Thursday 30th May, (Townsville).

Well two new tyres have been fitted to the car, and with the alignment the car is once again driving like a new car. I have reverted back to using standard size tyres on the rear now I have had to replace them. Early last year, when the last tyre replacement was necessary, I fitted two tyres of a larger size on the back than those on the front to raise the rear end of the car. This was to hopefully better the wind flow over the car and caravan, if it worked the effect the tyres had negatively on gearing of the drive mechanism counteracted any benefit gained. Hopefully now the standard tyres will give me back the gearing.

I have also weakened and purchased a heavy-duty towing hitch. I have been against this style of hitch mainly due to the cost, and also because they are within themselves very heavy. They also, from what I have seen, cause the caravan to sit further back from the car by about 4-6 inches and this as well as the weight, would result in more down weight on the tow equipment, which will result in extra lift the hitch will have to create. The main reason I purchased the hitch, apart from the fact that I do need a fair bit of extra lift anyway, was due to the fact that I stumbled on a second hand one and saved over $200.00 on new price. I need extra lift now compared with last year because of extra equipment I have had fitted to the caravan, such as bikes, solar panels and the large batteries in the tunnel. I have also had the hitch modified to allow it to slide further into the receiver housing so the caravan will now sit not much further back than with the old unit.

These things alone have kept me, us, busy over the past week and we also have other task we wish to complete while in this area.

We have placed some thought into, and have taken steps to constructing some easy to handle and install shades for the annexe surrounds to replace the green shade we are presently using. Some materials have been purchased, as we do have an idea what we want, and now all we have to do is sit down, come up with some adequate measurements and cut and sew it all together.

We have also been discussing an idea I had very early in our travels, but never followed through with. It has been decided that a shelving unit mounted in the roof area of the panel van could house the outside table and chairs, to save storing them in the caravan during travel. I will now put a deal of thought into this plan and see what I can come up with; this should not be too difficult.

It seems I may not have enough spare time because that is not all I would like to achieve. I intend to modify the mounting of one, if not both, of the solar panels. I will require one of the panels to be easily removed from the roof of the caravan and then easily installed onto roof racks on the panel van. Later in our travels we intend being prepared to leave the caravan and travel a distance unsuitable for the caravan with just the panel van equipped with a tent and camping equipment for overnight stopping. The solar panel, with one of the caravan batteries, will provide us with power while camping.

With all these chores to be undertaken it will be interesting to see how long they all take. The most urgent though would be to adjust the new tow hitch; I have not performed this task before but have read about the process and it all made sense to me so we will see, maybe tomorrow, how easy the process is and how effective it is. I am prepared for the process to possibly take several hours.


Sunday 26th May, (Townsville).

Denis and Sue have now moved on toward Cairns and it was nice to have met them and sit and chat about old times.

We had a drive to Mt. Stuart today, which is the big hill to the south with all the towers on. We noticed a sign on our way in from Hughenden the other day pointing to a lookout that looked as though it was on the mountain, so we checked it out. The scenery of the surrounding area is fantastic from up there, although it was overcast today, and I might go back up one day when it is perfectly clear.

Monday 27th May, (Townsville).

The order of the day today was to have a wheel alignment and balance as after the gravel road incident I have noticed a small vibration suspension wise. It turned out that there was no problem with the front end, but a rear tyre is about to self-destruct. It now seems that two new tyres will have to be purchased, and that will blow the budget for this month. I now hope all the more that the insurance company will come the party with the sump repairs.


Friday 24th May, (Townsville).

We are now at Townsville, after having a 400km odd trip one was fairly tired last night. We got to meet Denis and Sue for a short visit and then settled down for the evening, or tried to.

We had possibly made the mistake of travelling all the way to Townsville with the air-conditioner in the car turned on and when we reached the outskirts of town I turned it off and opened the window, as is customary, and instantly my shirt felt like it wanted to stick to me. Coming from the dry conditions of the outback to the humid conditions on the coast was a bit of a shock to the system. This was probably one reason we had problems settling down last night, as the warmer conditions were something we weren’t used to. I’m sure tonight will be different though.

It is at the moment 11.30pm and I feel as though it is much earlier, probably due to the increased temperature giving us the feeling that is not late due to it not having cooled down yet.

A pleasant surprise was had today as I acted on a hunch I had while travelling to Townsville yesterday. I had the thought that the damage sustained to the car the other day may even be covered by my car insurance; after all it was panel damage. I rang the insurance company with my query and to my surprise the answer was yes. A minor problem though with my having had repairs done already and not advising them, but an explanation by me seemingly satisfying them resulted in the rest being up to the assessor. I have sent them details and the receipt and will now have to wait to see what results.

We managed to get a lengthy visit with Denis and Sue, along with the couple that have been tagging along with them, tonight. We will see them again tomorrow as neither of us have any plans, so I dare say we should catch up with any gossip I have missed out on lately.


Wednesday 22nd May, (Hughenden).

Well the last two days have basically been a waste, except for relaxation, with the car being stuck at the mechanics. Waiting for parts, and the mechanic being flat strap, has resulted in us staying here two days longer than planned. The cost of the repairs was a lesson in not letting that happen again, it will be a lot cheaper to travel gravel roads a lot slower in future.

I received a phone call from Denis, travelling the coast, to advise me that they are now in Townsville and will be until Saturday. Seeing our plans have been upset with the vehicle repairs it has now been decided to travel straight from here to Townsville so we can meet up with them. This will be our last known chance to see them on their travels.

Our break did give us a chance to have a good look around the town, not that there is much to see, as we did have a walk around on several occasions.

Our trip tomorrow will get us into Townsville a lot earlier than we had planned but I am sure we will have no trouble finding somewhere to go and see while filling in time.


Monday 20th May, (Hughenden).

An eventful day was had today with a trip to Porcupine Gorge. A trip of 70km North on gravel roads with ruts about two feet deep made by the road trains, but more about them later.

Porcupine Gorge is a definite must see when in this area, with spectacular scenery and being a photographer’s paradise. The trip offered several lookout points of a gorge several kilometres long, alongside which the road travels. One of the lookout points has a walking track down into the gorge and is a must do. The base of the gorge is one great mass of sand stone, offering shapes galore of which are ground into it. I didn’t take my camera bag with me, thinking the 64meg card in the camera would hold enough shots for the day, about 96. I used them all up and could also have used the spare memory card, which gives me about another 20 or so, but it was in the bag, wasn’t it. Anyway I was happy with what I did get.

On the way home, and I must admit I was travelling a little in the style I would have in my younger days. I came to grief with a mound of gravel in the middle of the road filled with large rocks. Nothing was noticed immediately, but when we arrived back in town and parked the car Linda with her keen nose smelled hot oil. An inspection underneath did in fact reveal an oil leak, a trip to the RAC garage and a more thorough inspection revealed a large dent in the bottom of the sump and a leak from the sump plug. Discussions with the mechanic concluded that a replacement sump was in order rather than try to repair it. Could be an expensive lesson, but it will possibly teach me to slow down on gravel.

Oh well we will get a restful day tomorrow as the car has been left at the garage for repairs. We have booked into the park for another day while repairs are done, and hopefully they will be completed tomorrow.


Sunday 19th May, (Hughenden).

We have moved north 214km to Hughenden; this is the first leg of turning around and heading for the coast.

I managed to get quite a few photos of the township of Winton yesterday. We had a special reason for getting more shots taken than usual, as Linda’s best friend from back home was raised in Winton and we thought that we would take some photos of things that would interest her. We then printed some of them so Linda can either mail or take them back to her when she returns home in July.

We have learned once again that it is hard to estimate what a town is like from maps and books that we have. Hughenden gave us the impression that is a larger town than Winton, but when we arrived the opposite proved to be the case. It is one of the sleepiest little towns we have yet visited. After having a short drive around the town we decided that we had then seen all that we want to see and apart from the pubs, which are still big, there is basically nothing else I would want to photograph.

We are planning on having a day trip, or two, while here to see some national parks and gorges, eg the Porcupine Gorge, about 60km north of here.

There are others on our way to Townsville and we are hopeful that they contain campsites so we can stay over night, but unfortunately, according to the visitors info centre, most have access only via gravel roads so it may be staying in towns and day tripping.


Thursday 16th May, (Winton).

We are now at Winton, 200km further northwest, and we are quite surprised how our feelings about places can change so easily. The impression we get after only being here since one o’clock this afternoon is one that we have experienced often before, that this is a town that we could stay quite a while, meaning days. It appears that Longreach could in itself have made us feel the way we did while there, and we thought it was the area in general. We don’t know what it is; it is still as dry here, but not quite as dusty, but the feeling is totally different.

We have just had a quick look about the town and found several things to do while here, so now we must decide what we will do and how long we need to stay here to do them.

Friday 17th May, (Winton).

We had yesterday decided that with an early start we would be able to see all we intended to at Winton and then be free to move on tomorrow. Plans can easily come undone; after sleeping in until 10 o’clock it was too late to do what we intended, so we went and visited the Waltzing Matilda Centre, which gave us a pass for an opal and Dinosaur display and the open air cinema. This filled in the intended time allocated for the day so we have booked in for another day to complete what we had intended.

The Waltzing Matilda Centre is a display that must be seen, giving descriptions of the origin of the song and other nationally known icons. They house a museum with contents of old memorabilia and tools and articles of old, some of which brought back old memories of using some of them.

The opal museum was something spectacular, if you are into gemstones and opals. They also had a collection of old relics as well.

The open-air theatre is exactly what it suggests, a movie theatre with no roof. It is still in working order and is still used on a regular basis. They also had a display of opals and old relics, which lead me to suspect that nobody in this area throws anything out. When they build up a collection of old things they just seem to open a museum with them.

Tomorrow is allocated for walking around town taking photos of the place and buildings, and that will do for touristy things for here, then we will be free to move on.

I had a win with the management last evening after attending a talk given by them about what is to see in the area. We were the only ones in attendance and afterward we had a chat, and in this chat was a discussion of using mobile phones to access the Internet. It turns out that the management often use their mobiles to access the net and are displeased with the cost of calling a local fee number and then paying for the net as well. I then informed them of my connection procedures and minimal costs and then gave them details of what number I use and the settings needed. When booking in today I asked how they went, and they were ecstatic that it worked and that it would be a lot cheaper for them.

We also talked about digital photography, as the boss’s co-worker is into digital and has been teaching the manageress how they work. I think I also gave them some handy information regarding that subject as well.


Tuesday 14th May, (Longreach).

We had our meal out last night that was included in a riverboat cruise on the local river. The river is only a river as such when it is raining and then apparently the river can be several miles wide.

At the moment, not having rained, the river is actually the largest natural inland body of water in Queensland. It is about 50 metres wide and about 24 feet deep; I can’t remember how many kilometres long it is. The boat we travelled on was a flat bottom punt type; there is also a paddle steamer although a pretend one. All in all the evening was very enjoyable and quite worth doing. We journeyed a fair way up river and was given a running commentary while our meal orders were taken and cooking started. Then we turned around and returned back down river a short way when it was time to observe the sunset. Being on the river, below the land level by about 10 feet, the sunset is made a little more spectacular, especially when they moored the boat and we were free to disembark and watch the sunset above the ripple free river, even more spectacular.

As darkness set in we sat down to dine on our return trip and after the meal we were treated to a poetic recital by the crew. I get the impression the locals are heavily into poetry, recitals and writing, as a past time.

We booked into the caravan park for an extra couple of days as I have ordered more tobacco from Tassie and it generally takes a full week to turn up. This lot turned up today after only 3 working days, makes one wonder why they can’t manage it all the time, so we will now have to decide how long we will stay here. We are not likely to give up a paid for day but we did get one free after paying for a total of 6, so that one won’t matter. We are looking forward to getting back to the coast.

It is now looking as though, if we don’t stay too long at each visit on the way, we might meet up with Denis and Sue Bowden at Townsville. Denis and Sue are another couple from Tassie and Denis used to work with me. He received a package at the same time as I, and he was actually the one who had to stay back and see all the others off before he left.


Saturday 11th May, (Ilfracombe).

We passed a small town called Ilfracombe on the way here that had a large display of machinery on the side of the road and we decided, seeing it is only 30km from Longreach, that we would return for a trip rather than stop on the way. Today we returned and had a look, and it was spectacular. All of the machinery was very old and some were actually one of only several made. An old bulldozer for eg was one of only three ever made and some of the mechanics is something to behold.

Another example was an old war tank, one of which was sold after the war in new condition for 5 pounds. Some people were known to buy them, fit blades to the front and sell them for 500 pounds or so. The one on display is one such item.

This was a very interesting and worthwhile visit. Some of the other machinery consisted of a pair of wagons, 6 wheeled, powered from the tractor by tail shaft and had steering mechanics you wouldn’t believe. They had pivoting hubs, front and rear linked together so when the front turned one way the rear turned the other, and very ingenious I thought.


Friday 10th May, (Longreach).

Some of the attractions available were passed by us, as all had an admission charge that we thought was a little excessive as we are living on a budget, so the last couple of days were spent not doing much.

We are now at Longreach, a further 100km west.

Sentiments shown by both of us indicated that we are in a position of having had just about enough of the outback and its dry conditions. Linda is suffering from a very dry and irritable throat that can only be caused by the dry conditions. I am also noticing it in the airways but it doesn’t appear to be bothering me as much as her. It seems that we are both getting to the point that we would much rather be on the coast where it would be a little more moist, humid and green. We only have Winton to come to the west and then our plans could take us on a path back to the coast to Townsville so we will have to endure the situation until then. Maybe after a couple of days here we may change our minds, who knows.

If we had have visited Longreach first on the list in the outback I am sure I would have said it is a very nice town, but with our present attitude, our summation is somewhat diminishing to an extent lower than that. We will have a look around and see a few things and we may end up changing our minds.

There does seem to be quite a bit to do in town, but again everything interesting enough to see costs, as if the town is turning everything into an attraction to extract the tourist dollar. This situation does not suit us, as I am sure I have said before, because we are living on a reasonably tight budget and we simply can’t afford to visit everything.

Even the Caravan Park we booked into is a little depressing, as I would consider the charges they have applied are in excess of what it is worth. They are doing the park up somewhat, but not yet complete, and maybe this is a way of raising funds, but they don’t really have any competition so I guess they can do what they like. There is another caravan park in town but it is rather small and would be continually booked out due to people going there because of the high cost of this one.

We have booked a trip on a river cruise and meal for Monday night as a treat because we have not eaten out in such a long time, so we are looking forward to the trip being as good as it is led to believe.