Travelling Oz…Waltzing Mathilda

The Jolly Swagman

Monday August 15th, Tuesday August 16th and Wednesday August 17th

We drove from Winton to Kynuna, with a stop at Combo Waterhole, one of the purported sites for Banjo Patterson’s Waltzing Mathilda. We were delayed after leaving the caravan park by long lines of vans at the fuel station and my discovery that we had a slight leak, presumably from the fuel infill line. We also had to do a gas bottle exchange as we didn’t like to wait until we possibly could get a refill.

We stopped at an automotive repair place, but they couldn’t do even look at it until the next day. We found a place in Cloncurry which would take a look, so decided to wait until then. We stayed overnight at a roadhouse in Kynuna, very basic and the unpowered sites were nicely located at the back where we had very little road noise.

At our lunch spot yesterday we saw some stockmen mustering cattle. I went out with the GoPro and one of them joked that we could post it on Youtube and make money. Of course, our little channel doesn’t make money, but it was fun to get the shots. The cattle run every which way and have to be herded to follow the main body, so there was quite a lot of action to see before they moved off into the distance. The mob had come very close to the road because of the terrain, it was the only level ground.

At the Combo Waterhole there are a number of billabongs on a track, but we only walked in a little way and thought the first waterhole was a good representation. Stephen posed squatting next to it for a Jolly Swagman shot.

Of course there are other billabongs that claim to be The One

This morning we got away in good time, only have to use the dump point and fill up with water before leaving Kynuna. We arrived in Cloncurry and went to have our line checked. The person we were to see wasn’t there, so we went to a lookout and had our usual lunch of bread, cheese and chutney, followed by bread and honey and bananas. I tried using the toaster over near the door and it didn’t set off the fire alarm.

At the lookout, Cloncurry

When we went back, it was confirmed that it was the fill line, but he couldn’t replace it and didn’t want to even tighten it up in case the whole thing was deteriorated and fell apart. We will have to live with it until we can find someone to replace it. We only lose a little bit of fuel and just have to hope that it doesn’t collapse when we are a long way from a large town.

We had morning tea at the Crocodile Dundee Hotel

Tonight we are camping at a place recommended by Frederick and Sherene called Corella Dam. It is quite a large body of water in a bushland setting, and very popular. We have chosen to be away from the main shoreline as it’s more private. There is another Suncamper Sherwood here, just across the way. The road in was a bit hairy, with large ruts in places, and we were glad to be in the Hilux. However, there are lots of motorhomes, some very large, and they had to get here the same way, so we could have done it in our camper van. After all, our friends have a camper van and it isn’t 4WD.

There are lots of birds, in fact it’s quite noisy. There is a strong breeze as well, which meant that although it was warm in the sun we were comfortable without putting the fan on.

Yesterday (Wednesday) was a day for restocking with food, emptying the loo and getting water, all possible in Mt Isa, where we have spent the night. In the afternoon we went to get more fuel, and the leak from the infill pipe seemed worse. A local person noticed and recommended a local mechanic. 

They weren’t able to help until next week, so we kept ringing around and on the third try were able to make an appointment with Autofirst Service and Repairs. We spent some time at the Visitor Centre, which we both remembered from last time we were here, then went there at about 4.00 p.m. It was the tidiest, cleanest mechanics shop we have ever seen, staffed with people from overseas. They had very much a ‘can do’ attitude to our problem. Someone went to the local Toyota dealership to pick up a pipe that they thought might fit, It didn’t, so they have patched it, using a special glue and duct tape. We talked with the joint manager on reception. She was quite lovely. She wanted us to understand that this wasn’t a permanent fix and we should get a new pipe when we return home.

For all the time they charged us for one hour of labour, plus a little extra for the tape. But nothing for their courtesy, kindness and the actual length of time it took.

We experienced more kindness when we got to our overnight spot, the carpark of an oval belonging to the nearby Irish Club. We stayed here last time we were in Mt Isa. The local council disapproves of this arrangement and a notice at the gate says we must pay $15 and have a written permit saying that all caravan parks are full. We did try one caravan park which was full, but by 6.00 p.m. when we left Autofirst it was closed and driving there to get the permit was impossible. Some caravan parks won’t supply permits anyway. The Irish Club thinks as it is their private land they should be able to do what they like with it. So, as last time, we stayed for free, though last time I think we went to the club for a meal. Then Stephen was looking for a bin for our rubbish and a local person kindly offered to take it home and put it in their rubbish. And one of the other people staying here said that the rangers never check this spot anyway.

We had a peaceful night, slightly smelly from the nearby mining operation, but otherwise just what we needed, somewhere safe to sleep.

Travelling Oz…’Monsters of the Outback’ – on the trail of the dinasours

We visited Winton a few years ago when it was in drought, it is almost unrecognisable after a couple of years of good rain. And they have had a bit of winter rain as well, meaning some areas are still boggy. Everything is green.

We didn’t take too much notice last time of the dinasour connection. I’m not sure why, perhaps we didn’t get caught up in the magic. But, it happened this time. On our drive into Winton we diverted to the Age of Dinasours Museum and got to see some of the dinasour bones that have been found in this area. We also saw exerpts from the documentary on the discovery of the bones. A DVD of the whole documentary was on sale in the gift shop, but DVDs are not that useful and I asked if they had it in another format. Unfortunately not, but a Google search later and I found the full show on Vimeo. We were fairly hooked after our visit to the museum and we watched the 40 minute documentary in the evening.

Today we took a tour to another site, which they think is the site of a dinasour stampede. ‘A minute in time preserved for 90,000,000 years’, as someone has said. We could have driven to the site, but it made it a sort of rest day to be on a tour, plus you get far more information about the landscape and and the dinasour bones and tracks that have been preserved for so long here. We also had good, healthy food, apart from morning tea with biccies and lamingtons. Our tour guide had everything in our vehicle and he served three snacks/meals during our time. Lunch was cold meat and salad and afternoon tea was fruit salad, in individual packs for each person.

We went on a tour run by the museum to see the stampede tracks, which have been enclosed to try to preserve them. Embarrassingly, a wall fell in on the tracks after four months, but they have also left some of the covering rocks in place so not everything is exposed. Even if there is further damage at least part of the record has been preserved. The current theory is that tiny dinasours, the size of chickens, plus some slightly larger ones, were at a water hole when a very large predator arrived. As the large dinasour tracked down a victim the others fled towards it as they had the water at their backs and nowhere else to run. This is only a theory, and fits what is there, but they stress that they don’t really know what happened, though they know something of why the tracks were preserved. This area was rainforest in those times and actually located a bit south of where Tasmania is now.

The open savannah grasslands of present time are very good for cattle. Although they started out here with sheep it is mostly cattle now, and many pastoralists at least try to practice sustainable land use without overstocking.

The light during today was slightly less bright than I expected. Perhaps the polution which is giving us such splendid sunrises and sunsets is also present during the day and holding back some of the light.

As the day went on I noticed that there was much about the history of settlement in the area, as well as the ancient history, but nothing about the original inhabitants. Eventually our tour guide told us that story too. After pastoralists started settling here they ran into dispute with the indigenous people, who, after all, had the greater claim to the land. Police were sent in and killed about 200 people. The rest were sent off to missions and their original culture and language was lost over the generations. However, they eventually mounted a native title claim which has been successful. A good result in the end, but doesn’t make up for how their ancestors were treated.

The weather is sunny and cool, and ideal for exploring and we felt that we had a really lovely time. Our guide was ex military and fairly commanding. He said doing the tours was like taking his friends’ parents on outings. We were all grey nomads, of the fit and healthy kind, and very docile. Perhaps keeping us fed and watered is to that end. The tour was value for money at $145 per person, and included all our food and drinks, plus entry to the Lark Quarry (the name of the stampede excavation).

Travelling Oz…Barcaldine and Longreach

After our night at Bogentungen, we stopped briefly at the Drummond Range Lookout. Although it was lovely we were having to photograph the view looking towards the sun and it doesn’t look as nice as it was in reality.

We drove through the towns of Alpha and Jerico to a campsite just outside of Barcaldine where we spent last night. This morning we have driven to Longreach, going firstly to a laundromat for an hour or two.

These little birds are very bold, like magpies, and will hang around people if you have what they want, in this case they were at the water tap waiting for a drink.

Stephen is exploring options for visiting the dinasour stampede about 110kms out of Winton. It was being talked about when we visited last, but has been made into a major tourist attraction. Friends have said that the cost of a tour is $25, and that is true, but we are not sure how to get there. If we drive, half the distance is on a gravel road, which would mean we would end up very dusty and would also need to find somewhere to stay overnight. It is supposed to be accessible to 2WD vehicles. Our friends took a bus tour, but I wasn’t able to find anything for a reasonable cost online, so Stephen has been to the Visitor Centre here in Longreach to see if there is a bus service at a reasonable cost. That would mean we could go out and back in one day.

And good news, there is a day tour for $145 each and we are now booked in for Sunday. After a few calls we’ve been able to find a place to stay for two nights.

We are feeling that we have been travelling for a long time now and really need to have a bit of a rest. It’s a matter of finding a nice spot. I’m thinking of the Barkly Homestead where we stayed for a few days the last time we came this way. Stephen had a cold and needed to rest and it was quite comfortable with power and water at a reasonable cost. However, that is still about 1,000kms away and might have to be our second rest stop.

Travelling Oz…on the Capricorn Highway

Stephen finally felt confident in driving the Toyota Hilux yesterday and we made it to Emerald without feeling too tired. We were parked up near a bridge and a botanical gardens. We were also within walking distance of a shopping centre and I donned a backpack and went there for shopping.

We enjoyed a short walk in the botanical gardens. In the children’s playground they had a monorail with little pedal cars. We saw one in Rockhampton as well. It looks fun, but the kids have to pedal hard and they go rather slowly.

In the morning we went to empty the toilet and get water, then Stephen went to Woolies to get some extra stuff that would have made the shopping too heavy for me to carry the day before.

I had made an appointment with an auto electrcians the day before and we rocked up at 11.00 for our appointment only to have Rod, our expert, about to have his smoko. Still, it gave me time to remove all of the cushions, etc. from the benches so he could access our elecronics. He confirmed that our DCtoDC charger was working, but it wasn’t linked through the shunt that would have allowed me to see the power coming through on my app. He corrected that problem and also rewired the batteries and connected the 240v charger to the shunt as well.

Rod, the auto electrician drew this diagram to show us what he changed

On our drive afterwards the batteries performed as they have in the days since we bought the camper, but at least I understood the negative values I had been seeing as the fridge operating on DC when we were travelling. It can draw up to 10 amps, but this no longer shows up, there are now positives values.

The batteries are not reaching the super high voltages they were reaching in the Adria, but that is a good thing as it worried me to have them sitting on 14.4v whilst we were travelling. The DCDC charger is clearly doing a better battery management job than previously, so that part might be due to our installer at the sales yard. We had two people doing the installing and it probably never occurred to them that I check the input/output so obsessivly!

Tonight we are staying at a place called Bogantungen, just off the highway. This donation camp has a toilet and drinking water and is in the Drummond Ranges. It is much more peaceful here than last night although the highway is close by.

Travelling Oz…We’ve escaped!

A photo from Kershaw Gardens where we walked yesterday evening

It felt very good indeed to be leaving Rockhampton and heading west along the Capricorn Highway. The relief is in getting away from the heavily populated East Coast. We haven’t travelled very far today, only about 111 kms, but the vegetation has changed and the air is dryer, so it feels more comfortable. We thought it might be warm, but there was a cool breeze when we arrived at about 12.30 p.m. and it felt about 15.

We chose this place due to recommendations on Wikicamps. It is a free campground with toilets, hot showers, and outdoor area for washing up, and drinking water and dump point. They ask for a donation, but we will have to do it in the morning as the volunteers had gone home by the time Stephen got there.

Our parkup for tonight. There are quite a few RVs, including one of our kind of campers on a Toyota Hilux. However, it is a large area and we don’t feel it’s crowded as we have been for the last couple of nights. There is less traffic noise as well, though we are fairly close to the highway.

We have a question mark about our DCtoDC charger to follow up. There is an auto electrician place in Emerald, the next town on our route, that gets very good reviews by travellers like us who end up with a van or car electrical issue. There is also a supermarket and we really need to stock up on fresh food as the pantry is looking a bit sparse. Stephen couldn’t carry very much when he went shopping yesterday.

Travelling Oz…made it to Rockhampton yesterday

We spent one more night on the road at the Boyne River Rest Area close to Gladstone. It was memorable for a flat parking spot, a retro mobile coffee and donut van, and some cattle coming to visit near the fence and staying long enough for me to photograph them.

We arrived in Rockhampton yesterday and are staying at Kershaw Gardens free camping spot, along with many others, of course. We rested, then had a walk around to see what is here. at Anaconda I bought walking sandals and Stephen bought some light trousers.

This morning we went to get fresh water, then to Bunnings for portasol and Autobarn for sunscreens for the car. We stopped at a very busy laundromat to do a load of washing, then back to the free camping area. We couldn’t get our good spot on the fence overlooking the park this time, but we can’t complain, it’s free and well located. Stephen just walked over to Coles for a few essentials.

We’ve had quite a busy time here getting some important things done, but we want to start heading west tomorrow.

Travelling Oz…Gin Gin Rest Area and Glass House Mountains photos

Without the photo of the 18th century glass making towers the name doesn’t make much sense. Lt James Cook was looking through a telescope from his ship.

Gin Gin in Queensland should not be confused with Gingin, WA. I find I am elaborately saying Gin Gin as two separate words. In the town some signs wrote it Gingin, so maybe even they are undecided.

We had a slow day of travel yesterday due to extensive roadworks. And we were worried about the busy highway! At one point we had been stopped or travelling very slowly for so long that everyone needed the toilet and the first service station was very busy as it was the first time anyone had been able to pull off the road. We took advantage too.

The Adria appeared briefly on our dealer’s website, no photos but priced at $99,000. I just checked this morning and it has sold already. Karen, the manager, said she turns over the yard full of campers in a month, but that was very quick indeed. A new owner will now have to cope with all of her quirks, sticky window blinds and insect screens, a heater that puts most of it’s heat into the storage area under the bed, a button on the hot water system that stops working and has to be removed and reset, the list goes on. Still, I imagine it looked really nice with the professional cleaning. We watched him working whilst we were in the yard and he even knows how to clean the insect screens, though he said they are very delicate and you have to be careful.

Travelling Oz…Good morning from the Hideaway Hotel, Tiaro, Qld

We enjoyed our day of exploring the Glass Mountains area, but I’ve not yet processed the photos. I don’t think they will be great, but will give a sense of what it is like. Steve Irwin’s Australian Zoo is also in that area but after viewing the website we didn’t feel it was something we needed to do.

In the morning we went to one of the lookout areas and started to climb up to it. I gave up when the steps stopped and it was a matter of scrambling over stones. I just seemed to be losing my balance a bit. Stephen also found the climbing hard going. We had brought lunch with us to enjoy at a viewing point, so we humbly went back to the camper to enjoy it there.

Our next stop was the Visitor Information Centre. We felt self concious putting on masks for this, but were pleasantly surprised to find the volunteers working there were wearing masks.

By then we realised that there was a viewpoint we could drive to, so that is what we did for the rest of the afternoon before returning to the campsite.

Yesterday we decided to make some more progress north. We arrived at a possible overnight camping spot, had lunch, then decided to go further. There was a lot of road noise from the highway, plus we still had energy to tackle driving further on the A1. The M1 has morphed into a two lane road, fortunately it has frequent overtaking lanes and a lot of the time passing is not allowed. I gather it’s a pretty dangerous road and they are trying to tame the wild Queenslanders to follow rules, quite hard I think. There are a lot of road works happening and although we had no stops it allowed us to travel at 80kms, which feels safer. We are hoping the road West from Rockhampton will be a bit less frenetic!

Wikicamps found us a number of places to be overnight, but this little country pub seemed a nice option. They even have pensioneer style meals (smaller and cheaper) as though they’ve seen our sort before. There are fewer people staying here than we’ve seen at other places, so that is nice as well. We are on a bit of a slope, but decided to live with it as the bed is in the correct orientation (higher at the head than the foot) and having the evening meal out meant I didn’t have to try to cook on the angle. We could have levelled up, but it would be our first time in this camper (see how I’ve adjusted to the NSW/QLD language) and I felt a bit nervous.

We are still having mostly cool nights snuggled under the doona, but it was still comfortable to sit outside for our evening meal. We were able to keep an eye on the camper as I had left the windows open and even in this quiet place I was a bit worried.

Travelling Oz…Settling into our new home

Almost ready to travel. We have folding washing baskets of stuff that go on the bed during the day and on our bench seats at night. I got this idea from watching a vanlife video. We are now putting my basket on the bench to travel to cut down the weight on the overhead peak.

Yesterday we didn’t plan to drive all the way to the Glass House Mountains, but our stop on the way (a showgrounds) wasn’t available due to an upcoming event and as I had had a coffee at lunchtime I felt able to continue for another 50 kms even though it was late in the day. We arrived at our new camping area (a sportsground In Beewah) at about 4.15 p.m. This is $20 per night with power, water and nearby flushing toilets. There is a swimming pool that offers cheap showers as well. We had a bit of a battle with Google Maps to find the correct entry (wrong street name, correct instructions), but with help from a local we made it.

Cooking on my lovely three burner cooktop.This cooktop becomes our dressing table at night. With the lid down over the stovetop we have a lot of space.

The drive here was partly on the M1 and partly on the M3 and we may have incurred some road tolls. The licence is still in the dealer’s name until we get back to WA, so I’m sure she will forward the bill to us. I didn’t plan it exactly, but we ended up driving through Brisbane along the river and got to see the places we had been from the perspective of the motorway. It was a nice farewell.

The sink is on the other side of the room and is a really good size. This can also become a bench top with the lid down. The glass covers for the stovetop and sink are stronger glass than we’ve had before and seem to be very good quality.
The bed with some of our stuff on it.
The stove top bench which becomes a dressing table overnight. We also use the cab area for storage of backpacks, etc. overnight. The opening is a pass through, we can’t really use it for getting from the house to the car. I could probably get through in an emergency, but I wouldn’t do it just for fun. In that sense, it’s more like a caravan.

We’ve found that whichever way we go, leaving here and heading west, or going up to Rockhampton, then west, is about the same distance to Mt Isa. Rockhampton offers free camping in the town, which makes it seem traveller friendly, and at the moment that is our preferred option.

For today we want to do some sightseeing. The Glass House Mountains were given that name by Captain Cook as he found it reminded him of his home. The mountains look interesting in photos as they have high points due to volcanic activity thousands of years ago and stand out from the rest of the landscape. I haven’t used my real camera for a while and looking forward to having landscapes to photograph.

Driving at speed can feel a bit ‘floaty’. The camper is much more affected by wind and passing trucks than the Adria. The suspension upgrade also contributes to the ‘float’ as we have a far more comfortable ride. The house box is well protected against jarring shocks, a side effect, the upgrade is necessary for this vehicle to be able to handle the load. We went to a weighbridge first thing yesterday and found we were just within the weight limit. It was reassuring that we still have so much onboard without going over.

I’m looking forward to going on our first gravel road. The Adria couldn’t handle it at all really, we had to creep along and there was no chance of going fast and smoothing out the corrugations. I am hoping for the same experience as the Subaru, that is, we can travel comfortably up to about 60-70kms ph on most gravel roads.

We don’t expect it will have the same beautiful ride experience of Marie and Geoff’s Ford Territory. That has exceptional suspension and we have travelled on a gravel road in the Adria and then been driven on the same road in their car, and it was like being on a completely different road.

We don’t have the upgraded wheels and tires that were on the other Sherwood in the sales yard. Ours look like normal car wheels and tires. Another pointer to not being a fully off road vehicle. So, we won’t be driving on beaches or through deep water crossings or really rough roads that need a very high wheelbase.