Day 1 | Departure Day
After years of planning the day finally arrives and after a frenzied week of farewell dinners, a special friends 90th birthday party and last minute work commitments “Our Time Has Come – Where to Next” is finally packed and ready to go.
I’m a list maker…. but sadly I never got around to writing my Lap of the Map pack up checklist! Time continually got away from me and as I’m constantly reminded by Andrew; if we’ve forgotten it, we can either do without it or buy it along the way.
Cinta has been following us around all morning and is now sitting by the back gate. She knows when the van is being packed that there is an adventure about to begin. It’s time and Gunther (our neighbour) has come over to bid farewell, the gate is opened and out she flies to the car door. Poor Gunther was feeling very disheartened as she dismissed his gesture of one last pat and a rub down before being allowed into the car.
My brother Ray is looking after the house for us while we travel as he has to do his 2 years penance to qualify for his pension. He’s lived in Bali for 10 years and now reached pension age, such a ridiculous law after living in Australia all his life & running a business and contributing to the economy of our country.
And we’re off, Ray is videoing the departure and we have smiles on our faces from ear to ear. This is finally happening. We’re heading for Vincent Bushy Parker Park at Rollingstone, we did a free camp there as a trial run and it’s familiar stomping ground. We arrive early, just after lunch and set up for the first night of our dream trip.
It’s hot and the flies are driving us crazy but it’s a beautiful spot with lots of shady trees, toilet and dump point facilities, taps all around the park and a lovely flowing creek with icy cold water. Cinta has several swims throughout the afternoon and we take a walk under the Rollingstone Bridge where there is some amazing art works depicting Earth, Wind and Fire.
Wildlife: Black cockatoos, fish
Day 2 – 3 | Rollingstone to Charters Towers
After early morning showers of rain we head off around 9am to Kelso for morning tea at my sisters place. Time to say farewell to Julie, John and Mum. After a lovely morning tea break we have the last minute photos and Julie videos our departure. We are off to Macrossan Park, about 20km east of Charters Towers. The landscape is still green and lush to our surprise.
Another free camp with toilet facilities, cold shower, picnic tables and bbq’s. You can’t drink the water here. It’s a pleasant 34 degrees and there are plenty of flies around and it’s blowing a gale during the day. We’re lucky to park up beside a small shady tree right beside the undercover shelter.
We’re spending 2 days here as I’m working on the road and there’s a job to be done! Internet access plays a key role in our destination points. We have a telstra airhawk mobile router and so far it’s proving it’s value.
Guess who forgot to put the silicone egg poachers in the van… Andrew to the rescue, he saw this trick on one of the fishing shows and bingo, it works! Just spray a little bit of oil in a plastic bag, tie a knot in it and boil for 6 minutes – perfect!
An unexpected catch up with long time friends Vicky and Phil – fish n chips on the park bench while watching an amazing sunset.
Wildlife: kangaroos a plenty…
Day 4 | Charters Towers to Prarie
We don’t travel far each day. A couple of hundred kilometres is enough for us, we don’t want to rush around the country like some folk, we want to stay in the regional towns and support those communities like tourists support us back home at Mission Beach.
We decide to stay at the Prarie Hotel. I’ve got 3 apps (I know, too much information…) but I love technology! Wikicamps; the paid version, Campermate; free and Aircamp; free. It’s interesting to read people’s comments, you soon figure out who the whingers are and there is just no pleasing some people!
What a great place, the owner Tom is out and about so a quick call to him and we set up behind the pub. It’s red dirt and a fabulous outback tin shower under a shady tree. We set up nearby, we’re the only ones travelling in January – who else is stupid enough to travel in summer!
We spend the afternoon chatting with Tom’s wife Andrea. Andrew remembers Andrea’s Mum from his days in the banking Industry. Andrea is amazed, know one in the bank actually knows them anymore and he’s remembered her mum from a long time ago…
It’s a tale of hard ship, family loyalty, dedication and just bloody hard work. Andrea and Tom have been running the pub for 39 years. They have 3 girls and they all work behind the scenes as well when they are not at school. After-all, there are animals to be fed as well; 2 donkeys and a water buffalo just to name a few. We spend the whole afternoon chatting about the town and how businesses have had to close and people have moved. A township in it’s hey day of so many people and now only 30 left.
The pub is a real mecca in the season with the camp ground being packed with caravans and campers. It’s a real credit to this true blue Aussie couple. They’ve created an eclectic pub with a real outback flair, it’s a “must do” if you are travelling in the Queensland outback.
Wildlife: Donkeys, water buffalo, echidna, cows, dead kangaroos, sheep and did i mention flies…
Day 5 | Prarie to Winton
With temperatures set to rise over 40 degrees we decide to find a caravan park and treat ourselves to some power and air-conditioning.
We pass a massive solar farm along our journey and signs “Cattle on Road”. It’s mustering time and unlike the old days when it was done on horseback, these guys now have quad bikes! Some of the cattle are looking like they need a good feed, we feel for the farmers and the challenges they face. We pass several road trains, they’re 53 metres long and some have up to 4 trailers.
We check into the Tattersalls Caravan Park, run by the pub across the road. It’s a small park with a lovely green patch of grass beside each site. Cinta rolls in the grass like she’d never seen grass before! There is artesian bore water in this town and boy does it stink. Reminded us both of our stay in Rotorua years ago. We did the washing and our clothes came out smelling worse than when they went in!
Work is calling again, thank heavens for air-con after an afternoon pounding on the keyboard.
Winton is home of the Waltzing Matilda Centre destroyed by fire in 2015, it’s been rebuilt. Unfortunately because of my work commitments we didn’t get to experience the Centre, so it’s on the bucket list for the way home.
Wildlife: 2 Emus, cattle, dead kangaroos & pigs along the highway everywhere
Day 6 – 7 | Winton to Longreach
The landscape has changed, it’s dry and so barren. Qld rail are replacing all the old wooden sleepers along the railway line with metal ones, we feel for the workers in the scorching sun. We stopped for morning tea and when Andrew opened the caravan door all we could hear was the sound of roaring wind….opened the shower and there was no shower hatch to be found. We hadn’t used the shower since Rollingstone and when I did my check through before we left Winton, the hatch was closed. We’re not sure how we lost it, it could have been a bird strike as Andrew mentioned that he saw a shadow over the van throughout the day.
We’re free camping again at the Thompson River just outside of Longreach, so Andrew backs the car up to the side of the van, and he puts the 2 step ladder on the back of the tray of the car and gets up to observe the damage. Solution; woolies shopping bag and duct tape. All fixed, let’s hope it lasts the journey until we can get it fixed.
We find someone on the internet at Ilfracombe, just a mobile number no address. We call but no response. We decide to see how the fix up goes on the next leg of the journey. There’s a Coromal dealership in Parkes, so we’re hoping Andrew’s fix it job will go the distance…
Wildlife: Dead kangaroos, 1 emu, flock of wild budgerigars.
Week 1 total expenses: $495.95 (woohoo nailed the budget!)
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That’s a wrap for Week 1 of the Lap of the Map.