Birdsville to SA Caravan Trip 15 September to ? December 2016 - 1st Leg Brisbane to Charleville

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September 18th 2016
Published: September 25th 2016
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Birdsville to SA Caravan Trip 15 September to ? December 2016

Caravan packed, house all prepared for our departure, final goodbyes to Kerrie & Gemma the night before and to Adam after he came back from work at 11.00am, we were off on our 3 month jaunt.

We were travelling with Doug and Leura Cathcart, both with our off-road vans. We called Leura to check if they had left home but they were at the Toyota garage. Their temperature light was going on when the vehicle was under load. It turned out that the mechanic had knocked something off during the service they had 2 weeks previously. Their filter was chock-a-block also, so after a new filter, they were on their way.

We met for lunch at a truck stop 5 minutes after passing Gatton. It was trying to rain and by the time we arrived in Toowoomba, it was pelting down. Toowoomba was busy as the Flower Festival had just started but Toowoomba is always busy with trucks.

We eventually passed through all the traffic lights and we were on the straight run to our first night stop, the Bowenville Reserve. This was a great spot with plenty of grass, flushing toilets and quite a few vans. However, there was plenty of room at this free stop.

As soon as we pulled up and parked our vans next to each other so our annexes were opposite each other. It was still lightly showering but that didn’t stop us from opening a bottle of Champaign to celebrate the start of our adventure.

It showered half the night but was fine by the morning. Tom didn’t sleep well and he insisted on winding up the annex at 6.00am!!!!!

Friday 16 September

We left after a hearty breakfast just after 9.00am. After about 15 minutes we arrived in Dalby and stopped for a cup of coffee…hard life!! Next stop was Chinchilla where we stopped at the Akubra shop which was owned by Leura’s cousin. Both Doug and Leura wanted to buy an Akubra each and catch up with John and Laura, the owners. They also owned the next door nursery.

The Akubra shop had more than hats. There were 100s of jeans, shirts, boots, saddles, and everything else for horses….you name it they stocked it.

We said our goodbyes and popped into the local bakery for a pie and pasty lunch. It was then onto our next night’s free camp stop at Judd’s Lagoon just outside of Yuleba.

This was another beautiful spot with a long lagoon with ducks, pelicans, wallaby and birds. It was not raining and occasionally the sun shone through. This spot had heavy rain over the previous couple of days but the site was drained well.

We went for a walk with camera in hand. A wallaby was very inquisitive but hopped away after a good look at us.

Doug built a fire where we cooked our evening meal. There is nothing more relaxing than sitting around a fire watching it. There was a beautiful, bright moon shining and the stars were shining brightly. With a clear sky we were hoping for a fantastic day the next day but it was cold overnight.

Tom had set up the satellite dish to watch the AFL semi-finals so when it got too cold, even when sitting close to the fire, we decided to go into the van and watch the last half of the footy. Yay, the Bullgogs beat the Hawks (sorry Kerrie). We went to bed after a tipple of port and chocolate.

Saturday 17 September

What a great sleep in 9 degrees. Our van is so toasty. Fruit and yoghurt for breaky and coffee sitting by the lagoon watching the pelican was a great start for the day.

We left at 9.30am. I had a fantastic run almost into Yulamba so I was feeling great.

I had an idea!!! The book that Kerrie gave to Tom for his last birthday (XXX) on travelling in Australia talked about a winery in Roma. As we had been to the other attractions in past visits to Roma (Sale Yards, Big Rig etc) we looked for the winery on the Carnarvon Road heading north. That was after Tom stopped at the Toyota to ask about a flashing light in the engine of our Toyota.

We met Doug and Leura at the ‘winery’. I put it in inverted commas because it was not only closed, it was derelict. We don’t know how long it had been closed but it was the first winery in Queensland apparently, opened in 1863. I guess it has had its time in the sun!!!

We had a cup of coffee then headed through Mitchell to Charleville. It was a beautiful day with a few fluffy clouds in the sky. The A2 Warrego Highway was excellent. We travelled the 178kms from Mitchel to Charleville. Doug had found a fantastic caravan park on Wikicamps about 8 kms out of Charleville. It was a single-laned sealed road but with a lot of water in the ditches either side of the road. They had a lot of rain over the past 2 weeks.

All around us was so green. The last time I was out this way they were in the middle of a long drought.

We found the Evening Star Caravan Park. Driving in we were met by the Roz who was one of the owner partners of the place. It was such a well set up Park. There were 40 drive-through sites which was perfect for our big rigs. That night, when the bell was rung, it meant that happy hour with damper was on. The co-owners put damper on each night.

Craig (the co-owner) and Darren who works for him are both on the boards of the local NRM Catchment Coordination group which does a lot of work in the environment of the region. I enjoyed talking with him and catching up on the news of the industry after I have been away from it for 11 years. We jointly knew a lot of people who are still involved in the industry when I was CEO of Greening Australia.

They have a very productive vegie garden which has been growing extremely well over the past 6 weeks with all the rain. This was all part of getting travellers involved in the Park by them tending the garden and eating the resulting vegies.

A family off 3 young children who had been at the caravan park for a few days had fitted into the Park life very quickly, and helped to cook and serve out the damper. They had American accents as they had been schooled by American teachers in Manila. They were travelling around Australia for 12 months with their parents. What an experience for them.

After a couple of beer and some damper, and great conversations with a number of people, the 4 of us went back to our vans for a light dinner.

All evening is was trying hard to rain….and it did!! There was a lot of water lying around on the already saturated soil.

The Cathcarts came over with their coffee and to discuss our plans as we had heard that the Birdsville Track was closed again. We decided to wait until the morning and decide if we will take the risk and go to Quilpie.

While we were chatting, we heard a big ‘pop’ which sounded like a water hose exploding. Tom, with moral support and suggestions from Doug, saw that there was water pouring out from our water tanks which we had filled during the evening. To cut a long story short, Tom worked out that as we hadn’t turned the water tap to ‘by-pass’ after the tanks were filled, the pressure of the mains water blew out the water-level gauge from the top of the tank and water was flowing. As the next day was Sunday we decided to stay another night to get things fixed.

Sunday 18 September 2016

The next morning, we all went into town on the advice of Craig the caravan park owner, to a great bakery for coffee. Wow, it was a busy place, with many people having breakfast.

We then walked along a few of the town’s streets and looked inside several of the historic pubs and shops. We also visited the Historical House which was being restored by volunteer airlines and fire staff.

Next we drove past the Show grounds to the Cosmos Centre and Visitor Information Centre. What an incredibly interesting place that was. We watched several videos teaching us lots about the solar system and the Big Bank theory. One of the volunteers also talked to us about comets and space junk, showing us meteorite rocks of various shapes and forms. I had been before but it was new to Tom. At nights, on clear nights, they put on a solar system display through their telescopes but it was very cloudy so not possible.

We then went back to the caravans where Tom fixed the water-level gauge back into the tank …. And the job was done. Tom is pretty handy with common sense as he works through these challenges. We keep learning about pits and pieces on this ‘high-tech’ van of ours!!!

I was keen to go back into town to visit the Bible Centre which was using the end of the typical Queensland railway station. Charleville is the last stop for the train. We learned about the extraordinary levels of wild cats and dogs that continue to destroy the small population of bilbies , not to mention what the wild dogs are doing to the sheep population. They are in fact forcing many of the 60 something sheep farmers off their properties.

The bilby centre had a number of bilbies on site with the aim of eventually releasing them in protected reserves which have been set up. Craig, the owner of the Evening Star Van Park is starting to fence an area at the back of the Park, for a reserve for bilbies and dunnarts.

We had a walk around the railway station and then decided to go to the Corone Pub which has the longest bar in Queensland for a couple of drinks. We had the Great Northern beer which ws pretty good. After a couple, we returned for the happy hour chat at the Caravan Park. I caught up with Libby, a lady who I knew from Conservation Volunteers Australia to ‘chew the fat’ over the changing environment industry. She had recently shifted to the SW NRM Catchment Group.

During the evening looked at the BOM site and road reports and decided to go to Birdsville but by the morning Doug decided the we shouldn’t take the risk and leave the Birdsville Track journey for our return trip. We agreed with this. There was too much rain hanging around and we didn’t want to get trapped by the numerous possible across-road flooding.

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