Oz Wk 7

Monday 24th April

We can't believe we're in our seventh week already. Tomorrow is ANZAC day over here so everything will be closed.

We have arrived at our site for tonight but it's a bit weird. Firstly it's an old railway station that is slowly being renovated by local enthusiasts to be a museum but it's all locked up and no one else is around.

While we decide whether to stay or move on a guy comes along and opens up. He says he'll leave the lights on all night if we want to stay and unlock the toilets. Another family with a caravan arrive so we are not on our own and here is a good WiFi signal here but no power or showers.

The town is a bit further out so once again we drive the van into Gayndah and have a meal of chicken kiev and chips with gravy at the Grand Hotel. The name bears no resemblance to the picture it conjures up but the food was cheap by Australian standards and fairly good.

Tuesday 25th April
We set off from Gayndah and head north to Monto. We arrive at the Caravan Park late morning and have a prime spot overlooking bush.

The sun is very hot today so after using the washing machine to get us all laundered again, I make use of the swimming pool.

After a great shower and peaceful afternoon we await the 1600 hrs ritual here which is when they put food out for the birds. We have been given a list of 90 different species that are known to have visited this site. I just hope they don't all turn up at once!

Wednesday 26th April
Another early morning shower as this site is so clean and the water is fabulous so I just wanted to take advantage of it while I can.

We set off towards Biloela and our next camp site which is at the Queensland Heritage Park offering hot showers, power and plenty of space for just $15. Ok, it may not be quite as flash as last night but that was $33 and the laundry another $4.

On our way here we saw a sign to Cania Gorge and decide to take the diversion. Once you turn off the main road there is another sign that explains the Gorge is actually 20 Kms away but we go anyway. Once we arrive at the parking area there is an information board giving us several options of walks in the National Park. We decide to go for the Dripping Stone on the advice of the ranger and set off through this amazing piece of rain forest. Just like Bunya Mountain the bird calls reflecting off the gorge walls was both eerie and amazing. The walk was about one and a half kilometres along a narrow track that led beside a deep gorge but it was dry!! No water in it at all.

After Cania we drove on to Biloela and we have planned our next two stops which will take us into Rockhampton.

The Queensland Heritage site on the edge of town is good value at $15 with power and hot showers. Our plot is in the middle of a huge open space and there are only two others here tonight. Today has been very hot with temps over 30 degrees but by evening the clouds suddenly appear and we have heavy rain and a thunderstorm although we are nice and dry inside.

Thursday 27th April

We called in briefly to Vinnies [big charity shop chain] to search once again for 'What bird is that?' which I have been searching for in vain at every opportunity. It would help identify some of the beautiful birds we see along our journey.

It is very noticeable to us that we haven't seen a Kangaroo [even a dead one!] for several days now but we did spot 3 Emus at one point.

We stop at an Orange tree farm and buy 5 kilos of Manadrins for $7 so we won't get Scurvy now!!

We have found our site, a free camp, in the centre of Rockhampton at the edge of Kershaw Gardens which we intend to explore this afternoon.Unfortunately it's much cooler here since we crossed over the mountain range and the sky is more grey than blue although tomorrow promises to be better.

Friday 28th April
This free site at the top end of a huge park area is opposite a shopping complex as big as Bluewater so what is there not to like? On our way there yesterday afternoon we asked a question from a man walking towards us that ended up in a half hour chat about his life including being bitten by a Taipan snake when he was a teenager that he survived because he cut the wound and sucked out the venom which was the advice at the time. He also told us there were fresh water crocodiles in the river next to our camp site and the one in Rockhampton Zoo was caught there. He is now 4 metres long. We're planning on seeing him tomorrow if we survive the night!

This morning is hot and cloudless already so we pack up and set off for the botanical gardens which includes the free zoo. They have a Wombat and many other Australian birds and animals we haven't yet seen in the wild. We also saw wally the Croc with his mouth open wide!

We walked around the gardens to a big lake full of tiny turtles that all seemed to be swimming towards us, it was quite eerie.

Once we were back on the road again we set off towards Malborough where we may make our next stop. On the way we decide to stop off to see some caves and take an hour long tour which was really quite good with lots of historical and geological information. It is in an area known as a dry rain forest which sounds like a contradiction but was spectacular inside.

We eventually get to our site behind the Malborough Hotel and once again we are greeted by an enormous colony of big black fruit bats. As we have come to expect, they are all hanging on several trees at the edge of this area and the minute the sun disappears they all take off and leave. There are literally millions of them and it takes about ten minutes for them to fly off to their feeding grounds making the sky black and the air stink.

We eat in the hotel and are joined by another couple from Brisbane who are travelling up to Cairns.

Morning dawns hot and cloudless again. The bats are back and quiet now.

Saturday 29th April

We set off along the Bruuce Highway and stopped off at St Lawrence in case it was nice enough to stay here but there was very little here, just a tiny general store and a police station beside a bit of a swamp so we moved on to Clairview. We had no intention of staying here but stopped to look at the beach. There was a warning sign that salt water crocodiles inhabit the area and not to paddle in the shallows. These are the big ones but we didn't see any!! Another sign warned of Stinging Jelly Fish and a bottle of vinegar beside the sign as a first aid remedy.

Along our route today we saw our first snake on the road. A black snake about one and a half feet long and probably dead but we didn't stop to investigate.

We are staying tonight at Brandy Bottle where the fee includes a nine hole round of golf. Jacky, the owner, offered to play a round with John and although she beat him it was only by one point which when you consider he was using strange clubs on an unfamiliar course wasn't bad.

There are a couple of friendly birds who come very close. I think they're Guinea fowl but not sure.

We have arrived at the Sarina site known as the Field of Dreams which may be aboriginal in origin as their religion is based on dreams. The information office staff are really helpful and encourage us to visit the sarine Sugar Shed which is partly a museum where the sugar cane is process is explained and demonstrated. It finishes with samples of some of the products made from the molasses extracted and apart from chili jams and relishes there is ginger beer, some liquors and an extremely potent rum.

We have passed many fields of sugar cane on this part of our journey and I would think they must produce enough to supply the whole world with sugar.

Our site tonight is a caravan park near the centre of town so we walk in to the local pub for a meal. Like may pub/hotels in Australia they have Pokies, these are basically one-arm gaming machines and have huge great rooms set aside just for this pastime.

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