23 October 2014

A walk and a storm

As soon as we woke yesterday morning we donned our walking gear and set off on a 6.5km bushwalk through the Goomburra Section of the Main Range National Park. Our route started just 5km down a gravel road from our campsite. Our chosen route was called The Cascades and promised creek and waterfall views. We left early in the hope of seeing as much wildlife as possible.

We were not disappointed. The track was graded "difficult" but was worth every bit of the challenge it threw at us. It followed a wide stoney creek and involved steep climbs, river crossings and waterholes. Kangaroos, pademelons and birdlife were abundant.

However, I couldn't help thinking how "unrelaxing" a bushwalk in Australia can be. I'm sure I spent more time looking down watching for snakes than looking out at the scenery! Every few steps I stopped to check my legs lest a leech or a tick had burrowed into them. It took half an hour of this jumpiness before I finally relaxed, confident that I might actually survive the experience.

We returned to camp for a late breakfast before showering and settling into an afternoon of reading.

In the late afternoon, grey clouds wafted up the valley dragging distant rumbles of thunder behind them. Half an hour later the eucalypts around us had darkened and the cockatoos and rosellas were screeching as if to introduce the next act: an orchestra of thunder and dancing rain!

Aah...the joys of camping...

Above: The storm looms


21 October 2014

What I would miss...

Someone once asked Kylie Minogue what she misses about Australia. Her reply was "big skies".

This was many years ago but it's something I've never forgotten.

Having lived overseas for many years myself, it's a question I have often asked myself.

In the perfume world they talk about high notes and low notes. High notes make the initial impression while low notes stay with you, linger for longer.

When I think of Australia, my high notes are along the lines of searing heat, dripping sweat, sticky salt, invasive dust, persistent flies, dead land, extending flatness...all things discomforting and perishing!

My low notes are, quite simply, the scent of the bush. It's a complex mixture of some of the world's most potent, pure and masculine essential oils. In the scent can be found eucalyptus, lemon, tea tree, pepper, curry, rain and sunshine.

It's not always there...it will suddenly waft past me then dissipate just as quickly. When I get a first whiff of it, I stop quickly and breathe deeply as if that will make it stay longer. But, as if it is too precious to waste on those who have already smelled it, it moves on through the gum trees, across the valleys and over the hills, coating this old and isolated country in its dreamtime perfume...


20 October 2014

Snakes alive!

In our little corner of the Main Range National Park, several signs have warned us about snakes.

No wonder.

In just 3 days, we've been uncomfortably close to 3 snakes: a carpet snake, a red bellied black snake and a brown snake!

All of these snakes could make us seriously ill...but the brown snake is the most venomous snake in the world...and could actually kill us!

Above: The view from one side of our camper. All good snakes need a water source.

Above: The view from the other side of our camper. All good snakes need a fallen tree trunk.


Country letterboxes

We are now in the Goomburra Valley which is 70km south of Toowoomba. At the end of our road is the Goomburra State Forest which is part of the Main Range National Park.

Our camping ground is on a stony creek bed and, while the creek is not running at the moment, there is evidence that it can become rather full and thunderous when it does rain!

The tall gum trees that hover above us creak threateningly during the night. Frogs and beetles rattle and vibrate loudly in the cool night air.

Sheep run past our campsite during the day and horses stamp beside the camping ground's cattle grid entry in the morning.

Birds are prolific...varied, noisy and colourful. We had a blue-green fluorescent parrot visit our camper this morning and there are flocks of green-red cockatoos as well as the ubiquitous inland birds of Australia, the white and pink cockatoos.

Amidst all this natural beauty, the human inhabitants of the valley appear to be obsessed with weird letterboxes. They use all manner of contraptions to ensure that their postie has a safe and dry place in which to deposit their mail...

Above: A microwave letterbox

Above: Another microwave letterbox

Above: A milkcan letterbox on which stands a black cat with marbles for eyes

Above: A lawnmower grass catcher letterbox

Above: A milkcan letterbox on an old piece of farm machinery
Above: A skeleton letterbox, which also advertises "handmade stuff for sale"


14 October 2014

The Wild West? No. The Cold West.

It's Spring here. The wind has died down. Sort of...but last night Nature had another surprise for us: 5 degrees! We covered ourselves with every piece of bedding available and ended up having a surprisingly comfortable sleep. Of course, this was probably due to the 2 previous windy nights during which we had woken hourly!

We packed up camp this morning, said goodbye to our 2 little lambs and set off on a circular route back to Toowoomba. Our first stop was at a small town called Pittsworth where we took 2 hours to walk up and down the main street. We found a butcher that makes award-winning sausages and an art gallery that contains a selection of paintings by local artists. My favourite artist was Lyn Mathies who clearly 'feels' this country through her works.

We had a coffee and bought some bread rolls for lunch before setting off for another small town called Cambooya where we enjoyed a very Australian 'feast' of vegemite and cheese on bread, followed by a wine at the Bull & Barley Inn, a beautiful example of historical colonial architecture.

Above: a work by Lyn Mathies

Above: a work by Lyn Mathies

Above: a work by Lyn Mathies

Above: a work by Lyn Mathies

Above: The Bull & Barley Inn at Cambooya


The Wild West? No. The Windy West.

We have never before experienced anything like the wind we have experienced out here 300km from the Pacific Ocean. A key contributing factor must be the vast expanse of flat land that stretches all the way across to the Indian Ocean.

It is wild and aggressive. Angry. It has been battering us all day and all night. Our camper trailer has been shaking and spluttering and wobbling like a drunk on its ropes. I have felt like Dorothy, fully expecting to become airborne at any moment in our canvas house.

I wish I could take a photo of it for you.

Last nights campfire will have to do...


13 October 2014

Jimbour Station and Bell's Church

We ventured out for a day trip today...

We headed towards Dalby, a small town approximately 300km from the coast. We stopped to walk up and down its main street which was typically wide, a feature of most country towns in Australia. We stopped for a coffee and cupcake at a new cafe that was decorated in feminine pinks and whites.

The information office there suggested a visit to Jimbour Station, a property approximately 40km from Dalby. A short half hour later, after driving through some of the flattest driest land we have ever seen, we arrived at Jimbour. A metal box invited us to donate $3 each to the property's upkeep and take an explanatory map with us.

We paid, collected our map and set off down a jacaranda lined driveway where we learned about the history of the property from plaques along the way.

In its heyday, Jimbour Station included 300,000 acres of land and a village and was the farthest outpost of European settlement in Australia. The great explorer, Ludwig Leichhardt, launched his 5,000km expedition to Port Essington (near Darwin) from Jimbour Station in 1844.

Jimbour House itself was built in 1876 and is still one of Australia's most gracious historical homes. It is a luxuriously grand two storey sandstone building which is surrounded by an oasis of a garden which contains huge old shade trees, roses, archways and a vegetable garden.

Apart from the building's beauty, the most stunning feature of the property is its isolation. The courage and guts of the early pioneers who ventured out west is, quite simply, beyond contemplation.

On our way back to Jondaryan, we dropped in to a small town called Bell. The information office at Dalby had suggested we visit the Catholic Church there to see its biblical paintings and garden.

The paintings were immensely colourful and very beautiful, while the garden was thought provoking and original.

Above: Jimbour House with its gardens

Above: Jimbour House with its view over a wide expanse of nothing

Above: The church at Bell

Above: Inside the church at Bell

Above: Some of the garden art

Above: More of the garden art


12 October 2014

Born into stifling heat

When we woke this morning it was to the bleat of newborn twin lambs.

At 10am, my sister Joanne, her husband Craig and my nephews Nic and Sam came out for a sausage sizzle lunch.

We spent ages watching the baby lambs struggling to walk. Then we dropped into the cafe for coffee and cake. With full tummies we set off for a walk around the museum before returning to camp for lunch.

Unfortunately camp was stinking hot so we retreated to the equally stinking hot camp kitchen to bbq our sausages and onions.

We ate our bbq lunch with red faces streaked with sweat before our visitors jumped into their air conditioned car for a luxuriously cool trip home to Toowoomba.

We washed the lunch dishes and are now sitting in our chairs under the annex enjoying a cool breeze which has (thankfully!) just arrived...

Above: twin newborn lambs

Above: my sister outside Craft Cottage in the museum


11 October 2014

A storm and a sunset...beats snakes any day!

Yesterday evening we were treated to a wildly windy storm just on sunset which gave me a wonderful photographic opportunity!



10 October 2014

More snakes!?

We are camping at a working woolshed and historical village called Jondaryan which is 40 minutes west of Toowoomba.

Setting the camper up involved the usual hot and fly blown domestic discussion but we have now made peace amd are organised and ready for the night!

Above: Eek!

Above: Our campsite at Jondaryan (the woolshed is in the background)


07 October 2014


A very Australian warning at the airport viewing area from which I watched Stuart's plane land last week...