G’day all, I hope you enjoyed our last instalment: part one “scrub to the scrub”. Originally I intended to write our journey from Gayndah to Newell Beach, Queensland in one segment however I may have gotten (ever so slightly) carried away with the descriptive details in my writing. For those of you that found the descriptions overwhelming I’d like to personally blame Henry Lawson, one of Australia’s greatest bush poets. During our time in Port Douglas I picked up a book by the Author called “Joe Wilsons mates” a collective of some of his greatest writings and after reading the book I was inspired to write in a similar manner, no way near as great as Henry Lawson mind you, but I gave it a crack regardless.
In this latest instalment we tackle Queensland’s northern hinterland from Emerald to Newell Beach. I spent most of my energy writing the last piece and by the end had major writer’s block, so in this chapter I’m going to do something different and write a small poem of our journey and add plenty of photos! So sit back relax and enjoy part two of our journey, what was from the scrub to the scrub now turns to from the scrub to the tropics..
Emerald Queensland we stayed two nights,
And during that time we saw most of the sights,
From giant easels, botanic gardens and sipping cold draught larger,
To the Nogoa river, bridges and a lake three times the size of Sydney harbour,
We stayed in a campground that lay rest on a saddle,
Close to the lake where Moose liked to Paddle,
Evenings were pleasant with sunsets to admire,
And when cold we huddled around our well stoked campfire,
Our time in Emerald went rather quick and fast,
What was your favourite part? One might ask?
Our highlight of Emerald now this may sound crazy,
Were chips in a bowl served with delicious curry gravy,
We woke up the next day nice and early,
And with a good night’s rest we were feeling fresh and pearly,
With the caravan all packed and everything stowed,
We were finally about to hit the long frog and toad,
I was just about to slip on my driving shoes,
When Dixie all of a sudden decided to chase some Roos,
When she came back she was the colour of red,
Dark red blood running from her head,
Covered in blood we were feeling quite tense,
Turns out she slit her ear under a barb wired fence,
We left north bound and soon met the Gregory highway,
Not a cloud in the sky that beautiful sunny Tuesday,
We soon reached Capella where there was a scenery of change,
To our left in the distance lay the Capella Peak Range,
The range consisted of ancient volcanic plugs,
That once was mined for sapphires and golden nuggs,
The journey was rather boring after Capella,
So we put on some tunes by the artist Ben Kweller,
We soon arrived at Claremont 40km up the track,
But slipped on by as we had 375km to attack,
The town was just a country town full of Sharrons and Karrens,
The ironbark trees soon faded and the landscape was left barren,
Two hours of paddocks full of dust and dry scrub,
An outback of nothingness not even a pub,
We soon pulled over to stretch our tiresome legs,
Moose and I pissed all over the Cobblers-pegs,
Our fuel gauge was starting to indicate low,
So we stopped in at a roadhouse located in Belyando,
$2.30 a litre for octane 91,
A pretty hefty price considered by some,
The land stayed the same for an hour and a bit,
But soon the land started to wind and split,
Valleys and mountains and signs of Aussie wildflowers,
Soon made an appearance as we came into Charters Towers,
Our first impressions of the town may have left a scar,
Whilst a young intoxicated fella was picked up in a police car,
But the town soon made an impression ever so sweet,
With beautiful old buildings that made up the main street,
We fuelled up the falcon again we seem to do that of late,
And stopped into the tackle shop to pick up some bait,
My wife said you may as well throw the bait in the bin,
Who’s going to be laughing when I soon reel them on in!
It had been a day a long day at that, six hours in a car,
Just 40km to go up the highway not too bloody far,
Soon we will be camping next to the Burkedin river,
Relaxing by the fire and working out our livers,
But problems soon arose when we arrived at Big Bend,
Our destination soon was greeted with a dead end,
Water, knee deep was flowing across the road,
There was no way we were getting across with our heavy load,
Ever so tired and disappointed after hours travel,
We turned around sighed and hit the corrugated gravel,
A few miles later there lay a camp located at Fletchers creek,
A spot and a home for the caravan we ever dare seek,
Tarp cities and communes of drifters lay there to the right,
It was getting ever so hard to find the perfect camp site,
To the right of the highway the communes started to clear out,
We found a nice site eventually did we ever have a doubt?
Amongst the Aussie wild grass and rigid Jarrah trees,
The sun started to go down with an ever so light breeze,
Our pups played some fetch and ran around ever so free,
Then our bellies started rumbling it was time for some tea,
Our dinner started sizzling over the scorching campfire
The rigid Jarrah silhouetting behind a sunset to admire,
With our bellies nice and full it was time to go to bed,
Darkness soon found us when the pillows hit our heads,
With the crack of dawn we were up and soon hit the road,
Towing the caravan behind us that we didn’t unload,
Back to the infamous roadblock located near the Big Bend,
Where we took of our shoes and waded across with our furry four-legged friends,
We walked some miles to the river where time didn’t pass,
Next to paddocks with Brahman cattle eating scrubby long wild grass,
After a long enduring walk, hot and sweaty we ever walked so far,
There finally lay the river nestled amongst the ancient basalt bar,
The basalt bar consisted of many patterns and milky shades,
And the water who danced over the rocky formations turned to crystal cascades,
With sandy banks ever so soft that only one could ever wish,
It was time to cast in the line and catch a many fish,
Dixie would bark during my cast until the sinker made a plomp,
Moose would jump and paddle to the splash which he would bite, wrestle and chomp,
And to my luck the fish would jump amongst the basalt and Jarrah,
And there I was reeling them in from Perch to the almighty Barra,
It was now time to go and hit the road and cruise in fifth gear,
But before we went we sat down and ate cheese accompanied with a beer,
Big Bend is definitely a place you could spend many days and hours,
Would recommend to any of my friends travelling to Charters Towers,
We continued north on the Gregory highway with many more kilometres ahead,
The land lay there flat and barren and the tarmac soon turned red,
Greenvale was the next major town with a population of 234,
It had a historic hotel and a petrol bowser located at the general store,
The petrol was steep so we made a dash with our caravan that we towed,
We were finally finished with Gregory highway now for the Kennedy development road,
The road was long and rather bland and we were becoming rather weary,
Our fuel was becoming rather low so we filled up the tank with the jerry,
Half a tank is all we had which wasn’t much a fun,
As we soon turned off Kennedy road which turned to National-Highway 1,
On our right there it lay the 40mile National park,
But we had to move and find a camp before the day turned dark,
The scrub turned flat and all of a sudden termite mounds would stand,
Six feet tall, reds and browns towering over the land,
Time ticked along National one and our fuel tank was getting low,
We gritted our teeth with the realisation that we still had 40km to go,
There in the distance lay the tablelands the clouds looked cold and wet,
And with some time we finally fuelled up at the bowser Mount Garnet,
We stopped out of town just up the hill 10km to the right,
Where we found a clearing next to the road where we decided to stay the night,
We released the hounds and played some fetch until they panted and frothed,
Whom then went to bed under the van after a big meal which they scoffed,
The rain started to trickle over the hills ever so soft and light,
Our bellies weighing of lead and an episode in bed it was time to call it a night,
The next morning we tired the pups with torps, barrels and dropkicks,
It was time to hit the tablelands that were covered in wet green tropics,
As we hit the tablelands the rain came down sideways, rough and heavy,
We made our way up and down slowly but surely steady,
The fog was thick it was hard to see the canyons amongst clouds,
Soon farmland appeared luscious and green full of dairy cows,
We arrived in Atherton not long later and stopped for a coffee and a walk,
We went to visit the crystal caves whose title turns out to be talk,
Tolga, Walkamin and Mareeba were towns we crossed on our way,
Hosting dairies and wineries of mangoes even a coffee café,
We turned right at Mount Molly where we descended on down the plain,
Where we arrived at Shannonvale nestled amongst the sugar cane,
Sugar canes made the scenery all the way to the town of Port Douglas,
And the sun soon shone out of the clouds which turned out to be a plus,
No dogs allowed at our caravan park google failed us again,
So we tried the park across the road that would cost us an extra 10,
Turns out that the park was full and there we no other dog parks in town,
The remark left us slightly concerned leaving an impression of a frown,
Only one dog park in all of Port Douglas, now that seemed rather cruel,
So out of town we went and went on northbound to Newell,
We passed the town of Mossman that was home to a sugar mill,
And saw our first croc sign that gave our spines a chill,
To our right lay Newell Beach, hidden from Captain Cook,
Across the beach there lay the park where we went and betook,
Newell Beach Queensland our home for the next 7 days,
A beautiful place to relax and listen to the ocean’s waves.
The uniformed rows of citrus faded in the falcon’s rear-vision mirrors, soon all that was left was the outline of our caravan and the red dust from the road that swirled on behind us. With the orchards gone and our rear-visions blinded there was nothing left to do but look forward…
Forward to the horizon lay Mount Perry that separated the barren dry landscape of wild Aussie scrub and lonesome Iron-Bark trees that are beaten black by the smouldering summer’s sun. The red dusty track soon turned to bitumen and we were soon greeted by a bridge that stretched over the wide Burnett river at Mingo Crossing.
The bitumen road quickly turned back to loosen gravel and the road began to turn and wind through the gullies of the rigid mountain landscape. The scrub turned denser and soon the lonesome Iron-Bark trees congregated in numbers as we made our way into the Gosevnor Timber Reserve.
Floodway after floodway, bend after bend we were finally greeted with the township named after the mountain it rests on “Mount Perry”. Mount Perry, a quaint town, built during the days of the goldrush and during its century of belonging, it hasn’t aged a day despite the odd solar panel you can witness on the beautiful old Queenslanders that make up the street which nestles into the base of the rocky Iron-Bark mountain landscape.
We soon ventured left and wound our way up and down through the hillside of the Mungy State Forest. The dense vegetation of the forest soon thinned out to pasturing farmland and a few more kilometres on, we were gobsmacked by the views to the North of the Banja National Park just out of Yarrol.
Our bellies soon began to rumble so we pulled into the township of Monto to fill our hungry souls. Once replenished with tuckshop greasies we journeyed North-West, destination “Neville-Hewitt Weir, Baralaba Queensland (our first overnight stop since leaving Gayndah).
The Falcon struggled as it climbed the ever-increasing gradient of the Coominglah State Forest. Second gear she revved where third she chugged and hopped, finding the median balance eventually became easy as we slowly but surely made our way to the top of the incline. The Native outback soon turned to pine plantation where vegetation quickly became thick as it did scarce owe to logging. The plantations of pine soon turned back to thick Aussie scrub as we ventured into Grevillea State Forest. What came next was the highlight of our journey (that particular day) as Bottle-Trees soon started making an appearance amongst the rocky valleys of outback Queensland countryside.
The Falcon started to gain momentum as the road started to gradually decline. The hill sides vanished to our right and soon all that was left was open blue sky met by a road barrier, the only thing stopping us plummeting to a Thunderbird Thelma and Louisa style death. Below the sky (if you were game enough to look) sunken in a valley surrounded by deep red cliff faces lay a soup bowl of Australian fauna and scrub, our first sighting of Australian Table lands, the Table lands of the Kroombit Tops National Park. The barrier between the road and tablelands broadened and soon there was paddocks of farmland home to cattle and lonesome Bottle trees. A bottle tree soon appeared on the side of the road, 40meters tall it reached to the sky making the perfect centrepiece for a landscape photograph surrounded by dry crops that soon vanished as it met the cliff faces of the wide-ranging Table lands. A few kilometres down the highway from the magical Bottle Tree was a small rest stop which accommodated the ‘Lawgi Hall’ painted in earth colours of red, orange, and yellow and a black sunset in the background with silhouettes of bottle trees adorning it.
Lawgi Hall was the last iconic feature for a while to come, the Burnett Highway had now reached its decent and the tablelands had vanished in the distance, all that was left was pasturing flat lands that that faded out to the horizon.
After what seemed like a long drive, we finally came across some civilisation as we approached a town called Biloela. Biloela was much bigger than expected, a busy town built on the crossroads of the Burnett and Dawson Highway a certain Gateway City servicing the agriculture industry of the surrounding shires. The day was coming to an end, dusk was soon to make an appearance and Biloela vanished quick as it did come. We were on the Dawson Highway now and the word Burnett, a word so familiar to us these past few months was now gone!
The Journey to Baralaba seemed to never the end, the scenery didn’t change much except for the abundance of electronic flood warning indicators on the road specifying which routes were open. The sun was almost touching the bottom of the horizon now and with time on our minds, we were becoming ever delirious. In order to boost and rejuvenate the lack of sanity the music was turned full blast and The Rolling Stones soon filled our ears as we drove though the dry flat planes of rural Queensland. “Let’s spend the night together” was the next song to come on, a fitting song to say, especially as we were driving to Baralaba that was located in the Banana Shire of Queensland. With our genius minds we soon adapted the lyrics to the song and replaced the backing vocals to Baralaba, Ba Ba Banana. I don’t think I will be able to ever listen to the song again without associating it to Baralaba, Banana Queensland. “Let’s spend the night together” was played at least five times in a row, during that time we witnessed road trains, four trailers long they shook all over the road leaving truly little room for our caravan to pass with ease.
We finally arrived in Baralaba right on 5 o’clock, we slipped left and bypassed the small town where we soon made it to our destination “Neville-Hewitt weir” which was located on the Dawson River. What we had thought to be a quiet, remote free-camp soon became the complete opposite, every man and his dog in Queensland seemed to have the same idea, it was packed! Originally Yasmin and I were going to stay two nights, try some fishing and explore the region however due to the circumstances we decided to only stay one and leave early the next day, so early we didn’t even worry about disconnecting the caravan. The camp however did have an abundance of firewood and with the fire-ban season now finished we finally were able to christen our cast iron cookware I bought prior to leaving our journey. A delicious meal later and a hot cup of tea to replenish our souls, smelling of smoke we ventured to bed where we enjoyed a hard-earnt night’s sleep to then do it all over again the next day.
With the coals still kickin’ the next morning I heated up my cast iron pan and wacked some bacon on. With the sound of bacon crackling away Yasmin soon arose from the caravan (bacon will do that to a person). There’s no better way to start the day with a hot breaky, especially when there are 6 eyes watching you, anticipating your every move, longing for a bit to come their way! After a damn fine bacon and egg sanga we had a good old pommy shower and hit the frog and toad, destination: Emerald, Queensland.
We left Baralaba on a Sunday morning. Our fuel guage was indicating half full and being a Sunday the whole town was shut including the petrol bowsers, as disappointing as it was the idea of no trading on Sundays soothed my soul, coming from a generation that’s clock never unwinds it brought a smile upon my face that I got to witness a blast from the past, a past when times were simpler. After looking at the maps I decided we had plenty of fuel to cover our next fuel stop in a town called Woorabindi that lay 80km up the road. After crossing the Dawson river we were soon on the Woorabindi-Baralaba road, the farmlands soon disappeared and were now in the middle of the Dawson Range State Forest surrounded by dry iron bark trees.
Amongst the iron bark trees soon appeared empty plastic bottles, at first they were scattered here and there but as we ventured on down the road the rubbish seemed to thicken, what was such pretty scenery now seemed like a rubbish tip, a rubbish tip in the middle of nowhere. It took me a while to figure out where the rubbish had come from, at first I thought it was a rubbish truck driving down the road with its doors open, or a freak wind storm knocking down all the bins throughout the district but soon realisation sunk in as we came to the turn off towards Woorabindi, all the empty juice containers and coke bottles were subject to laziness, once consumed in the car journey the rubbish was thrown out the window with no respect to the land or environment.
Our fuel indicator was now indicating under a quarter, and as we arrived at Woorabindi we were greeted with a roadblock and a sign indicating the town was closed due to COVID-19 because of the indigenous community living in Woorabindi. Our maps revealed the next petrol bowser was 82km away in a town called Dingo so we ventured on up the road, it wasn’t until we were 20km out that our fuel indicator started bouncing so we pulled over and filled up half the tank with our jerry can (which has proved to be a well worth investment.)
60km later we had reached the Capricorn Highway, one of the busiest Highways we had come across our entire journey. Grey Nomads towing big rigs, trucks of all categories and marked utes from the coal industry swarmed the highway that lay amongst the dry landscape. We finally found a gap amongst the traffic and slowly but surely gained momentum where we joined the highways flow and travelled west.
We finally made it to Dingo around lunch time and were greeted by a sign saying, “Welcome to Dingo, home of the Dingo trap throwing competition”. For those of you that are familiar with the town you’d know that nothing much happens in Dingo, but to witness the trap throwing competition would be a big tick off the outback bucket list, a festival worth going to one day later down the track. We soon pulled into a roadhouse where we were able to fill our tanks and jerry cans full of fuel and checked our tyre pressures. The Roadhouse was great and very friendly to travellers offering cabins, showers, water stations, a restaurant, laundry and toilet facilities our first witness of a proper accommodating outback roadhouse!
Once our tanks were full we hit the highway again and headed west to Blackwater. Just after a town called Bluff we witnessed the Blackdown Tableland National Park and Arthurs Bluff State Forest, the views were incredible, very similar to the views we witnessed overlooking the Kroombit Tops National Park, but instead of overlooking the tablelands this time we got to witness them form the flats. The only downside is that the views were infiltrated by dirty coal mines that were scattered all over the highway. If I had my time again I would definitely go back and hike through the beautiful tablelands of the Blackdown National Park, there’s still plenty of time of course to go back.
The land was pretty barren after Bluff, to the left lay flat lands and coal mines, to the right lay flat lands and cattle farms, cattle farms owned by foreign big money with their big National Flags flown high above the expensive gateways to property’s most likely the size of some European countries.
We soon arrived at Blackwater. Blackwater at the end of the day wasn’t anything special, it’s a big mining town which hosts a couple of pubs (one extremely seedy looking containing slot machines), a McDonalds that thrives on the hard earned money of hungry miners and a coal museum which displays a gigantic coal shovel painted fire engine red. Not long after Blackwater we arrived in a town called Comet (our last stop before Emerald) where we checked out a free camp spot called Riley’s River Crossing that we found on Wiki camps that was located just out of town on the McKenzie river. Unfortunately for us there was no way we could get our caravan down to the riverbank, so we ventured back into town where we hopped back on the Capricorn Highway where we endured our last 40km before arriving in Emerald.
Reds, browns and yellows made up the dry landscape for the next 40km, the only thing breaking up the scenery was a train track whose primary role hosted trains that were coal-bound to Rockhampton. 40kms seemed to never end, the only thing peculiar during the stretch was water hungry cotton that lay scattered all over the side of the roads, cotton that most likely escaped from the top of a truck that glistened and danced through the air before sticking to the red soil, like beans spilled from a ripped beanbag, amongst the hot tarmac highway . Billboards soon made an appearance on the Capricorn Highway, one after another they appeared, majority of which reflected the local agricultural and mining industry. 10km later and what appeared to be 100 Billboards later we soon witnessed the township of Emerald.
The highway soon crossed the train tracks and to our right lay Emerald’s new shopping complex, a shopping complex that best reflects Australia’s everlasting culture plummet. Why travel Australia when town after town will slowly become the same? Shitty Metricon housing estates that border a busy shopping complex with all complexes hosting the same chain businesses and corporate supermarkets, soon the only way to distinguish a town will be by its landscape scenery and township name that is hung underneath complex chain signs such as Westfeild and Centro. But enough of my ranting as Emerald soon showed its true colours as we came across a pickup truck on the side of the road selling leather goods and platted whips, finally some outback culture to be seen!
The highway soon crossed the Nogoa River which lay host to a botanical garden and a beautiful old wooden railway bridge. Underneath the bridge lay free overnight camping. Unfortunately for us it was overcrowded and lay on a 20-degree slope, so we decided to venture on to a campsite close to Lake Maraboon. Emerald’s town centre soon fell upon us, an old railway station made the left side of the highway and countless pubs and pokie clubs made up the right. I was a little disappointed with Emerald, more to the fact that I assumed it was built around the riches of fossicking gems and sapphires, if you want to experience that type of thing you need to head out to the Gemfields close to the towns of Rubyvale and Sapphire which lay 61km inland of Emerald. Emerald at the end of the day is just a big agricultural town and dependent on the mining industry to spend their money at the pubs and slots. It does showcase Australia’s biggest easel supporting a not so resembling painting of Vincent Van Goh’s Sunflower, a good spot to get a photograph but at the end of day has no defining purpose to the town’s culture or landmarks.
The busy street soon faded in our rear-visons as we turned off the main highway towards Lake Maraboon. Citrus fields of uniformed rows again made an appearance, thoughts and memories soon made the hairs on the back of my neck stand to attention and the screaming of Tom’s name filled my thoughts, fortunately we soon approached the Fairbairn State forest and the uniformed rows soon vanished as quickly as they did come. We soon arrived at our campground called “Higher Ground” which lay a few kilometres up the hill from Lake Maraboon. We were greeted by a lovely woman who directed us down to our camp spot which would be our home for the next two nights. The campground wasn’t anything special, but for 11 dollars a night and an abundance of firewood, the campground made for a good spot.
The fire crackled as the sun went to bed, Moose ran around still half wet form his swim biting at the smoke and embers whilst Dixie lay curled up in a little ball underneath the awning. The chicken sizzled in the cast iron pan and few cold tins were cracked under the clear Milkyway. Our bellies were soon satisfied and the beer had worked its magic, it was time for bed, rejuvenate our batteries for a busy day the next.
Hopefully not all my blog posts begin like this but its been tough to catch up of late. Not that I dislike writing blogs of our adventures, but our trip has been too exciting and I have been wanting to embrace every moment where possible. Even writing this sentence now is tough, the sounds of the rapids of the Barron River are enticing me to come and have a play and admire nature’s beauty. Now distractions aside, lets get on with it..
It’s been 75 days, just shy of 11 weeks since arriving in Gayndah Queensland. Those 11 weeks have felt awfully slow yet when writing this blog, it feels as if our time here has flown by.
Gayndah “Queensland’s oldest town” Lies in the North Burnett Region 163 km south west of Bundaberg. The town is built on the Burnett river which trickles all the way to Bundaberg before flowing out to the Coral Sea. It’s river system is dependent on 5 other rivers throughout the Burnett region which rely heavily on flood rain. As all these river systems rely on flood capture it only takes 6mm of rain across the region to do damage!
The reason I am talking about the river systems is to help best describe the township of Gayndah and its long history of subject to flooding. So enough of the boring stuff lets’ best describe the township!
We left Toowoomba early Monday morning on the 13th of April. It wasn’t long out of Crow’s Nest that the landscape started changing. The green oasis of Toowoomba started fading to oranges and yellows and by the time we hit Goomeri we were in the middle of a dry dust bowl of drought stricken country. Although in Drought the scenery was still breathtaking. I was expecting the landscape to be flat and barren yet to my surprise the roads wound and turned through the hill sides of scrubby vegetation where Kangaroos bounced through the paddocks alongside the Brahman Cattle eating away at the dry vegetation as their humps on their Necks and loose skin on their chests wobble away at every mouthful consumed.
We arrived in Gayndah where we were greeted with the Big Orange. After several takes with our camera balancing on a bin lid we ventured on to take in the town. The town sat on the top edge of the riverbank and if you were to look at the river down below it would be hard to believe the water could rise so much. On the other side of the town rests a small rugged peak called Archers Lookout that looks over the town and the horizon which illuminates the mountain peaks of Bania National Park.
Old Queenslanders on high stilts made up the one-way long street all painted in quirky colours of pinks, pale blues and greens. Other Queenslanders lay there weathered and beaten from the flood damages that have occurred trough the town’s long flood history. Two Old Pubs sat adjacent the big intersection at the heart of the town which made no sense of giveaway or direction. The town offered you your basic needs such as butchers, a grocer, news agents and a hardware store, in-between the shops there were beautiful old buildings that were nicely renovated that consisted of a post office, an old bank with a lovely wrapped veranda and a beautiful old blue stone school. After our little tour of Gayndah, we left for the citrus farm which lay a few clicks upstream from the Burnett river.
The Citrus farm we worked on is a family run Citrus farm that has been passed down through the generations since the early 1900’s. The Citrus farm is home to many varieties of citrus fruits that comprise of Oranges, Mandarins, Lemons, Limes, Grapefruits and soon Mangoes.
The farm is built on the Burnett River which irrigates the 170-hectare farm which consist roughly of 90,000 trees. You can get lost wandering the endless orchards fields, row by row they stand in uniform like a giant army that fades out to haziness as it reaches the horizon line.
The farm has a caravan park that is situated on the river a few hundred meters from the packing shed (my place of primary work). It was a quaint little park that had all your little basic needs. The packing shed was primarily made up of backpackers working for their Visa cards. We had three other couples living in our camp that consisted of French and Italian nationalities. They however lived in an old farmhouse next to the caravan park, so we practically had the whole waterfront to ourselves which was quite pleasant.
Working and Lifestyle
Every morning we would walk the dogs around the Orchards before starting work. We would usually get up around 5am each morning as I usually started work around 0630 to make boxes. Making boxes is primarily what I did during my 11 weeks. The only fruits that I did not make boxes for were Lemons, Oranges and Grapefruits and depending on the volume of Mandarins on the day I would be in between making and stacking boxes onto pallets. I much preferred stacking boxes, it was a very mundane job though, the job entailed looking at the size number on the barcode and stacking the 25kg boxes in accordance to their size onto pallets, however I liked the fact that you could move around, have a chat to the backpackers whilst you were lifting heavy boxes and burn some calories in the process. The box machine was something different!
The box machine was notorious for breaking down. The reason I believed I was picked for the job was the English barrier amongst the backpackers, as I had to communicate regularly when the box machine was playing up. Sometimes it was the carboard that went into the machine that was the problem, either to brittle or bowed due to climate conditions, and other days it was the machine itself, too much glue, loose nuts, air leaks you name it! When it was working though it proved to be good, a box every three seconds!!
If everything went well, I would have a busy day but a cruisy one at that. When it was cruisy, I would practically just stare at the clock and watch the time slowly go no-where, standing in one particular position all day really did a toll on the back over a long period of time too. When the machine did not want to play ball, it was pure chaos!
The packing shed ran like clockwork, punching out boxes all day one after another, as soon as one gear from the clock’s mechanics failed, production stopped. I unfortunately was the main gear, without boxes there was no packing and as soon as something went wrong my stockpile of boxes would quickly fade away. Then there would be hell to pay! In hindsight I should not have a worried too much, being paid a dollar under minimum wage per hour I shouldn’t have cared really, but the hard working nature in me made me care too much, as stressful as it was I did enjoy trying to stay on top of things and ensure there was enough boxes throughout the day to keep production going.
Yasmin’s Job is the primarily reason we scored our gig at the citrus farm. With the outbreak of COVID-19 that was happening, businesses across the country had to comply with measures to help reduce the spread of the virus. Yasmin’s day consisted of a morning and afternoon routine of sanitising runs across the farm. Twice a week she also had to do a major clean of the farms amenities and occasionally had to provide babysitting services when the Nanny was unavailable.
During her down time Yasmin would crochet, maintain a tidy quarters, walk the dogs around the orchards and take them down to the river where they would fetch sticks, go for swims and run amuck on the wide sandy beach banks or the Burnett. Depending on my working schedule I would join Yasmin and the pups on a walk through the orchards of an afternoon but if I were to work late my wife would come out on top and have dinner waiting for me which we would accompany with a cold beer every night as we would watch the sunset vanish over the horizon. That was basically our 11 weeks and daily routine in a nutshell, the mozzies would come out of a night time when the sun went down, and with an early morning get up the next day the night consisted of a hot shower, a TV episode in bed accompanied by a hot cuppa tea and we couldn’t bare the weight in our eyelids after a busy day we’d brush our teeth turn off the lights and of a night I would dream of the box machine questioning if it was going to be a good day or bad day the next
The Good, The Bad and The Queen B
If you have been reading this, you might be thinking that it was all sunshine’s and rainbows during our time at the citrus farm. This however was not the case. Let us start with the good first!
I guess in a way we were fortunate enough to gain employment during the hardships of COVID-19. With travel restrictions enforced in the state of Queensland it seemed like a wise idea to lock down for a few months and earn some money.
As we were in Queensland for the winter the weather appealed to us, with an Average of 20 degrees during the day we were in a much better situation then our home state of Victoria where they were experiencing 8 degree days.
The farm was well isolated from major towns and majority of the employees lived on the premises. With Yasmin’s sanitising runs it gave us the peace of mind that we were safe from the pandemic.
There was a lot of citrus that was not packed as it was bruised or disfigured. We had the privilege to take as many fruits as we wanted that proved to be good eating and made for a delicious Sangria.
Majority of the employees and backpackers were wonderful people, a few of the French lads we met are even joining us in Arlie Beach on their travels. It’s safe to say we made a few friends whilst working there, although I was set out to learn Russian on my travels, I have learnt far more French during my stay at the citrus farm. Most of them crude however!
There were a lovely couple who lived on the property called Garry and Gerry. Garry and Gerry would come around once a week and enjoy a few cold ones with us down at the park. We were also invited to their premises where Gerry had platters of goodies waiting for me. Gerry was like my Mother or an Italian Nona during my time at the farm, always feeding me goodies of stir-fries, roasts, homemade biscuits and left-over meals from the tuck shop she worked at the local Gayndah school. The two were a match made in heaven, they would love to bicker and banter (all in good favour) and enjoyed the simple things in life. I wish the two of them the best.
The Son and his Wife who helped run the property were wonderful people. Below in the bad section nothing is directed their way. Even during our weeks of no work, they would give us a few chores around their property to help make bank. I also wish them the best for the future!
The bird life was incredible, we witnessed Red tail Cockatoos for the first time in the wild, so much bigger than I imagined! We also encountered huge eagles by the roadsides, wild bush turkeys and peacocks and came across an Emu that could fly, commonly known as Bustards. The green tree frogs were a sight to see also, Yasmin made a friend near the camps laundry where one would come out of a night-time.
Beau, a beautiful Red Kelpie lived on the farm. He was tall and lanky, but you could tell he came from good stock. Beau was a little shy at first but as the months slowly went on by, he became a part of the family. Moose and Dixie loved playing with him! I wish we could have taken him away with us on our adventure!
And now the bad! More bad than good!
When we signed up for the job, I was promised 10-hour days 6 days a week. When we signed our contract, we were to be paid one dollar under minimum wage at a casual rate (the Queen B made an arrangement with some shitty farming award). There was no over time or penalty rates of a weekend. As Yasmin and I are travelling around Australia this didn’t really concern us, if we were to work full time we definitely wouldn’t agree to these terms however as this was a means for a short duration to earn some bank we signed the contract. Unfortunately for us it was a bad season, not only at our particular citrus farm but also across the region. So, our 10 hours a day 6 days a week did not exist!
The farm had a high gadget sorting machine and conveyer system. Unfortunately, when there is lots of high gadget machinery there is a lot of break downs. This happened at least twice a week sometimes more during our time there. The bad thing was is that we had to clock off every time the machine broke down. Even though we lived on premises 200 meters down the hill we were not allowed to go back to camp. Sometimes we would wait 4 hours for the machines to start working again, then only for them to break down 30 minutes later! There was a day I recall where we were at work for 11 hours and only were only paid for three. It was bloody ridiculous. The worst was part was when there was only two hours to go to complete packing for the day, they would turn the machines off and we would have to come in just to work two hours the next day.
The communication from management was terrible at the farm. They would never give you an honest answer when it came to your working schedule. For example; we were changing over fruits and the fruits that we were to go onto next were not ready to pick. If you were to talk to the farmers working on the orchards they would tell you that they wouldn’t be ready for a few weeks, yet in the packing sheds they would tell you they were uncertain and that there could still be some work the following week. After hearing this news from the management on the day they would then come to you at the end of the day and lay on you that there was no work at all next week. The worst part was that you came back the next week and you would work two days, have a day of, work two hours and be told at then end of the day that you were going to have another week off. It would have been better of them to be honest and just say that there was no work for the next two weeks. We could have organised and planned a trip away but without warning this made it difficult.
During our stay we paid 7 dollars a day each to stay at the caravan park. A reasonable price (although not when your being paid under wage). The alarming part was that we had to pay 7 dollars when we were not working. I can understand weekends but when they throw you in the deep end and not give you work for weeks it was criminal to have to pay to stay when you’re not earning money!
The farm was home to every prickle you could think of! The dogs were practically on three legs the whole time hopping all over place and picking out bindies from their paws. Brushing Moose was the worst!!
We were paid Fortnightly. I had a few good fortnights during my time where I almost worked 100 hours a fortnight. The only problem is that when you are paid fortnightly you get taxed heavily. The backpackers had it lucky when it came to their tax, I worked an extra 20 hours then they did that fortnight and they still came up on top of me. Thankyou Government!
The Burnett River was infested with catfish. I went swimming once only to have Catfish pop up right in my face and make some weird sounds. A Catfish even swallowed Moose’s tennis ball in the river one time! That is how big they were!
Not all the wildlife was beautiful! From exotic bird species to green tree frogs there were pestering Cane toads, Brown snakes that would slither between you, Pythons that would curl up near your door step, Red Belly’s amongst the orchards and big spiders that made Yasmin fear for her life. Welcome to outback Queensland!
Our lovely warm days turned cold overnight. In the mornings there was frost on the grass and orchards. Sometimes it got down to 1 degree. Yasmin was not impressed as we were supposed to be in warm sunny Queensland for the winter. It turns out whilst we were in Queensland, they had experienced their coldest winter in 100 years. Lucky us! It still beats being in Victoria though for the winter (especially now)!
The local IGA in Gayndah being a small-town supermarket was ridiculously overpriced! It was cheaper for us two drive two hours away to Gympie or Bundaberg and by groceries there instead of 20 minutes down the road. In all seriousness if we were paid more, we would have most likely supported local however unfortunately this was not the case. This however gave us a chance to explore the Bundaberg region and made for some good weekends away from the citrus life.
And now for the Queen B!
The “Queen B” was in charge of the packing shed. At 70 something years of age she still worked like a machine! In retrospect I have great admiration for the woman when it comes to her working abilities, ruthless in all aspects! She did things her way, and if you did what she asked, you would not have a problem, sometimes she would favour your side, but at most she had no respect for you. You were just one of the many thousands that’s have come through the joint and she just looks at you like the number on your pay-check!
She was much easier or the men in the packing shed, the women had it the worst! There was no leeway when it came to their mistakes and she was absolutely ruthless to them when they did something incorrect! On several occasions I got to witness a few schoolyard bickering’s where she would pull girls up individually and they would scream and yell and have it out! There were even times when she would sometimes yank them by their body fat or even throw fruit at there heads. As Evils Presley once said, “the devil in disguise”. Having a peaceful nature all this school yard bullying made me feel perturbed and made it an uncomfortable working environment to work in, especially when the men had it so much better…. Apart from poor Tom…
Apparently, every season the Queen B favours one lad and despises one other. Her behavioural attributes would make a great villain source for a fantasy novel, like a spider who captures two prey. favouring and pampering one and torturing and tormenting the other, feeding her soul of emotions! But in the end, she would kill and eat them, there’s no hero to help come and save the day!
Tom was the poor fool….
Tom a young backpacker from the Netherlands was one of the nicest young lads I met in the packing shed. His English was good although his thick accent was hard to understand. Tom’s job was to help keep the flow going for the packers. He would stack boxes in front of the packing stations for packing, empty rubbish bins and stay on top of the juice bins. The Job wasn’t overly tough, probably the second most boring job next to sorting but his adolescence and life experience made him the perfect prey for Spider. It was very noisy at my station of my work but one thing I could hear above all the machinery’s noise was Toms name. The way she would scream his name would make the hairs on your arms stick up, it was awful! As Tom had lots of small jobs to do throughout the today, he had to best prioritise his work, as no man is capable to do 5 jobs at once. Yet when poor Tom was working on one of his priorities the spider would sneak up and check on the other priorities, even if he was in control of his tasks she’d find a means to pick on his work and scream his name for her own satisfaction!
As I said earlier on the packing shed was full on, non- stop work! During its busiest times myself or the stackers were only just holding the strings together. Tom had a lot of downtime so he would help us in between his jobs. This gave us a huge relief during the busy times. The Queen B did not like this one bit, not being able to keep a track on him rampaged her narcissistic behaviour and she laid it out on Tom. Tom was unfortunately torn between two worlds as he was no longer permitted to leave his post, if he were to leave and help another station he would be screamed at, if he were to stay and do nothing he was to be screamed at!!
Tom and his girlfriend were one of the few that lived in Gayndah. Some mornings I would get a brief text message to explain that the machines weren’t working, and we were to have a later start time. Even the French backpackers off base would get a text message but Tom and his girlfriend were always left out of the loop. They would get to work on time at quarter to 7 and would wait in their car till Noon. Once they started work there’d be no apologies form the Queen B and she went straight onto screaming at him! The worst form of bullying I witnessed Tom and his girlfriend endure was when we got to work on the fields and do pruning for two days out in the sun. With the lack of work that we had in the last months, although hurting our bank accounts it was really hurting the backpackers with their need to work hours to maintain their 88 day working Visas. Everyone was lucky enough to work 15 hours over the next two days… Everyone.. Except for Tom and his Girlfriend. Now if this isn’t narcissistic bullying behaviour, I’m not sure what is! This is where I lost all respect for the woman, I was almost not going to mention her at all in this post but this incident drew the line, not only to help describe what majority of backpackers have to put up with whilst working in this country but to help me remember that when all of our travels are over and done with that I’ll never tolerate work place bullying again!
When I gave her our resignation notice I was nice and formal to her, I gave her more than ample notice period, wishing her all the best with the season and company’s future, I know in her working life she’s probably witnessed thousands of employees leave and go and the process had probably become mundane, but after all I done and put up with, weeks with no work, waiting around for broken machinery to be fixed or working my ass off for below minimum wage all I got was a nod. Her last words to me were, “when you finish make sure you turn off the switch” and she was gone!
To summarise the spider, she was incredible at her job, but her emotions got the best of her, to earn respect you must give respect. In the end she probably doesn’t care, this is her life, this her job, to suck every bit of energy out of each employee until the season ends, season after season, repeat, repeat.
Now enough of my bickering let’s get onto some more uplifting content…
Ahhh weekends away! Its funny in a way, we are on a working holiday, surely weekends don’t hold importance anymore, it’s a holiday, right? Well to say it frankly… they sure god damn do!
It was a big relief when we could get away. When you work and live at the same place it does a toll on you, I don’t know how the employees who live and work there full time do it. Yasmin and I would do a big grocery shop once a fortnight (every Payday) depending on our working schedule. Depending on how much we earnt that fortnight was how much we could spend during our trips. With COVID-19 restrictions enforced we were only allowed to travel up to 200km with purpose. With Gayndah geographically situated where it is we were able to travel to Bundaberg, Gympie and when restrictions eased a bit more we could then travel to Hervery Bay and Elliots Head, our grocery shopping just so happened to be our ticket to travel.
We would usually only do day trips, but we would make a big day of it, leaving early after a morning walk and arriving back during the night after witnessing beautiful picturesque sunsets across the valley.
Our first weekend away was Bundaberg. I’m not going to go into too much detail as we plan to come back through Bundaberg to experience the distillery. I honestly didn’t think too much of Bundaberg, although I haven’t spent enough time there to give a thorough detailed description. It’s just a big town really that’s nestled between crops of water sucking Sugar Cane! To best describe it would be to compare it to Gayndah but on a larger scale, same principal, built on a flood river with flood damage over the years. It was a hot day form memory when we drove to Bundaberg. We drove to the botanical gardens on the other side of the Burnett River. The garden was incredible, and we will definitely go back and experience it again. The highlight was the petrol prices at the bowsers, 82c a litre! Won’t see those prices ever again!
After not really liking Bundaberg we decided to travel to Gympie for our weekend away! Yasmin’s parents go there every year to attend a blues festival which is why we were intrigued to go there. We really liked Gympie as a town, it was a small township that was built on the hills that lay next to the Mary River. Gympie offered a wonderful river walking trail which you could then follow into the beautiful town. Being a very old town, it showcases many old beautiful Queenslanders that looked over the region’s hillsides.
FAQ: Gympie is home to Nescafe’s Blend 43, Gympie’s claim to fame!
On our East coast adventure, we planned to go inland all the way up to Port Douglas before experiencing the beach. After being isolated amongst all the prickles for a long period it was time to detour from our original route and hit the beach! As Bundaberg was home to many beaches that were home to Sea Turtles there wasn’t too many dog friendly beaches around the area. We were lucky enough that there was one 30km south of Bundaberg at Elliot Heads. Elliot Heads was worth the visit, we arrived there early when there wasn’t many people walking the beach, so the dogs had free roam! It was a nice firm sandy beach which offered long walks to the river mouth. After an intense morning of walking, swimming and ball throwing it was time to appreciate some fresh fish n chips by the beach that looked out over the coral sea!
And last but not least, Hervey Bay!
We are heading back to Hervey bay (Fraser Coastline) when we come back down the coast, so I won’t go into too much detail. Hervey Bay was our proper weekend away. We took the plunge a week before our trip and booked a small, pet friendly house on Air-BNB. As It turns out we could have booked more nights with the packing shed not operating again, but our one night away was well worth it!
Hervey bay is located and hour and 20 minutes below Bundaberg. Its renowned for its fishing and marine life. Every year whales of all species migrate through the Fraser Coast and put on a show for the community. It’s home to a massive wooden fishing peer where the “local peer rats” (a common term for the fishing locals) spend their day fishing under the hot sun. The marina was a sight to see and also the gateway to get to Fraser Island.
Hervey Bay was much bigger than we anticipated. It’s esplanade amongst for foreshore went on forever. According to the locals it was once a retirement town but over the towns history it is now turning more into a tourist hot spot with apartment buildings being built across the bay. There were many restaurants in Hervey bay to choose from and during our stay we indulged ourselves with delicious Indian, breakfast outings and some damn good fish and chips!
Our trip away really enticed us to keep travelling again and it turned out to be the turning point in our story where we would soon hand in our resignations and continue on our story. So long Hervey Bay we will meet again shortly!
Budgeting and life lessons
This was our first experience working on our Australian Adventure. Will we work on another Citrus farm?? Probably not… Unless both parties can agree on fixed hours and a decent rate, plus after looking at so many mandarins and lemons I don’t think I can possibly look at another one for quite some time. The good thing is that we can learn from what went wrong working on the citrus farm and have a better understanding when we look for our next employment stint.
Originally when we were planning our trip around Australia, we planned to work two weeks here and a week there. This unfortunately isn’t the case. You really need to need lock down a season’s employment when travelling around, you may be lucky to jump on the tail end of a season and fill someone’s spot but most of the time the employer is wanting you the long haul as they have to train you in the field (which makes perfectly good sense). This was our first learning.
When you’re going to lock down a two month or three-month season you really want to get the most out of it for your travels. You don’t want to be working the whole time on the road! If we’re going to be working three months, we want to go at it hard and really work solidly during that time! That way you can ensure you’ll have a nice savings account in order to get you around comfortably.
When Yasmin and I were promised 10-hour days, 6 days a week I did some basic math and some expenditures, even on our crappy rate we planned to save 10k each over our three months. If this actually happened, we would have been in a pretty tight situation and we almost could have avoided working for the rest of the year, but unfortunately it wasn’t the case and we are going to be lucky if we will get by until September. But once again we will learn from our experiences, and if we aren’t working the hours, we were promised we will hand notice as soon as possible! If it weren’t for the virus we would have left much sooner.
For those of you who are wondering how much we earnt I’ll break it down for you as if we were working a 5-day, 38 hour week.
Casual Pay Rate $23.98 per hour before tax
Casual Pay Rate 23.98 per hour before tax
$9424.00 Gross over 11 weeks
$6325.00 gross over 11 weeks
$1608 held in tax = $7816.00 net
$770 held in tax = $5,555.00
7816/11 = $710.54 per week after tax
5555/11 = $505.00 per week after tax
710.54/5 = $142.00 a day over a 5-day week
505/5 = 101.00 over a 5-day week
142/8 = $17.75 per hour after tax
101/8 = $12.62 per hour after tax
So much for saving 10 grand each??
Now Yasmin and I could have gone to Hervey Bay for three months, locked in a really good COVID19 rate at a caravan park (the rates were good as no one was travelling) and we would have earnt a lot more if we would have applied for Job Seeker at $1200 a fortnight each! I like to tell myself I was helping the economy during its difficult time and we were gaining experiences. Gaining experiences yes but looking back on to it I wish we applied for Job Seeker. Three months by the bay would have been total bliss!
And we are off!!!!
We gave more than a weeks’ notice when we handed in our resignations. We managed to work almost a full week that week which was nice. It was a cruisy week too; I was helping train the next sorry sucker to help run the box machine for the duration of the season. Our last night we had a little party in the camp where Gerry and Garry came with a platter of goodies and some delicious garlic bread. It was a wonderful night standing around the fire having some good chuckles! The next morning, we were packed by lunch and hit the beaten track! No looking back in our rear vision mirrors we hit the red dusty road, a feeling we haven’t felt for some time, let the adventures continue!
First, I would like to express my apologies to anyone who has been waiting in anticipation for our next Blog update. I am a little behind due to our hectic new lifestyle called “work”. It has been a remarkably busy week; our bodies are feeling fragile and our minds are exhausted… but all for a good cause! We are lucky in a way as we have found a great spot to settle down for the next three to four months working on a citrus farm on the outskirts of Gayndah QLD. Plus, a Queensland’s Winter will be good for the soul! We are only four days into work, it has been tough! Hopefully soon our bodies will start to recover and adapt to our new working lifestyle. But enough of Gayndah, we have many months to write about that chapter, let us get back to Toowoomba!
Greetings from Toowoomba everybody! 11 days, our longest stint yet. Our previous blogs have been more of a diary entry, day one, day two, sleep, eat, repeat. Toowoomba has kind of rolled into one big lump for us, much more relaxing than our previous weeks prior and we managed to find a lazy routine.
We arrived in Toowoomba on Thursday April the 2nd, still feeling anxious after our border crossing into Queensland. We found that the Showgrounds in Toowoomba had the best deals in town for a powered site at $25.00 a night so we decided to stay four nights. We were lucky in a way, we arrived on Thursday the day before Queensland’s border protection increased their protocol for entry and the police had started cracking down on unnecessary travel.
Four nights tuned to six and six turned out to be nine (no Hendrix reference intended). We were kind of stuck in Toowoomba it turns out, without work we had no purpose and work was becoming hard to source.
We sent out job advertisements all over Queensland where we intended to travel on our journey. We had a few nibbles in Emerald where we had possible work on a cattle farm, this however fell through with the pandemic. We also had another bite north of Emerald in a small town called Clermont for two to three months, however the job was more of a voluntary role, caretaking an old farmhouse in return for accommodation. Communication was difficult with this job and with no word for a few days, we decided to come up with a plan B.
We either had two choices. Stay in Toowoomba until we found work or, drive to Hervey Bay, find an accommodation deal for a “14 day self-isolation package” (gives us reason to travel) and find work whilst there nestled amongst the seaside. The beach was looking particularly good to us, so we decided if we hadn’t heard any word from our job advertisements the next day, we would head North East to Hervey Bay.
Yasmin put a ban on my phone that day as it had had become a part of me the last few days, applying for jobs and clicking refresh on my emails awaiting a response. 12 o’clock came and I was “allowed” to have a sneak peak, no word from the email department however a job popped up on a Grey Nomads website seeking paid employment for an individual willing to do part time work as a cleaner on a citrus farm. I ended up writing a lengthy email explaining our situation, telling the employer we were happy to share the role however being two of us and being young we would be happy to do other roles around the farm if available.
We did not hear anything from the citrus farm that day so plan B was looking like the go, until we received a phone call later that night from the citrus farm. It turns out they had a full-time position for me in their packing sheds for the season and Yasmin could have potential work maintaining the gardens on their property as well as her cleaning errands. We had till the next day to decide, we messaged back in 5 minutes, the opportunity was too good!
The next day we left by 9am and hit the road to Gayndah where we would be spending the next three to four months working away in isolation, saving our pennies to hopefully travel further up the East coast (if the pandemic restrictions ease by then).
But enough about our plans and strategies let us talk about Toowoomba…
Toowoomba was beautiful, exceptionally clean, and much bigger than we anticipated. It is Australia’s largest rural town, and even beats Darwin and Cairns in regarding its population. The old architecture was incredibly special, the city was made of late 1800’s buildings as well as art deco era buildings. The main architecture that stood out though was the beautiful old “Queenslander” homes that were scattered around the CBD. I could live in one of those!
Toowoomba is home to many parks. I did some research whilst writing this in regarding how many parks there were in Toowoomba. I guessed maybe 70-80 turns out there is over 150!!! And these were not just ordinary average parks, majority of them were beyond “okay”.
Our favourite Parks were ‘Queens Park’ that was nestled on the edge of the CBD and ‘Picnic Point’ that overlooked the valleys of Toowoomba and these parks became the staples of our everyday routine whilst in Toowoomba.
Queens Park was huge! It has an open amphitheatre, cricket and rugby fields, kids areas, botanic gardens and the best till last the best off-leash dog park ever! Before I get back to the dog park, I would like to express how great Toowoomba is at being a dog friendly town, so many facilitated dog areas, off lead reserves and everyone seemed to love dogs!
Once again, the off-leash area at Queens park was our highlight. All we would have to do is find a nice shady spot under a tree on the well-kept lawn, unclip their leads and watch them run amuck with all the other dogs and their owners. We would sit there for hours either watching, reading a book, or eating ice-creams and the wonderful take away options Toowoomba had to offer. It was a nice way to unwind and relax and during my busy days of work I am sure to reflect on it and miss the peace and tranquillity of Queens Park.
Picnic Point was amazing! It overlooked “Table Top Mountain” (which I will get too next) and the valleys of Toowoomba. There was a huge Pole that towered over the hill that flew a giant Australian Flag that danced through the blue April skies. There were many walking tracks that started and finished at Picnic Point that wound up and down the mountain face. There were parts of the trails that were a little gruelling, especially when on the ascend, but overall, it was a good moderate walk to get the blood pumping and dogs panting. The loop we walked on finished at a beautiful waterfall where the dogs had a swim and a much-deserved drink.
Now on to Table Top Mountain! What a walk!! I mean Climb!
We drove to Table Top Mountain the morning of a predicted thunderstorm, we thought it would be a good start to the day to tire out the dogs (and Yasmin) before a rainy-day in. The dogs were extremely excited when we arrived at the base of the mountain, a few stretches later and a big drink of water, we were off!
The walk turned into a rock climb very quickly, it was hard to climb the rocks when we had our dogs on leashes so we removed them from their harnesses and watched them bolt up the rock formations without any drama. The formations then turned to paths and the paths turned to loose stone rubble. There was a particular part of the climb where Moose started to whine whilst he was hopping down, he and Yasmin were not impressed by the steepness of the rock climbing and were both a little scared. Dixie on the other hand could not care less!! We think she may be part mountain goat! We were almost at the pinnacle of the mountain where that last 100 meters turned to a 70-degree elevation (this was much harder to come down then climb up!) with making it this far and our prides on our back we struggled up the last 100 meters to where we defeated Table Top Mountain and enjoyed the 360 degree views of the Valleys. The overcast day made great cloud coverage that in return made for some great photos.
As I stated before we stayed at the Toowoomba Showgrounds for 10 nights. The Showgrounds were noticeably quiet which made for good camping, we set up camp right next to a big pond that accommodated many species of bird. There were Stalks that would talk, Ibis’s perched or Ficuses, Pelicans that hovered like Zeppelins, Geese that did a silly walk like John Cleese, Ducks that would run amuck, Magpie-Larks that would leave a mark (shit all over your car), Lorikeets that sound so sweet and Corellas that drive you fucking bonkers!!!!
The Corellas were amazing…… at first…. There were Hundreds of them that would nest behind the pond, in the morning and evening they would fly overhead squawking and crying, 100 decibels of chaos! Luckily, the caretakers had a big air gun that would frighten them away, unfortunately though it would frighten Moose too! Overall, the Showgrounds were rather good, the only thing I could rant about was the cleanliness of the amenities, there was a band-aid in the corner of the shower that was staring at me for a week!
That about does it for Toowoomba. It is a beautiful, big, clean country town with plenty to offer and extremely dog friendly if you are wishing to take your pups. They also seem to love their Windmills! So many windmills! Yasmin and I play this game in the car where we count and tally windmills on our journey. I thought I would be a smartarse on our morning walk prior to leaving Toowoomba where I counted all 15 windmills that I knew of! By the end of the day Yasmin had beaten me by seven windmills 48 to 41. She has not let it go since!
Thanks for reading our Blog entry of Toowoomba. I will probably write a Blog entry in the next few weeks of our progression into working life on a citrus farm, until then keep safe, sending our love your way.
Greetings from Toowoomba, Queensland! Yes, we made it!!
It’s been a rainy day here which in a way has been great, I can finally go through and organise my emails and finish off my blog post on Tamworth NSW. I thought I’d begin part two with the good news. It was getting a little dreary and stressful before, the stress is now in the past and I can continue the story with a clear head… anyway this is how it goes……
When it rains it pours!
It’s 1400 hour on a Friday and we receive a phone call… your car is ready to be picked up. $1200.00 later, we had the old falcon backed up to the caravan. We still had time to reach Ban Ban springs by Sunday, set up camp and commence work citrus picking on the Monday!
That evening we walked up to Oxley lookout which looked out over the township of Tamworth and beyond! It was a beautiful night another well-deserved ice cream later and a cuppa tea called for an early night to recharge our batteries for our busy day next.
Its 1000 hours, the car is all packed and all I must do is connect the caravan to the car. I start winding up the caravan’s front stabilizers in order to lower the jockey wheel to connect the caravan to the tow ball, when I notice something…
There was a clean break on the caravan’s chassis where the drawbar ends, not on the weld but the actual C channel. This wasn’t good! I picked up my phone straight away and called “Terrys Help line”, his word confirmed my worst-case scenario, the caravan wasn’t going to go anywhere anytime soon.
Lesson number 6; mechanical faults will always happen on a weekend when most businesses are closed.
After a stressful tantrum in my head I found a number for a mobile welder. He was there in 30 minutes however after having a look and a poke he wasn’t keen on doing the job “too much responsibility on his behalf if his braces didn’t hold” which was fair enough in hindsight. This is where we thought our trip had come to an end! Without work in Queensland we couldn’t cross the border, and with what the welder had explained to us to fix it properly would cost us an arm and a leg!
Saturday wasn’t a good day for us, bad luck after bad luck. What were our options, what were we going to do? Would it be wise to just come home, fix the caravan and wait out this pandemic, or would we buy another caravan and find other means to get our old girl home? With it being a weekend, all businesses were closed in order to contact. Let’s just wait until Monday and call around, if no good news can come from it, we may have to get the father in-law to rescue us with the tilt tray truck!
We contacted Judy our employer from Ban-Ban Springs to tell her our bad news and that we couldn’t make it. Judy was incredibly nice about our situation, she had plenty of other workers interested in our position however she did say she was very keen to work with us and for us and for us to experience citrus picking. Judy also informed us that if we could somehow fix our problems that there could be an opening in the first few weeks as time has shown a few people drop out during harvest, It was nice to know that we still could possibly have work however with our situation I was fairly doubtful that this would happen.
The next day to cure our Sunday blues we went for a drive to a little town called Nundle. Nundle is a pretty little town built on the Peel River during the gold rush era. Unfortunately, most of the little quirky old shops were shut due to the virus so we ventured on up the mountain the town sat under to have a look at New south Wales version of “Hanging Rock”. The views looking over the valley were incredible. We captured many great photos one of which made a Facebook group’s “Travel Australia with Dogs” cover photo for April. We then drove down the mountain for a relaxing afternoon by the Peel River, where I tried my luck at a little panning. One little sapphire later I called it quits so we ventured back to the Caravan Park where we had an early dinner, a brisk walk with the dogs and an early night for hopefully some positive news the next day.
We are almost at the end of Tamworth Part two. Before I finish with the story, I’d like to share with you a poem I wrote to help capture the essence of Tamworth as a town.
I once thought of Tamworth as a town to lay flat on a wheaten belt,
Red dust and tumble weeds drifting across the cracked country roads,
The smell of leather from the horse saddles drifting through the air across the fields of spelt,
And folk walking about, guitars in hand, bootcut wranglers tightly against their bodes,
But to my surprise she wasn’t so flat, however, wound, with valleys and hills,
Red turned to green, weeds turned to brooks and trees turned to art deco blocks,
Oxley lookout so grand with views afar giving your body thrills,
And the sunsets so surreal, blood oranges and blues once turned to black beats with a flying fox.
Monday morning, D-day! Rain was predicted in the afternoon so to tire out the dogs (and the wife) before I made some calls we drove up to Oxley lookout where we went for a hike towards Flag Staff Mountain. It was a muggy morning with the rain about to come and by the time we made the gruelling hike to Flag Staff Mountain you could wring a litre of sweat from our singlets. The walk was worth it, we were feeling good with the endorphins kicking through our bodies. After our hike we drove into town where we parked the car (In Tamworth they angle park with the car noses facing the streets, the small things!) and celebrated with a coffee before we went back to our caravan spot to tackle business.
My first (and only) phone call I made was to a welding business called Red Hot Welding. The owner was about to head out to an off-sight job however nicely enough drove to the caravan park on his way through. He was there in 15 minutes, had a look, told us he could fix it by the end of the day! It’s fortunate it was raining that day and the idea of him working on the caravan under cover instead of his outside job appealed to him. He had his mate there half an hour later with a tilt tray truck, up the caravan went, and she was off!
We spent the next few hours huddled under the small barbeque area of the caravan park whilst the rain started to really kick in.
The caravan park we stayed at was divided by a road. On our side of the road contained 4 couples including us. To the left of us was a nice couple from Western Australia who were stuck in the state after coming over here to attend a reunion. To the right of us were a very lovely couple from the Netherlands who were stuck in the country due to the pandemic. They however had a positive view on life and were enjoying the tranquillity of Tamworth whilst waiting for a flight to become available for their journey back home. Across the road from us was a retired couple from Queensland. “Blue” was his nickname, once a redhead, was here in Tamworth to have some skin cancers removed. Blue and I got talking the day our caravan was taken away and it turns out he was highly decorated in the Army being a tank commander. He ended up pouring me a cup of tea and we both started talking about our experiences in the military, next thing later Yasmin’s being called over, being served a nice hot cup of tea on a cold rainy day, he was a true gentlemen.
Gladys was ready not long after our pampering, she was as good as new when we picked her up. Terry said they had done Gorilla welds, although ugly, were very strong. So we had good faith in the caravan to continue the rest of our journey. The best thing too was he only charged us $200.00 cash and $80.00 for the tow! I was so relieved when I heard the price thinking it was going to cost us thousands!
We left the Caravan connected to the falcon that night so we could head off quickly the next morning. I contacted Judy again, the citrus’s hadn’t ripened as of yet so unfortunately work hadn’t commenced and no one had dropped out, we decided however that we would still drive North to Tenterfield NSW the next day and hang around the border until we hopefully heard some good news.
The next morning after a walk and some needed supplies we ventured north bound on the New England highway towards the border.
6 more nights in Tamworth then anticipated and $1800 dollars later we were finally on the road! The New England highway was a very picturesque drive and I think we tackled it mostly in second gear. She was very hilly! The highway was very well kept and had double lanes every time you went up in elevation which gave me the peace of mind when big B doubles overtook me when I was slowly chugging away in second.
We found a rest area on the side of the road that had beautiful views of Bluff Mountain, 20km south of Tenterfield that night. The view from the rest area was magical however being close to the highway didn’t make for a dog friendly camp spot. That night we had delicious left-over curry that we bought the day previous and started planning a plan B option in case we couldn’t make the Queensland border.
The next day Yasmin found a free camping spot at the Paddy’s Flat camping grounds and hour and half east of Tenterfield nestled amongst the national parks. We decided that we would spend a few nights somewhere peaceful and away from civilisation. If we didn’t hear any news from Judy, we would venture to the outer east coast of NSW and try our luck from there.
Once again it was a hilly drive through The Great Dividing Range but a worthwhile one of that. We passed a little town called Drake on our way (nothing special) then turned left on to a dirt road that took us down the edge of a mountain.
After our rough experience in Tamworth I wasn’t feeling good about the situation we were in again, we lost all phone reception, the roads were rough, steep and where we were staying was subject to flooding. Stressful Callum later eased his worries with wine from a box but more on that subject later.
We drove through a gully on our descent called “Pretty Gully” it came from out of nowhere. Last year that National Parks up here were subject to bushfires, so majority of the trees were black with stunning green growth nestled amongst the charred tree limbs. Pretty Gully though was like a tropical oasis with towering palm tress and exotic plants that were once planted here a 100 years ago from the early settlers. It soon went from tropical to charcoal again, some more steep declines and we were finally there!
The Clarence River was the centrepiece of Paddy’s Flat. The river is nestled between two mountains, one of the mountains having a huge rock face that would bounce off the rivers surface in the late noon. Its hard to describe the area as a whole… You know those Hollywood blockbuster movies where the President of the United States is fly fishing in the rivers of Nebraska with a fat cigar in his mouth only to be interrupted by a helicopter barging in and disrupting his leisure time with world ending news!. The landscape in those scenes would best describe it. Beautiful.
We set up camp on the pebble stones of the riverbank that day, Moose went straight for the water and become one with the river. He practically didn’t move from the river the whole duration of our stay.
I was still a tad stressed at this point, from the descent down but also the pondering of what the descent up would be like. Would we make it out? Without having reception also, we decided to stay for one night and to ease my stress we cracked into the goon. We both were a tad tiddles at the end of the day, we went for a jolly good walk through the plains that were nestled amongst the river as the valleys widened and balanced in single file on the edge of the old wooden bridge that lay above the babbling river. To top the day off we had nutritious packet noodles for dinner, a naked bath amongst the jumping fish and a hot cup of tea to sooth our souls before a deep slumber.
The next morning, we packed up camp and hit the ascent. We got out of the bank without any dramas and drove up the mountain in first gear, 2000 revs for a good 15 minutes. We were three quarters up the mountain when our phones came subject to reception. I had an email waiting for me from Judy wanting to know our whereabouts. I gave her a call straight away; the citrus hadn’t still ripened enough for picking however she was a little concerned about the pickers and whether they’d be up to the manual labour. She still wasn’t guaranteeing us jobs however was nice enough to let us use her letter of employment to enter the state just in case an opening came up.
We turned right when we arrived at the main road towards Tenterfield instead of left towards the coast. The whole family had a wee break in the Lion’s park at Tenterfield in anticipation of a long line when we reached the border further north. We drove underneath big electronic signs on our way informing us about permits and border closures due to the pandemic, “will this letter be enough to get us across the border?”
We finally arrived at the border, there were no lines of cars as anticipated, we were in fact the only ones there, we pulled into a slip lane where we met two police officers patrolling the border. It was lucky I think we encountered the happy police officer not the grumpy one next to him. He read the letter of employment we gave to him, wrote down my licence number and we were off!
We made it!!!
We are currently in Toowoomba right now staying at the Showgrounds Caravan Park. Toowoomba has been amazing so far, but I will talk further on the subject on my next blog update. Until then, all the best.
Griffith, Darlington Point, West Wyalong, Dubbo and Tamworth (Part 1)
Greetings Comrades, our last week has been a hectic one trying to make the Queensland Border during this global pandemic. Our spirits have been high through the tough times and being out of touch from society in the NSW outback has helped with our piece of minds. If I had any wise words of wisdom during this current time, it would be that everyone (baring those who are ill or lack immunity) should go country, find a free camp spot, keep your distances and enjoy the sunsets, bird life and mother nature’s serenity, nothing good can happen being locked in a box watching free to air Australian journalism, to me that sounds like prison.
I am currently writing this blog update in Tamworth NSW in a very abandoned caravan park. We have just had some bad luck with the car, spirits have been low the past few days, but we can see the light glimmering over the northern Tamworth ranges. But we will get back to Tamworth and start at the beginning…. Griffith!
Where to start with Griffith… Well we didn’t like it much. I could almost finish the Griffith post and leave it at that……….. The end!
We arrived in Griffith late in the afternoon, we were finally excited to see a bit of civilisation after our remote drive through New South Wales wheat and corn belt. We noticed the changes in the landscape, the soil turning from pink to a dark red, the birds of prey that circled above changed from giant Eagles to graceful Falcons and the bland paddocks of wheat changed to uniformed old grape vines. I was excited entering the township of Griffith, I’d imagined it to be a bit like Mildura, an oasis in the middle of nowhere, I guess in actual fact it was an oasis in the middle of nowhere, I just felt it lacked character and class.
We must have driven through commission area to begin with, old weathered homes, overgrown gardens, kids playing on the roofs of the neighbours’ cars and junkies hanging around their stock rear wheeled commodores wearing oversized tracksuit tops on a hot Griffith afternoon. Yas and I looked at each other in the car thinking what have we got ourselves into.
Before I get into the story a little more, I should explain that Yasmin and I were planning to try and find some harvest work in Griffith for a couple of weeks prior to venturing on to our next location. You may as well of guessed that it didn’t happen…
We found a caravan park on the other side of the railway tracks behind the industrial area of Griffith. We decided to only book two nights as we didn’t know what to expect when we were going to go job hunting the next day. The park owners were lovely and it had good hot water pressure so I will give Griffith a tick in the box for that. It was also the first time we got to encounter what the average backpacker life entailed of an evening, sleeping in tents, cooking communally, rolling darts and idling the car every hour to charge their appliances.
You learn things every day. This was our first lesson. Never apply for jobs on a weekend…. Lesson number two, don’t apply for jobs through job agencies, they will not get back to you.
The next day we woke with hope, we did some much needed clothes washing and ventured out with the pups to find some work. We thought we would start with the local information centre and hopefully get pointed in the right direction for some work. The day started off greatly…. Not. Griffith isn’t the best when it comes to dog friendly towns. They do have a dog park, all five by five meters of one if you could call it that. The biggest thing it lacked however was foot paths, and the dogs did not enjoy a single minute walking through the jungled nature strips that contained every prickle in the weed encyclopedia.
Our 25 minute walk into town turned into an hour walk, stopping every 30 seconds to pull out the next bindi. There were even occasions where we had to carry our dogs through knee high weeds, looking very super touristy for the locals. We finally arrived into the heart of Griffith where we found the information centre under an old Airforce fighter plane. The lady behind the counter wasn’t of much help, she gave us a couple of job agencies numbers and websites to send our resumes. Being a weekend, we couldn’t walk into to the job agencies and talk face to face, so we grabbed a coffee down the main street and quickly sent of our resumes and a cover note.
It sounds like I am an old man ranting in this post, I only have one last one before we head to Darlington Point, this falls back to the main street of Griffith. Who designs a major town street facing east to west with no tree cover, sunlight in your eyes in the morning and vice versa of an evening… oh the same guy who designed Canberra. Well done!
Sunday was a chore day for us, we went to the supermarket for supplies and Bunnings a few times for caravan purposes. Sunday must have been a day off for the backpackers, when we left the caravan park a group of four men were drinking VB tins and when we got back late they were still drinking VB tins. I went to put the rubbish out that night and you should have seen the bins, probably 5 cases worth of VB tins… fair effort lads.
Monday was pack up day. We decided to head to a free camping spot 30km south in a town called Darlington point that fell onto the Murrumbidgee river. We thought we would wait a few more days to see if we would get a bite with our job applications. We woke up early and drove the dogs up to Hermits cave which lies on a scenic hill overlooking Griffith. This is where Griffith becomes positive. The early morning dawn view was incredible. Looking over the town’s street lights as the sun started breaking through the dark sky. The sky turned to a blood orange, and the hills turned black creating a silhouette. It was beautiful to describe it simply. We ended up walking till the sun was high, we saw some impressive bird life and even encountered my first Major Mitchell sighting in the wild, it was an exciting time!!
So that was Griffith, there were some positives, if anyone is thinking of going I’d highly recommend not taking your dogs and stay just out of town in places like Yenda and Hanwood, these little towns were really well kept and were close to the big wineries and attractions. My Uncle in West Wyalong did ask me if this was my first time experiencing outback NSW, and he explained it very well.
“Remote Outback NSW towns are rough, Griffith will look good once you experience places like Bourke”
We arrived in Darlington Point around lunch time. We turned right instead of heading into town and ventured into a state park that fell onto the Murrumbidgee river. There was no one in the whole park and we had free choice of any beach (riverbank) to choose from. We ended up staying at Boomerang beach. (They call them beaches because the riverbank was all beautiful clean sand)
Talk about a view, River at our doorstep, surrounded by huge ancient towering gums. In the evenings and mornings, you could time the huge colony of Corella’s flying over the river, the size of the colony was gigantic and when flying over it sounded like the hum of a helicopter.
We had a very relaxing time at the river, Moose never left the water once again waiting for the big carp to splash, Yasmin did her crocheting (something different) and I fished and practiced the fiddle (The corellas sounded nicer squawking in the trees)
Darlington Point was a nice small quiet town consisting of the essentials a Butcher, Post office, small supermarket and Pub. Being St Patricks day we went to the pub and ordered a couple of handles (that’s New South Wales term for a pot) and a sixer of Guinness to take back to camp. I spoke to the lady behind the bar and asked if she knew of any jobs going around. She unfortunately didn’t know of any however was incredibly helpful and wrote down a few Facebook groups in the local area that we could post our job adds onto. We liked the idea of this and to my disgust being an analog guy living in a digital world started posting resumes on all local social media boards to places we were travelling to.
Lesson number three; try and get work at a town before getting there.
I ended up finding a website called www.greynomadsjobs.com it’s designed for retired nomads however it did have many jobs that suited us. There was heaps of work advertised all over Australia, that being either paid or volunteer work for meals and accommodation. I ended up finding a job advertisement in the hinterlands of Queensland picking citrus for 6 to 8 weeks, I applied and the next day we had scored the job! The best thing was that we had accommodation provided for a small price and that our dogs could stay on premises. Our only dilemma was we needed to be up there in 10 days. So we had one more relaxing day at Darlington Point and planned a 10 day trip to get us to our work place in Queensland. Our next destination West Wyalong!
It’s hard not to be poetic about West Wyalong. It’s a small rural mining and farming town in the heart of NSW. Surrounded by wheat farms with the odd grazing sheep in the paddocks West Wyalong just hits you. The big windy street with old two-story buildings and endless pubs. It reminds me of the small towns in England, except that it isn’t green and cold, it sits against the pink soil and the beating sun. The back streets seem endless until they hit the train and vanish into the fields of wheat. Most of the township is old, big quarter of an acre lots, colourful succulents that sit next to the old steel chook wire front fences and the smell of jasmine that lingers through the air captures the essence of this old NSW country town.
The biggest novelty is the towering antennas that are tied to the rusty corrugated tin roofs. If you could see West Wyalong from a hill, you’d almost rename the town to the city of antennas.
Alright enough with the fantasy book descriptions…
I have family on my mother’s side who live in West Wyalong. They have been living there for four years and it was time I paid a visit, plus, the convenience that it fell on our route to our next destination, Dubbo. We stayed two nights, I would have liked to have stayed more but we had a deadline to meet in Queensland for work. My Aunty Rick was the hostess with the mostest, I felt a couple of kilos heavier by the time I left. Uncle Matt was our tour guide on the second day. West Wyalong (being far from everything) made a big day in terms of sightseeing. We went to Weethalle where we witnessed an old silo painting by the Melbourne based street artiest “Heesco”. The town was pretty barren like most country towns, boarded up shops and abandoned homes of what once used to be a viable farming town dependent on the railway silo. We ended up making the day a small pub crawl, a beer in every town we went to. Weethalle had an old pub just across the road from the silo. We learnt that in NSW you no longer ask for a measurement of drink, instead, they always will pour a schooner without question.
Lesson number four, don’t ask for measurement of beer in NSW or you look like a dick!
We then ventured on to a town called Ungarie, I had to guess why we were going to this town and its particular importance to me. It took me a while before I figured it out. If you’re an AFL (Aussie rules football) fan you’d most likely guess, however if you follow Essendon then you’d definitely guess that this was the hometown of the Danhier Brothers. Like the town before us it was once a striving town and not much was left to show of it, however next to the Pub was the Big Sherrin Football, a dedication to the Daniher Brothers. We spent some time being tourists trying to capture those novelty photos before we hit the pub and had a delicious ‘Tooheys Old’ beer.. maybe two…
I forgot to mention before too that on our journey from Darlington Point to West Wyalong we drove through a few towns that had novelty statues. One of them was the big Tennis racquet devoted to the Australian tennis star Evonne Goolagong Cawley in a town called Barrellen. We also witnessed a statue of a Kelpie in a town called Ardlethan, Ardlethan’s claim to fame being the hometown of the Kelpie Dog. We had to get a picture with our crazy Kelpie!
Our next town on the agenda was Lake Cargellico, from the name you might have guessed it was on a big lake. Yasmin was very envious of the lake, especially watching all the water ski boats on the crystal glass lake, the water skier inside of her was screaming with jealousy. It was a beautiful lake, it stretched for miles! It’s hard to believe something like this would be out this way in the dry landscape of outback NSW.
Lake Cargellico is probably the first town Yasmin and I have come across where we have encountered a black fella/white fella population. She was a rough town, bars on all the pub windows and worn buildings. The white fellas were the scary ones though. We went to go get a beer at the local ‘Bowlo’ (Bowling club), there must have been a funeral on that day, the whole town was practically there wearing flannel in dedication, and they were beyond drunk. Drunk to the point that it made us uncomfortable. Even made my Uncle uncomfortable and he is almost 7 foot. As Uncle Matt said “you haven’t experienced outback NSW before have you…. She’s rough” Almost made Griffith look good.
So after many kilometres of driving we went through Ungarie again for another few cold froths (our last time for a while because as of now all pubs are closed in the country due to the pandemic) and then to home where we relaxed for the night watching Quentin Tarantino films.
The next day after some tucker we left North bound to Dubbo. Yas found a good review online of a dog friendly caravan Park 50 minutes south of in a town called Peak Hill.
We ventured through a town called Forbes ‘home of the Elvis festival’. Forbes was a beautiful old town, and when we get back from our big trip I would definitely go back to experience the Elvis festival, it looks magical! We then went through Parkes. If you were around when the Moon landing was happening (or if you’re a conspiracist “wasn’t happening”) you would know Parkes to be famous for the Big Dish that helped broadcast the Moon landing all over the world! Yas and I play this game when we are driving, whoever see’s the landmark first wins 1000 imaginary points, Yas saw first obviously!
The Dish was incredible, the information centre was closed due to the virus, however we were very lucky to witness the dish actually moving. Many photos later and an hour’s drive up the road we finally made it to Peak Hill.
We chose Double D caravan park because it had a great reputation with dogs on premises. It had a dog run and separate dining areas that you could take your dog in with you too. We mainly chose to stay here though because it offered a doggy day care centre (free of charge) which meant Yas and I could venture into Dubbo and experience the Open range zoo!
The next day was zoo day! After a big morning walk with the dogs we ventured north to Dubbo. We hadn’t booked tickets yet as we wanted to suss out the zoo because of the virus situation. The zoo was open which was a plus and there were hardly any cars in the parking lot. For all the haters out there, we were in an open-air zoo, plenty of fresh air and followed social distancing suggestions.
It was such a good day! We brought our bikes with us because you can ride around the zoo and we ended up riding 10 kilometres riding from each enclosure to the next. We encountered Giraffes, Hippos, Lions, Elephants and all the in between.
After a big day we took the dogs for a big walk around the little mining town, we walked up the hill and witnessed the old open cut gold mine which was breath taking. After a delicious dinner we ended up watching the Dish on the laptop (probably the number one movie watched on the caravan parks premises) and went to bed to recuperate for our big drive to Tamworth the next day.
Once again after a big walk to tire out the dogs, we drove 5 hours north east to Tamworth. I couldn’t believe how hilly the area was around Dubbo, I’d always imagine it to be flat, however sometimes I had to drop to third gear to get up the hills! We drove past beautiful rock formations and endless windmills until we finally reached the flood plains on the out skirts of Tamworth. The mountain formations around Tamworth were absolutely breath taking, and once again was bamboozled on the idea that Tamworth was not a flat outback country town.
Tamworth has recently been (still is) in a big drought, however it has had some big rain this past month, so we got to witness Tamworth as a green Oasis. It’s a beautiful old town, all the buildings are of Art Deco design and the streets are very well kept. We drove to the Golden guitar to get the tourist photo. You had to take your pictures of the guitar on a certain angle or else you’d get a big KFC chicken sign in the background as this was located right next door.
After our touristy things we set north for Toowoomba QLD. We found a free camp spot just out of a town called Manilla at Split rock damn, on our way out I said to Yas “I’d love to come back here one day and experience ‘country’ Tamworth when everything isn’t closed”, turns out I apparently jinxed ourselves…
Lesson number four; don’t jinx yourself
Lesson number five; never trust google maps
After Manilla we turned right behind the town and took a back road to get to our camp spot for the night, we then went down a dirt road, crossed some cattle grids, went through a framers property with cows all over the road, went through another cattle grid then drove a few kilometres on a very average dirt road. This is when I noticed the temperature gauge, and she was hot!!
Before I continue with the story this was the current situation that Yasmin and I were in: Queensland were closing their borders Wednesday at Midnight, and it was Tuesday. This was the last thing I wanted to happen!
We popped open the bonnet to find a shredded fan belt. Great! I then went to check my phone… No reception…. THE FLIES!!…… I threw a rock at a tree then calmed down a little. I walked up the hill for a little bit to find some phone reception, I couldn’t gain internet access to find NMRA’s number for road side assistance, so I ended up calling the father in-law to tell him about our situation and to get the number.
I called NMRA, the reception was terrible and it cut out. I called again same thing. I called again, finally gave them my rego details, same thing. This went on for a while! Finally after two hours of calling we had a Tow truck coming our way! The tow truck then got lost and our location wasn’t showing up on the maps. Finally, another hour later, its pitch dark, the mozzies are biting, she finally arrived!
After a while the car was on the back of the truck and the caravan was connected to the tow ball and we were off. We could only go one way on the road (by the way we then learned from our local driver, the road that we were on wouldn’t have taken us to our camp spot regardless!) It was a very long road! A very shit road in fact! The lady drove like a mad man across the corrugated dirt road, slamming her breaks when we went through the 100’s of cattle grids and tight bends. Yasmin was turning white in the back seat! It was midnight when we arrived back to Tamworth, what a big day! I ended up driving the car off the back of the trailer, I’m guessing that’s a big no no in todays health and safety standards, but she didn’t seem like one to care too much about following rules. We had the opportunity to have our caravan towed to a caravan park for the night, but guessing it was only a fan belt we decided just to crash in front of the mechanics so we could leave early in the morning and make the state border closure. We guessed wrong!!!
The road we stayed on that night was super busy. Every time a car went passed our caravan would rock. Trucks were the worst. Let’s just say we didn’t get much sleep that night!
The next morning, dark circles beneath both our eyes, we struggled out of bed to tackle the big day. The mechanic opened at eight, so I walked in and gave them the keys for the car. They went to work straight away which was a relief. Then the bad news started rolling in. The Falcon’s water pump had cracked hence why our fan belt had torn. It will cost us $400 for the part but it could be in done in two hours, I didn’t even blink, we still had time to make the border! An hour later we get another phone call. The water coolant bypass pipe had shit itself, and unfortunately was not mendable. Luckily enough they sourced a good second-hand part but being a big job, it couldn’t be fixed that day. There went our opportunity to make it across the border.
We found out the news at 11 in the morning. We weren’t going to stay another night in front of the mechanics, so I ended up contacting the NMRA and RACV to get our van towed to a Caravan park for the night. Phone call after phone call we didn’t end up getting to a caravan park until 6 o’clock that night! And a thunderstorm had just came over us as we were setting up the caravan for the night we were drenched! We haven’t had much luck at this point and to top it off we had damage to the caravan form the tow truck the night before!! Yasmin’s clothes rack had snapped in her cupboard and water was leaking through the roof as the silicon had cracked because of the jolts also. These things I could fix so I wasn’t too concerned, but the tow truck had hit our modified BBQ that was strapped to our storage box on our draw bar.. That I couldn’t fix… So back to the phone for an insurance claim…. I never want to work in job that requires me to call people every day after this experience! So with dampened spirits and dampened, stinky dogs in the van with us, we ordered in pizza and chilled with “The Office”.
The next morning we received a little hope. We contacted our work contact in Ban Ban Springs, QLD to tell her our disappointing news. She however was optimistic that we would gain access across the QLD border as we were there to work. A bit of research later we found that the government had exemptions for crossing the border, and FIFO workers were granted access if they had written documentation as evidence for work in the state. Finally a win for us!
We spent the next day exploring Tamworth, it was nice to be out of the industrial area of town and close to the main parks. We walked our dogs to a dog friendly park and found a bookstore where I purchased some reading material. We also experienced this wonderful Ice Creamery in Tamworth called “Scream Ice Creamery”. We found out that the owners had the same intentions as us working around Australia, Tamworth however being a stop on their endeavours has turned into a few years. If you ever decide to come to Tamworth try this Ice Creamery out, they put melted Nutella in your waffle cones!!
Our car unfortunately wasn’t ready that day so I went into to reception to book another night at the caravan park.
The owners of the Caravan Park were very upset. They had just found out that all caravan parks across the state were not allowed to take on any new patrons. All their hard work had been washed down the drain. It will be interesting to see if their business survives from this pandemic like a lot of business in Australia, all I know is next year is going to be rough!
Since writing this blog a lot more has gone down hill for us, I will continue on with the story when we have overcome our troubles. Tamworth is a beautiful place, it’s just unfortunate that we haven’t had any good luck.
Low and behold the day has finally happened! Today we start our adventure and our first destination is Mathoura, New South Wales.
We ended up staying in a free camping spot on The Edward River that joins onto the Murray River. It was a beautiful well-kept area (big hand to NSW parks for the amazing amenities) and because we left the day after the long weekend there were hardly any other campers which made for a much more peaceful and relaxing experience!
The days went nice and slow, Moose never left the river bank in anticipation for the jumping carp through out the day and Dixie learnt the art of a deck hand, watching and whining after my lures were cast in anticipation of catching the trophy fish! The trophy fish never came unfortunately but three now dead carp later and a tiny Murray cod released Rex Hunt style made a successful fishing experience.
The sounds of the native birds added to the comforts of the area and the sights of the Yellow Crimson Rosellas in the reed beds made a picturesque experience. We even came across a wild mob of Emus on a morning bike ride, although not far from home, made the realisation how fast the Australian landscape can change.
I am writing this journal update in Griffith NSW. We just arrived today after a long windy drive. We saw some beautiful scenery and went through some very remote towns. Our highlight though was the Eagles! So many Eagles between Carrathool and Conargo, especially near Oolambeyan National Park where we saw 10 eagles preying on the roadkill and swaying in the trees. When you drive past an Eagle as it flies off past the bonnet of your car you realise that they are a monstrous bird with legs almost as thick as mine!
Griffith has been a different experience so far. We came the back way through the commission area, passed the ratty commodores and most likely some Meth dealers. Hopefully tomorrow’s experience is much nicer, we plan to finally find some work for a few weeks, however if unsuccessful we might move on… we’ll soon see.
Hopefully you have enjoyed our update, fingers crossed we find some work and we find some nicer spots around Griffith. If you know of any send us a message, we are keen to find out some spots.
Heathcote is located in central Victoria, about two hours drive north of Melbourne. We have been here since December living in a fully contained bus at the back of Yasmin’s parent’s property. In that time we have been busy restoring our caravan and tow vehicle for our epic around Australia adventure. It’s now March, I had planned we leave by January, needless to say we are a few months behind track, there was a lot more work then anticipated but in the end we got there!
MANY SWEAR WORDS AND BEERS LATER………….
Most of my time spent in Heatchote was working on the caravan at the Father in-laws (Terry’s) garage. It’s very handy having a Father in-law who’s trade of qualification happens to fall in the line of mechanics. We’d be lost and financially done for if it wasn’t for Terry and his efforts! The Caravan wasn’t all smooth sailing though, when you purchase an old caravan that has been sitting by the seaside for some time you do happen to find RUST. The picture to the left is of me after a few hours underneath the caravan removing the surface rust. The Drawbar too had been re-done prior to purchase however unfortunately to Terry’s pleasure the drawbar had been tacked on very unprofessionally. Needless to say we wouldn’t have gotten very far…..
Overhead welding doesn’t seem very fun, with all the sparks burning away at your skin inside of your overalls, many swear words later and we have ourselves one of the best engineered 70’s Franklin caravans in Australia!
Every morning rain, hail and shine we would go for a big walk before our daily tasks. We would usually walk up Viewing rock which overlooks the township of Heathcote and beyond. Its funny how the wild life changes even though your only two hours away from your previous location.
In Millgrove we really only accounted wombats, birds and the occasional deer or wallaby. Heathcote on the other hand is over run with kangaroos and the dogs took a liking to them, especially young Dixie girl. We didn’t know what to do, we played good cop / bad cop but she would still chase the little buggers, so we invested in a shock collar! We were hesitant at first, but after a week Dixie no longer chased them! Worth its value in the end.
The Heathcote golf course was just down the road, not that we play golf but it was great way to go for a walk and let the dogs run wild. Most mornings when we went for a walk Robyn my mother in law would accompany us on our walk. It was embarrassing when we did the golf course walk because Yasmin and her Mother would stop to do Lunges at certain holes.
We did manage to escape Heathcote whilst living there. We went to Cape Patterson for a weekend where we got some much needed beach therapy. I went surf fishing but only managed to catch kelp and happened to get stung by a blue bottle. Yasmin did some sandy beach Yoga and the dogs had a blast on an off lead dog beach fetching balls in the crashing waves. All in all it was a good weekend away, with all the bushfires that were going on it did effect the views of the ocean however did make for a good blood orange sunset!
Whilst in Heathcote we got the chance to visit a few of it’s natural landmarks. One place we went to was Pink Cliffs which Is located behind the local Township. This interesting and colourful phenomenon was exposed by early gold mining activities. It was a bloody hot day though, well and truly in the 40’s. We went early before noon and it was still too hot, Dixie and moose were keen to get home and have a well deserved big drink of water.
I managed to escape Heathcote again whilst living here to catch up with a mate for his birthday down in Port Fairy. Yes more seaside therapy! We had a great time surf fishing on the east beach, drinking a few beers down on the Warf watching all the old sailing and fishing boats and enjoying a sneaky cigar under the stars of a typical cold, windy Port Fairy’s evening.
Both Yasmin’s parents live in Heathcote, and prior to living in Heathcote Yasmin’s Mother’s side had an old farm just up the road in Tooborac. We ended up taking Yasmin’s Grandad (Rex) down to his farm so he could show us what it was like to live there back in his days. Tooborac is extremely hilly and Rex has just turned 89 this year! Rex didn’t even break a sweat! I hope I’m that fit and healthy if I reach that age.
We’re just about to hit the road soon, it’s all finally happening! We have spent the last few days working hard transitioning all our stuff from the bus to the caravan. We thought we were going to run out off room for cupboard space but at this stage we have three spots that need filling! I guess we will accumulate some items on our trip! Our first stop is Mathoura, New South Wales! It’s time to cross the border! We look to stay a few nights at a free camping spot on the Edward river before heading north to Griffith to hunt for some work. Is it weird to say that I am looking forward to work again??? That may change quickly but needless to say I’m excited! Catch you all soon for our Mathoura blog!
WARNING: This mostly contains images of delicious food from our favourite places
We are currently spending our next month in Heathcote, Victoria working on the Caravan for next years travels. Whilst work is in progress I thought it would be a good idea to write a blog on the area that we once lived in, especially our last week in our green oasis. (It’s currently 40 degrees outside, it’s very dry in central Victoria, missing the Warburton Valley heaps right now.)
We had a house in Millgrove, Victoria which was the last town before Warburton if you were heading along the Warburton Highway. It was a brilliant location to live, we backed onto the beautiful ranges and overlooked Mount Little Joe. The Yarra River was 100 meters down the road perfect for a summers swim or spring fish, there was a rail trail that could take you all the way to Lilydale. (Riding one way isn’t too bad as the trail is about 40km long. We tried walking the whole distance once with the dogs! We accomplished the walk, however our feet did not appreciate us for at least a week afterwards.) We also had the luxury of an aqueduct trail up in the hills behind us which was a nice quiet location to walk the dogs and had beautiful views over the valley. Oh and in winter it snows on Mount Donna Buang which is only a 5km drive from Warburton.
There is also heaps of beautiful wildlife in the hills. Cockatoo species from Corella’s, noisy white crested Cockatoo’s and beautiful Black yellow tailed Cockatoos that would sing in Spring. If you were lucky enough you could spot a few Gang Gang cockatoos in Spring too! We also had friendly King Parrots and Rosella that would sit on your verandah and eat seeds from your hands, Kookaburras that would sit on your clothesline and up in the hills you’d come across skittish Lyrebirds. We also saw heaps of deer, although a pest they are beautiful creatures to come across.
The Warburton Valley was a very quiet place to live, weekends were different however. Being classified as Melbourne’s back door steps for some weird reason the Melbournian crowd would come though in their fancy porches, or kited up on their fancy motorsport bikes. The trails would become infested with lycra bike riders who shouldn’t be wearing lycra and tourists with no walking trail etiquette. So if you are considering visiting the area come during the week! I guess this goes for most places which is only a few hours from any major city. Apart from the summer weekends it was a beautiful, quiet, peaceful area to live. It was remote so we didn’t have any fast food chains in a 50km radius, there were no such things as Uber eats and if you were lucky enough to get ADSL2, Netflix or broadband was not an option! Which really suited us. Unfortunately as we were just leaving our local video shop closed, so long analog world! 🙁
When we sold our house we ended up with a very short settlement, so by the time we had to give notice for work we were only able to have a week to enjoy the Warburton area. We managed to get to Noojee, we walked the old trestle bridge and went to the iconic pub. The feed wasn’t that great but did pick up a Noojee pub bluey!
We also managed to drive across to Eildon, it was a hot day but we managed to cool off in the dams and fly fish on our way home in the Archeron river. On our way home through Healesville we said farewell to my favorite burger joint Monroe’s Burgers. I’ve eaten a lot of burgers in my time, this is by far the best!
Apart from a few little day trips we made most of what was at our back door. We walked the many trails around the area, the dogs swam and fetched sticks in the river, we got to say goodbye to a few friends we have made in the area and enjoy the sun go down over the Valley.
Because food is such a important topic to us and we plan the day around it we managed to tick off our favorite places to eat too. If you are in the area and want to dine check out these places! If you want a burger head to Monroe’s Healesville. If you want a damn good wood fired pizza head to a quaint little restaurant called Little Joe’s in Warburton. If you are craving a Parma no place better then Cunningham’s Hotel in Yarra Junction. Their Irish Parma is to die for, and being Irish they have Guinness on tap!!
The best till last is Gladysdale Bakehouse between Wesburn and Yarra Junction. Our last meal was here and it was big one at that! I’d hate to know how much money we have spent here the last 6 years, but it was definitely worth the cause!! Best breakfast options ever! When they have pork belly as an option instead of bacon you know its going to be amazing! If you’re heading to Warburton don’t go to the Warburton Bakery for a pie or dessert, it’s beyond average to the cuisine they have at Gladysdale Bakehouse!
So that about does it. After a full belly we returned the keys to the realtors and drove two and a half hours north to a very dry and dusty little country town Heathcote, Victoria. Although dry and dusty it has its own beautiful landmarks that make Heathcote so special in its own way. The Kangaroos though are out of control! Don’t drive this way at night if you are in the area!
I hope you enjoyed our Warburton blog, it was more of a food review if anything but they were definitely worth the mention. Stay tuned for our caravan renovations and before we leave on our adventures I’ll post a blog article on Heathcote Victoria and its surrounds.