A wonderful welcome and a pleasant surprise at Possum Park
This was our sixth stay at Possum Park and both the owners, Julie and John, and their staff are becoming old friends. We were greeted warmly by everyone, which is always lovely. I was also amazed and very excited to see the progress on their Vickers Viscount turboprop airliner which they bought from a scrapyard in very poor condition without wings or engines and which they are converting to accommodation units.
Allow me to illustrate their progress with a timeline of three photographs, one of which you've seen before.
Vickers Viscount VH-TVL was built for Trans-Australia Airlines and first flew on 22nd February 1957. Her last scheduled flight for TAA was from Launceston to Melbourne on 10th August 1969. She had flown 30,275 hours and made 21,474 landings. She was donated to a museum which sold her to a timber yard. She was finally sold for scrap.
That was when her luck changed. She was bought by Julie and David and transported to Possum Park looking like this. At Possum her windows were replaced, her tail assembly remounted, wings and engines were fabricated and attached and she was cleaned up and painted.
Today, in October 2014, although not yet finished she looks like this. Her pride and dignity have been restored and she is admired more then ever before. A fantastic result, David. That's David on the right of the forward doorway.
We stayed two nights at Possum Park. There are colours everywhere with so many flowers in bloom and it's so peaceful. The nearest town is 20 kilometres away and the nearest busy road about a kilometre away through dense, sound-absorbing bush. I've mentioned before that the park was a WWII munitions store and has several underground bunkers. Some of these have been converted to accommodation - the temperature inside varies little throughout the year. There used to be a rail link to the park in the old days but that's gone leaving just a few metres of track and some rolling stock which has also been converted to accommodation.
Every 'Happy Hour' a large log fire is lit in what looks like a huge wheel rim surrounded by benches and sometimes there's cooking on the embers as the fire burns down. What a place! If you just want a complete break from the world, this is the place to chill out.
At Possum we were only 230 kilometres north of the Queensland/New South Wales
border but then we did a wide sweep to the east and then north again to get
to Mundubbera. The roads on the journey were deplorable, not in the sense of
potholes, etc., but in gentle - and sometimes not so gentle - undulations. The
car and caravan set up regular bouncing and occasionally we'd hit a big one
and everything in the car would become airborne for a second. The Tour Director
was trying to do a crossword and was not impressed. Going faster or slower might
have helped but faster was not an option and slower made the journey longer
(time wise) and held up following traffic even more.
Then there were the roadworks. The speed limit reduced and reduced as we approached these operations which sometimes didn't actually exist and after several kilometres of crawling we were told "End Roadwork. 100 km/hr. Drive carefully". Where the roadwork did exist we were stopped by the usual officious lollipop man with his sign in one hand and the other pointing to the exact place we were to come to rest, as if the large sign "Stop here" wasn't enough. And is it a union requirement that these men always have someone to talk to? One lounges and does nothing while the other leans on his lollipop pole. As a matter of fact, that pattern seems to be repeated as you eventually are allowed to drive through at 40 km/hr. Every so often there is a stationary vehicle with a driver inside and another 'worker' leaning on the vehicle, chatting. We tried to work out the ratio of men lounging to men working; it must be about eight to one.
We often listen to music from a CD as we travel and the lyrics of one song asked why so much of the bush was unnecessarily cleared? And it's true. We began to notice that much of the agricultural land on either side of the road was neither growing a crop nor grazing animals. Some may have been left fallow for
a period intentionally but that would be a minority. And if the land isn't used for anything else, why are trees and native plants not grown to undo some of the damage done by settlers over the past 220 years?
Mundubbera, we found, was a small farming community of extremely friendly people and the caravan park was a beauty. It had wide concrete roads, concrete strips for the caravan wheels to park on and a concrete annex slab. There was plenty of space to park the car alongside the caravan and the 'facilities' were large, airy, clean and modern including the laundry.
Left: Mundubbera powered sites; spacious and level.
Right: The large, modern amenities block.
The name of the town, Mundubbera, is derived from an Aboriginal word meaning 'meeting of the waters'. Ten kilometres west of the town the Auburn River merges with the Burnett River. Two kilometres further on the Boyne River also joins the Burnett which then flows through Mundubbera.
We went for a drive along the Burnett valley to another small town called Gayndah, 45 kilometres to the east. The sign at the town entrance told us that Gayndah is the oldest town in Queensland. The tourist information told us we'd find an 'upside down' railway bridge close by.
First, however, we drove up Mount Debatable Road to McConnell Lookout. Debatable was well named for the road surface was so bad that, at one point, it was debatable whether we'd turn back or go on. We went on. The views from the top were magnificent; we could see the Burnett River for miles in both directions and irrigated crops along the banks stood out bright green against the parched brown of the landscape.
Irrigators huddled along the banks of the Burnett, pumping out life-giving water.
The Tour Director looking pensive. Note her ankle now free of all encumbrances.
Looking west from McConnell Lookout, back towards Mundubbera.
This picture shows how dry the countryside is. The bridge (lower centre) carries Debatable Road over the Burnett.
Dry, dry, dry. And burnt. Only the black boys (grass trees) look healthy, but they always thrive after a fire.
Leaving the Lookout we drove back down to the main road and into the small town of Gayndah. It seemed a nice enough place but the only thing that excited me was the price of diesel, so I pulled in and put 100 litres into the tanks. Pam went into the adjoining shop and came out with a nice cauliflower for $1.90. This, she told me, was a bargain. I can't get excited over a cauliflower (though cauliflower cheese is nice). I was less excited when I found diesel cheaper in the next garage and cheaper still in the third.
So, we went in search of the 'upside down bridge'. It was a railway bridge, spanning a creek, carrying a single, disused track. It was described as upside down because, instead of the supporting structure being overhead (like the Sydney Harbour Bridge), it was suspended below the bridge with load-bearing supports rising up, in compression, to take the weight of the span.
The Ideraway Creek Railway Bridge better known as The Upside Down Bridge.
It is technically called a deck-type pin-jointed fishbelly truss main span bridge. So there! Is there any advantage in this design, I wondered. Such bridges are not common. One dis
advantage was immediately clear. You might have noticed on the picture a lot of driftwood caught in the supporting structure at the near end of the bridge. The picture below shows it more clearly from the downstream side. This driftwood shows that at some time in the past, the Ideraway Creek below the bridge had risen at least high enough to deposit that driftwood. If the creek was that high, what sort of sideways force would be applied to the bridge's bracing structure? The actual struts present a narrow profile to the water flow but any debris, including large logs or uprooted trees, would very likely build up against the supporting framework, catching smaller litter, and apply an enormous twisting moment to the span.
Debris build-up left after the water receded following a flood in the creek.
Rusty rails. The bridge seemed in fair condition to my amateur eyes. What a tourist railway this would make.
The nearest cantilever refuge platform held my (excessive) weight without complaint, though had I seen this picture beforehand I doubt that I'd have risked leaning over the guard rail.
Another Black Stump
On the return drive to Mundubbera we took a different route and came across the 'Black Stump'. You may remember that we'd come across a black stump in Blackall, 865 kilometres away. That one wasn't even black and this one very much looked like it had been painted. It was otherwise just like any other sawn-off tree stump and we were not impressed enough to take a photo.
Standown Caravan Park at Goomboorian
I wish the Aborigines would restrict place names to a maximum of two syllables. No sooner had I mastered Mundubbera than we left there and travelled to Goomboorian. The origin of the town's name is apparently unrecorded so how do I know it's Aboriginal? Just a hunch. And here's another: It means a meeting place and water comes into it somewhere. Safe bet.
The population of Goomboorian was 463 at the 2011 Census. This population is comprised of 47.1% females and 52.9% males. The internet site to which I referred for these statistics doesn't expand on the person who is 9% male and 1% female.
The journey from Mundubbera was without drama, the paddocks dry and brown, the many creek courses that passed under the road were likewise bone dry. We had to smile as we crossed Christmas Creek; somebody had decorated the sign with tinsel.
The caravan park at which we stayed was recommended by a lovely couple, John and Ann, whom we know from Bell Park; prior to that we'd never heard of Goomboorian. John is a Vietnam veteran and Ann a superb artist. The Standown Caravan Park was initially dedicated to Vietnam veterans - indeed, still is - but all are now welcome; military veterans receive a discount at Standown. There is a beautiful memorial and lake built by Rod who, with his wife Pam, owns this park. They were away during our brief stay so all I can say about them is that they are very well regarded and have done a fabulous job on their park.
The lake and Veterans Memorial at Standown Park; the dream of one man dedicated to fellow military veterans.
The occupants of the lake. The ducks and ducklings are real . . .
As the shadows lengthen and the last rays of the sun light up our caravan, 'happy hour' commences.
As in Possum Park, every afternoon there is 'happy hour' to which all are invited and which takes place around a roaring camp fire. Unless, as Leonie the temporary manageress explained, the weather is too hot for a fire in which case we all sit in a circle and look at the wood. As in many caravan parks, a 'happy hour' does not contain sixty minutes, it contains a totally flexible number of 'happy minutes'.
The floodlit Veterans Memorial reflected in the lake. The lights remain on permanently.
But I mentioned Ann - Ann Learmonth - above. Below are just two pictures from her huge portfolio.
Left: Ann had never worked with charcoal so she decided to take some lessons. Just two months later she produced this beautiful charcoal drawing.
Right: John fell asleep one evening as Ann was beginning a fresh work. When he awoke this bear was finished. Ann also makes exquisite jewellery.
During the latter days of our stay at Bell Park we suffered some television reception problems. Initially we put them down to transmitter problems at the park but when those were rectified and our faults remained we were forced to look closer to home. It appears that the signal amplifier - often called a 'booster' - which is built in to our antenna has turned up its toes. The Tour Director, unable to survive an evening without a moving picture to stare at has insisted on watching DVD after DVD of episodes of Downton Abbey of which she has an apparently endless supply.
I was contemplating throwing the TV into the lake but by a strange coincidence there is a family company that manufactures a dual polarity caravan antenna called a Saturn and this company operates out of Rainbow Beach. Rainbow Beach is only about forty minutes from Standown Park. Watch this space.
Goomboorian To Bribie Island via Rainbow Beach
At Saturn Antennas in Rainbow Beach we met Peter Grant and his family, and a jolly nice crowd they are too. One of Peter's sons fitted a new Saturn antenna to our caravan roof and connected it up. Meanwhile Peter sold us a new television to replace the one I'd wrecked, then we all went in to his factory for a coffee and biscuits together.
Leaving Saturn Antennas we backtracked past Standown Park to Gympie and thence on to the Bruce Highway/M1 Motorway - it can't make up its mind. Some of the road has been upgraded to motorway standard and other parts are still under construction. Thankfully it was nearly all double lane dual carriageway so everything could pass us without me having to constantly pull over. Even so, it was a long, boring drive and it kept trying to rain. The driver's side windscreen wiper blade chose that moment to split, the loose end trailing the blade back and forth. Ho-hum.
By the time we arrived at the caravan park I'd had enough but there was a bit more to come. Reversing on to our site was a tight squeeze but nevertheless it should have been a breeze. About fourteen shuffles later we finally got it more or less right and two neighbours had offered their help as if we were rookies. Talking to one later I found out he was on his first caravan trip. It was embarrassing to tell him we'd been at it for nearly ten years!
With everything finally set up we retired into the 'van to tune in the television and relax. Travellers like us have to re-tune our sets at every stop because all the main transmitters use different frequencies to avoid problems in the overlap areas. Anyway, the set locked on to thirty stations but . . . not a single programme was free of pixelation and sound break-up! Not one. Yes, you've guessed; Pam put in a Downton Abbey DVD and settled back with a glass of 'red' and a contented look on her face.
The Bribie Island Caravan Park owner must have earned his living packing sardines into cans in an earlier life. He hasn't lost the knack. Furthermore, we were place snuggly up against a caravan where several small children competed to see who was the loudest. Before the first morning was over, Alice, our GPS, and I were busy planning our next move to a place a long, long way from Bribie Island.
Things improved when our long-standing friends, Jan and Ross with their daughter, Terri and her partner, Steve, met up with us for dinner in the local pub. A good time was had by all. The next day we had coffee with Ross and Jan at their place and on our final day on Bribie they treated us to a tour of the island culminating in very nice lunch at the R.S.L. Club.
During our rather hectic time on Bribie Island (named after an Aborigine man who assisted the early explorers) we also had a beautiful lunch prepared by Michele and husband, Alan, whom we know from Emu Park. We spent a wonderfully relaxing afternoon at their beautiful home.
While on the subject of Bribie Island, there are two caravan parks there. We would recommend the Bongaree Caravan Park.
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