Saturday, June 30, 2012


27 June – 28 June

We ended up staying at Clermont for 2 nights, at Theresa Creek Dam. On the way we passed through a number of small places. Jericho – no walls for Joshua here; Alpha – despite meaning first, it wasn’t our first choice; we had heard Emerald was very busy so we bypassed it. Sapphire looked like a good choice but the Caravan Park was full. Rubyvale didn’t have much going for it.  These last two towns are located in extensive gem fossicking and mining areas, and the countryside shows the scars with mullock heaps everywhere.

The next town was Capella, a small town with an unexpected choice of facilities and sporting options – golf, cricket and football. But what surprised us most was that suddenly we had crops – sunflowers and a couple of unfamiliar ones. These were the first crops we recall seeing since just north of Burra, over 6 weeks and a few thousand kilometres ago.

There are obviously a few locals with a great sense of humour (or a competition to outdo each other) in naming their properties on the outskirts of town. They were Gunna Doo, Goengedit, What a Bugga and Thinc Big.

After 400+ kilometres we ended up at the next town, Clermont. We had heard that Theresa Creek Dam was an enormous site which had shower and toilet facilities, flat sites and cost only $10 a night. The site proved to be everything people had said. The dam provides water for the town but is also used for water skiing, and fishing. There is abundant bird life as well – rainbow lorikeets, apostle birds, egrets, and purple swamphens with chicks. Although the weather was a bit dismal it cleared up while we stayed there for 2 nights. It was a great spot I would be happy to return to.  It was nice to be able to relax for a while and allow some of our information overload to digest.
Above and below, scenes at Theresa Creek Dam

Purple Swamphen
Rainbow Lorikeets
We didn’t do a lot in Clermont but did have lunch and wander around their lagoon and memorials.  One of the memorials was to the 60 people killed in the 1916 flood. This catastrophe led to the town later being moved to its present site on higher ground.
The 1916 flood memorial, with the height of the flood indicated on the tree

Above and below, scenes from Clermont Lagoon

World War I sniper memorial
The town also has four old coal carriages painted with excellent murals. Clermont is near the edge of the Bowen Basin coalfield and is surrounded by coal mines, with great potential to increase their output. 
These four murals display the sources of wealth in the district, both past and present 

 We also visited some of the remains of the once thriving village of Copperfield near Clermont. Unlike Nuccaleena in South Australia it was a short easy trip to the Chimney, which was totally barricaded with wire. There is also an old General Store that we were fortunate enough to get a peek into. The Queensland Museum gatekeepers wouldn’t allow us in because of the danger of rats. Even when David told them about camping with rats at Mungerranie they were undeterred.
The Copperfield Chimney
The Copperfield Store, from the outside, and the inside below

Our next stop after Clermont is Mackay, staying with Rob and Shoney, so this is the end of the drier west and its big skies for a while, as we explore some of the coast. Hopefully we can now wear some of the summer clothes taking up space in our drawers.
No, this isn't a bushfire, it's a sunset after a few days of rain.

Thursday, June 28, 2012


June 25- June26

As Barcaldine is only a relatively short distance from Longreach it didn’t take long for us to reach there – in fact we were there in time for a very nice pie for lunch from the bakery.

One of the main attractions in Barcaldine is the Tree of Knowledge. This tree, a eucalyptus papuana, or ghost gum, has stood outside the railway station for more than a century. It was a silent witness to the 1891 Shearers’ Strike, and subsequent events, which led to the formation of the Australian Labour Party. The tree had a chequered life, but finally died from poisoning in 2006. The current Tree of Knowledge memorial was erected for Queensland’s sesqui-centenary in 2009. From the outside it looks like a giant slatted box on stilts, but inside there are suspended round poles of different lengths, many cut at 45, and all able to move with the breeze. Looking upwards the sense is of standing under the canopy of an enormous tree.
The Tree of Knowledge Memorial 
Looking up from inside the TOK Memorial

In keeping with the importance of the Tree of Knowledge, all the streets in Barcaldine are name after trees.

Barcaldine is also notable for its hotels – apparently six of them remain, all over one hundred years old.  That’s probably why it’s pronounced bar-called-in. The hotels I located seemed to be made of galvanised iron. It would have made for many hot nights before the advent of air conditioning.
One of Barcaldine's many hotels

The other important attraction in Barcaldine is the Australian Workers Heritage Centre. This centre traces the development and history of the Labour Party in one display while other areas recognise the contribution of employees in a variety of industries. These include railways, police, emergency services, health, education and main roads, to name a few. There is also a display dedicated to women’s working history. Although we have been to many museums and heritage centres, this one is quite different as it showcases the working history of many “ordinary” people, not just the heroic.
Queensland Rail's worker display. The station was originally at Artesia
Wrought iron detail on the old carriage
This big top space contained a Centenary of Labour display
Postal worker display
Emergency Services mural
Women's electoral and equal pay display
Blade shearers from the 1890s

While at Barcaldine we stayed for two nights at a free camp 15 kilometres out of town at Lloyd-Jones Weir. This free camp has toilet facilities, with a generous amount of toilet paper supplied, and is maintained by the local council, and a gold coin donation is requested. There are people there who stay for months and are well entrenched.  Unfortunately the weather deteriorated into rain, so creative solutions were called for to cook a barbecue, and keep warm. Never before have we lit a fire under a tarp – only a small one – and had a warm and pleasant night by the campfire while it rained.
Our campfire and barbecue under a blue canopy
They take toilet roll theft very seriously at Lloyd-Jones Weir
One of the natives surveying his food domain
Our favourite picture from the Workers Heritage Centre is the one below from Emergency Services.

Alcohol - the new anaphylactic treatment

From Barcaldine we head towards Mackay, not sure yet where we will end up staying. 

Sunday, June 24, 2012


22 – 24 June

After our detour to the Age of Dinosaurs, which was on the way to Longreach, we arrived here late in the afternoon. We had a look at the free camp just out of town, but it was crammed with caravans, and there wasn’t any shade. As the weather has turned out, shade wasn’t that important, as there has been a cold windy change in the weather.

So we finally found a site at Longreach Tourist Caravan Park – which still has a lot of caravans packed in tightly – but we actually have empty sites all around us. The amenities blocks and the washing machine provision are excellent here, and the camp kitchen is quite good as well.  The evening started well with an enormous campfire and a bush poet, an old guy who looked just like Dad. It was quite uncanny. I don’t know whether the photos will have captured it well though.
Alan Blunt, bush poet, Dad's double
The large fire pit with our small camp oven cooking roast pork just visible on the right.

Amazingly in the laundry I met 3 other women from Lithgow – the weather brought that information out. Two were sisters-in-law and the other one was a teacher there in the 1970s. Small world! We have also spent a bit of time in the camp kitchen talking to a couple who are cycling around Australia. She is Dutch and he is German. They only met here in Australia and are raising money for the Flying Doctor Service.
Longreach is the best serviced town we have stayed in so far, and has a broad range of services available. It is better equipped than Mount Isa, which is a surprise. All the streets in Longreach are named after Australian birds. The caravan park, which is in Thrush Road has three resident brolgas.

Longreach is home to the QANTAS Founders Museum and The Australian Stockman’s Hall of Fame. Both are excellent museums, with quality displays, but after two days we are suffering from information overload. Especially as some of the material has been covered similarly in other nearby towns.

The QANTAS Founders Museum
The original hangar
Jumbo dwarfing our big baby

The QANTAS museum offers tours of their Jumbo Jet and also a Qantas 707. We did the tour and learnt all kinds of things about the Jumbo. Most interesting was the challenge of actually landing it at Longreach as the runway is about half the normal length required and also half the width. It took lots of time in a flight simulator to reduce the weight sufficiently for a safe landing to occur. We were able to sit in the cockpit and take photos there.

The black box flight recorder - it's orange actually
David in the co-pilot's seat

The 707 was also quite interesting as it was the first one built out of only 13 in this configuration. John Travolta owns number 13 and wanted this one as well. This plane had quite a checkered history, with its most recent refit being done by the Saudis. It was fitted out with walnut furniture, lounge chairs, gambling tables, a double bed, and toilets and bidets complete with upholstered leather covers.  To restore it to flying condition and return it to Australia from England was a mammoth volunteer effort.

David’s distant brush with fame is that he was sitting in the same seat as John Travolta did when he came aboard in Orlando in Florida.

City of Canberra 707
The lounge; gaming tables have been removed
Bathroom: the toilet is square and the bidt oval 
The cockpit had 6 seats
The museum contains many displays relating to the early days of QANTAS, with some of them in the original hangar that was used to both build and repair the aircraft. It is a very well designed facility.

This was the first aircraft to have inside seats. The pilot was still outside. This plane also had a toilet
Inside the original hangar
The Stockman’s Hall of Fame really honours the lives and work of stockmen and women from all over Australia. Although it covers many themes we are now quite well versed in, the quality of the displays is of a high standard. There is a lot of reading involved so kids might be bored fairly quickly.

The exterior, and interior ceiling detail 

We also took a quick trip to Ilfracombe, a small town 27 kilometres east of Longreach to charge up the battery that runs the fridge. The town has excellent historical displays and an extensive collection of farm machinery, but it was too chilly to spend long outdoors. What I did discover though was that the feathers used in the Light Horse Brigade hats were emu feathers. Emus must have been a lot more prolific then than now.

I also had quite a surprise driving in Longreach this afternoon. I saw what looked like a magnolia tree in full bloom out of season. On closer inspection the white “flowers” were cockatoos.

Flowers or cockatoos?
Then they took flight

Tomorrow we are leaving Longreach and heading for Barcaldine.