Another trip around Outback Queensland.

Old Aug 23rd, 2020, 11:10 PM
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Another trip around Outback Queensland.

Once it became apparent we were not going to be able to visit our family in Canberra and Sydney any time soon, and having enjoyed our 15 nights travelling in western Queensland in June, we thought why not head out again.

Post lockdown road trip in Western Queensland and time at the beach.

The weather was looking promising for a while, so on July 23 we packed up our camper, Humphrey, and set out again in a different direction. We are leisurely travellers and only do longer days when necessary.

We went back out through Dalby and our first night was spent in the small town of SURAT. After setting up and lunch we walked up town. Surat is on the Balonne river and there is a very pleasant walk along the river with fitness equipment for those energetic people among us.

Opposite the hotel is the Cobb & Co changing station which is where they changed the horses pulling the coaches. It then became a Cobb & Co store and is now a small museum ( gold coin donation ). The first thing you see when you walk in is the full wall aquarium which has examples of freshwater fish such as Murray Cod and Dewfish which are found in the rivers. Some are quite large and it was interesting seeing the different fish. The museum has an interesting display of memorabilia about Cobb & Co, shearing and droving, with an extensive collection of a former drover’s equipment. Then in another room is a beautifully restored cream Cobb & Co coach. You can see the strong, thick leather straps on which it is slung. It is a really nicely presented small museum and we enjoyed our visit.

Next day it was a nice drive to INJUNE which is a small town that is considered the gateway to the Carnarvon Gorges. We did not plan to visit this time. It is good grazing country, a bit dry, but we did see a lovely lagoon with trees and blue hills in the distance. Injune is a pleasant town. There is a small park which features sandstone blocks from the gorges, some of which have carvings of local industries and history of the region. Dotted around town are steel panels which have rusted and have been cut into silhouettes of ‘Characters of Injune ‘ with info boards telling about them. It is a lovely tribute to those who have contributed in different ways over the years to the town and region. We saw these steel panels used quite a bit last time and also as we went around this time.

About 37 kms out of Injune, we turned off the main highway onto the ARCADIA VALLEY access road before we came to the Lonesome national park. A short detour took us to the Lonesome lookout which gave a lovely view over Arcadia valley and the ridges. It was then a steep descent with more great views down into the valley. It opened up into a wide valley with hills on either side and was very scenic. The bitumen became dirt and we then took a short detour of about 6 kms to drive in to Lake Nuga Nuga . This was quite rough but eventually came to the large lake. Apparently in autumn it is covered in waterlilies. It is attractive with the skeletons of lots of dead tree trunks standing throughout and pelicans and lots of ducks. Back on the better road I heard strains of ‘ I’m all shook up ‘ coming from the camper. A little bit more bitumen and after about 125 kms we popped out on to the Dawson highway between Rolleston and Moura. It has been a most enjoyable drive rather than just following the Carnarvon highway to Rolleston.

On arrival at the Rolleston caravan park, we found it was already full for the night. So we rang the next place, SPRINGSURE , and booked the last site there much to our relief. After that we decided we may need to book ahead a bit where possible. We booked the following night in Clermont and two nights in Charters Towers. There is good pizza from the takeaway in Springsure.
As you leave Springsure, there is a very impressive hill, and the hills between Springsure and Emerald are very attractive. CAPELLA is an appealing small town between Emerald and Clermont and we did consider staying there, but the next day was to be a longer drive, so we opted to go on to Clermont. Next time for Capella.

The park in CLERMONT ( pronounced Clerr-mont not Claremont. An early settler originally came from Clermont – Ferrand in France ) was very busy with both travellers and workers. Clermont has big wide streets and a lovely parkland down by the lagoon. At the end of the main street are four railway carriages painted with murals. I used to live in Clermont as a child in the sixties and like a lot of small towns, it has lost a lot of its services. This includes the government position which my father held when we lived there. But the lovely old wooden government building which housed his office is still there.

Our next stop was to be CHARTERS TOWERS which was my father’s home town. Bear with me as I take a wander down memory lane. When we lived in Clermont we used to drive up to CT to visit my grandmother. It is about 370 kms and then there were a few kms of bitumen at each end and 300+ kms of gravel/dirt road. The only thing in between was the halfway roadhouse at Belyando Crossing. These were the days where you had a couple of hessian water bags hanging on the radiator grill, an air conditioned car was one with the windows open, and when Dad activated the lever, a chicken wire contraption popped up in front of the windscreen. This was to prevent stones thrown up from oncoming cars from breaking the windscreen. Remember those? Add in three kids, a dog, plenty of heat and dust and a fun time was had by all.

Not much has changed other than the road is sealed and the roadhouse is still the only thing in between. Still it was an interesting drive as I saw lots of familiar property names which my father used to visit for his work. My favourite was Doongmabulla. The wide grasslands with hills in the distance were attractive. Before we reached Belyando, we started seeing lots of yellow flowering trees which we assume were wattle. They were lovely. After Belyando it became more scrubby and then about 40kms from Charters Towers it started to become greener.

I do not remember much of Charters Towers from my childhood, but we found my grandmother’s house which is still occupied. Charters Towers has some wonderful heritage listed buildings that hark back to more prosperous times as a gold mining town. There is the Post Office, Ambulance complete with old ambulance, Wherry building, City Hall, the World Theatre which used to be the Australian bank of Commerce, and there was even a Stock Exchange. The old department store, Stan Pollards is now Target, but you can still see the old showcase display windows with their decorative lead light panels. It really is an interesting town centre.

We stayed two nights in CT and the next day we went for a drive out to the old gold mining town of RAVENSWOOD. It also has some lovely heritage listed buildings including a couple of beautiful old hotels, the Court house, Ambulance and School of arts. The tables and seats in the picnic area are beautifully decorated with tiles painted with scenes of the area, and flora and fauna. A few kms out of town is a large quartz outcrop called White Blow. This is unusual in that it is usually underground. But it is certainly impressive and it sparkled in the sunshine. We also climbed up to the lookout to see the old gold mine which is now full of water. With gold prices high at the moment it is now becoming more profitable to work some mines such as this and there is talk it will reopen.
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Old Aug 24th, 2020, 02:53 AM
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I'm enjoying this and looking forward to more. It's amazing you had trouble getting into a caravan park. I would have thought we have practically no one from Victoria or NSW in Queensland at the moment and probably very few from other states, due to border closures. No foreign tourists either. So there must be a lot of Queenslanders out there enjoying our state!

I've only visited Charters Towers once but loved the history and the ornate old buildings. The grand buildings in Europe and the UK are one of my favourite things about that part of the world but if we can't visit right now, it's great that you are seeking out our own historic towns and buildings.

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Old Aug 24th, 2020, 01:38 PM
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Kay, there was a small window from July 10 where people could enter Queensland. We met Victorians who had spent several weeks in NSW waiting. Apparently parks in places like Bourke, Moree, northern coastal towns were full with people waiting. There were a lot of Queenslanders travelling, but interstate travellers were certainly there. We met an elderly lady from WA who was driving her 90 year old husband in a motorhome to see family in the NT and Qld. They came up through the NT and were on their way to Townsville. The only problem was, they did not know how they would get home once Victoria began escalating!!
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Old Aug 24th, 2020, 02:27 PM
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What an interesting trip with you - thanks so much rhon!

I know a few of those towns a little, as some of our family lived in & around Emerald, Clermont & Capella.

It’s so nice to see the “ roads less travelled” brought to life. There are some lovely places & we often overlook them, so it’s very nice to see them highlighted.

Thanks again & I hope you’ll continue writing.
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Old Aug 24th, 2020, 06:49 PM
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It had been nice to spend two nights in one spot and we also planned two nights in HUGHENDEN. We the extended that to three. It was quite a pleasant drive from CT. We crossed several wide, dry, sandy river and creek beds which are attractive, and we stopped at the Burra range lookout with views over White Mountains national park. The vegetation was different and varied along the way. We passed through an area with lots of silvery grey-green round leafed small trees, then an area with eucalypts with reddish brown trunks, and also some orange flowering trees that looked like grevilleas. These trips have made me realise what wonderful flora we have here in Australia. Our trees are magnificent, but the native grasses and groundcovers are also lovely. They have a beauty all their own and being able to see them in the natural habitats has been terrific. I wish I knew more about our flora.



The caravan parks all had forms to fill out for Covid 19 and we had to give details of where we had been for the previous 14 days. In Hughenden P even had his temp. taken. They did not worry about me. I was busy outside filling out the forms. We had several sites to choose from which is always good and set up on a nice shady site. It was quite warm and did not feel like winter. We were soon joined by a small black bantam that waited for scraps. It scored each morning over at the camp kitchen. There was a lot of road works in town and finally we found the information centre. We planned a drive to Porcupine Gorge the next day. The girl in the info centre told us she had just had a call from a family whose little girl had left her favourite pink rabbit behind there. So we said we would watch out for it.



PORCUPINE GORGE is about 65 kms from Hughenden and on the way we came across a group of eight emus ambling along the road. Our first stop was at Eaglehawk lookout where you can see the beginning of the gorge and the black basalt rocks. A little further on we then drove to the gorge lookout. It was stunning – 120 metres deep with steep cliffs and a little water at the bottom. Apparently it is wonderful in wet season when water is rushing down. We then continued on to the day area. The walk down into the gorge begins at Pyramid lookout. This gives a good view of the large rocky outcrop down in the gorge. Look. There is a pink rabbit.



It took about 30 minutes to walk down into the gorge. It was rough and rocky with some stairs cut into the rock in places. Judging by the people we passed on their way back up, I knew I was not going to enjoy the return journey. Once there it is lovely. There was some water in the creek and lots of almost white sandstone that was eroded in places leaving ledges and small rockpools. We were now level with the Pyramid which really does resemble one. It was worth the walk down. But it was hard work going back up to the top. I have learnt to take my time and stop regularly, and I have a very patient husband. It took about 50 minutes to return. Time for a rest and a picnic lunch.



On the way back to Hughenden we took a detour via the Flinders byway. This is a drive designed to showcase the different types of vegetation in the region – grassland with patchy forest, red pebbly ground with gidyea scrub, red river gums leading to the wide, dry, sandy Flinders River bed which you drive across, then ironbark. We stopped at the Glendower lookout which looks across grassland to the long basalt wall. On our return we dropped off the pink rabbit at the info centre. It had been a lovely day.



Next day we headed out to Mount Walker about 12kms out of town. It was a steep drive up with lots of large rocks. There are six lookouts on top, all quite close together but each highlighting different aspects. Once again we saw the rusted steel inscribed with quotes from diaries of explorers and pioneers, and information boards explaining what we were seeing and giving some history. It was really well done. There was an interesting plant along the road with fluffy flowers like cotton wool.



Back in town we found the old coolibah tree that had been inscribed in 1861 by a team looking for the explorers Burke and Wills. Then a photo of Grandma in front of the Muttaburrasaurus for our little boys. At the Flinders Discovery centre ( $5 entry ) there is a replica of the Muttaburrasaurus skeleton, and an interesting display of fossils, ammonites ( shells ) and agate and thunder eggs as well as a display about the shearers’ strike and sheep stations of old. Down near the wide dry Flinders River is a large Comet windmill. There were only 15 made with wheels this big and this is number 11. I neglected to note the actual measurements. We also saw one as we came through Prairie. In the main street there is a rotunda which has two sides made from wheels from smaller Comet windmills. It is very attractive. All the windmills had originally come from properties in the district. We enjoyed Hughenden right down to the excellent rump steak we bought at the good butchery there.
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Old Aug 25th, 2020, 06:36 PM
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Next day was a short day, only about 100 kms on to RICHMOND. Here we visited Koronosaurus Korner. This area was once a large sea, the Eromanga Sea and this museum ($25 or $20 for seniors) is devoted to marine fossils, the largest being the koronosaurus. They were the dinosaurs of the sea. This was excellent. We saw the actual, almost complete skeletons laid out on sand and you could visualise what these large creatures would have looked like. There were also lots of large ammonites ( nautilus shells ), fossilised fish, turtles, icthysaurus. Most enjoyable.



Later we walked down town. At the Cambridge Downs heritage display we saw a slab hut of local stone which is a replica of the homestead. There was also another restored Cobb & Co coach, this time red, a large wool wagon and a sulky. In front of the Council offices is a wonderful statue of a man and horse. It was made from old machinery parts, tools, horseshoes, cables and was really cleverly put together.
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Old Aug 26th, 2020, 03:50 AM
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Our next stop was WINTON. The road from Richmond to Winton has about 60 kms of dirt. After leaving Richmond the country is flat and virtually treeless. The soil ranges from red to chocolate brown and the vegetation is cream and red in places. It is very dry. Once we turned on to the Landsborough Highway about 84kms from Winton, it began to change and we started seeing red rocky outcrops and flat hills. And heaps of caravans, motor homes and campers.



We had been watching the weather and knew there was rain coming in the direction we were headed, so we decided to stay three nights in Winton to let it pass. We also had some unsealed roads ahead and hoped they would dry out. It was quite hot by this stage- 30 and over. Once again we had some shade which was good.



Winton was really busy with lots of travellers. The main street is very appealing. There is a Pelican water hole feature, some sheep made of metal discs ( these appeared to have lights inside so we were disappointed when we walked up one night to find them not lit ), the Stones of Waltzing Matilda which are six sandstone blocks each with a metal feature depicting lines from the song eg three pistols for the troopers. There is a statue of the Jolly Swagman in the park opposite the Matilda Centre and a large wool dray in the centre of the road. The Matilda Centre is an impressive piece of architecture which replaces the original which burnt down a few years ago. Out of town is another Age of Dinosaurs museum.



One of the issues I have with Australian tourism is that things can be quite expensive. We thought the museum in Richmond was good value. But the Matilda centre is $32/ $29 concession, and the Age of dinosaurs is $55/ $50 concession. This quickly adds up if you go to everything. We did not go to either this trip. We felt at this stage we had seen enough fossils, and talking to people, I heard a lot of ‘Expensive for what you get’ about the Matilda centre. This, of course, is just my opinion and realise what I think is expensive may be what others consider reasonable.



Instead we followed the RIVER GUM DRIVE which ended up being about 70kms. We first stopped at the shearers’ strike memorial. This strike was very widespread as we have seen references to it in other places. The drive takes you into the Bladensburg national park which used to be a property and was bought by the Queensland government in the 90’s. It is still largely undeveloped. The homestead and outbuildings, which include the jackeroos quarters and the meat room, are now the park headquarters and you can wander freely around. We also drove out to the large corrugated iron wool shed.



Back on the drive we saw lots of claypans which are white, smooth and hard and give good run off when it rains. Our first detour was to the Engine Hole which is a horse shoe shaped waterhole with superb white gums. It was a really beautiful spot only spoiled by someone who felt the need to deface one of the pristine white tree trunks with their initials in black paint. We were watched by a group of kangaroos ( wallabies?? ) sitting in the shade.



We stopped at a jump-up which is a rise and looked back to where we had come from with the claypans and lots of spinifex. I do not think I really knew what spinifex was until now. But the creamy colour is quite lovely against the background of the different coloured soils.



Later we turned off to Skull Hole which was the scene of a massacre by troopers in the 1800’s. This was totally different, almost gorge like with lots of fissures, hard red rock, a cave and a blow hole, and more beautiful white gums. A little further on we drove down to Surprise Creek which is another lovely shady waterhole with trees hanging over it. There was quite a bit of water in it, but then you drive over the rocky creek bed which is only covered when it rains a lot. Then it was back to Winton.



We enjoyed our stay there. It was quite hot, I did some washing, we stocked up on some provisions and I continued my hexagon star. There were continually caravans moving in and out of the park and by the end of each day it was full. It is interesting that in these towns where it gets so hot, the stores have a cold room for fruit and veges. There is also a good butcher where we bought some meat to take with us.
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Old Aug 26th, 2020, 09:20 PM
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From Winton we drove down to BOULIA which is a wonderful outback drive. It was quite flat for a while and then we started to see red hills in the distance. Soon we were driving through hills and flat topped mesa formations. The colours ranged from pale through salmon to red and the creamy spinifex grew halfway up and gave way to grey-green low plants. There was lots of Mitchell and Flinders grasses. Some of the hills had small towers and the tops were dark red and fissured. There is a lookout, Cawnpore, on the way but it was in the middle of extensive road works and difficult to access. You pass the old Middleton hotel on the way and it still operates. In front was another Cobb & Co coach. Beside it was a bright red sedan which P managed to exclude in the photos. The old and the new. This is the route of the 9 Pillars of Cobb & Co which were the stops on the coach route, some of which were hotels. It was a truly beautiful drive with flat endless plains, red rocky outcrops and distant horizons, sometimes a row of hills off into the distance.



At one stage we stopped to look at a waterhole that had a group of 30+ brolgas in and around it. It was just stunning with the dry country surrounding the waterhole and the elegant birds. Nature at its finest. The birds of prey are also magnificent, especially the huge majestic eagles.



We were ultimately heading for Birdsville, but with rain forecast we were taking our time. We stayed two nights in Boulia and on the second night we had quite a bit of wind, thunder and some rain. There is a Min Min light display at the info centre but we did not visit it and the small museum was closed. There were quite a few travellers here waiting to get into the NT and on the second night the park was full.



We decided to break the drive to Birdsville with one night in BEDOURIE. There was some grassland and trees, but also a lot of flat, barren rocky country. We drove up to the Vaughn Johnson lookout with far reaching views, and we also crossed the Tropic of Capricorn. As we neared Bedourie the country became sandy with small dunes and some vegetation.



The council caravan park was closed so we camped at the park attached to the road house. There is an old mud hut from the 1880’s and the Royal hotel opposite is from the same era and looks of similar construction. The weather had turned quite cool.


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Old Aug 27th, 2020, 10:30 PM
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Next day it was on to BIRDSVILLE with about 60 kms of dirt in several sections. It was mostly flat country with some grassland, some red rocky barren country, some rows of sand dunes with clumpy vegetation. We saw quite a few cattle which looked to be in fairly good condition. We stopped at Cuttaburra Crossing which is a picturesque waterhole on both sides of the road. We also stopped at Carcoory bore which is a steaming artesian bore. The water is very hot which is why the small towns that rely on it for water have cooling ponds. Nearby are Carcoory ruins which is the ruins of an old stone cottage abandoned in the early 1900’s. Just out of Birdsville is a stand of ancient Waddi Waddi trees thought to be 500-1000 years old. This is one of only three stands left of this very hard wood tree.



The caravan park was not as busy as we had expected, but as the borders were closed, I suppose it was not surprising. There were a few people waiting to travel the Birdsville track into SA, but it was closed because of the rain. There is not a lot in Birdsville. There is a roadhouse which has a couple of shelves of grocery items, a fridge with some fruit and a chest freezer full of bread. The bakery was closed because of Covid. But you cannot go to Birdsville and not go to the pub, so we booked for dinner and got the last table. We had a drink in the bar with all the hats before dinner in the dining room, all social distancing of course. The lady was telling us how difficult it is with a supply truck only every three weeks. Anyway we had very nice lamb shanks and well priced. I had expected to pay more out there.



We stayed two nights in Birdsville and on the next day we went out to Big Red which is a large sand dune about 38 kms from Birdsville. There is a track over the dune that keeps going, but we parked at the bottom and walked up. It was wonderful. We were the only people there but the ruts in parts indicated people had been riding trail bikes over it. It was a pity as it marred the pristine perfection, but I suppose the wind will eventually restore it. The sand was fine, pure, red and the dune just went on into the distance. It was a bit breezy and you could see the ripples in the sand and the fine sand in the air. What made it even more special was the variety of plants growing there, a lot of which had very delicate flowers. There was a delicate little purple flower, a silvery plant with little yellow flowers, a plant with greeny yellow flowers and long green pods, a fluffy green flower that turned reddish, a yellow flowers with white around the edge. I found it is called a poached egg daisy. These were just a few. It was a lovely experience. As the road does continue on into the desert, on the way back into town we were stopped and checked by border control.



The drive from Birdsville to Windorah is about 380 kms with about 210 kms of dirt. People who had been on it after the rain said it was a bit ordinary but no major problems. Some people stay halfway at the Betoota hotel, but we were not sure what facilities were there, so we went through in one day. It was not too bad, but did have quite a few muddy floodways with some water. So by the time we arrived in Windorah we were a bit grubby with lots of caked mud underneath. It was pretty barren with small pebbly soil and not much grass. We drove up to Deon’s lookout. Deon was a young Birdsville man killed in a helicopter crash in 1996. The view was magnificent. It was interesting to see the tree bordered water courses that formed almost natural ‘fences’ for paddocks.



As we got closer to WINDORAH we started seeing red hills and lovely red sand dunes with vegetation. We stayed in Windorah in June and I did not expect to be back so soon. When we were there we did not come out to this side so did not see the lovely dunes. We stayed two nights this time. I did some washing and we went for a walk up town. There was a refrigerated semi selling fruit and veges at the park. He comes once a fortnight. We stopped in at the info centre and visited the small museum out behind it. We needed bread as the next stop has nothing so called in at the shop. Again we saw the large chest freezer full of bread with no price was visible. At $7.20 a loaf it was even dearer than Birdsville. If we lived out there I would be perfecting my bread making skills very quickly!!



We now had to rethink our plans. We had planned to continue on to Thargomindah and down to Hungerford. But the recent rain as well as the forecast rain in the south meant the roads were closed. So we opted to stay in the north. We continued on to STONEHENGE where we also stayed in June. This time we were there during the week so could visit the info centre. In the afternoon we followed the John Egan Pioneer drive. This takes you up on to the rocky escarpment. It was just solid rock with masses of pebbles and small rocks. I have never seen so many stones and rocks. It was 4WD only and rough and steep in places with washed away gullies and ridges. We also saw the hundred year old dingo fence. It was quite enjoyable. Near Stonehenge is the Over the horizon early warning radar facility ( restricted)
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Old Aug 28th, 2020, 08:34 PM
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The final section.Next day we continued on to Barcaldine, but instead of going via Longreach, P decided we needed more dirt roads. As you leave Stonehenge you pass the address book which goes for about a kilometre and is where people stop and use stones to form their initials. And let’s be honest, there are plenty of stones. There are thousands and is much more environmentally friendly than scratching initials into rocks. About 30 kms from Stonehenge we turned on to the road to Isisford. This is a dirt road as opposed to a gravel road and at times it felt as if we were just driving across a paddock. We saw kangaroos and several groups of wild goats with babies. At the entrance to Isisford is a large corrugated iron Yellow Belly, a fish that is caught in the rivers. Then up to Illfracombe. We camped there in 2019 and there were about six vans in the park. This time it was packed and there was a steady stream of caravans, motor homes, campers on the road now we were back on a main Landsborough highway.



We had booked in BARCALDINE for two nights to let the rain in the south pass. It was a nice grassy park with lots of trees which was good as it was hot again. Each afternoon at 4 they have damper and billy tea at the camp kitchen. A man from NSW spends winter here and entertains with country music. I have to say we are not country music fans, but I can listen in small doses. On the second day there was also a bush poet who was amusing. Back at the camper after tea and damper, a glass of red was most welcome. We went up town for a walk and re visited the Tree of Knowledge. This is a really stunning work. The old tree which was poisoned has been retained with wood suspended above to form the canopy. It was windy and the wood bumping each other made lovely music.



Then it was just a leisurely trip home. We stopped one night in TAMBO which is a nice little town, and one night in MITCHELL again. We have stayed in both before. In Mitchell we walked over the bridge to the shop and admired the information displays here which are different. They are etched on granite and look very effective.



The next day we drove to ST GEORGE. We enjoyed the drive. The road was good, there was hardly any traffic, and the country was lovely with grassland and larger trees. There was even a tinge of green in places. As we neared St George we started seeing cultivation. They grow cotton here but did not see any. When we lived in Thallon, St George was our nearest town and our youngest was born here. But we only really went there for medical and shopping now and then. But it is a bustling country town on the Balonne river and it is very attractive along the river. Full circle for us as our first night was by the Balonne as well.



One more drive and we were home in Toowoomba. It had been another rewarding journey. Perhaps one thing to come out of this crisis has been a greater appreciation of what a vast and varied land we have here. We are already thinking of where we can go in 2021. I will also give a shout out to ABC radio. We always find out the frequency for places before we leave. You hear some interesting things, learn about unfamiliar things which affect regions other than your own and generally come to a greater understanding of how different life is for others.



Happy travels.








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Old Aug 29th, 2020, 03:48 PM
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Thanks for the story of your interesting travels. I'm longing for restrictions to be relaxed here in Victoria and state borders to be opened so that we can get out and about ourselves.
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