Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Queensland Gemfields

We headed off from Barcaldine at about 8.30 and headed for the town (albeit very small) of Sapphire in the Queensland Gemfields. I have wanted to have a go at fossicking for quite a while and now I was about to get my chance. Not that I had a clue what to do. When we arrived at Sapphire Caravan Park we were very pleasantly surprised with the park. It was quite hilly and surrounded by trees and wildlife.  The next morning we decided to head out to a business that supplies you with a bucket of wash (basically a bucket of rocks) and we spent the next couple of hours washing the rocks in the "Willoughby" and searching for sapphires or any other gems we could find. This business was called "Rubyvale Miners Cottage" and the owner Gae was lovely and extremely helpful. We decided to do our fossicking this way rather than do a Tag Along tour and dig for our own as we had no idea what we were doing. It was $15 per bucket and that not only got us our bucket of rocks but tea, coffee, ice water and fresh scones, jam and cream. I had read that they seed (put little pieces of gems in) the buckets. But I don't believe Gae did and by seeing the gems we ended up with I am so glad we took this option. We both ended up with heaps of little gems and these ones in the bags are the bigger ones we got that are big enough to have cut. We both had a very enjoyable couple of hours learning lots about Sapphire mining and doing something we had never done before. I know we will definitely head back this way one day to have another play.

After our fossicking we did and underground mine tour with "Miners Heritage walk in Sapphire Mine Tour. This mine is the largest underground Sapphire Mine in Australia, established in 1984. It was very interesting walking down the tunnels and learning about how the gems are mined now and also the many challenges the early miners had to face. 

We fully intended to head to Rockhampton on Tuesday morning but the night before someone had mention Lake Maraboon that was about 70km away. So as usual our plans changed and we packed Myrtle up and drove 70kms to our next destination. Lake Maraboon is a water area that is said to be three times the size is Sydney Harbour. The creation of Fairbairn Dam in 1972 provided Emerald Shire with a stable water supply. New industries such as cotton, coal mining, vineyards and citrus orchards were also able to be established with this now regular water supply. Although from the look of the lake at the moment it seems quite low due to the drought this area has been in for a number of years. In saying that yesterday while we were in Emerald we got hit by a huge downpour and then treated to a beautiful Central Queensland rainbow. 

We intend to go out tonight and have a bit of a fish - wish me luck!! 

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Barcaldine, Queensland

We headed off from Longreach this morning after having a very enjoyable time there. I really liked Longreach, it had a good feel to it. Even though it was only 107km we decided to have a night in Barcaldine, get this, so I could get some photos of the "Tree of Knowledge" at night, as I heard it looks better when it's lit up. So that's what we did and I have just got back to Myrtle after taking my shots. It does look pretty impressive all lit up, but one thing I didn't even notice during the day was the trees roots are actually still there and lit up as well during the night. Whoever designed this structure sure did do am amazing job. It is very impressive.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Qantas Founders Museum - Longreach

This museum tells the story of the founders of our Aussie airline Qantas. The "Queensland and Northern Territory Aerial Service was started back in the 1920's here in Longreach. The museum has lots of old aircraft, genuine artefacts, movies that tell the story of what it was like in 1920's Queensland. The museum also includes the original Heritage Listed Qantas Hanger, it's pretty small compared to the size of aircraft hangers these days.

As an addition we decided to do the Jet Tour as well. This tour began at the huge 747 with a walk around inside and out showing such features as the Lavatory Service Hatch!! I've always wondered what happened to that!! We were also shown the infamous Black Box (that was actually orange). 

The Black Box isn't Black!!!
Next was the 707 which they describe as an aircraft like no other. We learnt about its early days of being built in the United States, it's first days with Qantas then it's luxurious conversion into a private jet for a Saudi Prince. 

The tour ended with the historic DC3, which was left to rot in a paddock and was eventually bought by the Museum for some ridiculous amount under $100. 

We were lucky enough to be doing the tour while the famous pilot/plane group "The Roulettes". They did a few air manoeuvres and landed right in front of us. 

We are now sitting at Myrtle listening to the singer Paul Kelly rehearse for the drought relief concert that's on in town. It's actually at the Stockmans Hall of Fame which is just next door. Also singing are two singers I haven't heard of and my favourite Country singer Troy Cassar-Daly. We are intending on going to the concert but just in case we should still be able to hear it quite well from Myrtle. 

Australian Stockmans Hall of Fame - Longreach

Longreach for me is the true Outback Australia although it is talked about in the tourist brochures as being the gateway to the Outback. It is quite a big town and doesn't have the dying town feel even though it has been in a severe drought for about the past 5 years. Driving around the area it's fairly obvious there is a drought, everywhere is so so dry. Rivers and creeks are just full of dust instead of water. Longreach's river the Thompson River only has an 18km stretch of water left. 
Yes there is a drought here
The Australian Stockmans Hall of Fame was one of the reasons we wanted to visit Longreach. This amazing attraction pays tribute to Australia's pioneering legends, the Royal Flying Doctor Service and outlines our Outback history. It includes some amazing artifices, electronic displays, films and photography. We paid a little extra to see an Outback show that included outback horsemanship, the way dogs work the sheep and general outback stuff. I would really recommend the Australian Stockmans Hall of Fame as it really gives us city slickers a glimpse into what the early Aussies had to go through to get this country it is as we know it today.

Lara Wetlands

We decided to stay at Lara for a night, that turned into three at the Lara Wetlands Bush Camp. It was absolutely beautiful, our camp was right on the water, we had our own fire each night and there was a hot Artesian Thermal Pool to have a soak in. The sites didn't have any power but there was toilets and showers and that's all you really need. Our first night was sheer bliss. After eating dinner beside our glowing campfire I settled into bed listening to the many noises of nature. In the morning I awoke as the sun came over the treetops to an orchestra of amazing sounds of nature. After mediating I sat and had breakfast with the Native Bees gathering pollen from the grasses. Two baby magpies came right up to my feet. Bright green parrots with the most vivid orange/red beneath their wings, blue parrots with a multitude of colours under their wings , various ducks, swans, birds that seemed to walk on water with their skinny little legs and then to top it of a big eagle flew over my head.
A beautiful sunset over the Lara Wetlands
Our very own nightly fire
The Artesian Thermal pool
Our next day was just another day in paradise. Our early morning was spent soaking in the Artesian Thermal Pool. It was pretty warm we you first got in, probably in the mid 40c's. That afternoon we decided to drive the 23km into Barcaldine to get a few supplies and have a look around. I have wanted to go to Barcaldine for awhile after hearing about the "Tree of Knowledge". The Tree of Knowledge was a Ghost Gum (Eucalyptus Papuana) which grew outside the railway station in Barcaldine for around 180 years and is celebrates as being the central meeting place for the Shearer's Strike during the upheaval in 1891. It is also believed that in 1891 the base of this historic tree was the location of the formation of the Australian Labour Party. Unfortunately it was poisoned in 2006 by an unknown culprit. After preservation it was placed under an award winning timber structure.  

Looking up inside this amazing structure

The Tree of Knowledge structure is very imposing
When we got back to Myrtle we both had a Nana nap. The evening was once again spent by our fire listening to nature bid the day farewell. 

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Time off Line

I'll be first to admit I am a little addicted to my technology. I love my iPad, iPod, iPhone and my laptop. I check out Facebook and my emails numerous time during the day. I have thought several times it might a good idea to see if I can have some time away from technology, but never got around to do it. That's until the past few days, we have been staying where there was no internet connection and where we were staying had no electricity. So I had my phone off to conserve the batteries. So now I'm doing a bit of catch up on my Aussie Adventure updates.
One of the attraction we wanted to see in Charleville was the Cosmos Centre. We have been here before - around seven years ago - and enjoyed it so much we just knew we wanted to visit again. They have four extremely powerful telescopes that we are able to look through into the world above. We were lucky enough to see the moon so close that we cold see all the craters. It was absolutely magnificent. we also saw the double star - Albireo, the group of stars called M6 which is 20 light years away, the second largest globular cluster called Tucana 47 and another highlight was seeing Saturn so close you could see it's rings and some of it's 60 moons. 
From Charleville we headed for Blackall where we stayed a night in a free camp on the Barcoo River, which was more a creek than a river.

Blackall is another tiny town just hanging on, but it has several intestine pieces of art throughout the town. 

The Eagle and Nest: Richard Moffat made this Wedge Tail Eagle and it's nest from of old rusty railway dog spikes, timber, bolts and various other waste pieces of scrap metal. The artists says "The nest is a home and a place to raise a family, which is another representation of what Balckall feels like to me". We set up our camp just beside our Eagle, so it was like he was looking over us. 

Lifespan: Frederick White made Lifespan predominately from recycled bore casing. This piece of artwork represents life in general; paths that sometimes converge or momentarily cross over, then towards the end of life, like the beginning, level out to a new time for experiencing. 

RolyPoly: The RolyPoly is another form of creativity by the artist Richard Moffat. His concept about this was all about having fun. I think he got the feel when he created this art mainly from old fencing wire. 

Jack Howe: Jack Howe became famous in 1892, for shearing 321 sheep with hand blade shears in 7 hours and 40 minutes at Alice Downs Station. A record that has never been broken. 

 One very historic attraction in Blackall is the "Blackall Woolscour" was recommended to us to visit. The Blackall Woolscour is a historic wool washing plant which operated on steam from 1908 to 1978. It is believed to be the only complete operation of its kind left in Australia, with the original steam machinery still in place. It was well worth staying in Blackall to see this amazing building and machinery. 

I have never been this close to a Billy Goat!!
He walked right over to me. 

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Charleville, Queensland

Well we ended up staying in Cunnamulla for two nights, but really only because the petrol station was closed and we needed to fill up. It's very sad how these outback Aussie towns are only just holding on by the skin of their teeth. Then it doesn't help when the caravan park owners are actually rude to the travellers! We have actually been to Charleville once before about seven years ago, with my cousin Susan, my son Shane and his now wife Stacey. We liked it then so really wanted to come back and stay longer. We weren't sure where we would stay and just prior to heading off a fellow camper suggested we stay at "Evening Star Tourist Park". It is actually "Thurlby Station" and we have stayed at lots of cattle stations on our travels and always enjoyed them, so the decision was made where to stay. Within half an hour of arriving and setting up we knew we had made the right decision. The sites are all drive through, which makes arriving easy, the amenities blocks are spotless and the owners would have to be some of the friendliest we have ever met. Shane's extremely happy as they have a bar with $3.00 beers and happy hour (that goes on as long as there are people around) around the huge fire pit.
Evening Star Tourist Park

Just one of the attractions is sitting around the camp fire each night
Luckily Charleville with a population of around 3,550 is a fairly large town, but it is still facing the same woes as the smaller outback towns with lots of businesses closing and young people leaving to find work in bigger cities. When we were here last time we stayed at the historic Corones Hotel and were looking forward to seeing it again. But unfortunately it has gone into receivership and the owners just walked out leaving everything there.
Corones Hotel - unfortunately closed

Charleville still offers quite a few attractions for us visitors to see. But where we are staying is just a nice place to sit and watch the world go by. Today we decided to try our luck at a bit of fishing. We actually caught three Yellow Belly but that were all undersized and we threw them back.
Ward River

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Bourke to Cunnamulla

We ended up having a couple of nights in Bourke. I liked the town a lot more than I thought I would. Bourke is situated on the Darling River which along with the Murray River is the two major river in Australia. I was very surprised to see just how muddy this river is, like an upside down river.
Darling River - Bourke
Bourke has a very interesting old cemetery with some interesting subscriptions on some of the old graves. The bush ranger "Captain Starlight" is laid to rest there. Also one of Australia's most loved and influential people "Fred Hollows" is also laid to rest there too. Fred Hollows was actually a New Zealander and his first visit Bourke was in 1971 when he was Chair of the Division of Ophthalmology at the University of New South Wales. From the first time he set foot in Bourke, he fell in love with the town and its people. Fred was buried with his glasses, a bottle of whiskey, letters from his children, sawdust from his workshop, his pipe and a tin of tobacco. Throughout his life he did so much for so many people and their eyesight. What an amazing man he was. 
Fred Hollows Grave
This morning we headed off not really knowing where we would stay tonight. When we hit the New South Wales - Queensland border we came across the historic (very old) Tattersalls Hotel. More interesting than the hotel was Mary the 91 year old publican. She was such a character with lots of stories. She loved the horse racing, so her and Shane had a lot to talk about. She also had an interesting story about Fred Hollows too. Many years ago he visited the hotel and she sat in her kitchen and had a bowl of her homemade veggie soup. She said he was a "pretty rough bloke. Tough and he swore like a trouper". As we were leaving she said to Shane "I wish you could stay longer and we could talk racing all day". She was such a personality to meet along the way. 
Tattersalls Hotel - NSW / Queensland Border
So now here we are for the night in Cunnamulla, Queensland. Today has been the best weather so far 27c. We have also had our first Queensland sunset tonight , which was pretty nice. 
Our first Queensland Sunset
We thought we might stay two nights but will probably head off tomorrow as the people who are running this caravan would have to be the two rudest caravan park managers I have ever come across. 

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Hillston to Cobar

Our drive from Hillston to Cobar was fairly uneventful although I did kill my very first piece of wildlife!!! A silly bird flew into the windscreen very very hard and left some of it's body over the windscreen!! All was OK with the car although I think Shane nearly had a heart attack as he was having a snooze when it happened and woke with a huge fright. But alas the bird was a lot worse off. We did see quite a lot of other wildlife that I didn't kill. There was cattle and sheep. But also lots of Emu's and some with babies and heaps and heaps of goats. Cobar (which means Copper) is an old mining town with the discovery of Copper in 1870.

Over the years there have been many mines here opening, closing and opening again. These days (from what I can gather) there are only two sites remaining. Today we went and had a look at the open cut Peak Gold Mine which is 1400+ metres deep. Looking down into the hole the huge mine truck looked like a Tonka Toy!

We also went for a drive out to the Mt Grenfell Historic Site. The site consists of three main magnificent examples of Aboriginal paintings. Once again the area was full of heaps of goats.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Hillston - New South Wales

Beautiful scenery
Even though it was very cold last night, with winter PJ's, flannelette sheets, a heat pack and a good heater we were nice and toasty warm in Myrtle. We headed off about 10.30 to eventually get onto the Kidman Way. We thought we might stay at Griffith but on driving through it just didn't do anything for us, so we decided to drive on to Hillston for the night. As we drove it became obvious why Australia's colours are so often Green and Gold. Between the Golden Canola against to lush green paddocks. The beautiful golden wattle next to the green leaves and then there were kilometres of yellow and green daisies along the roadside. Why wouldn't our colours be Green and Gold. Most people would have heard the saying "This side of the Black Stump". In Australia there are lots of Black Stump locations with lots of different folklore. But today I heard to story of (supposedly) the original Black Stump folklore. Driving along the highway we saw a sign for the Black Stump Hotel. Now we both love dropping into some old historic hotels so we definitely weren't going to miss this one. This hotel also has the tallest bar in the Southern Hempisphere. To match this very tall bar they had some very tall stools to sit at. They actually had a little ladder at the front so you could climb up them. When Shane climbed up I just couldn't stop laughing as he swung his short legs in the breeze. Now for the folklore that was explained to me by the publican. This areas folklore attributes this black stump story to the husband of the unfortunate Barbara Blain, who was buried in the Gunbar Cemetery in 1886. Local legend has it that her husband, a bullocky, instructed her to make a fire while he found feed for his livestock. The day was hot, windy and dusty. When he returned he found his wife had burned to death. The story goes that when people sympathised with him he said "When I returned to the camp my wife was dead - she looked just like a black stump". So that is one piece of history I have learnt today. Tonight's definately not as cold as last night so should another good nights sleep, just wish my chest and head cold would leave me alone.
Tall Bar and very tall chairs

Black Stump Hotel

Shanes feet were a looong way off the ground