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 The GRAYnomad Chronicles :: #007

Editorial

Central Queensland gorges, what marvellous places. In this issue we visit Cania and Carnarvon Gorges. Cania is the smaller and poorer cousin but still a very pleasant place to spend a couple of days.

Carnarvon is well known to just about everybody it seems, and for good reason. The walks are great, the views are great and, for the moment, the campsite is great. Let's hope it reopens.

 

ANZAC day
This issue spans ANZAC day so I thought I'd spend a little time talking about that. We spent ANZAC day in Baralaba, the town was closed but there were no obvious celebrations or parades.

We did nothing either but I don't feel guilty because there's hardly a day goes by when I don't think how fortunate I am to live in Australia and how it's the sacrifices of people such as our soldiers, sailors, airmen, nurses etc. that make this such a great place to live.

When I was in my teens and twenties all I had to learn was how to add wide wheels to my car, others had to learn how to kill and not be killed.

When the toughest decision I had to make was what night club to take my mates to, others had to decide which valley to take their mates into, knowing that a wrong choice could mean that they didn't come out.

I just can't imagine what it was like and the reason I can't imagine it is because others can.

So thank you to all those who fought to make this country what it is. I am very grateful and, judging by the growing numbers at ANZAC day parades, so is everybody else.

 

 

Sun 14 Apr 2002

After a peaceful night just outside Monto we drive to the rest area 18k north of town, I figure that's enough driving for one day, especially after that long hill done totally in second gear.

And speaking of gears, we have a real problem with third and a beginning problem with fourth. Third gear has begun dropping out when I back off. It's OK while accelerating or climbing a hill but as soon as the pressure comes off the gearbox it pops into neutral.

I seem to remember a friend of ours having a similar problem so I ring him, sure enough he had almost identical symptoms and knows what the problem is.

We can continue driving for the moment but I will try to get it fixed ASAP.

Mon 15 Apr

We drive into Cania Gorge National Park, quite a pleasant drive with wedge-tailed eagles, wallabies and cows to watch and be watched by.

One wallaby that's finished watching anything was dead on the road, we see plenty of this in Australia and I suppose we don't take much notice, but next to it was a dead joey, something I always find a bit sad.

We stop twice to let herds of milk cows cross the road on their way to the diary. Some of the cows walk right past a sign that reads "Another Paul's milk producer, Bert & Erma Smith" or some such. It's a good thing cows don't have a sense of irony or they might wonder why Bert and Erma get the credit.

We book into the Cania Gorge Caravan & Tourist Park situated 7k past the national park's picnic area (which is also the start of most walks). This park has been operating for a long time and in fact we thought it was the only option here. There is however a new one and it's only about 1k from the walks/picnic area.

The park we stayed in was immaculate and the people friendly but the new one might be worth looking into as well.

I go on one of the walks, a short 5-odd kilometres with the first 900m being quite steep. About half way alone there's a delightful ferny grotto and pool.


A fern on one of the walks at Cania Gorge.

Tue 16 Apr

I am up pretty early, on the bike and off to look at a scene I noticed yesterday. The light is lousy so I ride to the end of the park, still nothing catches my eye so I do a U-turn and ride back towards the caravan park.

Just as I am deciding that this is one of those fruitless days that come with the landscape photography territory I spot a cactus growing in a burnt stump, about 100 metres from the road.

Later we both do some bushwalking, it's quite hot and I lug the big camera all over the countryside but to no avail. I don't see a single photo.

Wed 17 Apr

It's off to Biloela today to see about getting the gearbox fixed. Just north of the Cania Gorge turnoff there's a long hill, most of which is a 7% grade. There are a few flat spots but basically the hill is 8k in length. It took us 25 minutes to get to the top.

Previously I had spoken with someone at a workshop in Biloela and we agreed that we could park the truck in their yard and live in it while they fixed the problem.

However, (isn't there always a "however"?) when we get there they decide that their insurance would not cover us while we are on the premises. So it's on to plan B, but first we have to come up with a plan B.

After a few minutes we have one, we park somewhere, I pull the gearbox out of the truck, they collect it, fix it and return it to me, and then I put it back in. This should also save us some money as I do most of the grunt work.

So far so good, but if we are going to be stuck somewhere it might as well be somewhere nice, and Callide Dam (15k out of town) sounds good. I get on a bike to check it out and return half an hour later with good news, it is a nice spot. We move the truck and set up camp at Callide Dam.

By now it's getting late so I get straight under the truck. Before long I have the drive shafts, linkages and half the retaining bolts off. The box is just hanging on a couple of bolts but that's all I can do until they bring a trolley jack out tomorrow.

The sun is setting as I finish so we grab a couple of drinks and walk to the top of the dam wall to watch the brilliant colours. Now what was that saying? "Red sky at night, things are gunna be all right".

Thu 18 Apr

WRONG!! It's "Red sky at night, you're money's gunna take flight".

$3500 to rebuild the gearbox, at least that was the first quote using original Eaton parts. $2800 using third-party bits. Youch.

I'll verify that this is a reasonable price but it sounds about right.

Harry came out from the workshop and we proceed to remove the gear box. I had missed a linkage at the top of the box last night, thank goodness I had the foresight to make the floor sections removable so I could access the various parts of the drive train from above. It would have been impossible to get to the linkage otherwise.


Parked near the shores of Callide Dam. The spare wheel is out to allow us to extract the gearbox from under the truck.


The tools are out again. Note the tarp, a medium size tarp (say 3x6 metres) is invaluable when working under a vehicle on grassy or dirty ground.

Chris reported that there were some frogs trapped in one of the ladies loos so Super Rob (frog rescuer extraordinaire) put his undies on the outside and flew to the frog's aid.

By the time I get there (it took a while to find some red undies) there was only one frog to be seen. He tries to flee back up the S-bend but my hand follows and I soon have him. What a cute little fellow.

I try to put him down but he won't let go so I prise him from my hand and place him on the floor. He sits there for a second then springs onto my leg and holds on half way up my shin. I guess I've made a friend.

I place him in a different area and this time he climbs the wall and disappears over the top.

Fri 19 Apr

I ride into town today and give the go-ahead to fix the gearbox. What with waiting for parts and doing the work we'll be here for several days yet.

The long arm of the water authority catches up with us today, apparently this is a 24 hour camping area. We advise him of our current broken state and he says not to worry, we can stay as long as necessary.

He also told us that the lake is well down at present. We had figured that, because we could see a high-water mark, but the mark was still well below the dam wall.

Our truck is several hundred metres from the shore but he says if the dam was full we'd have wet tyres.

Later I go for a ride to check out the boat ramp. I find it, it's at least a hundred metres long which implies that they are used to fluctuating water levels around here, but at present it's well out of the water. Further down hill there's another, also high and dry. Eventually I find the spot where people actually launch their boats these days, a strip if dirt with some rubber mats for use if you get bogged.

Sun 21 Apr

It's email day. I usually dial in on Sundays to pick up new email and send any I've prepared over the previous week.

Out here though the connection is a bit dicky and I don't want drop outs as I pay for a new call each time.

I find that wandering around the outside of the truck helps...


The road warrior in action, getting email with no wires attached. The laptop's power supply in the background.

...but it would be dark at the time (I don't normally dial until after 7PM, it's half price) so I'd rather be inside. What about the roof? Sure enough I get an even better signal up there so I cart the phone, laptop, torch and a tripod through the rear door of the bedroom.

I hang the phone upside down over the tripod by its cable (it seems to work better if placed away from the metal roof) and secure it with a scrunchy from Chris' hair. I plug in and dial up, no problems.

It seems rather surreal in the pitch black, on top of my Mad Max machine connected to the world wide web with a roof of brilliant stars and planets (I could identify Jupiter and assume the other one was Venus).

I take a photo to show how you can use your email while on the road in the middle of the night on top of a motorhome.


On top of the truck uploading the additions to my web site.

As you can see it didn't turn out to well.

Mon 22 Apr

I uploaded the latest chronicle issue tonight. Once again the only place I can get a good signal is from the rooftop.

What with program bugs and signal dropouts it takes over two hours. I am freezing by the time it has finished.

Tue 23 Apr

Off to the library to do some browsing of my site to see if last night's upload worked. There are a few files missing so I pay a local computer shop $5 to borrow a phone line for a while so I can rectify the problem.

The gearbox is finished this morning and at 2:15PM it arrives at our campsite, along with mechanics Harry and Mark.

Mark is a big burly footballer and that proves useful as the box requires some encouragement to return to captivity.

Once the box is on the spline and a couple of bolts are done up Harry and Mark leave and I complete the job.

Wed 24 Apr

We finish tidying up, top up with water (the picnic area's tap is leaking so I get out some tools and fix it while filling up), then drive into town.

The Biloela Woollies is very large and the prices better than we've seen in towns on the coast. So with this in mind we buy some more food, not that we really need anything but it makes sense to stock up when you can and when the prices are cheap.

We also take on another 250 litres of diesel and 80 litres of petrol.

Leaving Biloela we turn north on the Burnett Highway and head towards Baralaba.

The map shows a turnoff to Baralaba at the village of Jambin and, on entering the town, we do see an unsignposted road heading in the right direction. I am pretty sure it's the road we want but it's time for a break so we park nearby in the picnic area.

Before long the garbage man comes by so I collar him and ask about the way to Baralaba.

"Ooooh" he says with a country drawl. He scratches his chin as his eyes go skyward, "let me see now...you go up this road about ten mile...then you turn left and after a while you get to...you turn hard right...drive past the pub...turn hard left...there's a turnoff to...don't take that...go past the big Boab tree and old farmhouse...".

He lost me at "let me see now" so I point to the road twenty yards away and say, "What about that, were does that go?"

"Awww yeah" he exclaims, "that's the shortcut, you could take that".

I thank him and wait until I am out of sight before bursting into laughter.

We leave Jambin and drive to Baralaba along a good bitumen road, despite the maps we have showing it as largely unsealed.


A "lean too" in a fields along the road to Baralaba.

Thu 25 Apr

Chris and I go for a walk into town. It's ANZAC day so everything is closed.


A shop in the main street.


This diesel pump was almost overgrown and with the price over 90c I'm not surprised.


Signs on the outskirts of town.

Fri 26 Apr

I guess we've all heard about blue-green algae but it's not until we get to the Neville Hewitt Wier at Baralaba that we really appreciated how bad it can get.


We've been seeing a lot of these signs lately.


Anyone for a swim? The algae seems to bloom in the afternoon sun...


...but doesn't look to bad in the morning.

The campsite here is just great and apparently well known as our fellow campers had all been here before and told of times when there were 30-40 vans and motorhomes camped.

It's right on the banks of the Dawson River, which is mostly just a trickle but wider here because of the wier a kilometre or so down stream.

We meet two nice couples at the weir, Denys & Anne and Jerzy & Gail. On the first night we had happy hour, two beers and back to our own rigs at seven. The second night it was three beers and home by nine. And last night I had four beers followed by several glasses of home-made Baily's Irish Cream and we were still carrying on at eleven.

We've got to get out of here, it's too much fun.

Sat 27 Apr

We drive from Baralaba to Rolleston via Woorabinda. The trip is about 150k of which 70k is badly corrugated dirt road.

The truck gives a very rough ride so we drive quite slowly, usually between 15 and 30 kph. Chris comments that she likes the slow pace, it gives her time to look at things. She's not kidding, for a while she was reading the labels of discarded beer bottles as we drove past.

Arriving at Rolleston we check into the caravan park to top up power in the batteries and water in the tanks.

Rolleston hasn't changed much since the last time we were here. One snack bar has closed and another opened, there's also a slightly better selection of groceries, this time at the service station, and the caravan park has been improved, but that's about it.

Our neighbours are the guys from Central & Southern Earthmoving and they're in the area building dams, they have a mess van and a five-birth transportable for accommodation, both of which are dropped in a caravan park while they build dams on the surrounding area. They've just done one 4km around, now that's a big dam.

Sun 28 Apr

We leave Rolleston, drive across the Comet River (now totally dry) and turn south onto the Carnarvon Development Road, towards Carnarvon Gorge.

We're not booked into the Gorge until tomorrow so we drive past the turnoff looking for a road to Lake Nuga Nuga. We never find the road but we both think we remember a camping spot a few kilometres down the road.

After driving 40k without finding the spot we admit defeat and turn around. This time, when we reach the Gorge turnoff we take it. The road to Carnarvon Gorge used to be all dirt, about 44k of it, but we are pleasantly surprised to see that the first half (over 20k) has now been sealed.

We find a quite nook on the side of the road, about 14k from the Gorge campground, and park the truck. I get on a bike, ride into the campground to verify our booking and ensure that we will get a sunny spot for the solar panels.

On the return trip I am bailed up twice by cows. It must be something about the time of day or whatever but these cows would not move from my path until I almost push them with the bike.

On the second occasion the cow is standing on the far side of a cattle grid I had to cross. I stop and we faced off, I move forward and so does the cow, I move forward again and so does the cow, I move forward yet again and then have a flash of inspiration. I raise my fist and extend my thumb and little finger, Crocodile Dundee fashion, sure enough the cow backs down.

Mon 29 Apr

Another 4AM start (why always 4AM? I hear you ask, I don't know how to change the alarm clock), I check around the truck with the torch and, when finished, place it on the bull bar.

Minutes later we drive off, torch still on bull bar. By the time we realise it was too far back to be worth returning.

The road is very corrugated so I select low range and we take it easy. In low range the truck's top speed is about 30kph but we keep to around 15kph, at this speed the corrugations are more like little hills which we roll over rather that bounce across.

As we enter the Oasis Lodge area there is a sign, "Slow down to reduce dust" it says and above that is a 15kph speed limit sign. That shouldn't be a problem.

Within a few hundred metres we hit a very steep downhill followed by and equally steep, but longer, uphill. We crawl down, and then up, these hills in low-first. The new bicycle computer I've installed as a speedo reads 3kph.

As we arrive well before the office opens we park in the day use car park. Later Chris goes for a walk and I decide to give myself a haircut, not a number two though, this time I'm going the whole hog, I get out the number one comb, clip it onto the shears and get to work.

Minutes later it's done, uneven but done. There's piles of short hair cuttings on the ground, looking rather like tufts of fur from some strange animal. Lord knows what kind of animal subsequent visitors thought had had a bad case of mange in the car park.

We book into the Gorge, it's a great camping ground with heaps of nice shady spots. Of course we want a nice sunny spot so they move us from our booked site and give us the sunniest they have.


Site #15, the sunniest they had but we didn't get much sun for five days.

There's been some improvements around here since our last visit. One such improvement is the addition of hot showers, they're coin operated, requiring the insertion of a $1 coin for three minutes of hot water. At that rate, given my preference for long showers, I'd need one that accepted credit cards.

We've come back to Carnarvon Gorge partly because it's here that, five years ago, we decided to drop everything and hit the road, (see here for the relevant chronicle entry) and partly because it's just a great spot.

I plan to do the ten-kilometre walk to the Big Bend campsite (camping for bushwalkers only) but when I get into the office to register I notice that camping was also allowed up on Battleship Spur. "Oooo that looks all right" I said, "sign me up for two nights". Battleship spur is another four kilometres from Big Bend, making a total walk of 28k there and back over a couple of days. No problems I think.

I haven't done a real walk in about four years so I spend the rest of the afternoon shooing the moths from my bushwalking equipment.

Later, while having an afternoon cuppa, we see at least a million (no exaggeration) school kids heading our way. As they pass one breaks ranks, "Hi Rob" she says. It's young Pippa, the daughter of friends and fellow WORT owners Andrew and Judy. Judging from the "cool" and "wicked" comments emanating from Pippa's school mates I suspect she gained a few brownie points by being associated with Wothahellizat.

As the kids pass I notice a new branch protruding from the tree right next to the lounge room. When the "branch" moves I realise that it's a goanna.


Our friendly neighbourhood goanna.

As the sun sets I sit on the deck with beer in hand. All preparations have been made, tomorrow I just have to get up and walk.

In the evening gloom I hear the "bash, bash, bash" of a kangaroo bounding through the bush. Staring in the direction of the noise I can see nothing for a while, then some of the amorphous grey detaches itself, turns into a kangaroo, and stands silhouetted on the track like half an Australian Coat of Arms, waiting for the Emu to arrive.

Tue 30 Apr

I get off to a late start, due mostly to a back problem I've had for some time now (I can't get it, my back that is, off the bed before about 8AM).

After a quick breakfast it's on with the pack and I'm off, bravely striding to parts unknown, but that's another story (see "I battle up Battleship Spur").

Wed 1 May

I get back from the walk a total basket case. I had left brave but returned broken. My feet hurt so badly I can hardly walk by the time I pass the park office, and I still have to walk another 500m to our nice sunny campsite. Oh why didn't we take the shady spot originally allocated to us, it was right near the office.

I hold my breath, set my face and continue to place one foot in front of the other.

"You're back early", it was some panel beaters we'd befriended earlier. "Can't talk" I manage between gritting teeth, "if I stop you'll have to carry me the rest of the way". Finally I reach the truck, drop my pack, sit on the step and remove my boots. Heaven.

Several times during the course of the walk I vowed never to go bushwalking again and I retake that vow as I sit in the lounge room with aching feet propped high.

But time has a way of healing all things, half an hour later I am still just as sore but I've had a shower and am sitting in my recliner, beer in one hand and map in the other, planning my next walk.

Meanwhile Chris had been on the 20k walk to Big Bend and she's not even sore. She attributes that to the walks she's been doing pretty much every day since we left Canberra six months ago. As it happened she was only about half an hour ahead of me as we both walked back down the gorge.


The campground has a large population of kangaroos that almost totally ignore the humans.

Thur 2 May

It's a miracle, I can walk again. Well at least I can hobble over to the loos with hands in pockets looking up pretending that my slow awkward pace is because there's something of fascination in the trees.

Today is a day of rest, whether I like it or not.

Chris however is buoyed by her recent successful 20k jaunt and bolts up Boolimba Bluff, a couple of hundred metres or so above the campground, accessed by a very steep path and a lot of steps and ladders.

I was supposed to be able to see her with the binoculars and apparently she jumped up and down and waved like an idiot for 15 minutes but to no avail, I didn't see a thing.

Later that evening we both walk up to the loos, it is pitch black so we take a torch (fortunately we have several torches). I decide to carry onto another toilet block while Chris returns to the truck so I, rather magnanimously I thought, say that she can take the torch.

"Are you sure you'll be able to see?" she asks. "Yeah, no problems" I reply, took two steps and walk straight into a log.

The offending log had been placed on the ground as a form of traffic control, it was about two feet in diameter which put its leading edge about one foot from the ground. By sheer coincidence that's the exact height of the middle of my shin.

So my right leg stops dead but the rest of my body keeps moving, naturally I fall over the log. As I begin falling I somehow tuck my head in and roll, performing a perfect somersault and returning to my feet in one movement, right in front of some startled campers returning from the slide night.

"Whoa, you don't do that every day" I say and carry on, waiting until I figure they are out of sight before checking for any broken bits and brushing myself down.

Sat 4 May

We pack up and leave Carnarvon Gorge. No excitement to record today, unless you count the finding of our wayward torch, still lying on the side of the road after five days. Oh, and the fact that I drive for several kilometres with the handbrake on. The truck is so highly geared that, in low range, it is impossible to tell that the handbrake is engaged until we stop and I go to put it on. Oops, it's already on.

The house batteries are low, I need to get my email and it looks like rain, so we book into the Rolleston caravan park and plug into the power.

 

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