Workers of the World Unite

Sunday 25th of June

Tambo to Ilfracombe

Linda and I were packed and leaving the rather pleasant of old style tourist park at Tambo just after 10am heading north along the Landsborough Highway to Barcaldine and thence west to Ilfracombe. The countryside was gently undulating all the way, mostly extensive grasslands with some scattered trees here and there, with occasional thicker stands. At Blackall, about 100 Km north of Tambo we stopped for morning tea at a pleasant park beside the highway. A sign on the opposite side of the road directed us to ‘the black stump’.

Grasslands Near Blackall

In Australian folk parlance, the ‘black stump’ marks a point in the geography where anything past the black stump is considered very remote. People often say they are going ‘out beyond the black stump’, meaning they are going a long way away from civilisation. But the black stump is an actual location. It is a long way from the city (Brisbane), and is way out west at Blackall. The actual black stump was a wooden stump from which the surveyors of the 19th century determined all points of latitude and longitude of the outback areas. It is on the edge of the local school grounds in Blackall.

Linda Sitting on the Black Stump
About the Black Stump

After enjoying our late morning tea break, and visiting the ‘black stump’, we set off to Barcaldine 90 Km north where we intended to stop for lunch. The countryside remained undulating grasslands until about 20 kilometres from Barcaldine where light forests begin (soon to disappear after Barcaldine). On approaching the town, signs beside the road recommended the meat pies from the local bakery, so we decided to try them out. On arrival at Barcaldine we found a nice spot to park in the shade, then walked to the recommended bakery for our pies. And yes, they were excellent.

Barcaldine is actually quite famous in Australian history, for it was here in the 1890’s that the Australian Labour Party (political party) was formed; the first Labour Party in the world. The party was formed in the aftermath of the Great Shearer’s Strike of 1891. Wages were poor for shearers back then as the land holders had the power to determine wages, and hire and fire shearers at will. Around 2000 shearers were organised to strike in 1891.

The Shaerer’s Strike
Barcaldine

The initial mass meeting of the shearers was held in Barcaldine under a large Eucalypt tree outside the railway station. This tree became known as the ‘Tree of Knowledge’, and still stands outside the railway station and is on the National Register of historic sites. Unfortunately in 2006 a local idiot poisoned the tree, and it is now just a dead stump. But it was such a significant location in Australian history, that the stump of the Tree of Knowledge has been preserved in a huge wooden monument made from thousands of lengths of wood hanging from a framework and surrounding the tree stump.

The Tree of Knowledge Monument

The purpose of the shearer’s strike in 1891 organised under the Tree of Knowledge, was to bringing the station owners to the negotiating table on wages. Unfortunately the station owners brought in ‘black-leg’ labour to shear the sheep, and this nearly caused and armed uprising by the striking men. The government then brought in both the police and military to quell the potential uprising, with the arrest and gaoling of many of the strike leaders. The strike eventually failed but with the formation of the Labour Party in 1899 to represent the workers of Australia, did eventually bring the establishment to the negotiating table of fair wages Australia wide. As mentioned above, this was the first Labour Party in the world. Australia’s Labour Party is still in existence and has recently held government.

The (dead) Tree of Knowledge

From Barcaldine we now headed westward 80 kilometres to Ilfracombe, a small town 30 kilometres east of the large outback city of Longreach. The Ilfracombe tourist park has good recommendations, so I had booked us in there before we left Tambo. Luckily I had as it is only a small park, but very popular. We arrived at Ilfracome just after 3pm, and set up camp on a grassy spot. It’s nice to have grass underfoot.

Much Ado About Nothing

Saturday 24th of June

Tambo

There was. very little for us to do today in Tambo save for a little bit of shopping, there is always shopping to do, and to get some of that strange rare stuff of the modern age; cash, from the town’s only auto teller at the local garage. Thus after a late breakfast we didn’t don the lairy Lycra to ride our bikes into town proper, but just the helmets so as to comply with the law of the land. We did a lap of the town’s main street, the Landsborough Highway, before calling into the very small supermarket and general store to get those few items for tonight’s dinner. We then called into the local school grounds where a small market was being conducted; mainly art and craft stuff, though we did get some cup cakes for morning tea and a present for our grand daughter Lucy who is turning 16 in a few weeks. From there a return to the tourist park for morning tea. We cycled the huge distance of 4 Km, and that encircled Tambo twice.

A late morning tea on return to camp and then a little sitting around answering emails etc., before I decided on doing a longer ride for the day. Linda wanted to remain in camp to do ‘the books’. This time I did at least put on the cycling shorts as I intended to cycle around 20 Km, and cycling anything over about 5 Km in ordinary pants can be very uncomfortable. Or as a mate of mine once put it; unbumfortable. As I wanted to remain off the major highway, not that it was really busy, I decided to ride out along the road to Alpha ( 100 Km north east of Tambo ), not that I was intending to do 100 Km.

Long straight sections of road in outback Queensland, and around Tambo, slightly undulating. I needed a good workout on the bike so a rode fairly hard for 10 Km out along the Alpha road before returning to Tambo still pushing a fast pace. It was a good 20 Km exercise.

Out in the Mulga
Road to Alpha

It was now late lunch time, so Linda and I had leftover hamburger patties from last night’s dinner. Not your Golden Arches type hamburger patties, but good home made ones. As we had two brioche buns left over from last night, our cold luncheon hamburgers were a little up-market. Having finished lunch and having cycled 20 Km at a fast rate, I felt like a little snooze. I went and lied down for an hour and a half whilst Linda read a novel.

An interesting little fact about Tambo. It would appear that it is the home of Teddy Bears.

Teddy Bear Country

Now we were a little lax in our ablutions for the day, as we generally wash and shower after riding due to the simple fact that riding hard makes one perspire, glow if you are a woman, sweat I am told if you are a horse. Not being horses we had perspired and glowed respectively, and so we had our daily showers around 5pm. The tourist park here in Tambo have a camp fire operating in the evening where all visitors to the tourist park can meet and exchange lies about their camping and caravanning prowess. We dutifully attended the camp fire evening and discussed the usual forbidden subjects of politics, religion, and sex. A pleasant hour spent with the other campers before returning to our camper for dinner; eye fillet steak with steamed vegetables and a bottle of top quality red wine. None of this roughing it for us.

A World Famous Actor in the District

Friday 23rd of June

Charleville (Australia) to Tambo

Late out of bed, but never mind, Linda and I were packed and leaving the ‘Tourist Park’ at Charleville by 11am, heading 200 Km north to the town of Tambo. But first we briefly called into Charleville to get a few essential items at the supermarket before heading out of town. Initially the drive north was through billiard table flat, lightly timbered country until near Augathella, 90 Km north of Charleville. As we had left Charleville quite late, near noon, we stopped in Augathella for lunch. Augathella is an interesting town for two known reasons. Firstly it features in a well known Australian folk song; The Queensland Drovers, and secondly it featured in a mid 1950’s movie called ‘Smiley’

A Classic Quensland Pub
at Augathella
Augathella, Main Street

Smiley was a feel good movie about a small boy living in Augathella and his adventures as a 10 year old around the town and district. It was in fact a true story, embellished a little as most movies do, of a local boy Didy Creevey. It was quite a good movie and had an impressive cast including Chipps Rafferty, a well known Australian actor of the time, and the world renowned English actor Sir Ralph Richardson. A song called ‘Smiley’ was in the top ten songs on radio at the time. Augathella holds a Smiley festival each year. There was also an impressive Queensland style country pub in Augathella.

Smiley

Having had lunch we changed drivers, Linda now driving to Tambo, a little over 100 Km north of Augathella. From Augathella onward the light forests disappeared and were replaced by rolling grasslands all the way to Tambo with some high hills to the east that form part of the Carnarvon Gorge National Park. We’d had no intention of visiting this NP, we had done so in the past, and I would certainly recommend a visit there by anyone in the district, but note, if you do, the NP is only easily accessible from 200 Km east of Tambo.

We arrived at Tambo around 2.15pm and drove slightly east of the town to a known free camping area on the banks of a creek. We had camped there some 6 years ago and knew it to be a good camping spot, unfortunately so did about 20 other caravaners. On arriving there, there was virtually no spare places to camp, it was very crowded. We therefore made the decision to try one of the two tourist parks in the town. The first had good reviews. but small sites, the second also had good reviews but was about half a kilometre north of the town centre. We decided this was the best option, and it turned out a good choice as it was only $25 per night for a powered site, and it had numerous shade trees. Thus we paid our fees for 2 nights and set up camp.

Having set up camp Linda and I decided to walk into the town and have a drink at one of the local pubs. Whilst walking into town a typical Austraian (outback) Road Train passed by. As such ‘trains’ are unique to Australia, I photographed it. Food those of you not in the know, a road train consists of an articulated prime mover truck with up to 4 trailers attached behind. This was a ‘4 up’ road train. Note to overseas drivers travelling in Australia: Keep out of the way of road trains. On narrow roads pull off to the side and let them pass.

A 4-up, Road Train

As I said above, we had visited Tambo before, and at that time we had had an enjoyable afternoon at one of the town’s 2 pubs, but we could not remember which one. So a walk through the town refreshed our memory, and we found the pub in which we had enjoyed a drink 6 years ago, and entered. A little time after ordering our drinks at the bar, a couple entered and made themselves known to us; they had spent time at the same tourist park as us in Charleville, and recognised us from there. Thus we had an hour of enjoyable companionship, and a few more drinks with Richard and Anne from Williamstown in Melbourne.

From the pub we returned to our tourist park and Linda prepared dinner whilst I wrote this and yesterday’s blog. We have good internet access at Tambo. Whilst walking back we looked towards a magnificent outback sunset.

Sunset at Tambo

A Conversation to Impress

Thursday 22nd of June

Charleville

If I haven’t mentioned it before, Charleville in Queensland is named after Charleville in County Cork, Ireland, the republic thereof. And it’s smaller than this Charleville. Now there for you dear readers is a piece of random information you can throw into a conversation if the general conversation is flagging:
You: “Did you know that Charleville in Queensland, Australia, is named after Charleville in the Republic of Ireland.”
“No,” replies the others in your flagging conversation group now making you the centre of attention. “Please tell us more,”
But beware. If you tried this in Australia the probable reply from your admirers would be to the effect: “Piss off.” And there went your chance of pulling that sexy chick/bloke in the group with your witty and entertaining conversation.

Now that was a different start to today’s adventures. Mundane adventures to start with; Linda did some clothes washing. Clothes get dirty quickly in the Australian outback due to the incessant red dust. Whilst she was washing I published yesterday’s adventures of this website. So to today’s other adventures.

Lycra’d up we set off into Charleville ( Queensland, not Ireland ) on our trusty velocipedes, heading out to the Tourist Information Centre at the Aerodrome to buy a souvenir Charleville/Cosmos shirt each as we had seen some nice ones on display last night. It was just on lunch time and we knew they had a cafe’ out there so we achieved two things at once; shirts and lunch.

The Charleville Aerodrome is also the base for the Royal Flying Doctor Service for south-west Queensland and has a history display about the RFDS that we wanted to see. The RFDS was begun is Australia in the late 1920’s as a ‘Mantle of Safety’ for the citizens of the sparsely populated parts of Australia. The service was the brain child of the Reverend John Flynn, a Presbyterian minister who had spent previous years in outback Australia ministering to a wide ranging population. His inspiration was to marry medical services with the developing technologies of both aviation and radio communications. His first ever Flying Doctor service was based in Cloncurry, north-western Queensland, but soon spread to cover the remote areas of inland Australia. All Australian states except for Tasmania and Victoria, small states, have numerous RFDS bases. RFDS services in Tasmania and Victoria are administration centres. Other counties such as Canada have followed this RFDS model.

Having spent some time at the local RFDS base we cycled back into the town and visited a botanical display of Australian trees that have been planed in a local park with each of the 20+ trees labelled with their details; uses, flowering seasons and flower details, botanical names, and geographical spread. Linda and I find such things quite interesting. Looking at these various trees makes me think about travel in outback Australia, or in fact, anywhere in the world. As I have mentioned before, travel in outback Australia entails long distances on usually quite flat country. People ask me what is there to see, it’s so boring. It’s not boring if you know something about the flora, fauna, and geology of the places you pass through. There can always be found something interesting to look at on these long outback travels. This applies to anywhere in the world.

Another interesting historical display at the botanical display was a set of Vortex Guns. These strange looking conical devices were supposed to cause rain to fall in this dry outback region of Queensland. In the very early 20th century, pre WW1, it was proposed by some people of supposedly scientific bent, that sending atmospheric shock waves into clouds may, ‘may’ please note, cause rain to fall. Clouds often form in the west of Queensland, but little results from their presence. The Vortex Guns were charged with gun powder, and then fired vertically, no projectiles involved, with the intention of lowering the air pressure within the clouds above and so cause precipitation. It was seriously tried out. It never worked.

Vortex Guns

From the botanical park and Vortex Guns in Charleville we cycled back to our Tourist Park for the end of our day’s travels and explorations. Note here I have used the term ‘tourist park’, it appears that what we once, ie: prior to today, called caravan or camping parks, are now known as ‘tourist parks’.

A Small Farm at Charleville

Wednesday 21st of June
Winter Solstice

Evening Star Caravan Park

The Thurlby Cattle Station that adjoins the Evening Star Caravan Park run a tour of their 33 000 acre property on Wednesdays and Saturdays. Linda and I had been informed that the tour of the station was extremely interesting and informative, so we booked to go on it. On booking the tour this morning at around 8.30, I checked on the starting time as we had arisen from bed, and was informed that it started at 9am, so it was a mad rush to get a bit of breakfast, clean our teeth, and be ready for the tour. We made it.

The tour tour leader Greg gave us a rundown on the size of the property before we set out, and outlined what we would be seeing on the 4 hour tour. Now 30 000 acres is a big property, bigger than some European countries. We would not be seeing all of it as its northern boundary was about 30 Km north, and the east to west boundary about 20 Km. But we would be exploring the types of country within the station and the various aspects of such a large cattle station in a relatively small area. We boarded a small bus and drove a little way out into the scrub adjoining the caravan park. Here Greg brought to our attention to the original Cobb & Co., road that ran from Charleville to Adavale, 150 Km to the west and once passed through the station. It is no longer a public road.

Old Cobb & Co Road

In some lush countries in Europe, or places like New Zealand, the land loading is given in ‘head of cattle per acre’. Out here in central Queensland the carrying capacity is in ‘acres per head’, and that figure being about an average of 30 acres per head for Thurlby. But do the sums, 30 a/h in 30 000 acres, gives a cattle population of 1000 head of cattle. Quite a sizeable herd.

As I mentioned in yesterday’s blog, there is a wild dog and feral cat problem out here, so Greg showed us some of the high dog proof fencing that is being installed. They are yet to install cat proof fencing. We were then driven out into what appears to be thick bush scrub consisting mainly of Mulga bushes about 3 m high. Mulga is a wattle (acacia species) that makes excellent fodder for the cattle, so what appears as useless scrub is actually valuable fodder. The Mulga is the dominant species on the ‘red soil plains’, that soon changed to sandy gibber plains ( Gibbers are small spherical ironstone rocks ). With a change of soil type, there is a distinctive change in vegetation from Mulga to Gidgie (another acacia species) along with some invasive grasses of no use as fodder. A little further on as we descended slightly we entered the ‘black soil plains’ which are mainly grasses that are excellent fodder for the cattle. The black soil plains are also where any water courses are.

The Countryside

Greg took us past a number of artesian wells, the same artesian source as at Lightning Ridge, and told us how by closing off some water sources and selectively opening up others, they can control where the cattle graze. Modern telemetry has been applied in controlling the water distribution from the wells to the dams and water troughs using mobile phones. Of interest to me is that the control is exercised through a private Facebook page from anywhere in the world. By doing this, the land has time to regenerate and it helps with mustering the cattle for market. All through the tour of the various soil types Greg pointed out the useful fodder trees and grasses, and the useless stuff, much of which has been inadvertently imported into Australia, and most of it poisonous to cattle.

Out Over the Plains
From the Water Reservoir

Besides the mobs of cattle we came across during the tour, we also saw hundreds of kangaroos of various species; from small wallabies, to the very large Eastern Grey, and Red, kangaroos. Red kangaroos tend to be the iconic kangaroo of Australia as they are a very large and bulky kangaroo. But actually the Eastern Grey is much larger, though not so bulky. Either make one mess of your car if you run into one. Amusingly, one of the couple on the tour with us had a small dog in tow, and I mean small, toy poodle size. But the dog gave us all a good laugh. Whenever it saw a mob of kangaroos, it would bark like fury and try and get out of the bus to chase them, I’m sure it thought it was a Stag Hound.

Greg then drove us to the highest point on the property where there is a dam for gravity feeding many water points throughout the property. By highest point I mean 30 m above the plains. Surprisingly, you get a good view from only 30m above the plains. From there we made our way back to the property boundary on the Adavale Road where Greg showed us more relics of the Cobb & Co., road; a wooden bridge now in total disrepair, but of interest to anyone interested in history. The Cobb & Co., road closed in 1928 when the company stopped trading and a new road was constructed to Adavale. From there we returned to the caravan park and the end of a very interesting and instructive tour of the property.

Old Cobb & Co Bridge

As it was now only 1.30pm, Linda and I had a quick lunch, then dressed in our best Lycra, we rode the 9 Km into Charleville to collect the prescriptions we had left at the pharmacy yesterday. A pleasant, flat, and nearly dead straight ride. After collecting our prescriptions and having a cup of coffee at a nearby cafe’, we headed back to camp for a shower and general clean up before dinner, then off to the Cosmos Centre in Charleville at 8.30pm.

The Cosmos Centre is located at the Charleville Aerodrome and has 4 identical 14 inch telescopes. ( Newtonian telescopes on azimuth mounts, computer controlled tracking ) The Cosmos centre limits the number of participants in each night session so as all can get a reasonable time on a telescope. Being a few kilometres outside the town boundary and with the highway some distance away, there is very little ambient light to spoil star gazing, add to that the clear outback sky’s, one gets excellent viewing conditions.

The guide gave a brief outline of the Milky Way Galaxy, our home galaxy, and pointed out some of the naked eye visible features. To us in particular in Australia is the Southern Cross constellation as it features on our national flag and is our way of finding the South Pole; we do not have a visible polar star in the Southern Hemisphere. The guide then showed various constellations of interest. Not the ones of European origin, but the ones of Australian Aboriginal origin such as the Bilby, the Warrior, and the Emu.

The Southern Cross

It was then time to observe through the telescope various features of both the Milky Way and our own solar system; our closest star ( other than the sun ) Alpha Centauri, a double star, Omega Centauri, a globular star cluster, the Jewel Box Nebula, Jupiter on which the coloured bands of gas were clearly visible as well as its four Gallilaen moons, and finally Saturn with its distinctive rings. Whilst observing the starts our guide explained in simple terms the significance of star colour, surface temperature, and star formation due to atomic fusion of hydrogen and helium. A star is really a giant hydrogen bomb held in check by its own immense gravity, and that includes our sun.

From there we returned back to camp for the night. We had initially intend to stay only 3 nights in Charleville, but we will now stay an extra night so as we can do some serious cycling tomorrow and cycle between the various points of interest around the near district.

Around the Town

Tuesday 20th of June

Charleville

No need to rush this morning so Linda and I had a leisurely breakfast, then the requisite shower so as not to commit olfactory offence to anyone we may come across in carrying out today’s activities. Our first activity was to drive into Charleville for a few required chores. Firstly to the local pharmacy to get a prescription filled for my hay fever relief; one is never cured of an allergy such as hay fever, but can only relieve its symptoms by the application of complex chemical compounds to one’s nasal passages. It was then a drive out to the Cosmos Centre on the edge of town to make a booking for a night at the local astronomical observatory for tomorrow night.

Main Streeet, Charleville

The Cosmos Centre, aptly named, is an optical observatory located at the Charleville Aerodrome well away from the ambient light of the town. The observatory is open, for a fee, to the public where an introduction to the night sky is conducted. Bookings are required so as all those attending an astronomy session get to have a reasonable time at the telescopes. We booked in for a late session when the sun is well set in the west with no remnant light. A report on the Cosmos observations tomorrow.

The town’s Tourist Information Bureau is also located at the Cosmos Centre, so we collected some information on local places of interest around Charleville, and then returned to the town to follow up on the information, plus the usual general shopping. First the shopping; a magazine on the up and coming Tour de France on the 1st of July, a coffee at a local cafe’, some groceries, and a spare inner tube for my bike. See previous references to cycling at Lightning Ridge re the inner tube.

Having done this shopping, we then called into the local museum. The Charleville Museum is located in what was once a Bank back in the late 19th century; a beautiful example of ‘Queenslander’ architecture from that era. We spent a most interesting hour at the museum looking at various items of interest covering all aspects of life in the 19th and early 20th centuries in Charleville. A display of early woodworking tools was of interest to me as I have examples of the same tools back home, and still used by me for their intended purpose. Out in the grounds of the museum were various examples of farm machinery, plus an historic Fire Engine and a Railway Ambulance. The railway ambulance was not an ambulance for use by the railways, but rather an ambulance for general public emergencies that could run on the Queensland railway’s system. The reason for this being that back in the early 20th century the local roads were frequently impassable for road traffic, hence an ambulance that could run on the railway lines.

Charleville Museum, ex Bank Building
Railway Ambulance

It was now mid afternoon, so we returned to camp at the caravan park and sat around for a while not doing much; we are on holidays. Before we left this morning for the town, Linda had booked us in for a dinner at the caravan park. Thus at around 5.30pm the dinner gong was sounded and we wandered over to the communal park area to meet with other campers and caravaners prior to the informal dinner. The caravan park has set up a large fire-pit in which was burning a large fire for all to sit around and have a chance to meet with other people. The caravan park proprietors then had everyone introduce themselves, and then one of them gave an interesting talk on the problems in the area with feral dogs and cats, and the methods being employed to control them. This area once was good sheep country, but feral dogs have killed off the sheep, and now only cattle can be bread in the district. The feral dogs are not just the domestic puppy gone wild, but large ferocious dogs from the interbreeding of large domestic dogs with the native dingo.

It was then time for our dinner with us sitting around with other diners and generally discussing who we were, where we are travelling, and our past travelling adventures. In all, a good evening.

Dead Kangaroos Line the Road

A Note to My Readers in Bloggsville: Due to a limited Internet service where we are camped, my postings for the next few days may be delayed. But never fear, do not have a nervous breakdown on my behalf, postings will appear.

Monday 19th of June

St George to Charleville

I’ll stop commenting about the weather. Just assume it is beautiful all the time, and if it is to the contrary, I’ll then remark accordingly. We were packed and leaving the caravan park at St., George at 10.30am heading out to the St., George Winery where we intended to have morning tea before leaving for Charleville. We were served at the winery by a very pretty and chatty young Scots women from near Edinburgh. I questioned her on her impressions of distances she has had to travel in Australia. She was initially amazed by the huge distances between towns out in central and western Queensland compared to the very short distances she was used to back home in Scotland. Though she is now quite blasé about travelling 200 kilometres to see friends.

Having enjoyed scones and jam and cream with coffee for morning tea we drove to a nearby service station and refuelled for our journey. Whilst at the winery we had also been chatting to the owner who recommended we get to Charleville via the town of Mitchell, rather than Roma as we had intended, thus we set off from St.,George to Mitchell. The road was good all the 200 odd kilometres to Mitchell with no intervening towns. Initially near St.,George the road passed through dead flat countryside with huge paddocks now stripped of their cotton crops. Later on we passed through light forest country, still dead flat, but now supporting cattle. As we neared Mitchell the countryside became pleasantly undulating and so a little more interesting to drive with quite thick forest on each side of the road. Occasionally side roads led off the main road leading to the various cattle station along the way. For about the last 70 kilometres of the drive, thick stands of River Red Gum defined the course of the Maranoa River to our right.

The Traffic Snarl Between St George and Mitchell

I have mentioned remoteness before, and this drive to Mitchell was remote. On the whole 200 Km journey we passed but 10 vehicles, two of them road trains. Not many cars, but literally hundreds of dead kangaroos beside the road. There would have been at least 2 recently killed by collisions with vehicles in the last few days for every kilometre travelled; so 400 recently killed roos. Add to that those killed more than a few days ago, there would have been around 700 – 800 dead roos on the road between St., George and Mitchell.

I mentioned above the stands of River Red Gum trees beside the Maranoa River. There is an interesting story about red gum wood. Firstly it is very, very strong, and is used for bridge building and other such structures. Secondly it has been used in the past, world wide, for railway sleepers ( railroad ties ), as it is virtually indestructible. It is also very dense, in fact denser than water. Red gum, and most Australian eucalypt woods will not float, but sink if immersed in water. In the late 19th century, the Canadian Pacific Railroad ordered thousands of Red Gum sleepers for its Trans Canada Railroad. The sleepers were duly shipped as deck cargo to Vancouver where the stevedores unloading the sleepers decided they would float them to shore. They levered the bound loads of Red Gum sleepers over the side of the ship, only to promptly see then disappear below the waves, never to be seen again. They are probably still on the floor of Vancouver Harbour.

Back to our journey. We arrived at Mitchell around 2pm and stopped for a bite to eat at the local bakery before heading west towards our destination for the day at Charleville. The countryside was now pleasantly undulating with views now and then over the countryside as we passed. Large cattle stations surrounded the highway west, plus some small lightly forested areas. We had changed drivers half way up the road from St., George, and again at Mitchell, and again half way to Charleville; we tend to drive around an hour each before changing drivers.

Finally at around 4.15 we arrived at Charleville. We didn’t stop in the town, but continued through, then out along the Adavale road for 8 Km, to a caravan park we had used in the past, and knew it was a good place to stay. Here we were greeted by the owner Ros(alyn) who showed us a few sites where we could set up camp for a few days. If we had still been on the coast rather than inland, it would be getting dark by 4.45pm which would have made setting up camp difficult. But seeing we are now nearly 600 Km west of the coast, darkness didn’t fall until around 6pm, giving us plenty of daylight to set up our camp.

St., George and the Dragon

Sunday 18th of June

St George

Despite it being a nice town and we could spend a couple of days here, we are only stopping for today to do some washing of clothes and bed linen, and perhaps a walk or cycle around the town to get a real idea of the place. Accordingly we were not in a hurry to arise despite it being a fine clear day with a promise of temperatures around 22 deg., perfect weather. Thus after breakfast Linda got the washing on the go whilst I drove to the town centre to refuel the ute with diesel. The cheap fuel place we had seen on arrival yesterday was not open for business as it is the local fuel distribution business and only operates Monday’s to Friday’s. I will refuel there tomorrow when we leave St., George.

The washing having been done Linda and I decided to walk the 1.1/2 kilometres into town along the banks of the Balonne River that passes by one side of the town and only a few metres from our caravan park. It was a pleasant walk along a path in the shade of the eucalypt trees lining the river bank. All along the path were interpretive signs about the fish found in the river, and and birds that inhabit the banks. At one point we came upon a lady leading a small dog who inquired of us ( the lady, not the dog ) as to the location of some conveniences. As we were just opposite the Tourist Information Centre, I advised the lady to try there as such places usually have toilet facilities. She then expresses a worry as to what to do with the dog as it would not be allowed into the information centre or the conveniences. I offered to hold the dog for her which I did. The lady was most thankful.

Along the Banks of the Balonne River

Leaving the lady and her dog Linda and I entered the Tourist Bureau and looked through their various displays of information about St., George and Queensland in general. We selected a couple of brochures plus a good map of Queensland, then bought our usual souvenir of a town; a fridge magnet. We then continued our journey along the river bank for a few hundred metres, then left it and walked into the town centre. As it was now around 12.30 and lunch time, I suggested to Linda that we have a counter lunch at one of the town’s 4 pubs. As we had no knowledge of the best pub to visit, we spent about half an hour perusing each one, finally deciding upon the Cobb and Co., Hotel.

For those readers unfamiliar with Australian history, Cobb and Company, was a coaching company in the mid 19th century in Australia started by an American who came out for the gold rush era in the 1850’s. Christopher Cobb didn’t do well as a gold miner, but started a coaching company connecting all the major towns in the states of Victoria, NSW, and Queensland. Pubs in rural towns often acted as staging posts for the coaches, hence the Cobb and Co., Hotel here in St., George. Chris Cobb became quite wealthy.

The Cobb & Co Hotel.

Linda and I enjoyed a nice lunch at the hotel, then walked back to camp at the caravan park looking at various points of historic interest listed on one of the brochures we had got at the Tourist Bureau. What to do for the remainder of the afternoon? Linda said she would fold and pack away the clean clothes. I decided on a short ride around the back streets of St., George just to have a look at the houses and other things of interest. If you readers of this blog look back a day or two you will remember that I had some troubles with bindys and flat tyres on the bike. I thought I had overcome that problem. Half way through my ride through the sprawling suburbs of St., George I felt the familiar ‘thump – thump – thump…..’ of a flat tyre passing over small rocks on the road. Sure enough, my rear tyre had deflated. Not wanting to do puncture repairs only 1.1/2 Km from camp, I pumped up the tyre and made a dash for home before the tyre deflated again.

A Rather Nice Queensland Style Residence

Linda now suggested she too would like to ride along the river bank into town and return via the main road. So for me it was a quick change of inner tube and off we set with me hoping my tyre would remain inflated. Luckily it did. On our run back to camp we diverted to the local winery, the town has one winery only, to see where it was and maybe taste the produce. It was closed, but the owner hailed us as we were about to leave and invited us back tomorrow morning. They have a cafe’ at the winery, so we will have our morning coffee there when we leave for tomorrow’s destination.

Back at the caravan park I repaired the inner tube of my first journey by bike into town and then it was time for the writing of this blog, and then a light dinner of chicken and avocado sandwiches as we had had a substantial meal at lunch time.

Saturday 17th of June

Lightning Ridge to St. George

As I was sitting quietly last night in our camper writing up the daily blog, and with Linda quietly reading, I chanced to notice a movement out the corner of my eye. It was a very small hopping mouse investigating the floor of the camper. It was a beautiful little native mouse, probably twice the size of a house mouse and with beautiful dark chocolate coloured fur and a very long tail. What distinguishes a hopping mouse from others of the genus, is it’s hugely long back feet, like a miniature kangaroo. Neither Linda nor I moved, but just observed this beautiful little creature as it explored our camper, obviously looking for food tit-bits.

As seems to be the usual here at Lightning Ridge, we awoke to a fine warm morning with the promise of a better day to come, and it did turn out that way. Linda and I had our breakfast and then began to pack up camp. This did not take long as we had not removed the camper from the tray of the ute whilst camped at Lightning Ridge. Removing the camper and putting it back on the ute tray adds about a half an hour to our unpacking and repacking respectively. Having packed we left the Opal Caravan Park at Lightning Ridge right on 10am heading north to St., George, about 200 Km inside the Queensland border.

We had considered doing one or two of the Car Door Tours we were unable to complete yesterday, but with the bikes mounted on their tow bar carrier on the ute, and considering that they are quite valuable bikes, we though better of this idea because of the very rough nature of the Car Door Tour routes. Maybe next time we are in Lightning Ridge. So not doing a tour, we joined the Castlereagh Highway heading for the Queensland Border at Hebel. It was a flat easy journey on a good road through the typical scrub county of this area. Very few eucalypt trees, mostly scrubby acacias and native pines.

We crossed the border into Queensland at 10.45 and continued on for 5 kilometres to Hebel, a very small town consisting of a unique outback pub over a century old, a general store and cafe’, a primary school, and a couple of houses. It was now morning tea time, so we stopped at the Hebel Cafe’ for a cappuccino and a cake before heading off towards the next town of DIrranbandi. Linda took over driving at Hebel. From Hebel onward to St.,George the main farming occupation is cotton, so there were huge paddocks, now harvested, from now on either side of the road. Evidence of the cotton crops is the cotton pods all along the roadside that have fallen off their transport.

The Hebel Pub

Dirranbandi is a lot larger than Hebel; a single shopping strip, pubs, cotton service businesses, hospital, and a railway station, though trains no longer run to here. We did not stop at Dirranbandi but continued on towards St., George. Flat country all the way, cotton farms either side of the road, and lots of kangaroos. Now it is quite strange to see kangaroos during the day. They mostly come out at dawn or dusk, and find a sheltered spot to rest during the day, particularly in the ferociously hot summers up this way. Kangaroos are a problem to motorists. They can easily jump any fence a farmer may have put up beside the road, and they do. But they have absolutely no traffic sense, they will happily hop in front of an oncoming vehicle irrespective of how big or fast the vehicle is. Trucks just run over them, killing them, and drive on. Cars on the other hand hit them and kill them, but in revenge during that instant of death, the kangaroo will irreparably damage your car. As I said above, kangaroos are not normally out during the day and are thus unexpected. A good look out for them and quick braking or manoeuvring was required by me.

Eventually, kangaroos avoided, we arrived at St., George around 1pm and drove the town to check out each of the three caravan parks there. Having spent about twenty minutes on this task we selected the caravan park on the banks of the Balonne River. Here we found a lovely flat grassed site and set up camp. This time we did remove the camper from the ute as we had a fair bit of food shopping to do in the town, and the caravan park is about 1.1/2 Km out from the town centre.

St., George is quite a large town as it is the main centre of commerce for the Maranoa area of Queensland. We drove to one of the large supermarkets in the town and purchased our required food items, and from there to one of the town pubs to refresh our wine supply. We will be staying two nights in St., George as we have the usual camping maintenance to carry out, mainly clothes and bedding washing.

The Trouble with Bindys

Friday 16th of June

Lightning Ridge

We again had a visit from a brush tail possum last night, but he/she didn’t get anything as we had stowed our rubbish bag and put the odd piece of fruit and vegetables out of harms way. A disappointed possum quickly left when I shon my torch upon it. Then back to sleep. In the light of morning we woke to a cloudy sky, though looking at the weather forecast on the Pad of I, no rain was expected and still a warm day with no wind. As we are never in a hurry; we are on holiday folks, and if you rush around whilst on holiday, it’s not a holiday. Thus around 10.15am I went over to the coffee shop in the park; this park has a coffee shop selling genuine Italian type coffee made in a proper Espresso machine, and bought us a cappuccino each whilst I got the bikes ready for today’s intended excursions.

Here the bad day started. My bike had a flat front tyre, so it was half an hour spent repairing the puncture before we could dress in our best Lycra for today’s excursions. In Lightning Ridge, the local tourism authority have what are called ‘Car Door Tours’ through the mining areas of Lightning Ridge with places of interest listed on a brochure obtainable from the Tourist Bureau. Let me explain Car Door Tours: In typical small operation mining town such as Lightning Ridge, junk accumulates in the mining leases, and a lot of this junk is old cars. In Lightning Ridge, painted car doors are displayed as pointers along designated routes through the mining leases, with the doors numbered indicating a point of interest. Thus a Car Door Tour consists of a self guided tour following the numbered coloured car doors. Linda and I intended today to cycle the four Car Door Tours; the Red, Yellow, Green, and Blue tours.

The Red Tour stars about 200m down the road from our Caravan Park, so we mounted the trusty steeds and set off along the Red Tour. Lots of points of interest around the tour; small mines, basic residences, and I mean basic, and a castle. Yes folks a castle, though small, built by a local miner in the 1980’s. The road through the diggings is a rough gravel and rock road, hard to negotiate easily on a bike, but it could be done. The mining leases are all over the place in the sense of a bowl of spaghetti is all over the place. Lots of junk lying around such as, obviously, old cars, but also abandoned mining machinery, heaps of over burden from the small mines, and a general air of abandonment. But beware if you travel through such areas in Australia, abandonment does not mean abandoned, the small miners in areas like Lightning Ridge, are very innovative in the use of junk.

Out on the Diggings

Having completed our tour of the Red Car Door area, we headed through the town and out to the Yellow Car Door tour. At the very start of this tour is a mine in which is displays of opals, and then, for a cost, one can descend into the mine about 50m below the surface with the mine owner as a guide, and see what underground opal mining is all about. Linda and I were very interested in going underground in a small mine, as this would be a comparison with what both of us had done many years ago in my professional capacity, having been down many of the the huge hard rock mines of eastern and central Australia. ( Copper, Uranium, Lead & Zinc mines ). But we wanted to complete the Yellow Door tour before returning to this small mine to experience going underground.

Now the real trouble of the day began. On leaving the mine entrance I found I had a second flat tyre on my bike. I thereupon pumped it up with the hope of it lasting back to camp, as I needed to do a repair of the tyre back there. The re-pumped tyre lasted into Lightning Ridge where it had to be re-re-pumped, that lasted back to camp. Linda made lunch whilst I did a second repair to the tyre inner tube. As it was now getting on in the afternoon, we decided to abandon our Car Door Tours, and just go for a ride out along the bitumen road that runs past the caravan park towards Collarenabri. So off we set. It was a basically dead flat ride for 6 kilometres before the road turned to gravel. Our bikes are quite able to handle gravel roads, but we decided to return to Lightning Ridge and continue on through the town and back out to the Castlereagh Highway, and from there retrace our steps back to camp for the day.

Scrub Country, Lightning Ridge

Trouble for the 3rd time. Just as we passed the entrance to our caravan park, the feel of my riding felt strange. I stopped and looked over my bike. Bloody hell, another flat tyre. Being just outside the caravan park I walked the bike back to our camp site. Bike punctures are not hard to repair. One removed the inner tube, inspects it for obvious holes, none found one inflates the tube and immerses it in a trough of water to see where the puncture is. So I dutifully followed this simple procedure and found two puncture holes in the inner tube.

To an experienced bicycle rider this indicates that some foreign pointed object passed through the tough outer tyre and punctured the inner tube. An experienced rider then carefully inspects the inner surface of the tyre for any sharp protrusions. Inspecting thus I found two very sharp protrusions; bindys. A bindy is the seed pod of a native Australian prostrate shrub. It is a tetrahedron shaped pod about 5mm on each edge, but with a vicious spine at each corner of the tetrahedron that easily cuts through a bicycle tyre. Bindy spines also cut through thongs ( flip-flops, jandles ) and sandals. Be very wary walking through bindi infested areas, and never bare footed.

Thus Linda and I gave up riding for the day. By the way, Linda did not suffer any bindy damage. I removed the remains of bindys from my tyres and repaired the punctures. We had intended to buy a few items of food whilst passing through town, but with repairs more important, this was not done. Still with shopping to be done, we walked the 2 Km into Lightning Ridge and bought the odd item we needed including a pair of long nosed pliers for bindy removal.

On return to camp it was now time for immersion in the hot artesian springs nearby to relieve the aches and pains of the day. The aches and pains were mainly to my self esteem as a cyclist due to the ravages of the vicious bindys.

Linda Taking ‘The Cure’
Sunset