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Another Day in Biloela then on to Chinchilla, Stanthorpe and Casino.

Biloela continued.

Our first full day in Biloela was spent in the caravan park as Pam was crook with a wog. Or, if you're English, she was a tad off colour with a touch of 'flu. We'd brought it with us from Emu Park as a gift to the good citizens of Biloela. The next morning, however, she'd shaken it off, probably due to the 'flu injections which we'd both received at the onset of winter, so we sallied forth to a lookout point to see the famous Callide Open-Cut Coal Mine.

The lookout was a great disappointment. It provided a view over an area that had already been worked out and backfilled in preparation for rehabilitation. We saw a flat area of sand. In the distance we could see heavy equipment moving around but . . . that was it.

The mine supplied coal to the nearby Callide A and Callide B Power Stations via a conveyor belt. We could see those power stations in the middle distance. There is also a Callide C Power Station somewhere, also supplied by the mine, as is Gladstone Power Station.

The mine has the capacity to produce over ten million tonnes of coal per year. What's that in greenhouse gases?

Bille Brown


On the way back into town we stopped to look at a large 'directors chair' on the side of the road. It was dedicated to Bille Brown who was a film star and director of such note that neither of us had heard of him.

Apparently Bille Brown appeared in The Dish and The Man Who Sued God. Perhaps you know of him? It seems he is Biloela's most famous son. I sat in his chair for a photo.

And that was pretty well it for Biloela. We'd only booked in for three nights so next morning we hitched up and set off for Chinchilla. We drove for five hours under a cloudless sky as the temperature rose from the mid twenties to the mid thirties. The journey was without incident though there were so many butterflies that our windscreen - and everybody else's - soon became a spattered mess.

While at Emu Park I learned how to 'burn' audio CDs successfully. The secret is NOT to use 'erasable' discs which may work in some CD players but don't in others. Pam and I sorted through our pile of CDs, extracted our favourite tracks and copied them to six 'compilation' discs which we've loaded into our six-stack player in the car. That has given us about eight hours of continuous mixed music to which we listen as we travel. It's as well that our tastes are similar. Well, mostly similar. Pam likes some tracks by Treacle Line from their album, Pictures From Life's Other Side. Here's some advice for you; if you ever decide to commit suicide, THIS is the music to play as you run the hose from the exhaust pipe in through the car window. Even if you don't feel like dying, this music will put you in the mood.
Chinchilla

An interesting name for a town. The Macquarie Dictionary defines Chinchilla as a small South American rodent or a variety of cat or rabbit with long, soft, grey fur. In Spanish it's a little bug. Chinchilla in Queensland has no connection to rodents, fur or bugs. The name is derived from the Aboriginal word, Jinchilla, which describes the cypress pine tree. Indeed, the caravan park at which we stayed was called the Cypress Pine Caravan Park and we could see a large tree across the road which Pam assured me was a cypress pine. And who am I to argue?

Every little town in Australia seems to have its own claim to fame. Chinchilla calls itself the country's melon capital producing 25% of all melons grown in Australia. Well, I'm gob smacked! So there you are, the town produces millions of melons but calls itself a South American rat.

We ventured forth to discover what was to be seen in Chinchilla, so our first stop was at the Tourist Information Centre. The couple there were very friendly and helpful. There was a weir if we felt like driving south. We didn't. There was a museum with a large steam powered saw mill. Getting warmer. We could 'fossick' for petrified wood . . . if we bought a licence. We could drive out and look at a power station, or some gum trees, or visit a park with barbecues and toilets. We could go fishing or there was the pioneer cemetery across the road. By this time the cemetery was starting to sound very inviting so we wandered around the graves for half an hour then went into town for lunch where we ate al fresco. The food, coffee and service were all excellent and twenty thousand flies agreed with us.

In the afternoon we visited the museum which I found quite interesting, however Pam was soon back in the car reading the local newspaper. There were dozens of lovely oily, smelly old engines to keep me interested - many still in working order.

Steam Engines

Not Pam's cup of tea at all.

The most interesting story from Chinchilla concerns a variety of cactus known as Prickly Pear. It first appeared in Australia in 1862, possibly brought as a garden plant though nobody is sure. It found conditions here ideal and it began to spread uncontrollably. By 1920, fifty eight million acres of prime agricultural land were densely covered in Prickly Pear and it was invading a million more acres each year. Many farmers gave up trying to combat it and walked off the land. Injecting arsenic poison into the plant was partially successful but it poisoned the farmers as well.

The answer was eventually found in the form of a little South American moth called Cactoblastis Cactorium. Moth eggs were brought to Australia and when they hatched the larvae immediately began eating the Prickly Pear. Large numbers of the moth were bred at two laboratories, one being the Chinchilla Research Station. By 1936 that research station was able to close its doors. The indomitable Prickly Pear cactus that had defeated farmers and scientists alike had been eradicated by a little white moth.

Stanthorpe.

After three days in Chinchilla we set off for Stanthorpe. The journey was uneventful except for an oncoming road-train which flicked a stone at our windscreen, chipping it. We were already on our third windscreen and until then it had been in perfect condition. Still, them's the breaks (pun not intended). There's nothing you can do to prevent these things.

Stanthorpe is situated in an area known as the Granite Belt; there are huge granite outcrops breaking through the surface all around the town.

Granite boulders

Granite boulders were apparent wherever we went.

The town was originally known as 'Quart Pot', a quaint name. We decided to research its origin for you, dear reader. The story goes something like this:

A quart pot was normally carried by squatters (sheep farmers) dangling from their saddle bags to carry water from a creek to their camp. They would then heat the pot over a fire to brew tea. Back in the early 1800s someone left a quart pot at the side of an unnamed stream. By chance it was later found so the finder called the stream 'Quart Pot Creek'. Then, in 1853, tin was discovered near the creek and a mining village sprang up. It became known as Quart Pot Village. The village grew and retained its name until a bishop under whose auspices the village fell, decided that Quart Pot was too undignified a name. He changed it to Stanthorpe - stannum being Latin for tin and thorpe an English word meaning 'village'. Tin mining finished around 1935 but these days the town survives very nicely on fruit production due to the extremely fertile soil. Stanthorpe has plenty of green grass and foliage despite the severe drought, and to this day Quart Pot Creek runs through the town.

*Kids, a 'quart' was a measure of liquid equal to a quarter of a gallon in pre-historic times. It was equivalent to 1.1365225 litres. Approximately.

Not only is Stanthorpe almost as far south as you can go in Queensland, but it sits atop the Great Dividing Range at an elevation of 2,700 feet. Consequently it is the coldest town in Queensland with night-time temperatures frequently falling below freezing during the winter. Even in mid spring while we were there, the air was most bracing in the morning.

Stanthorpe from a lookout

Looking out over Stanthorpe from a local lookout.

We liked Stanthorpe from the moment we arrived and further inspection only reinforced that first impression. The town is quite small but it has character and you usually find that when a town has character, so too do its residents.

Tourist Centre and Park

On the right of the picture is Stanthorpe's Tourist Information Office and coffee shop. On the left is Quart Pot Creek.

We initially booked three nights at the 'Top of the Town' caravan park but, having found it an exceptionally good park, we soon extended that to a week and then to eight days. We became very friendly with our next door neighbours and spent each 'happy hour' with them. Also, we'd discovered that singers Penny Davies and Roger Ilott (whose music we've enjoyed for a long time) lived in Stanthorpe and were appearing at a folk evening to be held in the beautiful old house of a local winery.

Winery house

The lovely old house at the Whisky Gully Winery.

Penny and Roger

Penny Davies and Roger Ilott singing at the folk evening. Two nicer people would be hard to find.

During the first few days we visited several wineries, two of which had live music playing and a third, the Whisky Gully Winery, hosted the folk evening. We also visited a lavender farm where we were the only human visitors, however . . .

Bee

. . . the lavender wasn't short of smaller guests.

e-Thieves

We visited Stanthorpe's excellent museum which was conveniently next door to the caravan park. A notice at the door prohibited all photography without permission. Muttering about excessive bureaucracy, I asked the attendant which objects I could photograph. She said anything I wanted to as long as I did not publish the photos on the Internet. Uh?

A short while ago many artifacts in a museum in Newcastle were photographed then advertised for sale on E-Bay. When enough of the objects had been sold, thieves broke into the museum with a shopping list and relieved it of specific items which were immediately dispatched to their new homes. While in no way condoning this behaviour, museums are full of examples of man's ingenuity throughout the ages and you have to grudgingly admire these thieves. Using the latest technology they established their market before committing the crime. They then disposed of the stolen goods, possibly all over the world, leaving themselves 'clean' should Mr. Plod pay a visit after he'd exhausted his list of pawn brokers. Oh, yes, we know the procedure, we watch The Bill. Do you? For the tape, the suspect is nodding his head.
The 2007 Australian Small Winemakers Show

The afternoon before leaving Stanthorpe we attended the 2007 Australian Small Winemakers Show which was conveniently held in the show ground next to the caravan park. Being unfamiliar with these shows we did everything wrong.

Firstly, the advertising brochure for the show mentioned finger food so we had lunch prior to going, only to find a mountain of food stacked on a central table with everybody else heaping their plates.

Secondly, as entertainment was provided, we took a table at the front, near the stage. The wine, however, was at the back of the building which was large enough to house a Jumbo Jet. The journey from the table to the wine and back, including the wait to be served, could take ten minutes. And all for a centimetre of wine in the bottom of the glass.

Thirdly, we had been given a catalogue listing the thousands of wines and the awards each had won. The idea was to sample the 'gold' winners first, before they ran out. That is what everyone else was doing. By the time this sank in it was already too late - the best had gone.

Wine bottles

Wine, wine and more wine at the 2007 Australian Small Winemakers Show

As this was primarily a trade show, there was an over-supply of 'experts' sniffing the wines then going through all the tasting and spitting routine. They all seemed to know each other and had a grossly enlarged opinion of their own importance. It's just a good thing they didn't know our simple philosophy when it comes to wine tasting:

If we like it we drink it.
If we don't like it, we still drink it.
Spitting out a perfectly good wine is sacrilege.


We didn't care, however, because Penny Davies and Roger Ilott (third picture up and below) were singing there and they were the primary reason for our being there. How refreshing they were after all the stuffed shirts tasting the wines. By the end of the afternoon we felt we'd known them for years and parted with hugs and vows to stay in touch. We also met Penny's mum, a tall, slim, graceful lady who surprised us by getting up and jiving to the music as fit as any teenager. Naturally I couldn't possibly give away her age in this forum, but let me say she was just a teenager when I was born. A very remarkable lady!

Penny and Roger, blue background

Penny and Roger at the Small Winemakers Show. Penny never seemed to stop smiling.

Casino

On leaving Stanthorpe our next stay was at Casino, just across the state border in New South Wales. The clocks in N.S.W. had been put forward one hour the previous night for the start of 'daylight saving'. Some people in the new park put their clocks back and swore everyone else was wrong. This could have been a catastrophe as those people would have arrived at Happy Hour two hours late. Two hours of drinking time lost for ever!

'Casino' is a strange name for a town - though perhaps not as strange as Quart Pot - and it came about by accident. Originally the town was named after Cassino, an Italian town, but in bygone days a surveyor missed an 's' on an important document so the town became Casino. You may remember we covered a similar story from Victor Harbor in South Australia. It had been called Victor Harbour but a spelling error resulted in it becoming Victor Harbor. Everywhere, that is, except on the platform signs on their railway station which do have the 'u'.

Casino is the beef capital of Australia, the Tourist Information Office staff told us.
"What about Rockhampton?" asked Pam. "They claim to be the beef capital too."
"Well, yes, they have beef too," the staff grudgingly conceded.
Having visited both towns we found it amusing as Rockhampton is a much larger town and clearly geared up for beef production. In Rockhampton we saw trainloads of cattle, passed a large abattoir, were held up as cattle crossed the road to a holding yard, and all over the town there are full sized sculptures of bulls. In Casino we didn't even hear a cow. Now if they'd called it the thunderstorm capital of Australia we might have believed them. On our first two days we were treated to some really vicious storms but the third day dawned sunny and warm.

Before leaving Casino we just have to share this with you. Any self-respecting caravan park has a "dump point" where the waste from caravan toilets is emptied. Some are little more than a hole in the top of a storage tank while others are more sophisticated. The dump point at Casino was brand new, made of shiny stainless steel and it even had a flush. There were the usual notices on the wall about leaving the area clean and tidy and warning that it was only for dumping toilet waste. Then I saw another notice low down on the side of the receptacle . . .

Dump point notice

And so we left Casino for Grafton. Why don't we start a fresh page with the new town?

Footnote: This re-working of Page 54 was completed on 27 May 2013. It conforms to HTML5 and CSS level 3.