Monday, 4 August 2014

Mitchell to Kogan - 4 August 2014

Leaving Mitchell this morning, we headed towards Roma and passed fields that were green with some sort of crop growing. Quite a change to what we have been seeing over the last 6 weeks.

We went through Muckadilla - love the name - which is only a small place. You can camp beside the Hall for a small fee/donation and it looked pretty good.

Coming into Roma, we saw a sign to Macca's. Have only seen one other on our trip. That was at Broken Hill and we were advised not to go there as it was pretty dirty. We aren't Macca's burger fans so that wasn't hard, but we do go to the McCafe's for morning tea occasionally. Fuel at Roma was $1.55.9 for diesel.

We didn't stop in Roma. We were there a couple of years ago on our way to Carnarvon Gorge and really liked the place. Will probably stop again on our next trip out this way to see any changes. We did go passed the Saleyards, which are really big, and saw all the cattle there waiting for the next sale, which is tomorrow I think. There was a new estate going up not far from the Saleyards. I couldn't tell if it was houses or industrial, but it was quite big so Roma must be growing.

It started to spit as we left Roma and we had that on and off most of the day.

We stopped in Surat for morning tea. It is a good way to leave some money in these little towns as a lot of them do struggle. We hadn't been to Surat before and it was a lovely little town. On the edge of town, on the banks of the Balonne River, is a great looking camping area which would be good to stay at.

Surat is the oldest town in the Maranoa Region and was originally known as Yulculba. The original Cobb and Co Changing Station is set up as a Museum. It is the original Cobb and Co store and drop-off point for coach travellers and goods.
In the foyer of the building is an 25,000 litre Aquarium, which have a native fish species which live in the local river systems. It was huge.

Inside were displays of the original store and goods it would have sold, wool press, information boards on local points of interest and a beautifully restored 14 seat Cobb and Co coach.
We went through Glenmorgan, a small town that has an old railway station which you can camp behind for a small fee/donation. It also had an old car museum. The Gums was another very small place we went through, which had a General Store/Post Office, but just down the road was a golf course and grain storage. Tara has grown a little bit since we were there last and has a free camp on the edge of town that looks quite good. The town looked like it would be good to have a wander, another time, with a couple of cafes.

Our destination today was Kogan, not too far from Dalby. We have been to Dalby a few times, so decided to try somewhere different. There seems to be a lot of coal seam gas exploration mining companies around here, as there are lots of utes and miners driving in the area.

We are camped at the Kogan Memorial Hall for the night. We are the only ones here and there are 2 cement slabs available for use. There is a good little outdoor museum on the other side of the Hall.
There is a Pub across the road, and when Hugh Sawrey, a famous Australian artist, was shearing in the area, he would spend time there. He painted 19 murals on the walls of the Pub in the time he was here. When the Pub was sold further down the track, the new owners cut the murals from the walls and sold them at auction, so none there to check out which is a shame.

Tomorrow, we will be home. We have had a great trip and have already started planning a couple of trips for next year. By the time we get home, we will have done about 6,200 kms, 950 on dirt. We have been really pleased with the car and also how the van has handled the trip.

Sunday, 3 August 2014

Mitchell - 3 August 2014

The cold came back with a vengeance this morning. It was -2.9 degrees this morning about 7.30. It was supposed to get down to -4 but I don't know whether it got down lower than that. The fellow next to us said he turned the tap on inside his camper this morning and ice came out. He went up to the amenities block but when he turned the tap on, nothing came out. See what tomorrow brings. But the day was a beautiful day after the cold start.

There is a River Walk that follows the Maranoa River right around the edge of town so after breakfast, we did that. It was about 8 kms. There are only pools of water in the river and you couldn't see the river from the track, which was a shame. However, it was still a lovely walk. In some spots, the cliffs along the path of the river were very steep and high.
You could see evidence of the floods, with vegetation caught in the fences and high in the trees. There were also quite a few new houses close to the river.

The River Walk took us to the Neil Tanner Weir. There were lots of vans free camping there, with toilets provided. It was a lovely spot and one we would use next time we come through. We will look at getting some sort of container to take with us next time to light a fire in.

After morning tea, we headed 35 kms out of town to the site of Major Mitchell's camp during his 4th Expedition. What a lot he brought with him. No Coles, Woolies or Bunnings down the road. He had 8 drays pulled by 80 bullocks, 2 boats, 17 horses and 3 light carts. They had to take enough supplies to last them a year in the wilderness. How would you be able to plan that?

It was a lovely spot and you can free camp there, with toilets provided.
When Mitchell camped there in 1846, he camped by the banks of the Maranoa River, and there would have been water in it. It was bone dry today and looked like there hadn't been water in it for some time.
After lunch, we went out to the site of the Kenniff Brothers capture and arrest in the early 1900's. There was a plaque out there with the story of what happened leading up to their capture. 2 policemen had gone out to arrest them and the Kenniff's had shot and killed them. The hunt was on and they were caught and arrested.

We had afternoon tea and then packed a few things away as we are leaving here tomorrow. I noticed a lady a couple of vans up doing some quilting so I wandered up to investigate. Her and her husband had just about finished making a quilt top. There is a group of them together and they are all from Ballarat. They have been coming here for 7 to 14 years for a month. They all do craft of some form or another for quite a bit of the day.

Saturday, 2 August 2014

Mitchell - 2 August 2014

From all accounts, the winds are bad on the eastern side of Australia, no matter where you live and Mitchell is no different. Last night they were very strong, so this morning Bruce secured our back awning even more.

The caravan park is on the banks of the Maranoa River and we walked across it this morning into town - just on the other side of the river. Mitchell flooded in 2012 and the bridge looks fairly new so must have been replaced after that. There is a flood marker level above the new bridge (the river reached 9.84 metres) and all down the bank next to the bridge are flood markers going down from 10 metres in increments of a metre. The last record flood level was 148 years before.
Just on the other side of the bridge is the Artesian Spa, and there were people using it. The wind was a bit cool for me to even think of it.

We had a look at the houses for sale and there were a few ads stating that the upstairs did not flood in 2012. There was even one ad saying that it didn't flood upstairs and there isn't even an upstairs that I could see!
The old Courthouse in Mitchell was where the Kenniff Brothers were tried and sentenced in 1902. They were Australia's last bushrangers and were arrested for murder. They were also cattle thieves.
Back at the caravan, I made a slice and some muffins to keep Bruce going for his morning and afternoon tea. He was fading away to a shadow! We stayed around the van for the afternoon so Bruce could keep out of the winds. Hopefully they won't be as bad tomorrow.

Friday, 1 August 2014

Quilpie to Mitchell - 1 August 2014

Our drive to Mitchell today certainly had different scenery to what we have seen over the last few weeks. We started off with the red dirt, but by the time we arrived at Mitchell, we were passing fields covered in Mitchell grass and with very few areas of bare dirt showing.
During the trip today, we checked out a few of the free camps along the way for when we head to Birdsville, hopefully next year or maybe the year after. One of the camps was at the Cooladdi Foxtrap Roadhouse. We called in there, and Bruce spoke to the owner. You can camp behind the building and they have 1200 acres and you can camp anywhere. You are welcome to use their showers and toilets.
We called in to Charleville but didn't do any sightseeing. We have heard there is lots to see and do here and on our next trip through, will spend about 5 days here. We filled up with diesel, went to the bank and bought a few supplies.
The Warrego River runs through Charleville. We last saw it at Cunnamulla. Both Bruce and I expected Charleville to be bigger than it was. However, it does have 3 caravan parks, so they obviously do get lots of visitors.
2 other places that had good looking free, or cheap, camps was Morven and Muckadilla. At Muckadilla you can camp behind the Pub and it is a $5 donation per day, so that's pretty good.
We are staying at the Major Mitchell Caravan Park in Mitchell which is on the banks of the Maranoa River. It is well maintained park and has a great camp kitchen. there are 4 barbecue plates and about 6 sink units. There is also instant boiling water. There are individual shower and toilet units. We will spend 3 nights here.

Quilpie Outback Mail Run - 31 July 2014

We had heard many good reports of the Quilpie Outback Mail Run, so took the opportunity of booking on it while in town. It goes on Tuesdays and Thursdays. There are 8 mail runs that leave from Quilpie but there is only one that takes passengers. The contractor for this mail run is the same guy who owns the caravan park and also the Hotel Quilpie (or Quilpie Heritage Inn as it is now known). He is a descendant of one of the original settlers in this area. There were the Durack's, the Costello's (Patsy Durack married John Costello's sister) and the Tully's (Sarah Durack, Patsy Durack's sister, married a Tully). At one stage, John Costello owned 1/10th of Queensland. They all settled here around the same time, the Tully's a little bit after the others. The guy with the caravan park, etc, is a Tully. The property settled by the Tully's, Ray Station, has not changed hands since it was first settled. I think it was in the 1860's.
This mail run delivers mail to 10 properties and covers 400 kms in the day. We followed the old Cobb and Co route for part of the day, and at one stage, followed the route Patsy Durack took when he took a few thousand head of cattle to the Kimberley's and opened up that area for settlers. For most of the properties, it is left in the mail box out on the road. Sometimes the mail box is an old tin on a post, other times it could be an old refrigerator. We called in to about 5 properties during the course of the day.
During the day we saw some brolgas, emus and many hundreds of kangaroos. We lost count. They were everywhere. It must be so depressing for the farmers. The professional shooters from Quilpie don't come out this far as there are enough nearer town. The further they travel, then they don't cover their costs. They stations are very much in the grip of the drought. The cows are eating the mulga trees, which they do in times of drought. You could see where the lower branches have been eaten off. 2.5 kangaroos eat the same amount as 1 cow. At the moment they have 1 cow on 200 acres.
In the Quilpie Shire, the bounty for dingoes used to be $100. Elsewhere it was $50. They ended up dropping it to $50 in Quilpie Shire as well. They found that dingoes were being shot elsewhere and brought into Quilpie to claim the $100!
Our first stop was at Alaric Station. There is an old homestead on the property that was set up after World War I as a Veteran's Retreat by a Tully, who could see need for somewhere peaceful and serene for war veterans to go. It fell into disrepair over the years and there was a new owner about 15 years ago. He was going to demolish the house, but a veteran's group on the Sunshine Coast heard about it. They asked if they could take it over and make it habitable. It has been running for the past 10 years and is open to any veteran and/or their families. It is well used and last week, it was full. It can take 17 people in the house. It costs them $40/night for full board. Caravanners can also stay there, powered ($20/night) or unpowered.
Apparently, there is an 89 year old veteran who has been there 15 times and he said he will be back next year. The veterans can stay as long as they like and as often as they like. Some stay weeks and some stay months. There is a camp fire which goes 24 hours a day. They grow their own vegies.
Morning tea was supplied for us at Alaric and we were free to have a walk around the grounds and through the house.
At the properties we drove into, when something stops working and can't be repaired, it is left there. They then use them for spare parts, etc.
The furthest station we went to was Budgerygar Station. The mail is only delivered there once a week, on the Thursday. They have a helicopter there, as well as about 4 bikes.
Our lunch stop was on Trinidad Station. Margaret Peglar moved to this property in 1958 when she married. She is now 78 and a widow. Her daughter and son-in-law now run the property, but she still lives in her own house on the Station. Her daughter, Wendy, has young children who learn through distance education, and she has a governess to help her. They are one of the few families in the area that have sheep. They graze alpacas with the sheep which protect the sheep from the dingoes. They do also have cattle.
On our way to the house, Dave, the mail man, took us to the wreckage of a 10 seater plane that crashed in 1984. The pilot was the only one killed, although when you saw the wreck, it made you wonder how they all weren't killed. It was spread over quite a distance. Margaret watched it happen from her kitchen window.
She has a lovely garden and has featured in gardening magazines over the years. We were able to have a wander through the garden and I tried a tangello from the tree. I had never had one before and it was lovely and juicy.
Margaret Peglar was a lovely lady and enjoys the contact with those who come out on the mail run. She can no longer drive since she had a stroke. I loved a sign she had in her house.
Last summer it was 49 degrees in the shade on her daughter's verandah!
The final Station we called into, and it was only to the old shearing shed, was Thylungra Station. Thylungra Station was the first Station in the area and was settled by Patsy Durack. Patsy Durack also owned quite a bit of Brisbane in his heyday. Thylungra used to be 2,500 square miles and was the biggest Station in the world. It is now 700,000 acres. Patsy Durack lost everything due to mismanagement when he was in the Kimberleys, and the property was split into 30,000 acre blocks. This size block was nowhere near big enough to support a family and families walked away.
At its peak, Thylungra employed 80 people and there were quite a number of cottages clustered round the main house. There used to be a polocrosse field, as well as a racecourse.
There is a large shearing shed on the property, which was last used in 2008. They no longer farm sheep.

Inside the shearing shed is an old falcon 500 which does still work, although it was covered in dust. I don't know how long it had been there.
After leaving Thylungra, we stopped at Kyabra Creek, which flows to Cooper Creek, for afternoon tea. We had cheese and bikkies, with wine, beer or soft drink.
We then headed back to Quilpie, about 125 kms away. We really enjoyed the day, in particular talking to the people who live there and have a glimpse of their day to day life. They suffer incredible hardships and are amazing people. To go for days and weeks with no outside contact must be very hard.
We had left this morning at 6.45 and got back at 4.45, so decided to have dinner at the Quilpie Heritage Inn, which we had had a look through the other day. We had a lovely meal, enjoying the company of a couple who were on the mail run today. Graham and Marjorie had caught the train out from Brisbane yesterday to do the mail run today. They were catching the train back to Brisbane tomorrow, after doing a morning tour to Eromanga. That's what I call a flying visit. 
When we got back to the van, Bruce checked his emails. There was one from our pest guy to let us know he had found Bruce's caravan keys on the ground where the van is kept. At least Bruce knows where they are now.

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Quilpie - 30 July 2014

We had a walk round the outskirts of the town this morning to have a look at the Bulloo River, which also runs through Thargomindah. There are signs along the river bank with items of interest. One of the signs pointed out that King Brown, Eastern Browns and Collared Whip Snakes are the venomous snakes found in the area. The Browns are not very nice ones at all.
It was a sluggish river today. Needs a good bit of rain to flush it through.

We walked passed the Powerhouse and it was open so we had a look through. Power came to Quilpie in 1952. Hard to believe Quilpie has only had power since then. That was the year I was born.

We ended up at the Bakery. Cathy, the lady who owns the Bakery, was the World Champion Ladies Shearer in 1998.

The Information Centre has a Museum attached to it and is very interesting to look through. The Quilpie area was devoted to both cattle and sheep farming in years gone by, but with the downturn in the wool industry, it is mainly cattle these days.

There was a photo in the Information of Scandalous Jack, a local character from Quilpie, who obviously let the odd swear word drop. I loved the description under the photo - "Scandalous Jack, who was given this nickname because of his skill in inserting the great Australian adjectives into every conceivable nook and cranny of normal conversation.''

There was also an exhibition on at the Information Centre of paintings by Melanie Hava. We had come across her paintings at Eulo, which is just south of Quilpie. We liked them and were pleased to see them again.

Next to the Information Centre is an excellent mural featuring highlights of the Quilpie area.

After lunch we went out to the Airport as there is a display there of Amy Johnson, the first female to fly solo from England to Australia. She completed the trip in 19 days in 1930. After landing in Darwin, she was making her way to Brisbane stopping at small airports in Queensland on the way. She was supposed to land at Charleville. On her map the rail line ended at Charleville, but it had been continued to Quilpie, so she landed here by mistake. She was very attractive.

We also drove out to Lake Houdraman, which is just a few kilometres out of town. There was quite a bit of water in the lake and we saw a couple of emus having a drink. There were quite a few people free camping there. You have to be fully self contained to stay by the Lake.

Late in the day we went to Baldy Top, which is a rocky outcrop about 3 kilometres out of town, to view the sunset. The red of the rocks just glowed from the sun's rays as it was going down. Just gorgeous.

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Quilpie - 29 July 2014

It was good to be able to catch up on the washing this morning. There is always someone to chat to and a trip to the laundry or the loo, can often take a lot longer than expected.

We walked up to town to see what there was. There are 2 supermarkets, a bakery, butcher, 2 pubs, 2 opal shops, chemist, post office, couple of coffee shops and a couple of mixed businesses. One of the mixed businesses had some patchwork fabrics and I had picked up a couple of fat quarters to add to my collection. I went to get my wallet from Bruce's backpack, only to find he had moved on down the street! Was it on purpose?! Tomorrow.

We saw a very unusual house in our wander round the town. It had a slippery slide next to the back steps. It was/is an old convent, but I can't imagine the nuns sliding down there.
The town has a lovely feel to it and seems a friendly place. The streets are really wide here, even the back streets. And everyone has their sprinkler on!
There is a lovely pub in the main street called Hotel Quilpie. The current people have owned it for 3-4 years and it has been done up beautifully.
We walked inside to see if we could have a look. The lady working there is a caravan traveller and is called back to Quilpie when needed. Last year they stayed at the Caravan Park, but this year they are staying in the Hotel. Her husband does the mail delivery for the Quilpie Mail Run, which we are doing on Thursday.

The hotel is just lovely inside. It has the pressed metal ceilings and is painted a soft green. It was built in the 1920's, so not as old as some of the pubs we have been to.
We were told to go upstairs and have a look, which we did. The rooms that we saw are fairly small and we wandered out on to the front verandah, which goes right across the building. There was a lady laying on one of the sun lounges, a guest in the hotel. I noticed she was reading the same book as I am at the moment - Written In My Own Heart's Blood by Diana Gabaldon. She loves the series as much as I do. But anyway we got chatting. Her and her husband caught the train out from Brisbane last week and go home on Friday, again by train. They love the place. I don't know how they get around as they don't have a car.

We had a look inside St Finbarr's Catholic Church. In 1976, Des Burton, the father of the boulder opal industry, built an opal wall for the church. That is now on the front of the altar, lectern and the baptismal font.
Tonight, anyone interested gathered to watch the International Space Station travel overhead. We also saw 3 satellites pass overhead as well. It was amazing to watch and clear as anything out here. The Space Station was launched on 20 November 1998 and has been added to over the years. The stats on it are mind blowing. It orbits 370 km above Earth; it travels at 7.71 km/second or 27,600 km/hour. It could travel to the moon and back in 1 day. It takes 92 minutes to orbit Earth. It is 109 metres long, weighing 419.5 kg.
After watching that, the guy showing us all this, who is the Manager, showed us a fantastic program on his laptop. It is a free download from and shows you the stars above you. It can also outline their shapes as well as giving you information about them. You don't need the internet to view it, only to download it on to you computer. It will be fantastic to check the position of the stars as we travel around the country.