Monday 20th September, Noccundra to Thargomindah.
What a beautiful sunny morning! Not a cloud in the sky tho a brisk breeze was keeping the temperature unseasonably low, 9 degrees first thing! But it warmed up and, as we had not far to go, we did a fairly leisurely pack-up. Brian attempted to clean the back of the car but it was still absolutely CAKED with red and grey mud from yesterday. There are clods about six inches thick stuck under the wheel arches and the running boards are just covered in it. We left before ten and drove easily towards Thargomindah. We stopped in the Grey Ranges for our usual coffee (I have a routine now of making coffe at the same time as our breakfast cup of tea, and putting it in the thermos ready for 10.30 on the dot when we are ready for it when we are driving) There are marvellous flowers here again, slightly different from those on the seemingly endless plains behind us. Then we travelled down into the channel country away from the Wilson River of Noccundra into Bulloo River country. Noccundra was once a town but now it is just a pub and some public loos and showers. Round the pub there is a lot of temporary accommodation mainly for miners and main-roads workers. There is a rather nice sign just outside the town asking trucks to stop and drop their bull-dust outside the town area! We arrived in Thargomindah (which means cloud of dust) before lunch and settled into the local van park where there were us and two others; it seemed glorious and very close to the riverbank. We did the river walk and saw great white egrets, pelicans, cormorants, martins etc. and we saw the Cobb and Co stone crossing of the Bulloo River. Brian took the Prado down to the local Toyota agent for an oil change (and, as it turned out, an air conditioner filter change). The fellow there told us where there is a cemented river crossing to take the car to get the mud off. Well, that was a lot of fun and you should have seen the great clods of mud that dropped off after each dowsing in the river. We must have run it back and forth through the crossing half a dozen times and now it is kilos lighter! When we got back to the van park it was absolutely full! A busload of the Royal Geographical Society of Queensland (RGSQ) members had put up 20 two people tents and also has about a dozen other 4x4s, tents and vans. Our washing was lost in a mass of other people's wet washing rewetting some of ours; most annoying; don't like having so many people around! It was a wonderful sunset however, and the moon, tho setting very early, is nearly full. It was just a crescent when we were at Hawker, which I suppose is ten days ago now!
Tuesday 21st September, Thargomindah to Bindegolli Lakes and back.
The beautiful clear night led to a drop in temperature, 6 degrees this morning! It soon warmed up tho and turned into the most perfect day. We had a slow morning; no point in trying to do anymore washing as all those RGSQs who hadn't done it yesterday were doing it today and the lines were full. This crowd are staying tonight as well and we met them at almost every turn today. A lucky break for us (though not for them) was a mechanical problem with their bus which meant that only three or four of the 4x4s went to Bindegolli at the time that we went! What a beautiful place that is. The lakes are the end of the Queensland Channel Country rivers and are a mix of salt and fresh water. B and I walked along the lake edge for a kilometre or so getting right away from most of the RGSQs and saw lots of birds and, again, different flowers. All round the lake edge were the prettiest desert fuchsia bushes, white-cream or soft pink and absolutely laden with flowers. There were heaps of harebells (Australian bluebells) and some tiny, tiny pink and white flowers too. The lakes are a cloudy bluey-greeny grey colour today and completely mirror like. We had our coffee way away down the lakeside then made our way back spotting a couple of white winged fairy wrens and a grass wren on the way. We had thought we were going to be lucky and be able to sit in the shade of the shelter for lunch without any RGSQs, but four of them came and sat with us. They weren't too bad; it is just en masse that they become too much! After lunch we drove into the bush camping area; how lovely would it be to stay there? Jenny and Werner apparently did on the night after they left us. B and I found a shady spot and I drew while he zzz'd and then we went spotting waterfowl. When we made our way back to the entrance, who should be filling it up but crowds of RGSQs, the big Polleys busload. They were just where the greatest number and variety of water birds were. Anyway we got a look and then drove back to Thargo. Brian wanted to see the old bore-water steam powered electricity station and there was a demonstration of it working at 4.30pm. Well, who should turn up at 4.28pm but they were all there, the busload and the 4x4s. By this time I was thoroughly fed up with them, especially as some of them smoke which made it pretty unpleasant to be in the demo shed near them. The demonstration was interesting. Thargomindah was the third city in the world to have electric powered street lighting (albeit only three streets) after London and Paris. It was the first in Australia to have overhead powerlines, forcing a change in the law so anywhere in Australia could also do so, and the first town in Australia to have a reticulated water system. Real groundbreakers out here! Anyway, at the end of the demo the RGSQs were invited to drinks with the mayor but, thankfully, not us! We went back to the van for a perfect evening; wonderful sunset and beef curry and beer, cheers!
Wednesday 22nd September, Thargomindah to Quilpie.
Not such a chilly night, but cool enough. We'd bought fresh eggs from the office yesterday afternoon so we had boiled eggs for brekky and they were delicious. We did an easy pack-up amidst the busy, busy packing-up of the RGSQs not sorry to leave all of them behind! The drive to Quilpie was very easy and full of wildlife. I saw a Major Mitchell cockatoo with its crest up, and then there were several lots of emus; one flock of sixteen and another of eleven and yet another of a dad and about twelve young. As it was the second warm day in a row, the lizards were out on the bitumen warming themselves (one or two already flattened). We saw three or four kinds, the bluetongue shingle-backs, bearded dragons and various skink types, but no actual frilly lizards sadly. We also encountered our first mob of locusts, so we stopped and put the green mesh on the front of the car; just in time as it happened as we then went through a fair cloud of them. As we approached Quilpie we both thought of Beryl as she came from here and today she has been admitted to RBH for major surgical removal of a large stomach tumour. We talked to Ron a few minutes ago and the operation has been delayed to Friday now but she is in the hospital undergoing further tests. We saw the station where she grew up as we drove in from Thargo. Quilpie is considerably larger than Thargomindah and we ate lunch in the bakery and did some food shopping and then headed out for the free camping area along the banks of Lake Houdraman. Banjo Paterson wrote a poem about this lake area. "We'll all be rooned," said Hanrahan. We were camped in the shade of some box trees (NOT the red gum which might drop branches) right on the edge of the lake with one other lot of campers about two hundred metres away and that's all. It is really lovely with spoonbills, pelicans, large white egrets and little black diver ducks, frogs creaking beside us and peewees calling overhead. There were a couple of motorbike riders behind us on the tracks through the grass but they have gone now so all is quiet.
Thursday 23rd September, Lake Houdraman, Quilpie.
As the glorious sunset portended, today was a hot sunny day, even the night was warm first time since we went away. We even got up in shorts. The breeze kept it from being unpleasantly hot in fact it was just perfect. We spent the whole day working hard at doing nothing. I went for a walk, binoculars in hand, down to the end of the public land and saw a black-faced dotterel and an Australian pratincole, lots of black-faced woodswallows and a ground cuckoo-shrike, or rather a pair of them. I just love the peaceful doves that are around too, they are so little and pretty. There are also small bushes of sea-heath, a very pretty little pink flower with succulent leaves. All was well until late morning when two motorbikes and a quad bike appeared and roared around a bit. That was followed quite swiftly by a jet ski on the lake and some loud music a few hundred metres away. Our peace was shattered and all the spoonbills, pelicans, egrets and ibises flew away as did most of the ducks. One very grumpy old woman here; not happy! I got absorbed in a painting tho while B. built a campfire and sorted his caches so the noisy time passed. By five o'clock they had all packed up and quietened down (even the second, larger jet ski) and we had quiet again and our frogs started up as yesterday. Last night I felt sure someone had left a dog in a car somewhere as I could hear; wuff, wuff, wuff, wuff but when I got out to have a pee I realised that it was a frog, not a dog! It has been a lovely, lovely day staying in one place despite the noisy invasions. I'm glad we are off before the weekend tho as I'm sure the noise factor will get worse then.
Friday 24th September, Lake Houdraman to Nardoo.
Despite our fears it was a lovely peaceful night and the lake was beautiful in the early morning light. We had originally thought to go and camp by the Paroo River near Eulo but at breakfast our water ran out so we decided to go somewhere with water and loos and showers. The pub grounds at Eulo and the showgrounds in Cunnamulla seemed too ordinary so we plumped for Nardoo, a property north of Cunnamulla about thirty Kilometres. On our way we had to retrace our steps towards Thargomindah for quite some way and we stopped again at the Toompine Hotel, the pub without a town as it calls itself, rather like Noccundra. On the way down we'd had a drink there and were joined by a local beekeeper and his young sidekick. The beekeeper was local in that he worked his hives around the Quilpie/Thargo area sometimes putting them on rockmelons and sometimes on local trees. He said he was getting quite a bit of wildflower honey at the moment and made a face; maybe wildflower honey doesn't sell well. I would have thought it would be a bit of a drawcard, but what do I know? We stopped in Eulo having driven the small, slightly wiggly (!) road down from Toompine over the top of the water divide between the Bulloo and the Paroo. We saw LOTS of lizards and emus and, again, wildflowers. Eulo is very small. We bought toasted sandwiches at the general store and I found a couple of little local opal stones that I bought for souvenirs. We had stopped earlier at the Date Farm and tasted some date wine and date liqueur; very sticky and sweet. And there were some tubs of Paroo Honey, probably our friend at Toompine's brew. So we bought some of that and some yummy dried figs. We were happy with our decision not to stay in Eulo and drove on the Cunnamulla. Brian reckons it is a boring place but I quite liked the look of it. It has been considerably tarted up since he visited about four years ago. We filled the car up there much cheaper than the last fill that was at Noccundra, I suppose that is not surprising. We drove on up to Nardoo along part of the Mitchell Highway. For a lot of the way the road edges were an absolute mass of the Australian bluebell such a pretty purply blue; it looked gorgeous. There lots of emus to be seen too, and one was on the road. Luckily Brian slowed right down because although it had reached the verge on one side, when we approached it became frightened and ran back onto the road and over the other side; such an ungainly run and absolutely in the wrong direction. Nardoo is a sheep station that has set itself up as a tourist centre. It has van sites, tent sites and cabins and an artesian bore and animals etc. We were fitted in over the other side of the drive from the main powered sites with a lead to the power on some cabins. But it all works very well. I had a brief soak in the bore water hot-tub and very hot it was too! It was followed up by a spray in the section set up with jets coming out of all the walls made of a large tank. That was great fun and marvellous after two nights with no showers. At sundown the van tourists all met up round the enormous campfire for a drink and a chat. Met a forensic dentist from Westmead in Sydney who'd been involved in identifying bodies after the Bali bombing and the wars in the Congo. There was also his wife and a couple from Melbourne, Trish (all rollered up white hair, short shorts and jewellery!) and husband, Dave (I think) and a dogmatic couple telling us all what to read and a jolly fellow and his large wife. He stoked the fire and she explained how she is cutting down on carbs and fat to lower her blood sugar. And then there was Carmel, the owner of the property whose husband was in a bad motorbike smash earlier this year and who has her oldest and youngest children (of four) still at home. It was all very jolly and a pleasant evening.
Saturday 25th September, Nardoo to Nindigully Pub.
Clear, chilly night, bright sunny morning and time for a final egg and bacon breakfast. Easy departure by nine o'clock and then a long straight drive down to St George. I tried to photograph the verges covered with Aussie bluebells but they close up overnight and weren't properly open for us this morning; most frustrating. Again the saving grace of this, otherwise boring, drive was the lush vegetation and wonderful masses of flowers. I rather like St George, big dam on the Balonne River overflowing with water this year, tho Brian said it was just a few puddles when he was here four years ago. We managed to buy squungy white bread sandwiches at the BP station as all the cafes were closing up because it is Saturday. We ate lunch by the river and then went off to find a cache at the Beardmore Dam. It was an easy find and so we just went on out to the Nindigully pub expecting to be one of two or three campers there. Not a bit of it! There were at least a dozen tents and vans along the edge of the Moonie River here. We've had a beer in the pub opened in 1864 and we will go back for a shower and a meal later on this evening.
Sunday 26 September, Nindigully to Oakey Creek Reserve.
We had a meal of six chops on a lamb rack EACH, plus mushy peas and mash rather spoilt by a fancy jus with olives and vinegar in it. Plenty of it tho and eaten in the old dining room with a wobbly floor, sideways planked walls and a very high ceiling. There were HEAPS of people there, one 4x4 trekking group of about forty people and many others too. Luckily we had a nice isolated spot away from most, tho a B-double turned up about 8pm and put its generator on to keep its freight cold. Most unsociable!! I think someone must have said something as he moved on a bit later, thank heavens. This morning early it was glorious with glassy water in the Moonie River reflecting all the trees round about. A bit later the other big vans and big-rigs started up their own generators so we were happy to move on. It was a lovely place tho. We drove merrily to Goondiwindi noticing as we went how much water there was on the side of the road. When we turned off onto the Gore Highway to Milmerran at Goondi there was a sign up saying Road Closed, Flooding. We rang the number they gave for further info only to wait ages as the recorded message went through ALL the south west roads; Longreach, Thargomindah, Charleville, Quilpie and then finally the Gore Highway only to find all that was said was that it was closed, no further info at all. A group of us decided to try it and went only a few hundred metres before the first lot of water over the road. Well, we braved that as it was only 0.4 metres up and the next one 0.3M and the next two at 0.2M and then sailed along to the Moonie turn off only to be met by a few coming back down the road and one fellow who had been listening in to the truckies UHF said the next patch was 0.8-1M up and rising and it really was closed. The truckies were diverting to Toowoomba via Warwick. So we changed tack and went easily out to Moonie and into Dalby from there; no flood problems at all. Lunch at Moonie in the Crossroads Roadhouse was classic burger and chips but endless mugs of tea for free if you did eat-in and not take-away. On our way into Dalby we decided not to stay in town there but to go on out to the Oakey Creek reserve; free camping, no power, no water but loos. We wanted our last night out to be somewhere lovely. And it was! It is a beautiful big open space on a bend in the creek about five kilometres off the main road with some wonderful big trees. Being a Sunday night, there was hardly anyone there. We parked in the dry area up at the top because down next to the creek it was pretty boggy. The creek was flowing fast and looked great and we were able to watch a pair of kingfishers over the creek. We decided it would do us very well for our last night. The van was looking considerably cleaner underneath following its repeated dunkings in the creeks this morning. It will still take a lot of cleaning when we get home not least the inside where the bulldust has collected. It has done us really well and we are now pretty slick in our set-up and takedown.
Monday 27th September, Oakey Creek to Brisbane.
Glorious, glorious morning, a heavy dew had fallen so we have to wait for the canvas to dry before packing up. What a shame this all has to end!