Tuesday, May 31, 2005
Mossman 30 5 05
Mossman 30 5 05
Went out snorkelling on the Great Barrier Reef, about 7 km out at Opal Reef. The reef was fantastic – the unbelievable colours and shapes of the coral and the fish made it an unforgettable experience! Unfortunately another unforgettable experience was the seas – a 2 metre swell and 25-30 knot winds! We were both sea-sick, especially Peter who held the record for the number of technically yawns! We were both feeling seeding when we got off the boat so we just drove to Mossman for the night.
Port Douglas 28 29 May 2005
Drove up to Mossman – an old sugar town with lots of interesting buildings. There was a small market on in the park, surrounded by enormous trees. There was lots of local fruit that Heather avidly purchased. Port Douglas was full of tourists and some swank resorts. There was a festival on and the place was jumping. We had a good time wandering around the shops and listening to the music. We went to the markets and had a great neck massage! In the afternoon we listened to a revival band and Heather even got up and danced!
Ellis Beach 25- 27 5 2005
Ellis Beach is about 30km north of Cairns but has just a caravan park and a surf club. Julie and Greg joined us for a few days and we caught up with our home-town gossip. We went up to the Daintree National Park and Cape Tribulation. We saw a cassowary and a very large monitor lace lizard. The plant life is amazing- so prolific!
Cairns 23- 24 5 05
We have had computer problems that have meant we have been off the air for a while, but it is all fixed now. Cairns was a great contrast after the small country towns we had been in. The centre of Cairns seems to be exclusively for O/S backpackers or Japanese tourists, many of the shops with no English in them! We have had trouble finding free camp sites in this area, which is silly as we are fully self-contained.
Bagnal Beach 18- 19 5 05
Drove up the coast and stopped at Bagnal Beach. If anything, this was nicer than last night. Only problem was signs warning of crocodiles, as well as the sand flies.
This little free camp spot is actually prettier and even more like the postcards. Just typing this up before we hit the bed and all you can hear is the soft surf VERY close by. The van does not get hot and at the moment it is a most pleasant 24* plus gentle breeze. We will stay another night as we can’t be sure this will continue so well. The signs usually say 48 hours rest spot so we will stick to the rules as this area is so free camping friendly. Had fantastic long walk along very pretty beach at sunset. Just like the movies. As it is going so well this probably is a bit boring to those reading but how good is that?
Saunders Beach 16 - 17 5 05
Got up early from our free camp spot near a lovely park and parked in the city on the river. Had breakfast and scored a great car parking place near the Reef H Q. This is a fantastic aquarium that displays only fish and coral from the Barrier Reef. We stayed nearly 3 hours as it was a lot easier than snorkelling! We will get to snorkel soon. We also went to the Catholic Church diocesan office to look up some family history about Peter’s dad and found a few extra bits. It seems the family were definitely living along the Railway towns, Charters Towers, Richmond and Torrens Creek around 1912 -1918. The lady actually got out the original books with all the hand written details. Found the Botanic Gardens nearby and took all our lunch bits in for a picnic. It was all set up for a Shakespearean Play in the garden and some primary kids were doing a few activities before leaving. Peter loved it as it reminded him that he was not at work. The Gardens were lush and green and had a few extremely large trees. The backdrop was a huge red mountain rock with no grass and speckled with eucalypts. No one makes much reference to this rather incongruous scene.
Drove up the coast from Townsville and found a beautiful campsite at Saunders Beach, about 20 metres from the beach. We had 2 great nights there with perfect scenery. Lay around on our deck chairs with perfect warm breeze overlooking islands - very blue water, soft gentle waves, coconut palms, super green grass. Wonderful free picnic facility, though sandflies were bad and although we sprayed we still got a few bites. Will be more careful in future.
Peter took the motorbike off and we rode around the town a bit and down to the boat ramp where we read the sign about crocodiles. Gone in a FLASH when I read that!!!! First encounter with a crocodile sign. Quiet a few free campers now at these spots- say 8 lots. One big caravan was a lovely young couple with 3 kids 3 -7 years taking two years off and travelling and home schooling. They were so set up and organised. Turns out she is a G.P. which is quite a commitment to stop work for.
The toilets give everyone entertainment with the big green frogs under the lip of the bowl. When you flush they only just manage to hang on with one or two legs then get back to surprise you all over again. They are at least 6-8”. When Heather went in to the ladies, a Dutch couple were both in there with a torch for their first encounter with a Cane toad. 2 frogs in one toilet!!
Townsville 15 5 05
Set off for Townsville around lunchtime and the closer we got the greener the land became! Townsville has many beautiful buildings left over from the gold rush. Had dinner by the beach and then parked near a park, as we couldn’t stop on the beach.
It is a lot bigger than we thought and very tropical in the main areas. The sprinklers seem to go on about 10pm and in the morning everything is dewy. We saw lots of tropical flowers even for this time of year including a much bigger frangipani flower with that real Asian ambience. The main mall is like any other city mall any where in Oz. But the Strand which is a long area along the ocean in the city is very upmarket and has apartments all the way along looking across gardens and parks to the water. Magnetic Island is visible from most views and is so much closer and bigger than we imagined. When we come back down in a few weeks we will catch the ferry across ($20) each and take the motorbike.
Saturday, May 14, 2005
Charters Towers 11 -14 5 05
Long drive to CT, the last 100km on a narrow single lane road. Luckily, we only had one road train go past. There has been very little traffic heading north – since Coonamble (about 1000km), we have passed 2 vehicles and about 12 vehicles have overtaken us! CT is a lovely town, with a rich history. Peter’s grandfather came from CT and his father was born here. We have found the street that Jim was born in – next door to the court house and gaol – very handy for Jim from the tales he told about his youth! We have stopped at the truck stop every night – some of the road trains are enormous – makes the motorhome look small in comparison.
Clermont 10 5 05
Drove through Emerald, which is a feeder town for the mines, as well as the local farms. It rained in the pm and all night – about 30mm, which is enough for the farmers to plant their crops. Clermont was an interesting village with its own supply of water, very important out west. Stopped at the showground which was getting ready for their annual show.
Tuesday, May 10, 2005
Sapphire 9 5 05
Had a quiet day. Terry took us on a tour of Sapphire and Rubyvale. It seems a lot like Lightning Ridge with lots of Ferals building all sorts of weird homes on their leases. In the afternoon helped Terry mine for sapphires, but had no luck.
Monday, May 09, 2005
Sapphire 8 5 05
A long drive today to reach Sapphire by night. Visited Rollstone and Springsure where Heather’s father worked when he first came to Australia. The towns are having a boom on housing that is apparently due to the big coal mining that is just starting to boom and every one needs a house. Only about 140 people in Rollstone and about 900 in Springsure. I think the mining of the coal may well be in about the same place my dad came to work for Shell from a few calculations. Stayed with Lee and Terry who have a sapphire mining lease. Saw our first cane toads tonight – they are ugly beasts!
Warremba Station 7 5 05
Travelled through Injun (lucky we didn’t blink) and saw lots of good grazing land, even without recent rain. Camped at Warremba Station and found out that the manager has a brother who teaches at Kiama High!
Roma 6 5 05
Left for Roma in the morning and had lunch at Sarat. It was only a small village but had a great museum that explained the history of the Cob and Co coaches in the area. It was a shock when we first arrived at Roma, as all the shops were shut for the Show. Went to the Show and had a great time looking at all the exhibitions and displays. First sighting of so many bottle trees. Also the issue of water use again, with lush gardens next to the dry countryside. All water here is from the bore and perfectly good for any purpose. Can’t get my head around this water thing. Visited The Big Rig which has a colourful and interactive display on the oil and gas production in the area.
Lightning Ridge 4 5 05
Left Walgett in the morning and headed for Lightning Ridge. Lightning Ridge seems a more progressive town than Walgett and while the opal prices have fallen, there appears to be still money around. We went for a swim at the bore that made us very sleepy after lunch. We are spending the night at Dave and Beryl’s mining lease. It is still very dry out here with no sign of rain and everyone relies on bore water.
We did not fossick as we had enough fun picking up a bit of coloured potch at Trevor’s where he uses the wash for paths etc.
Wednesday, May 04, 2005
On The Road
Lake Wallis 26 4 05
Peter’s Birthday!! We left Penrith after buying a new motorbike helmet and gloves for Heather. Popped up to see Fiona who had a chocolate cake for Peter’s birthday (yum, yum) then we headed off to Lithgow for lunch. Jimmy is going well so far, except for the really steep hills, which he takes in 2nd or 3rd gear. On to Lake Wallis for the night – a beautiful lake at Wallarawang.
We were harassed by three geese when we arrived and they kept it up most of the time. In the end it seemed they were just trying it on for food.
Kandos 27 4 05
After a late start, we headed to Portland to see some friends – Bev and Clive, but only Bev was home. They have built a beautiful home on 4 acres just out of the town and Bev is busy collecting animals, while Clive has collected 7 tractors! Portland is an interesting town with vintage signs painted on the shop walls. Arrived at Kandos and found a camp site at the local oval.
Dunns Swamp 28 4 05
In the morning checked out Kandos Museum. It is a very large museum with some artefacts from the ‘Lady Bushranger’– Jessie Hickman- including her teapot that was found in her hidden cave. On to Rylstone – an historic town, with lots of great buildings. Had lunch and then headed towards Dunns Swamp. It was a terrible road going in, about 25 kms of a bone shattering dirt dusty track! The motorhome seemed to handle it better than us and came through without any problems. Dunns Swamp is amazing, is only a few kms long but has an abundance of wildlife. We shared a large camping area with one other person and had a warming camp fire. Greater glider possums (the biggest glider possums) sat looking at us as we sat around the fire.
Dunns Swamp 29 4 05
We enjoyed ourselves so much we decided to stay another night! Went for a long walk in the morning to the Weir and the Long Cave. There are some extraordinary rock formations that seem to spring out of the sandy soil.
We have had no phone coverage for 3 days and we have a faint concern about what might be going on but that is fading, so we must be “letting go”.
The area is extraordinarily beautiful and a bit surreal with a large area of water against beautiful rocks but all edged with really large amounts of very lush green reeds full of birds. Of course Jimmy is right up close on the edge facing north waiting for the sunrise.
All the mornings are a bit cold to get going when we wake at 630. The evenings are very comfortable temperatures in the home and the nights very warm in bed since we closed most windows. On the first night we left lots of windows open and found out how cold it gets at 430am.
We are going to bed early exhausted and happy. Heather has been sleeping more as if to catch up. We are certainly settling in well.
Gulgong 30 4 05
Set off early and headed for Mudgee. Despite the terrible road, we made it without shaking the motorhome to pieces. Mudgee is a delightful thriving town that has an historical shopping centre and a number of shady parks. After stocking up with supplies, we drove to Gulgong, an old gold mining town. We stayed on the outskirts of the village, near a polo ground. Unfortunately, there were some hoons that drove their cars around most of the night and meant we had a disturbed night!
Mendooran 1 5 05
Lazed around Gulgong all morning and set off for Mendooran – literally a one horse town. Heather is very excited because it reminds her of her youth and delighted that the small villages of her youth have still survived. We stayed at a camping area next to the Castlereagh River – very peaceful.
Walgett 2/3 5 05
Set off for Gilgandra then Coonamble. It is very dry out here and we passed herds of cattle along the Long Paddock. Walgett was a shock for Heather, as she hadn’t been there for 8 years. The town seems to be slowly dying, with many boarded-up shops. She was able to catch up with old friends such as Trevor and his parents and Ron and Rose. Tonight we are staying at Trevor’s camp site about 3 kms out of town.