Meet Stanley and come visit 3 pubs in the scrub

After lunch we passed Lightning Ridge’s newest icon, an 18 metre emu called Stanley. Originally conceived by local artist John Murray for the Birdsville Track, due to bureaucracy, it ended up in the artist’s home town of Lightning Ridge, where it was only opened this May.

We then took a self-drive tour through opal fields past a cemetery with a classic Aussie grave (Akubra hat and longneck beer bottle on it) to 3 pubs in the scrub.

First came the Grawin Opal Miners Golf Club known as the Club in the Scrub, where we had a drink and met a local called Reg and a friend.

The two of them took us to visit the new Sheepyard War Memorial and Reg described how he had been a key force behind its creation. It had a special feel, with a lone pine similar to those at Gallipoli and memorials to Korean and Vietnamese wars. Beyond the war memorial we came to Sheepyard Inn.

Finally we got to the Glengarry Hilton. We didn’t have time for a drink there as we’d left a prescription at the chemist before lunch and been told that it would be ready by 3.15! Apparently they close for lunch.

They have their own way of doing things out here. Living is cheap for a miner – no power or water bills and rates and lease of $200 a year respectively.







Crossing the border: from cotton to opal

We started the morning with a walk along the Ballone River at St George, where a high red pole indicated last year’s record flood level. St George is pleasant town servicing the cotton and cattle industries. A mural in the main street depicted cotton harvest and production.

A couple of fellow travellers were working out on the exercise equipment beside the river pathway, killing time while their 4WD was being repaired.

After a cappuccino and cake, we headed south past self-sown roadside cotton and through the village of Hebel. Here I was photographing the store and a biker posed in front of it.

We crossed the state border from Queensland to New South Wales in a remote arid part and continued to Lightning Ridge, famous for mining the beautiful black opal. I think of my father who made my mother a beautiful opal and gold pendant.








Cowboys and girls on the Inland Way

After learning about the local oilfields and natural gas deposits by going through the Big Rig museum at Roma, then being tempted to a cappuccino and pumpkin scone, we hit the Inland Way to St George, southwestern Queensland, Australia.

This is a stock route and we shared the highway with two herds of cattle and their stockmen and a stock girl – much more interesting than yesterday’s roadworks, although we had some road trains carrying ore.

We are back on the red earth and have now left the long grass for mulga scrub.







Roma – worth bottling

Heading south and homeward, we crossed The Great Dividing Range to Roma, still in Queensland, Australia.

We were held up by roadworks – there is a lot of infrastructure investment going on in inland Queensland. Oh well, I guess it will make travel better in the future.

Roma has a pleasant short walk along the Adungadoo Pathway, under river gums and complete with fitness equipment and wetlands with wood ducks and a spoonbill.

There are several hundred bottle trees down main street in memory of those who died in the wars. The largest is impressively fat, as David is demonstrating below.

Roma was the birthplace of the Australian gas and oil industry, when they put down drills searching for water and got some petrochemical surprises. In the 1920s, they had some oilmen from the US come over and advise. The industry is booming and the visitors’ centre has a sound and light display depicting the history and a museum with a film on life on remote rig sites.

Roma also is centre to a thriving cattle industry, with large stockyards.







Carnarvon Gorge walking track – not a walk in the park (although it is)

Today we did a walk up Carnarvon Gorge, in the Central Highlands of Queensland, Australia.

There is a 10km walk up Carnarvon Gorge with several side walks, including the Moss Garden featured in yesterday’s blog. Allowing for photo pauses, rest breaks, lunch stop, it took us nearly seven hours to go most of the length of the gorge and do three of the side trips. The first of these was an ancient Aboriginal burial site with stencilled handprints, emu footprints and dozens of engraved vulvas. Sacred women’s business perhaps. After going further up and having lunch on a rock beside the river, we doubled back and went up Ward’s Canyon which had sensational red-stained rocks that were reminiscent of the Aboriginal art that we had seen in the morning. Finally we climbed metal staircases to enter a vast natural amphitheatre in the sandstone gorge.

Our legs are stiff and we look forward to an early night – but the walk totalling 16 km was well worth the effort.






Emu Bay, seaside village with a Singing Ship

Emu Bay, on the Capricorn Coast of Central Queensland, Australia is a pretty seaside town with a Singing Ship Memorial to Captain James Cook, who landed here in 1770.

We walked along the shore, gazing at the islands offshore. Seagulls played in the shallows, a woman walked her handsome Malamud dog, a clever artist had made tepees of driftwood.

We walked back through the village, drawing on memories of seaside holidays of childhood.






Airlie Beach – a place for water play

Airlie Beach, in tropical Queensland, Australia, is a playground for those who enjoy water activities. A walk along the boardwalk provided an opportunity to watch people sailing, kayaking, standing up water boarding, swimming and just soaking up the sunshine.

Shute Harbour is where the ferry plies across to the Whitsunday islands with provisions, while Conway National Park has patches of dense rainforest where the light and shadow provide a photographic challenge.

In short, a great place to hang out for a while.






Sugar cane, Bruce Highway roadworks and family catch-up

Leaving Townsville, we followed the Bruce Highway, Queensland, Australia south past fields of sugar cane and narrow gauge trains carrying the cane to mills.

It was hard to find a spot to pull over for a break as the highway is undergoing extensive roadworks, meaning that rest spots were often closed and that traffic was channelled into one lane.

We were delighted to arrive here at my cousin Kerrie’s and to catch up with her, husband Tom and family and friends and be entertained royally in the tropical paradise that they call home.





Magnetic island attraction

Magnetic Island, North Queensland, Australia, confused Captain Cook because the iron in the bedrock messed up the ship’s compass. Today it drew us with it’s magnetism. Sadly my photo of a humpback whale passing the ferry failed. But the island itself is a largely unspoiled tropical paradise, with towering hoop pines gazing down on visitors.

We walked round to Gregory Bay and enjoyed pizza gamberoni e salmone at an authentic pizzeria, where the staff bellowed cheerfully at each other in Italian. Then came the hard part – despite the tropical heat, we decided to challenge ourselves with a 6.3k walk over the central mountain range. We were rewarded with views of dryland and tropical wilderness.

We didn’t confirm our accommodation in time so had to shift to a caravan park by the Ross River, of mosquito-born virus fame. They fog the bathrooms daily, presumably to reduce the mozzie population. We’re going to dine indoors!





The Strand, Townsville where everything happens

A walk along The Strand, Townsville, the capital of north Queensland, Australia, is a fantastic experience in people-watching.

There are beach volley ball games, swimmers in a grand pool, kids on a flying fox, off-duty workers paddling longboats past luxury leisure yachts in the harbour and people soaking up the atmosphere at outdoor cafes and gelati stores.

A much better experience than being here for the hospital as we were three years ago. This is paradise.