Off we go again ... as Volunteers for Isolated Students Education

Billabong Creek, Jerilderie - Sun 13th Oct 2013 - Qld

Home tomorrow ... and we've seen rain for the first time for ages (well actually there was a dust-settling sprinkle when we were at the Undara Lava Tubes Resort). In fact the weather here is quite vile ... 10o and blowing a gale. We're more used to 30o.

Our mad dash to get home so that Judy can answer the call of the VCAA began last Friday. We managed to boil WKA again on the way up to the Cunningham Pass. Same sort of problem ... road works then a crawl behind trucks. The road is good, but steep. He just got too hot and emptied out 3 or 4 litres of coolant onto the road. Happily I was prepared for this with some antifreeze, anti-boil, anti-corrosion additive, but I also had to add water to make up the quantity. After letting him cool for half an hour we were off again, he managed the last 4km of the climb with no further problem at all.

Later that day, about 20km W Warwick, we came to a halt. Yet more roadworks? (We are completely "over" roadworks.) In this case "no" not roadworks ... a truck had lost its load, and we were in for a 2 hour delay. Happily a local knew a way round. A whole group of us did U-turn and followed. We only lost about 10 minutes. That night we camped next to Gill Gill Creek, 40km N Moree.

Durack Gardens Caravan Park, 15km S Brisbane CBD - Thu 10th Oct 2013 - Qld

We have come to this Brisbane suburb so that we can visit my cousin Philip who is "detained at Her Majesty's pleasure" in the Brisbane Correctional Centre in the neighbouring suburb of Wacol. After a stultifying amount of red tape, then being entered into the prison biometric identification system and "interviewed" by the lovely black Labrador drug "sniffer" dog we finally got in to see Phil yesterday. However, we only made it to a "non-contact" visit because I have not yet been cleared for a contact visit. Judy's application was granted over a week ago ... we sent the applications in the same envelope over 4 weeks ago. We are hoping my application will be completed by the time we go in for today's visit at 2:45pm.

Judds Lagoon, Yuleba, 60km E Roma - Mon 7th Oct 2013 - Qld

Amazing ... doesn't time fly! We have also been "off the air" for several days. This is a lovely free campsite beside a lagoon that forms part of Rocky Creek. (How many of those are there in Australia?)

Judds Lagoon, delightful campsite 60km E Roma

After Mareeba we had a night at Atherton (only 50km south) while we visited Lake Tinaroo, the Curtain Fig Tree, and Lake Barrine (which I walked round). I particularly wanted to visit Herberton Historic Village ... which proved to be an excellent choice. To my mind it's compulsory viewing for everyone. We spent a good couple of hours there on our way to Undara Resort - gateway to the famous lava tubes.

We "did" the Archway lava tube tour next morning, then drove to Fletcher Creek ... a magnificent (and very popular) free camping area 45km N Charters Towers.

So here we were back at Charters Towers. Plan A called for us to drive towards Townsville, joining the Bruce Highway at Ayr, then down the coast to Brisbane. But WKA (the Merc) started "playing up" again just as he did last year. The torque converter (whatever that does) causes a very uncomfortable shudder at specific revs. Driving him is not too bad, but being stuck behind traffic can be very frustrating, so we decided to take the inland route, but a different one from our journey north.

Next stop, after Fletcher Creek, was Lake Maraboon, 20km S Emerald where we stayed two nights. Then on to the lovely Judd Lagoon ... again two nights ... (where it's stinking hot) but we're promised a cool change tomorrow for our drive to Brisbane. This may be just as well as we had a very good go at killing WKA yesterday by seriously overheating him ... but that's another story.

Riverside Caravan Park, Mareeba - Mon 30th Sep 2013 - Qld

Starting the journey home with a quick trip up to the Atherton Tablelands.

Torbay Street, Kewarra Beach (25km N Cairns) - Wed 25th Sep 2013 - Qld

Reunion with Judy's daughter Shelly's family at the home of her friend Kerryn.

Balgal Beach Rest Area (60km NW Townsville) - Mon 23rd Sep 2013 - Qld

Our VISE placement has come to an end. Saying goodbye to the Lyons family and Sophie was very sad, but we've had a wonderful time. Tonight we are camped at lovely Balgal Beach Rest Area, right on the beach. Tomorrow we have just 300km to Cairns.

Wambiana Cattle Station - Thu 19th Sep 2013 - Qld

Meet Sophie the WWOOFer (that's Willing Workers On Organic Farms or WorldWide Opportunities on Organic Farms) - not to be confused with Little Dude, the black labrador. Sophie is another volunteer, mainly responsible for keeping three-year-old Hugh out of the school room while we are indoctrinating the other three children.

Sophie at Smoko with Hugh and Sophia

The term is rapidly drawing to a close. Finally we have got the Distance Education Curriculum pretty much under control, tomorrow is our last day in the classroom. Here's a snapshot of station life. Now the weather is getting considerably hotter - about 35oC during the day. We head for Cairns on Sunday or Monday to meet Shelley, Mark, Caitlin and Ryan.

After the School Sports on Friday 30th August we headed to Townsville for the weekend. We decided to have a couple of caravan-free nights in the Oaks Gateway Hotel.

Wambiana Cattle Station - Sun 25th Aug 2013 - Qld

Amazingly we have been here almost two weeks. Being a VISE tutor is more than we anticipated, but we are thoroughly enjoying it. The weather has cooled somewhat. Back into doona territory overnight and (only) about 27oC during the day, but it's scheduled to warm up again later this week.

It's not all school work, on Thursday Wambiana Station was host to a school group. It was pretty exciting; more information here.

Wambiana Cattle Station, 70km S of Charters Towers - Wed 14th Aug 2013 - Qld

On Monday afternoon we arrived safely at our major objective - Wambiana Station. Lovely place, lovely people, but somebody is complaining about the heat ... sunshine and about 30oC every day.

Wambiana Homestead

After two days in the school room we are beginning to get used to an eight o'clock start and into the swing of managing the education program.

John and Judy with Thomas, Sophia and Connor in the school room

Hughenden - Sun 11th Aug 2013 - Qld

We've been "off the grid" for the last three days at Congewoi, a cattle station about 120km NW of Winton, where Judy's cousin Peter is caretaker. Almost 50% of Qld, including Winton Shire, is "drought declared". Our visit to Congewoi had to be delayed by one day to avoid meeting cattle road trains on the unsealed access road as most of the cattle were trucked out to other, less drought-affected properties.

This time last year Congewoi was green, with plenty of water and feed. This year the feed is sparse and the dams and water holes are almost dry. Peter took us on patrol, while he distributed cattle lick blocks (to help them digest the sparse feed), checked the dam levels (including pulling a drowned cow, that had got stuck in the mud, out of a dam), kept an eye on the animals and examined some early aeroplane remains that have mysteriously appeared at Congewoi. Yesterday we counted over 300 macropods (kangaroos) on our travels.

Peter pulling drowned cow out of dam

Hughenden is our final stop before arriving at Wambiana, 70km south of Charters Towers, where our six week VISE placement starts tomorrow.

Winton (Dinosaur Country) - Wed 7th Aug 2013 - Qld

After checking out the Powerhouse Museum (ancient electricity generating equipment, closed down in 1985) in Longreach yesterday morning we set off for Winton. Just before we reached Winton we visited the "Australian Age of Dinosaurs" museum where we met their two stars, Banjo (meat-eating australovenator wintonensis) and Matilda (plant-eating diamantinasaurus matildae).

Today we drove out to Lark Quarry, site of the dinosaur stampede footprints. When we arrived we found the car park full ... of vehicles in the annual Variety Bash. What a day to choose for our visit!

Variety Bash visits dinosaur stampede at Lark Quarry

The Variety Bash participants are staying here in Winton tonight ... yesterday we were lucky to get a two night stay in the Matilda caravan park. The town is full ...

Variety Bash participants in Winton

Dagworth Homestead, near Winton, is the birthplace of Waltzing Matilda. Banjo Patterson wrote the words in 1895, but the tune is from an old Scottish folksong.

Banjo Patterson, author of Waltzing Matilda

Two of the residents of the Matilda Tourist caravan park, Winton.

Inseparable alpaca and lamb

Longreach - Sun 4th Aug 2013 - Qld

We managed to set off "early" (9am) from Charleville by skipping breakfast and stopping for brunch after 200km (11:15am) at Tambo. So we reached Longreach about 5pm covering over 500km. The amount of roadkill is staggering. Mainly kangaroos with a few emus, sheep and an occasional cow.

Driving into central Longreach this morning we saw two trees full of cockatoos next to the town's main water tower.

Cockatoo tree

Afterwards I spent several happy hours at the Qantas Founders Museum, including a tour of the 707 and 747 and a "guest appearance" by two military helicopters.

John in 747 engine

Longreach has a special traffic hazard - power poles down the centre of the street which need to be avoided when turning right. Even after taking this photo I nearly managed to crash into one.

Avoiding novel traffic hazard

At least we visited the Stockman's Hall of Fame building and gift shop.

The Ringer outside the Stockman's Hall of Fame

Charleville - Fri 2nd Aug 2013 - Qld

At Bourke the Kidman Way feeds into the Mitchell Highway (aka Matilda Highway in Qld). Yesterday we crossed into Queensland and stopped for lunch beside the Warrego River in Cunnamulla (after inspecting the Cunnamulla Fella statue).

Cunnamulla Fella

There was an awful lot of road kill, mainly kangaroos (but never a goat - they're too cunning, especially the wild ones) so we decided not to push our luck and stopped at a free camp site in Wyandra well before sunset. First camp fire this trip.

Wyandra free campsite amenities block

Note the solar water heater on the roof, and the bright orange donations "box" in the back-right corner.

Today we intended to press on to Blackall, to be within striking distance of Longreach tomorrow, but an attack of lethargy meant we didn't leave Wyandra much before midday. A quick change of plan and we stopped at Charleville after only 100km, giving us time to explore the delights of Charleville, but leaving us a "big day" of 500km tomorrow. We promise we'll set off early.

Bourke (as in "Back O'Bourke") - Tue 30th July 2013 - NSW

We followed The Kidman Way to Cobar, where we checked out a couple of mines, then on to Bourke. Always wanted to say "I've been to the Back of Bourke". We decided to spend a couple of nights, so that we could see the sights ...

What's this peeping out of the caravan?

Just visiting

Put her down, you don't know where she's been

It belongs to a couple in another caravan, and is quite tame.

My highlight was the magnificent twin cylinder Crossley oil (early diesel) engine. It produces 124 bhp (92 kW) and weighs 16 ton. It was used to generate electricity at the Sydney Power House from 1923 to 1938, and served other purposes till 1964. They fire up at midday every day. Truly an event to gladden the heart!

The magnificent Crossley engine

Gilgunnia Rest Area - Mon 29th July 2013 - NSW

About 15 km north of Jerilderie we turned left onto The Kidman Way. Griffith was likely to be the largest town for some time so we found the Target store and bought an excellent saucepan for $9 ... amazing, how can it be produced so cheaply? Then onwards till just on sunset at Gilgunnia rest area. Gilgunnia used to be a gold mining settlement, but now there's nothing, except the rest area, which contains this ... what on earth is it?

Is it a water tank with a solar panel?

Actually, no, it's a dunny ("long drop" toilet) inside a water tank!

Surprising toilet at Gilgunnia rest area

Surrey Hills - Sun 28th July 2013 - Victoria

Finally left home at about 1:15pm and headed north; Hume Highway, Shepparton, across the Murray at Tocumwal, arriving Finley Lakeside caravan park well before sunset. Lovely friendly park, the only one in town. Quickly back into the swing of this caravanning business, but found we'd left all saucepans behind - no other major problems.