. As we did not need to go via Emerald, to stay or for shopping, this was a much more interesting, and shorter, way to go.

At Capella, our first task was to refuel. The road we came on ended at a T intersection in the centre of town. We had a 50% chance of turning the right way to find a servo, but, naturally, got it wrong. As we neared the town outskirts, passed a breath testing station set up on the other side of the road. Then we had to do a u-ey, and go back the way we’d come, but were not pulled in for testing. A note for the future: the servo at Capella is on the north side of town. So is the caravan park.

Our fuel was $1.615cpl.

Booked into the Capella Van Park, where our powered site cost $29. The young owners of this park had clearly been trying very hard to establish the park’s reputation – and were succeeding. The place was clean and attractive, with great facilities like a camp kitchen and gathering place.

We were guided to a site where we were able to drive through onto it and leave the car attached to Bus.

Capella site

Did a minimal set up, then pondered things to do for the rest of the day.

John was able to borrow a grease gun from the very helpful park owner, and applied same to the grease points on the hitch. I don’t know if that made much difference to the operation of the hitch, but it did ensure that, for the rest of the trip, our hands got greased every time we went near the hitch!

Took dog and went for a walk around town. Down one side of the main street – the highway – looking at the shops. A hairdressing establishment had no customers, so John went in to see if he could get a much-needed haircut. The lass said no, as she was about to close. It was just after 4pm. She couldn’t need business too badly – it would only take a few minutes to run clippers over John’s hair. It was usually my task, so I knew this. John had left the clippers at home. He hadn’t actually had a hair cut he’d had to pay for since about 1993.

The other side of the highway had a walking path and type of small park, then there were railway lines and a station, with grain silos beyond that. A very long train was stopping and starting as it loaded grain; we watched that for a while, then watched it shunting and changing lines. Strangely interesting!

A feature along the walkway was a memorial to the Light Horse Brigade. Apparently, it was in the Capella district, during the Shearers’ Strikes of the 1890’s, that mounted troopers started putting emu feather plumes on their hats. When the Light Horse Brigade was later formed, the tradition continued.

Light Horse Memorial at Capella

For tea, I cooked the sausages I’d bought at the butcher in Charleville. They’d looked nice, but turned out to be extremely fatty and not at all enjoyable. But the potato fries and egg were good.

John spent the evening playing WOW. I decided he was officially an addict to the game. I read and had the usual early night.


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2009 Travels August 22

SATURDAY 22 AUGUST     CHARTERS TOWERS TO RUBYVALE     500kms

We were up before 7am, but didn’t rush to get away. because I wanted to get the Weekend Australian from the office, and it wouldn’t be in till at least 7.30. We were away at 7.45.

Charters Towers was quiet at that time of the morning, so it was easy to wind our way through the centre of town.

It was good that the road south was now a decent width, all the way. But quite a bit of the older surface was very “lumpy”. It made for much rocking of the rig, especially where they had  widened the old road by simply adding a strip on the side. There was now a groove along that. I didn’t remember it as quite that bad when we’d gone north, but it certainly was not great, going south.

Stopped at Belyando Roadhouse for smoko. There was a large, wide load stopped there, going north. What a good place to meet it!

Pleased we met this here and not on the road

The day grew hot – up into the 30’s.

Stopped again at Clermont to get fuel, and have lunch. We ate this walking around the surrounds of the servo, mostly looking across a big dam, where there were a couple of hundred plumed whistling ducks, plus shags, egrets, herons and the like. I love the sounds the whistling ducks make. They are a pretty duck, too.

The drive from Charters Towers to Clermont had been pretty dull, country wise. Dry, but still a bit of water in most creeks.

While we were parked at Clermont, another wide load went passed, travelling north. Again, we’d been fortunate in our timing. Increased mining activity further north had meant encounters like this were much more common than when we first started travelling. I guess transport technology had changed too, and now trucks were bigger and could take such loads.

From Clermont to Capella, there was more interest, because we could see the Peaks in the distance.

As we drove south from Clermont, made the decision to go to Rubyvale for a couple of nights. It was a place we’d enjoyed on previous visits, and we had a couple of “spare” days. We hadn’t been there since 2000, so it would be interesting to see if much had changed.

From Capella, took the “back” way to Rubyvale. This was quite a good, sealed road, with a few twists and turns and low culverts over creeks. It mightn’t be quite so good after prolonged rains! It was interesting, being new to us, and much shorter than going via Emerald.

The Rubyvale Caravan Park was packed! As we came round the corner and saw it, I had a sinking feeling that we wouldn’t get in. Didn’t have a Plan B. We got the second last site, so there was not much choice. But it was alright – we were backed against a rock wall, so no neighbours behind us. Just on both sides – and very close. We did have a slab, not that this was vital in such dry weather.

The cost was $20 per night. As we were going through the booking in formalities, John told the man we’d stay three nights – news to me! But I was sure we would find things to do.

We were told that the previous owner, who we’d gotten to know a bit, previously, had sold the park and attached post office, six years before, and retired out to his “Castle” (Folly!), which still did not have any general public road access. Although the land where the Castle stood was a perpetual lease, someone had stuffed up when that was originally issued, and no right of way access had been part of it. Although E had been able to use an easement for his own access, the general public couldn’t and the owners of the surrounding station land refused to allow access across their land. So his plans for motel/backpacker units, out there, that he’d told us about in 2000, still had not come to fruition. Pity, because the place was unusual and interesting.

The Castle (taken in 2000)
The interior court yard and (leaking) pool of the Castle

The new park owner had certainly improved things. The park was cleaner, neater, more landscaped. The pool still worked, but was a bit too small to tempt me in, when so many others had used it. He said they had been packed out like this since Easter – that was a definite change from our previous visits. It had become a very good little business then. They had sold off the Post Office part of it, to concentrate on the caravan park.

As before, there were lots of rainbow lorikeets and apostle birds around the park.

We set up, then spent time inside, with the air-con on.

Texted our location to daughter, who replied that it was raining in Bendigo.

A hippie type Coaster bus came in on the last site, next to us. An older woman and a teenage girl, who proceeded to set up a tent, right under our side windows. The older woman smoked, too, so we had to keep the windows on that side closed, which meant we were not inclined to turn off the air-con, which we might otherwise have done, out of consideration for them. I wondered if we would ever get to the point of having no-smoking caravan parks?

Tea was teriyaki marinated steak, mushrooms, beans. The meat was really delicious.

Watched a bit of TV, but were in bed by 10pm, after two tiring days.