Avalook at Australia News

Issue Number 28, 25 November 2001

ISSN 1443-0797

Editors: Eric Lindsay and Jean Weber

In this issue...

Our trip to Carnarvon Gorge National Park, Queensland, in September 2001
Links to more information about Carnarvon Gorge
Anyone for golf?
How about lawn bowling?
Outback Bound: another good information source
Self-drive holidays in the Northern Territory and Kimberley
Hotel bargains at Need-It-Now
Learning about venomous critters
Want to send an Aussie a gift?
Some websites about Brisbane and its transportation system
Other people's travels
Subscription information

Our trip to Carnarvon Gorge National Park, Queensland, in September 2001

Map of our trip to Carnarvon Gorge
Carnarvon Gorge is the best known part of 298,000ha Carnarvon National Park, which also includes drier and less developed sections at Mt Moffatt, Ka Ka Mundi and Salvator Rosa. It is a very popular tourist destination, being easily accessible from the Brisbane area.

Planning for this trip was more elaborate than usual, as we had to book into the National Park campsite in advance. Jean phoned about two weeks before our intended visit and had no trouble getting in. (Note: the campground closed on 31 October 2001 and has been converted to a day use area. Now the only places to camp are outside the park in private facilities, mentioned later in this article.)

Wednesday 5 September 2001.
We set off from Airlie Beach around midday and drove to Mackay, where we stopped at the Andergrove caravan park (S21.06.425 E149.10.569), which was quite pleasant. (Our last time there we parked the truck and stayed in the home of some friends; this time we stayed in the motorhome at the caravan park.)

This caravan park isn't near the beaches or other tourist attractions, and it has a considerable number of permanent residents, some in quite spacious constructions. The grounds were all very tidy. We were most impressed with the shower facilities in the tourist area, which were of the same high quality as at Clermont. Each shower stall provided a changing area that was protected from excess water by a brick wall, and the shower head was installed on this wall so all the water went away from the opening. Great design, and we wish every caravan park and swimming pool would use something similar.

Thursday 6 September 2001.
We did a bit of motorhome maintenance, by pulling the drain plug out of our rear water tank and attempting to rinse out some of the mud we'd collected from the Airlie Beach drinking water supply some months previously. We left a little clean water in the tank, to help loosen the remaining mud while we drove.

Eric talked with some people who were using one of the OzTent 30-second tents, and they confirmed it was very nearly as fast to put up as the demonstrations suggested, and well thought out.

Eventually we headed along the Peak Downs Highway to Nebo (S21.40.963 E148.41.657), where we emptied our rear water tank again. This time the water we released looked a lot cleaner, so we filled up with clean water. The Nebo Community Development Group has a website at http://dreamwater.net/nebocdg/index.htm

Continuing along the road, we were overtaken by two motorhomes. At the Coppabella rest area they and we pulled over. The drivers turned out to be two female solo members of the CMCA (Campervan and Motorhome Club of Australia), not from the Mackay area, who had heard about a gathering in the Clermont-Rubyvale area (to which we were also heading) and decided to join the group for the weekend.

Shortly afterward, another motorhome pulled in. This couple were from Glenden, a mining town we had seen advertising some very cheap homes last year. Eric had assumed the town had been on the verge of becoming uninhabited due to the mine closing (as we had seen elsewhere), however we were told the town was actually growing, wanted to get a mix of age groups, and so had deliberately made cheap houses available to retirees. There were new mining ventures expanding in the area. These folks told us the town was very friendly and the crime rate was zero. Sounded like a good deal, whether you lived there or (like them) used it as a base for extensive traveling.

We all stopped at the roadhouse at the Moranbah turnoff (S22.05.866 E148.05.729) well before 4, and milled around talking and awaiting other arrivals. We were eventually advised to park in a large paddock next to the roadhouse.

The service station has some ducks, horses, miniature horses, goats, and a camel. We had seen them on previous visits, so we know they live here permanently. By dark there were fifteen vehicles parked. Many of them were not from the Mackay area; like the two solos we'd met earlier, they were just visiting for the weekend on their way to somewhere else.

The proprietors were quite helpful and friendly, and seemed used to the motorhome crowd stopping there. They provide free tea and coffee for travelers. The roadhouse is open all night, so we could use their toilets, and they don't charge anything to use the showers. We ate dinner at the roadhouse, choosing steak sandwiches which were large and tasty.

Friday 7th September 2001.
One of the motorhomes left by 6:30, and several more by 7:00, heading for Clermont to take the tour of the Blair Athol mine. We had taken this excellent tour last year, so we didn't bother this time. We were among the leisurely four who left slightly after 8:00. Clermont: http://www.walkabout.com.au/fairfax/locations/QLDClermont.shtml

At Clermont we did some food shopping, then headed off to the camping spot at Theresa Creek Dam (S22.50,357 E147.33.263). The road to the dam turns off the back road to Rubyvale. The dam was built by the Blair Athol coal project, and donated to the town of Clermont almost 20 years ago.

View of campground at Teresa Creek DamView of lake at Teresa Creek DamAt the dam, we found a side road to the lakeside area where our group was camping. The group's leader had arrived early, but few others were there yet, so we had our choice of spots. The area was sloping, so finding a reasonable place was a bit of a challenge. Most people were used to driving onto blocks of wood to level their vehicles, but we're lazy (although we do have suitable blocks with us).

There wasn't a lot to do at the dam except watch birds and go fishing, neither of which is on our list of favourite pastimes, so we had a good excuse to goof off and read. We did go for a walk to the dam itself several times, annoying the local kangaroos headed for the lake for an afternoon drink, but there wasn't much else to walk to. The sunset across the lake was magnificent, all reds and blues and misty colours. We took our chairs down by the lake to watch it.

One of the other CMCA members, who did like fishing, caught enough to feed the more than 40 people who were gathered. He wouldn't say what sort of fish they were, but they were delicious. We donated more than the suggested amount of money towards the fish stocking program at the dam.

Saturday 8th September 2001.
Still at Theresa Creek Dam with the CMCA, we discovered the showers at the dam site actually had hot water, which was unexpected and much appreciated. We didn't expect that at a free site, and our camping book had specifically said cold showers.

Another member showed us his Urban Caribike 5 speed folding bicycle, with 20 inch wheels. It seemed really well constructed, and seemed to use excellent parts. He had bought it from a long established shop, Stead Cycles at Beresfield NSW. We will definitely be looking them up. (Unfortunately their website seems to be non-functional; we hope the company is doing better.)

We checked the phones and found no service from GSM, but the CDMA was working on higher ground, although not where the motorhome was parked.

Sunday 9 September 2001.
We drove back to Clermont, picked up some food, then drove through Capella and Emerald to Springsure (S24.07.435 E148.05.853), Bauhinia Shire, where we found the caravan park at the BP service station on the other side of town.

This was a nice little spot, although manoeuvering the motorhome into place was tight. The proprietors appear to be the local wildlife rescue people; the woman told us she had reared many young kangaroos after their mothers had been killed on the road. She had several in the nursery that night, but we didn't ask to see them. Springsure: http://www.walkabout.com.au/fairfax/locations/QLDSpringsure.shtml

Monday 10 September 2001.
We did some food shopping in Springsure, then continued driving south. We stopped 20 km out of town to view the Staircase Ranges, then continued on to Rolleston, which seemed pretty small but did at least have easy-to-find public toilets.

After failing to find a pleasant lunch spot, we stopped along the road to eat, and reached the turnoff around midday. There was some bitumen road, however once you reached the dirt at least half of it was very badly corrugated.

Our campsite at Carnarvon Gorge NPView along the Nature TrailWhen we arrived at the National Park, we found no ranger on duty, because all the staff appeared to be out tending a fire (presumably a deliberate burn, as the day was still and rain was forecast for later). We took awhile to find the notice that told us which camp site we had been assigned, one of the bus sites. Unfortunately we couldn't fit the truck through the gap in the fence, despite several attempts and lots of head-scratching as we wondered how a tour bus ever got in there. We finally gave up and went into an adjoining campsite that was also extremely tight. We discovered later that the buses parked outside the actual camp sites and the campers' tents went into the fenced area. This does explain why the gaps in the fence were so tight.

Kangaroos at Carnarvon Gorge campground. Amenities block in background.Stream crossing on Nature TrailTuesday 11 September 2001.
Rain was threatening as we set off on the track to the Moss Garden in Violet Gorge. Drizzle soon began and became steadily heavily. We got fairly wet despite our disposable raincoats, and the track got fairly slippery in places. We gave up before reaching the Moss Garden, and returned to the truck.

Eric walked the Nature Trail in the late afternoon, after the rain slacked off, and it was very pleasant although he didn't manage to see any platypus in the pools.

There were lots of kangaroos around the park, wandering around the vans and tents. Late at night we found a family of possums going through the campfire area. We hadn't used it, so we don't know if they had much luck on their raid.

Wednesday 12 September 2001.
The weather was better, though still overcast. We both walked the Nature Trail, so Jean could see it. Shortly after, we headed out on the Rock Pool trail. This is a smallish pool with a large rock looming over one side. Very pretty. The weather continued to improve towards the afternoon, but it was cold overnight.

Rock PoolThursday 13 September 2001.
Our booking at the National Park campground had expired, so no more walks for us, despite beautiful weather. We moved to the privately run Takarakka Bush Resort about 4 km from the park, which wasn't nearly as "bushy" as the National Park, but still quite pleasant.

We visited their platypus pool several times but didn't see any of the elusive critters. We also walked up the hill to a lookout which had quite a good view of the surrounding area.

The resort had Internet access and allowed Jean to plug in her laptop and download several days' worth of e-mail. This is when we first heard about the terrorist attacks in America the day before.

Friday 14 September 2001.
We mostly goofed off today, reading books and typing notes, though we did walk 2 km to the Oasis Lodge to check on their facilities and prices (high). Once a large pig rushed past our chairs and into the underbrush. We'd noticed the signs of pigs ripping up the ground in the area, but we hadn't expected to see one quite so close.

View of Carnarvon Range from road to RollestonSaturday-Sunday 15-16 September 2001.
Up early and on the road, heading home. We bought some newspapers in Emerald and read them at lunchtime, catching up on the horrible news from the USA. We drove further than our usual distance and arrived at the roadhouse at Moranbah turnoff just before dark. Again the owners were welcoming and allowed us to park in their back paddock. On Sunday, after another early start, we stopped at Nebo to flush out the front water tank and refill it with clean water, and again at Bloomsbury for a sandwich and a milkshake (we've remarked before on their truly wonderful milkshakes). We got home in the early afternoon.


Links to more information about Carnarvon Gorge


Discover Our Parks - National Parks pages (search for Carnarvon). http://www.env.qld.gov.au/environment/park/discover/

Oasis Lodge site has some practical info about the gorge, its attractions, and how to get there, as well as details about the lodge, its facilities, costs, and so on. http://www.carnarvongorge.com

Carnarvon Wilderness Guides' site has a nice map of the features in the gorge, and a map of how to get there, plus other info, including phone numbers for accommodation. The Guides do a series of walking tours of the park and the surrounding area. They are based at Takarakka. http://www.uq.net.au/~zzdawnmm/


Anyone for golf?

Here's a great site for golfers intending to visit Australia. It has information on golf courses all over the country, amongst other things. http://www.ausgolf.com.au/


How about lawn bowling?

Bowling Australia has more than 2000 Australian lawn bowling clubs in its searchable database, with lots of details about each club. http://bowlingaroundaustralia.com/html/home.html
(Editor's note: this link wasn't working in May 2004.)


Outback Bound: another good information source

Outback Bound is run by two CMCA members who travelled and worked their way around Australia, living in a converted 1962 Bedford bus for three years and seven months.

The site provides information related to motorhomes, caravans, campervans and areas of interest to travelers in Australia who aren't interested in staying in hotels or motels.

Among other features, they have a list of free campsites covering over 2,300 campsites across Australia, a detailed guide to Western Australia, a section on bush poetry, and a photo gallery containing almost 400 pictures. http://www.obb.freeservers.com


Self-drive holidays in the Northern Territory and Kimberley

Here's a site promoting self-drive holidays in the Northern Territory and Kimberley. It's designed at people who want a package deal but prefer to plan their own itinerary rather than taking a tour. http://www.self-drive.com

The usual disclaimer applies: we've never tried booking with this company, and we don't know anything about them, so this is not a recommendation, just for your information.


Hotel bargains at Need-It-Now

One of my favourite Australian website, Travelmate, has launched a companion website, Need It Now. This site lists last-minute bargains on hotel rooms in major Australian cities, showing prices up to 8 days in advance, with links to pages where you can find out more about the rooms available and book them if you wish.

We've tried this site and were impressed with the ease of use and the level of detail -- not to mention some of the prices on offer in otherwise-expensive city-centre hotels (suffering from a lack of trade in the last two months). http://www.needitnow.com.au/


Learning about venomous critters

The Australian Venom Research Unit has lots of information on spiders, snakes, insects, and other land and sea venomous creatures (with photos) and what to do if bitten. http://www.pharmacology.unimelb.edu.au/pharmwww/avruweb/index.htm


Want to send an Aussie a gift?

One convenient way to send a gift to an Australian friend is to buy them a gift voucher than can be spent either online or at a physical store. Evouchers can be redeemed at many stores. http://www.evoucher.com.au/VoucherStep1ann.asp


Some websites about Brisbane and its transportation system

Brisbane airport: http://www.bne.com.au/

River ferries: http://www.brisbane.qld.gov.au/transport_parking/citycat_ferry.shtml

Buses: http://www.brisbane.qld.gov.au/transport_parking/buses.shtml

Airtrain (from downtown to airport): http://www.airtrain.com.au/

TransInfo - Southeast Queensland public transport information: http://www.transinfo.qld.gov.au/

Brisbane City Life - everything about the city for both tourists and locals. http://www.maxlink.com.au/bcl/


Other people's travels

Garth and Angela Lamson have a personal website showing their Australian travel, camping, hiking, bushwalking (and hotels in the cities) around Australia.

They have travel tips, camping and hiking recipes and a lot of other things. Nothing for sale!

Lots of photos, but small and quick loading, mostly about the Northern Territory and northern parts of South Australia, so it fills in some of the gaps in our website's coverage.


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