Aus Update 37 - Hervey Bay, Bundaburg, Rockhampton, Gemfields, Mackay

<Paula> 15th April 2007 to 18th April.  After spending a few days on Fraser we caught the ferry to Hervey Bay and had arranged to stay with Uncle Wally and Aunty Sandra, who I hadn't seen for many years.  We eventually made our way to their place after finding the car wash in town that  washed under the car, and giving it a good scrub all over.  They live in a rural area and currently they own 14 acres. It is really nice, as usual they have established some beautiful gardens, they were always really good at growing things.  For the three days that we were there I don't think I have ever eaten so well.  The food was delicious and so healthy.  We really enjoyed it.  Meal times have been a bit of a let down since.  They have also built a pool which was a beautifully refreshing 24 degrees, a lovely change from the 30 degree temperatures.  While we were there Chris enjoyed spending some time working on the car with Uncle Wally.  Not doing much just taking care of any cleaning that needed doing after being on Fraser  that the car wash didn't get.  Uncle Wally has the shed that leaves most lacking.  It is full of what Aunty Sandra and I would call junk but Chris was very impressed.  Didn't matter what you needed, chances were you would find something that would do the job.    While we were there we had a drive around the area  and had a look at some of the beautiful holiday towns.  Oh I forgot to mention Rusty the dog.  He is beautiful, still a pup and very affectionate, you will notice him in the photos below, the short haired lassy look a like.

18th April to 21st April.  Bundaburg and Rockhampton flew past really quickly, sort of a blur really. Before either of these places we headed inland to Mt Perry, why I hear you ask.  Yes there isn't really much there except a family that used to attend North Harbour and good friends of Chris's sister Claire, so we dropped in for the night.  Marion and James Brown have five children, they live on 5acres and the kids have lots of room to play, that is after their homeschooling is complete for the day. It was really nice to meet them, their goat, chickens, cat and two dogs (one of which isn't theirs, just on an extended stay). 

The following day we headed back towards Bundaburg and our only real aim  was to visit the Ginger Beer factory where we learnt a great deal about the history of soda and how to make it.  I would be a little worried to try it at home, so much could go wrong.  Your results could range from explosions to moonshine to great tasting soda and everything in between.  One day I might give it ago.  We also got to taste the entire range, my favourite being their new addition, Lemon Ale.  It tastes sort of like Solo only better.  We purchased a small sample to have on the road we even rationed them and they still didn't last long.  We both thought that if we had the room we would have gone for the case of 24 but we just didn't have the  room. 

 We moved on towards Rocky where we were supposed to be meeting some people, but that didn't work out.   We stayed on the river which was really nice except for the insects that suck your blood.  I actually can't remember what we did in Rocky, I know we went for a drive around town and we rested by the pool, sat by the river and watched the sunset, we also replaced one of the headlights (that was Chris that replaced the headlight, I believe I was in the pool at the time). We did visit the local Botanic Gardens and Zoo, which is free by the way, and very nice it was. I know it was only a few days ago but we seriously can't remember what else we did, boy it is rough being on holiday:) 

The headlight blew as it got a chip in the glass. I have nothing against a sealed beam design, but the fact that you have to undo 11 clips and 6 screws to remove the grill before you can access the 3 screws that hold the light in leaves a little to be desired. Most modern vehicles don't even require ANY tools to change a bulb!

On the 21st we went  to church, which we had terrible trouble finding.  The layout of the inside of the building was very similar to North Harbour only about half the size.  Then we headed for the coast to have a look.  We went first to Emu Bay, then on to Yeppoon.  I can see why people live in such a beautiful place.  Sparkling blue water, beaches everywhere, all the shops and services of any modern town.  The only drag would be having to go to work to pay the mortgage.

This "ships bow" is actually a set of windpipes that "sing"


We then decided that we would travel inland to see the central Queensland Highlands and to try our luck at gem fossicking.  Coming on nightfall we decided to stop and camp at a National Park named Blackdowns Tableland. It was very beautiful, and a very steep drive up, no caravans allowed.  It looked like they had just recently sealed the road, which I am sure made a huge difference. The plateau is 600m above the surrounding area and is surrounded by sandstone cliffs.   All the roads once on the top of the plateau were gravel, with lots of signs warning you to drive carefully.  They are what is known as pea gravel, which is sort of like driving on ball bearings.  Very slippery.  It was fascinating to see the changes in vegetation as we ascended, as well as notice the temperature dropping.  The cooler climate of the mountains was really nice.    We found the campground just before dark and discovered contrary to all the brochures we had on the area that you couldn't do self-registration to camp here.  There was a large notice saying that if you hadn't prepurchased your camping permit you would be asked to leave.  We decided to test our luck, after all it was an honest mistake, and there was extra room in the campground.  Our plan was that if the ranger that came by was female, Chris would do the talking and if the ranger was male, I would do the talking.  Just as we were cooking tea the ranger came by and just happened to be a cute male.  As it turns out the rules have only just changed and not many people know about it yet, infact most people camping there didn't have permits, it just happened to be us that he approached first.  He had self-registration forms in his car that he gave us to fill out.  We have had trouble with another Queenland Government run camping ground, we have decided to avoid them from now on as the ranger told us that all the parks in Queensland are now run like this. 

The view from Paula's "bedroom" door (looking out the back door of the car when she woke up)

A view from "Horseshoe Lookout". There were supposed to be some falls but it was much too dry.

You can see the very different vegetation at a different altitude on the way down the access road.

22nd of April to 25th of April. The town of Emerald was the next thing on the road of any significance.  Being right near the gem fields you would think that it was named after the stone, but rather a hill of emerald coloured grass.  The town is a large cotton growing community, as well as other things we couldn't recognise and sunflowers.  Three main things stood out in this town, they had a fantastic botanical gardens,  the town revolves around the railway and the local information centre is made from bales of hay.  There are lots of coal mines in the area and the rail is used predominately for that.   The information centre looks like a normal building just thicker walls, it is the first governnment building in Queensland to be constructed sith such materal.  Their reasoning for using straw was the excellent insulation and it was cheap.  They have a very large Van Gogh sunflower painting in town too, this is to commemorate the local agricultural buisiness.  It is 25m high and has 13.6tonnes of steel involved in it's construction.

We moved on to Rubyvale, which is a town that is solely based around the gemfields.  It has only had electricity since 1977 and a town water supply since 2001.  Local law is the go.  It was common 20 years ago that if you accidently dug a tunnel under your neighbours land they would hunt you down and kill you.  That is how the local stories tell it anyway.   On the Monday we had a tour through a tunnel and gave fossicking ago.  We figured that whatever we found wasn't going to be worth much because a bucket of 'wash' for us to look through was only $8.  'Wash' is what they call the layer of stones and dirt that they dig up and that is where all the gems are.  Below you will see some pictures of our day on the gemfields and our find.

We had some very friendly birds visit us where we camped

To the right, pieces of sapphire we found. To the left some pieces of quartz that we thought looked almost as good - strange how one is so much more valuable than the other (BTW the pieces we found probably wouldn't fetch much more than about $10). In the center is an Australian 50c piece for size comparison - for those NZ'ers who now have tiny coins it's about the size of the old 50c piece, approx across.

After our great gem discovery, we travelled onto Mackay.  We passed through a town called Cappella, the thing of note here was the piano in the tree that commemorates the great flood of 1916.  The river flooded the entire town.  Afterwards they moved the entire town to higher ground.  The piano in the picture is not the actual piano that was left in the tree after the flood but a more durable one in the place where they have a photo of a piano washed away and left abandoned up a tree.

Mackay  is named after the discoverer and first pastoralist to the area John Mackay.   He first discovered the area in 1860 and moved there in 1862.  We didn't stay in Mackay long and didn't find anything of real note.  It is another beautiful town in a fabulous tropical environment with all the modern conveniences of a city.

We then drove on to Townsville where we had an appointment for an ultrasound to ensure that the baby is developing how it should.  We stopped the night of the 25th about 100kms out of Townsville in a small quiet country town called Home Hill.