Archive | June, 2014
30 June 2014

Why can’t we do this anymore

In the 1920’s Jos’e Paronella came to Australia. He brought nothing but a promise to come back and pick up his betrothed at some point when he had “made” it in his new land. Apparently 10 years with no homebound communication passed as he made his fortune, first working as a cane cutter then buying and selling cane growing properties until finally he went home to pick up his love, only to find she had moved on. But, she had a younger sister so he married her instead and came back to Oz. He promised her a castle and on his return he built one (or two).

Having bought at some earlier stage some 13 acres on Mena Creek beside the then Bruce Highway somewhere inland of Innisfail and Mission Beach he set about transforming it into a home for his new wife. With the aid of 2 young black boys and sand from the creek bed, using German imported cement he hand moulded concrete beams, lintels, walls, stairs, flower pots to build first a cottage and then a castle. Five (5) years of work resulted in a magnificent resort, some of which still stands today…..

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the cottage first then the castle

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and this contained a ballroom, a cinema, a museum and a refreshment kiosk. Then came the rotunda, bandstand, changing cubicles, pathways, fountains, tennis courts, toilet blocks, picnic gardens and a complete collection of some 7000 plants placed around the property to create all sorts of garden arrangements. In the meantime he also built a hydro power station to run all of the lighting, refrigeration, water pumps and power the cinema.

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Then there’s the tunnel of love..

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(now just a bats roost)

There are walking trails throughout the gardens, fountains, waterfalls, fish, eels, snapping turtles and crocodiles everywhere ( can’t vouch for the crocs but there are warning signs)…

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In 1935 this was opened to the public and it became a place of large events, picnic outings, balls and cinema. Bands played in the rotunda, people played tennis. Unusually for the time you could also buy an icecream whilst strolling through the gardens. High society attended functions here as well. It was a place to be seen.

We were taken on a guided tour during the day, then a night tour after 8.00pm I was perhaps a bit disappointed with the night tour as the mood lighting was not all that good but we did manage a few interesting shots….

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Unfortunately the ravages of time, floods and fire have left little of the obvious earlier grandeur, coupled with his use of railway track as steel reinforcing within all of the concrete works which has flexed and rusted as it has aged causing much of the concrete works to break down. But, now with new owners who were nearly bankrupted by cyclone Yazi ripping through the property there are plans to progressively restore major parts of the site. The Paronella family actually held the property up until about 20 years ago but again the floods and fires and old age weakened their resolve to hold on.

The first “castle” come ballroom is the second major project for restoration at an expected cost of 2.5 mil. The hydro generator was the first project, now fully operational at a cost of 400K and this also feeds the attached caravan park, the use of which is included in your entry fee.

It is beautiful place, marred by time but it is easy to appreciate the work that went into it by one man “with a dream”.

Jude and I came away awed by the scale and boldness of this one mans dream. And we think we achieve in our time.

Despite the work of restoration I’m not sure that this place will survive too many more natural disasters. It is placed in an environment which cannot be controlled . See it soon before it is all gone.

There’s Jude in the ballroom, fish in the stream, a wedding on what was the tennis courts and the change cubicles for people to get into their formal gear for the ball, the imposing tree lined walkway……

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From the step marked 1946 flood level you are looking down into the picnic area near the base of the falls. The flood waters were deep.

29 June 2014

On a Mission

After leaving Ingham we searched for the sugar loading pier that we had heard about. Out to Halifax and Lucinda (just  north of Ingham)

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and there it was – 5.76 kilometres of it. Presently not operating as the sugar harvesting season has not yet started, delayed because of rain. Also recently repaired at a cost of 50 million after cyclone damage of a couple of years ago (Yazi I think 2009). Sort of next door is the fishing hamlet of Dungeness. Well its sort of a hamlet – there are units for sale in a new development so I suppose if they sell them people might actually live there and it can really qualify as a hamlet. At present it really is a boat launching ramp and a lot of boat trailers. It provides access to Hinchinbrook Island…

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Back to the highway towards Cardwell, stopping at a new lookout showcasing Hinchinbrook..

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an absolutely fabulous outlook. The coastline all through this region is spectacularly dotted with islands – Magnetic, Rattlesnake, Palm Island group, Hinchinbrook and Dunk just a few. Lush and tropical, a very dramatic contrast to the hinterland but also very different to the southern and south western Australian coast. Also noticeable is the change from dry heat to high humidity. Through most of the trip so far the temperature has hovered around 30 during the days but has often been around 10 – 12 overnight. Generally quite comfortable, but I suppose that’s why so many grey nomads head this way at this time of year.

Without any plan we found ourselves overnighting at Mission Beach. That extended to two nights so we could look around. Mission Beach is a well known popular tourist location, mostly populated by Victorians in vans. I guess the climate is the major factor because the beach is pretty ordinary. The surprise was that the beaches were littered with pumice stone, making walking barefoot in the sand a painful experience.

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We later learnt that the pumice is from underwater volcanic activity off in the Pacific Ocean somewhere.

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Strange sandballs, not very sandy beaches elsewhere, Dunk Island, stranger animals in the front yard, South Mission Beach, the reason for Mission Beach, more strange animals in the backyard (well at least a notice of what to expect) and then these strange growths which I don’t have the words to describe nicely. A beach you can’t walk on or swim in, animals cropping your garden (and there were mobs of wallabies in other gardens), lots of ordinary suburbia and bitey critters in the water where’s the attraction…

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although there are some nice views and the caravan park was very good (although so far the most expensive).South Mission Beach was the nicer of the two beaches though, although there are not many times of the year that you can swim because of the jellyfish in the summer and the temperature  in the winter. At least there’s always plenty of vinegar on hand to put on your fish and chips…..

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(most of these signs also carry a bottle of vinegar to treat ‘stings’ and they are at every beach so far up the coast).

I have to leave my avid readers in suspenders for the night cos we’ve had “the ultimate outback experience” today and I’m tired. I might add that we’re nearly a week on from the above still with no plan.


23 June 2014

Slowly upwardly mobile

Since leaving Townsville Thursday (it’s now Monday) we’ve travelled northward by about 150km. Actual distance covered has been a bit more as we zagged inland and uphill to see a few points of interest. When the truck was serviced the trip odometer was zeroed wiping out both the trip distance so far and the trip fuel consumption. They were at that point respectively 7700km and 22.3l/100km. After climbing the hill to Paluma a distance of just 18km and just 50km from Townsville the fuel readout was over 35l/100 km. This was a climb. Not only that it had sharp bends and was very narrow and very exciting when a car approached from the other direction. The return downhill journey was even more exciting, particularly after blowing an offside tyre on the new trailer. Tyre replaced in Ingham, fuel consumption coming down. Now in Mission Beach

Along the way we found some of the most astonishing and beautiful sights. First was Little Crystal Creek Falls on the road to Paluma……

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The road up the hill and the bridge were a 1930’s depression employment project and it still reflects the volume and size of traffic of the era. It definitely was not anticipated that a 10 tonne 16m Winnebago would attempt the journey. We made it but I think Jude was a little apprehensive, particularly on the downhill run when she was sitting over the road edge.

Paluma is a little village at the top of the Paluma Range National Park. I’m guessing nothing much happens here these days but the view from the old American observation post was spectacular…..

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parking up for lunch was a bit of a challenge too, as was reversing out of this spot afterwards. Ah well the soup for lunch was almost worth it. All through lunch we could hear distant and repetitive explosions. Questioning the locals elicited the response that the army was conducting exercises on the other side of the mountain. At Jourama Falls the next day an ex serviceman confirmed the fact and told us that all of the FA-18 flights we witnessed out of Townsville were also participating in these war games – strafing practice and mission photography. What fun!

We made overnight at Big Crystal Creek National Park camping ground along with quite a few others including Danny and Freda from Toronto (NSW)…..

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and they’re not looking at the camera but eyeing off the dinner……

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which unfortunately wouldn’t lay down and die and pluck itself (that’s a bush turkey for those of you who can’t recognize food afoot). So we just had baked beans again.

Friday twas on to Jourama Falls, a site we were told not to miss. Down a dirt road to find a water crossing into the national park. OK, offload Suzi, simple. Did, drove through water crossing to find another Winnebago on the other side. Oh well! didn’t really want to get the tyres wet. As it turned out we would have had some difficulty turning around in the park anyway. A kilometre drive further on to find a 3 km walk to the falls viewing platform – in for a penny…….

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The path is a roughy alright, but through some really picturesque bush. Eventually, after some serious uphill work we got there…..

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Next stop Ingham but not a chicken to be had. On the way in found the Tyto Wetlands Information Centre and lo & behold they’ve just opened an RV free camp at the back of the store. And what a setting…

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Two very pleasant nights at no cost allowing for two nights out for din-dins – top shelf too – the RSL and the local chinese. Well we are only pensioners.

Ingham is not about chickens anyway – its all about sugar. Some 4.5 million tonnes of sugar cane equating to over 600,000 tonnes of raw sugar all processed at the local Victoria Mill. An amazing 60,000 hectares of cane..

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as far as the eye can see. Difficult to get a meaningful photo so we went up hill to see if we could get an overview but it was just too misty…

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so on we went to Wallerman Falls…..

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Spectacular and World Heritage standard. These are apparently the highest continuous falls in Australia. Another testing hill climb but we left the Winnie back on site so it was a little easier on Jude.

We walked the wetlands later and they are, Tyto that is. Didn’t see a single croc though.

21 June 2014

Fly Buys, Byes, Boys

All of them. I’m sitting to write this some 10 days or more after the event. Well, 10 days since we hit Townsville. We actually ended up spending 8 days there, a couple more than we anticipated whilst waiting for mail then doing a little job for Civic Guides.

Townsville is a lovely place though. Truly worth the visit. We included a day on Magnetic Island and Jude didn’t get seasick on the ferry so it was a good day out.

But, we spent money (fly buys), we saw and heard FA-18’s every day sometimes as many as 4 at a time and Chinook heavy lift helicopters (fly byes) and quite clearly their pilots were fly boys. They were clearly enjoying their rides coming in at low level with subsonic circuits over town every day. The Chinooks were very subsonic but they are bloody noisy nonetheless.

Had the truck serviced. There went $1125.00. Then bought some ‘o’ rings for the dunny and there went another $236.00 (thieving bastards Dometic). Very expensive processing food in this truck. I always used to joke to Jaguar drivers that the purchase price was just the entry fee but try a Winnebago, particularly one with Dometic fittings.

Townsville is not that old. Much of its history only dates back to the late 1800’s but it does boast some lovely early 20th century buildings…

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most of which are situated along The Strand, on the foreshore. The Strand is just a beautiful extensive parkland along the foreshore with a smattering of restaurants, kiosks and leisure activities…

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Opposite The Strand, apart from some of the historical buildings are apartments and units that clearly aren’t cheap…..

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but I guess from here they can keep an eye on their boats…..

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Kissing Point or Jezzine Barracks at the northern end of The Strand is a monument to the invasion of Townsville in 1942. Whilst it was a fort dating back to about 1880 it had a modernisation by Americans in 1942 to provide protection to Townsville. As noted in the previous  post, bunkers at Charters Towers were built to house armaments for back up to this Townsville installation. There’s not much left but a couple of re-installed old cannons, a bomb store  and a lot of explanatory placards but it is a fact that Townsville was attacked but the Japanese bombers missed their target and a second attempt also ended in failure without a shot being fired by this installation. It is now a spectacular viewing point set in a terrific garden environment….

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Thought the view from Kissing Point was fairly special but then we drove up Castle Hill, the backdrop to all photos of Townsville…..

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the island off in the distance is Magnetic (originally Magnetical as named by Captain Cook in 1770).

The trip to Magnetic Island was very pleasant. A short trip of 20 minus on a Quick Cat and a nice day on the island. Pretty place, surprisingly well populated with 2100 residents and little suburban property estates. Very few had ocean views so it begs the question as to why people choose to live in such isolation in suburbia. Just the same it is a pretty place……

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and then you stumble into other strange places to find unexpected treasures…..

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(and that’s a genuine C type)

All British Day at Cathedral School restored my faith  in automobile collectors. After Charters Towers American muscle dominance this was refreshing and encouraging. Attendance even included an 8 vehicle contingent from Cairns including Graham and Pauline Hepburn in the bug-eye. About 60 cars on display – bloody beautiful but lots of oil residue. I know we didn’t have to come to Townsville to see this but it was worth the trip to see that even in the northern reaches there are still some purists.

This entry is a bit of a photo fest. I best leave you to digest this lot so far as there are a lot more pics in the next entries. Sometimes words fail me.


16 June 2014

Working our passage

iOM bought Civic Guides earlier this year. For those of you unfamiliar, Civic Guides looks like this….

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and iOM is the outdoor business in which I had an interest until 10 years ago. I was asked to help out since we were to be in some areas where advertising sales needed to be made. So Charters Towers turned out to be a litmus test. In the current outback economic environment I was more than a little apprehensive but it didn’t turn out too bad. I can’t talk about the millions I made but it was a bit of fun, something I haven’t done for a very long time.

And, Charters Towers turned out to be a very nice place to be whilst I wet the litmus. CT was once a big town of 27000 but today is down to under 10000. The town belies its low population as it is very spread out and the main streets are endowed with some beautiful large old buildings. It has a “gold rush” history, back to the late 1800’s. At one stage it had 95 pubs but it’s now down to probably just 10 or 12. Many of the old pubs still exist as private residences.

We stayed in a caravan park that put on dinners and entertainment most nights. Dinners were fund raisers for various organisations at typically $15.00 a head for a 3 course meal in the camp kitchen and on alternate nights Neil Macarthur sprouted bush poetry. Funny as a circus but I can’t remember one so we had to buy his CD.

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Anyway, Charters Towers has a hill behind it called, of all things, Tower Hill. On Tower Hill are some 30 concrete bunkers built by the Americans in 1942 to house armaments for back up for the defences at Townsville. These are all empty shells these days but do make for a unique landscape set against a lot of old gold mines and the remnants of a chemical processing plant for the production of gold separating chemical….

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and here’s some of the earlier built history …..

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most of which have gone through relatively recent renovation and look beautiful. The theatre, image 4 above is currently undergoing such a reno. There appears a high level of civic pride throughout the township. All of the parks and gardens are meticulously maintained.

Then there was the swap meet. Queens Birthday long weekend saw the city come alive, at least while the weather held out and a variety of events around town including  massive ‘burn-out’ comp…

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for which this truck proved the star attraction. We went out to the venue but the smell of burning rubber quickly turned us away. Eventually found the showgrounds to see what the swap meet had to offer and found this…..

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but he wasn’t gunna swap it for anything. Nor were any of these gunna be swapped on the day unless it was for many many  many banknotes..

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but a smattering of vehicles on display – I would guess over 200 vehicles of all descriptions out for an event that is 145 km from the nearest major city.

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a little bit of British to finish off with, the underdogs of what mainly is an all American display.

Off in another corner of the showgrounds was in fact the swap meet but inspection failed to uncover anything remotely of interest, let alone value.

A tour of the Venus Gold Stamper demonstrated yet again the ingenuity of our predecessors. Crushing gold bearing rock to flush out the gold using initially mercury and then cyanide, whilst a little harsh on the employees who maybe lived to 40 if they were lucky, proved very effective in extracting the gold. And made many millionaires…

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The guided tour was worth every penny – more information on the gold leaching process than we had previously known and a fascinating tale of human exploitation. Wish we could still get away with these things – oh! they do in India and China and most other third world places.

The miners cottage, the Civic Club, the museum, the ambulance museum, all places of interest and all hard to absorb. So much information, so much history.








13 June 2014

Woop Woop On

Upon departing Woop Woop the road nearly got better – still single lane blacktop but less bouncy jouncy, almost cruisin’. 85 was a reasonable speed but every now and then Jude went through the roof over the dips and humps I didn’t see coming.

Julia Creek next stop. Delightful Information Centre, everything there, nothing much left in the town. All of the history and much of the structure is all captured at the VIC even the local rat (Dunnart for the uneducated) – one in captivity, nocturnal so just about have to take their word for its existence. Not very photogenic when you can’t use a flash. Lots of history to the town told by locals in video shows throughout the centre – very well done. All my photos of the VIC turned into videos too, so they won’t download. You’ll just have to see Julia Creek for yourself (although I wouldn’t rush). They do provide a fabulous free-camp location though and it was well used. The deal is  4 days no charge (as long as you are self contained) then a 5th night for $15.00 at the council owned caravan park where you can top up everything. We did only stay the one night cos other more interesting? places beckoned.

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On to Richmond. This place has some sentimental attraction as Jude and Robyns oldest brother Ian spent some 20 years here through the sixties and seventies. A baker and ambulance driver Ian was part of the local community. I don’t think much has changed in recent years other than the development of a lake adjacent to the hospital and old peoples village. We didn’t stay over as the small caravan park was full and the council provided van park was barren….

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The lake the hospital the dinosaur the streetscape and Ians old bakery and some shop fronts Ian may remember. Riveting Richmond. We had hoped to catch up with an old friend of Ians but he’d left for somewhere else.

Roadside overnight on Flinders Highway then came Hughenden. A very interesting Visitor Information Centre  focussed like Richmond and Winton on dinosaurs. A quite good fossil museum and a great overview of the townships history and yet another plastic dinosaur….

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Best hamburger yet at FJ Holden café. Out to Porcupine Gorge about 70 k north of Hughenden for an overnight, only to find you have to book in advance and there was no space for us. Nevertheless, a beautiful place…

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and quite unexpected in this otherwise flat, desolate environment

Further along the Flinders Highway to Prairie for an overnight behind the Prairie Hotel. Cost – a couple of beers. Mind you its not worth much more – its just a paddock at the back of the pub but the pub itself is quite eclectic having a history of around 140 years…

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I’m not sure what you do with the pool cue.

Charters Towers was calling. Arrived Wednesday afternoon and started work. iOM has acquired Civic Guides and many of the country sites require reselling so muggins here gets suckered in to “have a go”. The full story next instalment.

8 June 2014

Aye Karumba!

Cos there’s been relatively little to see or hold our attention in many of the little outback places we’ve been so far we seem to be a bit ahead of the supposed timetable. I had always anticipated that we would be in Cairns by about the middle of July to start the trek to the top and then on return from the Cape we would explore the coastal towns all the way back to Brisbane and perhaps further south. Well we decided, being ahead of schedule, that we would take a detour up to the Gulf so Normanton and Karumba became the targets from Mt Isa via Cloncurry. Cloncurry passed without incident – I know people live there and we sat around their lake for lunch but it is a town with no apparent character and none of the stories of the type attaching to other outback towns we’ve been through.

Ooh ooh ooh – we could experience the ‘Gulflander’. Now this is one of those once in a lifetime experiences we were told (although Robyn has experienced three lifetimes when it comes to the Gulflander). So, intent on saving dollars to pay for the experience we free-camped for the first night out of Mt Isa and despite the fact that the free-camp was nearly full we spent a comfortable night parked up with about 10 others.

On to Normanton to book for the train- it is now Tuesday morning and the train runs to Croydon on Wednesday, overnights and comes back Thursday, a round trip of about 250km. Our plan was also to overnight in Croydon in some kind of cheap humpy. But to our never ending surprise the train was booked out. Well, the best laid plans….

So we booked for a short trip with morning tea on Saturday. With Normanton now a future experience we moved on to Karumba where we found a caravan park to prop for the next few days. As it turned out we were in fact lucky to find a place in Karumba – normally at this time of year it is full, all four caravan parks in a 60’s fishing village of just 600 people. This is the place that Victorians (and some others) come to to fish for Barramundi. And not just for a few days but for months on end. As luck would have it the fish are scarce this year apparently due to the drought causing streams to dry up where barra spawn. I don’t know whether that’s true or not but we were repeatedly reminded that the numbers were way down.

Karumba has  little other attraction although the seafood is good and the weather was beautiful. But, it does have good sunsets when we’re not there. There’s even a tavern named the ‘Sunset’ at which we tried the seafood and the sunset and attempted to spy the crocodiles in the Normanton River. The seafood was good and reasonably priced the sunset happened but wasn’t spectacular and they must have lied about the crocs…

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Still looking for that magical sunset. A few leisurely days in the sun didn’t hurt though.

Friday we headed back to Normanton. Another caravan park for the night, a bit of a walk around town…..IMGP3705 (1280x960) IMGP3706 (1280x960) IMGP3707 (1280x960) IMGP3708 (1280x960) IMGP3709 (1280x960) IMGP3710 (1280x960) IMGP3711 (1280x960) IMGP3712 (1280x960)





























where pubs are pre-eminent, fuel is served up from shop fronts (but not at weekends) and crocs are revered. This is also the sentimental home of the shipping/ merchandising conglomerate Burns Philp Ltd. The original tin shed is still embalmed and has become the home of the Visitor Information Centre and local library. Its 120 years old which isn’t bad for a tin shed, but I didn’t get a photo.

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This one nearly qualified as a croc though.

On to the ‘Gulflander’ …….

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Now the surprise of this is the fact that it is still part of Queensland Rail. It is the only line in the network that goes from nowhere to nowhere but still runs a weekly mail service between Normanton and Croydon. This on Wednesday and Thursday. Every other day it runs a short trip to ‘Critters Creek’ with a morning tea run on Saturdays.

The tracks are 120 years old and the only real maintenance over that period has been repairs occasioned by floods. The tracks are not only not level but they wave all over the place. The journey is taken at just 25km per hour these days, somewhat slower than it used to run. The ride is hilarious – you are pitched all over the seats, up, down, sideways. In hindsight I am so pleased we didn’t get on for the full journey but it has been a highlight of the journey so far…

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and yes there’s even a dunny on this train. For the technically minded the engine is a Gardner diesel, 65 years old pushing out 100 hp behind which is a 4 speed crashbox requiring a double de-clutch shift up and down. The engine was overhauled about 4 years ago for the first time. The motor coach is the same vintage but the passenger car is newer, only about 50 tears old and taken from another Qld rail system.

Morning tea was scones & jam & cream, cake and damper with golden syrup for the forty or so on board. The driver maintained commentary for all of the journey as we passed through deserted town sites, deserted market gardens and stopped at a flood marker showing the depth of various big floods over the rails history…

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um! that’s deep –  14 metres at the worst. The train has run every day of its 120 years apart from when the tracks were flooded. Past motors were of course steam and the last such steam engine is enshrined at the front of the station..

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There are still a lot of historical pieces around the station, not least of which is the museum….

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Back on the road to Julia Creek but first via…

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Burke & Wills, for fuel at only $1.75 a litre and then on to……

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to share with about 14 others..

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most of whom are not in the picture.

I’ve only taken about 1300 photos so far but I’ve never got the right ones to fit the story. Maybe I should write up the tale first then set about taking photos to the match the commentary. I’ll keep trying!

Did see these odd vehicles parked up at Burke & Wills ……

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any clues?



5 June 2014

Min Min Mt Isa

Winton to the Hilton Hotel for a beer. The Hiltons standards have been maintained but the beer at the Middleton Hotel opposite was certainly colder….

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and the welcoming committee was friendly.

At least this stop provided some light relief from a long monotonous drive through countryside that hardly varies from bland…

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and that’s just the first 120km.

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and then there was the next 100km to the Hamilton Hotel….

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where we overnighted with two other vans and next day moved on…

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and then there was a sign.

But, we did reach Boulia the home of the Min Min lights. Now, like so many other towns before this the story surrounding the town rests on a minor incident, one that in this case has no explanation. It’s told that unexplained lights have followed people or come at them across the plains or indeed collided with them to no ill effect. The town has set up a series of dioramas in a theatre where one moves from room to room listening to plastic dummies telling of their various encounters with the Min Min lights It is laughable but it is also interesting…

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and, no, the last two are not all dummies just interested participants.

A  reasonable museum, an old house and a fabulous fossil collection rounded out the affairs of Boulia…

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On to Dajarra, towards Mt Isa. Free camped at Dajarra to the sounds of indigenous frivolity through to the early hours of the next day. Coupled with the sounds of frequently fighting dogs seemingly under the truck, sleep was elusive. But we survived to tell the tale.

The scenery did take a turn for the better on the final run into Mt Isa but ‘rugged’ would be an understatement….

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although it started out boringly similar….

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Rocks, bikes and power stations at least provided some relief from the earlier boredom. All up a 660 km detour to appreciate the countryside and the Min Min lights. There’s not much out here.

Mt Isa was on my “bucket list”, particularly since not making it this far in 2003. At the very least a mine tour was to be the order of the day.

Well, you “joe public” can’t be trusted down a real mine cos you might kill yourself or blow us up or some such so we’ve built you an imitation mine. But don’t worry we’ll provide a real Miner to take you on a tour, even though he retired some years ago. Oh, and you can’t take photos. And it was about $40 each but you do get a set of orange paper overalls to take home to remember us by.

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All of these photos were taken outside the facility and it was so hot I forgot to take a ‘selfie’ of the orange overalls.

It was nonetheless interesting and did provide a very realistic (presumably) picture of mine working conditions. The old miner was also quite a character and proved to be most entertaining. These days you can’t even get close to the real mine which was a bit disappointing.

Mt Isa’s history is relatively recent – just 1923 when Cameron John Miles found ore and subsequently lodged a claim which in turn led to the formation of Mount Isa Mines Ltd. A story  of boom and bust until new American ownership of the thirties brought the business into profit by 1937. Miners strikes in the 60’s also contributed to further ownership changes but the mine apparently now remains profitable. It is a huge complex and when you consider that the bulk of mining is still conducted by tunnel blasting and boring it appears a high cost operation. Lead and copper are the principle extracts.

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Not really a lot to see in Mt Isa. The local dam proved to be something of an attractive piece of landscape though….

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Probably more photos than narrative, but I don’t have much to say. We’re surprised at how little there is to see and for that matter to do out here, but it has so far proven very interesting to see where and how other people live. It is still quite hot – most days have been well into the 30’s and there hasn’t been a sniff of rain in all the time we’ve been away. We’re told that the temperatures in summer can reach 50 and indeed one of the towns we’ve been through holds the Australian record of over 53 degrees (I can’t remember which one). It is dry – drought is all around us and cattle stocks are down.

We are ahead of schedule so time permits a detour to the Gulf. Next stop will be Normanton for a day trip on the Gulflander and then Korumba for a stoush with a barramundi and perhaps a croc or two.


















2 June 2014

Winton afar

We’ve been to Winton many times but never travelled this far to get there.

Whoops! different Winton and not car race track to be seen. Horses though. And dinosaurs. And dust, and flies and heat – well that bit is like the Winton we’re familiar with.

110 km out of town on a mostly bad dirt road is Larks Quarry. Someone somehow determined that this was the site of a dinosaur stampede about 60 or 70 million years ago and dug up the footprints to prove it. Apparently some of these footprints just fell out of the dirt a few years ago so some intrepid explorers dug deeper and here we are….

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Now the little ones are the size of the feet of the big black chook  in the last post on Longreach but nonetheless we are persuaded to the view that these are not chook prints but DINOSAUR prints and the big pints are those of a BIG dinosaur chasing down the little ones for a feed, oh! about 60 million years ago and the prints got covered over by a flash flood depositing silt and subsequently ironstone deposits which in turn got further covered over then in more recent millennia it all got eroded away and some of the prints fell out. I just want to know who was out here looking –  this is the most inhospitable country you can find…

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but suddenly you come upon the building housing this rather unique display and it all seems to be worthwhile…

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and on the way in you pass an airport on which is parked 5 bloody planes.

Well there’s more dinosaurs when you get out to the south side of town to the “Age of Dinosaurs” – one mans (David Elliot) dream to display the remnants of a prehistoric age. It is nothing short of breathtaking, the manner in which a collection of old bones and artefacts of a long ago era are displayed, described and restored…

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The guy with the hat is David Elliot who found the first bones on his own property and has subsequently uncovered many more around the area. This is a shot of him after a quick change following a lunch in the facility with the Queensland Governor before he  headed out on another dig. Full credit to the guy – the facility and information is nothing short of marvellous. The people sitting around with big magnifying glasses are generally volunteers who scrape the dirt and rocks off the bones that are found, many taking days and weeks to clean up. Its painstaking. The racks with white bundles on them are stocks of old bones retrieved and protected after other digs.

We were told that many bones and relics find there way to the surface because of the constant churning of the areas ‘black soil’, a factor which also has some bearing on the constantly poor state of the roads in this part of the state.

The building was designed on a pro-bono basis by a firm of Sydney (I think) architects – Cox something I vaguely recall. It is stunning.

Winton also has other relics, perhaps not quite as old but more in keeping with the Winton we are more familiar with…

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Some are fully restored and all within the shed are working examples but as you move further out the back the restoration prospects diminish. Its a truck graveyard and I love it. Trouble is, so do the snakes –  I was told ‘don’t worry’ they’re all asleep at this time of year but I gotta tell you I wasn’t about to wake them up by climbing through some of these wrecks. Maybe with a shotgun in hand I would have been more adventurous.

Wintons Matilda Centre is another example of a town making a name for itself on a single simple theme. Apparently ‘Banjo’ Patterson penned the words to the song “Waltzing Matilda” whilst in town one day and Winton adopted it. The centre is devoted to it. When I was here in 2003 the centre featured a holographic presentation of the story outlined in the song, but apparently this proved too expensive to maintain so now it is a light and sound show – still good to see once but not as good as I recall. When through here last time I spent a long time exploring this centre but it didn’t seem to hold the same charm today as it did 11 years ago. Still well worth a look though…

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I can’t help myself –  more bloody cars and trucks even in the Matilda Centre. Mind you its a bit hard to get a photo of a song but I did try.

Several pubs in town all of which have burnt down at some time and have been rebuilt but we tried ‘The North Gregory’ version three which seemed to have retained a bit of character…

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and if you look closely you might spot both of them in the foyer (Jude facing, Robyn walking away).

Altogether a very interesting and enlightening time in Winton culminating with a delightful meeting over a cuppa with some old friends of Robyns, Joan and Peter Evert..

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Thanks folks that’s it for now!