Monday, 25 September 2017

Road Trip 5, 2017.


Our next trip was a short trip via Fossickers Way to Tea Gardens to celebrate a family birthday. We left later than we had planned, but only had to drive about 100km to Heifer Creek at Fordsdale. This is a spot we have often driven past on the way to and from the Darling Downs. There were already a few vans there when we arrived, so we set up beside the creek on the right hand side. There is no phone or normal TV reception so I was glad we had satellite TV. It was a quiet and a place we would go back to.

The next day we decided to drive to Texas, on the Queensland / New South Wales border. We drove via Stanthorpe on a road less travelled, and we are glad we did. Texas is a lovely little town, and almost everyone we passed said hello or smiled. Our first stop was the information centre, and the lady there was very informative. We walked up one side of the street and down the other. The council has placed historic information boards outside the buildings in the main street. I wish all towns would do this as history is so important.
Texas is on the banks of the Dumaresq River, as is our camp, and the town is a RV friendly town. There are toilets and showers in the town, and a lovely area has been set aside for self-contained vehicles. It has no facilities, but is picturesque and is a donation camp. Texas is also the first official motor cycle friendly town in Australia.
The beginnings of Texas lie in the establishment of a station about 1840 by the McDougall Brothers. They left their land in the 1850's to try their luck in the goldfields, and when they returned their land had been taken over by another settler. A legal battle followed and it was some time before they could reclaim their land and the McDougalls named their property Texas after the similar dispute between Texas USA and Mexico (1836).
The original town of Texas was closer to the river, but after the floods of 1890 and 1921, the township was moved further up the bank to where it is now. A few of the original buildings remain on the original site, including the original Texas Station.
The primary industry is sheep and cattle grazing, but breeding and a variety of other industries are growing. Historically, tobacco was a main industry,as was rabbit processing. Although tobacco growing and processing no longer exists in the area, many tobacco drying barns can still be seen in the area. Also in Texas is a historical rabbit works. The factory was established in 1928 and employed many town folk during the depression. Rabbits were in plaque proportions in the early days and the rabbit works would send the dead rabbits to England. After the demand for rabbits declined in England, they were sold around Australia. In 1950's, the rabbit skins were sold to Akubra and other fur markets.
Our campsite was lovely and not too far from the river, so we decided to stay an extra night. We went back into town and had morning tea before going the lookout. As lookouts go, this one is not that good, so we headed back into town to see where the up coming country music festival will be held, and then back to town to get some meat from the local butcher. It was so good and tender, that even I – the non meat eater - enjoyed it, so we went back again the next day to stock up on some more. We were very fortunate to have met a lovely man at the council who told us a lot about the area, and the history. We were looking at the photo display in the art gallery, which is in the same building as the library and council offices, and when looking at the 2011 flood photos we wondered where the race course was and this lovely fellow left his desk and proceeded to show us where things were and tell us more of the history.
A lovely place, Texas. We will be back, and stay longer next time. Meals at the pub were great as was the wonderful meat from the butcher.

Friday, 1 September 2017

A Magical Place for a Wedding: Fraser Island

About ten years ago we took our daughter and her English boyfriend to Fraser Island for a week. Little did we know back then, that ten years later we would all be on Fraser Island again to celebrate their wedding.
Fraser Island is the largest sand island in the world.
But this trip was all about the wedding.
It was wonderful to finally meet the 'new to us' English family, and everyone got on so very well.
December 2007, on a walk up to the lookout at Kingfisher Resort, Martin said "This would be a great place for a wedding"
... and here we are ten years later, at the Lookout.

Known officially as White Cliffs Lookout, it is 1.2km from the Sand Bar. It is located on top of a hill surrounded by eucalyptus trees. Days before the wedding Beth and Martin walked up the track and down the other side to Dundonga Creek, and Martin saw a dingo - the only dingo anyone saw this week.
So, here we go...our pictorial story.
We all arrived by car, or plane and bus to River Heads to board the car ferry that would take us the 45-50mins to Kingfisher Bay Resort. 
Kingfisher Bay Resort was started in 1989 and opened in 1992. Peter remembers watching the clearing and the construction of the resort during those years, when he was there on fishing trips.
Some guests arrived the next day, so we spent the morning at Lake McKenzie.
Lake McKenzie or Boorangoora, is a perched lake, which means it is situated above the water table. This means that the water is mostly rain water. Fraser has many perched lakes. The sand is so fine and the water so pure one can clean their jewellery in the lake, and we did.
After catching up with family and having a lovely dinner (and cocktails) at the jetty and the Sand Bar, the following day was the day of the wedding.
We had a wonderful time. The food was great and had an Australian theme. Dessert was wonderful and I went back for seconds. Well done to the resort staff for the setting up and running of the wedding and wedding party. Everything was wonderful.
It has been four years since we have been to Fraser, and although it is still one of the most beautiful places on earth, it just got too expensive. When we were both working we would go once or twice a year, and a couple of years we went three times. We would usually stay at Eurong Resort and then Kingfisher Bay, although sometimes we hired a house and stayed only on the Eastern Beach side.

So on the last day we did a road trip to Eastern Beach.
First stop of Eurong Resort to get lunch at the bakery - still has great pies. We saw so many pods of whales and they were close to the beach too. We have often been to Fraser this time of year and have always seen whales, but so many and so close it was great to watch.
After stopping to watch the whales a couple of times, we then headed north up to the Maheno wreck.
The S.S. Maheno was wrecked on Fraser Island by a cyclone in 1935. She was built and launched in Scotland in 1905 and made regular voyages between Sydney and Brisbane. It also sailed around different Eastern Australian ports and New Zealand. It also made regular sailings between Sydney and Vancouver. During WWI it became a hospital ship and played a part in the Gallipoli campaign loading casualties off ANZAC Cove on 26 August 1915. She carried many Australian and New Zealand patients from the battle fields back to Australia and New Zealand. After the war she went back to passenger service. In 1935, while under tow to Japan to be converted into an ice breaker, the tow ropes broke under the strain of the cyclonic winds. The S.S. Maheno is protected under the Commonwealth's Historic Shipwreck Act of 1976. A lot of the ship is now under the sand and it would be too difficult the remove.
We then headed further north to the Pinnacles, a natural sculpture of coloured sands formed over thousands of years, and then retraced our tracks back to Eli Creek. 
For the end of winter the weather has been exceptionally warm, which was great for the wedding, but it was too hot to walk through the sands to the Pinnacles, so I stayed in the car whale watching.  
Eli Creek was crowded when we arrived as there were three bus loads of people already there. It was a great place to cool off and the kids loved playing with the frizz-bee.

 When driving along the Eastern Beach Highway - SAND - there are many washes or little creeks of fresh water running from the hills to the ocean. Eli Creek is the largest of these creeks and changes course regularly. When driving one must be careful not to fall into the deep sections of the creeks course. There is a board walk that takes one to a section of the creek that is passable and one can then float down the creek in the fast flowing water. Great fun in Summer.
 It has been four years since we have been to Fraser, and although it is still one of the most beautiful places on earth, it just got too expensive. When we were both working we would go once or twice a year, and a couple of years we went three times. We would usually stay at Eurong Resort and then Kingfisher Bay, depending on the tide, although sometimes we hired a house and stayed on the Eastern Beach side.
What has changed? 
Not a lot. More Dingo fences, less dingoes sighted.
There are a lot of historical sites, as well as natural sites. The sandblows are continually moving. Eli Creek continues to amaze. Noticably missing is the large Satinay tree in the top photo. We stopped at Pile Valley and could not see any trace of the big tree.

Everything is expensive on Fraser, 4wd car hire, petrol, bus tours, accommodation - well motel rooms are reasonably priced, but if you want a kitchenette to prepare food - expensive. Food is mostly good and reasonably priced meals can be found. At Kingfisher we usually get  motel room when it is three of us, when there is more we like the Satinay Villas. We have stayed in the Cooloola villas which were fine, just s little too far to walk up the hill from the resort. This time we stayed in a Banksia Loft Villa, which again although an easy walk down hill to the resort, was a long up hill back. It was also very dated with broken furniture. With 6 of us, we would have rather stayed in a Satinay, which we have stayed in with 5 or 6 people many times before. Although they are further from the resort it is all flat walking, and much preferred - not to mention $100 cheaper per night.
It was a little sad that all the guests were so spread out around the resort. So we often missed each other.
P.S. We would NEVER take the van there - too much sand!!

Monday, 31 July 2017

Short few days to visit Jumpers and Jazz

Last year was the first time we were able to attend the Jumpers and Jazz festival after many years of wanting to go but no free time on the weekends, especially at the beginning of school terms. Jumpers and Jazz takes place every year in Warwick, on the Darling Downs. It runs for 10 days at the end of July. This year was the 14th year the festival has been on. It is amazing how creative others are with their yarn bombing.
Jumpers and Jazz was the aim of the weekend and this year, as last year, we stayed at Clifton, a 20 minute drive from Warwick. Warwick is a place that we often stay at either at the beginning or the end of a trip as it is only 3 hours from home. We love it there. We have been lucky to be there on football gala days and horse training, but this time we were fortunate to see many polo games, from the comfort of outside our van. We arrived at Clifton at lunchtime on Thursday, and relaxed. On Friday and Sunday we went into Warwick to see the displays. On Saturday we enjoyed the polo. You can read about the history of Clifton here.
On the Friday we drove into Warwick and walked along the two main streets of yarn bombing. They had not judged the displays yet, but they were amazing. Although the Festival offically started Thursday, there was not a lot of Jazz going on. We only saw one busker outside a cafe, but it was Friday. One the up side, Friday didn't have as many people taking photos - most visitors come on the weekends. We had decided to have lunch at one of the many cafes, and had heard a lot about the Bluebird Cafe, so thought we would have lunch there. We were very disappointed. It was about 1.30pm and there were a few people sitting outside, and two couples sitting inside. There were only two tables that were clean, the other vacate tables still had plates and leftovers on them. We waited almost 10 minutes and then went up to the counter to see if we needed to order there. We were told no, it was table service. O.K. We waited a few minutes more and another couple came in, sat down, and was given water and glasses. We were still waiting. Some of the tables were then cleared, but we were ignored. We watched a server apologise to a couple that was there before we arrived, about their food taking a long time, and after a total of 25 minutes waiting (5 minutes discussing if we should stay or go), we got up and left. I doubt if they even knew were were gone!
BUT..... things always work out right? We had walked past many cafes earlier in the day, and even what appeared to be a pop up cafe, so knew we would not go hungry. We came across the Belle Vue Cafe, where Peter had bought his coffee from numerous times last year, so that is where we had lunch. It was so good, and the best chocolate milkshake I've had for a long time.
Saturday, as I wrote above, we stayed at Clifton and watched the polo, then on Sunday we went back to Warwick so Jonnie could see the old cars. The main street is closed and moving traffic is replaced by some pretty good looking cars. While Peter and Jonnie were looking at the cars, I went to the art gallery, craft shops and displays. I sat for a while watching and listening to the jazz outside the town hall, but again not much jazz going on elsewhere. When we all met up again we had a late lunch of asian food, which was ok, but not as good as Friday's Belle Vue Cafe.
Monday we came back home to pick up our daughter and two granddaughters who arrived from England for a month. Sad to leave Clifton but great to see our family.

Saturday, 22 July 2017

Last leg home

Travelling north on the Newell Highway and following the start of the Kidman Way, we stopped at Ardleton to see the Kelpie statue. They have a free camp ($2 for 12 hours of power) by the railway station. This is now on our list of places to stay at. The park has toilets, water and playground. Ardleton is famous for being the first place to breed kelpies. We had lunch here and then kept going to Forbes Wheogo Park.
We have stayed here before and it is on the banks of Lake Forbes. We were surprised that it wasn't already full, as we arrived after 4pm – we had a back up plan of a local caravan park – but it wasn't needed. There were a number of vans here already, and we found a great spot, that we think was a spot we have stayed in before, and set up for the night.
The next morning we continued up the Newell Highway to Parkes. We have a favourite bakery in Parkes that we like to stop at and Peter gets his coffee fix and we usually get either fresh bread rolls for lunch, or something sweet like chocolate eclairs. As we are doing short drives each day – 1 to 2 hours, we have time to explore some villages and towns we would otherwise drive through. We walked up and down the street looking at the shops and more particularly the architecture. We drove down the road to a park just north of Parkes to make lunch – fresh bread rolls and ham.
After lunch we continued though Peak Hill – we couldn't believe the progress of the new open cut mine – to Dubbo. We had chosen two camp sites for the night, when we pulled in to the first, we knew this would be a perfect overnighter. Terramungamine Reserve is located on the Burroway-Dubbo Road off the Newell about 10k north of Dubbo. It is a large area with trees and is situated beside the Macquarie River. There are toilets and picnic tables. The best part though, was the old Aboriginal Grinding Stones.
Terramaungamine was where we had to make a decision about which road to take home. We could have gone via Lightning Ridge – but time was now short as we had a date to get home and we prefer short driving days to long ones. We could have gone via Goondiwindi, which we did only last month, or we could have gone via Texas, a new route we haven't been on; or via Tamworth and Warwick – a road we have been on many times. We decided on the later, so at Coonabarabran we left the Newell Highway and headed north-east to Gunnedah, and Attunga.
Attunga is not far from Tamworth. Attunga is Aboriginal for 'high place' and was the name of a farm operated by John Brown in the 1840's. Attunga was gazetted a village in 1847. It is now a small farming area with limestone quarrying.
We headed south to Tamworth and stopped at Coles to get a few groceries before heading north again on the New England Highway to Guyra. We have driven through Guyra numerous times, usually on the way to the Tamworth Country Music Festival, and while they were having their potatoe and sheep festival. Imagine our surprise to find out that Guyra is famous for its tomatoes!! The name 'Mother of Ducks Lagoon' also sounded like a great place to visit. The lagoon now has mostly gone. Historically it was a large lagoon supporting many birds and wild life, and was part of a volcanic crater. Once European settlement arrived part of the lagoon was drained for grazing land. In later days some bright spark thought it would be good to put a golf course on the lagoon so more was drained. Today, what is left is protected under the NSW National Parks. There is a dump point and toilet block, and a little further north along the park is a great exercise areas – one of four in the town.
Guyra was proclaimed a village in March 1885. It is situated at the top of the Great Dividing Range at an elevation of 1330m. Guyra was the name of one the early properties in the area, Guyra Station, established in 1835 by Alexander Campbell, and is an Aboriginal name meaning either fishing place or white cockatoo. The first settler in the area was explorer John Oxley who moved to the area in 1818. The area is predominately sheep, and dairying, and the soil is perfect for potatoe growing. Tomatoes …. well we spoke to the locals at the Bowls club – where we had a wonderful meal – and apparently tomatoes are grown in hot houses in the area. We did see one on the way north.
Wallangarra is a great place to start or finish a road trip when one is travelling this way. A free camp maintained by the Lions Club, we stay here a lot as it is only 3 hours to home.

Home again we are already planning the next trip.

Friday, 14 July 2017

Hold up in Jerilderie, NSW

We reluctantly left Echuca and headed north to Deniliquin to see the Ute art works. Deniliquin is located on the Edward River and is famous for the annual Deni Ute Muster – still the holder of the Guiness World Record for the most utes in one place. We had heard about two ute artworks in Deniliquin so decided to stop for lunch and see them. We have been to 'Utes in the Paddock' near Condobolin and thought this would be a good stop. We parked in caravan parking not far from the information centre. The first art work was in the park, and named TransmUTE. Ute on the Pole was across the road, a short walk, through the park past a historical village and old public school. This art work was erected on a six metre high pole to promote the Ute Muster. We had lunch and a walk around part of the old town before heading north to Conargo and then east to Jerilderie.
As I am fascinated by Ned Kelly, and love history, Jerilderie was - I think - the only town of the Ned Kelly story that I had not been to. Jerilderie means reedy place and was established in 1859. It is located on the Newell Hwy and is part of the Kidman Way trail - that we also want to do. We camped along side Billabong Creek, which is the longest creek in Australia. The track down to the creek was a bit rough, but it was only a short drive. It was a lovely shady area and only one other van there.
Jerilderie is the only place outside of Victoria that Ned and the Kelly Gang went to. The next morning, Sunday, we went for a walk around the town. It is not very big, really just a wide main street. Being a Sunday we were not able to get a free Ned Kelly Raid Trail leaflet, but I had found an electronic one. I didn't need it as everything was documented on boards. The town still has a lot of the original buildings and the 'Ned Kelly' factor is obvious.
In 1879, Ned and his gang came to town - everyone seems to agree on that. It is after he arrived there are conflicting, but similar stories. This is my version from what I've read and what I already know (or think I know) about Ned Kelly.


Friday, 7 July 2017

Homeward Bound

After spending time with our family, Day 16 of our trip saw us heading to the Macedon Ranges and the town of Kyneton, to visit some more family. We found the free camp, Mineral Springs, north of the town. It was lovely and situated in a park beside the Campaspe River. There are toilets and a dump point, although it was overflowing when we were there. It is only a short walk from one end of the park to the other, and there are two mineral spring pumps where one can fill up their drink bottles. We didn't, although I tasted the water and it tasted 'different'. There are limited RV parking sites, so one needs to get there early. We got there about 4pm and an hour later all the sites were taken.
The town of Kyneton is historic and was established in the 1830's as a traveller's stop, and came into prominence during the 1850's Gold Rush, as it is on the way to the gold fields at Castlemaine and Bendigo. Kyneton also became the center for agriculture with the establishment of many flour mills.
The next morning we left our lovely camp at Kyneton Mineral Springs and had a wonderful visit with family before heading north via Castlemaine. We didn't spend a lot of time walking around Kyneton, but will go back when it is warmer and spend more time there. There appears to be two main streets that are filled with many historic buildings. It is also not far from the famous Hanging Rock.
We only had a quick drive around Bendigo, and topped up with fuel. We had intended staying north of Bendigo, however when we arrived at Huntly Lion Park there was not a lot of room left, so we decided to drive a further 78 km to Echuca. At Echuca we stayed at the Rotary Park on the banks of the Campaspe River.
This is a donation park – suggested $5 – and has town water for filling up water tanks. It has a lot of historic buildings around the outside of the oval and plenty of self-contained caravan parking.
It was so lovely, and we had never been to Echuca before so we decided to stay an extra night and do some exploring.
Echuca is situated on the Murray River. The Murray is 2,560km long and forms much of the border between N.S.W. And Victoria. Echuca and Moama were founded by ex-convicts. In 1845 James Maiden established a punt crossing and inn on the northern side of the Murray. The area became known as Maiden's Punt. In 1851 the area became known as Moama, meaning 'place of the dead'. Henry Hopwood arrived on the southern side of the river in 1850 and set up a rival punt and inn in 1853. The area became known as Echuca, meaning 'meeting of the waters', in 1854. It was Hopwood who suggested a river port to aid river trade, and by 1891 Echuca was the largest inland port. A ship building industry was soon established and was supported by many sawmills. It was not until the establishment and expansion of the railways that the paddle-steamers started to decline.
Our first stop the next morning was to the historic wharf area. There was plenty of parking, and we had a look at the choice of paddle-steamer cruises and chose the PS Alexander Arbuthnot. The ship is named after the former owner of Arbuthnot Sawmills, where the ship was built, Alexander James Cooke Arbuthnot. It was built in 1916 and served as a barge, moving logs. In 1923 she was fitted with an engine, boiler and super structure and started life as a working steamer. She worked until the 1940's. Today she cruises daily and is only one of two original paddle steamers at Echuca. The cruise was good. We sat up the front, which we thought was the best place, as Peter chatted to the ship's captain. The commentary included the history of many of the paddle-steamers that were moored along the banks. What was really interesting with this cruise was the fact that one walks along the length of the original wharf and actually walk through a section of restored original wharf. The other cruises leave from jetty's further up stream. PS Arbuthnot was well worth the $25 ($22 for seniors).
Port of Echuca Discovery Centre is also well worth a visit. One can combine the PS Arbuthnot and PS Pevensey (used in the TV Series 'All the Rivers Run) cruises with entry to the Discovery Centre and safe about $4. There are interactive displays, a working steam engine, saw mill display, the old wharf and railway station. Guided tours are also available.
We walked along High St and marveled at the number of restored historic buildings. Most had information plaques attached to the buildings. This restoration and public information boards has made Echuca a tourist town today. Kelly's Fine Furniture started life as an office for J. Shacknell. Shacknell came to Echuca in 1863 and build this building in 1879. His company occupied the building until 1935. Shacknell proved a challenge for Hopwood's businesses and set up many opposition businesses. 
Next door, the lower floor was also built by Shacknell in 1866. It was used as a store. The upper floor was added in 1872. A Heritage Walk pamphlet can be obtained from the Visitor Information Centre, and information boards are attached to the historic buildings.
In the afternoon we drove to some free camps along the Victorian side of the river. The views were perfect, but we wouldn't take our van there. We would much rather pay the $5 a night at the Rotary Park. Echuca is a place we will come back to - probably many times.