Ahhhh, ginger beer! Bundaberg is the home of Bundaberg Rum and Bundaberg Ginger Beer. As for the rum…. I can’t stand the stuff, although we did make the obligatory visit to the factory store and Ben bought a t-shirt! Now the ginger beer is an entirely different story, I love ginger beer! The tour around ‘The Barrel’ was excellent. You learnt a little history of the company, how the drinks are naturally brewed and at the end you had a taste of all 14 types of drinks that are brewed here… 14 little nips of fizzy drink sure can make you feel bloated. We bubbled out of there truly satisfied and ready to spread the Bundaberg Ginger Beer word… Go buy some, it’s wonderful!
The weather up the coast from Bundaberg had turned a little foul again, so our trip to Yeppoon via the towns of 1770 and Gladstone were confined entirely to the car, not even enough of a break in the weather to let the three wild things in the back out for a run! Someone must have been thinking of up though, for as we pulled into Yeppoon the rain stopped and we were able to set up without getting drenched. We are now officially on the coast of the Great Barrier Reef, but have to say that the beaches of Yeppoon are not the white sandy beaches that we expected… I think we’ll have to wait until we are further north… perhaps fortunately the weather was a little average during our stay in Yeppoon so we were not tempted to go on any reef , in Parkhurst, a little over 30 years ago and attended the state school there. We went back for a little visit, although nothing at all seemed familiar to me.
In Yeppoon we got to catch up with my step-sister and her husband who work with race horses. They have three horses of their own and the kids thought it was fantastic that they got to have a ride – only around the stables though – no galloping around the track! From Rockhampton we bid farewell to our travelling companions (my parents) and made our way west – that’s STRAIGHT west towards Emerald. It’s times like these that a GPS is not all that important. From Rocky we set the GPS to Emerald and didn’t have a turn to make for 254kms, and that was to go straight through a round-a-bout!
We spent Easter at Emerald, we had worried when we we on Fraser Island about the availability of camp-sites over Easter, so booked ahead for the four nights. We needn’t have worried… there was plenty of availability around the place. Emerald is a great little town, but for a tourist, four days is definitely a long enough stay! We travelled out to the gem fields at Sapphire and Rubyvale and actually managed to find a gem quality sapphire, valued at… wait for it… $5! Brilliant we can but 1/2 an ice-cream each, think we’ll just keep it as a momento.
We went to the Rodeo in Emerald which was great. This rodeo is part of the national circuit so we got to see all of the big events – barrel racing, bucking broncos, steer wrestling, steer riding, steer lassoing and the big one, bull riding. It was an excellent night, seeing all the locals dressed up in their cowboy finery, even the little ones.
Across the Great Dividing Range we go and hello “The Outback”. I have always wondered about this ‘Big Sky Country’, after all how big can the sky be? But there is no more apt a description – the sky really does go on forever, the horizons sweep around a mind-boggling distance and the night sky is really something to behold.
We stopped briefly in Barcaldine to check out the “Tree of Knowledge”, this was the main meeting place of the striking shearers in 1891. The shearers were striking against poor working conditions and wages. It was these meetings that lead to the establishment of Trade Unions and the Australian Labor Party. The tree was poisoned in 2006 and died, but has since been transformed into a beautiful monument, surrounded by planks of wood of various lengths hanging from above. The planks sway in the breeze and make an eerie xylophone type sound.
Westward we pressed, straight out again, no need for turns in the road, onto Longreach. We stayed at a great free camp spot here on the western side of the town at “Longreach Waterhole”, not so much a waterhole though, it was on the banks of the Thompson River.
The highlight at Longreach was definitely the Stockmans Hall of Fame. We spent hours looking through the exhibits and really enjoyed the show they have where a stockman runs through a variety of bush skills.
We passed on the QANTAS museum in Longreach, we’d had enough museuming by then and decided to take a drive out to Starlight’s Lookout instead. Starlight’s lookout is a very modest hill around 50kms from town, but because of the incredibly flat terrain here it affords a brilliant view for miles around. This was the spot where cattle rustlers in 1870 stood lookout while the rest of their gang stole cattle from the area around. Once they had around 1000 head of cattle together they drove them all the way to South Australia to sell. On the way to Starlight’s Lookout we passed the stock sale yards and Lilly Lagoon.
Since Rockhampton we have been criss-crossing the Tropic of Capricorn, but on leaving Longreach we will be in the tropic region for a few months until we dip briefly below for a visit to the red centre towards the end of June.
We head into dinosaur and “Matilda” country now as we make our way further west to Winton. We found another great free campsite outside of Winton at “Long Waterhole”, this actually was a waterhole this time. No facilities here though, so our very first campsite where we had to put the folding toilet to use (thankfully it’s been tested, hey Dave!)… the “dig a hole” option was definitely a no-go here once we figured out that the shovel pretty much bounced off the rock hard earth. And after a few nights without a shower it was time to get the bush shower out again, no need for the ensuite tent though as we were pretty isolated from the few other campers there.
So, Winton is the place that “Waltzing Matilda” was first publicly recited in 1895 and we were certainly humming the tune as we “camped by the billabong, under the shade of the Coolibah tree” near Long Waterhole. The “Waltzing Matilda Centre” in town is dedicated to the history of this song (apparently the only centre in the world to do so), it also has a brilliant history of the last 200 or so years in this area. Well worth a visit.
But for history of a different kind… the 90 million year ago kind, we travelled to Lark Quarry, around 110kms south of Winton, to the site of the only recorded dinosaur stampede in the world. There was a bit of arm twisting involved in getting Ben out to this, he finds dinosaurs as boring as the dried mud that their bones are dug from, but I think even he found this a little interesting! What you see is nothing more that what you have been promised and that is a whole series of dinosaur footprints left in the rock, what I found amazing though was the very specific set of circumstances that the palaeontologists believe must have happened in order for the footprints to be so well preserved. Just the right sort of mud, gentle flooding within a few days of the stampede, etc, etc. There are around 3000 footprints for the general public to view, the majority of which are from very small dinosaurs (chicken and maybe large turkey size), but then there are 11 prints from a much larger dinosaur (taller than a human) which caused the stampede. These prints are so very deep and clear, you can just imagine the animal racing across the ground. The one other dinosaur ‘experience’ that I managed to get Ben to was the “Australian Age of Dinosaur” preparation facility. This is where they clean and prepare all of the bones found in this area. WHAT A JOB! A visit to a place such as this gives you a real appreciation of the work that goes into figuring out what the creatures of millions of years ago may have looked like and how they may have acted. We were also able to see what the latest three new species to the dinosaur world may have looked like… dinosaurs named Matilda, Banjo and Clancy. Both places were really excellent with very enthusiastic and knowledgeable guides… even interesting for those of us not all that interested!
We’ll move on through a little more dinosaur country over the weekend before making our way back to the coast again and to the much anticipated Whitsundays… can’t wait!
For those of you who read our updates on your email I thought I might just point out that you can also read our blogs (past and present) directly on our website (www.malpassadventures.wordpress.com). On the website you can also see our other pages, such as the kids pages where I’ll occasionally post their journal entries or other photos and videos.