After last week’s two wheeled adventure, we are swapping motorcycle jackets for camping chairs and air-conditioning. We will become, for three weeks anyway, novice grey nomads. We have hired a self contained camper van to explore central Queensland.
Has the lure of the Grey Nomads lifestyle has finally drawn us in? Are we abandoning our two wheeled lifestyle forever?
Not really, Anne found an opportunity to rent a camper van at less than half the normal price, due to COVID-19 causing interstate and overseas travel restrictions. Why not try it out. We will have hot and cold running everything and are taking enough food, clothing and possessions to last us until Christmas.
We collect the vehicle, a little later than planned, as they wanted to change out a couple of tyres at the last minute. New tyres are always a bonus when you hire so worth the wait. Anne confidently navigates the 7+ meter long vehicle back to Manly keeping close behind me in the MX-5. It takes an hour to load the kitchen sink et al onboard, remembering that we need to ensure that we must put everything away properly to avoid a cacophony of sound at the first corner.
A COVID-19 outbreak in Brisbane is making news and there may be travel restrictions, usually with a couple of days’ notice, so since the outbreak is on the other side of Brisbane, we feel it is safe to travel and we are off. We have never had a Mercedes Benz before, and even though the model is a Sprinter Van we can tick off another of life’s “objectives” achieved.
Up past Toowoomba on dual highways and we are over the dividing range. Last week we did 800 km / 500 miles in three days and this is a small smudge mark in the bottom right hand corner of our detailed Queensland roadmap. At the end of day one we are half way across one of four panels of a map that only covers the bottom half of the state! Queensland is a very big state.
Our first night is spent at the Chinchilla weir. This is a free local council campsite, maximum two nights, and we score a great spot overlooking the weir and with the aid of another camper with an additional outdoor extension cord we are able to access mains power. First item on the camper van list – “add extra outdoor extension cord”. The camper van comes with one, but we have three more sitting at home. Proves that we have much to learn.
We also learn that, in winter at least, it is a good idea to find a spot that will catch the morning sun to warm you up on a cool winter’s day. Luckily, thanks to our helpful fellow camper, we can switch the heater on in the morning! We may as well make the most of the luxuries this camper van provides.
Along the Warrego Highway, we see signs, a couple of large construction/maintenance camps, of the huge coal seam gas (CSG) industry that has grown up here in the last dozen years or so. As an industry and region that I last worked in more than fifteen years ago, it is amazing to see the changes on a scale that we could not have contemplated in our time. Out of sight from the main roads, thousands of wells now dot the landscape all suppling CSG via pipelines to Gladstone where it is cooled into Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) for export to Asia. Passing though Injune, we can see the new local businesses that have sprung up with the growth of CSG.
As we head north of Injune we are watching the smoke from a bush fire move to the right and left as the road meanders towards the fire, near the Arcadia Valley. Finally around a corner and the fire flames are almost upon us. It is probably controlled burning, but as we pass some flames from a small grass fire near the road, for an instant we feel the radiated heat of the fire, through the windows. A small reminder of what many endured earlier in the year during the horrific bushfires, seemingly almost forgotten now by the onset of COVID-19.
Close to Carnarvon George we come across a memorial to a WWII crash in which a US Army Air Corps C47 came down in an electrical storm on a flight from Darwin to Brisbane in 1943 killing all on board. It reminded me of the military graveyards in Malta where many of those who died were from disease, illness or accident, even in wartime.
We have never been to Carnarvon Gorge before, and a fully tarred road greets us, not 13km. / 8 ml. of dirt to cover. Dirt roads bring dust and as we and others have found in the past, dust tries and will find a way into your vehicle.