The Snail Trail

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


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Gone to the Dogs!

After Pit Ponies in Collinsville I’ve continued the animal theme and have been dog-sitting in a couple of locations for fellow Solo travellers. My first jaunt was to Buderim on the beautiful Sunshine Coast where I looked after this little cutie, Chai, while her mum was in hospital. Chai is known as a Milky – a cross between a Maltese Terrier and a Silky Terrier.

She’s pretty cute, isn’t she? It wasn’t easy to leave her when Lesley arrived home but she left me for dead when her mum walked in the door!

Christmas was spent in Bundaberg, my home base on the mainland – with nephew Simon (I call him my surrogate son as I never had children of my own – fortunately my sister is happy to share him with me), his lovely wife Sandy and their daughter Lauren. As they had booked a holiday to the Gold Coast I looked after the pets while they were away. Lily the cat and Lucy the dog let me know who was in control by lolling on MY bed, although they did leave just enough room for me to squeeze in too!

By the way – Lily the Cat is a male but that hadn’t been determined when he was named! Anyhow, he doesn’t seem to have a personality complex about his sexuality.

And now I’m at my third dog-sitting venture looking after this cheeky little devil, CJ! Once again, whose bed is it???

I have been looking after CJ for a month now and have another month to go before mum, Janet, returns from her trip to India, Vietnam and Cambodia. This house/dog sit is in a cabin in the Bingara Caravan Park in New South Wales. In my first year travelling (2013) I attended a Solos Rally in Bingara and loved the little town then and particularly the fantastic camping beside the Gwydir River.

I’ve thrown myself into what Bingara has to offer and have been going to Aquafit classes 3 times a week at the swimming pool next to the Caravan Park and last week CJ and I visited Touriandi Lodge, an aged care facility on the other side of the CP to the pool. CJ was cuddled by everyone and fussed over and slept for hours when we came home. The next day we visited the hospital where once again he was made to feel very special. Funny about that, CJ was supposed to be making the residents and patients feel special! I’ve also been going to Wednesday coffee mornings with some of the locals so all in all I feel like I am a little part of the community.

There’s some really interesting information to tell you about Bingara and surrounds so I’ll do several short posts over the next couple of weeks. I’m looking forward to telling you about Sawn Rocks, Cunningham’s Track, the Roxy Theatre and the Myall Creek Massacre along with a couple of other quaint local customs.

PS: Thanks to an old friend Sam (Rudi) for prompting me to switch my brain back on and get back on The Snail Trail.

Collinsville Pit Pony


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Collinsville – It’s the Pits!

The coal pits of Collinsville have forged this strong community inland from Mackay and Bowen in Queensland. It is at the northern most tip of the huge Bowen Basin Coal Deposits, which is so extensive it covers an area half the size of England!

The Bowen Basin contains the largest coal reserves in Australia. This major coal producing region contains one of the world’s largest deposits of bituminous coal. The Basin contains much of the known Permian coal resources in Queensland including virtually all of the known mineable prime coking coal. ….

….. The Bowen Basin covers an area of over 60,000 square kilometres in Central Queensland running from Collinsville to Theodore.

Brett, from the Information Centre in Collinsville, is a ‘mine’ of information about this town and credits the sense of community on the coal miners that rely on each other every day to keep them safe and alive as they worked underground. The threat of disaster and death bands them together and that mateship forms the strong bonds that unites the community of Collinsville. (Mining at Collinsville is no longer underground and is now done by the open cut method)

Not so long ago pit ponies worked at the Collinsville mine hauling the containers of coal to the surface. When mine management decided to retire the pit ponies the union signed them up as members so they couldn’t be ‘sacked’ and sent off to the knackery. This gave Wharrier and Mr Ed, as they were known, 2 more years of work before an agreement was reached to retire them to a local property in 1991, where they lived for another 8 and 10 years respectively.

Collinsville felt so strongly about their ponies that they instigated a crowd funding exercise to build a bronze statue in town. It’s a wonderful memorial to the role of the pit ponies in this town.

Unfortunately, the history of most mining towns includes a disaster and Collinsville is no exception. In 1954 a high pressure pocket of carbon dioxide moved 450 tons of coal and destroyed everything in its path. 7 men were killed and 2 pit ponies died. There is a wonderful display at the United Mine Workers Club called The Coalface Experience that pays tribute to those men and illustrates the mining history of Collinsville. It’s a must see!

The Coalface Experience, Collinsville, Queensland

The Coalface Experience is an interactive display with fantastic information. Until I’d spoken to Brett I had no idea of the history of this town and was so glad I stayed an extra day to find out more about it.

Collinsville is a town of boom and bust, dependent on mining, which in turn depends on the price of coal and market demand.

A great way to support this community is by staying at the excellent RV stopover they have created right opposite the Workers Club. There’s a grassy central park with shelters, potable water available, a black water (dump point) disposal …… and let’s not forget Brett at the Information Centre on site.

At the moment the Workers Club offers showers for a gold coin donation, and the motel next door has laundromat facilities.

Collinsville is more than an ‘overnighter’ if you’re travelling through this area. Take some time to get to know this proud mining town and enjoy discovering its history by talking to the locals and visiting The Coalface Experience.

PS: Leesa at Beaute at the Ville does a great pedicure and has been so inspired by traveller’s tales she just bought herself a van to convert to a camper. Pop in for some pampering and to share some travel stories with her!

Curtain Fig Tree, Yungaburra, Queensland


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It’s curtains in Yungaburra!

Yungaburra is situated in tropical north Queensland on the Atherton Tablelands.

Yungaburra

The majestic Curtain Fig Tree drew me to Yungaburra but when I got there I discovered so much more to see!

The large fig tree found in this park is unique because the extensive aerial roots, that drop 15m to the forest floor, have formed a ‘curtain’. Starting from a seed dropped high in the canopy, this strangler fig grew vertical roots, which gradually became thicker and interwoven. Over hundreds of years these roots have strangled the host causing it to fall into a neighbouring tree—a stage unique to the development of this fig. Vertical fig roots then formed a curtain-like appearance and the host trees rotted away, leaving the freestanding fig tree. The tree is thought to be nearly 50m tall, with a trunk circumference of 39m, and is estimated to be over 500 years old.

An elevated boardwalk protects the tree while allowing visitors uninterrupted views of the fig from all angles.

 

The village of Yungaburra is known as a Heritage Village with the old timber Yungaburra Hotel dominating the streetscape as you enter the town. There are old-fashioned buildings that house coffee and craft shops and it’s a pleasant walk around town with flowering baskets hanging in the streets adding to the tropical feel.

 

What was a surprising discovery was the Avenue of Honour for our troops that served in Afghanistan. It’s only a short drive out of Yungaburra on the shores of Lake Tinaroo and is an emotional tribute.

The Afghanistan Avenue of Honour is a living memorial dedicated to the memory of all who served in the fight against terror in Afghanistan and to those brave and selfless Australians who made the ultimate sacrifice in defense of freedom and liberty.

The Avenue symbolises the final journey home of the fallen, and preserves forever the gratitude and respect the nation bestows on all those to whom we owe a debt… that can never be repaid.

The Avenue follows the path of fallen Commando Ben Chuck’s Gun Carriage, July 1st 2010, and symbolises the ‘final journey home’ of the Fallen.

A plaque representing each fallen soldier is placed on an ‘Honour Board’ in close proximity to the Memorial. The landscape surrounds give visitors the opportunity to pause and reflect and a place to pay their respects. The emphasis of the Avenue is directed to the living, natural, free, open aspects of the trees, stunning location, pristine water views and the enhancement of the existing picturesque environment.

Unfortunately my timing wasn’t right to see a platypus from the special viewing platform but I guess that’s a good reason to return to Yungaburra and enjoy this heritage village on another occasion.

PS: On my way back to Atherton I called in to Gallo Cheese and Chocolate for a taste or two…. well worth the short detour and I came away with a tasty gorgonzola and a couple of lovely choccies as a treat.

 

 


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What does this Rollingstone gather?

Rollingstone QueenslandNo moss, that’s for sure, but it does appeal to a lot of campers. It’s a large free camp about 1km off the highway heading north from Townsville. If you are planning on staying here at this time of the year (June/July) you need to arrive early and wait for a spot. It’s very shady, so if you are relying on solar power there’s only a few places that will give you full sun to charge up those batteries.

I went for a walk along the river that flows along the edge of the park and there were a couple of nice swimming holes. I was tempted to take Brutus off road here and have this beautiful spot all to myself, but I wasn’t sure if I might be sharing it with some local crocodiles, so thought better of it.

IMG_7816Rollingstone

A couple of days at Rollingstone and it was time to move on, but not before I took a drive to Balgal Beach, about 5 kms away. Just past that lovely waterhole above you have to go under a 2.4 metre high bridge which Brutus had no problems with at all (even though I did duck my head)! A bigger motorhome than mine – aren’t they all? – and you would have to go back out to the highway and take the long way round.

The countryside was literally ripe for the picking – pineapples, pumpkins and mangoes in paddocks as far as the eye could see.

 

This sign helped me decide that today wasn’t the day for swimming!

Go as far north as you can along the Esplanade and there is a little cafe with the best waterfront location you could wish for. It’s called Fisherman’s Landing and is right opposite the small free camp and looks out over the water. I’ve been told it has great fish and chips, too.

There is a grassy foreshore park that was providing a feast for the local red-tailed black cockatoos. These photos don’t really show you how big these birds are and you will need to look closely to distinguish their tails from the flurry of red leaves scattering the ground.

I didn’t stay at Balgal Beach this time around but it’s certainly on my list of places to stay in the future. And with a fish and chip shop over the road, what more could a girl ask for?


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Queensland Heritage Park, Biloela

Biloela MapHow come I’m here in Biloela? I was meant to go to Calliope! Ooops, wrong turn again! This meant that I crept into Biloela (Billo-weelah) on the smell of an oily rag because there certainly wasn’t much petrol left in the tank after doing 100kms more than I expected! Anyhow, Brutus didn’t let me down and he saved me the embarrassment of calling the RACQ for emergency fuel…. thank you, Brutus.

I filled up with fuel and made my way to the Queensland Heritage Park where you can stop over for 48hrs for $15 a night on power – hence the mad rush to blog! While checking in the friendly lady in the Info Centre asked my name for registration to camp. Surname – Robinson, First Name – Rosemary. “Oh”, she said, “my name is Rosemary too! You’re the 2nd Rosemary I’ve come across today. I was just reading a newsletter and there was a Rosemary that ran a rally for Solos recently. Her name was Rosemary Robinson. Wait a minute …. it’s you!” Sometimes you are just meant to take that wrong turn!

Today I explored the Heritage Park. What a wonderful display of machinery and historical memorabilia exhibited on behalf of the Callide Dawson Machinery Preservation Club.

Cindy, who manages the facility, also manages the Annual Old Wheels in Motion Rally & Swap Meet for Machinery Preservation buffs. The next one is coming up at the end of July and they usually get about 5000 people visiting. When the National Rally was held here they had around 10,000 visitors! Click on the link above to find out more about it and the program of events at the rally, such as the vintage tractor pull and the tractor balancing competition.

The camp ground is pretty basic but with good ensuite style showers and toilets, potable water and that wonderful luxury (for me) of plugging into power.

Info CentreNow here’s a bit of trivia for you! The silo shaped building that houses the Information Centre was originally displayed at Expo 88 in Brisbane and used to showcase Australia’s rich primary industries. Today it also has a coffee shop, souvenirs and a gift shop with some colourful ceramic tiles – thank goodness they won’t fit in Brutus!

 

I have a saying that I’m never lost, I’ve just taken a different route. I was fortunate this one took me to Biloela and the Queensland Heritage Park.

 

 


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The Unique Egg

What an amazing find this is! Tucked into his son’s sportsgood store in outback St George in Queensland is the most incredible display of carved emu eggs. When I left the Nindigully Pub I travelled about 50 kms north west to St George to find out what all the buzz was about these eggs…. I wasn’t disappointed!

The Outback, an R.M. Williams magazine, tells it exactly how it is upon arrival.

Story By Kerryn Suttor

“I’m going to tell you somethin’ that nobody else in the world knows,” Stavros Margaritis says with a conviction that makes you listen. “It will cost you three dollars … and if you’re not happy, well … then I give you back six,” he says, eyes twinkling.
Steve (Stavros) Margaritis is St George’s own ‘unique man’, an emu-egg carver who has an extraordinary collection of more than 150 hand-carved emu eggs tucked away at the back of his guns and ammunition shop, The Balonne Sports Store, in the main street in St George in south-western Queensland.

IMG_7654Unique Egg Gallery, St GeorgeSteve, the emu egg carver, welcomes you to his display which is like a potted history of Australian and world events over the last 60 years. A short video fills you in on Steve’s life and decision to come to Australia from his native Greece. Can you buy his eggs? No! This is not a ‘come on’ to part with your dollars, for how could you put a price on the hours of work that goes into each of his creations.

The video explains the many layers of an emu egg and how, as you carve through each layer you reveal different colours. Steve has one on display to demonstrate this.

IMG_7669Unique Egg Gallery, St George

Imagine the perseverance and imagination to create these works of art that are lit internally with LED lights and positioned in a mirrored box so all facets can be seen.

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This place hadn’t even been on my bucket list until the day before I arrived here! What better reason could there be to visit St George in outback Queensland?


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The Nindigully Pub

On my way back to Queensland a few weeks ago I turned left instead of right when I left Moree and visited the Nindigully Pub, a well known stopover for travellers. It offers free camping in the grounds or down along the river with a donation tin on the bar for charity.

Nindigully map

The pub is 160 kilometres west of Goondiwindi, 45 kilometres east of St George and approximately 70 kilometres north of the Queensland/New South Wales border. It is situated on the banks of the Moonie River.

IMG_7625Nindigully Pub

It looks like many other outback pubs in Australia but has a fantastic atmosphere, friendly staff and is “must do” destination for travellers like myself.

 

Not long after I arrived I met a couple of other solo travellers from a group I belong to called Rolling Solos. Bev and Judy gave me the lay of the land and mentioned they were being visited by another Roller, Ruth, the next day. Well, I had to stay on for another night to catch up with Ruth, who I had met when I stayed at Ariah Park a few weeks earlier!  We were off to the pub for lunch!

Nindigully Pub

Bev, Ruth and Judy in the beer garden.

The Nindigully Pub is well known for a good meal and we all enjoyed our lunch. I had a burger but NOT the one they are famous for! It’s called the Road Hog, costs $60 and feeds about 6 hungry people. The little one was still too much for me!

 

There was a nice walk along the banks of the Moonie River and this very dilapidated bridge that tempted a couple of fishermen when I was there – I took notice of the Warning Sign though and stayed well clear!

There was a heck of a racket going on one day – I thought someone was letting off fireworks. It turned out to be an army exercise and soldiers wandered past our vans looking for snipers….. not too many of them to be found among the grey nomads!

Well, that’s another experience ticked off the bucket list! Funny how it never gets shorter though …. I meet someone else who tells me of another place to see so more goes on the list than comes off it. Bev and Judy told me about an emu egg carver in St George so I’m going to detour yet again!

Utes in the Paddock, Ootha


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Utes in the Paddock

Every now and then someone comes up with a crazy idea that captures the imagination and becomes a reality. Utes in the Paddock at Ootha, New South Wales, is a typical example of this. Ootha is situated about 430 west of Sydney and boasts a population of 94!

Ootha

They are all Holden Utes – what could be more Australian than that – and several artists have displayed their own interpretation of the iconic ute! Unfortunately the paint work has deteriorated on several of them and they are fading away but I hope you can get an idea of this crazy initiative in the middle of nowhere.

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You’ve gotta love the Aussie sense of humour 🙂 Thanks Ootha for keeping it alive!

 

Meander River, Deloraine Tas


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A Tourist in Tasmania – Delightful Deloraine

I loved Deloraine the last time I visited in 2014 and this time around I think I love it even more.

deloraine-map

It has a real arty vibe to it with Galleries, Art Shops,  Coffee Shops and Op Shops lining the steep main road that curls around bends on its way uphill from the Meander River as you approach from the East.

Cross the river, cross the railway line and wend your way through the town. So many quirky little shops invite you to explore …..

Here’s one of my favourites. It’s called Elf on the Shelf. I’m pretty sure I know how to speak Zombie – give me a couple of drinks and I can demonstrate it for you, but if you want to study it yourself you can buy the book here.

The Information Centre is at the top of the hill and it’s a MUST SEE visit if you are in Deloraine. In the forecourt is the statue of a famous race horse, Malua, who won Adelaide Cup (1884),Newmarket Handicap (1884), Melbourne Stakes (1884) Oakleigh Plate (1884), Melbourne Cup (1884), Australian Cup (1886) and then went on to win the Grand National Hurdle (1889). What a champion!

But it’s when you step inside that you will discover the amazing Art in Silk exhibition, with a movie that tells you how it was developed as a community initiative and the stunning panels they created. It truly is spectacular. It does cost to view it but it is something you won’t want to miss! These photos were taken when I last visited. It’s a wonder they are not worn out I have shown them to so many people 🙂

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Drive around the back streets and you’ll discover lovely old homes like The Manse, with outstanding views over the surrounding countryside.

Happy Campers: There is a Free Camp for self contained vehicles as you travel into Deloraine from the East. Turn right at the Police Station and follow the road around. The camp is well signed. It’s only a short walk into town.

Deloraine is a short detour off the Bass Highway that links Devonport to Launceston. It’s about 55 kms from Devonport and only 50 kms to Launceston. If you are looking for somewhere to stop when you get off the ferry (or you’re on the way there) this little town is well worth a visit!

 

Bullock Team, Oatlands, Tasmania


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A Tourist in Tasmania – Oatlands & Oxen

Oatlands has just held its annual Heritage Fair, and one of our neighbours mentioned there would be a bullock team there. I thought that was too good an opportunity to miss. How many bullock teams have you had the chance of seeing lately?

Oatlands

Heritage HighwayOatlands is on the Heritage Highway, which travels between Launceston and Hobart, and follows the route of the first ‘main road’in Tasmania. You might recognise a couple of the towns that I have already written about in previous blogs – Ross and Campbell Town.

 

The Heritage Highway traces much of the original route between Launceston and Hobart, built by convict road gangs in the early 1800s. Drive through rolling farmlands, explore charming Georgian villages, stay on historic pastoral properties and savour the rich and colourful history of the place and its people. 

I took the opportunity to join Karen and her delightful 2 year old son, Joe, who was really keen to see the bullocks, too, although I think at the end of the day it was the roadwork machinery that excited him more. He’s such a boy! A running commentary from the back seat told us about graders, diggers, dump trucks and steamrollers – it certainly made a change from exploring with only my own company.

Callington Mill was the place to start. It’s an old flour mill that continues to produce flour, mainly for tourists these days. The tourist information is centred there and you can buy flour for your home baking. Not being a baker, I found some nice locally produced Dijon mustard instead.

Callington Mill, Oatlands, Tasmania

One of the local chaps urged us to the main street where the bullock team would be travelling on its way up to the mill. I found this great article from the ABC about Brian Fish, the bullocky, and what his plans for the day were. He’s a great character and loaded with information. I love coming across people with such passion. Here’s Brian with his 12 span team hauling the dray loaded with bales of wool – and a few more photos of the team.

Bullock Team, Oatlands, Tasmania

Brian Fish and his bullock team

Bullock Team, Oatlands, Tasmania

Look at the size of these bullocks

Bullock Team, Oatlands, Tasmania

Each bale of wool weighs about 400kg

Bullock Team, Oatlands, Tasmania

This is how it was done in the old days!

The last time I saw a bullock team was at the Yarram Easter Parade in Gippsland, Victoria in 1993. From memory it was a 6 span and back then I thought I might never see one again, so how lucky am I to see a 12 span in 2016! You’ve got to love the people that keep these traditions alive.

Bullock team at Yarram, Victoria

Bullock team at Yarram Easter Parade 1993

There was also a display of colourful old drays and wagons, some restored but many in their now dilapidated condition waiting for an enthusiast to shower them with love – and a bit of paint.

 

In keeping with the Heritage theme there was a lovely old car and a horse drawn carriage that paraded down the main street, too.

When the bullocks arrived at the mill they were unhitched but still yolked together. Apparently they form quite a bond with their partner and learn to accommodate what the other one wants and how they want to move.

Heritage Fair, Oatlands, Tasmania

I’m very brave standing near these huge beasts!

Heritage Fair, Oatlands, Tasmania

Now this is a tractor!

In keeping with the Heritage theme there was also an extensive array of arts and crafts happening but unfortunately we weren’t given a program until too late to see many of these events. We just missed the sheep shearing but did manage to see the quilt display and spinners at work. I love the name of their group – Sippers and SewHers.

Heritage Fair, Oatlands, Tasmania

I couldn’t leave Oatlands without capturing some of the lovely old stone buildings.

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Happy Campers: Here’s a sign we love to see!

Heritage Fair, Oatlands, Tasmania

Free Camping for 3 nights, right on the lake

And this is what you would wake up to.

Heritage Fair, Oatlands, Tasmania

Topiary at Lake Dulverton, Oatlands, Tasmania

Can’t resist using this photo to declare this is THE END of today’s blog!

Heritage Fair, Oatlands, Tasmania

THE END!