This Adventurous Age

Adventures travelling and working around Australia.


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2009 Travels August 21

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.

Goodbye to green cane fields and the backdrop of the mountains

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.

Burdekin River bridges at Macrossan

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.

Old bridge in front, piers of new bridge evident behind it

On the western side of the road bridge across the Burdekin was the flood marker – unique in the levels it showed.

The railway bridge in the background

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.

……and they left room at the top for a new record!

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.


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2009 Travels July 20 to 23

MONDAY 20 TO THURSDAY 23 JULY     TOWNSVILLE

John had to be at the Land Rover man at 9am.

It was a cloudy day, with a strong breeze. I wondered if it would rain. Took a chance, anyway, and washed the bedding, then sent some emails.

John was back before too long. The man didn’t have the part Truck was found to need, but would have it in tomorrow.

Townsville was so well served, compared to many other places we’d been. The old saying that we got used to, during our time in the NT, came to mind  – the NT: not today, not tomorrow, not Tuesday, not Thursday, next train, next truck…..very true it was too.

After lunch, drove to the Aitkenvale shops, where I’d discovered there was a bowls shop. There was also a sewing supplies shop nearby, which provided me with good browsing, whilst John was making decisions in the bowls shop. Not that I had any ulterior motive for directing him to this one…..

I bought some threads for my Hardanger sewing. John ordered himself a set of bowls. Not a cheap exercise! He wanted them colour yellow, so they had to be freighted up and should arrive on Thursday or Friday. I decided that, when he was picking them up, I would go back to the sewing shop and indulge some more, having shown great restraint today.

John’s thinking was that yellow bowls would make it easy for him to see where his efforts were, from the other end of the green. I had two thoughts – neither of which I shared with him: that they would be an easy target, and, the way he’d been bowling lately, they could stand out as an embarrassment. Sometimes, I really did need to censor myself!

We had a quick look at merchandise in the Rivers clearance centre, but were not tempted.

John went to the bank and withdrew $500 cash to pay for Truck repairs. There was a big dent in the bank account, after today.

I extended our stay here, for Thursday night. Cost $31.50.

Cooked the continental sausages bought on Saturday, for tea, with mashed potato, bacon and eggs. Later, they gave me fearsome indigestion.

TUESDAY : John was off to the Land Rover man for 9am.

It was another cloudy but windy day. I did our clothes washing, and sewed some quilt blocks.

Our other Townsville site….don’t ask me why it was so hard to back in here!

John returned with Truck fixed – I hoped! A new vacuum pump had been fitted, with double gaskets this time. It had an oil change and some other oddments fixed too. All up – $520 for repairs.

John phoned the bad mechanic back in Melbourne. After some discussion, he was told that the warranty on the pump that had been installed just three months ago, would be honoured. I would believe that when we actually saw the money, I’m afraid.

After lunch, drove to the Strand again and did a fair walk. Then it was to the Castletown shops, so I could buy a small but good chef’s knife, to replace my good one that the handle had broken off, yesterday. That cost $50.

Grandson phoned to tell us that he’d read the fifty books for the Read-a-thon. Not bad for a six year old. So we would now have to send his $10 donation, plus the surprise Sodor train wash set.

We need to go back to the bush – haemorrhaging money in Townsville!

WEDNESDAY: We had a quiet start to a day that was not as cloudy, but was more humid, strangely enough.

Walked to the local shops and spent up big on postage. Sent postcards to various family and friends, a Hinchinbrook Island brochure to each of the sets of grandchildren, telling the story of our day there, and despatched the train wash and $10 to grandson. Australia Post was $25 richer.

It used real water……not sure if his mum knew that!

John phoned his cousin M, who was still in Cairns. It might be another couple of weeks before they began to head south again. I was now quite certain that we were not going to get that far north, this trip. It was going to be an accomplishment just to get away from Townsville!

Son phoned me about a new job he’d taken. Sounded very exciting: in a new field for him, traffic management, but doing the familiar role of business  development. Bit of a growth industry, that.

Friend M phoned – from Halls Creek. The trip up the Canning Stock Route had gone well, and she’d had a great time. Only had one flat tyre on the Troopy, and that was just as she was driving into Billiluna Community, not on the CSR proper. Yet again, the Dunlop Roadgripper tyres that we swear by, but others look down on, proved they can really handle the rough stuff well.

She reported that they’d had no rain over the three weeks. The fuel drums they’d ordered from the Capricorn Roadhouse were at the drop point, as arranged, and hadn’t been raided by other travellers. The couple she was tagging with had no vehicle issues, either. So she reckoned that she was now an experienced sand dune driver!

The diary I’d requested she keep for me was more a book than notes, apparently. She would mail it to home. The plans were now to go to the Bungles again – the other couple had not been there before, then on to Kununurra.

I was so happy that the adventure had gone well for her. But given the events of this year, I was so thankful we hadn’t tried it too.

THURSDAY: A quiet morning, followed by early lunch. Then we hit the shops – what’s new?

At Aitkenvale, John collected his new bowls. They were the ordered bright yellow – and the symbol on each featured a smirking crocodile. Very satisfied looking it was, too. (Every set of bowls has to have a unique symbol). This one couldn’t have been better than if he’d specifically chosen it! Yellow crocs…..

At the sewing shop, I bought a metre of my special embroidery fabric and some patchwork quilt pieces, for future projects.

To the Fish Co-op to stock up on barra and threadfin salmon.

There was a nasty accident at the corner where the V8 track had been. A truck and a 4WD ute had collided. Flashing emergency lights and vehicles galore.

Grocery shop at Castletown and at the butcher.

Getting all the meats and fish into the little freezebox was a real exercise in fitting things in gaps. The real challenge would come when just one frozen portion had to be extracted again, from the mass. The fridge ran for ages after all the additions, making me think all sorts of worrying thoughts.

I phoned Forrest Beach and booked us into the caravan park there, for three nights. John wanted to play in a big bowls tournament that was on in Ingham over the time, and had listed himself as an emergency, in case someone dropped out. If he was not called up, he could go fishing.


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2009 Travels July 16

THURSDAY 16 JULY     CARDWELL TO TOWNSVILLE – AGAIN

There was no rush packing up, but we were still away by 10am.

The drive south was uneventful. The crazy drivers with their caravans were all still going north….

I felt like we were getting to know this section of the Bruce Highway quite well….too well.

I’d phoned the Rollingstone Caravan Park again, about 9am. Just my luck to get the less mentally well endowed of the reception staff. She was not helpful. I said I wanted to book a powered site for a week. According to her, all the sites I was interested in (i.e. on the flat) were booked. There was no way, to my mind that all these sites – at least 60 of them – were all booked out, for all the week. What it did mean was that she either couldn’t be bothered – or didn’t know how – to juggle bookings of one or two nights, around, to free up sites. It was not that hard – I knew from experience.

She did offer me a site, which I knew was one of those that sloped quite strongly down to the billabong edge. We’d watched vanners having great difficulty setting up on those sites, where it was almost impossible to get a van level, and very hard to hitch and unhitch. But she didn’t tell me it was a sloping site!

At that point, I gave up. I wondered how much business that particular person had cost the park?

John was not so deterred. He intended to call in there, as we were going past, to see if he could do better in person.

But, at 11am, as we were driving, the Rollingstone park phoned us. They had just got round to checking the answering machine and dealing with messages. Not a great way to do business. It was the dopey one again. I explained that I’d already phoned this morning, having given up waiting for them to respond to messages. I’d given my name, both on the answering machine and this morning, and explained we’d been there a few weeks ago. And so on. Obviously,  she was not good at assimilating information. As we started to go into the whole rigmarole about level sites and availability, again, that was the point at which John gave up on them, too, and  said to forget it.

We pulled into the Woodland Holiday Park, because we were going past, on the off chance they might have a vacancy. I did get a bit embarrassed, rocking up to such places without a prior booking, at this time of the year. But we scored a powered site for a week, just like that.

I asked if we could be sited away from the cabin we’d been near before, and explained why to the receptionist. She seemed very interested to hear about that problem and as if it was new to her. But I couldn’t believe there had been no previous comments from people staying longer than we had been.

Again, our site cost $27 a night on the weekly rate. It was on the other side of the internal road from where we’d been before – nice and large. Maybe not enough shade, but it was alright.

John seemed to have mislaid his knack of directing the backing in easily. A site this big should have been easy, but he had me to-ing and fro-ing a lot before he was satisfied.

After setting up, just relaxed for the rest of the day.

I made salads for tea.


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2009 Travels July 12

SUNDAY 12 JULY     TOWNSVILLE

After breakfast, drove to Thuringowa, a newer outer part of town, on the southern  fringe. Used the new ring  road, which we hadn’t been on before, since its entry was close by the park.

We parked near the Arts Centre at Riverway, a big park area, fronting the Ross River. Walked a big circuit, along the river side, crossing the Ross River on a footbridge, then back along the other side and on a footpath that went under the bypass road bridge. It was a most enjoyable walk: 3.7kms, according to the signs.

Riverway walk circuit (from brochure)

There was a series of such circuits, along the Ross River, towards the city centre. Townsville had certainly put a lot of money and effort into creating their outdoor recreational areas. There was a large area of “lagoons” – swimming pools – by the Arts Centre. The footpaths were excellent. We also passed a first class sport set-up, for AFL football and cricket. There was some apartment style housing at Riverway, and some very stylish housing that we walked past on the other side of the river.

The walk took us past Black Weir, one of a series that dated from when the Ross River was the city’s water supply. Now it is more renown as the name of a virus – Ross River Fever – mosquito borne and now quite widespread in Australia.

There were surprisingly few people using the area. Maybe they were all at the car races?

This was one occasion when I missed having our mountain bikes with us, as we did in the early years of our travels. Cycling these river side paths would have been very enjoyable.

Called in at the nearby Willows shopping complex for some supplies, then went back to the van.

John watched the car races, then the football. I chose to stay inside because of the horrible men in the cabin behind us. The drinking had started before 8 am again, today, so he and his friends were well obnoxious by the afternoon, yet again.

I thought I knew why our otherwise pleasant site had been the last one allocated over the weekend period, by park management!

Tea was steak, mushrooms, potatoes in foil, and green beans.


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2009 Travels July 11

SATURDAY 11 JULY     TOWNSVILLE

Before breakfast, we walked to the little local shopping complex. It was quite a do-able walk, maybe a km? There was a footpath for only part of the way, so some of it was a bit scrambly, including clambering down and up the sides of a little gutter-like creek. Perhaps when all the local road works for the construction of a fly-over/intersection, outside the park, were finished, there might be a full footpath put in.

We walked past a guy with a utility, blatantly stealing some of the orange plastic mesh stuff, from around the works.

Bought papers, a new Sudoku book, some groceries and meat.

Through the rest of the day, John watched football and the V8 Supercars, racing here, on TV. I read the papers, had a session on the computer, made a Thai style chicken salad for tea.

Behind our site – the cabin where unpleasant occupant resided

There had been a man occupying the cabin behind our van, on what appeared to be a longer term arrangement. Today, he commenced drinking alcohol before I’d had breakfast, continued to drink steadily throughout the day, and was joined by friends. They were loudly into obscene jokes, comments and abysmal language. The worst type of yobbos.

It was unpleasant to sit outside the van because they were so loud and intrusive. I thought about complaining to management, but worried about possible retribution, so didn’t. I just hoped that, come the morning, they would feel like death, and that karma would catch up with them at a later date, in a really painful way.

They kept up the carousing and noise well into the night.


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2009 Travels July 10

FRIDAY 10 JULY     TOWNSVILLE

John went for a walk around the camp ground, before his breakfast. I did not. I had a sore foot, and had to bowl later.

We drove into town, to The Lakes area, to Toyworld, to hunt for a Thomas the Tank Engine toy for grandson, as an extra reward for him tackling the Read-a-thon. I knew he wanted Bertie the Bus, or Bill and Ben engines, but John found a train washing station, on special – half price. After a quick phone consult with daughter, we got that. The register put it through at full price, which we didn’t notice until the credit docket had been processed. It then seemed easier just to get a second one to put aside for one of the other grandsons, for Xmas, rather than go through the hassle of reversing the credit card charge. Apparently the washing stations had been on special until last Sunday – but no one had taken down the sign. Lucky us.

Went to bowls at the Jubilee Club, in the afternoon. We played adequately and the afternoon was pleasant.

We were told that this was very mild for a Townsville winter – it should be hotter!

Barra and fries for tea.


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2009 Travels July 9

THURSDAY 9 JULY     TOWNSVILLE

Late last night, I thought I’d smelled rain in the air, but we hadn’t had any. Found out this morning that it had rained at nearby Toomulla Beach.

I walked some circuits of the Park before John got up, then he went walking whilst I got the breakfast ready.

The fridge was fine: freezer stuff was frozen, fridge stuff wasn’t. There had not seemed to be any excessive running throughout the night. From memory, this was the second new thermostat the fridge had needed, in something like a cumulative total of eight years of running, since we bought it in 1991, and some of that in excessively hot conditions. It was regassed in 2007. We certainly couldn’t complain about it!

An outing was needed – my turn to choose, since John had bowls a couple of days ago.

We went to Reef HQ, an aquarium type of display. It cost us $18.95 each for entry, after concession. It was worth the money – with bells on!

The main exhibit showed different faces of a live coral reef, from the quiet inner face, to the side that faces the waves, and all in between these extremes. Sophisticated technology simulated wave and tide actions, so there was constant movement all round the reef. Viewers walked around the central reef exhibit, which contained the world’s largest exhibited (captive?) living coral reef, with over a hundred different species of coral growing on it, and over a hundred species of fish swimming around it, just doing their thing. As well, it contained critters like starfish and sea urchins.

A different display held sharks, sawfish, turtles and moray eels.

It was engrossing to watch what happened on any particular piece of reef, as the water moved about. The antics of the fish were captivating. It was a wonderful way to “see” the Great Barrier Reef, without going diving. In fact, one probably got a better picture of it this way – unless you were really hooked on being wet and having to watch out for anything that might view you as lunch.

We spent over three hours there – much of it just sitting watching the action.

I bought some postcards of the place, and a pale blue polo shirt with the Reef HQ logo, that was marked down to $20.

It was a place I’d quite happily go back to another time, and spend another long session there.

Reef HQ (tourism brochure)

There were some NAIDOC Week events happening in the same building complex. We looked at a display of aboriginal art. (NAIDOC stands for National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee. It has become an annual celebration of culture and remembrance of past struggles).

We’d parked Truck part-way along the Strand, so got some exercise walking between there to Reef HQ.

Stopped to watch kids having fun in the water playground area. It was still school holidays somewhere, it seemed.

Drove to the Fishermen’s Co-op, over on the South Side. We had to take a really round about route, due to street closures for the V8 Supercars Race, on at the weekend. Some of the roads we would usually take to the South Side would be part of the race track. It was a real hive of activity, with stands being erected, barriers altering routeways, all sorts of vehicles being moved into place for official and catering purposes.

I bought barra for two feeds, plus extra to add to what I already had for this week, and two kgs of prawns. It only occurred to me afterwards that there was a bit of a disconnect between spending ages admiring the live sea creatures, then going to buy some to eat….

Stopped at the Woolworths in the little shopping complex near the caravan park, for a couple of things. It was a rather poorly stocked supermarket. I decided it was here more to preserve the site and business for when Townsville expanded more out this way, rather than to really cater for the current passing traffic.

Back at the van, spent two hours peeling the prawns for freezing. The tool that John bought at Halifax did not help much, after all. In theory, it sliced the shell open down the back, for easy peeling and removed the poo tube. In practice, it was easier to do it the old way.

I made some extra salads for tea, to add to the leftovers from last night.


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2009 Travels July 8

WEDNESDAY 8 JULY     TOWNSVILLE

It was another cloudy day.

John was annoyed that, when he did his weekly weigh-in, with the scales we carry under the bed, his weight had jumped up. I suggested we do a few brisk rounds of the caravan park before breakfast, which we did.

Site at Woodlands

He went off to the Ingham Road PO, but no fan parcel was there. However, just after he’d departed from there, they phoned to say there had been a second delivery and our parcel was there. Good service from that PO, we thought. John went back and collected that, then went on to the fridge place.

The man was not there. The office lady pointed out that there was a $95 charge, before work was even commenced – and it would not be deducted from the cost of any subsequent work. It was not a minimum fee, but a fee to start work! There was no way John was going to pay that, so he collected the fridge and left. He asked the lady if she ever got embarrassed, working in such a place, and she said yes, she did!

Back at the van, John installed the new thermostat. He couldn’t put in the new fan, because it needed special welding. But he used our air compressor to blow the whole area out – lots of dust came out. He decided the fan was working fine, so we slid fridge back into its hole. It was awkward manoeuvring, of a heavy object, in the small space that was inside our van. It helped, knowing that we’d done this a few times before, and hence could manage it.

The fridge seemed to work well, through the rest of the day. Fingers crossed!

I had to throw out some vegetables that were frozen – and not meant to be – by both the Chescold of ours and the camp kitchen fridge, but was able to disguise some  part-frozen lettuce and cabbage in the salads for tonight’s dinner.

Seeing an electrical link on the fridge wiring, whilst it was out, had given John an idea. He checked the van  brake controller unit and found two such links there. He then felt there might not be enough power going to the van brakes, so soldered those connections, instead of just having the links. He wouldn’t know if that had made any difference until we were back on the road again, of course.

I had an email from (on behalf of) grandson, accepting the challenge that John had made him – to read fifty books in the coming Read-a-thon at his school, for which we would donate $10.


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2009 Travels July 7

TUESDAY 7 JULY     TOWNSVILLE

There was some cloud about, looked like we might get rain, but it stayed dry.

One surprise of our time here was just how many trains went by. The line was just on the other side of the highway from the Park, and the train noise carried across to us, especially at night. I didn’t think there were any branch lines to the inland, north of here, so the many freight, and occasional passenger, trains must be servicing places between here and Cairns. One of the things that really impressed us about Qld was that they seemed to use railways for freight, much more than the other States. I wished Victoria would do that, and reduce the truck damage to country roads.

Across the highway from our caravan park

John went to bowls in the afternoon. He enjoyed it – kind of. His conclusion – this week – was that he was not a very good bowler. Next week? Who knew. My view was that the new bowls he bought earlier in the year, that he thought would be easier to use because they did not curve much, had wrecked his game. They might not be trendy any more, but I was sticking to the bowls I’d had since starting to bowl,  over ten years ago. I could be confident that, when I got my part right, they would do what I wanted.

Some of the bowlers had told John that the fridge repair place we were using,  charged huge rates. So he decided to actually get a quote from them, and if he didn’t like it, would try to do the work himself, and get it regassed later in Cairns, if needed.

Spag bol for tea, which John really enjoyed.

A couple of phone calls came in tonight, from members of John’s family. Both long and depressing.

Tonight’s MasterChef menu involved very fiddly, convoluted items – not for me!


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2009 Travels July 6

MONDAY 6 JULY     TOWNSVILLE

Today was a lovely day – sunshine, moderately warm. There is no doubt that the weather is the main reason we southerners flock to Qld in the winter.

I unloaded the fridge, then we wiggled and wrangled it out of its space. I put the frozen food and some vegetables into the park’s camp kitchen fridge, which was not too far away from us. Everything else went into the outside Chescold.

There wasn’t as much dust in the fridge cavity as I’d expected to find. It hadn’t been cleaned out since the fridge was regassed in 2007, and since then we’d travelled lots of dusty tracks.

John drove off with the fridge in the back of Truck, to the repair place. I will not name it! He left it there because they would not even begin to test it until the new fan had come in – maybe Wednesday? At this stage we did not even KNOW if it needed a new fan, so we were not impressed.

Went to the Castletown shops, which were starting to feel like home! Made some enquiries about a new phone battery for the one I was using. Got some groceries. I managed to get into a no-appointment needed place for a hair cut, and was quite happy with the results. John bought another book about Access.

It got to be lunchtime, so John had a Subway and I bought a savoury muffin.

Drove to Jubilee Bowls Club, where John booked in for bowls tomorrow, and put us both down for a game on Friday.

It was starting to feel like I’d only dreamed Rollingstone and Taylors Beach, and that we’d actually never left Townsville  at all.

Back at camp, John had a sleep. I sewed and read.

For tea made a stir fry of chicken thighs, garlic, honey , soy and udon noodles.

Watched MasterChef and again found it really interesting. They cooked a caramel pannacotta with macaroons and a passionfruit “slick” – fancy name for a bit of sauce. But I was engrossed in the program – a vanilla pannacotta with berry sauce was one of my standard desserts when cooking at the safari camp in the remote NT. Maybe I should have termed it a berry slick?