Saturday, August 29, 2015

Nebo and Elphinstone Townships.

The other day whilst driving to Elphinstone Lake, and the free camp by the lake, my GPS was directing me to roads and streets that just weren't there. And the map on the screen was showing a grid of streets that weren't there. Later I found the reason whilst reading the signs along the Nebo Creek tourist walk.

A quote from the sign:
"Elphinstone was established as a town back in 1859, it flourished for a short time then gradually declined. Nothing of the town remains today." Well that's certainly true, other than a grid on my GPS, that is!

Could that be the forecast for some of today's outback towns, currently in decline? Back then they loaded the buildings on a dray and took them away to make or add to a town some place else. Lots of pub buildings had multiple locations before they found their final resting place: aka Linville Hotel.

Nebo was a surprise. I was expecting a pub and not much more. Instead I found a large residential town (mostly mining accommodation) with a pub and not much more. Well other than the biggest under cover rodeo stadium I've ever seen. Apparently this is the biggest rodeo, with the most prize money, and held in May every year. There is also a camp draft arena within the grounds. It's way more upmarket than the Eureka Creek facility out near Dimbulah on the Burke Dev Road in FNQ.

Asking about provisions and general shopping a local told me they drive to Mackay for other than milk, bread and the like. That's about 200km return each time. Hmm, the cost of living in the country!

Stayed the night in the show grounds, quiet, spacious, shady, power, water, and hot showers, all for free, nice. No caretaker, no honesty box, no problem...
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Nebo Hotel - a great example of a Queensland Pub.

Elphinstone history.

Nebo Rodeo Stadium.

And the Camp Draft facility.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Elphinstone Lake.

The Bowen Coal Basin extends about 500km, from Collinsville at it's north to Theodore and Rolleston in the south in a near vertical key hole sort of shape.

Driving south to Elphinstone Lake, you pass one coal mine after another, and for the most part following the railway line that carries the coal to the coast, at Bowen. The road is not overly good or bad, some sections narrow, undulating and rolling in others, but sealed all the way.

A very popular free camp is located on the banks of the Elphinstone Lake and affords views of the lake and the rocky outcrops around. It's close to the road but the traffic is light. It's not unusual to find lots of caravans and RVs here during the winter months, about 60/night atm. It's a big space and there is plenty of room to move. The lake has lots of water birds and the fishing is supposedly good. The sunrise each morning is spectacular!

Expected to stay one night or maybe two but after three I'm running out of fresh food provisions.

The Plan: spend most of the day here then drive to Nebo for the night and have a meal at the pub. The google lady, inside my phone, says its 63km.

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The Bowen Coal Basin.


The view from the the rocky outcrop.

The view from my SUP on the lake.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Collinsville - a town in decline?

The story so far at Collinsville is just a bit depressing, probably more so than other non-coastal towns in regional Australia. Walking around the streets the number of houses for sale, or just abandoned and over grown, seems more than reasonable.

A 28 room motel and the pub across the main street are for sale and possible site redevelopment and both aren't currently trading. Not encouraging for potential buyers.

So the last time I was in town, about two years ago, the price of coal was around $100/ton. Today it's more like $50/ton, and I'm told there has been retrenchment of 80 workers recently and those families have had to move away to find work elsewhere.

The local real estate agent is being proactive, trying to excite the market, by having a "mega-auction"; 11 properties all at once. A resident I spoke to told me her house was worth about $250k a few years ago and today her agent says "realistically expect about $60k". Even if she wanted to she can't move away, the loss too great. But she thinks she is lucky, she has a non mining related job.

It's another sign the town is hurting when the council looks to tourism to help the main street traders stay in business; it's free for self-contained RVs to stay at the show grounds.

Coal has always been boom and bust but I have a feeling we won't see another boom. It's doubtful it will ever come back again, in this climate.

So the kids finishing school have to move away to find work. Their parents stay while they have a job. No new families come to town. Bit by bit the population gets older. The schools close, more jobs go. Shops and traders servicing younger people close. The town can less and less afford public services. More lost jobs. More people move away. Finally the older residents have to move away to be closer to health and aged services and of course the kids.

Last one to go, please turn out the lights.

Signs of a previous mining bust.

Signs of the current one.

From 100% occupancy to zero, bit by bit. 

Best of luck with that!

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Inkerman Hill.

Early morning start, off before sunrise. Hoping to get a good shot from the top of Inkerman Hill, just 10km south of Home Hill. (Makes me wonder, Home Hill... but there is no hill at Home Hill?)

It's a 2km bitumen road to the top, some 200m up and according to the sign unsuitable for caravans, buses and trucks, and that's good advise. Well I was always intending to walk it anyway.

These steep walks always seem easier going up than coming down, easier on the legs that is. A brisk ~20mins each way.

Its a good way to start, means I can now do unhealthy stuff for the rest of the day ;)

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From the top looking south.

From the road south looking back.

Me and My Shadow?

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Home Hill - chooks.

There is a saying "what goes around, comes around".

At my camp spot a bunch of chooks come around scratching the ground and clucking. So being an eco friendly good guy I offer them some tucker and I'm very popular. So much so that one of them decides to stay. Hmm temptation -but I already have my dinner sorted for tonight ;)

But hay I hadn't considered breakfast tomorrow. Thanks Chook.

chooka chook.

Do you want to come for dinner chook?

What goes around comes around.

Breakfast, well almost.

Townsville Goodbye.

Been in and around here for so long I've been expecting the council to send me a Rates Notice. Definitely time to leave.

It's a relatively short cruise down to Ayr and Home Hill through cane and cattle country on a smooth, broad highway.

Ayr has all the facilities a traveller could require and Home Hill a couple of reasonable places to stop.

The price of fuel in Ayr, in my case diesel, is 19c per litre cheaper than Townsville, go figure?  Makes a bit of a difference when buying about 150 litres at a time. So filled the MH with fuel and the fridge with provisions for the next few days and stopped for the night at Home Hill.

Have a plan firming up: Down to Bowen then leave the coast heading to Collinsville and coal country. On to Elphinstone Lake, then the Fitzroy Dev Hwy to Middlemount and on to the Capricorn Hwy at Dingo. Hmm see how we go.

Townsville BP servo - My neighbours for the night. Hope none are refrigerated!
Townsville BP servo - Always handy having a supermarket across the road.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Pallarenda Day 2

Back to Pallarenda Conservation Park for a second go at some of the better walking trails.

This time a hike to the radar tower going up via a goat track from the fort ruins. Also did sections of the Under The Radar Trail and then connecting to Many Peaks Trail back to the car park. About 12km in all. Some good views but as is usual the photos don't show the gradient as it really is.

As I climbed toward the 'radar' I was thinking it looks more like a monument to the game of soccer than a radar dish but standing under it I could hear humming and whirring and my hair was standing on end. (Well it always does when you have a crew cut)

Early morning best time of day.

Half way up.

Or halfway down?

The soccer ball. Proof that I got there.


Friday, August 14, 2015

Townsville - Cape Pallarenda

Back to Townsville. Breakfast in the park, people watching at The Strand, then a ride around Rowes Bay and out to Cape Pallarenda quarantine station and Conservation Park. Inspected more fort emplacements and rode a rough track that ended at a small secluded beach.

Overall an easy mostly flat ride of about 20km, the highlight and surprise being the nudie beach at the Cape. But it appeared a bit cool to be out today.

Looking back to Townsville from Cape Pallarenda.

The old gun emplacement and a new radar installation at the Cape.

Monday, August 10, 2015


Too soon to head south, not warm enough below Rockhampton and the 23rd parallel, for me anyway.

About 90km south from Townsville is Ayr and Home Hill and inland from Home Hill is Dalbeg. It looks interesting and is a nice rural drive along the Burdekin River for about 60kms to arrive at a very small farming community, at the end of the road, with no services. Unfortunately no access to the river either.

Looking for somewhere to have lunch and maybe stay for the night so pulled into a farm called the Dalbeg Inn. A shop selling necessities as well as a bar on the side, looking very casual. Very basic older donger accommodation and young people walking about, hmm interesting?

Asked the lady behind the bar if camping was available and she said with incredulity "what here?" Um yep, my reply. "Well I'm not sure why you would want to stay here we cater for backpackers who pick all day and play all night."

Decided to move on after having lunch, back toward Home Hill for the night.

They still burn the cane before harvest at Home Hill.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Magnetic Island - take two.

At the terminal in plenty of time for the 8:45am ferry. The ferries do the crossing about 20 times each way every day from about 6:30am to midnight. It's a quick trip, in 30 mins and you are on the ground ready to go at the other end. Those of us with our own transport get the jump on the others; them having to wait for the bus or organize a car, etc.

Riding to the WW2 fort ruins was high on my agenda and turned out to be a worth while stop. Chained the bike to the information sign at the head of the 4km return walking only trail and was checking the map when I fell into conversation with Christine and we decided to walk it together. She turns out to be a wine lab technician and she told me some very interesting stuff about wine making. She has also been volunteering at the V8s here in Townsville for several years. Interesting person.

Rode on to Horseshoe Bay and had lunch sitting at a picnic shelter under the trees with a lovely view of the ocean. Then back over the hill, about 2km of walking and pushing the bike up a very steep rise, back to Nelly Bay. Then a short ride to Picnic Bay and another steep hill, walking, pushing the bike again. Generally the down hill rush makes up for the up hill push.

Regular readers would have gathered, over time, that I don't usually do the main stream touristy stuff but I'm loving Magnetic Island as a touristy place to go. It's got appeal, not sure exactly why? Might come back with the bike and a tent next time. Nah joking! Book a cabin or a room with a comfy bed, more likely. 
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Pushed the bike up some hiking trails - this is steeper than it looks!

Ahhh cute!

The fort powder room, no gun powder!

Observation post.

Horseshoe Bay.

Yep its another bay.

The observation post viewed from the gun emplacement.

Horseshoe Bay a great place to have lunch.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Oops another rant! - Balgal Beach

Walking around in the early morning looking to take a sunrise photo but its all much the same and the light not special. Then I see a caravanner, parked illegally overnight by the beach, and he's taking his black water trolley cassette out of the van. He walks it down toward the beach and finds a tree where he empties it. I have my camera in my hand, tempted to record the moment but I stop. This is not who I want to be, the monitor, the recorder of things not right. I think to myself; if I wasn't here it would still be happening and an old Polish saying comes to mind "not my circus, not my monkeys". Shit happens and in this case I know, I saw.

The ranger is coming today, every Monday and Thursday apparently. All the overstaying free-loaders have to move out of the free camps before he arrives and records their vehicle regos. (48 hour maximum stay here and only once in 7 days).

I overhear my neighbour talking to others and the story goes like this: an ever increasing group of people, mostly with out-of-state plates, move from free camp to free camp in this area for months at a time. The council are aware and try to move them along so that bona fide travellers can enjoy the area as well.

The story teller expressed indignation to her audience about this sort of behaviour but later in the conversation inadvertently admits to having stayed 4 night already.

The system the council employs is working better than none at all, but eventually things will have to change and probably big time. But maybe that's what the environment needs?

I think maybe I'm looking for a road less travelled by! (to quote MGB and Robert Frost). 

Monday, August 3, 2015

Balgal Beach

Drove a bit farther south and stopped for a look-see at Balgal Beach. Checked the diary, yep been here back in June 2010. Wasn't going to stop as its a bit busy and a touristy spot but there was a premium spot available in the free camp, with ocean views no less. Hmm, why not?

The view from my lounge room. The sign is referring to the other side of the fence :)

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Rain Escape.

Back to Innisfail after farewelling my campdraft companions. Stayed a couple of nights back at the Garradunga Pub where the publican Cambo and his misses makes everyone so welcome.

But the rain! Tully and Innisfail have this competition going for the highest rainfall recorded, "The Golden Gumboot" award. Well I'm not interested who wins, someone else can record the downfalls! And just a little bit south looks far better weather. Time to go.

Checked out Lucinda, Dungeness, Halifax and Taylor's Beach and had a look at the Ingham Italian Festival before continuing on south.

Been stopping roadside for a while but when pulling into Jourama Falls NP a line from "The Castle" came to mind:

Dale Kerrigan: [voiceover] He loved the serenity of the place
Darryl Kerrigan: Hows the serenity?
Dale Kerrigan: [voiceover] I think he also just loved the word.
Darryl Kerrigan: So much serenity.

Yep another pub shot.

Tempted... but not at 9 in the morning.

Hinchinbrook Island from the creek at Dungerness.

Jetty at Lucinda is over 5km long, wow!