24 October 2016

2016 October Brisbane and back

24th October 2016 – to Brisbane and back
It has been a long time since our blog had an update, but we’ve been busier than a one armed juggler with an itch.

Twelve months ago we moved into our freshly built house, and anyone who has been through that will appreciate the attached turmoil. Even when you manage to get everything installed and working, you can never find things – they are never where they should be nor where you think you put them.

Then when you decide to jump in the caravan and have a little “get away break”, you find that the van has developed some issues that require work. The Tow Hitch had a little hairline crack and thus needed a replacement; the door on the front boot had developed a leak; the rear camera had forgotten how to work; and the water tanks were less than pure. However, the real problems begin when you try and fix all these ‘little’ imperfections.
Does anybody really understand the inner frustration and emotional turmoil that sweeps across that calm gentility with which you began the task of threading the new camera cable through the small hole at the rear of the van? Simple! You foolishly thought. With ease it traversed the outer hole – and with total resistance it hit the inner layer of the roofline. After some hours the task was put aside as I retreated to the comfort of some alcohol. The efforts of the next day produced the same result, as did the next.  5 days later I achieved success. It was then time to clear the water tanks. All were emptied, or so I thought until I tried to refill them with purified water. The first two filled with ease but the third was blocked solid. During the investigation I discovered that one of the pumps wouldn’t work #$%^&*@#$. Two days later the problem(s) were solved. Full mains pressure was applied to the inlet nozzle and ………. A major clump of spider web was ejected from the kitchen tap --- and another from the external tap. In future, when leaving the van idle I’ll block the taps with some form of cover.

We finally got away in early September and had the central Queensland gem fields as our destination.  
Sydney was our first stop with the aim of visiting relatives etc. We chose a van park near Windsor in the far western perimeter of the city and what a good choice. Windsor is one of our nation’s earliest towns and as such is filled with historic buildings and items. What particularly hurts is that as a young couple we lived not too far from this town, and travelled through it many times without stopping.

Our next destination involved a climb over the Blue Mountains via the lesser used Bells Line of Road – not an especially difficult route except for the narrowness of the road plus the unrelenting climbs and descents. It starts at near enough sea level and peaks after some 40 kilometres at 1150 metres. And within that distance not a metre is level ground, and only the shortest distance of road that can be used to overtake. With over 3 tonne of caravan on tow, we do tend to provide a bit of a road block, and with this road the streams of following traffic were quite large. It was very frustrating for both them and for us. The remaining 50 kilometres of this road lacked the climbing but retained the winding and narrow road.  Thankfully after reaching the city of Lithgow, the road became far more enjoyable and we finished the day after 350 km.
Aussie towns could once generally be broken into rough groups based on the number of churches and the number of pubs (and licensed clubs). A broad generality is that for every pub there was a population of 800 to 1000 – a similar formula applied for churches.  These ratios have risen over the past 25 years as blood-alcohol breath testing plus take home beer sales have had an effect. Likewise, church attendances have fallen because??????

As an example one of the more impressive towns was/is the famous town of Barcaldine in central Queensland which as of 5 years ago had a population of 1600 with 5 Pubs (plus clubs). That’s 1 hotel for every 320 thirsty folk.
Turning back to our next town, Quirindi brought these figures to mind when we found a population of 3000 with 4 hotels plus 4 licensed clubs. Of even greater interest was that the local IGA grocery store (a member of a common rural chain) had split their grocery section and alcohol sales into separate buildings.  The grocery section was significantly smaller than the alcohol one….. Perhaps this may explain the very friendly nature of the good townsfolk?

It was around this time that we became aware of significant pending trouble with our proposed route. Continual rain had fallen across large parts of the central eastern states. Victoria was almost totally flooded, even in areas that had not done so for decades. Almost the entire central west of New South Wales was under water, and also at a level not witnessed for decades. However, most alarming was that the area of Queensland that we would need to travel through was flooded. We decided to push on but with some alternate plans if things didn’t improve.
Again our next stop involved a climb up to 1100 metres (what is it about this altitude?) This time it was to magnificent “Irish” green pasture and grazing land that adjoined the town of Walcha.

Sitting atop the New England Range (a featured section of the Great Dividing Range) it is no shock to find that the area is surrounded by some of Australia’s most rugged and remote bush country. Given the rain that had been falling within this high bush area it seemed a good idea to drive out to view the local waterfalls – what a great idea.
Apsley falls are about 20km from town and we found them in full flood with water thundering over and into the narrow gorge below. The mist and rainbows rising from deep within the gorge made photography somewhat difficult.

                                                                                                                   Rainbow cast by falls

Downstream Gorge cut by falls

The town and rugged highland view enticed us to stay an extra day and when we set off it was not up another mountain – it was downhill through 140 km of thin, continual twisting and descending road until we reached the coast. From here we pushed north until we found a very small seaside village called Red Rock. What a find! Only 20km to the charming town of Woolgoolga that is home to Australia’s largest Sikh population, and it was this very weekend that the town was holding the annual “Curry Fest”. We both love curry, so it seemed like destiny had played right into our hands mouths. The only negative to the Red Rock village is that there is no reticulated water; only bore water which cannot be consumed. Lucky we knew of this limit beforehand so we went there with our three on board tanks full with 240 litres of sweet mountain water.



Red Rock River Mouth & Ocean Beach


By this stage of the journey we had confirmed our worse fear that we couldn’t get through to the gem fields so had to adjust (that’s another word for give up) and instead go up to Brisbane to visit our son and daughter in law plus kids.
The route to Brisbane was varied to include a few days at Kyogle. We’ve travelled through here a few times, but never stopped so given the lovely valley in which the town sits we were looking forward to staying a little while. Originally a timber town it evolved into a second industry of dairy production as the timber was cleared.

Away back in 1973 a small mountain village called Nimbin held a “Hippie” festival which created a lasting institution within the town. Originally associated with protesting against the felling of local forests, it is now generally regarded as the Hemp capital of the country. The entire town is painted and decorated in colours and designs that most folk relate to the hippie culture and lifestyle, together with a quiet but not formally legal acceptance of hemp use. We drove over to have a look and were amused by the rather laid-back shops and features. Honestly, we only had a coffee….Truly.

Hemp Embassy

  Nimbin Hotel

   Shopping area
Isn’t it marvellous when you find a community that, when facing government inaction and obfuscation, just gets up and does something themselves. The road between Kyogle and Queensland travels North West to the top of the Border Ranges, and then turns hard to the North East. Meanwhile, the railway line heads directly north. Back in the 1940s the local Kyogle folk realised that if a road following the rail line was built it would save many kilometres of travel, and thus they set about lobbying the state government (plus anybody else that they thought could help) to build such a road. Their efforts were all in vain.

In the early 1960’s a group of locals decided that they would build the road themselves and thus began one of the great “Do it ourselves” events in Aussie history. They gathered whatever machinery that they had and set to work creating a rough bush road in a northerly direction up over the range. Nothing fancy, just good enough for off road type farm trucks. A fringe benefit was that they opened up the views of the railroad spiral to any adventurous train buffs.
Australia has but two railroad spirals: one is in the central slopes near Junee, and the other is north of Kyogle. After leaving Kyogle the track runs up the ever narrowing and climbing valley until just south of the border where it needs to climb at a rate which is too steep so it curls in a large, but still climbing 360 degree loop where it goes back over itself and enters a tunnel to travers the border. The new road opened this up to sightseeing tourists.

The new road has since been upgraded and sealed and is still maintained by the local folks, but with some financial assistance from the state government.
Our stay at Brisbane was, as usual, most pleasant. We took advantage of their Foxtel to see all the episodes of ‘Game of Thrones’. I also got to see the Bathurst 1000 Supercar race on a giant wall projected TV system at our grandson’s house - - awesome. After 10 days it was time to leave so we set off on our way home.

First stop was the seaside town of Lennox Head where we were lucky to see a good size pod of whales as they frolicked just below the headland on which we were parked. Upon our departure we noted a great looking picturesque beach located next to Lennox. A very short time later we heard on the car radio that a young fellow had just been bitten by a shark at that very beach!!!!


No, we cheated. These are from the Web …….. But we did see some from further away. 

We cheated again…..Although I’m told that this is a distant cousin of the mentioned above.
We took the chance and stayed at an away from the main road type park at Mylestom; a small (make that ‘tiny’) village at the mouth of the Bellinger River. What a great choice this turned out to be. Unfortunately the cold and brisk wind meant that any thoughts of beach walking soon disappeared, but we did take the opportunity to go for a bit of a local tour.

For decades, when travelling to Brisbane we have driven up the Pacific Highway, and thus have gone straight through what to us was a small town called Urunga. To us it consisted of little but a few basic roadside stores plus maybe 30 or so houses leading the road onto a big river bridge.  Our little tour opened our eyes when we turned off the highway and followed the road to the other side of the railway – a much larger and neat small town right on the riverfront. Plus a splendid caravan park that has definitely been included on our list of “Parks to stay at in the future”.
After a one night roadside stop, plus 2 nights in Sydney we arrived home a few nights earlier than planned. Unpacked the van and car and settled back into urban life.

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