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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.