In this issue we finally get to
the CMCA's rally in Barcaldine. As always we enjoy the chance
to strengthen friendships with existing friends and strike
up a few new ones.
The trouble is, it's getting a
bit cold at night so in this issue we finally start to head
north. After all, what's the point of a nomadic lifestyle
if you can't move on to better climates?
We haven't watched TV for weeks now, partly because there's
been no reception but also because we couldn't be bothered.
TV is a habit that we fall into all too easily, but we found
that after a short stint of cold turkey (forced by lack of
reception) we're just not interested as much any more.
When we do watch the news or other
current affairs programs it just reminds us of what a dung
heap much of the world is, why remind ourselves of that when
we're watching a sunset bathe an outback lake in a soft warm
light, or listening to the myriad sounds of water birds as
they wake for the day?
Till next time then, and remember,
Don't Dream it, Be it!
Sun 5 May 2002
Leaving Rolleston we drive to Springsure which, unlike Rolleston,
seems to have had a facelift since last we were there.
Apparently there is a correctional
facility here and the inmates are responsible for many beautification
and capital works around the town.
We park at the rest area a couple
of kilometres north of town and have lunch. While eating I hear
a lot of gunshots nearby and, bearing in mind the aforementioned
correctional facility, wonder if this is such a good place to stop.
Despite that, I get on a bike and
ride through the nearby Minerva Hills National Park to the top of
the rugged cliffs that backdrop the town, looking for a camp site.
From the top I can see the truck
and, not far away, a rifle range. I guess that explains the shots.
I don't find a suitable site however so we decide to head for Emerald.
At about 3PM we turn off onto the Lake Maraboon road and, shortly
after, pull into the extensive picnic area.
There's "No camping" and
"Definitely no camping" signs everywhere, what a shame,
it's such a nice place. We decide to have a cuppa anyway and then
go for a walk before getting back on the highway to look for somewhere
to stay for the night.
While walking we notice that several
tents are pitched further around the shore and think that this should
be investigated, so I get a bike out and ride off.
Riding around the lake I am struck
by two things, the abundance of "No camping" signs (seemingly
on every tree) and the equal abundance of campers (seemingly under
"Sign?, I never saw no sign officer".
It is a long weekend and people are everywhere so maybe the authorities
are cutting a little slack.
I decide to ask, "Oh the police
were here a while back" one group said, "told us to move
on within 24 hours" (which just conveniently is the end of
the long weekend).
I ask someone from another group,
"Dunno" he said, "just pitch your swag anywhere".
He then looks at my bike and follows with "That little thing
won't take up much room anyway ". I assure him that it came
from something much larger and rode off.
We move the truck to a private spot
away from the other campers and settle in for a quiet night, right
on the shore of the lake.
Wothahellizat parked on the shores of Lake Maraboon.
Mon 6 May
I spend the day lazing around and walking the banks of the lake
with a camera.
Trees framing the lake.
What was that song? "Sign, sign, everywhere a sign, blocking
out the scenery..."
Rock formations on the shores of Lake Maraboon.
While walking I notice Denys and
Anne (we camped with them at Baralaba) parked so I tell them about
the campsites further around the lake. They drive around and set
Tue 7 May
We move into the 20-hour camp site in Emerald. It's very conveniently
placed at the end of the main street but also very noisy as it's
below both the railway and road bridges.
I will usually sleep through anything
but Chris won't and this campsite is notorious for it's continuous
noise as trains shunt on one bridge and trucks compression brake
on the other.
Amazingly we both sleep soundly,
not hearing a thing all night.
Wed 8 May
Leaving Emerald we head for the gemfields. There is supposed to
be a reserve set aside for CMCA members at Rubyvale so we plan to
go there but as we drive through Sapphire we notice Denys &
Anne camped in the grounds of CD Downunder Gems.
They also notice us and flag us down.
It seems that the Rubyvale reserve has been closed, something about
the local caravan park owner complaining, and his son is on the
council. Now where have I heard that story before?
Anyhow the good folk at CD Downunder
are encouraging members to stay on their grounds so that's exactly
what we do.
I have no interest in fossicking
so I spend the day exploring the area with a camera while Chris
The store at Rubyvale.
You too can own a piece of the mining dream.
This old White truck and float has seen better days.
The entire area is a collection of
old machinery and barren land. To be fair, all of central Queensland
is in drought at the moment and not looking its best, but I can
think of no reason to come here unless you're into fossicking for
An eroded tailings heap.
Denys bought a wheel barrow of "wash"
and he spends the day washing, sieving and sorting it. He does find
a few nice stones and Anne has some set into a ring and a pendant.
Before leaving Sapphire we ask the
owners of CD Downunder about the road to Alpha. They assure me that
there are no hills except for one on the Drummond Range.
There may be no hills to a car driver
but to a 30-year old truck there's plenty, which just shows the
futility of asking in the first place.
Sat 11 May
We spend three days in the quaint little town of Alpha, who's main
claim to fame is its murals which have been painted on many walls
throughout the town.
The main street of Alpha.
One of the many murals that give Alpha its character.
Most of these signs refer to "stations" that have
driveways down this road. The washdown facility is for trucks
to remove Parthenium weed.
The locals are also very friendly,
while walking around the town almost every passing motorist waves.
And speaking of waving, it's fairly
customary to wave to other motorists when driving in country Australia
but usually to drivers of vehicles of similar type. But it seems
that everyone waves to Wothahellizat.
We've been waved at by motorcyclists,
caravaners, truckies, school kids, car drivers, ambulance drivers
and police to name a few. But when we pass a train today and the
driver waves Chris can't contain herself and bursts out laughing.
Sun 12 May
We stop for lunch in the main street of Jericho. After eating we
walk the street and on returning Chris notices some oil under the
front of the truck.
Further investigation reveals a crack
in the sump, caused by the diff hitting it. We did cop a nasty bash
the other day and another this morning. The distance between the
diff and sump is less than that between the bumpstops so it was
just a matter of time before something happened.
The leak isn't bad and we only have
80k to go so I rub some soap on it and we leave town.
After a couple of hours we pull into
Barcaldine (Barcy) and set up camp in the showgrounds. Most of the
other volunteers are here and tomorrow we start work. (The CMCA's
national rally starts next week and a few of us have volunteered
to set up the showgrounds for the rally).
Mon 13 May
The first day on the job. All volunteers working on siting meet
in the grounds under a tree initially called the "tree of knowledge",
a reference to the famous tree in town, but that soon became known
as the "tree of know-alls".
For a couple of days we mark out
over a thousand campsites in readiness for the mass influx of motorhomes
and campervans in a few days.
Wed 15 May
The rally preparations are going well so we have some slack time.
I go into town to buy some ice cream and, on leaving the store,
I notice a Coaster motor home and car trailer turning into the BP
The angle of the trailer doesn't
look right and I think to myself "He'll get stuck". Sure
enough the rig stops dead with the trailer across the main street.
I ride up to find the owner looking
at his tow bar firmly buried into the bitumen. The rear wheels of
the bus are only just touching the road and they simply spin when
he tries to drive. I tell him that I can see two methods of extraction,
jack up the rear axle and pack under the wheels, or get a tow.
As I have ice cream in my pack I
have to leave but I say that I'll be back soon to help if needed.
Ten minutes later I return to find
a three-trailer road train and a B-double stopped in the street,
unable to pass the stuck trailer. More traffic is banking up and
the owner of the stuck vehicle is getting a bit frazzled. What he
probably doesn't appreciate though is that, with all this traffic
banked up, the problem has partly transferred itself to others who
now have an interest in freeing the stranded motor home.
And help is at hand, the road train
driver supplies a chain, the service station operator comes up with
a 4WD, and with a mighty heave and scraping of metal the stranded
Coaster is free.
Sat 18 May
The tools are out again. I drain the sump and apply some two-part
epoxy to the crack. So far so good but I'll have to wait until the
engine gets hot to see if it really works.
That should fix the leak but not
the problem that caused it in the first place, so I decide to put
a 12mm spacer between the springs and the axle. I would like to
use a larger spacer but 12mm is as much as I can insert without
using longer U-bolts.
I ride into town but it's Saturday
afternoon and there is nobody open to buy some steel from. On my
return John (our neighbour in "Old Yello") had been across
to talk to the guys fabricating some new cattle yards. They can
supply some steel so I buy two lengths of 3x1/2" flat bar.
Sun 19 May
John & I jack up the front axle, make the spacers from the flat
bar obtained yesterday and put them in. It's a simple job but still
takes all morning because the wheels have to be removed and we cross-thread
a nut so spend time repairing the U-bolt thread.
Mon 20 May
The rally officially starts today and we are expecting about 650
motor homes to arrive. I work most of the day on siting and by 6PM
I've had enough.
The main street of Barcy has six pubs, this is one of the more
Wed 29 May
This morning I thought I'd ride out to the weir just south of town.
It's reputed to be a nice camping spot and we might go there for
a few days but I like to check places out first.
I get on the motor bike and head
off through town. Being the thorough type I check that the fuel
valve is on "open" and not "reserve". No problems.
I turn left on the Blackall road
and after five kilometres encounter the turnoff to the weir. Taking
the narrow road I cross the cattle grid and ride west towards the
The engine falters a bit so I recheck
the fuel valve. No worries, I ride on.
The engine falters again, and dies.
I reach down to change the fuel valve to reserve, oops, it's already
on reserve. So much for checking, it's amazing how you see what
you expect to see.
I grind to a halt in the middle of
the road. It's 5k back to the highway and another 5k into town.
Nothing for it but to hide the bike and start walking, it will take
about two hours.
While pushing the bike off the road
I start thinking that there may still be a little fuel in the tank.
Removing the filler cap reveals a small amount of petrol and I reason
that I may be able to ride some of the way back by tilting the tank.
I tilt the bike to the left, the
side of the fuel pickup, shake it to load fuel down into the carburettor
and hit the starter. Sure enough the engine fires. I get straight
back on the road, riding slowly back to town.
The engine still stalls every 500m
or so but by repeating the tilt-and-shake procedure I manage to
get about four kilometres before it finally fails and refuses to
start. I hide the bike in the bushes, place a log on the roadside
to mark the spot, and hit the bitumen.
Within fifteen minutes I am back
on the highway. I had been hitching but with no luck as there was
almost no traffic on the side road. There was however quite a lot
of traffic on the highway but most vehicles are leaving town,
not much good to me.
It's not easy getting a lift in the
middle of nowhere with a number two haircut and full beard. The
other problem with hitching is that people often take a while to
think about stopping and by then they're too far down the road to
As I walk past the town garbage tip
I decide to change my strategy. Figuring that some of those approaching
me would be going to the tip then returning to town I start giving
a friendly wave to anyone with a trailer. Some return the wave but
when a couple of council workers in a garbage truck do so I am confident
my walk is nearly at an end.
Minutes later they return and pick
Later in the afternoon I ride down
to the BP service station at the end of town to fill up the bike.
Barcaldine is on of those outback towns with a straight main street
that just continues past the houses and over the horizon. The sight
of the long straight road tells me it's time to go.
Thu 30 May
We spend the morning packing up with only one drama to mention.
When I try to raise the deck the winch dies as soon as a load was
applied. Further investigation reveals a faulty connection where
the 12v battery passes through the body of the house.
We take the Blackall road, drive
all of 15k, and pull into the Lloyd Jones Weir. It's quite packed
with motorhomes and caravans but we find a nice sunny spot.
Some friends, Mark & Gail from
Canberra, are already there and we mark out a spot for a fire and
collect some wood.
Fishing below the Lloyd Jones Weir.
We spend the evening cooking on and
sitting around the fire. Chris and I are rugged up like the Michelin
man but Mark just sits there in shorts and a t-shirt. Presumably
we've acclimatised to the heat and cannot now handle the cold very
well, whereas Mark & Gail have only just left Canberra.
Fri 31 May
COLD! It was freezing last night, one of our neighbours reported
a four degree temperature in his van overnight.
I had an extra blanket and was comfortable
but Chris slept wearing a hooded jacket and woke several times to
turn the electric blanket on.
The fact that we have, and can use,
electric blankets illustrates a point about this lifestyle. Many
people say it must be great to be able to camp anywhere and it is,
but what we do is not really camping. This is our house and we have
almost all of the amenities most people have in a conventional home.
The main difference is that we can easily move ours.
I spend the day doing some maintenance
on the truck and in the evening we once again sit around a campfire.
Sun 2 Jun
Two degrees last night, time to move further north. We have an extension
lead that friends of ours loaned to the CMCA for use at the rally
and we plan to drop it off to them at Longreach.
On the way we stop at Ilfracombe
for lunch and to have a look at the collection of old farm machinery
lining the main street.
A Stuart tank that has been converted into a bull dozer. The
entire main street of Ilfracombe is lined with interesting
The railway line at Infracombe, it's pretty flat out here.
Pulling into the rest area 3k north
of Longreach we are not impressed with the large dustbowl that passes
as a camping area. We had been told that this was a nice spot with
campsites along the river so I investigate on a motor bike.
The sites on the river aren't bad
but nothing to crow about and the main area is just an expanse of
sand. To top it off there's a cold wind. Chris wants to leave but
I have a couple of things to do while we're in a large town and
the shops aren't open until tomorrow.
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