Part Two - MAY
01/05/2000 Nimbin 1391 / 126191 ( 1411 / 126211 Ks Diesel $50.00)
Heading North we drove past the turn off to Nimbin. For those that don't know Nimbin was home to the Australian equivalent of Woodstock and much of Gipsy opps hippy movement began and still exists there today, complete with psychedelic flower power buses and the traditional Combi van.
Generally I try to make sure that we have a spot picked out for the night before it gets dark so as to avoid backing into trees or parking in a valley. As we turned of to Nimbin it was about 5:30PM and we had 49Km's to travel, I was aware that we were low on diesel but with expected 49K's would be ok . What was not planned for was the one lane 30Km's of winding road, the torrential rain, the big trucks coming the other way, and the 80 foot drop of the side of the road that I couldn't see in the dark. When we finally arrived it seemed an eternity had passed, and every bone in my body felt like I had just driven a few 1000 k's. We drove through the main street which amounts to about 20 business on either side looking for somewhere to park for the night. As we passed through this one man and dog town, the street suddenly went black as we ran out past the two street lights. I realized that there was no reason the road would be any different from the road we drove in on and we would not be able to turn around. So for a few minutes we were stopped in the the middle of the road lit up like a UFO so no one would run into us. Shortly after it became clear the Gipsy would need to go out in the rain and guide me backwards. In the true spirit of things she was out in the thundering rain guiding me backwards to turn around. On returning from a practice run to the wet t-shirt contest we were guided into a caravan park. Knocking on the Managers door I asked if he had any spots suitable to a 34 foot coach. He said yes but in this weather even if we got in we would never get out. The visitors spot in front I said looked god to me and the dog would be inside anyway I explained, as I read the No Pets sign. Yep no problem, so he handed us a keys and we were finally at rest for the night. The Gipsy was now not only white from the trip hear but also cold, so hot showers were the first order as we reflected on this being the most nerve racking drive to date.
In the morning we walked up to see our glimpse of Aquarius ( Oz name to Woodstock). We noted the sign on the way in "This an Alcohol free zone" we were not quite sure what that meant standing out side the pub being presented with Mariana at price ( I'm told) that equate to the early 80's. Having walked around a bit I decided that all these business don't really make there money from what's on the door, or inside. A trip to Museum which was more like 2 generations of Steptoes' garage sale proved an excellent history of what transpired here. The dog was welcome in the museum and with some fear that he might become a feature on the wall I agreed to take him inside. The narrow walks taking through these years were full of items of time and I returned Kapone to the entrance. On returning the owner was looking after him out the front and he was the center of attention, as I gently extracted him.
Outside the Pub on display as a huge "Joint" which was probably big enough to keep the whole of Sydney going for a month. Electing coffee instead I noted these unfamiliar seeds on the table and in the ash tray but we managed to enjoy our coffee, and of course the Gipsy was in her element as in past life she could have been a Hippy. Returning with a very nice dress we departed taking with us some of these strange seeds, which we hope to find out about.
A quick check on our fuel I realized the 49Ks had cost us probably twice that in fuel due to the winding road and heavy hill work so we would not make it back to the highway with what we had. However as luck would have it there was a stop on way back at 0.80c/L where we added $50.00.
02/05/2000 Queensland -Rochedale (diesel 1481/126281 $177)
Leaving Nimbin heading for "Auntie Cheryl's" we rolled on down the road watching the rain and the never ending freeway road works as QLD struggles to finish this piece of freeway that just never seems to get any better. Playing MP3's as we rolled down the Freeway the fact that we only added $50.00 of diesel to get us out of Nimbin had been forgotten.( PS the Fuel gauge does not work, and hasn't for many years, its one of those round to its) On seeing a car on the freeway with a jerry can, adding fuel and thinking silly bugger, it suddenly dawned on me, this could be us. The fact that we added some 230 L of diesel and the indicator on the outside of the fuel tank was off the wrong end of the scale I expect we had only been running on the fumes.
Arriving at "Auntie Cheryls" we rolled 13ton across there nicely manicured lawns leaving grooved marks like you might expect from the ballerina joke.( sorry I cant tell the joke here, as this is clean site). Memories of first night at Corindi returned as our mobile home stopped on this mild lean. The otherwise quiet neighbor hood was shattered till the wee hours, as the gipsy laugh could be herd echoing around the bay. We all did our part, the dog watered the nice fauna, the gipsy filled the valley with laughter, and the sailor, well he contributed to the tradition with good drink or two, followed by chaser's, no sorry chasing invisible prowlers, and looking at tree trunks which were purported to be people hiding on the bushes.
The spare room doubles as an office, and the time is approaching where some real work must be done other than the odd hour here and there. Fortunately this also bought to my attention that I had not yet paid our Tax bill and the subsequent phone call bought other realities back to earth. To date the laptop has been running off the inverter due to the excellent bull shit advise provided by Gateway. So today we ordered the 12 volt adapter which should assist the power problems which have been plaguing us.
A few very nice days and evenings were spent as you do with family, and a couple of trips for dinner and a club didn't hurt either. The dog managed to take himself for a walk around the neighbor hood and some personal news from NZ arrived via phone which bough with it some emotional turmoil which I can see will plague us for awhile to eventually produce a better result and not before time.
09/05/2000 Queensland Redcliff (1641/126441)
Arriving at Ted and Carla's it became evident that the Gipsy was carrying some bagged she had bough with her from Aunties, and as time progressed, the flue got worse and she was now confined to her cabin, and unfortunately this was one of those rare occasions when it was not my preference.
Ted & Carla are old friends of ours going back many years So we had lots to catch up on, and reminiscing of old times. But it was tough sitting on the front veranda overlooking the bay with sun shinning being fed with excellent food and drinks while the hours dwindled by, and the Gipsy stuck in her cabin.
Last time we were here there were some huge ants in the back yard, the sort of ones that could bite through the hard part of the soles of your feet. Well Ted informed me that most if not all had been eradicated, but I managed to find one or two while kneeling on the ground checking the batteries with a Hydrometer. Some years ago Tristan, got bitten by a fly ( Marsh fly we believe) any way his leg swelled up and at about midnight we had to race him to hospital as the swelling began to creep up and down his leg. 2 days in hospital on drip, before he could come home. So with this experience in mind and the bite on my knee beginning to swell up I reluctantly headed for the doctor. A dose of antihistamine and some antibiotics and I was on my way. I kept the antibiotics just in case I needed them latter. Mean time confinement to Bus and Bed for Tania and her virus seemed only to be making a mild improvement.
The sailor was now in full swing with the bike going once or twice a day, for up to 10 Km kidding himself that this would help remove the excess wait. The dog seems even more unfit and it really must be true that pets take after there owners.
I took the opportunity to fix one of the water tank breathers which was currently causing the loss of water from the water tanks when they were full and the bus was not level.
While clambering around the water tanks I discovered we had an unwanted passenger which we suspected was a mouse of some sort. Ninety percent of the food supplies are in cans, or bottles etc so we were not overly concerned at this point, but some bait was in order to eradicate the criter.
A night out for dinner at a restaurant was more than our allowance (once per month) but non the less we did have a great time, and even better when it came to the bill and it disappeared with Ted and Carla
17/05/2000 Queensland Barrum Heads (1936/126736)
Departing Redcliff we end up at Barrum heads which is about 20k's north of Harvey Bay a spot we like. Stopping right on the beach front as we often do our backyard tonight included BBQ's nicely manicured lawns, with a number of pergola's to chose from. Our normal approach when we stop in front of motor camps and beside no camping signs is to ensure that the skipper has had at least one drink, this is sufficient to detour the local constabulary from attempting to move us on. While enjoying our BBQ,(and ignoring the rodents) I couldn't help but notice the yatch anchored just off shore that had live aboard residence and we latter discovered they were doing the same as us but via the Australian waters.
Tania's heath proceeded down hill so we decided a doctor was in order. The outcome was Bronchitis, Tonsillitis, faryngitis, and every other itis you can think off. Thus a bag full of goodies for the next two weeks.
Cooking gas, and diesel creeps up in price as we move out of Brisbane. We filled up with Gas @ $18.00 and talked to some of the other travelers. By time we had done a bit of shopping, been to the doctor, and I dropped a case of ginger bear outside the door BBQ Galore, the day was all but gone so we returned to camping site for another night.
In the quiet of that night we could hear our un welcome passenger having dinner and it was becoming evident that stronger measure were in order.
19-21/05/2000 Queensland Elliot Heads (2198/126998)
Arriving late in the day at a caravan park we had hoped to enter we found a huge no dogs sign, so again a reserve on the beach front seem most appealing. As we settled in the locals approached us to join there BBQ, they were tomato pickers who lived locally. The air temperature during the day was nice but the nights were getting colder.
We had discovered another battery was dieing and it was apparent we will need to replace it. While watching a DVD we sunk to an all time low in available power. Unfortunately pushing or roll starting is just not an option but as fait would have it started. when we came to leave.
A walk around the local area revealed we were now in stonefish territory as the warning signs began to appear. The locals tell us that only about once every 3 years does a tourist actually die and that's normally from the lack of shoes walking on the rocks.
It seems Optus have introduced a new systems, where by any Optus home phone can call an Optus Mobile for a max of $3.00, so we have modified our net access such that home (Optus land line) calls us back on the mobile to get net access, which will reduce some of our costs. The second house at home remains empty and the large mortgage ( or more repayments) are now permanently on our mind, along with increasing phone calls between us and NZ bought about by some personal difficulties.
The days just seem to go even with early (7:30 AM to bloody early if you ask me). The sunsets looked great so Gipsy attempted to obtain one of those rare photo's, and night fell on another day.
22/05/2000 Queensland Sventeen Seventy (2428/127228) $50 Diesel@127254
Arriving late the Gipsy was making noses about Nimbin which I had asked her to do if she thought we were making the same mistake again. But eventually we found a spot high on a point or lookout (Ballhead) which we were sure would provide an excellent view. Shortly after stopping the coach began to rock and roll and not through any misbehavior (unfortunately) simply due to the wind. So like any good sailor we up anchored and pointed the vessel into the wind, and listen to it whistle through the rigging, opps sorry the aerials. With a new battery on board and at TV stations to chose from we peered through the snow to watch TV, and retired, but not before gazing at the stars, at listening to the sea's crashing on the rocks.
Next day we had a bit of look around, I went on bush walk, and naturally we had to go into a few of shops that I couldn't drive past. Starting look like a bit of an old sea dog, and drowned in tropical shower ( no cheap shots please) a haircut seemed like god idea. But after the event I figure I could have done a better job myself even on my worst day. But hey no one I knew would see me.
The brochure on 1770 will tell you its the only place in QLD where you can see the Sun go down on the water. This is a bit of Salesman's poetic license, as there is no where on the East cost you could possibly see the sun go down into water. But it was still a nice view from up high.
While walking the dog on the lead past this very small picture on post of a dog with red line through it another tourist pointed to the sign and said " I wounder what that sign means" pointing to the no dogs sign with smug look on his face. As I walked along with the dog well in control I replied " Would you me to explain it for you, for the future" his wife who was already embraced, quietly laughed, as we proceeded down the path. I really have had enough of the anti-dog culture which has been developing after a few dogs attacked people over recent times. Like a number of things these days, it is so far out of control, that people ignore it more. Mind you the funniest sign we saw said no, bikes, no dogs, no horses , but 4WD were permitted to tare up the beach and provided with directions.
By now it seemed that we must be fattening up our passenger, and the bait seeming doing very little for our mouse which by the sound was fast becoming a rat. The dry dog food seemed to be a target so I removed the open bag, and added a couple of piece's to the mouse trap's.
25/05/2000 Queensland Tannum Sands (2550/127350) Diesel $165 211L
Rolling down the highway we had not realized that we were approaching Tannum Sands until we passed the sign. Tania has friend which she meet on the Internet and we intended to visit her on the way past. As one would expect Kerry was not home so we carried on down to the water front where we had stayed before. It is worth noting that this place is well known as the Sand Fly capital of Australia, and while our first visit was fine the second one, about 18 months ago saw our crew with about 300 bites between 4. A significant amount of beautification work has been carried out up the coast with landscape work etc, Tannum Sands was no exception. Depending on your view of things many of these improvements are very nice but with it you lose part of the natural beauty and other aspects including freedom as part these programs.
About 5:30 Kerry arrived and a few nervous moments later we were on our way back to her house. Like all of us we have some hidden talents and for Kerry its in her painting, with some of the most beautiful work I think I've seen. Kerry's daughter's are not without there own skills either. A few hours and much laughter later we were on our way again, stopping for dinner at truck stop where our home was dwarfed among the half dozen road trains.
Setting off after diner we had a about 100K's to go to Rockhampton. This was our first bit of night driving in some time so we set the autosencer Kangaroo watcher on ( Tania) and apart from the 1/2 dozen she missed we only nearly hit one. As we drove on the temperature started to fall. Arriving at Rockhampton around 10:00PM we settled in for the night .
26/05/2000 Queensland Emerald (3017/127817)
Emerald was one of the places were the Gipsy expected to make her fortune and enhance her finery with jewelry. A quick stop at the information center found us a place to stop for the night. We had intended to stop in a caravan park which was listed in the Dog and Camping guide. But on arrival we found that this information was very out of date and the caravan park now did not accept animals. However the park surrounding the Dam which provides water to Emerald was very nice, and again comes with BBQ and all the facilities. It didn't take long before we settled in with BBQ running.
The temperature here was much more to my liking and we both bashed off a number of sunset photo's. Mine were more of an experimental from a digital camera prospective. Historically it had been my experience that Digital cameras tended to lose colour under these conditions.
The sound of birds was like pub full yahoo's with all sorts making one hell of noise. But as we bashed off the photos, in space of about 60 seconds it went to dead quiet, just as if someone turned the volume down, and it was now as quiet as a library. At a truck stop on the way up we bought these Trucker Coffee mugs, basically plastic, insulated, slid lock lids and hold heaps. The good news is they also keep the JB cold and hold more than a sniff.
Emerald was burnt to the ground in a push fire many years ago and the only original building still standing is the Railway station, the rest is all under about 70 years of age. The local mining industry donated a fossil ( no a bit older than me you cheeky lot, no comments from Nic) this petrified tree is about 250 Million years old. Its outside the Town hall and one could not help but think that in Sydney this would have so much graffiti etc on it that you probably wouldn't recognize it. Instead the council actually went to Rockhampton to obtain some suitable graffiti characters which were pointed to billboards ready and waiting.
Given we were out here to go digging or mining as it were, a couple of city slickers, we figured now was good time to get some decent boots. Tania found a pair but I was not so lucky and decided to put up with runners and just hope the snakes had short blunt teeth, may they would be old enough to just gum me to death.
The urge to find Sapphires was beginning to show as the Gipsy read the brochures, I could see them dancing in her eyes, and the hands and feet raring to dig up the world with at least 6 Sapphires with each shovel full.
It would appear now that our unwanted passenger had got off, but had he ? There was no evidence to support this.
27-28/05/2000 Queensland Sapphire (3117/127917) diesel @ 127938 150L $163.00
Leaving Emerald for Sapphire was a relatively short trip. On the trip out I tried to prepare the Gippsy for her immanent let down, and in my normal subtle manner perhaps over did, and turned ecstatic enthusiasm into near depression. Once again we had a caravan park picked out (for laundry purposes) you can only carry so much underwear (unless your names Nic), and that time was fast approaching. However on arrival at this billy on the hill park it was evident that we would be doing battle to get in and we would need to travel somewhere else to do our mining. After all we wanted them to fall of the shovel in the bus ready cut preferably ( which they did latter you'll see)..
After some advise from the local Trading post they kindly pointed us to the Blue Hue mine which would appear to be part of Big Bessie which is 37 Hectares of Aboriginal land donated by the mining companies for fossickers. Driving down the gravel road it seemed we were now really in the back of woop woop. We had been directed to a local who mined there Peter & Deborah, a nice couple who helped a couple of city slickers like us with some of the basic's. After some pointers and some suggested directions we found a spot for the night built fire and planned our days mining. A few phone drama's like no Optus coverage, full Telstra coverage, and IDD baring on the Satellite phone consumed a good part of morning, as I tried to set up an NZ call.
The area we were in had another bus and a couple of caravans but that was about it as far as the eye could see people wise. The animals walked around and past the bus, and Peter asked if Kapone was male or female due to the presence of local Dingo.
Hiring the sieves, shovels, and supplied with water we were ready to dig up the world, or one of us was. Peter was kind enough to give us a demo, at an old site where some equipment already existed. First you dig some gravel out with the pick, in our case there was a thin line just below the surface which soon turned to mud or clay if you went to deep. You dump this in about a 20L bucket carry it to what is called a separator, which grades the stones to big and small, and hopefully most of the dirt fall through the bottom. From there you take the sorted bucket to a 44 Gallon drum cut in half, place the stones in another sieve and giggle up and down to wash them. If you get the action right all the sapphire's finish up in the middle if you don't all the muddy water finishes up on your cloths. After the washing process you flip the sieve over and then rummage through picking out only the big sapphires, the little ones are left for the tourist. Unfortunately this seems a bit like the fishing stories that old salties might tell. Anyway we huffed and puffed for an hour or so, then just sat an puffed for another hour, then huffed and puffed a bit more. Lunch seemed like a good idea and 3 hours on and four hours off seemed better. The Gipsy put in a mammoth effort, and she was now thankful she had not bought that expensive nail kit. With dirt one end to the other and the new shoes well christened in mud and the sun streaming down, a JB seemed miles away. Not really knowing what we were looking for but being told what to look for, and you'll know it when you see it we agreed that if your really want Sapphires then better you work a few hours at a computer and go and bye it. I had contemplated this prior to arriving but decided that the experience and exercise would be character building, but perhaps this is one part of my character I could have left alone.
That night with our aches and pains I built a fire while dinner was being prepared and we ate under the stars, groaning each time we went to move. The Gipsy commented on us returning to the dig tomorrow and sounded as though we were a couple of old miners instead of warn out unfit city slickers. A few hours latter when pain really set in the thought of another onslaught was becoming far less appealing.
The temperature was now dropping even further, and we were now lighting the stove burners to heat our home, and the Gipsy added a second bedspread. What happened to "Beautiful one day better the next" More like cold one day, bloody freezing the next. Global warming is only in the minds of the science world I'm sure.
The next day as we departed, the local shop sells bags of dirt which come from the run off of the mines and allegedly have sapphires in them. You buy the bag for $25 which basically saves you digging up half of Australia just to get dirty. So to satisfy the urge, the Gipsy bought one of these bags, which I assumed would be preloaded by the shop. It turns out there not, and its just the luck of the draw, but you have fairly good odes as the mining companies don't make a habit of digging in the wrong place. So once again the washing and sieving process was underway. This time however we had results. We probably 3/4 filed a 35mm film container with Sapphire's, an other stones of which 4 were cutable into something. Thus the urge has been satisfied, and honor retained as we wait for the cutting results. The cutting process forced us to stay another day, but what the heck, another day will not be the end of the world.
At the same place there is a caravan park so we pulled in and filled up with some exceptionally nice water, most definitely the best I have tasted, and has great reports.
Tania was returning from the shop out the front when I herd what the defining sound of birds. As I looked over at her she was being swamped by Lorikeets and I have never seen anything like it in my life. She was not feeding them simply walking back with a loaf of bread still in the bag. If this had happened to a child I have no doubt they would have been hurt and or very distressed. Entering the bus did not help they simply followed her in and we had to shut the door carrying the open bread outside first. I could not believe they recognized the bread, so the dog obliged me me barking and sending them flying. When all were gone Tania placed her hand outside holding the bag of bread, not open, just as you buy it, and she was swamped. This photo is after most had been feed etc so does not do the whole thing justice, but one should never carry bread in Saphire.
That night the temperature plunged to something in the order of 1 and lower not far away, and I now was beginning to have concerns about our water freezing as well as us. I have no experience with Diesel either so Im not sure if it will freeze or not.
Our stones turned up eventually in the morning, and we now had a 2 x 90 Point and 1 x 50 Point, and as I recall there is about 100 points to a caret. They would have us believe the value is about $ 250 So allowing for there poetic license there is no doubt in my mind we at least got more than we paid for. I'm supposed to tell you these all came from a diggings and not the bag we bought but I wouldn't want to lead prospective readers a stray.
29/05/2000 Longreach Queensland (3541 /128341) Diesel @ 128606 $50.00 .90/L
Leaving Saphire we decided that we would not do the full inland trip at this stage we had planned. We decided we could probably see what we wanted to in Longreach in a day and return to the coast and hopefully the warmth. With lat departure from Saphire and some 400 K to go it was going to be a night trip. As night fell it go colder and colder and colder. Rolling down the road with the stove on it did not seem to bad, but still every little vent was not helping. We climbed over the Great Divide and rolled our way over very long straight roades, and arrived around 10:00PM. Its not difficult to drive the bus by any means, and I have no problem with 6 or 8 hours at the wheel . With my trucker cup on the dash ( without JB, just water) my MP3 I can scare the Kangaroos away as I imitate Jimmy Barnes. The Gipsy is huddled up under the quilt, the dog sleeping, and a few 100 watts of music (thanks Tris), with a bit CB rattle in the background, no worries.
Every now and again a squeak asks if I'm awake, I'm not sure why she would know if I was a sleep. But I prefer the long hauls at night.
We found another Coach parked in a side street 2 doors down from the Police station outside a park so this seemed like a good safe spot for the night. Stepping out side puffing smoke without a cigarette I decided the dog could go without dinner tonight, and he would just have to tie a knot in it.
The phone suddenly found a cell and began to scream at us, with half a dozen messages which I returned the following day.
We did the rounds and went to the QANTAS beginnings museum. It was small but interesting probably not worth the trip and cost to get out there in my opinion, but when you also go to the Stockman's Hall of Fame and take into account you probably only do this once it could be worth it. The entry price to both of these is over the top @ $18 Per head, they must think they are in Sydney. The Hall of Fame has some interesting things in it, there is no doubt but again knowing what I know now I probably would not have bothered unless this was some special interest I already had.
We had wanted to go and see the Dino foot prints but it was another 160K in the colder clutches, in inland OZ and with the Gipsy suffering and the bloody cold setting some 25 and 50 year records dropping below zero my interest was overcome by the thought of sun, beach, less clothes and blankets, BBQ's in which I don't have top stand in the fire to get warm.
We latter herd that all the heavy machinery at the mines and on the surrounding farms had the diesel fuel freeze and we were probably saved by the fact that we had been traveling that night. Most houses who had solar hot water heating had there solar heaters explode as the water in them froze, along with the water in the tapes. All shops had run out of heaters, and you couldn't buy one if you wanted to. Snow and sleet on some of the roads set 50 year records, and of course this had to be this year.
So with much hast we beat a retreat heading back to the coast via Emerald.
30/05/2000 Emerald. ( 3985/128785) Diesel 159.3L $140.10
Arriving back we noted that the temperature at night had risen to 3 or 4 wooo, each of our gas tanks which normally last about 12-15 days were now lasting about 7 as we expended more on heating. We could probably have turned off the fridge but the irony of it all was we heat the inside of the bus, and the fridge works to cool it.
The next person that tells me it doesn't get cold in QLD has got their head up there, sorry in the clouds. Now we get, this is most unusual etc, it just like the one about the rain, its all garbage. The reality of is you take Sydney temperature and add 3 or 4 degrees to it, any suggestion about less rain, is probably because they would know the difference between rain and incontinence. Yep you got it, I'm not impressed.
Ok I have my little spit, thank you. we will leave for Seaforth.