The long way to Longreach

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July 12th 2017
Published: July 13th 2017
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Our maiden voyage around QLD initially took us on an unexpected journey back over the border into NSW, with a catch up planned with Tab’s parents in Lightning Ridge on June 10. Then “SURPRISE!!!” they arrived in Stanthorpe a few days before we were due to leave!! Wow, quite the journey guys, thanks for the extra kms! Many thanks too to Brad and Cheryl who opened up their home, cellar door and shared their table with us while Savina Lane became a small van park for a few days.

So an enjoyable couple of weeks road-trip convoy with the four of us, plus all three ginger cats (they have Dougal) stopping the first night on the river at Texas, QLD, about 100km west of Stanthorpe, where Maria promptly threw in the yabby nets in the hope of an entrée. A short time later a local-yokel came hooning through in his ute which we all thought a little strange and aggressive – he had pinched one of mum’s nets and thrown a lump of concrete on the other so it was all ripped to shreds! Moron! Talk about ruin a nice camp spot.

The following day we crossed the border back into NSW and stayed the night in Moree, squished in like sardines at the van park as this is their busiest time – main attraction being the 4 hotsprings located right at the park. Jeff and Tab promptly togged up and soaked for an hour (Bore #1) before we all hit up the courtesy bus for the local Club for a Chinese meal. It was here we all realised we had caught the dreaded lurgie going around in Stanthorpe so unfortunately sore throats, snotty noses and headaches were the side-order to our meals – nothing a few bevvies couldn’t remedy (or at least provide a moment of relief from!)

A quick soak in the springs again the following morning and onto our next fabulous stop by the Barwon River at Collarenebri. Just outside of town, this camp had heaps of space for the rangas to free-range (although we did delight in shoving Dougal briefly into our boys cat run with them – he was NOT AMUSED), we had the fire going pretty much the whole time, outdoors cooking, and kicking goals with free hot showers too. Poor Scotty still had the sniffles (and therefore the snores) so was relegated to the “dog house” otherwise known as Boris’ guest bedroom – 2man tent with airbed.

Onto our ‘original’ destination Lightning Ridge and 4 nights in a beautiful park there, within walking distance to Bore #2. This bore was SO much hotter than the ones at Moree, one night we couldn’t even get in it was so hot! Also open 24 hours a day so a night stroll for a soak before bed was bloody awesome. Lightning Ridge was full of stuff to do, lots of driving tours (called coloured car-door tours) and we even undertook an approx 180km pub crawl called “Pubs in the Scrub” which took us out through working mine areas, to three pubs, yep you guessed it, out in the scrub. The Grawin Golf Club, The Sheepyard Inn and Glengarry Hilton. We took a wrong turn just before the last one, also the lunch one, and alas arrived 5 minutes after the kitchen closed – bloody beauty! They let us put in a late order – thanks guys!

Speaking of a feed, Maria & Scott took us out for a meal to celebrate Tab’s impending birthday at Bruno’s on the main drag of Lightning Ridge, which honestly was such a pleasant surprise. Fine dining in the outback you ripper! We enjoyed some gorgeous oysters, a beef carpaccio and excellent mains, of course followed up by dessert with a candle – how embarrassment! Thanks mum & dad, a truly memorable birthday dinner.

Sadly, our time together had drawn to a close and we headed in opposite directions, us north, them south, with a quick coffee before cheerios. Jeff and Tab also stopped in at the cactus garden on the way out which was truly amazing, a must-do if you visit Lightning Ridge (as well as Bruno’s).

Jeff had firmly planted the idea of staying at the Nindigully Pub after reading about it in our camps book, so off we set, with a dirt road in mind to cut off a few kms…….hmmmm – not sure where we took a wrong turn but ended up taking about 2 hours longer! Arrived after dark and promptly levelled Boris up, fed the mogs and headed over to the bar for a much needed drink. We also enjoyed a beautiful feed of barra while sitting on the front verandah looking out over the riverbank which was abundant with other vans and campers.

An unexpected free hot shower again the next morning (in fact, QLD is totally winning the travel shower award in the whole 12 years since we started this journey – we have only had to get our own shower out once since we left Stanthorpe on June 5 – cheers QLD!) then on up to St George where we restocked the fridge and pantry, enjoyed a picnic by the river and scooted out of town to one of the most beautiful camps we’ve found so far. It was next to Warroo bridge about 70km east of St George. Here the cats enjoyed awesome outings, we cooked up a storm in the campoven (sorry to all the cows visiting our site, we ate your cuzs!) and more or less lazed about for a few days.

From there we drove in a northerly direction again to Roma, but not before seeing a sign at the Surat pub that there were free hot showers, with conditions, ahem you have to patronise the hotel…..ok, it’s a tough gig but we can do it! Surat was actually pretty great, it used to be a stop for Cobb & Co coaches so they had a brilliant museum, and there was even a giant 25,000 Litre aquarium which housed all the fish found in local rivers – swear there was a cod about a metre long but sadly no entry point to throw in a line. We stayed the night in a free camp at a tiny town called Muckadilla just west of Roma, where we headed up to the pub for tea and promptly found the ginger “pub cat”. We later learnt that the indigenous translation of Muckadilla is ‘muddy-water’ – ahhh so now we know what that awful stuff was in the gravy jugs with our meals!

We had read about a stand of some seriously endangered trees that dated back to rainforest Gondwana era, called Ooline trees in Tregale NP near Morven so decided that we’d like to take a look. Further reading told that there’s less than 10% remaining of the original population of this variety on our land, a real tragedy. It’s not that they are spectacularly beautiful trees or anything, but it gives some idea of the irreparable damage caused by grazing, fire and other human activity. It was a very beautiful little walk through the Ooline forest and we felt awesome that this tiny little NP was going to protect them for the future. Ok, that’s enough tree-hugging for one blog!

Back in Morven we found a little spot by the town waterhole (another free camp with hot showers – well, donations happily given!) and we decided to wander up to the town to have a sundowner at the pub – to find out it burnt down in October 2016 and is yet to be rebuilt. While there we went up to the museum area and found a few interesting little bits of history about Morven. Back to camp, lit the fire and enjoyed a feed before an early night.

With our sights set on Charleville we knew the washing pile needed some serious attention so set about looking for that pronto – see pics – we achieved THAT alright! Plus lunch all in the one venue. Now that is winning! Another pantry/fridge refuel and we decided to go SOUTH (???) yep, to Cunnamulla, with a stop overnight at a little spot called Wyandra where the prickles were friendly and the locals aloof.

While in Cunnamulla we had pencilled on the bucket list a stay at Charlotte Plains Station where we had read about a hot spring (Bore #3) but little did we expect what we found….not ONE hotspring, but three, also the best bathing arrangement EVER! To experience sunrise while sitting in a 42 degree bath, then the see the night out under a gazillion stars, in same bath, glass of red in hand….bloody bliss. Sitting back in the midday bath watching the roos munch on grass, emu’s waddle past, eagles flying overhead….The pics tell the story. This is truly one to add to your own bucket list – drive, fly, walk – but go!

We had booked one night in a van park at Cunnamulla to do some more heavy duty washing (ie a tonne of linen) refill the water tanks, etc so decided to head out to the one of the locals for dinner which was just great. A bit of veggie shopping at a REAL veggie shop (as opposed to supermarket) was a welcome relief – holy crap we found some RED tomatoes!!

From Cunnamulla we had factored in Bore #4 at a little place called Yowah. Yowah has a hotspring. That’s it. Next morning we set the dreaded alarm to go up to The Bluff as it’s known locally to watch the sunrise, boy was it worth the wake-up call. Not only a beautiful sunrise all to ourselves, but excellent wood-fired bbqs so we could cook up a breaky feast once the morning spectacle was over, one of the true travel joys.

We continued in a westerly direction and stayed the night in Eulo, as we had heard about some hot mudbaths you can visit there so that was firmly on the to-do list (are you sensing the theme?) however when we discovered it was going to cost $130 for both of us to sit in warm mud for about an hour we decided our money would probably be better off spent loading Boris up with fuel! Bore #5 FAIL.

Jeff had read about another free camp adjacent to an old historic pub (are you sensing the theme?) so we drove miles to camp at the Noccundra Hotel. There’s little we can say about this place except DON’T drive miles to go there! The publican was incredibly rude, the meals were revolting and you know that $130 we didn’t spend sitting in the warm mud? Should have! Another tale of “live and learn”.

Onwards through Euromanga which is the furthest QLD town from the ocean (apparently – we couldn’t quite work that one out! These guys also have their own oil refinery – hello cheap fuel) to a magic spot on the Bulloo River near Quilpie. A short drive the next day to camp at a great spot on Ward River which incidentally had us almost back to Charleville but arriving from the west instead of the east. We have since worked out that QLD is quite hard to travel if you want to see ALL of it – most of the major highways cross it east-west and there’s a bit of twisting and turning to do if you don’t want to miss anything. The map photo tells a story that’s for sure! Either that or we are going loopy along with Boris.

So finding ourselves back in Charleville once more we had only one choice, turn left and go in a northerly direction, unfortunately this travel day the wind had other ideas and gave us a strong headwind the whole day. We called stumps well before we intended, stopping off at a gravel pit about 40km south of Tambo. We found a nice thick stand of trees to block a bit of the wind, then the flies found a nice blue & white bus to block the wind, call it a kind of evolutionary theory where humans are the losers (fly nets came out for the first time on this trip!). Once the sun went down and the little bastards went to bed (that’s the flies, not the cats), we enjoyed a beautiful beef bourginon with an equally beautiful Savina Lane red and slept peacefully for the next important day – a certain someone’s birthday.

We awoke early, exchanged gifts (thanks also to both sets of mums & dads and Adam & Carmena, spoilt rotten from all of you xo) and headed outside the screen door to see if it would be possible to have a fire-cooked birthday breakfast or were the flies already awake?? Within 5 seconds we were belted into the pilot & co-captain seats with the next café firmly in mind! It wasn’t long after that Fanny Mae’s café appeared and an eggs bene and B & E were quickly consumed before checking out the wonderful historic buildings around Tambo, as well as the monument to Qantas’ first fatal plane crash located about 1km from the town.

Under cloudy skies we continued north to Blackall where we claimed a spot in the park’s overflow section and went to check out birthday dinner options around town. It was a choice of two. Naturally, the pub we arrived at where we let a chook out of the bar on arrival was the winner! We decided to sample the wine list before committing to dinner, then when a horse & cart went past, followed by two giant brolgas we were confident with our choice (no we had not consumed any magic mushies – although our visions may appear otherwise!) Some live music at the van park at sundown, then a lovely dinner of local beef at the pub, quite a few birthday bevvies and we strolled home to Boris to sleep it all off. The next day we went to the Blackall Woolscour which has been lovingly restored to its former glory by the local population with a little help financially from the Australian Labour Party. We didn’t know till visiting this region that the ALP started from a Shearers Union up in arms about wages & conditions – Labour Party looking after the battler back then! Also when in Blackall one must visit “the black stump” another historic aussie story from our early pioneers.

Scooting north still, we arrived in Barcaldine to find out it was race day the following day, so we promptly set up camp just outside of town at a free camp, moving into the showgrounds camp the following day – front row seats to the track! No big wins, but a great day had all the same. It was in Barcaldine we again had to decide to make a leftie or a rightie?? We decided on yet another rightie, which once more took us in a easterly direction – seriously anyone would think we were trying to sniff the coast or something?! On through Emerald where we restocked the cupboards again and finished our day in another gravel pit just south of Clermont. Past all the Rio Tinto madness at Clermont we made our way for the first time to Charters Towers, where we had actually pre-booked a night in a park for a change.

Charters Towers is a really pretty town full of historic architecture, heaps of pubs (we ‘accidentally’ ended up doing a mini-crawl just by walking down the main drag, seriously we didn’t plan it…) so we decided the next morning to hike up Tower Hill, well, it’s the ONLY hill. Quite the view over the town from the top and lots of old WW2 bunkers and munitions buildings hidden among the rocks. We cooled off pronto with an iced latte once back to sea-level and hit the road to Hughenden, once more heading west on this crazy ride.

We didn’t make it to Hughenden after spotting a sign for “free camping” behind the Prairie Hotel about 40km east of our destination. (Again, there seems to be a theme…) Here we met the local buffalo, who also happens to hang out with a deer (seriously, again no magic mushies, however we don’t have photo evidence of the deer) and the publican and his family were lovely friendly people. We awoke well before sunrise the next day with a firm destination in mind – Porcupine Gorge NP. On the way we got Daz (the motorbike) out for the first time this trip and headed in from the Hwy at White Mountain NP to check out Sawpit Gorge. It was beautiful and well worth getting off the beaten track. After dropping Tab back at Boris, Jeff and Daz went off for some male bonding to get to know eachother again.

We arrived to a rainy morning in Hughenden (quite rare we’d imagine) and headed straight out to the gorge which was simply stunning (see pics). Wish we had’ve known it was a swimming hole too coz we definitely would have taken our togs. Oh well, next time. The hike back up got the blood flowing and we realised just how little hiking we’ve done in the past six months!

Across possibly the worst road in the whole of Australia to Winton, where, once again a pub stay beckoned with sites for $10 behind the North Gregory Hotel. Here we went to our first chook races, Jeff even being the momentary custodian of the aqua chook “Diamantina” with a bid of $100 – he was outbid at $106 by a punter in the gantry – lets just say she didn’t win (no chickens were harmed in this story) A night of country ballads at the pub with a local lad inviting half his family and the rest of the town to come have a drink and a dance, kept the evening entertaining.

So why all this crazy driving around in circles we hear you ask? Well, we found out the Birdsville Big Red(neck) Bash was on last week so have been steadily trying to avoid that, what with country music not really being our style, along with camping with 7000 other people, plus school holidays in both QLD & NSW thrown in the mix, it was quickly established that was an event to be avoided!

Now here we find ourselves in Longreach, with many a tourist attraction calling for our dollar, so we have begun to venture out and see what there is to make this long trip to Longreach worthwhile . The Qantas Founders Museum and Stockmans Hall Of Fame were very well done, however probably tailored to the older tourist. We do have a trip on a paddleboat for a sunset dinner cruise booked here so stay tuned for our next blog for that adventure – hopefully we can relive a little of our wedding-day magic on the Murray.

Heaps of pics on this blog (about 85 of the suckers) so take your time to wander through by scrolling down. Birdsville or bust from here! XXOO

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13th July 2017

Great photos as usual. What fun are you guys up to next?? HAPPY BIRTHDAY B !! XX
20th July 2017

Tab you should have been a journalist great blog 🐂🐬🐊🐇🐡🐪🐉🐠🌵🌞🌜🌴

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