1 September—3 September 2002
The Caravan Park in Moree was a total dump. The sink got blocked, the bunk bed was dangerous, and everybody including the caravan park manager smoked in the toilets, despite signs prohibiting it. In hindsight, we might have done well to stay in Collarenebri and put up with the exposed site by the river. Anyway, we were soon to be compensated.
When we woke up in the morning I was completely taken by surprise that it was Father’s Day. Ruby and Clare had made a lovely card for me and purchased some dark chocolate with almonds. We had breakfast, packed up and pulled out about 9.30 a.m.
We pulled into a service station to enquire about getting a “pink slip” (roadworthiness certificate) for the car registration. As luck would have it, there was an authorised mechanic on duty, on a Sunday, who was prepared to inspect the car. This was very fortunate, because we would not be able to obtain a pink slip in Queensland, and we were about to cross the border that morning. After the inspection we attended to a few other business matters, like stocking up on groceries and hunting down a cloth badge. We then set out on the road to Goondiwindi.
Although we were still travelling through drought-stricken country, the landscape began to get a little less harsh. We finally crossed the Macintyre River and landed in Queensland. We had achieved the dream we hatched in Perth—that of returning to Queensland with its warm climate, its beaches, and everything else we were keen to revisit after the miserable weather Perth served up to us. We celebrated our border crossing with a toilet stop and a piece of fruit, and then pulled into a servo to phone my father and Susan’s father to wish them happy Father’s Day.
As we drove up the Leichhardt Highway, there were no rest stops to be found, so we pulled off the highway onto a secluded service road that ran parallel to the highway. This was a pretty spot, and it was sunny, and we had some unexpectedly good bread rolls that Susan had bought at a supermarket. After lunch, Susie took the wheel and I had a kip in the front seat. I woke just as it was becoming apparent we should aim to find a caravan park in Dalby. However, I happened to notice a sign that pointed to a camping spot 10 km off the highway. It was called Broadwater Conservation Park.
There were two places to camp. The first was a delightfully secluded bush camp, and the second was a more manicured area next to a lake. We inspected both, and opted for the bush camp due to its seclusion. It had a long drop dunny, a shelter, a picnic, area (as shown in the feature image for this post), and a rainwater collection tank that actually had some rainwater in it! We set up camp and I made spaghetti Bolognese with kangaroo mince. We could light fires in the designated fireplaces, so even though it was quite cold, we sat up late around a cosy fire playing music. Best of all, from my point of view, we were totally alone: no one else was using the camping area. It was bliss.
The next day was devoted to school and music. It was nice to have a day to undertake these activities at leisure. Susan supervised the girls’ schoolwork; Ruby completed a wonderful information report on the Royal Flying Doctors Service, and Clare wrote and illustrated a wonderful story about Dugongs. I was almost beside myself with excitement at having time to work on some music. I worked on the lyrics to a song called On the road, which is the theme song for this trip. That evening I tried the song out on the others, and made jaffles with the left-over kangaroo mince. They all went down a treat.
The next morning I packed whilst Suz and the kids finalised the schoolwork. Around midday we were ready to leave. The ranger paid us a visit and told us that there were free hot showers available at the camping area down by the lake, so we availed ourselves of that opportunity, and then drove to Dalby. This was a significant destination for us because we were crossing our own trail at this point. In other words, we had completed our circumnavigation of Australia.
We dropped in to a supermarket to do some shopping, and I got very excited about the range of cheap fresh vegetables. They were often hard to come by in the outback. After restocking the esky, we went and had lunch in a delightful park in Dalby, and then headed off to Kingaroy. We paused at the turnoff to the Bunya Mountains, but there were signs there advising travellers not to take trailers in due to the very steep roads. Reluctantly, we heeded the advice and drove on.
A short way out of Kingaroy we stumbled on a grassy rest area with some caravans parked in it, evidently there for the night. So we pulled in as well. It wasn’t a great bush camp; it was more like a bucolic rural rest stop, with cows lowing in the paddocks next door, and farmers feeding chooks, and frogs chirruping all night. I made summer pasta with the vegies from Dalby. It was chilly and too windy for a fire, so we retired to the tent to read and write.
When we woke up early in the morning there was heavy dew on the roof of the tent, and heavy fog enshrouding the rest area and the surrounding paddocks. I had to wipe down the tent with a towel, and a gentle breeze did the rest. The fog had largely lifted when we pulled back onto the highway. Kingaroy was only a few kilometres away, and we stopped there.
Our first port of call was the Salvation Army shop, where Susie managed to pick up a cloth badge for Toowoomba (we had somehow missed out on a cloth badge for this town on our journey west). We then dropped in to the museum, and learned that there were free tours of the peanut factory down the road in ten minutes. This fuelled our desire to be educated about peanuts and to sample some local produce, so we went off to the factory and got a tour and learned about how peanuts are stored, cooked, packed and marketed. The tour guide spoke in terms the kids could understand, and they absolutely loved it. At the end of the tour we got to sample the various products, and bought three bags of goodies, some of which I am happily chomping as I write. I adore peanuts, and these are great.
After our tour we went to the tourist centre and picked up some information on the area from Hervey Bay to Bundaberg. We then hit the road again. We passed through numerous delightful little towns, and pulled over for lunch in one of them. There was some great play equipment there for the kids.
After lunch we pulled back onto the Wide Bay Highway and headed for Maryborough. When we got to Maryborough, we went to the post office and, to our dismay, collected nothing. We were expecting packages of schoolwork and rego papers for the car. We refuelled on some of the fabulously cheap petrol that’s available in southern Queensland (it has been a very long time since we’ve see petrol cheaper than 80c a litre). We then drove on to Hervey Bay, where Susie had selected a particular caravan park right on the bay. We set up “the full monty” – that is, the tent complete with food preparation table, annex, end flaps, and fly screen to block out the heavy winds blowing off the bay. We had a barbeque dinner, and after dinner I spoke with Susan Feez on the phone, mainly to sort out the rego business, but also just to chat and catch up.
Susan and the girls are in bed now. Tomorrow we go whale watching.