Off to Airlie Beach

We have today set off for Airlie Beach and the Whitsundays,getting away from Brisbane at 8am; somewhat earlier than usual. The route has taken us up through the Brisbane Valley, past Esk and Nanango to Gayndah. We are in a free camp beside the river. Thankfully, in the shade and 42C. It has now dawned on us why we don’t usually go touring north in summer. Thunderstorm expected this afternoon.

42C, we did have a reading of 44C

On the way we couldn’t resist stopping at the Fernvale bakery for breakfast. Allthego was into a tasty bacon and egg sandwich, Homealone a ham and cheese croissant. It was tempting to use this trip to find out where the best bacon and egg sandwiches can be found. This was quickly rethought.

The old Fernvale wagon
Fernvale Bakery special

We had originally planned to stop short of Gayndah at a place called Ban Ban Springs, a special place for the Wakka Wakka people. Apparently, a dream time spot where the Rainbow Serpent surfaced. The free camp area was a little barren with little shade so we moved on.

Tomorrow we head a little further north to the old gold mining centre of Cracow, only the pub remains and some mining relics.

Cruising back

We are now heading back to Brisbane, having weighed anchor and set off a little after midday out into Port Phillip Bay. It takes a couple of hours to slowly navigate around the Bay and out into Bass Strait, past the lighthouse on Point Lonsdale. Despite it being uphill it is only two and half day’s cruising back to Brisbane, the same as when we came down. Of course, allowing for the hour of day light saving we pick up going home. The weather also improved going north and the seas calmed down.

Pt Lonsdale lighthouse
Looking out our doorway

It is also pretty much the same on board too. Food, entertainment (including trivia) and sleep. The health and wellbeing seminars also get a re run. It is quite relaxing sitting back with not much to do, makes you tired though, and an afternoon laydown is useful.

Allthego mentioned at the start of the cruise that it was a party boat, or ‘ship’ as is preferred. It did not fail to live up to the anticipation, everyone though was largely well mannered and considerate. The music was mostly loud and seeped out into the corridors. Some of it was very pleasant though and had toes tapping along with the tunes. The nightly production shows in the theatre were also good. Allthego and Homealone gave the sit-down comedy ones a miss though, non-stop dirty jokes and comedians who laugh at themselves are not our favourites.

Highly Strung. These guys were excellent, tunes from all genres. They made a bit of noise too!
Cover Girls, all those romance tunes from times past. Forties to Sixties.

Friday night was a real humdinger show though! It was a forty-minute medley of all our favourite songs from the 60s and 70s, few of which we recognised! A full-scale assault on the senses. The backing group was louder than the singers, who then proceeded to shout and screech in order to be heard above the band. A kaleidoscope of coloured lights flashing in the background accompanied all this mayhem. There must have been at least ten dancers gyrating around the stage among the two or three singers, getting our full attention. Homealone thought Allthego somewhat severe in these comments, failing to recognise the great choreography, the energy and enthusiasm of the singers and dance troupe. This reality check didn’t help the throbbing head and flickering eyes. Now, Allthego remembers back in the late 60s and 70s his appreciation of all this action and visual. He seems to have mellowed in recent years and now likes crooners and lounge music. Enough said.

Yes, Titanic

There was also a lecture on the demise of the Titanic, coming at the tragedy from a different angle by looking closely at the people involved. The owners, crew and passengers. The guy who did it was one of Pacific Encounter’s officers. A Canadian who lives in Halifax, where many of the dead are buried. He is an expert in the subject. Plenty of film clips, old photos and tales of the time. It was entertaining too, like the film!

Couldn’t get away from the horses though, Q & A sessions with a jockey, trainer and broadcaster. Allthego listened in on the chat with Greg Miles, he called the Melbourne Cup 36 times before he retired a few years ago. Quite a raconteur, entertaining chat about all the ups and downs of race calling!

Like most of the cruises we have been on we found the food really good, particularly in the specialist venues Albertos (Italian of course!) and Dragon Lady (Asian fusion). No complaints at all. It appears Allthego’s tee shirts are a little tighter than when we set off a week ago!

Baked pork riblets

Before disembarking the ship this morning at 7am Allthego couldn’t resist a plate of bacon and eggs, a piece of tomato and sausage thrown in as extras. Won’t see this again for some time I suspect. Very tasty start to the day!

We are now home and looking forward to some quiet time in the run up to Christmas. What will 2023 bring? Hopefully, peace in Europe and elsewhere and more stability in the world for all. Of course, Homealone is pressing and wants to be out and about somewhere soon and Allthego is having a look at those maps!

At the Races

The night before the Big Race is full of anticipation for those aboard Pacific Encounter. There is much excitement and chatter. Things are compounded a bit because it is Halloween and many are going along with the theme. Although many aren’t, wet blankets if you like!

Some decorations for Halloween
Homealone and Allthego, joining in…

Allthego and Homealone survive the frivolities and head to be bed for a relatively early night. We have an early start in the morning as our shuttle leaves for the track around 8 am. But first we need to have some breaky and apply the attire for the day.

The early morning weather is quite good as we head off in the buses. It is about a 30 minute trip to Flemington. During the night our ship has moved to a new birth out in the industrial area and we come back into town across the Westgate Bridge, quite a view to the cityscape.

The race track sits beside the Maribyrnong River, a small tributary of the Yarra. It is very full and seems to have flooded, very wet everywhere.

P&O enclosure

We arrive without hassle but frustratingly have to wait an hour before we can get into the P&O enclosure. But we are near the head of the queue and when the gates open we get a good seat under the umbrellas. This is a good move because the skies are becoming threatening and the forecast rain and storms are not far away. The first couple of races get away ok before the rain starts.

The winning post

One of the first things to do at the races it seems is to check out the horses. We were fortunate to see some of the riders taking their mounts out in the mounting yard and get for a spin around the yard, showing off their skills. These are some of the outsiders.

M C Brown (at Left) and R C Brown edging out on some weary looking chestnut steeds.
P J Brown on a fine looking steed, perhaps a little flabby for the long race.

A J McConochie is riding a tired looking brownie grey

The P& O enclosure is not bad but it is a bit overcrowded, just like everywhere of course. People milling around eating and drinking, trying to be seen etc. Quite a crowd despite the weather. Under the umbrella we at least stay reasonably dry, helped by ponchos. Others not so lucky and cop a drenching particularly trackside and in the open stands.

Trackside, Front Lawn

Have had a picture opportunity with the Cup, up close and personal like. Joined in it by Phillip, one of our table companions. Lives at Toowoomba.

Close to the Cup

The weather stabilises for awhile around lunchtime, but the rain returns and then clears for the Big Race. Homealone and Allthego have had some small wagers, just to be part of it all. No winnings.

Guess who

Finish of the 2022 Lexus Melbourne Cup!

In the stands

After the race better judgement prevails and we head off track, before the storms return, to catch the coach back to the ship.

This morning, the Courier Mail celebrates the win by the Brisbane owners of the winning horse Gold Trip!

The ship sets sail for Brisbane around midday. It might be confusing but it is actually Wednesday now!

Arrived in Melbourne, off to the Cup Parade.

We have arrived in Melbourne in time to go ashore and into town for the Cup Parade.

Arriving Port Melbourne, the sister ship from Sydney is at the dock already.

It was a bit of a trial, an endless queue for the shuttle buses from the wharf into the city. Allthego thought the go was to walk to the dock front and catch a tram instead. This was a bit of a walk and there was an endless queue to buy a Myke tag, load it with some cash and head off. Four or five trams came by as we waited and progressed in the queue. It was clear that some people can work these ticket machines and some can’t, we where blessed with the later. It took ages, eventually one of the tram drivers just said get on the tram, so we did. It took 20 minutes or so to get to Federation Square where the Cup Parade finished.

Police horses at the ready

Band arriving for the Cup Parade

Legendary trainer Gai Waterhouse parading up the carpet.

We got a good spot right behind the barriers and could see all the race connections walking up the pink carpet. We also had to listen to a loud mob of protesters ranting about whips and horse deaths over a megaphone, free speech! The parade band soon drowned them out.

The horses owners and other hangers on walking up the carpet.

Not sure who this is but she has the 2022 Cup

All in all it was a memorable event. Lots of people out and about. We got a Myke tag and headed back to the boat. Had a chicken Subway as we walked to the tram stop, tasted a bit like a Brisbane chicken Subway.

Fair sailing

We are now in Melbourne after two days cruising down the east coast. The weather has been good and the seas calm. Relaxing.

Passing Moreton Island, headed north past Caloundra before turning south.

Glasshouse mountains under a new moon.

We have been kept extraordinarily busy reading the daily programme of events. Plenty of opportunities to participate in various styles of trivia. Unsuccessful prize wise but we have learnt plenty. Allthego volunteered for the ‘true or moo’ quiz and managed to get two questions correct before failing at the third, despite being assisted by an enthusiastic young lady. Just missed out on P & O key ring!

Homealone signing in for trivia

True or Moo? This is a video, tap to play.

The Encounter is certainly a party boat. It is inhabited though by a large proportion of people who used to be party animals, trying their best to relive the old days! There has been a wide range of informative seminars to partake of. Among them,’Wrinkle remedies’, ‘Arthritis and back pains solutions’, ‘How to look 10 years younger’ and ‘Guided meditation’. We have not been able to get to any of these due to being trapped in the music lounges listening to hits of the 60s and 70s. The Cruise Director has certainly targeted the market well.

Food has been excellent. Some nice Italian temptations.

Highly Strung tapped out the tunes

Veal stuffed olives, breadcrumbed and fried!

We have had a phantom call of the Cup, it was won by Realm of Flowers. So that could well be a good tip for the Big Race on Tuesday. Unfortunately, we did $5 on the wooden horse races. Our horse looked like winning but near the post was pipped when the dice came in with a 5, which moved the winner on past us. Maybe next time.

We backed England, jockey is in red!

By the way Allthego just missed the seminar dealing with ‘No more Crows Feet and Puffy Eyes’, this was disappointing. Trapped in a trivia session!

Will now be heading off into Melbourne city to catch the Cup parade.

The race that stops a nation

We are off today for an Allthego bucket list occasion in Melbourne. The 2022 Lexus Melbourne Cup next Tuesday. Now, Allthego is not a great fan of horses, finds them a bit uncomfortable to ride and could number on one hand the number of times he has been on a horse. Homealone doesn’t mind a horse and we have two grandchildren who like riding them. Allthego is not a great fan of horse racing either, not really interested in it. He doesn’t know how to put a bet on at the TAB either. There has always been a hankering though to see the Cup live at Flemington tio see what all the fuss is about.

Allthego’s negative RAT test results. All ok to go!

So, we are heading off on a cruise from Brisbane aboard the Pacific Encounter, a P & O vessel, on their Melbourne Cup special cruise. This could be a bit of a party boat, perhaps the passengers will be happier on the two days sailing down to Melbourne compared to the two days coming back after the race! We will see. Halloween occurs onboard this coming Sunday, this could be a bit of mayhem fancy dress wise. Homealone and Allthego have secured some appropriate head ware for the occasion, just to be part of the action.

Pacific Encounter at the Cruise Terminal

Pacific Encounters Atrium area

The ship leaves from the Brisbane International Cruise Terminal. This was opened just before Covid struck and has been in mothballs, only recently opening. It is further down the Brisbane River than the old terminal at Hamilton. We no longer sail under the Gateway Bridge, which was always a bit of a highlight leaving Brisbane on a cruise. It is a fine sunny day, a little hot and humid and it looks like fine sailing weather out into Moreton Bay and on the way down the coast to Melbourne.
We are all set to go! Now for the Sail Away Party!

Heading home

As planned we left our Sculptures in the Scrub campsite early the next morning. Although still cloudy and sunny at times cloud was starting to build and one sensed rain was inevitable. You could get stuck here for a while if it turned out to be heavy.

A small coaster bus had set off before us and up along the road we came across the nomads stuck in some deep loose sand. They had slid into it going around a steep curve, half way up their rear wheels. We helped dig them out and clear sand away so they could escape on those plastic traction ramp thingos. Invaluable escape tool!

We eventually made it out to the Newell Highway. There was one remaining spot in the Pilliga that is well worth looking at on the way to Narrabri. Just a short track off the Highway to the Sandstone Caves site and a 1.6 km loop walk.

Sandstone Caves track

The walk takes one around a large outcrop of sandstone. Pilliga sandstone is very soft and the cliff face of the outcrop has been eroded and hollowed out by water and wind creating a series of caves and overhangs looking out over the Pilliga Forest.

Sandstone caves

View from cave over the Pilliga

The area is a place of great cultural significance for the indigenous peoples, going back thousands of years. The caves would have provided extensive areas of shelter. There are several boulders showing grinding marks and also etchings of emu and kangaroo feet.

Grinding marks inside cave

Back into the truck we headed for Narrabri for the night. Made it and set up just before the rains started. Had fish n chips for dinner at the nearby RSL. Their dining area is set up as an outback bar and grill, a rustic set up harking back to the 1800s with a back drop of a big mural of the town. Very different set up to the usual RSL dining areas! Can recommend it, fish n chips not bad either.

Dining area at Narrabri RSL

Morning came along with the rain and we headed for home. Rained all the way from Narrabri through Moree and Goondiwindi. Called it a day at the small village of Yelarbon, 300km from Brisbane, and set up for the night in their community campground. Yelarbon is noted for its silo mural.

Campsite at Yellarbon, early morning
Yelarbon silos

We are now home in Brisbane, an uneventful and largely rain free drive from Yelarbon. Plenty of water around, rivers and creeks flowing strongly.

Sculptures in the Scrub

We awoke to a nice clear sunny sky and Allthego felt the urgent need to head off on a walk. After breakfast of course!
As my readers will know this blog is a bit disjointed because it is generally written a few days after the events it describes. This is a necessity here in the Pilliga because there is no internet, it is social media ‘non existant’, as some might say. Sometimes, Allthego also gets the tenses wrong pretending to be still somewhere when we are 100km further on.

The point of this ramble is that we were aware that the weather might close in today with the threat of rain the next day. Rain in the Pilliga is not a great option if wanting to get out in a vehicle towing a van. So we have decided to cut short our stop and hopefully beat the rain out the next day.

So we need to do the Sculptures in the Scrub walk sooner than later, 3.6km loop return. The walk is in two parts, the first takes us along the ridge line looking down into Dandry Gorge and the second is a stroll through the gorge beside the creek before ascending back to where we started.

We did not find it a difficult walk. Along the ridge line section there are a number of sculpture installations connecting indigenous people with their ancestors.
First Lesson , a father with child on his shoulders is looking out over the gorge ‘showing him the world’. It is particularly evocative. A bit later, in the walk through the gorge we look up at this statue on the ridge line. Quite impressive.

First Lesson bronze statue

There are five installations all up connecting us with the indigenous past, and present for that matter.

Axe contrast

Two axe heads provide a contrast between the present and the past. The traditional stone axe head, at right in the photo above, stands beside a ‘modern’ late 19th century axe head. One links the past with the present, illustrating the indigenous experience with the traditional axe and the subsequent experience with the European axe as woodcutters.

Rainbow serpent

There are other installations, the ever present Rainbow Serpent among them weaving its creative powers over the environment.

Mosaic installation

Eagle or emu????

There are also 5 mosaic tiled figures, illustrating the indigenous connection with flora and fauna. Perhaps, showing the stages of life of a plant rising from the earth, opening like a flower and dying off. The wildflowers make an impressive garden for the statue.

Dandry Gorge floor

The walk slowly descends into the Dandry Gorge, and then follows the creek for a while. Very cool environment down in the gorge. After a while the track disappears into the creek. Homealone and Allthego need to remove shoes and wade through the creek, not as cold as we thought it might be!

Looking up

Homealone creek crossing

Allthego video

On the other side of the creek the track heads slowly up hill to the campground, more wildflowers and an echidna rooting around under a plant for something tasty.



Echidna at work in the sun

Back at camp we have the afternoon in the dappled sunlight and a pizza for dinner beside the fire. Not an easy decision to move out in the morning and head for Narrabri!

Pilliga Forest

We have made it into more or less the centre of the southern section of the Scrub, as the locals call it. The Pilliga is the largest forest in NSW west of the Great Dividing Range, 500,000ha. More than half of it is NP or conservation zones. It is a great place for birds of all types and wildflowers in Spring. Most of the rest is managed by Forestry NSW for selective timber production. Coal seam gas and fracking is a controversial issue among the locals and drop in greenies from the big smokes.

Camp site at Sculptures in the Scrub

We have based ourselves at a place called Sculptures in the Scrub, but more of that later. No plug in power or water here so we are relying on renewables, the sun does look like shining for us.
The campsite is about 20km into the Forest off the Newell Hwy, in the east, and a similar distance in from Baradine, a small town on the western edge of the Forest. Baradine had its hey day in the timber cutting days of the late 19th century first half of the twentieth. The Forest was a big producer of sleepers for the railways.


There were a lot of these around

Creek bed full of sand but very wet, the water flows through it not on top of it.

There are tracks all through the Forest and we chose one that takes us to the fire lookout tower, about 20 km to the north, a good gravel road but cut up a bit by the recent rains. A few creek beds with dribbles of water to go across along the way. Wildflowers out in profusion.

Creek crossing
These were just starting to send up their stalks, they probably have a scientific name.

Homealone lingered in the car while Allthego made the climb aloft.

Pilliga Lookout Tower
View out over Pilliga scrub from top of Tower
Truck in car park below Tower

The view from the top of the tower is particularly spectacular, the Forest stretching away in all directions. The Warrumbungles could be seen on the horizon.
We made our way back to the campsite for dinner and bed.


After leaving the Bungles we headed to Coonabarabran for a couple of nights to recover from the walking and before more walking in the remote Pilliga Forest.

Coona town clock
Town clock

We had booked an evening at one of the small private observatories, a short distance out of town. We were blessed with a clear cloudless night. Very cold though. Coonabarabran is a ‘night sky park’ and has all sorts of rules to stop light pollution. You can’t have sky lights in your house because of light escape. Anyway the stars were sparkling but the show was a bit disappointing, only two scopes and 24 people including a couple of screaming kids. We saw 6 objects (in an hour and a half) up there including some nebula, Jupiter and Saturn. Jupiter is very close now and it’s bands could be seen clearly, Saturn’s rings also clear. Good experience.

Diprotodon head, about a metre across…not small, about the size of a rhino.
Diprotodon bones , the image bottom left is the head to scale.

Back in town the Information Centre is a must see. They have the bones, including the skull, of a local Diprotodon. Very impressive display and information boards. Homealone has a stuffed Diprotodon back home, we got it out at Eromanga in western Queensland. Hers is much smaller than this Coonabarabran one and is only a bit bigger than a rabbit, we use it as a doorstop.

Isn’t it nice, artists impression of a Diprotodon family living in peace.

Obviously, different species.
It is now off for three nights to the Pilliga Forest or scrub as the locals call it.