Pam's Journal For November 2005

     
 

Tuesday 1st November
We had a conducted tour of Townsville today. It must have been a quiet day as we were the only people on the tour. It was very interesting and we learnt a lot about the town and its pioneers. We then realised that a week is not going to be long enough to see everything.
Wednesday 2nd November
We had to be up and out very early today as we had to catch the eight o'clock ferry to Magnetic Island. We made it in plenty of time and arrived at the island with about half an hour to wait for our bus tour. Peter has covered the Island on the web page. I never thought I would meet anyone more negative than Pete Mate, but boy, that tour operator was the king of negativity.

The island was very beautiful and had a lot of good points but I feel our view of the place was clouded by Col's negative influence. We actually had a really nice day and the ambience of the island is very much laid back.

Once back on the mainland we went to the information centre to find out all there is to do here in Townsville, and also to get information on the towns inland where we intend to go next. One hour later we left the centre having heard many interesting stories about Townsville and the surrounding areas. We then had an urgent need to look for a toilet, and as there was a pub nearby we decided to kill two birds with one stone.

To our dismay the pub was closed! We bumped into a Pommy backpacker also looking for a drink. We decided to walk to the next corner and he asked if he could walk with us. From my point of view he could walk, run or skip as long as we got to the next corner where I was sure there was a pub with a toilet!!

Once comfortably seated and - in my case, joyfully - we had a few drinks with our new-found friend. He either enjoyed the drink or our company because he missed the next two ferries to the island. Once he left to continue his travels we ate an enormous meal and made our way home.
Thursday 3rd November
A day of recovery and shopping. Too much food and wine yesterday. We had quite a few errands to do as we have decided we will leave Townsville for Emerald on Sunday and return here next winter when the weather is cooler and less humid.
Friday 4th November
We decided to explore the city today on foot. We left the car and walked and walked, up hill and down dale. We were tired and hot by the time we arrived at Flinders Mall to see 'Macca', who is of course Ian McNarmara of Australia All Over fame. (For overseas readers, this is a Sunday morning radio programme. Macca travels all over Oz talking to people. Listeners phone in with good stories mainly about their travels or where they live. It has become a bit of an institution.)

Macca was in Townsville for a book launch. Well, we saw him, and he is older than we thought. He did seem a very pleasant chap, very friendly, thanked us for turning up to see him - he didn't know we hadn't bought his book.

After that excitement we went for lunch and then another wander around before heading home for a rest. In the evening we had a very pleasant time with Jenni and Gary at their home. Gary cooked a superb barbecue and we had plenty to eat and drink as well as good company. I worked with Jenni a few years ago in Perth before they moved to Townsville with the army. Gary is now a Major and Jenni a Captain. Jenni has to salute Gary at work and call him 'Sir'. Dream on, Pete Mate, dream on!!!
Saturday 5th November
Get ready day today. Peter decided to alter the plumbing in the ensuite and after about four hours of struggling wished he hadn't started. It wasn't broken, just needed 'improving'. A lot of things in this caravan need improving. Jayco should be ashamed of the quality of their workmanship.
Sunday 6th November
We left Townsville around 7:00a.m. with Charters Towers in our sights as being the first stop. We had a good breakfast there. No, we had an enormous breakfast there!

We hadn't been going long when Peter noticed a hitchhiker and decided to stop. His name was Nick and he was travelling quite a distance to start a new job and as we were going to Emerald, that would take him most of the way. Too late we realised he was much in need of a shower and wasn't very talkative so it made our journey seem very long indeed. 500 kms later we dropped him in Emerald. I think he regretted the lift with us as opposed to a truck as we travel at 80 kms per hour, and as the trucks travel much faster he would have arrived at his destination much earlier.

We eventually found the caravan park where we had decided to stay. Directions and distances in these books leave a lot to be desired. Once set up we went for a much needed swim in the pool.
Monday 7th November
We had a look around Emerald this morning then took our picnic lunch to the Botanical Park. We didn't stay long as Peter wasn't happy with where we had left the car. Once back at the caravan we had a restful afternoon. We were both pretty tired after the long journey yesterday and my foot was hurting. I tripped about a week ago over a loose curb stone and twisted my ankle. It is most annoying as walking for any length of time is quite painful.

We have decided that we won't extend our stay here longer than the four nights we booked on arrival. We quite like the area but not that keen on the caravan park. The facilities are good, clean toilets and showers, soap, music playing whilst you shower and ceiling fans. The pool is quite cold but nice, they have a licensed restaurant on site and the people are friendly and helpful. Having said all that we still don't really like it here. Goodness knows why, but we sure don't!
Tuesday 8th November
Lay day today. We were supposed to be going out for the day to the gem fields but have decided to go tomorrow instead as my stupid foot is painful. Dr Pete Mate decided, in his wisdom, that to give it a good rest today might help.
Wednesday 9th November
Today didn't work out as planned. We were to go to the gemfields for me to find our fortune. The caravan park owners decided today was the right time to bitumen the roadways through the park. We had to cover the caravan in case of over-spray. What with that, and Peter and some Kiwi chap supervising the operations (silently from the side lines), we didn't go to find my sapphires. We did a little shopping later in the day when we realised that they were not going to bitumen in front of us today.
Thursday 10th November
We were up early as we wanted to get away before the workmen blocked us in. We were on the road by 7:00 a.m. and passed the workmen working on the car park. If they had told us last night that their intention was to start there we needn't have rushed so much.

We had a good run through with three breaks and arrived at Longreach in plenty of time to set up and do a little exploring. On the way here, one town we stopped at was called Jericho. It was situated on the banks of the River Jordan. Lake Galilee was nearby. So the townspeople got together and commissioned a sculpture of the Trumpets of Jericho from the bible. I thought it was quite interesting, but Pete Mate wasn't impressed.

First impressions of Longreach are, nice town and very friendly, helpful people. The caravan park is practically empty but pleasant enough. Sadly the amenities block is not up to standard. No soap, paper towels or mop and bucket. It is clean though.
Friday 11th November
Remembrance Day. We went into town to check for mail and see if we could connect our laptop at the library. Yes, we can and what's more it is free.

All of that out of the way it was time to do the first tourist attraction on the list. Believe it or not it was the Qantas Museum. It was very interesting for a while, some good articles regarding the pioneers of this area. After a while it lost its attraction for me. I was a little anxious that I would be totally bored tomorrow. We had booked and paid for the tour of the Boeing 747 Jumbo.
Saturday 12th November
We were back at the Qantas museum for 9:30 a.m. to do the tour of the 747. I needn't have worried yesterday as I found it very interesting, plus we watched a short video about the history of Qantas and that also was interesting. The tour guide knew everything about the 747 and Qantas, any question fired at her she knew the answer.

After lunch I went to the Doll Museum and Peter went to the Power House Museum. The Doll Museum had one or two nice dolls but overall it was a little disappointing. Peter seemed to enjoy himself looking at engines. As I had finished early I walked into town and then over to the museum where Peter was. After he had finished we went to the Starlight Tavern to try and find out where the name came from. We had a drink whilst we were there, as you do.
Sunday 13th November
Lay day today. My stupid foot is protesting painfully to all the walking yesterday, and as we intend to do some more walking tomorrow, I decided to rest it today.
Monday 14th November
We had a really nice day at The Australian Stockman's Hall of Fame. It was very interesting and very well done. They had heaps of information about the outback, the pioneers and, of course, the stockmen and women. It took us best part of the day but we still had time in the late afternoon to collect the mail and visit the pub.
Tuesday 15th November
Lay day today.
Wednesday 16th November
We were up early and arrived at the Qantas Museum by 7:00 a.m. Today was the 85th birthday of Qantas and we were there to join in the celebrations. A free breakfast of bacon and eggs went down well. We watched and listened to the Triple M radio station. There were four presenters and they all looked terribly bored. I expected more interaction with the locals, a bit of banter but no, they just sat there. They occasionally talked, took some phone calls and played music. All in all it was a nice way to spend a few hours and we were home again for 9:30 a.m. We went into town in the afternoon to do our emails and banking.
Thursday 17th November
We decided to drive to Winton, leaving the caravan in Longreach. I packed an overnight bag as our intention was to stay in Winton 'as there is so much to do'. We arrived at the information centre which is also the Waltzing Matilda Centre. After a quick coffee we started our WMC tour. Some parts of it were very interesting but a lot was rubbish, no other word for it. When setting up these museums there should be an age regulation; I do not class something that is thirty years old as a museum piece. So much junk crammed into little display cases, it took away some of the enjoyment of the authentic articles. Having said that, some parts of the centre were very well done.

We then had lunch and decided to do the rest of the touristy things in town before booking into the motel. We went from one place to another getting more and more disheartened, all was not what it seemed. The places we saw were very much over-rated. We had a drink in the bar of the hotel/motel and decided we had seen enough of Winton and would rather spend the night in our home. So we headed back to Longreach and had a drink or two and a very nice pizza at our local.
Friday 18th November
Lay day, emails and some shopping. We had another few drinks at the Starlight and stayed for dinner. Quite an education, talking to the locals. The embellishment of some stories is, I think, proportional to the amount of beer consumed.
Saturday 19th November
Get-ready-day as we are off to Charleville tomorrow.
Sunday 20th November
We got away from Longreach fairly early and made good time to Charleville. We had a few breaks on the way. At Blackall we stopped at the roadhouse for a coffee and a lady walked in, approached us, and asked if we were on our way back to the west. (Our number plates give us away as West Australians.) We said, "No. Why, where are you from?". She replied, "Mandurah. But we have been on the road for nine years". I asked her had they just come from Longreach. "Yes" she said. Then I asked, "Did you go in the Starlight Tavern for a drink?" When she replied that they had, we realised they must be the other Pommy couple from Western Australia that Jill had told us about. Amazing how you bump into people along the way, we might even see them again as they were heading towards Charleville. We are known hereabouts as the Pommy couple from WA. It does not matter that we have lived in Australia for over 23 years and have Australian citizenship. To most country folk we are still 'Poms'.

First impressions of Charleville are that we like it. The caravan park seems okay and we certainly received a warm and friendly welcome. We can even wash the car and caravan. Sorry, Pete Mate can wash the car and caravan. The caravan needed it as on the way here we had to pass through a herd of cattle being shepherded by two men on horse back, with whips. The men not the horses. Anyway the cow poop splashed on the caravan, what a mess!

Very disappointing is that the Bilby Centre is closed because it is out of season. It was one of the main reasons I wanted to come here. The centre is breeding Bilbys and reintroducing them to the wild. It is quite a feat as the Bilby was becoming extinct, thanks to mankind yet again.
Monday 21st November
We went into town to check out some of the 'tourist attractions'. We saw the Vortex Cannons. Interesting, gave us a good laugh anyway. After that we went to check out internet locations and found one for later.

We went to an old hotel in town where they put on a show for the tourists. This consists of a storyteller relaying old stories of this area and its pioneering people and also the history of Charleville. Plus they serve afternoon tea whilst all this takes place.

We tried one door then another and found our way inside a museum without any living person present. We went outside again and tried another door, then I decided it must look very sad, two Grey Nomads trying all the doors of a hotel. Must look like raving alcoholics.

We went and enquired at the bottle shop and were told the hotel had closed down three months ago. We followed our noses to the next hotel along and got the run down on the town from the locals. General consensus was the town is closed until March. Ah well, what are we going to do for two more days? Catch up on our emails, knitting and letter writing.
Tuesday 22nd November
Lay day.
Wednesday 23rd November
Lay day.
Thursday 24th November
We left Charleville early and made good time to Roma. Nothing unusual happened on the way, we didn't pick up anymore hitchhikers or run into herds of cattle.

Once set up in Roma we went off to explore the town. Firstly though, the caravan park has passed the 'test'. Clean ablutions, paper towels and soap. We received a friendly and warm welcome. It is again very quiet here as we are out of season. The town is really nice, lots of history, very friendly people and the most amazing craft/haberdashery shop you have ever seen. It is an old fashioned shop with everything piled high, every button, ribbon, material, patterns and wool - to name but a few - that you can imagine. It puts Lincraft and Spotlight to shame and this is a country town! I found the felt and wool I had been looking for but as Pete Mate was waiting for me I didn't have time to browse.

We checked out the internet places in town and then made our way to the White Bull Tavern. We wanted to know the history of the tavern as Roma is where Harry Redford was tried for his crimes. We weren't impressed with the White Bull and had a drive around town. St Paul's Anglican Church is famous for its beautiful stained glass windows. I attempted to get inside to look but found the doors locked. Glancing around I saw a notice advertising a church service there tomorrow.

We left there and were heading home when we approached an intersection. A car had stalled in front of us. An elderly couple were in the car so we pulled over and did the right thing. In the end we had to wait for the RACQ to come and fit a new battery as the jumper leads from our car didn't help at all. We had a nice chat with them and another chap who stopped to help. It turned out that Charlie was 92 years old and Joan was 'nearly there' (ladies of that era don't give away their actual age).

The other chap, Alan was a son of someone they knew years ago. So we are all standing on the side of the road chatting away, Joan and Charlie asked us about our travels and we gave them a bit of a run down. We mentioned that we were interested in history and were researching the story of Harry Redford. Charlie then revealed his Great Uncle was on the jury. They also knew Perth and Pearce Airbase as Charlie had been in the RAAF and had attended a reunion there a few years ago.

Once the RACQ arrived and Charlie and Joan were mobile again we said our goodbyes and went home for dinner.
Friday 25th November
It poured with rain last night, I think we have brought the rain with us from Charleville. As it was quite cool I went for a walk around 7-ish. Peter didn't feel like walking so I went on my own. I decided I would walk into town to the church service whilst Peter checked out the information centre. The service was short as the 'proper' minister was away. It was still good and I was made to feel very welcome. Two ladies invited me to join them for coffee but I had arranged to meet Peter so declined the invite.

I met Peter at the coffee shop, he was wading through reams of leaflets he had been given containing good information about Roma, so it looks like we will be here longer than three days. Next on the list was some shopping then back to the caravan for lunch. Oh yes, and I managed to fit in another visit to the craft shop and spent some more money.

In the afternoon we walked back to town - it is only 1 km. I wanted to see a three dimensional clay mural that depicts the history of the town. On the way there we passed the largest Bottle Tree, (see Main website page).

We saw a path and decided to follow it. This proved to be our undoing; if we had gone back to the road we would have found the Cultural Centre (where the mural is) very quickly. The path took us way beyond where we wanted to go so we ended up walking a lot further than we intended. Never mind, once we had seen it and listened to the recording, we headed for a refreshing drink at the hotel. We weren't overly impressed with the hotel so decided to head home. On the way we called in at Mitsubishi and booked Billy in for Monday.
Saturday 26th November
We went into town to update the website and send emails. After a little shopping we came home for lunch. Pete Mate had a snooze whilst I carried on with my craft projects. In the evening we attended the Big Rig Night Show. It was very well done but we didn't gain any more information than we had already gleaned from various sources. Before we arrived in Roma we had no idea the part they have played in the oil and gas industry. We did take something extra home, plenty of mozzie bites!
Sunday 27th November
I attended the service at the Uniting Church and was warmly welcomed. It was a very relaxed and enjoyable service followed by a cuppa afterwards. I left there feeling refreshed and totally relaxed. After lunch we did a couple more tourist attractions that were on our list. We noticed in the cemetery that quite a few people died in 1910 so on the way home we called at the information centre to find out what happened that year, but sadly he did not know.
Monday 28th November
We took Billy in for a service today, then walked back to the caravan. It was catch up on correspondence day.
Tuesday 29th November
We attended our first ever cattle sale. Not just any old sale but the biggest in Australia. It was really interesting to watch how they do things. Fascinating, how they herd them into pens for the sale and then men on horseback herd them through other gates to the weighbridge. The Auctioneer spoke very fast and it was hard to see who was bidding. There were, of course, plenty of flies about but I was reluctant to give them a swot in case it turned out I had just bought a cow - or worse a bull! After the sale we went into town to do a few errands and try out Roma's Caesar salad. Then it was back home to get ready for tomorrow.
Wednesday 30th November
We got away early and made good time to Surat, a small town whose claim to fame was that it was from here the last Cobb & Co coach did its run.

The town is host to a very good museum that concentrates on the pioneers of the 'mail run'. We spent a little time in the museum and then continued our journey towards St George - on much better roads than the horse-drawn coaches had travelled. The roads in those days were more bush tracks and when it rained everyone riding on the top crammed inside with other passengers. They also had to confront swollen rivers and probably highwaymen. Not a life for the faint hearted.

We arrived at St George in plenty of time for lunch. We called in at the caravan park office and a note on the door stated that they were out, and to set up camp wherever we wanted and see them later. We set up camp and had lunch, then called at the office on our way to town. Still no sign of anyone. We had a look around town. The information centre here is excellent and we left with heaps of information yet again.

We had a look at some of the tourist attractions, one being a Pilot's Memorial. This was different on two counts. We have seen many memorials to soldiers but dedicated ones to pilots are unusual. There were, in fact, just two pilots on this memorial, both from St George. One was killed in action and the other one died not that many years ago. The latter was an Aborigine and was the only Aboriginal pilot in WWII. When he trained he came 4th overall in his group.

Next on the list was the Egg place. Peter has covered it on the website so I'll not repeat it here. I will say though, it was a magical place, it simply took your breath away. Peter's photos are good, of course, but they do not really do the eggs justice, you would have to see them to appreciate them.

We also checked the old Cobb & Co Hotel. This had quite a lot of history as it was built in the late 1800's. We then went back to the caravan park and attempted to pay our rent for two nights. Again no one was there. Marg came to see us later and told us to fix it up tomorrow. We could sneak out during the night!