Neil Turner Weir, Mitchell

We left Surat and arrived in Roma around noon. We decided on a bit of grocery shopping and lunch in town before driving further to the free camp at the delightful Neil Turner Weir.

One of the many water birds at the weir
This weir is unique in its design of being several levels of concrete with ‘blocks’. First purpose is to create a mini dam and then the use of the different levels to break the force of the resumed river flow downstream. It is an ideal place for birdwatching, with many varieties sighted. (Sorry! I left my bird identification book behind)

The unique cascading levels of the Neil Turner Weir

A closeup of the blocks on the weir

It was so nice and quiet here that we decided to stop here for a couple of days and go to a church, which we noticed back in Mitchell, even though their services is at 8.30am before moving on.

Down from the weir

Yet another beautiful end to a fabulous day

Surat and the Cobb & Co Museum

Just over the Balonne River less than a kilometre from Surat is a free camp spot right on the river and surrounds that is the local fishing and restocking spot for the river. Though there are no showers here, there are showers just in town if you have need of them. We arrived just on lunch time and quickly settle in and made some toasted sandwiches (to use up the days old bread).

 three happy jack birds
After lunch we decided to take the easy walk into town over the river and have a wander around. We walked past some old shop fronts imaging that this was a butcher and that was the baker maybe. It wouldn’t be an Australia town if there weren’t a pub in it somewhere. And then across the road there is a Cobb & Co Museum. What a delightful and very interesting museum it was. Surat was the last place the Cobb & Co ran from and they have a lot of memorabilia including a full size replica of the Cobb and Co wagon of the era and the characters of the town over the early years. It makes for interesting reading and occupies a pleasant hour or so browsing around and looking and all the exhibits.

We stopped by the local general store cum cafe and had a quiet time eating an ice cream and watching the local population and traffic pass by.

We had a fire going by the Robbiebago with another BBQ dinner, this time chicken schnitzel was on the menu. Afterwards one of the other caravaners joined us for a fireside cuppa and chat.

St George

There were no free camp grounds near St George and the Pelican Caravan Park was recommended to us a few times, as well as we hoped to find recent made friends, Bet & Tom still in residence at the park (which they were!). So we went unpowered and selected a nice sunny spot to get the maximum charge for our solar panels. It was fortunate that we were just metres away from Tom & Bet and we were soon made welcomed. Green grass was lovely though you still had to take care not to walk on the odd Kahki grass prickles which has been a real curse since as early as Mendooran, in NSW. They are worse than our Bindii! Urrgh!

The flood waters went over the top of this weir at St George
We unhitched and settled in for a little bit and then went into town for some groceries and a quick look around. We found the most delightful little shop tucked in the back of the sport good shop that has a magnificent display of Illuminated Emu Eggs. I have loved carved Emu eggs since my step brother introduced them to me some 30 odd years ago and have never seen any as good as the first few. These are not the same but totally different and just as fascinating. The old Greek fella that does the carving is more than willing to show you his eggs and give you a history to go with it. You truly get a lot for the $3 dollars entry fee and what’s more the old fella will give you your money back if you are not impressed. You can’t fail to be impressed. There are something like 150 eggs there. Nearly all of them are illuminated from within which brings forth the different shades according to the layers carved.

these are just 2 of the amazing illuminated emu eggs

We went for a drive, saw the river side park and the war memorial (It is Anzac Day tomorrow) and then moved down to the nearby weir and took photos of the birds as well as the weir. This weir & bridge was totally under water during the floods late last year. It is just amazing to see just how far up the water came.

One of the peregrine falcons at Beardmore Dam

We were lazy and it was too cold to make the effort to get up pre dawn for the Anzac Dawn Service. However we went for a drive later on to the Beardmore Dam. It is a nice enough park area and we go to see some lovely birds including a couple of peregrine falcons. However it is a huge disappointment that you can’t actually see the water or the top of the weir from the picnic areas. You couldn’t even walk to the dam itself.

Amazing afterglow after a sunset at St George

Nindigully: Queensland oldest pub

This iconic pub was our next destination. (refer to Camps 6: 824) It is situated on the banks of the Moonie River. It offers ‘free’ camping for the cost of a beer at happy hour which is only $2.50 anyway. Hot showers, water and toilets are all available too for free. For those who do not have a caravan or motor home , they have lovely rooms available too! There is a terrific kids play park alongside the pub too for those travelling with their family.

Riverside camping is available and looks lovely, but we needed full sun for the solar panels. We were glad we camped ‘up top’ as it sprinkled overnight and the black mud is so sticky, you get bogged just walking around.

You can photos of various periods of the pub’s history including last year’s flood which came right to the top of the verandah’s floorboards (I am guessing that is about 5 m high from the river.)
At happy hour we had the opportunity to meet some other campers including Tom and Bet and a character called John Silver. John and Bob had some interesting conversations especially around the topic of making your own bio diesel, which Bob is interested to look into some more when we finally get back home.

All in all it was great place to stay for a few days. If you fish there’s plenty of fish in the waters too! The river is quite brown due silt from the recent flooding.

Burren Junction Hot Pool

We thought we would take the more direct road from the Warrumbungles to our next destination which was Burren Junction and the hot pool there. The roads are a combination of bitumen roads and dirt roads. The first bit wasn’t too bad but after Coonamble, where we stopped for lunch, the road was covered in very fine bull dust which seeps into everything, overlaying bumpy corrugations.

We arrived at the mineral hot pool (refer to Camps 6: 396) around 5.30pm. Basically the campground is divided into 2 sections. We parked near the entry on one side and soon settled into the pool for a bit of relaxation.

I am guessing the water was about 36 degrees, a decent ‘bath temperature’. It was warmer than I expected and I certainly wouldn’t want it any hotter. The pool is fed by the Great Artesian Basin which underlies a bit more than 20% of Australia. I find it amazing that, parts of it comes up hot and in other parts it comes up relatively cold as in Roxby Downs in SA.

It is not a pretty place but it is a very popular place, with many people staying weeks, some even planning on spending 6 months there. The nearby town is very supportive of this free camp and even encourage visitors with the upkeep of the pool area and they also provide some entertainment such as Bingo nights. The pool area is flood lit and it is not uncommon to see people in the pool at just about any time of the night! Many locals and truck drivers stop by to loosen their muscles and stresses at the end of the day. Still the campground or the pool was never crowded whilst we were there. We quickly met and chatted to people in the pool and on the way to & fro as all on one side had to pass us to get to & from the pools.

The sunsets out here in the bush are spectacular as are the stars gleaming in the night skies. There are just so many more stars to see out bush. We decided to stay a second night and had a decent sleep in and more swims the following day.

We are both too young to even contemplate hanging around any such a place with very little to do especially as we are fortunate enough not to need the therapeutic advantages such a hot springs gives. So on we go...where-ever the road leads next... generally further north and west too!

Oh when them cotton balls get rotten...

Rob and I couldn’t get this song out of our heads as we are driving along the road through such places as Wee Waa, Narrabri and Moree. Rob thinks the highway should be renamed the Cotton Highway, there is so much cotton on the road sides as well as cotton on the bushes as we drive past acres and acres of cotton fields. At times it looks like you are looking at snowfields!

We had a delightful lunch in a lovely park & a few hours in Moree, before moving onto a freebie campsite just outside Moree since it was rather late... The camp site is nothing to rave about!

The next day we continued on to Boggabilla’s Elanbe Caravan Village which is just clean enough but very run down. Still it was nice to take a few hours quiet and be ready for church nice and early in Goondawindi just over the Queensland border. Again it was a friendly church and the sermon was a good one on the Samaritan woman, leaving us with the impression of making every contact count – we have the opportunity to lead them one step closer to a personal relationship to God!

We stopped for lunch at Bungunya (821) a delightful stop, where there are hot showers, toilets, BBQ and a picnic table. There is even a tiny general store across the road. Being just off the main highway, I imagine it as being slightly quieter at nights. It would be a good little place to stop overnight but our next destination was calling.

Warrumbungle National Park

After stopping at Coonabarabran for some fresh grocery supplies, we arrived in the Warrumbungles just before the Information Centre closes at 4pm. We camped at Blackman Camp #2 (refer to Camps 6: 921), which is about 120m from the amenities block which includes flushing toilets, nice hot showers and a big laundry area without any washing machine. A covered gas BBQ area is in the centre of the camp grounds. (There was also a closer toilet block in our own camp area.) There is a creek just 25m away from our van and the views of the mountains just out the door as shown below. It is a delight to sit outdoors and watch the kangaroos grazing nearby and the numerous birds flying or ‘wandering’ through the grass too.

The view from our doorway
The next day we went on one of the numerous walking tracks. We chose the Burbil Canyon walk, which was a nice enough walk, but nothing spectacular at the time of year or day that we chose.
We had the first meal cooked on our new portable wood BBQ that Bob made up. It is a nifty little thing made mostly of stainless steel that folds up flat. It is about the size of a laptop only much lighter.

A side view of Bob's nifty BBQ
The following day we went to the Siding Springs Observatory, which was very interesting. I think I remember that it houses something like the largest optical telescope in the southern hemisphere. Also as a matter of interest maybe to some of you is that on 6th June this year we have the opportunity to see Venus cross Earth in front of the sun. I wonder what we will be able to see with our naked eyes. Seeing God’s handiwork and just how complex and immense this universe is totally awe inspiring.

On the way back to the Robbiebago, we went on another ‘walk’, though to call it a walk is a bit much as it is only 500m and all on a bitumen track. Still the White Gum Lookout offers a wonderful view of the craggy peaks and spires of the Warrumbungle mountains. We were much too early but I reckon it would be glorious to be there at sunset!

Another cookout on Bob’s nifty BBQ finished off a fantastic day!

Bushfires Postscript:
The Warrumbungles suffered badly in the bushfires of January 2113.

Getting ready for another trip

Well it is time to the Robbiebago out of moth balls again and head off. We have been home basically for a year and with the exception of a 2 week break in January to visit the Country Music Festival in Tamworth, we have been home based.

If we don't get cracking soon, we might get mouldy. It is great to have our roots firmly planted in our home town of Wollongong, to see family and be surrounded by our church family and friends. Our youngest grand daughter, Ezzy who was born in October last year was introduced to her extended family at Christmas.

Ezzy with her dad and sister
Now it is only 3 sleeps to go before we embark on our next adventure. (It was just 3 more sleeps at the time of writing but it got lost in cyberspace somehow, hence the delay in posting it up). This time around we aim to take 6 months and head north via western Queensland with Cape York Peninsula being our end destination. We haven't been to either areas previously.  Yippee! .... well it will be once we are on the road....all  this cleaning up the van, shopping & packing the pantry and fridge, cleaning the house etc is quite a bit more of a chore than I would like it to be.

out of choas comes some sort of organization
... eventually!

On our way at last!

We finally left home on Thursday 12th April and and started our trip north with the final destination being Cape York Peninsula via some volunteer work on one or two outback stations in western Queensland courtesy of Outback Links, Frontier Services if things work out. We even did a short First Aid Course to brush up on skills we learnt far too many years ago, just in case, since medical help is not always on hand just when you need it in some remote areas.
So Illford (413) near Lithgow was our first night stop. It was a lovely quiet spot being about 450m from the highway & it even had flushing toilets. A cold snap has moved in and the overnight temperature dropped down to 4o. .... Jolly cold! The day temperatures are an absolutely lovely 26o. We came to love free camping on our previous trip as not only do we save some money, but generally speaking, the people are so much friendlier and frequently you are in some very nice areas and certainly ‘closer to nature’ in these free camp areas. 

Just one of the beautiful stained glass windows at the historic Mudgee Anglican Church
We had hoped to camp in Mudgee for the weekend, but unknown to us there was a Canassist Festival on this same weekend and the showground was all booked out, so we just stopped & shopped for some water proof boots for me and a short walk around town before moving on then to Gulgong, which had a lovely park (with a BBQ & kid’s playground) close to town where we stopped and had lunch. Lo and behold we met some people who live in the same suburb as ourselves and they were visiting someone who was in the same class as our eldest son... small world!
Sunrise at Mendooran
After a leisurely lunch, we headed off to Mendooran (443) which has a large free camp ground along the banks of the Castlereagh River. We decided to stay here for 2 nights. The worst thing about this place is the Khaki Weed is very prickly and sticks to your shoes, tyres etc. No walking around the place barefoot, even the dogs are not immune to the seed heads of this horrible weed. 
The chraming Royal Hotel in Mendooran
The local pub was having a re-opening night with a live band, so we decided to go along and join in the festivities. The fire buckets outside, where the band had set up, were very welcome with the temperature dropping down to 8o overnight, that four degrees warmer makes a huge difference.
After seeing the car poking out of a local garage wall, we thought we had better walk home !

WHOOPS! Just take care driving home!
·         (The numbers in brackets refer to numbers designated to camps/rest areas as recorded in the Camps 6 Australia Wide)