Week 2 | Longreach to Goondiwindi

Day 8 | Longreach to Blackall

First stop, the dump point, then the Visitor Information Centre for some fly nets for our hats, that’s the best $13 we have ever spent!  We support the local foodworks store and stock up on supplies before heading out to the Stockmans Hall of Fame.  I’m offered a pensioner discount, I wasn’t sure whether to be insulted or pleased for the discount on the ticket…  I decided that as we’re on a budget the discount is welcoming.  We decide to lash out and buy morning tea here – there goes the saving on the ticket!

This is a “must do” attraction if you’re travelling in central Queensland.  It’s rich in Australia’s history of some of our famous explorers, stock workers, pastoralists and Aborigines.  The centre bought back many memories of outback trips to cattle properties in the gulf of Queensland when dad and mum would travel in the school holidays.  Dad was a mechanic and he worked on a lot of the machinery at the stations. It was always an exciting adventure travelling to Koolatah and Dixie Stations.  Staff in those days were Aboriginal families, living and working on the properties.

The landscape is changing as we near Blackall, it’s red dirt country, the poor sheep don’t have much to eat and it’s bloody hot.

Wildlife:  1 Emu, wild budgies galore, dead kangaroos.

Day 9 – 10 | Blackall

We’re parked up at the Barcoo River Camp, it’s a low cost camp at $8 p/night run by the Blackall Shire Council.  Plenty of shady trees and several taps around the park and one toilet. It’s called a windy loo! This is a small progressive township welcoming caravanners and campers to their community.  The site is by the Barcoo River and the sprinklers go all day long.  The river is basically dry apart from a few gullies with stagnant water.  No swimming for Cinta here.

One of the local council workers Stewart Benson turns up on his ride on mower first up in the morning and then again at lunch time, moving the sprinklers around.  Stewart’s a real character, he’s a true blue Aussie bloke and gives back to the township like you wouldn’t believe.  In the season he puts on a show for the tourists with his horse and pony.    For many years he did the show for free until someone suggested he pass the hat around for donations.  Now days the donation money is used to feed his animals.  You can read Stu’s story here.

Walking around the township we came across many murals on the buildings and the creative photo street display #betterinblackall.  A project in 2017 involving the whole community encouraging them to share their Instagram images to show everyone what a great place it is to live or visit Blackall.  The images have been printed and were placed around the township and launched at the Blackall Heartland Festival in that year.

We decided to stay for 3 nights, we loved the peacefullness of the park and it gave me an opportunity to catch up on some more work.  The 3 way fridge is not coping in the heat (over 40 degrees) so we’re supplementing it with the esky and ice!

Wildlife: Kangaroos, king parrots.

Day 11 | Blackall to Charleville

We’re heading into Santa Gertruda cattle country and the road is straight and the landscape is flat, not a hill in sight and trees adorn the highway.  42 degrees today.  We stop at Tambo for a cuppa in a lovely green park with plenty of shady trees and a great area for kids to play.  Further on in Augethella we see 2 emus standing in a small waterhole  beside the road.  Lunch break at the Meat Ant Park and there are plenty of black ants around our feet.

We arrive at the Bailey Bar Caravan Park to escape the heat of the day and book a powered site for 2 nights.  It’s the most expensive site we’ve had at $76 for the 2 nights, but we are desperate for a reprieve from the heat and the fridge is in need of 240 power.  We’re parked up under the trees and enjoy a glass of red while watching the sun go down.

Wildlife: dead kangaroos, one lonely pelican, dead goanna, frill necked lizards, 2 emus, santa gertruda cattle and did I mention all the ants & flies?

Day 12 | Charleville

Excitement is building as the Burrumbuttock Hay Runners from the sunny coast arrived at the showgrounds last night and the caravan park put on a dinner for all the volunteers.  We were so buggered after our trip that we fell asleep before 8pm and missed all the action!

We’re not missing out today though, we head over to the showgrounds and meet some of the amazing truckies who have given up their time and their trucks to transport hay out to Quilpie to help our drought affected farmers.  180 in total are meeting up at the Puma Roadhouse just outside of town and they’ll create a convoy out to Quilpie for Australia Day.

It’s one of those times when we are both proud to be Aussies.  We have both volunteered in numerous capacities at home so we can appreciate what these guys are doing.  We take a drive out to Graham Andrews parklands and wander the park while we’re waiting for the convoy to arrive.  Cinta manages a swim after frightening all the ducks out of the pond.

The convoy has arrived and I’m madly filming it and waving to all the trucks as they blow their horns as they’re passing by.  It’s quite an overwhelming feeling and one that will last in our memories forever.

It’s Friday night and we’re missing our regular Friday night dinner crew, so we decide to lash out and buy fish n chips for dinner.

Wildlife: Wild ducks

Day 13 | Charleville to Miles

We decide to change our course, instead of continuing south, we head east to escape the heat.  We are off on the road again after picking up supplies, heading for Miles for an overnighter.  The landscape is becoming hilly and we are now in grain and crop country.  We pass a lot of silos – no artwork on these ones yet.  I’ve been following the Silo Art Facebook page and I’m keen to tick off as many as I can on my bucket list.

There’s a weather event happening in the gulf and I receive an urgent call for some website work.  Nearest town is Mitchell, so we have a late morning tea stop at the park.  I’m busy set up with the laptop on the picnic table and Andrew is deep in conversation with an old local who spots us in the park and wonders what the heck we are doing.  He’s deaf as a post so the conversations are loud and I’m trying to concentrate on my work…

Andrew’s a bit of a social butterfly when it comes to conversation, he’ll talk to anyone, anywhere.  It’s hot and my work is finally done after an hour or so, back on the road and into the Miles Showground for the night.  We explore the showgrounds and find a friendly horse.  Note to self; bring him a carrot or some bread on our morning walk.

We settle in with a glass of red and head over to the old showground seating in the paddock and watch the sun go down.  This is the life!

Wildlife: Dead pigs, lizards and kangaroos.

Day 14 | Miles to Goondiwindi

A similar landscape to yesterday and the road is very bumpy.  We have to sit between 80-85k so our short trip of 224km takes us longer than expected today.  We notice that there are not as many dead kangaroos along the roadside and we suspect because we have left the freight route along the Warrego Highway and are now on the Leichardt Highway.

The landscape changes to fields of green and then brown.  Crops of sorghum, corn, wheat, barley and chickpeas, they go for as far as the eyes can see.

We pull up at the Goondiwindi Showgrounds in 40 degree heat, it’s a large area, red dirt and not many shady trees.  The facilities are relatively new and they’re lovely and clean.  We seek out a site that has water and power and set up in the scorching heat. The caretaker calls around dusk and tells us that there’s plenty of shade under the pavillions if we’re staying a few nights.  We decide that we’ll move in the morning to escape the heat.  The wind picks up in the afternoon and a whirly wind takes our neighbours mat and carries it over the top of the buildings a good 500 metres away.

It’s stinking hot and in the middle of the night the wind is roaring through the grounds.  Andrew is up and it looks like we’re pulling down the awning or it’s going to be ripped to shreds in this wind.  We both sleep in and miss sunrise…

Wildlife: 3 Emus, dead snake, lazy lizard crossing the road.

Week 2 total expenses: $909.17 (just under budget) Almost double last weeks expenses and I’m going back through my book and receipts.  Light-bulb moment; we left home with a caravan full of food and full tank of fuel that I didn’t account for.  We also had some entertainment and attraction expenses that we didn’t incur last week as well.  Challenge for this week; halve the budget Marcia!

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That’s a wrap for Week 2 of the Lap of the Map.

Week 1 | Mission Beach to Longreach

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!)

If you’d like to see more photos of our journey, you can follow us on Facebook or Instagram:



That’s a wrap for Week 1 of the Lap of the Map.

Where to eat in Cooktown

If you’re travelling to Cooktown and don’t know where to dine out or grab a take away, then take a look at my review of the places we found while staying in this historical coastal town.

FishnChips Cooks Landing Cooktown

Cooks Landing Kiosk

The absolute “BEST” Fish n Chips can be found down by the Endeavour River at a little place called Cooks Landing Kiosk.  You can get a serve of fresh Red Emperor (straight off the trawler) and delicious crunchy chips for $12.50!  .

Now I’m a pretty fussy fish eater, but let me tell you that fish was mouth watering – cooked to perfection!

While you are there, see if you can spot the groper hovering around the jetty, you may even get to feed it – it’s a whopper!

Lemon meringue and cherry creme brulee

The Coffee Kitchen, Riverside

Looking for a great coffee and French patisseries?  Take a stroll along the Esplanade and you’ll find a hidden gem, The Coffee Kitchen Riverside.  It’s worth the walk to the end of the Esplanade, situated right beside the laundromat and overlooking the Endeavour River.

All the patisseries are one price and are generous serves!  We enjoyed a cappuccino complimented with a Lemon Meringue tart a Cherry Crème Brule tart!

Yum and all for under $20. Go on, lash out and treat yourself!

Mangrove Jack RSL (2)

Cooktown RSL Memorial Club

Perched on the banks of the Endeavour River, the RSL Club offers a complimentary door to door service for visitors to Cooktown.  Dine in the airconditioned Ol’ Mates Bistro, out on the balcony overlooking the river or pick up a take away.

With an extensive menu to choose from, it was hard to go past the Friday night specials board.  Mangrove Jack priced at $24 and for an extra $3 you could have vegies instead of salad and chips.  The service was great and the meal was generous and very tasty.

Scones Botanic Gardens

Kindred Cafe – Nature’s Powerhouse Visitor Information Centre

Just a few blocks from the centre of town you’ll find the Botanical Gardens which houses the Information Centre and the Kindred Cafe.

We arrived to piping hot scones freshly baked and just out of the oven with a generous serve of strawberry jam and fresh whipped cream.  Topped off with a cappucino all for $14.  Delish!  The staff were very friendly and helpful too and don’t forget to look out for any little green friends that might be hiding on your seat…

Chicken Pad Thai Jackey Jackey Cafe Cooktown

Jackey Jackey Thai Cafe

A  quaint Thai Cafe situated in the main street of Cooktown, you can dine in or take away and the kitchen is open until 9pm.

Generous serves full of flavour and fragrantly spiced with thai herbs and spices, an explosion of flavour on your palate.  We enjoyed a personal favourite, Chicken Pad Thai priced at $26.

The service was exceptional and we didn’t have to wait long for our meal.  Tip: no toilet facilities in this cafe, you need to use the public toilets located across the road in the park.

Rib Fillet and Vegies The Sovereign Hotel Cooktown

The Sovereign Hotel

There comes a time when you just want a feed of steak and veg!  You can’t go past the Sovereign Hotel Cafe Bar for a delicious tender rib fillet topped off with a range of sauces and piping hot vegies and mash.  There are plenty of other choices on the menu too and the prices are reasonable considering the location.

Sit yourself down on the front deck, grab a cold glass of wine and take in the view.  After all, you’re on holidays aren’t you?

Roast Beef and vegies Cooktown Bowls Club

Bowled Over Bistro

The Cooktown Bowls Club is situated in the main street, right beside the RSL Club.  They offer a free courtesy coach pick up, so take advantage of it and have yourself a great meal out. The staff are super friendly and very efficient.

We had the Sunday night roast special at $15 and let me tell you the beef was juicy and tender and the gravy was rich and luscious!  Jacket potato, honey carrots, beans and peas all piping hot.  It’s hard to beat Mum’s Sunday Roast, but this one was a winner!

5 “things to do” in and around Cooktown

Grassy Hill Cooktown

Cooktown is a small coastal historical town situated approximately 4 hours drive from Cairns.  If the weather conditions are right and you have a 4WD, do yourself a favour and take the scenic coastal road via the Bloomfield Track.  After departing the Daintree Ferry you’ll drive through 32km of unsealed road and cross small creeks.  You won’t want to do this track in the wet season though as the track can be very slippery and there are quite a few steep inclines and descents not to mention the creek crossings.

Alternatively you can take the inland road through Mt Carbine and the Palmer River.  The scenery is vastly different, travelling through unfenced grazing lands and sometimes stock even wander onto the road, so make sure you travel to the road conditions.  Do yourself a favour and stop in at the Palmer River Roadhouse for one of their tasty burgers.

Sunset Grassy Hill Cooktown

Now you are here, let’s see what there is to do in and around Cooktown.  Here’s our “5 things to do”.

1. Grassy Hill Lookout.

Take a drive up to Grassy Hill and get your bearings on this scenic little town.  With a 360 degree view from the lookout, sunrise and sunset is a must!  Captain James Cook and his crew climbed the hill back in 1770 to see how he could navigate a safe passage.  In 1988 after threat of the Government decommissioning the light house, the local towns people got together to protest and bought the light house for $100.

Grassy Hill Lighthouse Cooktown

2. Arts and Craft Trails

This was a great discovery as I’m a keen photographer and budding artist so when I found the arts and crafts trails brochure that was the next “thing to do” on my list.

The Vera Scarth-Johnson gallery at the Nature’s Powerhouse Visitor Information Centre was one of my personal favourites.  Vera was a noted botanist and botanical illustrator who painted in watercolour and gouache and donated her collection of artworks of flowering plants unique to the Cooktown region to the people.

There are several other galleries including, Cooktown Creative Arts Centre, Cooktown Community Events Centre and the Elizabeth Guzsely Gallery, all are worthy of a visit to see what the local artisans are creating.

Meander along the foreshore to discover the local public artworks.  The River of Life Walkway stretches 500m along the foreshore and features hand-painted and carved ceramic tiles depicting Cooktown’s cultural and diverse history.  You’ll even stumble across the 8.5m Musical ship, jump in and see if you can play a tune!

Musical Ship Cooktown

Along the walkway you will pass the Old Town Well, the Cook Monument and Canon, James Cook Statue, the Queen’s steps and the statue of Mick the Miner.

Further along the walk you will come across the 12m curved Milbi Wall interpretive sculpture with nearly 500 hand-painted and carved tiles. The wall of reconciliation is built on the very spot where Captain James Cook and his crew first set foot on land.

Milbi Wall Cooktown

Local Markets are held every Saturday on the waterfront from 8am – 12 noon and feature fresh locally grown produce and artworks by local artisans – meet the locals and discover their stories and hidden talents.

I can’t go past mentioning the Black Cockatoo Gallery and Tea House located on the road to Bloomfield.  This gallery and it’s Artist was that “wow factor” surprise package where you least expected it.  Personally meeting Ross Franzi and hearing about his journey was the highlight of our trip.  Inspirational.  Committed. Passionate. Environmentalist.  What more can I say?

Black Cockatoo Gallery Bloomfield

3. Sunset River Cruise

Riverbend Tours run a sunset river cruise along the Endeavour River and this has to be the best “value for money” tour that we have ever done!

Nic will take you out to the harbour to view the new waterfront development and then head upstream through some of the smaller creeks before pulling up just in time to see the sun setting.  There are plenty of stories to be told and Nic delights in sharing them with you.   You will also be treated to a delicious complimentary gourmet cheese platter and I can vouch for the cheese as they come from the famous Gallo’s Dairy on the Atherton tablelands.

Riverbend Tours

I love that the cruise is BYO so don’t forget to take along that special bottle of wine or your favourite beverage while cruising along the river for just over 2 hours.

Gallo Dairyland Cheese Platter

4. Chasing Waterfalls

There are many waterfalls to explore in and around Cooktown and we only had time to visit 3 of them.   Head north west for approx. 32km and you will come across the Endeavour Falls Tourist Park.  You’ll need to pop into the shop for directions on how to get to the Endeavour Falls.  Don’t forget to ask if you can feed the fish in the tank, watch him closely though… you’ll know what I mean if you do!

The Park is immaculately clean and picturesque – note to self: one for the big lap trip.  Stroll down through the avenue of palm trees and down a short track (no more than 500m from the shop) and you’ll come across the falls.  We were disappointed as there wasn’t a lot of water running over them and unfortunately you can’t swim at this location due to crocs.

Endeavour Falls Cooktown

Travel a further 15km and you’ll come across Isabella Falls.  After you have crossed the causeway you can park either side and then take a short walk down the embankment to the falls.  Swimming is safe here, so jump in and take a dip in the very cool water!  I would love to see these in the wet season.

Isabella Falls Cooktown

Heading South from Cooktown (a good hours drive) and just past Wujal Wujal you will find the Bloomfield Falls – they are definitely worth the drive!  It’s a short walk into the Falls along a rocky pathway.  You will hear the roar of the falls before you see them, no swimming here though – crocs!  You might even spot one sunning itself on the rocks in the creek.

Bloomfield Falls

On the way back we thought we would take a detour down the Mt Amos road and head for the Trevethan Falls.  Be wary as it’s unsealed road and there is little signage to tell you where to go and how far it is.  The Cooktown map and all the printed material we had did not give any idea of the distance to travel and you definitely need a 4WD.  We ventured in for over half an hour and when the track got too hairy & wet for us novice 4WDrivers we decided to turn around in a very small clearing and head back.  There was also a bushfire in the area that day, so we were being very cautious as well for our own safety.  I’ve seen photos on Instagram and the falls look spectacular so I was really disappointed that we were unable to make it.

5.  James Cook Museum

If you are interested in history and architecture then make sure you put the James Cook Museum on your “things to do” in Cooktown list.  The museum is housed in an amazing 19th century former convent.  In the late 1960’s the building was restored and returned to its former glory.

The highlights of the museum are the original anchor and canon retrieved from the reef in the early 1970’s and don’t forget to read the diary entries on the wall.  Strolling through the old convent side of the building you will get a good idea of what life was like for past students.  I don’t think I would have liked to have been a student climbing the spiral staircase…  There is also tales from the Palmer Gold Rush era and an area devoted to the Chinese heritage of the region.  If you do visit the Museum, make sure you read the last line on this wall, it will take you back to your childhood days and the funny verses we used to recite!

James Cook Museum

Captain Cook chased a chook….