A Travellerspoint blog

April 2013 - Moranbah to Mount Isa

Round the country trip, part 2 episode 1.

The last 4 weeks have gone pretty quickly and weve covered a bit of ground (2700km).

Day 1 in Moranbah. This was when the sun finally came out. We had 2 inches of rain before we left and hitched up the caravan in the back yard in ankle deep water.

After Rockhampton we went to Theresa Creek Dam just out of Clermont for a few days. This is a popular camp for Moranbah people so we camped with a few old neighbours.
Evan learining how to canoe with Jack O'sullivan:

From there we went to Emerald to stock up on all the things we thought we had forgotten.
Our first destination was Longreach and then the dinosaur attractions around Winton.
We started distance ed in Longreach. Bit more challenging this time around with 3 students instead of one:

Did the Stockmans hall of fame. Wasn't bad but much the same as a lot of other museums we had seen.

Then quantas founders museum. Again not bad, but general admission doens't get you anywhere near the big planes used for all their promotional material:

Highlight of Longreach was the McKinnon and co Old Time Tent Show. This was a family written and acted affair based on the story of Harry Redford. Best hours entertainment we have had in a long time.

Longreach also have a school of distance education servicing the outlying stations. It was good for the kids to see what happens at the other end of what they are doing.

Next stop was Winton, famous for land based dinosaurs (as opposed to swimming ones further North).

Age of Dinosaurs is a fossil preparation facility built in the middle of a very rich fossil digging area. The fossilised bones have a tendancy to "float" to the surface of the black soil plains with rain. Then stockman kick them about with their blundstones until they realise they're not rocks.

Winton is less famous for the musical fence:

From Winton we headed south out to Lark quarry. This is a flat rock with 95m year old footprints on it.

Bit rare so they built a shed over it:

A bit further out is Old Cork Station on the Diamnatina River. The country drops out of the hills and flattens out toward the river.

Waterhole beside Old Cork Homestead had plenty of water.

Homestead was looking a bit shabby:

Truck been sitting for a while.

Was a bit warm out there (37 both days) and then we found a leak in the van tank, so water became a bit of a concern.
Followed the Diamantina river road back toward Winton:

And spent another couple of nights in Winton.
Some more flatness:

Some original real estate:

From Winton we headed North to Richmond which is famous for the swimming sorts of dinosaurs (because its closer to the sea!)

This is the Loch Ness Monsters cousin and probably looked more like this:

Richmond also had a water park:

On the way out of Richmond we rummaged around in a fossil hunting area.

Found lots of seashells, and a cuttlefishy squid thing about 6 inches long:

Next night was at Julia Creek. Then through Cloncurry.
Between Cloncurry and Mount Isa is an old mining town called Mary Kathleen. It was built to service a Uranium mine in the 50's.
The place was closed down and auctioned off in 1984. Only the roads and building foundations left:
This is the swimmong pool:

and the town centre:

Which used to look like this:

Then we arrived into Mount Isa. Bit of a culture shock with traffic lights and traffic to go with it.
Reminded us a lot of Broken Hill. Transport costs out here can't be much of an issue as groceries and fuel etc are all similar to the coast. The last lettuce we bought was $6 in Richmond.


During the war they built an underground hostpital after Darwin was bombed:

So from here we head North as long as Cyclone Zane goes where it is supposed to and not veer south.

The track so far:

Posted by enookway 02:46 Comments (2)

April 2013 - Moranbah

Well our 6 month stop in Moranbah that turned into 18 has come to an end.

We finished up jobs and first term of school at Easter, then hit the road again with the intention of getting to Perth by about October.

So, the highlights of Moranbah:

Main claim to fame is the red bucket. This is an ex coal mining dragline bucket. Most towns in the area have one, and most of them are red:

This is what the bucket normally hangs off. These things dig big trenches to remove the overburden before the coal is extracted in open cut coal mining. They cost about $300m. This mine (Peak Downs) has about 3 of them:

Open cut coal mine:

Another common sight in the area is caol trains heading to Hay Point (Mackay) to be shipped mostly to China for coking coal in the steel industry. Each train carries about $2m worth of coal depending on the current price.

The reason we ended up in Moranbah was a job at this place. Dyno Nobels Ammonium Nitrate Plant which was commissioned in 2012. This place makes the stuff that goes bang to loosen up coal seams:

My job was to keep all these lights on (I think). Got a bit busy when they went off.

Simone worked a few different jobs in the education department. First as a crossing lady, then as a teachers aide in the specials unit at the high school, then in the main part of the high school.

What isn't coal mines in this area is agriculture. Some cropping and plenty of cattle grazing:

Being a bit inland (200km from the coast) and a bit elevated (250m) and a bit north (200km north of the tropic of capricorn), the climate is generally dry and warm. From October to April the days don't drop below 30, and nights rarely below 20. January has a few weeks of 37s and 38s. Then we get about 4 to 6 weeks of humidity through Febraury, but otherwise the humidity is very low. Spring and Autumn are very pleasant. Then June July has nice days but cool mornings. We got a couple of frosts and a few weeks of 4 degree starts.

Moranbah has most basic services, but the closest big smoke is Mackay (200km away).

An a bit further away is Airlie Beach, which actually has beaches:

There are a few waterholes about, including the local creek:

And Theresa Dam, about a 100km away. Popular camping and Water sports place:

While in the "Bah" we had a company house, which was extra flash:

Being a mining town, the real estate is rediculous. When coal prices are high, the demand for accomodation goes through the roof and mining companies will pay huge money for housing. A place like this (4br house) would have sold for around $900,000 in December 2011 and made about $2800 a week rent.

Anyway, we had a couple of very casual chrismas's in it:

The kids did 18 months of real school and made some lasting freindships. The town has very high proportion of young families so there is lots for kids to do.

Halloween was a big night:

Evan made it to Orange Belt in Karate:

And eventually made it around the BMX track:

We had a few trips over to the Whitsunday Islands:

Rode a bike about a bit:

We had a dog for a while. Looked pretty harmless here:

But soon grew physically much quicker than mentally and became a bit of a handfull. He was only a loaner so he wnet back to his original owner.

After leaving at Easter we went to Rockhampton to put our furniture in storage, before heading West. Weve been on the road now for 2 weeks and currently in Longreach.

Posted by enookway 03:57 Comments (2)

March 2012 - Moranbah to Vic/Tas and back

We've been in Moranbah for 6 months now. Kids have done 2 terms of school and the original work contract finished on the 6th March.
Somewhere along the way someone asked if we wanted to stay, so in a lapse of concentration we agreed to stay until March 2013.

So the original plan to head back to Portland before heading North again and across the top, turned into a 4 week charge down south, sort our furniture, visit relllies and friends and be back in Moranbah for start of second term.

First night on the road in Emerald, been here before:

The bath in the new caravan, kids still fit.

The view most days. We averaged about 500km a day and decided this was about 2 hours too long in the car. There had been a lot of flooding around SE Queensland and Northern NSW. This is between St George and Narrabri:

Lunch stop in Seymour. Southern NSW (riverina) and northern Vic (Shepparton to the Murray) was also flooded so we had to go through Wagga and Albury.

Camped in Creswick just north of Ballarat. The weather turned windy and cold here and stayed pretty ordinary for the next 4 or 5 days.

Portland foreshore, been here before!

One of the main reasons for the trip was to go to Gallpens 40th. Havent got any respectable photos of this.
Anyway, took the opportunity to get my old bike out of the shearing shed and head away for an overnighter to Casterton:

Got faster as the night went on:

Back in Portland we got all our furniture picked up and sent to Moranbah.
Stayed with the Holts for a day or two. Jorja took some wild animals to show and tell at school:

Bit of Street art:

Portland foreshore again:

Headed to Geelong via Macurther. Contemplated with Flynn:

Had the royal tour of the Geelong yacht club with Able Seaman Jones:

Left our caravan in Melbourne, then got on a big boat:


Went for a tour through the countryside

Walked into a waterfall with not much water, spectacular drop all the same.

Kids had a half Birthday party for candle blowing practise:

Went to one of the last family owned stations at Lapoinya (14 acres I think). Guided by the kids Great Grandfather.

Beth had a bit of a prang on a flying fox. We thought she was just doing the usual carry on, but it still hurt the next morning so we had a trip to the hostpital. Broke a bone the forearm just above the wrist.

Tipped more oil in the car.

Headed back to the mainland on Easter Friday. Had the roughest trip I've ever had. Kids snored all night. Mum was a bit crook, I just rolled around and tried not to fall out of bed.

First night heading North was Lake Eppalock near Bendigo:

Still a bit of water around Hay. We camped beside the river and nearly got bogged getting into the camp. Lucky it didn't rain. Would still be there:

Smoko in Mount Hope, not lot there except the usual mining remnants.

Kids domesticating in Cobar, been here before!

View heading North between Cobar and Cunnamulla. Didn't change a lot. Green grass from the edge of the road to the horizon. The only dry part of the country was SW Victoria.


Highest point in Cunnamulla, a sand dune behind the caravan park.


Local resident of Cunamulla Caravan Park

Last few hundred K was dirt from Tambo to Clermont. Foud out that the caravan isn't dust tight.

Getting close to home. A Peak on the Peak Downs road between Clermont and Moranbah

Arrived home to a house full of furniture and box's of rubbish we'd forgotten about

Only took about 2 weeks to sort most of it out.

4 states in 4 weeks. Did about 2800km on the way south and 2200 going North. The wet bits meant the trip south was a lot further East than we intended. Just have to work for another 12 months to make up the annual leave.

Posted by enookway 03:44 Comments (0)

August September 2011 - Bourke to Moranbah

Northern NSW.

The day we left the station it was supposed to rain, so we headed into a caravan park in Bourke. Camped beside the grumpiest of grey nomads encountered so far. "Oh they've got children" pretty much confirmed them amongst the 80 percenters. Don't know what it is about the travelling retirees, but they fall into two distinct groups. About 20% are very friendly, great with the kids etc, and the rest seem to be full time whingers. Like a bloke at Bourke said, maybe they didn't make it as National Parks Rangers, were either too grumpy or not grumpy enough.

End of rant:

Brewarrina. Another town with a fairly high indiginous population. We camped about 10km out of town beside the river. Then it rained and we nearly didn't get out.

On to Walgett, similar in most ways but slightly more appealing, then North to Lightening Ridge.
One of the "residents" at the caravan park had built this contraption. He seemed to pretty typical of the locals:

The town of Lightining Ridge is pretty well serviced and quite well developed. Population is about 7000 so a fair way ahead of places like Whitecliffs and Andamooka. The outskirts of the town is all holes and mullock heaps. Had a bit of a scratch around but didn't find much.

The video at the end of the mine tour was quite well done. I think the success rate was something like 10% of miners find something, 10% of those make a living, and 10% of those strike it rich. Definitely a game for the "passionate". Equipment has all levels of ingenuity:

Local Church

And the hot springs
Which were very hot. About 43 degrees so we had to get out every 10 minutes to cool off.

From Lightning Ridge south through Walgett again then East through Burren Junction. Hot springs here too but it was blowing a gale and pretty awful so we continued on to Wee Waa and camped in the bush:

Heard some strange noises in the night that we couldn't work out until the next day when we stumbled across the Radio Telescope Array outside Narrabri. Being a still night we could hear the telescopes re positioning.
Very interesting and well presented visitor centre.

Camped at Yarrie Lake which was a bit windy during the day but very pleasant at night.

Spent a couple of nights in Narrabri at the showgrounds. Spent a day out at Mt Kaputar National Park:

The country changes around Narrabri fairly dramatically from flat plains to the western edge of the Dividing range.
The following day we drove up some hills to Sawn Rocks:

Camped beside a river between Narrabri and Inverell. When we arrived it was a beautiful sunny day. That night it rained, all night, and all the next day. We had no phone service so couldn't check the weather. I walked about 3km up the road where a local pulled up and told me the rain was supposed to stop. Eventually it did and the following afternoon we were able to get out.

Next stop was going to be Inverell Showgrounds, but the local council had closed it to campers the day before. Weve since seen this in a few places where the caravan parks put pressure on the councils to stop camping at the showgrounds.
So we said stick Inverell then, and moved on to Glen Innes, where the showgrounds had better sites than any of the caravan parks for about half the price:

Glen Innes has a pretty strong Celtic heritage. Probably something to do with the bitter cold weather. There is a modern Stonehenge arrangement on to pof the hill.

Kids had a go at becoming King Arthur:

From Glen Innes to Tenterfield, and up to Boonoo Boonoo Falls. Bit quiet at the moment:

But evidence of some pretty serious water recently:

Made it into Queensland for the second time (first time was Camerons Corner). This is between Tenterfield and Stanthorpe:

Stanthorpe was a bit fresh and windy. Quite elevated there though.
Next town North is Warwick. Being Sunday the markets were on at Glengallan Homestead. Lots of animals for the kids to play with:

Kids ended up in the local paper:

Very spectacular house:

Into Toowoomba. Bit of culture shock after being out in the scrub for months.
The local Ag Show was on, so we found our biggest hats and boots and headed in. Lot of farming equipment as you would expect, but plenty of other stuff as well:

Very steep decent out of Toowwomba toward Ipswitch. Went through Grantham in the Lockyer valley which was severely flooded last summer. Still a lot of empty houses, and a couple that had been washed downstream.

Made it into the Gold Coast which was particularly awful. Traffic was very heavy all the way from Ipswitch. Weather had warmed up though. Saw the sea for the first time in 5 months.

So why did we go there?

Had a day out in the Feme Park. Kids were probably a bit young as most of the rides were aimed at 8 to 10 year olds and older. But we had some fun and saw a few animals:

From there we went to Brisbane and saw Simones Aunty Sue and David. You will have to assume they looked glamorous as we forgot to take a picture of them.
Then up to the Sunshine Coast where we caught up with Dean and Nina Eldridge formerly of Portland who have Koby the same age as Beth, and Riley who was born a few hours before the twins:

Then we saw Grant Hicks, formerly of Burnie who I played in a band with breifly, and used to drink beer with extensively.

Big blog this one! must have been a while since the last one, or we take too many photos. Anyway, bare with us:

So then it got interesting. After leaving the Station at Bourke two things happened:
1. A former Engineering manager from Pivot in Portland rang me and asked if I wanted a job. So after some telephony with a raft of recruiting people asking identical questions, we all flew up to Moranbah (200km West of Mackay) to have a job interview and look around the town. Dyno Nobel are an American company owned by Incitec Pivot (Australian fertiliser manufacturer) who are building an Ammonium Nitrate (explosives) plant to service the mines.
The big carrot is that they supply houses. So we are here for 6 months.

2. We decided to change caravans. The Roadstar has served us well and is brilliant when stopped. But is big, heavy, and a general pain in the bum once it needs to be moved. So we looked at wind up camper trailers and ended up buying one on the Gold Coast.

So we based ourselves in Caboolture (Showgrounds), went and collected the new caravan, cleaned out the old one, packed an enormous amount of stuff into storage with a local removalist, and sold the old van. All in a week:

The bathrooom in the new van is a bit smaller:

This is it packed up:

And unpacked:

Which means we can camp in places like this now:

So we will probably get stuck in campsites about the same amount, but they will be even harder to get out of.

From Caboolture we headed west back into the hills, through Blackbutt and Yarraman. There is an old railway tunnel with bat colony included:

Fell out the other side of the GDR (great dividing range) on the Western Downs at Dalby. The country flattens out again here. Agriculture takes over from traffic:

Dropped in to Jimbour Mansion just north of Dalby:
The place is lived in but the gardens and outbuildings are open to the public.

Kids in their new bed

From Dalby we headed west on the worst sealed road in Australia, through Chinchilla toward Roma. Lot of new houses in these towns and mines everywhere.
Roma's main attraction is its oil and gas drilling history. Ran into the Mornabah school principal on holiday.

Had a ride on the Roma Express:

North from Roma through Injune to Conarvon Gorge. Being school holidays all the campgrounds were booked out so we camped over the road and headed into Conarvon for the day. Lot of fires around the are and smoke everywhere.

Absorbed some indigenous culture:

and went for a swim:

Rolleston to the north was also booked out so we camped on the side of the road, which was a lot nicer than the caravan park anyway.

Then onto Emerald. Had a couple of days there as I had to do a medical for the job:
Monorail at the botanic gardens:

Emerald had a few other attractions such as an Irish pub with Guinness on tap. Had a very nice meal and sampled a few.

Then it was just another 200km up to Moranbah. Got here Thursday and moved into the house.
We have a "duplex", which is a 3 bedroom house attached to another one. 2 car garage, big living area, air conditioned, partly furnished with the essential bits like fridge, washing machine and an enormous telly which the kids are still a bit dazzled by.
Presume we are in the right place!


So I start work and the kids start school at the local primary on Monday (3rd Oct). Beth in Grade 1 and the Twins in Prep.
Could be a bit warm up here. Since Caboolture the weather has really warmed up. Don't think weve had a day under 28 for the last 2 weeks.

The 20th of September marked one year on the road for us. Few statistics if you haven't dozed off yet:
- 7 months straight since we've lived in a house
- Total working weeks: 30 for me and 6 for Simone. So we've worked 60% of the time, which is about what we planned.
- Total km: about 18000. Probably about 14000 towing the van
- Average fuel economy, 25 l/100, or just under 12mpg. Worst economy was about 9mpg (31 l/100) from Bairnsdale to Omeo. The new van has this down to 17 l/100 and 20kmh quicker.
- Average price of Diesel has been between $1.40 and $1.60, so we’ve used about 4500 litres of diesel, which cost $6750.
- Camped in caravan parks about probably half the time. Tended to stay in Showgrounds the last month or two as they offer the same facilities (power, water, toilets and hot showers) for $20 a night, whereas caravan parks have averaged about $45. Most expensive caravan park was Moruya over last Christmas ($460 a week/ $65/night), so we moved into a house. Quite a few around Brisbane/Goldcoast/Sunshine coast were $80 and one I think was $98 - for a power point and a tap. And you need to provide your own building!

Next update in March.

Posted by enookway 23:22 Comments (1)

July 2011 - Trilby Station

Right then, where were we?

We have survived 6 weeks living in the "outback". I think it was legitimate "outback" as it was actually Back of Bourke.
NSW seems to get a bit confused with its Easts and Wests depending on where you are and where your referring to. "Western NSW" seems to start at about Dubbo which is clearly in the East of the state.

Anyway, a few pictures before you doze off:

Kids doing some earthmoving on the levee bank:

Beths Portrait of mum:

View from our front door, dog, work ute, shearers quarters etc:

Now for a short summary of the station. Skip this paragraph if statistics arent of intrest. The bits I cant remember I will make up:
Trilby Station, on the Darling River, between Wilcannia and Bourke. The property is 130,000 acres which is about 15km wide and runs from the river, North West toward Wanaaring.
Trilby was originally part of Dunlop Station, which was around 860,000 acres and was the first station to have fully mechanised shearing (about 1888). Gary and Liz (owners of Trilby) also own a few ajoining stations for a total around 320,000 acres.
They run about 14,000 sheep and can run up to 22,000. A significant part of the business is mustering wild goats. Plenty of these about and quite a large part of the property is set up specifically to contain them once they get in (electric fences and spear gated yards). Around 10 to 14,000 goats are exported each year.
Flooding of the Darling can make the homestead an island and early this year the house was surrounded by water for 3 months. They get about 4 weeks notice of an impending flood which is enough time to get stock and machinery to higher ground.
Most of the property is watered from rain catchment, and there is also a number of bores. There are wells on the property from the 1800's which were hand dug to 500 feet.

Sheep yards near the homestead

We had the plods turn up checking gun licenses and safes:

One local major event was a clearing sale at the Old Dunlop homestead. The house was about 150 years old so had accumulated a bit of stuff in that time. Th Auction attracted quite a big crowd, A few camped at Trilby who were from Echuca and Bendigo:

Every vehicle used on the property was lined up:

This is a speedboat with a V8 Ford motor strapped in the middle:

Boxes and boxes of books and magazines. Wheels magazines from the mid fifties:

And some other titles from the mid seventies:

This Ford ute apparently has factory 4 wheel drive, and only about 400 were made. It went for TWENTY SEVEN THOUSAND DOLLARS:

A lot of the other boat anchors also went for rediculous money. Things like broken old Furphy camp ovens went for hundreds of dollars.

Anyway, back to the station, which is where we spent most of our time. In 6 weeks we had one trip out to Bourke (120km away) and one trip to Cobar (a bit further).

The road past the front gate:

This is the old mailbox at the original front gate. Where the white paint starts on the left hand side is where the 1974 flood came up to:

The river floods into a Lagoon which we did a bit of canoeing on:

Gary took posession of a new dog (a Kelpie called Bessie), so we babysat for a while. Kids had a ball with her, and I think mum got a bit attached too:

The main reason for our stay was this lot. A variety bash from Adelaide footy club came though and stayed the night. We helped feed 100 odd people and then clean up after them:

Bit of machinery from the Old Dunlop Farm down the road. This farm grew crops on the river flats in the late 1800's. Most of it was used for stock feed to run all the horses. This part of the station employed about 100 people:

Looking North across the 10,000 acre paddock. This was all under water in 1974:

Tanks and troughs up on the red country:


About 30km north of Trilby is the old New Chum Station homestead. The residents left here in the 60's to move to a new house and basically left this place as is:

Back to the river. A view of the river flats:

Beth and her new best friend:

Evan helping out:

Our camp:

Kids found a local:

The Louth races was also on while we were there. Attracts about 3000 people I think so a big weekend for the town:

The work ute. Bit of a step up from the Triton I had in Portland. This one had a dog and a chainsaw!

Canoeing on the Lagoon again. Makes it look like we had a lot of spare time, which we did, sort of:

Evan at the gate:

Ella fell in the grey water dam:

Armchair at the end of most days:

Looking at this:

So all in all, we thoroughly enjoyed our time there and will be looking for more of this sort of thing down the road.

So we have actually moved a bit lately, from the western NSW border and are getting close to the sea again. After Bourke we went to Lightning Ridge and today we are in Narrabri heading toward Glen Innes. Probably head North from there:

Posted by enookway 02:35 Comments (4)

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