The Snail Trail

Travelling with my home on my back and in no hurry to get anywhere


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The Aussie Salute

The Daily Snail

Were all doing the Aussie Salute, waving away the sticky little bush flies! They just don’t leave you alone here in Blackall.

Nets for Bush flies in Blackall

We’ve bought every fly net available in town and they’ve had to bring in more supplies. People that swore they’d never be seen dead wearing a fly net are sporting them like the latest fashion statement.

I absolutely swear by my ‘fly ointment ‘ that I bought in Alice Springs in 2015. A little dab around the ears and the flies literally buzz off!

Natures Botanical Fly ointment

And the gifts for the volunteers at our rally here was this very handy little fly switch.

Fly switch souvenir from Blackall

Everyone is doing the Aussie Salute!

Now I find out from Wikipedia that it is also called the Barcoo salute! Where are we? At Blackall on the Barcoo River! We’re in the thick of bush fly country!

Wikipedia excerpt about the Aussie Bush Salute

Here’s my poetic comment about flies …..

Flies! The Aussie…

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Not All Who Wander Are Lost – Part 2

I did some serious wandering during the last half of 2018  – and I may have been lost occasionally – but I justify that by saying I find a different way :)!

From my base at my nephew’s home in Bundaberg I looked at my options to arrive in Mudgee for a Solo Traveller’s Rally that I was attending in late September. One option was a pretty straight line south – a total of about 1150 kms.

But I found the other option a lot more interesting! I had nearly 3 months, after all! 🙂

 

This was a fabulous trip out to Western Queensland and New South Wales. The map shows my campsites and the times I stopped in caravan parks. As many place names aren’t on the map, my stopovers included Moura, in Queensland, where I camped at the Dawson River campground for about a week while I waited for a new tyre to arrive and be fitted. I did a really good job shredding one as I was coming into a little town called Banana of all places. What’s the saying – If you’re going to do something, do it well? I did! It was no hardship being at this camp ground, though, which had toilets, water and hot showers all for a donation to keep the facilities serviced. Moura has a mural on their water tower and as I left to head further west I came across the first cattle I saw on the long paddock. The drought situation only worsened!

 

My first caravan park stay was at Rolleston to do the washing and also catch up with a travelling friend, Rosanna, who I had met at Boulia in 2013. Other stopovers were Emerald, Jericho, Barcaldine, (to see the Tree Of Knowledge) and then Longreach where I indulged myself with some touristy things which were the subject of an earlier blog called A Tourist in Longreach. 

After a few days on the Barcoo River in Isisford I made my way to Yaraka and a catch up with a friend I hadn’t seen for 35 years. That is also the subject of an earlier blog – Yaraka the End of the Line?

I had a wonderful week with Gerry (pictured above) and her husband Chris, who are the publicans at the Yaraka Hotel- and Chris does a fabulous trip up Mt Slocombe at sunset, which is not to be missed. Then –

  • Blackall – claims the original Black Stump of the Australian outback and is the venue for our Campervan & Motorhome Club of Australia Solos Rally next May
  • Tambo –  home of the world famous (and very expensive hand made!) Tambo Teddies
  • Quilpie – a must visit to St Finnbars Catholic Church to wonder at the opal altar, font and lectern
  • Eromanga – the Natural History Museum is home to Australia’s largest dinosaur discovered on a property nearby
  • Thargomindah – where Brutus pulled up on the side of the road and refused to go any further until he was rescued by my favourite mechanic, Johnno, from Cunnamulla, who worked his magic and Brutus hasn’t looked back since.
  • Cunnamulla – home of the Cunnamulla Fella and, as I said, the best mechanic in the world (in my humble opinion)
  • Barringun, on the border of Queensland and New South Wales,where the old pub burnt down and there is now a pop-up pub
  • Bourke – a nostalgic visit to the place I first visited in about 1970 with my then husband, Rex, whose family owned the North Bourke Hotel – another pub that burnt down, although some years ago now
  • Trangie – who would have thought a little place like Trangie would make it to my list of memorable places, and it was a caravan park to boot. But Andrew, the host, made it a wonderful week, made even better by my sister joining me there

 

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A couple more lovely bush camps and it was time for the rally in Mudgee. I was pretty busy with committee work throughout the rally so didn’t get to enjoy a lot of the activities but there were about 300 motorhomes and a similar amount of people who attended and the program was chock full of activities. At the Poet’s Breakfast I recited my newest poem, Dry as Dust, for the first time. It was written as a reaction to the devastating drought throughout Queensland and New South Wales. Absolutely heart breaking scenes for mile upon mile of travelling.

With the rally over I was off to my next house sit in Casino, looking after a little dog for a fellow Solo when she went overseas. It was only a couple of weeks but gave me a great opportunity to see some of the New South Wales coast, an adventure I hadn’t had before.

 

I got more – and also less – than I bargained for! The rain came down in torrents for days, making it impossible to enjoy all those beautiful coastal towns along the way. It also backed up in the gutter around my pop top and seeped into every cupboard just like house gutters overflowing into the eaves and ceilings …. what a mess. Sodden toilet rolls, wet clothes, and, disaster – my deck of UNO cards got soaked and stuck together. Well, they went straight into the bin and onto the “things I want for Christmas” list! (Thank you Marion for my new cards)

 

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The weather was fabulous after I left Casino so I really enjoyed the coastline, fell in love with Nambucca Heads, caught up with a mad bunch of Solos in Buladelah, had new curtains made for me in Maitland by Solo friend Ros, travelled with fellow Solo Lynn for a few days through Gunning and Jugiong, stayed with my cousin Gretchen in Wagga Wagga and finally arrived at Lee’s home in Albury, the site of my last house sit for the year. And then it was off to my sister’s home in Nagambie, Victoria, for Christmas and New Year.

 

We also shared an adventure when a winemaker friend of Marion’s asked if we’d like to go to McLarenvale in  South Australia to pick up a couple of barrels of wine. This was known as the Two Tarts Wine Run and was shared with a concrete meerkat from the garden next door! I wrote about it in my blog The Travelling Tales of Monsieur M Kat.

I’m exhausted just writing about all the places I went to this year …..  this blog has made me realise what a lot of ground I covered! But none of this was done in a hurry and I loved every minute of it – well, almost ….. I could have done without all that rain. Oh, and it would have been better if Brutus hadn’t broken down but the upside of that is I found a mechanic who finally got him running better than ever before. For the first time in 3 years he hasn’t got a miss in the engine so that’s a win! Unfortunately, Cunnamulla is a long way to go for a car service 🙂

For those interested here is my Expenses Summary. My only income is the Aged Pension which is just under $24,000 a year. Thank goodness I had managed to save some of that to meet unexpected car repairs. But I’ll have to cut back on the Coffee and Cake I think!

Car Expenses $6626
Petrol $2564
Rego & Insurance (inc Roadside Assist) $1420
Maintenance $2642
Food & Drink Expenses $6768
Groceries, Butcher etc $3354
Coffee & Eating out $2498
Booze $ 916
Personal $2152
Hair, chemist, makeup, clothes, shoes etc
Camping Fees $1014
   
Utilities $943
Gas Mobile Phone and Internet
Fun Stuff $2161
Touristy things gifts, newspapers, lotto, subs
Van Stuff $1686
New porta potti, new laptop, new curtains, fridge repair, etc
Miscellaneous expenditure $2336
TOTAL EXPENDITURE $23686

People often ask in Facebook Forums “Can you live permanently on the road on the pension?” Answer is “Yes!” My lifestyle has certainly changed – I value things of little monetary value, my pleasure comes from the places I go and the people I meet. It’s a simple life and one I thoroughly enjoy.

I also began another blog in 2018 called The Daily Snail. So far it hasn’t been quite daily, but it gives me the opportunity to do short posts about where I am or interesting things I have seen. It takes the pressure off these ‘bigger than Ben Hur’ blogs on The Snail Trail. I hope you have a look at it and click on follow for more regular updates from me.

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Xmas photo at my sisters with her dog, Jack Russell

So much to look forward to in 2019 – February, The Silo Art Trail in Victoria, The Man From Snowy River Festival in Corryong, Victoria in April, CMCA Solos Rally in Blackall, Queensland in May followed by the Guiness Book of Records world record attempt for the Longest Line of RV’s in Barcaldine, Queensland.

And after that? ….

Roll on 2019. May it be a great year for us all!

 


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Not All Who Wander Are Lost – Part 1

Have you seen the bumper sticker that says “Not all who wander are lost” ? How true that is for me and my lifestyle!

My wandering this year took me a distance of 11,572 kms, spending a total $2536.45 on 1745.6 litres of fuel (ULP). Age crept up on old Brutus the Beast and he also cost me about the same amount in repairs and maintenance ($2,591.75) but I have to say that he hasn’t missed a beat since Johnno in Cunnamulla gave him a thorough tune up. (Well, we did have a bit of a hiccup in Mudgee but that’s another story!)

In January I ‘wandered’ from Bundaberg to Bingara – a distance of just over 1100 kms – to look after a dear little dog, CJ, while his owner went overseas.

 

I loved my time in Bingara looking after CJ and I met some lovely locals that I enjoyed Wednesday coffee mornings with and also Aqua Aerobics at the pool next door.

I took a different route back to Bundaberg, covering some roads I hadn’t been on before.

 

There was time for a quick trip to Gladstone to catch up with a friend I used to play trivia with before I was due back in Bundaberg for my next house sit. What a contrast Gladstone is – from smoky industry to pristine bush and beaches.

By the end of April I was back to Bundaberg for my house sit that took me through to almost the end of June. I looked after 2 dogs – a rottweiler and pomeranian, and 3 cats, one of them being a 5 week old kitten. What a time waster that little kitten was, but I sure loved her, little Daisy Mae.

After a couple of days at home with Simon & Sandy I was off to the Sunshine Coast to house sit for relations, Larissa, Walter and their 3 boys. They have a beautiful property in the hinterland and I had cats, dogs, chooks and sheep to feed. It’s here I had a disagreement with a ram and ended up with a black and blue thigh where he butted me to the ground! I called him Rambo after that and kept my distance! The other animals were a lot friendlier.

In this first 6 months I spent a total of $141 on accommodation – caravan parks, showgrounds and freedom (donation) camps.

My next 6 months took me much further afield and was one of the most enjoyable trips I have done in my 5 years of travelling…… but more about that, and a further breakdown of expenses, in Not All Who Wander Are Lost – Part 2.

Stay tuned ….

DISCLAIMER: The motorhome in the featured image is, unfortunately, not mine – but I did take the photo 🙂  Perhaps a bit of wishful thinking??

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yaraka Queensland


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Yaraka – The End of the Line?

Not only is Yaraka the end of the line, it has disappeared off the map! I’ve been searching for a map to show you just where it is and Google has decided Yaraka is to be a secret. Fortunately, Wikipedia recognises the name and puts it in its place!
Yaraka is a small town in Central West Queensland, Australia. It was the terminus of a branch railway line. It is located 220 kilometres south of Longreach, 165 kilometres west of Blackall and 100 kilometres south of Isisford.Wikipedia
Yaraka is no secret to ‘grey nomads’ though, it’s a place that is mentioned around the campfire where tall tales and true are shared. What makes Yaraka so special? Why the Yaraka Pub of course!
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But it’s never about a building is it? It’s the people that make this place memorable. Now I have a confession to make before I wax lyrical about the people…. Chris and Gerry, the publicans, are old friends of mine. As a matter of fact I was their bridesmaid 40 years ago in 1978. Then about 35 years ago our lives went in different directions and we lost touch with each other. What a wonderful reunion we’ve had! And in a bar, of all places (hehehe)

 

The Yaraka Hotel is much more than a good place for a reunion though. This tiny town, with a permanent population of 12 people, is full of community spirit. While I was there the Dubbo South Rotary Club brought the participants in their Expedition Outback rally to Yaraka – 130 people turned up and the ‘town’ catered for them, both dinner and breakfast. Some achievement by such a small group! The rally was supporting the Pink Angels for their Yaraka stopover and they dressed for the occasion.

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There were swags and tents and all sorts of vehicles set up in the campground out the back of the hotel which has plenty of room for campers. There’s also a spot provided by the Longreach Council where, for $3 a night you can hook up to power with facilities including toilets and hot showers. (They collect the fees at the pub)

Apart from my wonderful catch up with Gerry and Chris, another highlight of my visit was the bus trip to Mt Slocombe that Chris does in the evening, just in time to catch the sunset and the changing light over this magical landscape. Chris is passionate about the area and conveys this to the group as he talks about its history and the things that make Yaraka such a special place.

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This photo shows the tiny township of Yaraka viewed from Mt Slocombe nestled at the foot of the Yang Yang Ranges.

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If you would like to know more about the history of Yaraka this link will fill you in on the details, particularly why it is known as the End of the Line – a grand plan literally stopped in its tracks!

As more properties erect dog proof fences they are gradually restocking the land with the sheep that made Yaraka so prosperous in the past and moving away from the cattle that replaced them.

Yaraka – on the outer Barcoo, where the preachers are few….. A few kilometres west you’ll come across Magee’s shanty, immortalised in Banjo Paterson’s poem The Bush Christening

This excerpt from The Visit Longreach Visitors Guide sums up Yaraka pretty well –

Yaraka is truly the hidden gem of Outback Queensland with a fascinating history, breathtaking landscape and locals that will make you fee like you’ve found home all over again.

And I guess that’s why so many travellers make their way back to Yaraka time and again – just like I’m going to do!


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Dry as Dust

Augathella, Thargomindah, Eromanga, Yaraka –
I’ve been out in Western Queensland, travelling on and off the tar.
Where everything is dry as dust, both the locals and the land,
They haven’t lost their Aussie humour, but they could do with a hand.

At Isisford and Blackall, Windorah, Quilpie, Tambo
If they can’t keep their stock alive they’ll pack up and they’ll go.
The drought is devastating as it sucks the country dry
And the wind blows off the topsoil, and the wild dogs multiply.

So they’re building dog proof fences to keep wild dogs at bay
And they’re hoping this will keep their stock alive another day.
A farmer told me recently he’d lost seven hundred sheep
And that was just one pack attack, it’s enough to make you weep.

The long paddock is well stocked with beasts grazing the stubbled ground
And stockmen and their horses and their dogs move them around,
I’m not sure where they’re taking them, there’s no relief in sight,
There’ll be many miles to cover before they rest up for the night.

Cunnamulla, Eulo, Toompine and on to Bourke
This drought’s affecting everyone, not only those the land they work.
The little towns are dying, although they’re struggling to the end,
And shops are closing one by one without a local spend.

The “nomads’ keep their hopes alive as they buy their fuel and food
Any dollar spent in town can only do some good
So on your travelling adventure to our outback Aussie land
Spend up in little country towns, it’s a way to lend a hand.

And leave a little something in the RFDS tin
Or other outback charities, it’s a chance for them to win.
Too many farms have closed their gates, they’ve just packed up and gone
Where they’ve farmed for generations is worth nothing but a song.

Longreach, Winton, Isisford, Jericho and Jundah
Aussies need to band together, stop these towns from going under.
So while we all appreciate a cloudless, clear blue sky
Think of the west that needs the rain to put an end to this long dry.

Rosemary Robinson
August 2018

Isisford, Queensland


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Isisford – The Middle of Everywhere

There’s a sign in Isisford that declares the town is not in the middle of nowhere, it’s the middle of everywhere! I like that thinking ….

Isisford is located 1,237 km north-west of Brisbane and 117 km south of Longreach.

Isisford map

Isisford (1)As you enter  the town, from Ilfracombe in the north, you are welcomed by a giant sculpture of a Yellow Belly fish, with the sign proudly declaring Isisford is the home of the Yellow Belly.

An annual fishing competition is held on the last weekend of July, attracting competitors from all over Australia to catch good old Yellowbelly. This is a great weekend for fishing enthusiasts.

The Barcoo River is the venue for the fishing frenzy but it also offers some wonderful riverside camping. I stopped for a couple of days but could easily have stayed much longer and there were people there who came for a couple of months. I’m not sure if this sign at my campsite was a memorial for someone or to mark the spot for future reference but I was happy to claim it as my own for the time I was there.

You may be familiar with the Banjo Paterson poem of The Bush Christening which starts

On the outer Barcoo where the churches are few
And men of religion are scanty,

But Isisford is also well known for it’s ancient ancestor of today’s crocodilians and the Interpretation Centre shows a short film and has displays of the history of the area.

The Outer Barcoo Interpretive Centre, a museum depicting the evolution of nature from 100 million years ago to the present. The feature attraction is a life-sized replica model of Isisfordia Duncani, who lived around 98 million years ago. He was the evolutionary ancestor of all crocodilians that live on earth today. The Bulldog fish was also found in the area dating back 100 million years ago. There are displays of local fauna, flora, reptiles, birds and fossils that have lived in this region, as well as formation of the Great Artesian Basin and general history of the Isisford area. An audio-visual presentation portrays life in the Isisford area since settlement. The film depicts Isisford as being ‘the middle of everywhere’. The building also houses 60 seat theatrette, cafeteria, local arts and craft displays.

The town itself is typical of many outback towns that has seen a declining population and disappearance of services although there’s still a couple of pubs and the Information Centre serves a decent coffee. Banjo Paterson has certainly made his mark in this town!

Happy Campers:

For only $3 a night there are two wonderful camps at Isisford. The Barcoo River camp that I stayed at is right on the edge of town and has drinking water, toilet and dump point at its entry. Oma Waterhole is a few kms out of town, also $3 a night. This charge includes the use of showers in the town park.

Isisford might seem like it’s in the middle of nowhere but to the locals it’s the middle of everywhere! To me it’s the perfect place to return to for a relaxing stay on the Barcoo River.

 

Longreach, Queensland


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A Tourist in Longreach

Longreach is a town in Western Queensland and the whole area is currently in drought. It was similar when I passed through 5 years ago – life on the land is certainly tough!

Location: 1,181 km (734 mi) NW of Brisbane; 687 km (427 mi) W of Rockhampton; 649 km (403 mi) SE of Mount Isa 

Longreach Queensland

If you’ve been following my travels you’ll know that I don’t do the tourist scene as a rule, but I broke that rule in Longreach, and I’m glad I did! On my first visit to the area in 2013 I went to the Stockman’s Hall of Fame but I also noticed a couple of tours run by Kinnon & Co, so this visit I shouted myself the Dinner Cruise and Stagecoach Run. Both were worth every cent!

What an entrepreneurial family! The story goes that a few years ago Dad and the boys were driving into town from their cattle station and Dad passed the comment that if they had a couple of dollars for every caravan and motorhome that went past then they would be able to ride out the tough times of drought, low cattle prices etc. So they set to work to see what they could do to get their hands on the tourist dollars – and they came up with some winners!

1.  Starlight’s Cruise Experience

The Cruise experience was enhanced by some great commentary by the skipper and when we disembarked we enjoyed a camp oven dinner around the campfire, a movie about Captain Starlight, billy tea and damper drizzled with golden syrup and a very funny show that included some bush poetry and a lot of belly laughing humour provided by younger members of the family.

The Thomson River Cruise revolves around the story of Captain Starlight who was the famous cattle duffer (cattle thief), Harry Readford, back in the 1870’s. This summary of his exploits is from Wikipedia…

In 1870, Readford was working as a stockman on Bowen Downs Station near Longreach in Queensland. Realising that remote parts of the property, which stretched some 228 km (142 mi) along the Thomson River, were seldom visited by station workers, he devised a plan to steal some of the station’s cattle. With two associates, George Dewdney and William Rooke, he built stockyards in an outlying part of the property, and gradually assembled a mob of about 1,000 cattle, which he then took from the property, all without any of the station workers realizing what was going on.

Readford knew the cattle would be recognized from their brands as being stolen if he tried to sell them in Queensland, so he headed for South Australia through the Channel Country and the Strzelecki Desert. Only ten years earlier, explorers Burke and Wills had set out to cross the continent along the same track, and died in the attempt. As a droving exercise, it was a remarkable achievement, as anyone who has travelled the present-day Strzelecki Track will know. Three months and 1,287 km (800 mi) later he exchanged two cows and a white bull for rations at Artracoona Native Well near Wallelderdine Station. They then moved the remainder of the mob via Mt Hopeless, and sold them for £5,000 (2009:A$250,000) at Blanchewater Station, east of Marree.[1]

So Harry became a legend for his amazing droving experience and is still regarded as a bit of a hero for his exploits. He got caught because he also stole a famous, and easily recognizable white bull, that he also sold, and the long arm of the law reached out and dragged him back to Roma in Queensland where he was notoriously acquitted by the jury. The Australian classic novel, Robbery Under Arms, by Rolf Boldrewood is said to be based in part on Harry’s exploits.

An annual Harry Redford Cattle Drive commemorates Readford’s exploits as a drover. A range of riders from the city and country participate in this droving expedition, taking part for three days or up to three weeks, at their choice.

2.  Cobb & Co Stagecoach Experience

What a ride!

Our morning started with Smoko – morning tea – of scones, jam and cream and then we were taken to the yard to board our coach. There were 2 stage coaches leaving this day so we were loaded up and made our way to the Town Common for a gallop – a very dusty gallop I might add! On our return we watched a great old movie called Smiley Gets a Gun which suited the bulk of the audience who probably saw it when they were kids (like I did), so it was a competition to recognise the Australian actors who had gone on to bigger and better things many years later. These included Leonard Teale, Chips Rafferty and Ruth Cracknell.

Then it was out to be entertained once again by the young Kinnon boys. They are so naturally funny with a great sense of dry Aussie humour.

I’m glad I stretched my budget to go to both these experiences and would highly recommend them to anyone passing through the area. Not only will you be well fed and entertained it’s a way to leave some money behind in these towns that struggle to survive in times like this.

Happy Campers

There is a massive camp about 5kms out of town on the Thomson River called Apex Riverside Park. It is provided by the Longreach Regional Council for $3 per night

Self-sufficient campers can stay at this site, toilets are available but be aware that there is no power, potable water or showers.

$3.00 per night, per vehicle, payable at the Longreach Visitor Information Centre, Eagle Street, Longreach QLD

Hot showers available at the CWA building in QANTAS park. Potable water is also available at the back of the Visitor Information Centre, Showgrounds, Kite Street Caravan Day parking area.

There are a couple of caravan parks in Longreach but unless you are desperate I would avoid them. I stayed at the Longreach Caravan Park in Ibis Street for one night and although friendly it was extremely crowded with vans crammed in together and facilities old but clean. $30 is an expensive shower!

I knew I had to give Longreach a second chance after my 2013 visit and I’m so glad I did!