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A Queensland Sojourn

A Queensland Sojourn

My initial plans of settling in  Sunshine Coast because of old memories of a quiet place in the 1980s changed because the area is now hugely developed. In addition, I was feeling the winter cold in Caloundra so I decided to follow the sun northward and then inland to see more of the ‘real’ Australia.

I had planned to begin my journey in the Toyota Coaster Motorhome fitted by The Motorhome Conversion Company in June 2015 but started later in July with only a few days to pack the bus and trailer. I left Caloundra on July 21st spending five days in Bundaberg catching up with old work colleagues, friends and a few games of golf. My first stop was Rockhampton, the beef cattle hub in Queensland. Rockhampton was not an ideal place to stop but I had to pick up medicinal supplies which was convenient. With the temperature rising, the coastal area around Yeppoon was more attractive and so it was a very short stop.

Transitioning from a unit to a motorhome is not easy but I started adapting to the restricted space in the bus and it already started feeling like home, albeit some improvements! The next stop was Cape Palmerston, a deviation along a country road 20 kms east of the highway with wide open spaces on the caravan park and a few metres to a deserted beach and creek. From a peaceful place, I headed next to Airlie Beach - the coastal resort for the Whitsunday Islands.  It is undoubtedly a beautiful stretch but over-developed. My earlier memories were of 1966 when I worked on a small coastal cargo ship that traded up the reef, the Gulf of Carpentaria and to Darwin.

With a brief stopover in Ayr, it was onward to the Undara Volcanic National Park recommended by a neighbour in Caloundra. Queensland has a range of dormant volcanic activity just inland and right up through.  Whilst I was travelling north I experienced three minor earth tremors. Undara is probably the most spectacular area with several craters and lava tubes.  Many of the tubes have collapsed over time forming lush rain forest oases.  I was able to walk through some of these surviving lava tubes that were up to ten metres in diameter.

The next stop was Cairns and the land completely changed from parched with dry creeks to dense rain forest, mist and rain. My route was through the Scrub National Park before climbing the Atherton Tableland. The rain continued all the way down into Cairns and the caravan park area was lush. I last visited Cairns in the late 1960s when it was a quiet little town but now found it as a bustling city with a cosmopolitan population, shops, sidewalk cafés and a huge water park for all ages.  The ocean isn’t safe for swimming due to jellyfish, sharks and salt water crocodiles!

It was now time to head west so I turned south until near Townsville, then turned west through Charters Towers and Hughenden before continuing to Richmond and Julia Creek. Despite the hardship caused by the prolonged drought the small populations were all helpful and friendly. Locals groups, like the QCWA (Queensland Country Women’s Association) organised open air camp dinners to raise money for local charities and to tell us about the local close-knit community.

From Julia Creek I turned north stopping at Burke & Wills Roadhouse Van Park, and thereafter to Karumba on the Gulf of Carpentaria. On my return, I deviated along the fork to Cloncurry, and then through Winton, famous for its opals and dinosaur fossils. The area is so rich in fossils that there are over twenty digs done for only in two or three weeks but processed for the rest of the year. The area is quite beautiful with ranges of hills and isolated mesas which I was able to view from some of the escarpments overlooking extensive channel country. It was then to Longreach, which is famous for its Stockman’s Hall of Fame and the Qantas museum.

My next stop was Tambo on the Barcoo river and back to the Sunshine Coast for an appointment with a specialist to ensure I was surviving the travelling lifestyle! En route were Charleville, Roma and Kingaroy where I encountered green grass for the first time in two months.

Caloundra seemed like a big city after most of the places so I was quite happy to leave after three days.  I travelled south and south west through Brisbane, Toowoomba and made it to the small town of Millmerran towards the NSW border.  On 4th October I headed south to cross the NSW border at Goondiwindi on my way to Narrabri which is continued in my NSW travels ...

Tags: Camping Stories, Travel Stories

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