After last night, it seemed a good idea to stay here another night and take it easy today.
I felt, predictably, tired and lethargic, all day, and nibbled very cautiously on dry toast and milk arrowroot biscuits, occasionally.
I did our washing – three loads of same, including the bedding and towels. $12 worth. My old former peanut butter jar containing lots of $1 and $2 coins is for these occasions. It was a good drying day, with a warm breeze.
In the afternoon, we drove into the town. The office lady had directed me to a Vet’s, where I was finally able to buy Advantix. Then did a supermarket shop, not that I could find much enthusiasm for meal planning!
We found a very large, grassy park where Couey was able to have a prolonged ball fetching workout. Later in the day she also got in a couple of circuits around the caravan park. She seems quite content to trot around places like these on the lead.
I remade the beds and folded the washing, then read and checked my email.
John had agreed that we would give Cooktown and that area a miss, and instead head for the coast, to a place we stayed in 2009. I phoned the Forrest Beach Hotel and booked us into the caravan park there, for at least two weeks.
I put the first lot of Advantix on Couey – better late than never. It had to be put on between her shoulder blades, where she can’t reach to lick it off, then spotted down her backbone. It made oily patches, of course. Naturally, she then chose to do a lot of rolling in the dustiest places on the site.
For tea, we had a container of pumpkin soup I’d bought at Woolworths. It was very bland and flavourless, but that was probably good, in the circumstances. John also had some skinless franks. He said they weren’t as nice as the ones we eat at home; later, I realized the ones sold at the deli counter in Qld were a different brand to the Don ones in Vic.
Dog had decided that life from the perspective of a seat was much more interesting than that from floor level. It may have also had something to do with our meals appearing on the table. Whilst we had a strict policy that dog did not eat human food (with the exception of her morning half banana), she could still dream.
There was much media speculation today over what the Prime Minister would do about the next federal election date. Kevin Rudd ousted Julia Gillard as party leader, and hence PM, a month or so ago. The media are suggesting that it may be earlier than the 14 September date that Gillard had set – for which I was supposed to be home and working as an official. I was not going to fret about it – if I am home, will work it, but not going to cut the holiday short to do so.
Today was the longest day stage we’d done, to date, in Bus, and it was quite easy and uneventful. However, that is back to the long-day style of travel that we used to do with the van, and I didn’t want that to become a pattern again. John was just not good at dawdling and smelling roses!
We left Capella at 8.40, knowing today would be a long stage.
This was yet another road we’d travelled several times before.
Around Clermont was evidence of the massive coal mining operations of this region: huge overburden heaps, the mining service businesses in Clermont itself, a conveyor belt system beside the road for kms, and occasional glimpses of mines in the distance.
At Belyando Crossing we stopped for fuel and a break, and ate our packed lunch standing around outside Bus. As usual, the roadhouse was busy – and expensive. We paid $1.846cpl a litre for diesel.
I drove, from Belyando to the outskirts of Charters Towers, when John wanted to take over again.
I came to a roadworks section where new asphalt was being laid on one half of the road. Nothing new in that. But our line of traffic was “escorted” along the single open lane by a traffic control vehicle with an electronic signboard and read “FOLLOW ME”. He led us for the several kms of the affected road, then turned off, performed a u-turn and commenced to lead the waiting line of traffic back the other way. I hadn’t seen one of those before and wondered why they used that instead of the usual people with radios. I would tell my traffic management company manager son about it. I didn’t think his company had one of those!
We reached Charters Towers in good time. Didn’t need fuel. We had been caught before by me trying to navigate through the hard-to-negotiate centre of town, so I directed us on the ring road around the edge of town, to the Flinders Highway, then back towards town to the Greenvale Road, where the Dalrymple Tourist Park was located. It was much less stressful to go the long way round.
I had phoned yesterday, to try to book an en-suite site, but they had none available. We were put on a very long site at the side of the park, not far from the amenities – fortunately, as it turned out – and with plenty of tether space for dog. It cost $31.25 for the night, after a 5% Seniors discount was applied.
After setting up, John was straight onto the internet and gaming.
I wanted to take Couey for a walk along the wide, grassy verges alongside the road back into town. Something spooked her, though and we’d only gone about 100 metres from the park when she became determined to return to Bus and John. I managed to drag her a short way further – all 30kg of resistant dog – then she resorted to her ultimate no-go act, rolling onto her back with all legs in the air. So back we went. Later on, John came too and we managed a short walk outside the park.
I cooked pasta carbonara for tea.
By bedtime, I was feeling a bit off-colour. By midnight, I was haunting the amenities! This sort of upset was most unusual for me and I couldn’t work out why, as John was fine. After a couple of miserable and chilly hours, I returned to Bus and sat sipping dry ginger ale and using my headlamp to read, as a distraction, until about 3am, when I felt confident enough to go back to bed.
FRIDAY 21 AUGUST FORREST BEACH TO CHARTERS TOWERS 270kms
We were up at 6am, courtesy of a very loud kookaburra, right by the van. It was a more pleasant way to wake up than via the alarm clock.
Did a steady pack up. John checked the tyres, all round. He took his photo album of all the furniture he’d made, to show N. We were invited by N and her family to go round and visit them if we were back this way, next year.
At this stage, our thinking was that next year’s trip would bring us back to North Queensland. We still wanted to go back to Cooktown and Cairns, and there were some lovely coastal places to stay between Townsville and the Daintree.
Had a brief stop in Ingham, for me to return library books, and left there just after 9am.
Proceeded mostly uneventfully southwards – the familiar route! For the last 30kms or so before the highway became multi-lane, north of Townsville, we were caught in a tail back behind a SA registered Supreme van. He was another of those whose speed varied greatly, according to whether there was any chance that someone might be able to pass him. He ended up with about thirty vehicles behind him, including some trucks. Moron!
We would miss the sugar country, with all its interesting harvest activity, and the green-ness of it.
The new Ring Road around Townsville made that section easy.
The climb up the Dividing Range from Townsville is the easy way to reach the inland. For much of the way the gradient is so gentle that the railway runs close to the highway.( Railways can only manage gentle gradients.)
We stopped at Macrossan, by the bridges over the Burdekin River, for lunch – which I’d packed this morning – and a bit of a walk around.
The old and new railway bridges were close to each other and high above the river. The impressive old structure was built in 1899 and designed to be above the highest flood level recorded to that time. The fact that it is so high above the river bed level, showed what huge floods this river has.
The advent of new, heavier diesel engines created the need for a new bridge, which was built right next to the old one in the 1960’s.
On the western side of the road bridge across the Burdekin was the flood marker – unique in the levels it showed.
Standing by the marker made us feel awed enough, by the water levels that reached well above where we were. But the marker itself stands some 13.4 metres above the bed of the Burdekin River – now that makes those floods truly awesome. I couldn’t begin to imagine how much water goes down that river in flood times.
The floods earlier this year reached 20.75 metres on this marker, a metre below the record flood level of 1946.
Refuelled on the way in to Charters Towers, then went on to the Dalrymple Tourist Park, where our powered site, after Seniors discount, cost $25.65. The site was partly shaded, and we were able to stay hitched up.
We were setting up by 1.30pm, after which John had a nap.
I defrosted the fridge again. The heat and humidity we’d had at Forrest Beach seemed to make it ice up faster than usual. At least, I hoped that was the reason.
The amenities block here was spotless, sparkling clean and modern – much appreciated after what we’d had for the last month!
It was hot – around 30 degrees in Charters Towers today. It was forecast to be warmer over the next two or three days. There was news of bushfires in the Brisbane area.
We had apostle birds around our camp – now we knew we were inland again……
Tea was threadfin salmon from the freezebox, in beer batter, with fries.
I was woken too early, by the coughing of our smoker neighbour – outside his van again, right by our window. He didn’t just sit inside his annexe, but out the front of it – right in line with our side vents. So, even closed and zipped up, the smell of smoke still permeated our van. Even John got up earlier than usual.
After breakfast, John checked the van brakes, jacking up first one side then the other, and taped up a loose wire.
I sent emails and downloaded share price data. I was trying to keep on top of the little bit of share trading I did, whilst on the road.
John phoned a brake service establishment in Townsville and booked Truck in for Monday.
I phoned and booked us into The Lakes Caravan Park, for ten days. That should give enough time for Truck repairs – and two weekends for John to bowl!
After lunch, refuelled Truck, then went for a drive out to the Burdekin Weir. There was still quite a bit of water coming over it – this area flooded earlier in the year.
Then back into town, to the Visitor Centre, where I collected some pamphlets and brochures – mostly relating to Townsville. Due to our earlier plans involving going straight north to Cooktown and FNQ, I didn’t have much in the way of Townsville material with me.
Even though we had spent time in Charters Towers before, it was worth looking at some features again. We walked through the beautiful old Stock Exchange building, and down the main street, with its superb old buildings that dated from the gold rush days of the late 1800’s. There was an interesting display of old photos in a shop window, and information on flood heights, which can be fearsome in these parts. The 2009 flood, earlier this year, out at the measuring post at the Macrossan Bridge, on the Burdekin River, was the second highest on record – huge.
We browsed for a while in an antique/junk shop which had some good items, but they were not cheap, so any temptation was resisted.
We were walking back towards where Truck was parked, when there was really loud, attention-getting coughing behind us. Turned – and it was John’s nephew M and his wife H, who had been shopping and spotted us just ahead of them. It was not a surprise to them, as they had been waiting in the check-in line at the caravan park, as we drove out, earlier, and recognized Truck. Over the years, we had a history of meeting up unexpectedly and totally unplanned, in distant locations. Cairns, Mallacoota, Hobart, Litchfield. A couple of times, we had properly attempted to arrange to meet up and travel for a while in tandem, but this had never eventuated – something unforeseen always intervened. Pity as they were the rare people we would have enjoyed a not-too-long period of travel with. But we did a pretty good job at unplanned crossing of paths.
Back at the park, we all had happy hour at their van, then they came to our van to cook their sausage tea and we all ate together. They were heading for Cairns. We tried to persuade them to come to Townsville for a few days – we always really enjoyed their company – but they were not to be budged. There were vague statements that we might manage to meet up again, later, in Cairns or Cooktown.
It was a very pleasant catch-up, going on into the evening – although one of us did have rather too much wine.
The night was very chilly – I needed to fish out my woolly bedsocks!
WEDNESDAY 10 JUNE EMERALD TO CHARTERS TOWERS 480kms
I felt much better this morning, for no logical reason except time passing.
Despite not having done a pre-pack up yesterday, we were away by 8.15am. We needed an early start today. One benefit of the early morning park noise.
Took the Gregory Highway, northwards. Further on, out beyond Clermont, this became the Gregory Development Road, meaning it changed from a normal road wide enough for cars to comfortably pass side by side, to a much narrower one, where meeting oncoming traffic usually meant at least one of the vehicles had to move partly onto the road shoulder. Rough edges on the sealed part could present problems when doing this. Any sort of oncoming vehicle that was wider than normal could present even bigger problems, as one looked frantically for somewhere to pull over that wouldn’t wreck, roll or bog our rig. A major benefit of having the CB radio in Truck was that, tuned to Channel 40, the chatter of escort vehicles gave us good advance warning of that sort of oncoming hassle. However, road trains didn’t have escorts and one just hoped to see them coming a long way off.
The scenery of the Peak Downs district, north of Emerald, is very distinctive and different. The peaks to the east of the highway, in the distance, were pointy and quite dramatic – it was a former volcanic zone. Here, in elderly times, the Earth surface plate that carries Australia, moved very slowly over a “hot spot” way deep below, melting some of the plate and allowing eruption of the molten lava from below. Because of the plate movement, a chain of eruptions resulted. Subsequent erosion has done the rest.
On a future visit to these parts, we thought, we should try to explore some of the Peak Range National Park, maybe from a base at Capella or Clermont.
That earlier volcanic activity has resulted in some rich soils in parts of the area around Emerald, and with irrigation water available, we were passing through some productive farmland.
We stopped for fuel at Clermont. Coal mining dominated here, and north of Clermont we passed the waste dumps. Running alongside the road, for kilometres, was the conveyor belt that carries coal from one huge open cut to the rail loading facilities at another huge mine a few kms further north. From here, the coal is railed to Gladstone port. The intrusion of all this industrial activity seemed extra ugly in the open countryside.
Once past that section, the surrounds were basically dry woodland mixed with dry grasslands. It suddenly seemed a much drier area than further south. It became rather monotonous.
We stopped at Belyando Crossing Roadhouse, to top up fuel, eat our lunch and buy some cold drinks to have with it. In 1998, I took a photo here of our rig, parked beside a three trailer road train, dwarfed by it. I used that photo on the cover of one of my annual family Xmas present calendars, that feature our travels. Now, the area in front of the roadhouse seemed more bare, and the big gum tree that had featured also in the photo, had gone. With more travellers using the Gregory Developmental Road, now that much more of it had been partly turned into a good, two lane road, perhaps the roadhouse had needed more parking space. After all, it was the only one for 370kms.
About 90kms north of Belyando, John was getting sleepy. I’d been reading to him for a while, from a Len Beadell book, as we were out of any radio range. Talking about what I was reading helped to keep him focussed.
We stopped at the open area on the north side of the Cape River low level bridge crossing. This was a popular free camp area for travellers. It was also a safe place for trucks to pull in for a break, so it could be noisy at night. John had a nanna nap in the van. I wandered around, chatting with others stopped there. Some of them had been in Belyando at the same time as us. Some of them were trying to work out where they would stay tonight – what was the best cheap place near Charters Towers.
John woke after half an hour, much refreshed. On previous trips, if he got sleepy and I still felt fresh, he would nap in the passenger’s seat whilst I drove on. But when I’d suggested we swap drivers, when he was getting tired, he’d refused, saying he wouldn’t let me drive, because of the state of the brakes! This was ridiculous! If they were that much of a problem, then – in my view – we absolutely had to deviate to Townsville – instead of continuing north from Charters Towers – and stay there until we got the issue finally sorted. It would be silly to continue towards Cooktown – our goal – and get into the winding, hilly sections of the Atherton Tablelands, if the brakes were too unreliable for me to drive with! John was still of two minds about it all.
It seemed that incompetent, unreliable mechanic, back home, had cost us more than wasted money! Now it was going to be more of our precious time – and more money!
I had phoned the Dalrymple Tourist Park in Charters Towers, yesterday, and booked us into an en-suite site for a couple of nights. I made what I later decided was a tactical error – navigating from a paper map – and my route took us right through the centre of town. Was not the easiest, with van on the back, and driver was not all that happy. We hadn’t been to this Park before and all I knew was that it was on the road north. When I booked, that was the way we were going. Anyway, we got there, through all the school time traffic!
With a 5% discount for our Seniors’ Card, it cost us $66.50 for the two nights. I was happy with the value, because it was a nice park, and the ensuite was very good. But the lady on Reception was new, flustered and not very efficient. She forgot to take my key deposit, and then didn’t give me the ensuite key, which I had to walk back for, when I realized it wasn’t in the door.
After setting up, John decided he wanted to walk to the bowls club, a few blocks away – he was considering the options, from here, and wanted to research the local bowls scene. However, there was no one at the club to give him any information. But the walk – probably a couple of kms – was pleasant enough and I really enjoyed the exercise after the long day of travel.
I made coleslaw and cut up the leftover cold pork, for tea.
After thinking about it over tea, John decided we would go to Townsville and get the brakes worked on – good!
TV until about 10pm, then bed. The forecast was for really cold nights, even in Townsville. I felt like we had brought winter with us.
Our nearest neighbour here was a really heavy smoker. I had to close all the van windows on that side, and zip up the flap in the poptop canvas. But the smell still permeated into the van. His annexe was really close, and he seemed to spend most of his time there, sitting and smoking – and coughing all the time! Oh well, mostly our caravan park experiences had been positive ones. This was just an unfortunate negative in an otherwise nice place.
SATURDAY 28 NOVEMEBER GREENVALE TO CHARTERS TOWERS 220kms
We were up early and away by 8am. Still being hitched up made departure much quicker. We refuelled in Greenvale – 76cpl.
The road was mostly the single width strip again.
There were a few drops of rain as we left Greenvale, but apart from that it was dry – and hot.
The country we drove through today was more interesting than that of yesterday – there were some more hills and low ranges appearing. The road ran almost parallel to the coastal range. There was really green grass, a couple of feet tall. Most of the creek channels had some water in them. It is good to see the country at this time of the year, when it is going green.
Reached Charters Towers – the size of which rather surprised me – just before 11am. Went straight to the Post Office in the centre of town, but it was closed. Could tell by just driving past, so did not have to worry about trying to park the rig. John then got me to navigate him to the Bowls Club, so he could check that out. There were no games happening there, as we drove past.
Went into the Charters Towers Caravan Park, on the southern outskirts of town. In order to get a spot with some shade, we had to take an en-suite site, but it was only an extra $2 a night, at $16 a night, with the seventh night free, so we booked in for a week. Our site is quite pleasant and it is a little luxury to have our own adjacent bathroom.
It was pretty hot, setting up in the middle of the day – mid 30’s, and there were stinging midgy type things about.
After set up, we drove back to the centre of town and bought the papers. John checked out the RSL Bowls Club and booked us in for a game tomorrow.
After lunch, I had a swim in the pool – pleasant.
We put the air-con on in the van – lovely and cool.
When it started to get cooler outside – about 5pm – we went for a walk for a couple of kms around the nearby streets. Being on the outskirts, the area is a bit of a mixture of older and newer houses, vacant land, some light industrial type uses.
Charters Towers looks to be a really interesting town. We have passed a huge cemetery. Perhaps that reflects, in part, the privations of its early days as a mining town. Gold was found here in the 1870’s and there is still some mining today. Charters Towers was, for a while, the second largest town in Queensland – only Brisbane was bigger. There is evidence of this in the scale and grandeur of some of the buildings in the city centre. We only glimpsed these, driving through, but they look very impressively upkept or restored.
Had our Friday fish and chip dinner a day late.
It stayed hot through the night and was not a very comfortable night for sleeping.