Thursday, August 30, 2018

Carnarvon Gorge National Park

We have spent the past three days camped at Sandstone Park. Its a new camping facility about 6 km from the Carnarvon Gorge Visitor Centre at the start of the gorge walking tracks. There are 41 very large sites with 360 degree views of the surrounding countryside.

There are no powered sites here with the only facilities being portaloos spread throughout the site, a dump point and fire pits to each site. They have also done away with the stupid nonsense of retaining your grey water, and are happy for it to flow onto the ground where its badly needed. Daily fees are currently $23 per site.

This new tourist enterprise is situated on Bandana Station which comprises 43,000 acres and borders the national park. The station is now organic and normally averages about 2200 head of cattle.

This is our third visit to Carnarvon Gorge with our last visit in August 1997. Back then camping was allowed all year round in the national park but its now been limited to just school holiday periods.

On our second day we walked as far as Cathedral Gorge which involved the crossing of Carnarvon Creek a total of forty times. 

The return distance to the visitor centre is 18.2 kilometres. Of course there are the many interesting sites that branch off the main track, which blows this distance out by many more kilometres.

Some of the side trips include sites like Wards Canyon which is a very steep climb which really gets the blood flowing with its hundred odd steps that finally takes you into a side gorge, that shelters the worlds largest fern, the king fern.

Then there is the Moss Garden where water is constantly dripping from the sandstone for the mosses and ferns that survive here.

The amphitheatre is a 60 metre high chamber gouged out by running water over thousands of years.

On our last day we paid what we thought was a very reasonable $165 for three of us to enjoy a twenty minute flight over 'Bandana Station' and Molleyamber Gorge.

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Towards Innamincka

After our unscheduled six night stopover in Longreach, we headed south on the Thomson Development Road. Stopping briefly in Stonehenge before continuing onto the Swan Vale rest area 40 km north of Jundah and 176 km south of Longreach.

We passed by this site many years ago and its remained in the memory banks since then. 
Its a great overnighter with plenty of room even for larger vans. There are sweeping views towards the north and the sunsets from here are very special.

A brief stop in Jundah before continuing on towards Windorah. Our plan was to camp on Cooper Creek south of town but the very strong winds that were blowing put paid to that idea. It was impossible to escape the dust being blown about and we would have spent the remainder of the day locked inside the van. 

A quick trip into town to camp in a non powered site at the local caravan park was really our best option. The park surface was similar to blue metal so it afforded some degree of escape from the clouds of dust. The vans were positioned to escape the setting sun and the strong westerlies. 

That afternoon we wandered down to the local pub for several beers and by chance, a couple who I have been following on YouTube turned up to spend the evening. Here is a link to a series of clips they have produced. MrHunterjagter

They were heading to Birdsville to cross the Simpson Desert. We will be in a small snippet they shot outside the pub whilst enjoying our beers.

Camping beside the Kyabra waterhole has been on my bucket list for years. 
 I've read threads about how beautiful it is and we were not disappointed when we arrived. The waterhole is 45 km north of Eromanga and the once dirt road that connects the Diamantina and Cooper Development roads is now all bitumen. 
Our group were the only ones here that night and who ever had camped here before left an abundant supply of firewood that we gratefully used. Lamb cutlets cooked over the open fire that evening were certainly hard to beat.

Just under an hour after leaving Kyabra Waterhole we arrived in the small town of Eromanga. 
This small town of 400 people has the claim to fame of being the furthest town from the sea in Australia. More recently discoveries of the largest dinosaur bones ever found in Australia have been located on a property nearby.

We were just passing through but we wanted to take a tour of the Natural History Museum. The museum opened in 2016 and funds have now been approved to expand the facility with larger display areas for the growing number of discoveries that are currently taking place.
Part of the expansion that is hoped to be completed by 2020 includes up market accommodation and a caravan park with all facilities.

Dating has confirmed that this 'Titanosaur' is between 95 and 98 million years old. Its name is 'Cooper' and the following photograph shows its actual size compared to the Royal Hotel in the main Street.

The Eromanga Natural History Museum provides guided hand on tours through the workshop laboratories and collection room. The hour long tour for $25 is very informative and enjoyable.

After finishing our tour we continued south west on the Cooper Development Road towards Noccundra, the pub is the last remaining building in this once small township. 

This is our fourth visit and we couldn't believe just how busy it was with vans lining the waterhole, but then we normally pass through here later in the year. 
Even though its almost in the middle of nowhere its just wonderful to have water views when so much of the surrounding countryside looks half dead and lifeless.

On our second day we enjoyed a few Cooper's Sparkling Ales at the pub before returning later that evening to enjoy a meal and a nice bottle of red. The pub has been serving beer since 1882 but I'm sure they weren't as cold then as they are now. 

From our Wilson River camp, we soon rejoined the Adventure Way heading west towards the "Dig Tree on Nappa Merrie Station, just this side of the South Australian border.
On our way we passed by the Jackson oil fields and Ballera gas fields. The oil produced at Jackson is transported to Brisbane by pipeline and the gas from Ballera and Moomba in South Australia supplies up to 80% of the Australian population.

The  Burke and Wills expedition of 1860-61 met a tragic end here when their support team left the "Dig Tree' site just hours before Burke, Wills and King returned. King was the only one to survive after being helped by local aborigines and was then rescued several months later.
Our site along Cooper Creek just several hundred metres from the 'Dig Tree'

Apart from the 14 km access road into the 'Dig Tree' our entire journey so far has only been on bitumen, but that will change later today when we head towards Innamincka.
Our first visit here was in 1994, and since then we have returned many times over the preceding years. 
In terms of infrastructure there is the pub and trading post, showers for those who don't travel with their own, along with toilets and of course fuel. 

Camping on Cooper Creek beside the huge red gums that line both sides is very special. The bird life in the mornings and early evenings can be quite deafening, especially with the thousands of corellas who roost in the trees.

There are many camping sites strung out along the creek. 
These include Cullyamurra Waterhole, Policeman's Waterhole, Minkie Waterhole and Ski Beach to name a few. 
Camping fees are $12.00 a night for these sites because they reside within the Innamincka Regional Reserve.

After arriving we drove the short distance to camp on the town common for the princely sum of just $5.00 a night. The only facility here are drop toilets. The town common is not in the Innamincka Reserve hence the lower camping fees.

Rain fell over this area in early July and its amazing how the countryside responds in such a dry and dusty environment.

The evenings and earl mornings have been extremely cold with temperatures measuring below zero. Thanks again to our diesel heater that helps make camping so pleasurable.

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Towards Yaraka

It was almost impossible to tear ourselves away from our three relaxing days at Lara, but it was time to move on.

Today's drive of just 94 km is the sort of distance we should do more regularly. We steered ourselves south to spend two days camped at Blackall. 
The Barcoo rest area is beside the town with a nightly fee of $8.00. This gets you toilets, drinking water, a dump point and within easy walking distance to town.

We stayed here in October several years ago with just three other vans, but this has now become a very popular camp site. This time we shared the site with upwards of thirty vans.

A tour of the Blackall Woolscour (wool washing) today. It operated between 1908 and 1978. After sheep were shorn, the fleeces were washed in water to remove dirt that had accumulated in their wool. Originally the wool was washed by hand in large vats then rinsed. You can just imagine how labour intensive that process must have been.

The wool scour process was fully automated using a steam engine and powered by the abundant amount of wood sourced from the surrounding area. 
The sinking of bores provided unlimited amounts of water, required to wash and rinse the fleeces.

Our two day stop at Blackall turned into three days and on our last afternoon the heavens opened up for about twenty minutes. The normally dry black soil that surrounds the Barcoo River quickly turned to mud. 

We eagerly watched several vans leave the site the next morning and even though I walked to the rubbish bins and came back with mud stuck to the bottom of my thongs we really had no trouble making our way towards the safety of the bitumen.

Another shortish drive today of just 164 km. When we first visited Yaraka, the vast majority of the road was unsealed but its now fully sealed from the Blackall end. 
We stopped briefly at the Emmet railway station, to take a photo. At one time this busy railway siding was home to thirty people but sadly now there are just two living here.

Last year we camped behind the Yaraka Hotel and that's where we are going to spend the next three nights.
Camp fees are $3.00 per night, yes I know its hard to believe but this includes toilets, showers, water and even a swimming pool. 
Mind you the pool might be a tad too cold this time of year. The fees are collected by the pub on behalf of the Longreach council. 

Friday night is pizza night and because we enjoyed our pizza here last year we ordered one to be ready for us after we arrived back from the sunset tour to Mt Slowcombe. A gold coin donation to the RFDS gets you a bus trip to the summit.

Our plan was to head towards Windorah the following day but our travelling companions required some repairs to be carried out on their van in Longreach. We retraced our steps to Emmet before heading north through Isisford and onto Longreach.

We are booked into the caravan park here for the next six nights waiting for some parts to arrive and be fitted.

Monday, July 30, 2018

Lara Wetlands Again!!

We arrived in Barcaldine to meet friends Deb and Hank who have recently picked up a 17' Zone RV which was built for them on the Sunshine Coast at Coolum. 

They are interested in a shakedown trip to test their van, so we thought we would introduce them to the outback and desert areas, that we love so much. 

Its guaranteed that their diesel heater will certainly get a work out fairly early during this trip as well.

This will be our fourth visit, so we have decided to introduce Deb and Hank to this wonderful area with its wetlands and for them to take a tour of the homestead built in 1912. 

Our other visits have been very relaxing and enjoyable and I'm sure this visit will be no different. At this time of year there are usually more people out and about, but we did stop here in October one year, and there were just three other vans here. Just the sort of numbers we prefer.

On our first evening we camped several hundred metres away from the water and then moved the following day to spots that had been vacated earlier the next morning.

We were also joined by Peter, Vonnie, David and Wendy who both previously owned Bushtrackers but have now purchased  Zone vans. Both had relatively new 20.6' vans.

They joined us each night for drinks around our campfire and on one of those nights Peter and Vonnie supplied a lovely New Zealand smoked trout that there friends had bought over with them.