We have now moved on from Murphey’s Creek Escape and into the Lockyer Valley proper. The trail takes us through Grantham, another town badly affected by the 2011 flood, to Gatton.
Originally, we had intended to stay in Gatton for a couple of nights. One look at the only caravan park turned us off this idea immediately, unfortunately a terrible place! Set up for numerous permanents and backpackers as lodgings for seasonal farm workers. Grey nomads and touring types should avoid. So we headed a little further along the trail, passing through Forrest Hill, for Laidley and the camping ground at nearby Lake Dyer. This turned out to be an ideal base and we have stayed here 4 nights in very pleasant surrounds overlooking the dam.
The following day we back tracked through Forrest Hill, stopping for a while to check out the small village. Very nice old pub has been restored to its former glory and opposite is a well manicured lawn area, war memorial and Cobb & Co Staging Post marker. The old Cobb & Co route passed about 5 km south of the town.
Further back towards Gatton we called in at the University of Queensland’s Gatton campus, formerly the Queensland Agricultural College. Drove round and round and finally found the 1896 Foundation Building of the College. A grand old complex now used as a function centre. The Avenue of Palms is also nearby and this is where the students seem to hang out.
Decided to leave Gatton township to another day and returned to Lake Dyer for the afternoon by the Lake. Passed by a crop near Forrest Hill, don’t know what it is. Maybe a reader can satisfy our curiosity?
We have made it down the Range from Toowoomba to Murphy’s Creek, via Spring Bluff. Stopped in at Spring Bluff for a quick look. The train station and surrounds were being prepared for the Carnival of Flowers and were not as colourful as usual. Still looked pretty and well cared for, a credit to the committee that looks after this historic little station on the Toowoomba line.
Murphy’s Creek township is a short distance further down the Range and our campsite is about 4 km on the other side of town, down a gravel road for a further 3 or so km. It sits on the banks of Murphy’s Creek, The Murphy’s Creek area was decimated in the floods of 2011, a few people perished in the torrents of water that came down the range through the town. The camp ground used to have a grassed area beside the creek, but it and the access road were washed away, it has not been replaced. The current grounds are further up the hill away from the creek. There are quite a few campers and vans in residence, it is Saturday and people are obviously out and about. The creek is presently bone dry as we look across it from our site. Very attractive camp ground with plenty of room. An eco billabong pool has been installed, complete with resident fish. Allthego has had a couple of plunges, the weather is quite warm and humid, and the water is pleasantly cool. Some of the little fish nibble your back and legs, slightly off putting until you get used to it.
While here we have tripped down to Helidon, famous for it’s sandstone. It also used to be a spa town and produced bottled mineral waters, but this has long closed. Coming back we stopped for lunch at the German Bake & Wurst House in Postman’s Ridge Road. A very tasty pork sausage and cheese kransky were enjoyed in the bushland setting. Highly recommended!
Have also back tracked to Murphy’s Creek township for a look around. Not a lot here apart from the local tavern and school, people have rebuilt on a hillside estate well above the flood line! Some nice houses among the trees. We called in at Jessie’s house built in 1899. There were a number of these types of ‘kit’ homes built in the area in its days as a railway town. It did not have a ceiling and the interior walls were a little over head height. Several thousand workers lived at Murphy’s Creek in the 1860s during the construction of the Brisbane -Toowoomba rail line. It seems that Cobb & Co did not travel through Murphy’s Creek, the very talkative lady in Jessie’s House thought that their route probably lay further up the ridge line along the current day Postman’s Ridge Road.
Back at the campsite on Sunday people had departed and we were pretty much alone. The rainbow lorikeets. galahs and cockatoos though still come in for their nightly feed! We even had a solitary peacock join this mob.
We now head off for Gatton and Laidley in the Lockyer Valley.
We have now moved on to Toowoomba, about 50km down the New England Highway from Crows Nest. We have stopped off here for a couple of days. Toowoomba is Australia’s largest inland city, in excess of 100,000 Queenslanders live here. So there is a lot to see. But our main objective is to start the Cobb & Co trail here and then head back towards Brisbane following its ‘original route’ which has been somewhat adjusted by the tourism people to fit in a few of the towns that now lie along its path. We are staying at the Jolly Swagman Caravan Park, a few blocks off the centre of town. A small park with reasonable sites, although a bit squeasy to get in. The ambience of our spot a little compromised by the dump point being directly behind us. Thankfully, most did their dump early morning and it didn’t disturb our breakfast. Although one chap chatted with us on and on, a verbal ‘dump’ if you like, about all sorts of stuff before finally dumping his ‘stuff’ and moving off.
The Information Centre recommended that we take a mini coach tourist drive around town to get the general lie of the land. This we did, 5 of us all up enjoyed a two hour journey around the eastern side of the town which took in the lookouts towards Brisbane and the numerous rather expensive large homes being constructed on the range looking east and also west over the town. Several million dollars each. Also wandered around the now suburb of Drayton, the original area settled in the 1840s. Had a brief stop at the Japanese garden at the University of Southern Qld. Our driver was a mine of information and we finished the trip just so much wiser about most things Toowoomba! Seriously, he was quite entertaining.
Following this expedition it was off for a feed. We were encouraged to frequent a few different eateries by the lady at the Information Centre and settled on Sofra, Turkish. Rather excellent lunch and can thoroughly recommend. Mountains of great food at reasonable prices. After lunch we then wandered around the centre of town looking at some of the street art. Plenty of it, varying in quality we thought. But it did liven up some of the lane ways. Started to get a bit weary so we headed back to the Jolly Swagman to recuperate and prepare for the following day.
We had made our necessary booking, for COVID reasons, at the Cobb & Co Museum, for 9.30 am. It was not crowded. Safety in numbers does not apply in these days of COVID. There is another old saying gone! Anyway, it was a great display of old Cobb & Co coaches, buggies and other horse drawn transport of the 19th and early 20th century. We had a bit of a chat with the head of the National Carriage Factory located in the complex. He was one of those now rare craftsman who works in wood. No power tools. Just those old planes, rasps, hand drills, calipers, set squares. hand saws , chisels etc from days gone by. His main project at that moment was restoring/rebuilding an early 1900s buggy that had been found in a creek bed near Oakey. Not much was left, just the iron work and a few timber pieces. He was rebuilding it from the ground up based on other carriages of the day. No plans. Steel rimmed wooden wheels and all. Very interesting stuff, he was four months into it! A Roman exhibition from the Queensland Museum was also on show, some interesting pieces illustrating their engineering prowess, road building, bridges, aqueducts etc.
Time flew and our 3 hours expired in time for lunch. Fortunately, a spud van was in the car park and we indulged in a smashed baked potato with mince (Homealone) and ham (Allthego), sour cream, cheese, chives and coleslaw. Very tasty but filling, so it was off for a walk around Queens Park to work it off; also took in Laurel Bank Park on the other side of town. The parks were preparing for the Carnival of Flowers in September so many of the beds were fallow awaiting planting. A few of the summer displays were coming to a close, but the gardens were still quite special.
Before heading back to the Jolly Swagman we stopped in at the Four Brothers Brewery, a craft brewer located in the old Dairy Factory. Enjoyed an ale, they seem to have a liking for some fruity type beers, as well as standard lagers and bitters. Didn’t care much for the fruity styles, the lager was quite good, the bitter a bit bitter for Allthego’s taste.
We now head down the Range in the morning to continue along the Cobb & Co Trail to Murphy’s Creek. Not before though putting a booking on our site for Carnival of Flowers in September, includes a food weekend as well. It is something that we have talked about doing but never got around to!
As was mentioned in the previous post we had come to the Crows Nest NP not just to sit around in the sun, but to also do a walk or two to stretch the legs. So, after our first night in the park we rose at the crack of dawn and set off for a walk at 8am. To get away at this time we had to skip the morning shower and managed with a piece of toast for breaky. It was going to be a hot day so we packed a flask of water and set off.
The 2 km return walk to the ‘pools’ was attractive. It was a gentle start but not long into it various steps were encountered, not only on the main track but also on the sides down to the creek. The area has not had much rain since January and the stream was not flowing, some stagnant pools trapped by boulders. Certainly no swimming or lounging around in cool shallows.
We completed the ‘pools’ track and decided to continue on to the Falls Lookout. The creek here plunged over a cliff line into a deep pool below. No water though was making the plunge. Dry as a bone. Coming back to the main track we decided to continue on a further 900 metres to the Koonin Lookout. This section of track was considerably more demanding than the one we had just completed, mostly steadily uphill, with numerous steps until we reached the ridgeline looking down the gorge valley. Quite spectacular rugged wilderness. After some recovery time and admiring the view we turned around for the return trip. It was downhill mostly this time! Steps were a little tougher on the knees. Then a long uphill section to the day use car park where it all started.
All up we had completed 6.4 km, hot and sweaty, and arrived back at camp a little before 11am. A bit more than the 2 km we had set out to do. All our water had gone and glass of cold water was most welcome. After a sit down and cool off it was into the shower and a freshen up to face the afternoon sitting around recovering. Not a lot was done. Spotted a large goanna sauntering around the camp and a number of Kookaburras in residence. Late in the day a storm seemed to be brewing with great billowing clouds coming up the escarpment from the east. Nothing came of them, but they looked quite impressive.
We head off now for a few days in Toowoomba.
We have now headed south back towards Toowoomba. Initially, we had aimed for the small township of Bell on the western side of the Bunya Mountains. Bell is on the road between Kingaroy and Dalby. Allthego thought it wise to check whether there was a dump point in Bell. These are quite important places to identify otherwise one needs to dig a hole in the bush somewhere to ‘dump’ the contents of one’s toilet cassette. There was no dump point in Bell. Just had to update my dear readers on this because we ended up in Jandowie not Bell. Yes, there was a dump point in Jandowie, it is around 80 km further west than we would have liked. Nice little town on the Southern Downs. We stayed at the town’s showgrounds/racecourse, economical spot and we had it largely to ourselves.
Except, for one particular chap who insisted on telling us about his ‘journey from Perth’. Had left Perth in 2014, rented the house out, and was travelling the country. Had his old V8 Falcon pulling an aging van, and swore by both being the ideal option. Fair bit of rev head talk and life on the road stuff. He seemed a little under the weather and kept repeating himself ad nauseum. Eventually wandered off to his van. Part of the challenge of road travel!
Plenty of agriculture and grazing around Jandowie. One of its claim to fame is that the Dingo fence starts nearby and there is a monument in town to the dingo and the fence. The fence stretches from here through to South Australia and we came across it on our West Australian trip a few years ago. There are plenty of Bottle trees in the landscape as well. A great big one spreads itself across a side street in the town.
After a pleasant night in the Showgrounds we headed off the next morning across country to Bell. We intended to have lunch there. Along the way we stopped off where the Dingo fence starts on its 5,400km run to South Australia. There is a tourist drive that follows the fence for around a 100 km as it heads west before turning southwest on its journey to South Australia. Another time, maybe.
Bell is a small village on the slopes of the Bunyas. Not a lot seems to happen in Bell. One of its major attractions is the small RC Church. It has developed a ‘Biblical Garden’ themed on the Stations of the Cross. Local artists have contributed various pieces; mosaics, wood carvings, metal work and pottery to illustrate the various stations. Plants from biblical times are supposed to be represented in the gardens. Quite impressive. The Church has its interior walls clothed in murals illustrating major turning points in the biblical journey, from Creation to the Cross. A bit ‘over the top’ and ‘in your face’ artistically we thought. It was like a modern day replacement for 18/19th century stain glass windows in European churches. Nonetheless, it was eye catching and thought provoking!
From Bell we made our way to Crows Nest NP where we were to stay two nights and attempt a couple of walks to the creek and lookout. Great little camping ground, 13 spots for tents, trailer campers and small vans (we qualify). We enjoyed our pork, bacon and maple syrup sausages on the BBQ as the sun set and lit up the late afternoon sky. It is quite warm and humid. We are heading off on the walk early in the cool of the morning, a couple of kilometres there and back.
It is a while since we were on the road and the call of western Queensland has come. Not too far west just out up along the Brisbane Valley to Kingaroy, peanut capital of Australia. Sir Joh lived not far from here, don’t you worry about that! We will then make our way back via Toowoomba and the Lockyer Valley to Brisbane.
Kingaroy is about a 3 hour drive with the van behind. The trip takes us west along the Ipswich Motorway, Warrego Hwy and then north along the Brisbane Valley Hwy to Esk. Before getting there we stopped for lunch at the famous Old Fernvale Bakery, enormous chicken and salad roll and sandwich. Acquired some country fresh Easter buns for snacks. Back in the car we passed through Esk, Blackbutt (birthplace of Roy Emerson, great Australian tennis player in 1950/60s) and Yarraman.
The lure of Kingaroy was to spend some time in a local vineyard. They offer free camping out the back with the temptation of wood fired pizzas for lunch and a wine tasting at the cellar door. We are here for two nights. First up the next morning was a trip into town to learn about peanuts. There is a lot we didn’t know about peanuts. Learnt all about them at the Heritage Museum. From planting, growing, harvesting, processing and marketing, all steps were covered. From how it was done in the 1950/60s compared to how it is done today. We were guided through the 30 minute video presentation by a chap who worked in the factory for 42 years. Started as a peanut bagging boy when he was sixteen and retired as the plant manager 42 years later! Not bad for stepping up the rungs of the ladder. The museum is also full of old peanut planting and harvesting equipment through the ages. We now know all about the strange little green plants in the fields around town.
Back at Kingsley Estate Vineyards we enjoyed our pizza for lunch, along with some ‘nice’ red. We can recommend dropping in here when next in Kingaroy, even if you don’t stay out the back. A little later in the day it was out with the corn bags game in the paddock, where we introduced the game to some fellow travellers. Seemed to amuse them as it did us. Great talkers though.
After two nights in the vineyard we are now heading south towards Ipswich
After leaving the gravel at Laura we headed off down the bitumen for Port Douglas, stopping for the night at the Palmer River Roadhouse. Palmer River was the location of a large gold field in the later 19th century. Not much remains of the gold field infrastructure, although there are a number of 4WD tracks out into the scrub that take you to the old workings and building remnants. One runs for an 80 km round trip from near the Roadhouse, but there is not much enthusiasm to do it at this stage of our journey. Palmer River is at the northern end of the Atherton Tableland and as we continue south we pass by vast banana plantations beside the road. The country is flat here and the bananas just stretch away in some places as far as the eye can see. This in part explains why the bananas got killed off on the hillsides down around Coffs Harbour, no longer economic with this sort of competition. The road down to Port Douglas involves descending the Great Dividing Range to Mossman, a rather twisty and steep descent in places. Once through Mossman we reach Port Douglas and book in at the same place we were a few weeks back.
Homealone and I are quite taken with the ‘Port’ and find it a comfortable spot to stay. There is a particular attraction here to keep bringing us back. Prawns in a bucket on the deck of a place called the ‘Tin Shed’ (or something like that), Allthego confuses it with the Yacht Club. One sits on the deck and looks out over the inlet and boats towards the Daintree and Cape Tribulation. Nice spot to while away some time! Homealone hasn’t seen prawns (her favourite seafood) for a few weeks and can’t resist, Allthego goes for the seafood basket. The establishment though has changed the prawn presentation, they used to hang on the side of a bucket over ice, now they are sitting up, tightly packed in, looking at you from a bowl. Where to start! Homealone had no problem. We also managed to get a vanilla slice in town, the one that we saw last time and claimed to be the ‘best’ vanilla slice. We will see.
After R & R in the Port we packed up and continued south to Brisbane, one night stands in an unrushed way. Stopping the night at Ingham, Bowen, Sarina and then a free camp beside the Boyne River near Gladstone. Morning tea along the way was adequately catered for as we picked up some vanilla slices at Ingham and also Bowen. Interestingly, the one at Ingham was not sold as a ‘vanilla’ slice but as a ‘custard’ slice. Allthego has tried to find out if there is a difference, quite a lot of stuff on the internet about vanilla slices. Authorities suggest the ‘vanilla’ slices are made from ‘vanilla custard’ and that the ‘custard’ nomenclature is an ‘Australianism’ compared to ‘vanilla’ which harks back to the French. I don’t know and have given up on this. The one from Bowen came from the town’s famous Jochems Bakery. Of these 3 Allthego favoured the Jochem’s, it was nice and creamy. The so called custard slice was a bit stiff and the pastry wasn’t flakey. The Port Douglas one turned out to be a ‘ring in’ and had actually been made in Cairns, it too was nice and creamy but it was a bit loose and oozed out the sides. Maybe we had mistreated it as it had been in the truck awhile before being eaten!
So in the big vanilla slice taste off it is hard not to go past the one from Gillian Brown’s Artisan Bakery at Springfield Lakes, closely followed by the Jochems and Port Douglas. The over all reason is because all three were nice and creamy with a good white icing and not too sweet. Maybe, Allthego needs to see if there has been any change in the Springfield Lakes version since the last tasting, it was a while ago.
Our last stop off was at Tiaro, near Maryborough. Tiaro has a nice free camp facility for RVs and also has a great butcher. Pork products in particular, so we made room in the esky for some ham, ordinary bacon and some bacon chops. These bacon chops are just what you need for a good brunch. If you ever pass through Tiaro this shop is strongly recommended for Pork lovers.
The journey to the Tip and back has now finished. We had a great time and are now home after travelling around 8,600 km, the direct road distance from Brisbane to the Tip and back is about 5,300 km, so we have also done 3,000 odd km in side trips and chasing down vanilla slices. Until next time I will leave you with a little thought, from someone else “if you don’t know where you are going, any road will take you there!”
The drive out along the 130km Portlands Road (which is what the road to Chilli Beach is formally known as) to the Peninsular Development Rd did not seem nearly as ragged as when we drove in! Familiarity breeds contempt they say! It was then another 40km or so to the Archer River Roadhouse where we had decided to stay the night. It is all bitumen so a pleasant change from the gravel.
The Archer River is another one of the significant waterways that the PDR has to cross. The bridge here is more of a causeway so it gets flooded quite early in the wet. The Roadhouse has a pleasant campground beside the river but well above the water line, except in major floods. There is also a clever use of relics from the old Telegraph line infrastructure, the clothes line. Apparently, they periodically have some of the white porcelain cap things pinched as souvenirs by tourists. But they have plenty in stock to replace them, having raided the poles themselves when the line was closed down!
On the way back we stopped for a series of one night stands at the various roadhouses down the Cape. The next stop along the way south from Archer River was our ‘favourite’ spot of Coen, this is where we had the flat van tyre and discovered the problem with the fridge. No dramas for us this time. But, it was our turn to help someone else. A couple traveling to Weipa had pulled in for a lunch stopover in the van park and when upon restarting their car, lo and behold a flat battery. Allthego’s jumper leads got them going ok. He was an RACQ guy, just like the fellow who helped us a few weeks back. Coincidences!
We are not yet in ‘real time’ with the blog because we are actually considerably further south than Coen, Sarina (to the south of Mackay) to be precise.
After Coen we had a night at the Musgrave Station Roadhouse, another one of the former repeater stations like Moreton Telegraph Station. A bit of light entertainment here with the crocodiles in the dam beside the campground. They get fed daily by the station workers, probably left overs from the Roadhouse. They are the ‘harmless’ freshwater crocs, pretty snappy still though!
We topped up with fuel and the chap advised us to go through Lakefield National Park to Laura, which we had done when we came north. Same reason, road from Musgrave to Laura was terrible, road works and corrugations a plenty. So we did, saw some brolgas and magpie geese. The road through the park is really quite good, some pretty scenery.
We finally hit a landmark coming into Laura, THE END OF THE GRAVEL.
It was now all bitumen to Brisbane. We made for Port Douglas for some R & R after all the red dirt and corrugations!
Chilli Beach is a remote stretch of the Cape’s eastern coastline about 30 km north of the Aboriginal community at Lockhart River. The road out to Chilli Beach from the turnoff is a bit of a slog. 135 km of mostly gravel, there is about 25 km or so of bitumen along the way and a few patches of bull dust. Corrugations here and there . Plenty of road work is going on to improve the experience or take away from the experience depending upon your point of view. Some low bridges across the creeks to compliment a few shallow gravel crossings. Chilli would be inaccessible in the wet. The distance from Moreton Telegraph Station, then into and out of Chilli plus the distance south to the next fuel at Archer River places a little stress on our range. So, we made a trip into the Aboriginal community at Lockhart River to fill up and get a few food supplies.
We are camping at the National Park area just back from the beach. There are 25 sites and you need to pre-book them. No ‘walk in camping’ here. So you have to be pretty sure of your timing, as usual we were spot on and took up site 25. Just perfect. There were only 3 other parties in camp. So it was rather quiet after dark! Just the wild pigs rooting around in the scrub, crocodiles grunting as they slowly consumed their prey and dingos baying at the moon. Hard to sleep! Just kidding! It was very quiet! Despite the mini gale blowing from the southeast, the south east trade winds at their best. But we were in behind some vegetation and well protected.
Chilli is also positioned within sight of the inner reef shipping channel and we saw a number of ships making their way down the coast. It was this channel that Cook took after he left Cooktown and enabled him to round Cape York. William Bligh some years later also took this channel north to Java after being set adrift following the mutiny on the Bounty. Restoration Island on which he landed and named is just off Chilli Beach, and can be clearly seen despite the weather conditions. Bligh named it ‘Restoration’ not because of Bligh’s crew being ‘restored’ by a diet of oysters, but because it was the anniversary of the restoration of the Stuarts on the English throne.
We had two nights here, no power or water laid on so we relied on the solar and our water tanks. No worries. The weather was not great, apart from the wind there was thick cloud cover and plenty of sea mist. It was not the clear blue sky, crystal clear water, white sandy beach and arching coconut palms of the promotional material! But, it was still remote and the prevailing weather showcased a Chilli beach that may be more the norm than the unusual. The northern end of Chilli is also positioned such that it is in the way of a never ending stream of junk material floating in from south east Asia, plastic bottles and caps of all descriptions, ropes, netting, rubber thongs and toys, plastics. Teams do periodic clean ups and average 5 tonne of material a year from the beach.
We had some snags over the fire one night and were entertained by a couple of scrub turkeys. They are different to the ones you see in Brisbane; they have a purple gobbler (is that right, the loose skin around the neck?) rather than the yellow one we are familiar with. On the morning we left Chilli the weather gods came good and we had a couple of hours of early morning sunshine and blue skies. The beach looked like that promotional material!
Some minor drama on the road out with a tree trunk across the road, held us up for a short time. Fortunately, some fellow nomads came the other way and assisted Allthego in clearing the road of the obstruction! Homealone took pictures and a video for laughs. That is a good place to leave the story as we now head back and resume the route south to Archer River and Coen.
Leaving Seisia the road south takes us the same way when we came north. No alternative route south! First obstacle is to navigate the corrugations and get across the Jardine River, which is Queensland longest perennial river. It flows huge volumes of water. Thankfully, we had safe deposited the return ferry ticket. No worries here and after the crossing it was along the Bamaga Bypass Road down to Bramwell Station for the night.
It was a reasonably sunny day, a bit of cloud but all clear so we pulled into Fruit Bat Falls for another look. It was mid morning and not a lot of people around so the swimming pool was quite clear of fellow bathers. Allthego took the plunge and swam around, more like a paddle as the pool of water is about waist high in most places. The bottom is covered with several centimetres of loose sand and the odd rock or two. Water quite warm. Invigorating. No crocs here. Above the waterfalls it is quite shallow but there are a number of spar like holes in the rock platform, Allthego found one that was neck deep, plenty of sand on the bottom.
Time got on though and we needed to head off to Bramwell, arriving late in the day but in time for the station dinner which we had pre booked. Again, not many in the campground. We had 30 for dinner and the interesting chat about the history of the station and some of the former owners and characters who had lived and worked there over the years.
Next morning we moved on a short distance to Moreton Telegraph Station for the night. This is actually one of the former ‘repeater’ stations for the old telegraph line. There are some telegraph line relics here to look at, including 3 (could have been more) original poles lined up down a paddock as they would have originally appeared. The camp ground here sits beside the Wenlock River, one of the major streams that floods and cuts the road in the Wet.
Plenty of water is broadcast over the camp ground and we have some green grass for a change rather than the usual sand and red dust. There is now a bridge across the Wenlock but as late as 2006 one had to ford the river on rafts, particularly when the waters were high. Lying in the paddock is one of the old rafts. Numerous fuel drums were carefully joined together either side of some steel grating which one drove onto for the trip across the river. Scary stuff!
As the journey continues we are going to make a side trip out to Chilli Beach on the east coast. We had originally planned to do this on the way up, but had to head off to to Weipa instead to try to get the fridge fixed. The turn off to Chilli is about 40 km of corrugations south of Moreton Telegraph Station and we will do that in the coming morning.