Detached in Rockhampton

Here we are again, another of Anthony’s medical emergencies to blog.  As I sit on this Qantas flight to Brisbane from Rockhampton, mask on of course, off to see another specialist with the likelihood of surgery this evening, I have time to reflect on the medical episodes that have occurred while travelling and those that were blogged from 2014. We have seen: 

“Himalayan Heart Attack” (Bhutan 2009)

“Helicopter tours of the Hunter wine region” aka “Medivac to John Hunter Hospital (NSW 2012) 

“Arrhythmia for Beginners” (Brisbane 2015)

“Crushed Ankle across the Andes” (Argentina/Chile 2015)

“Introduction to Nasal Tampons” (London 2017)

Nothing for three years, they all take planning you know, and I am as meticulous as Daniel Day-Lewis in my preparation.  But now, we are pleased to announce a new chapter  “Detached in Rockhampton” staring yours truly in another exciting medical adventure. I will write this as far as possible in real time to capture my feelings as this unfolds. Perhaps I should start at the beginning.  

After a night in Mackay, we planned a leisurely day heading to Rockhampton to stay with our friends Katie and Gus. During the journey, I had noticed an annoying irritation at the bottom of the left eye, like that you get when the eyelid can be a little inflamed.  Annoying but only impacting the very bottom of my vision.  It seemed to worsen slightly during the day and become more pronounced that night. While washing my eye out with saline solution Anne thought that it might be a detached retina and should see a specialist Thursday evening, but what would she know. A good night’s sleep is a great cure for many things, not this however. By morning, almost half my vision in the left eye is affected. 

Change of plans, the leisurely breakfast with Katie is out and at 08:20 I am outside a local optometrist, which seemed like a good starting point. I explain the problem and a quick examination by the very helpful optometrist, Lillian Beech of Lawrie and Taylor Optometrists, and a detached retina is diagnosed. Ouch, even though there is no pain, this is a serious problem.  

The eyes have it, well partially at 08:45 11 Sept 2020.

My limited understanding on detached retinas is that the quicker the surgery is done the better.  The length of time between detachment and surgery can impact recovery of vision.

The optometrist quickly makes some calls to see if a surgeon is available locally and also contacts my cataract surgeon from 2018, Dr Paine of the Queensland Eye Institute in Brisbane. A local specialist is available in Rockhampton, but there is an issue about where I would recover as the recovery process can require one to lie face down for two weeks!. Our Rockhampton friends are moving house in a couple of days and we have to get the camper van back to Brisbane early next week. 

I speak to Dr Paine and he is in the process of organising a surgeon to review me in Brisbane if I can get down today. Today is also a Friday and if we were to drive it would take two days to get back and I would not be able to drive so we would get back Saturday evening. Flight is the only way back, Qantas and Virgin both have flights and initially I am on Virgin, but then need to catch to the earlier Qantas flight which is full. I talk to Ben who is waiting to checkin and he agrees to take a later flight to allow me to travel on the 11am flight.  Thank you Ben.  Qantas do charge like a wounded bull, but the cost is insignificant compared with potential loss of vision due to delay. It is interesting even during the COVID-19 times that airline pricing and ticket change charges are unchanged.

Mr Cool en route to Brisbane.

I depart at 11am, leaving poor Anne to drive the camper van back to Brisbane over the next two days, it must be harder for her as she is out of the loop and we are not together.  An hour later, we are arriving in Brisbane.  We land on the new runway giving a new approach to the airport for me and taxi route to the terminal. Parked aircraft still fill the old cross runway and there is a much smaller number of aircraft in the terminal area, most for Queensland domestic routes.

Virgin Australia B737’s waiting return to lease holders.

New Taxiways off runway 01L/19R at Brisbane.

The terminal is strangely empty for a Friday afternoon, COVID-19 of course, but we have not flown since March so this is the new normal. Taxi to town and we are at the Queensland Eye Institute on time at 12:45. Not bad: diagnosis in Rockhampton at 8:45, in Brisbane some 700km away four hours later.

Dr Paine tells me he has arranged for an excellent surgeon, Dr Sharma, to give me a Left Vitrectomy and Laser, whatever that is.  He explains that the Retina has pealed from the top and is now hanging over the side of the eye blocking my vision. He also says this is delicate operation due to the nature of the retina and it can take a couple of hours.  

As I wait there for the paperwork to be prepared for the operation: it is a strange feeling, not physical but mental, as the retina continues to detach from the top on the vision in my left eye is now, at 13:30 is down to about 20%. 

Admission to the hospital, once I am past all the questionnaires and temperature checks, is decidedly manual, paper forms go backwards and forwards and they physically need both my credit card and medicare card. So much for reduced contact during COVID-19. I use my hand sanitiser to clean my credit card and Medicare card.  

As at 17:00 I am in my room at St Andrews Hospital, have had a succession of tests by a series of people who all look the same in their blue masks, well to me anyway. Vision in the left eye is down to about 5%. Wow the change has come on so quickly. I am so lucky that a surgical team has been assembled so quickly to operate at 19:00 this evening.

Waiting Waiting Waiting Room 15 Ward 2F St Andrews.

Anne has reached Maryborough for the night about halfway back to Brisbane. We talk but is is hard for both of us to be apart at a time like this.

An hour to go before surgery  The ward, 2F, is quiet.  It is the same ward I was in over 11 years ago for my quad bypass operation.  Hopefully they remember that although its a cardiovascular  ward, I am here for eye surgery. Having no food or liquid since 08:00 I am both thirsty and a little hungry. I wonder what the outcome will be and what impact it will have on future plans. I have just used the whiteboard and realised I have no perception of depth as I struggle to put pen to whiteboard and spill water from the jug over the table and not into the mug as planned, twice.

Wheeled down to Operating Theatre 14, a good banter with the team there and I get a nice warm heated blanket mmm… I think the banter helps me avoid thinking (too much) about the possible outcomes of the surgery – will I come through the other side, will I have sight back in my left eye.   We wait for our anaesthetist who is on a heart operation before mine. We should let him finish that first. The same questions are asked and I remember to mention I have restless leg syndrome.  It will be a GA for me. General Anaesthetic to those not it the know. This will stop any body movement while they work in my eye. 

Dr Sharma explains the operation will involve removing the vitreous, a gel-like substance that helps the eye maintain its round shape and repair the retina and insert a gas bubble.

I walk into the theatre, easier than wheeling the bed in, and another nice heated mat awaits me. A few drugs later and zzzzzz…

Dr Sharma and the team at work

Focus on the needle please.

All done. Disconnect the patient and send him to recovery.

Noise and light, seems like I am waking up from an all night party at midday. The recovery room.  Great to be awake but boy do I feel seedy. An uncomfortable night follows as the anaesthetic drugs work their way out of my system.

This what the after party feels like.

As I recover in the morning it is an interesting range of colours I can see out of my left eye. With only the left open, it is like a stained glass window with green and yellow predominant and vague shapes almost indistinguishable in the background.  With both open, my vision is overlayed with a oily liquid which reminds me of a toilet gel with purple specs.  While using the toilet, the bowl appears to fill up with this liquid to overflowing which is very disconcerting.

Dr Shama the surgeon comes to visit in the morning. He says the operation went well. They discovered five tears, four on top and one at the side. The gel was thicker than usual so as you age it the gel shrinks and can pull the retina off the wall. Normally 1:15000 risk now for my second eye 1:15 risk of it occurring – ouch. It may be months before we know how successful or not the surgery has been.

Oh what a night. A successful operation.

I was so lucky, from diagnosis to being wheeled to the operating theatre was about 10 hours, and 520 km by air apart. The gods were kind to me again.  A big thank you to all who made this possible in such a short space of time.  Anne got back to Brisbane at 10am the next day, in time to collect me from hospital with our friend Glen.

Two pieces of advice I can give is:  if you get a single spot that has the appearance of a black hole sucking in all light moving around in your eye or you start to loose vision, go see a doctor straight away. It is also important that your personal medical details, operations, allergies etc are up to date and handy. Mine are stored on my my iPhone but I realised I had not included all details such as restless leg syndrome which affected the method of anaesthetic they would choose.

Just another 24 hours on the road for the 2slowspeeds and now a few months of recovery. No more travel or blog entires I am afraid so the couch will have to go back in the cupboard till 2021.

– Anthony

Drifting back to the coast.

Going back in time, completing our camper van trip on to Rockhampton…

We have travelled almost 1,600 km. / 1,000 ml. to get to Longreach, which will be the furthest west we will travel on this trip. There are almost another two folds of the map to the western Queensland border still to be explored.  Winton amongst many other places will be for another time perhaps.

As we head eastwards, I reflect that each town we go through has made an effort to shine and attract our interest, focusing on one or more attractions.  In Ilfracombe, just east of Longreach for example, it is industrial machinery, historic guns and bottles. Someone commented that it was unguarded but nothing gets stolen.

Anne with an old tractor in Ilfracombe.

Barcaldine is known for its Tree of Knowledge. This famous tree was the meeting place of the strikers during the 1891 Australian shearers strike and Barcaldine was significant in the birth of the Australian Labour Party.  The tree stood for over 120 years since those events until deliberately poisoned in 2006.  The subsequent sculpture that replaced the tree pays homage to the tree in a beautiful way.

One of Barcaldine’s many pubs

The “Tree of Knowledge” monument at Barcaldine.

The Tree of Knowledge, Barcaldine Qld.

Monument to shearers strike of 1891 by Milynda Rogers

East of Barcaldine on the Capricorn highway we see little evidence of dead animals at the side of road leading us to believe that night driving by trucks on the main commercial routes, such as the Warrego Highway we came eastwards on, may be the cause. It gives us more confidence that we could ride our motorcycles out west if we limit our riding hours to avoid dawn and dusk.

For those of you who thought the names Emerald, Sapphire and Rubyvale were the gateway to untold fortunes, think again.  Only Sapphire is named after the semi precious stones found there.  The other two are probably wishful thinking on the part of the towns founding fathers, to attract settlers to their towns. Sapphire itself has a dilapidated air about it, probably because the miners focus on more important things and that a number of the businesses are up for sale. “Pat’s” can be had for 450,000 dollars including stock. We are not tempted to spend even AU $15 on a bucket of stone and sand in the hope of sifting a fortune.  However the date scones are another matter, and I think are a better deal. We meet Raylene and Jim, who we estimate are in their 70’s, who are travelling in a personally converted Land-rover Discovery 3. The interior is spartan but works.  They are also restoring a 12 bedroomed house they have lived in for years. That did not make sense until they mentioned they had 12 children!  Yet another lovely couple and another method of travel to digest.

At our next stop is Lake Theresa outside the town of Clermont, which is both the local water supply and boating spot for the locals. Here we meet George and Buff who are heading north to take part in the Southern Cross Annual 5 Day Poker Run for charity. They camp next to us with their motorbikes and trailers that have pop up tents with queen size mattresses inside.  Very impressive. Yet another mode of transport for us to consider. 

We are now entering coal country, this part of central Queensland has 24 mines whose coal output feeds into Queensland Rail’s Goonyella system that hauls the coal to the coast for export. As we travel along the Peak Downs highway the only evidence we see of this is the road signs pointing to the coal mines, the massive trains that haul up to 10,000 tonnes of coal at a time and innumerable power lines that provide the electricity to make this all work. 

We detour to Moranbah, a town which was built to house coal workers back in 1969.  Today it has a population of over 8,000 and a good range of amenities designed to attract workers and their families to live in the region rather than be FIFO workers.

Now this is a coal bucket.

Anne in Nebo.

As we descend towards coast through the Clarke Range, which is part of the Great Dividing Range fields of green sugar greet us. We have left the brown landscape behind, we are back to the more familiar green and are closer to the sea.  While I enjoyed the inland, I think the coastal areas are where I prefer to be. Central Queensland has an interesting mix of industries, coal, cattle and cane.  All the “C”s.

Throughout the sugar growing region around Mackay, narrow gauge rail delivers sugar cane to the various mills,  While we crossed a number of tracks and did not see any trains, the white plumes from each of the stacks of the mills we passed showed that harvesting was in full swing.

Mackay Sugar, Marion Mill.

I was surprised to find out that around region, Mackay Sugar have over 850 kilometres or 530 miles of narrow garage tracks that are used to bring the harvested sugar cane to the mills.  It is a very extensive network and keeps trucks off the road. This network extends more that 70km north of Mackay.

Main QR Line and Cane tracks crossing.

Derailing points on cane track crossing main QR line.

Our next stop, Cape Hillsborough National Park, sits across two rocky outcrops with a golden sandy beach connecting them. This park is famed for is beach kangaroos that feature in the latest Queensland tourist ads.The Coastal Eastern Grey Kangaroos – Macropus giganteus aquaticus  Anthony.  Stop this nonsense next you will be talking about drop bears!  These are just normal Kangaroos that live near the beach – Anne.

Eastern Grey Kangaroo at dusk on Cape Hillsborough National Park.

Kangaroo on the beach at Cape Hillsborough National Park.

PS: Drop Bears are a sub species of Koalas known for rather aggressive behaviour and the habit of dropping from the trees on foreign female backpackers who need protection from strong healthy young Aussie males in beer commercials – Anthony.  This it the sort of rubbish that gives Australians a bad name like hoarding toilet rolls. This is nothing but fake news – Anne

OK OK – Anthony

While the beach and adjoining headlands with their walking trails, one overlooking the ocean is where you can see turtles swimming, are beautiful, the caravan park is compact and too close together for us.  We have realised that while the camper van gives one all the comforts of home, in a hired vehicle one is restricted to tarred roads and an extension cord for the fridge.  We are much more comfortable in the open spaces that other forms of transport allow.

Butterfly at Cape Hillsborough.

Wave like rocks at Cape Hillsborough.

Walking in Cape Hillsborough National Park.

Looking North over Cape Hillsborough National Park.

Anne can finally buy an ice cream to eat (she found a dairy free variety).

After Mackay we head to the coast to see where all the coal mined in central Queensland goes. Hay Point and Dalrymple Bay Coal Terminals.  These two terminals exported over 110 million tons of mostly metallurgical coal used in iron and steel making in 2019-20.  This is about three hundred thousand tons a day which is 30 fully loaded coal trains. Impressive statistics. Our photo does not justice to what is there, take a look on Google Earth.

Hay Point and Dalrymple Bay Coal Terminals

The road to Rockhampton only touches the coast at Clairview. Here there are a few houses or beach shacks, no shopping facilities and a huge open beach. We enjoyed the open space and lack of people. No overnight camping is allowed outside the campground for vehicles such as ours keeping Clairview pristine.  It makes me wonder what other gems exist between Mackay and Rockhampton that are off the Bruce Highway. Another trip perhaps to explore the side-roads and see what lies there.

– Anthony

Central West Queensland explored

The Carnarvon experience will be with us in our memories forever, but there is so much more of Queensland to explore so we are heading back to Roma. We see the two motorcyclists that we had met at Takarakka Camp site and get a couple of good photos of them to pass on.

Roma is our last large town for about 10 days and the last in which we will have internet access with Vodaphone, our mobile provider. In the bush, Telstra is the only service provider as more than one telecom provider would not make economic sense. So for the next couple of weeks, we switch to our temporary Telstra sim card. Here also we meet a fellow traveller who has hired the same vehicle as us and could not work out how to open the fuel cover. We are used to a lever to pull in the car or just press the flap to open. He was stumped as we were initially. You have to open the passenger door to get the fuel flap open. He was grateful for our assistance. We also advise him the the ignition for the gas stove is linked to the range hood, go figure.

As we head west from Roma on the Warrego highway, we need to decide on a destination for tonight. Anne always picks a couple of options for our overnight stops to give us some flexibility depending on how we are travelling, where we have stopped and how many pictures Anne has taken. This allows us to be off the road by 3 to 3:30 pm to avoid adding to the carnage at the side of the road in the form of mostly dead kangaroos. On the main truck routes, which we assume run overnight, we see corpses probably every 100 m / 300 ft but have not seen any live animals in daylight. Great for the carnivorous birds that feast on the carcass. Fresh meat delivered nightly, what a service.

Overtaking a road train which can be  53 meters / 170 feet long.

Anne has picked Gidgee’s Bush Camp in Morven, a farm stay, as our next stop based on the good reviews she found online. We are met by Kylee the owner in the office that doubles as the showroom for another business, Gidgee Smith Bags, manufacturing high quality colourful bags and holdalls. We understand from another camper who buys them for promotional items for their off-road accessory business that the bags are tough and can be used for just about anything. Another ingenious bush business. In addition they run a coffee van and bar. Talk about hard working. So if you need bags, and you will be supporting both Australian manufacturing and regional employment. Kylee also crafts wire sculptures in her spare time and organises workshops to bring remote communities together or help people at risk. Mick and Kylee were both very inspiring people.

Planning the next day’s travel at Gidgee’s Bush Camp, Morven.

Gidgee’s Bush Camp, Morven. A green oasis in the campsite.

Roasted jumbo marshmallows at sunset.

The waterhole at Gidgee’s Bush Camp.

Gidgee’s Bush Camp

Gidgee’s Bush Camp’s owner Mick.

Kylee’s coffee van at Gidgee’s bush camp.

We are slowly visiting regions and towns that until now have been names in the news or a spot on the state weather map. Each one has a story to tell. The small town of Augathella is our next stop.

Amanda Feher’s Meat Ant sculpture, Augathella

Amanda Feher’s Meat Ant sculpture, Augathella

Augathella Public toilets with street art.

Typical wide country town streets, Augathella

Augathella Water tank

Buchans garage mural Augathella

Tambo is such a place of which I had no knowledge, but is famed for its Teddy Bears, “Tambo Teddies”, which the locals started producing from lambswool in 1993. Today, demand is such that four people work full time in Toowoomba making them in addition to the workers employed locally. For small babies they have a flat teddy that is easier to grasp. I had to ask the question, “did they put normal teddies in the road for passing trucks to run over?”, as we had seen in Asia for crops. NO I was told, they just did not fill them.

Slow down. Tambo teddies cross here.

This is where the term “Beyond the black stump” comes from. Blackall Qld.

Lara Station south of Barcaldine is known for its birdlife with over 120 species recorded there. The waterhole which forms this bird oasis is a small clay depression that was first used in 1908 as the overflow for newly drilled bore. Water comes out of the ground at 69 degrees celsius and is drawn from the Great Artesian Basin, an amazing underground water source that covers much of Queensland and parts of NSW and the Northern Territory.

Lara Station lagoon, Qld

Gallahs at Lara station are much deeper pink than we’ve seen before

Pale headed rosella

Black swans

Black-fronted dotterel

Red-winged parrot

Red-winged parrots in flightsecond night. Perfect!

Black-winged stilt

Anne enjoying piping hot water at Lara Station.

We are meeting, by chance, friends Gary and Heather who are also roaming the west of Queensland. Together we celebrate Anne and I having known each other 46 years, having first met in August 1974. While only planning to spend a single night, the good company and the relaxed atmosphere around the waterhole enticed us to stay a second night. Perfect!

With Heather and Gary at Lara station.

Celebrating 46 years since we met in 1974.

We had noticed as we travelled fences that seemed sturdier than the usual four wire fences. At Lara we were told that these are designed to keep out packs of wild dogs from sheep farms. A pack of wild dogs can kill over 100 sheep in a night, for sport not food. Dingos generally kill enough for food. At AU$7,000 per km to install, it is not cheap to protect your sheep. An example of the damage that domestic animals gone feral can do.

Anne wanted me to see the Q.A.N.T.A.S Founders’ Museum which tells the history of the founding and founders of Qantas in Longreach knowing of my interest in aviation. The museum hanger stands tall as we approach the outskirts of Longreach. It is big enough to cover a B747, B707, Lockheed Constellation and a DC3. The B747 is a 200 series VH-EBQ. It is one that I have flown on, way back in 1996. The museum provides a detailed history of the founders of QANTAS and the trials and tribulations that they encountered in starting and running an airline in the 1920’s and 30’s and beyond.

Qantas B747-238B and DC3 under the Airpark roof.

B747-238 VH-EBQ, B707-138B VH-EBA and a Lockheed Constellation representing VH-EAM

The delivery of each aircraft to the museum is a story in itself. The 747-200B had to land on a runway designed for B737. After landing it spent an hour doing a 57 point turn at the north end of the runway before taxiing to the final resting place. VH-EBQ was chosen as it has the most recent paint job of the B747’s to be retired in 2002 The first Qantas Boeing jet, a B707-138 VH-EBA had to be restored at Southend Airport in the UK, taking some six months and 15,000 man hours, before being flown back to Australia. Due to COVID-19, tours of the inside of the aircraft require social distancing and were fully booked. Next time. We did the night tour which is an audio visual experience that neatly draws together all the elements we had seen in the museum in a cohesive manner.

The original QANTAS hanger at Longreach.

There is also a Catalina used in WW2 by QANTAS to link Ceylon to Australia avoiding Japanese fighters based in S.E. Asia. These non stop commercial flights could last over 30 hours which is still a record today. The length of time in the air led to the awarding of the double sunrise certificates to those passengers who saw two sunrises en-route. A quick look inside showed that comfort was not the name of the game. This is a very interesting museum which is not funded by Qantas but relies on people like us making the trip out west.

A Catalina at QANTAS Founders Museum.

We also visit the Stockman’s Hall of Fame which charts the development of the cattle and sheep industries in the Australian outback. A combination of hardy European settlers and aboriginal local knowledge in the beginning laid the foundation of todays world class sheep and beef industry.

Stockman statue outside the Stockmans Hall of Fame.

Inside the Stockman’s Hall of Fame, Longreach.

Longreach is also the end of the line for Queensland Rail’s (QR) train “The Spirit of the Outback” that runs from Brisbane to Longreach twice a week taking over 24 hours. As an over 65 year old Queenslander I am entitled to a seat, free of charge, on a long distance train once a year. I have thought that it would be great if they would also take motorcycles so one would could both enjoy the train and then ride the other way. These wagons being unloaded looked like the perfect containers for motorcycles. So all you engineers out there get your thinking caps on and come up with a feasible plan to secure bikes in them and a way to load/unload. Sadly I suspect we will fall foul with QR because of “Dangerous Goods” due to petrol/gasoline in the tank. The same reason you cannot fly your motorbike into the USA, but you can to Canada.

QR “Spirit of the Outback Train”

Just need to fit motorcycles in here.

– Anthony

Canarvon Gorge walks

Visiting Canarvon Gorge, a national park 740kms north west of Brisbane,  had remained on our to-do list ever since we arrived in Queensland over 30 years ago as other places took priority.  What we got to see last week was out of this world but we would have like to have seen more with younger and fitter bodies!!  No need for regrets, just a good reminder that time is ticking and best do the physically demanding trips sooner rather than later.

Checking-in at Takarakka Bush Resort was efficiently adapted to Covid-19.  Spray bottles and a check-in area outside: find the envelope with your name on, complete the Covid-19 tracing information and head to your nominated campsite.

We were told by friends that 3 days there was plenty because each walk within the Gorge national park goes off the main 10km long track so you end up walking the same path a number of times.  We spent 5 nights there and are glad we did.  

Canarvon Gorge, although situated within the dry environment of central Queensland, is lined with lush vegetation fed by the waters of numerous gorges.  The gorge provides permanent springwater, cooler temperatures and conditions has allowed rainforest and ancient ferns to survive. 

And as I aluded to, we did not get to do all the walks.  The first two days were spent walking from Takarakka campground to walks outside the national park, Mitchell Creek and the Rock Pool.  They were lovely walks and especially quiet as, apart from the odd car passing, we had the area to ourselves.  I am glad I brought my hiking sticks, especially as we walked beyond the formed path and balancing on some of those rocky boulders can be precarious.

Tree ferns along Mickey Creek


Remnants of a once grand old tree

Oh dear, the recent reglueing of these 23 year old boots didn’t hold

Never leave home without Duct tape or cable ties!

Enjoying boulder hopping in Mickey Creek gorge

A good spot to enjoy lunch in Mickey Creek

Majestic trees along Canarvon Creek

Silver Wattle tree bursting with scented yellow flowers

Day 3 was a short day as we both felt like we had lead bodies.  Maybe the long walk the day before from Takarakka to the Rock Pool and onto the visitor centre and back took too much out of us.  On our first day in the actual National Park, we only got to the Moss Garden.  Quite a magical walk.  Walking in nature such as this always takes ages with me as I keep stopping, listening to birds, looking around, looking back, looking up, listening to the wind, noticing different trees, flowers, enjoying the sweet smell of the odd wattle bush. And stopping to take in the hundreds of butterflies floating all around us.  Never have we seen so many!  We were bumping into them sometimes.  Anthony’s Lumix came into its own providing some great close up shots. 

Butterfly in Canarvon Gorge

3 butterflies on this flower

Oops, the other sole went at the back!

Anthony boulder hopping

Along Canarvon Creek

Canarvon Gorge towering cliff face

Canarvon Gorge walk

Prehistoric turtles maybe?!

Moss garden on Canarvon sandstone

Waterfall at Moss Garden

Looking up through the fern canopy, Moss Garden, Canarvon Gorge

Our lunch spot at Moss Garden

Most memorable is the symphony of birdsong along the Moss Garden walk – there are apparently 173 species of birds – where water constantly drips through the sandstone, and supports a lush and magical carpet of mosses and further down, huge tree ferns. 

Listen to the birdsong below.

The next day, our bodies felt rejuvenated and we enjoyed each side walk off the main track.

Ward’s canyon is home to the world’s largest fern, the king fern Angiopteris evecta.  These impressive dinosaurs of ferns have links with the ancient flora of Gondwanan origin! 

Wards Canyon ancient king ferns, Canarvon Gorge

Ward’s Canyon creek heading to a waterfall

Aboriginal rock art on the sandstone cliffs and overhands reminds us of Aboriginal people’s long and continuing connection with the gorge.

More steps to get to the Aboriginal art gallery

Aboriginal art gallery rock face, Canarvon Gorge

Aboriginal stencils and art

Entrance to the ampitheatre

Inside the Ampitheatre – photo does not do it justice

How did they ever find the entrance to the ampitheatre (at the far back of this photo)?!

Feeling silly 😄 on our last creek crossing in Canarvon Gorge

No walk up the 900 steps to the Bluff for a superb view for us – my knee problem which put an end to my lifelong favourite sport, skiing, some years back, has also put an end to such hikes with my current knee.  Anthony decided he would not do it alone.  This view from our campground was a “poor” second best so you can imagine what a view from the top would be like.

Enjoying the view of Canarvon Gorge from a walk at Takarakka camping

Takarakka has a little creek walk with a platypus viewing area.  My chance to finally see a platypus in the wild,  Dusk and dawn are the best times to spot them we’re told.  But it was not to be.  Not for us anyway, despite my daily attempts to spot one.  I even got up early once, walked down in my jimjams and padded fleecy bush shirt.  I haven’t mentioned how cold the nights were and how grateful we were to be able to push a button and get the heater going in our campervan first thing in the mornings.  Definitely one of the luxuries you don’t get in a tent.  

Campers patiently hoping to spot the elusive platypus

Enjoying a rest and an evening drink at Takarakka resort

By the time we left Canarvon Gorge, the days had already started to warm up.  Walking in warmer weather would require a much earlier start and lots of drinking water!

So, five nights after our arrival, we’re ready to head to Longreach, full of wonderful memories of a stunning park which we’d love to return to one day with a 4×4 to explore different parts.  And new connections with people we met at the campground and on the walks and shared sunset drinks with.  

Which way shall we take to get to Longreach from here?  North or south? This, we did not decide until the morning of our departure.

– Anne

Grey Nomads perhaps?

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.

Our new Mercedes Benz parked outside home.

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.

A happy camper on sunset first night out.

Great spot by the weir, pity about the lack of morning sun.

Smart Camper vans positioned for the morning sun.

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.

Injune Aerodrome. Unchanged in 15 years. This is the terminal.

For those that remember, the road to Fairview CSG field is now tarred.

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.

Roadside grass fire north of Injune.

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.

Memorial to the C-47A crash near Carnarvon Gorge.

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.

Walked two kilometres, climbed up over 100 meters just to get 4G connection for this blog entry.

– Anthony