This Adventurous Age

Adventures travelling and working around Australia.

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2013 Travels July 23


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.

Coal mine overburden dump beside the highway near Clermont

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.

Long conveyor belt taking coal to trains
Coal conveyor crossing a road

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.

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2009 Travels August 22


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.

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2009 Travels June 10


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.

Coal conveyor belt, north of Clermont

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.

Gregory Developmental Road

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.

Cape River stopping area; Gregory Developmental Road at right

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.

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1998 Travels December 5


We were up at 6.15am and away at 8.10, after a good, uneventful pack up.

It was a hot day, of course.

We found it a rather monotonous drive south to Emerald. From Charters Towers, as far south as the Cape River – about 125kms – the road was mostly just a one width strip of bitumen; after that it was a normal two lane road and was pretty good. There were a couple of long stretches of road works on the single width sections.

We wonder whether weekends are THE days for moving extra-big loads? Had to pull over – right over – for five different lots, all with police escorts front and rear. Two lots had big dredges or machine buckets; one was a big shed or building; two were big machines, with huge double sets of wheels hanging over the edges of the tray of the carrying vehicle. They were monster loads.

12-05-1998 wide load south of belyando.jpg

It is a good thing that the road has wide shoulders – south of Belyando Crossing

The country was a mix of scrub and grazing lands, but was pleasantly green.

We stopped at Belyando Crossing for a drinks break. Truck finished up parked by a big stock road train that came in after us, which dwarfed our rig. We worked out that the road train had 62 wheels. Would cost a lot to get new tyres on that!

12-05-1998 belyando crossing.jpg

Our rig is dwarfed by a road train at Belyando Crossing

There was a big coal mine – Blair Athol – just north of Clermont.

We did not deviate to drive into Clermont township, which is slightly off the main road. We had originally thought of overnighting there, but John was feeling able to push on to Emerald.

We had lunch at a roadworks site, south of Clermont.

The Peak Range in the distance, to the east, made the last 100kms or so, more interesting to travel. Closer to Emerald, we came into farming country which was quite lush.

We bought fuel in Emerald – 75cpl. It is hard to account for the variations in fuel prices that we are encountering.

Then drove on out to Lake Maraboon Caravan Park, by the Fairburn Dam, some 20kms south of Emerald. We had decided that this sounded a more pleasant place to stay than in the town.

The Fairburn Dam was built across the Nogoa River for irrigation and forms the second largest dam in Qld, after Lake Dalrymple on the Burdekin. We drove over the dam wall and spillway to get to the caravan park. The road over the dam wall was not all that wide and it is definitely not the sort of feature I like driving over! We got good views, though.

The caravan park looked ok, so we booked in for a week. It cost $81 after Top Tourist discount and we get a free night. Pretty good deal, we thought. The place turned out to be rather busy and noisy today, though, with a large group out here for a Xmas party – with many children. There is some sort of cafe place attached to the park that obviously caters for such things. There were also motor boats and water skiers down the hill at the lake. But, we have a pleasant site. Hopefully, things will quieten down after the weekend.

There are lots of rainbow lorikeets and apostle birds around the park.

After we got set up, went for a walk along part of the lake side, where there was a path. We needed some exercise after the day of sitting.

Tea was vegie stir fry with hokkien noodles.