Bonalbo to Emmaville: New South Wales, Australia

gratisaustralisAustralia, Australia 2017, New South Wales

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After a peaceful night, an early morning departure from Bonalbo soon found us turning onto the Bruxner Highway and heading west.

One of the pamphlets picked up last night had a tourist drive commencing a kilometre or so from there, and we had made the decision to partake in this scenic diversion.

Arriving at Clarence Way, a dirt road, upon which sat signs warning of rough surface, awaited us. A quick glance at each other and we arrived at the same conclusion. Most of the dirt roads travelled so far had been in better condition than the bitumen, so turn left we did. And immediately regretted doing so.

Within a few metres, the corrugations were shaking us left, right and centre, and with no room for undertaking a U – turn, there was no option but to continue. As with most situations, however, there was light at the end of the tunnel some ten kilometres or so down the road, where yet another road led us back out on the highway.

As we drove the scenery significantly altered as dry eucalypt forest replaced the cooling sub – tropical rainforests Bob and I had travelled through to date. Long steep hills and winding curves welcomed us to the northern region of New England, New South Wales. Here, the caravan brakes were put to good use!

If one wound the window down, it was possible to make out the sound of the elusive Bellbird’s piercing chime.

Rotting stumps told the story of the fate of the original forest that had stood, here for millennia. Cleared of undergrowth, younger eucalypts that now grew in a more open woodland setting had replaced the old.

An hour prior to lunch, we arrived in Tenterfield, a large country town with plenty of historical and some beautiful buildings.

It was here, that another turn took us southward onto the New England Highway.

Some time later, there was a break in the Scottish town names as we passed that of Bolivia. It was here that the steepest of inclines led us between granite encrusted hillsides where boulders of all shapes and sizes decorated the area.

A quick trip into one of the camping grounds: beautiful countryside, but no power, so out we headed once more.

Lunch was eaten in the small town of Deepwater, where if you buy their Hamburger with the works, you really are in ‘Deep Water’!

Although the distance travelled was only about 160km, because of the road conditions, we had been on the road around five hours and were ready to stop for the day.

Twenty kilometres west of Deepwater is Emmaville, a small community situated in sheep and cattle country.

In a park opposite the school, set between the town pool and a paddock in which cows graze, we set up camp for the night. Peace, quiet only interrupted by bird song, power, water and showers – steaming hot with good pressure: what more could we ask for

Running Creek, Queensland to Bonalbo, New South Wales: Australia

gratisaustralisAustralia, Australia 2017, New South Wales, Queensland

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With a gremlin still playing havoc with the 12 volt system and causing Bob great frustration, it was time to move on to a powered site this morning. Despite wishing to remain longer for further exploration, back to highway 13 we motored. (Although it was possible to continue into NSW via Running Creek Road, the bridge limit of 5 tonnes and dirt road detour mean it isn’t suitable for vans at this stage.)

Rolling hills,

beyond which loomed vast rocky outcrops cloaked in dark green carpets of eucalypt leaves,

upon which the pot hole filled road – this was the roughest road to date – led us up and down dale through tight winding bends, created a delightful backdrop for the traveller.

Small termite mounds sat here and there, whilst the brilliant red of the rosella darted hither and thither. Up over a crest, and the New South Wales Border suddenly appeared in front of us. No longer manned, a series of cameras are used to monitor the coming and going of vehicles from afar.

Immediately, we found ourselves in a lush green rainforest in which filtered light wended its way from the upper story to the undergrowth below.

Winding down the window, it was possible to hear the chiming of the elusive Bellbirds, as Yabbra State Forest was entered.

Marked white posts at the river crossings denoted flood depths of two metres: that is serious flooding!

A kangaroo or two gifted us with their presence upon the road.

Lunch time upon us, the township of Bonalbo: originally the home of the Gidabal people, the area surrounding the town of today was originally known as ‘bunawalbu’ – the bloodwood tree.

A tiny rural township situated in natural scrub on the Northern Tablelands, the Clarence river wends its way through the valley. This is a landscape where beef is fattened, timber logged and crops of soybean and olives farmed.

The caravan park, Bonalbo Tourist Park, is situated upon a creek in a shaded park on the outskirts of town. Power, water, amenities and a pool are all there. A small amount of traffic passes by, but with the bird calls, it is nonetheless quite idyllic.

Besides peace and quiet, this township is also a good point from which to undertake exploration of the surrounding area – we picked up 10 pamphlets that detailed ten different driving tours! Over the coming weeks, our main aim is to visit friends in New England and explore that particular region, so these drives will have to wait for another time.

Platypus Hunting, Running Creek: Queensland, Australia

gratisaustralisAustralia, Australia 2017, Queensland

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Tonight was the night!

Time for a platypus hunt!

These elusive creatures live throughout the region, and they are to be found hunting food in the pools of Running Creek.

On dusk, across the park

and down to the creek went Bob and I, where crystal clear waters gaily ran through the valley.

Creating burrows hidden in the undergrowth upon the side of the river banks, it was a case of ‘eeny, meeny, miney mo’ for where to start the eyes hunting.

Air cooling rapidly, we sat and waited: all to no avail. This was not to be our night, but even so, the relaxing orchestra of water, birds and breeze, whilst an almost full moon rose above, was a pleasant commencement to the night hours.



Advancetown to Running Creek: Queensland, Australia

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As per the norm during our stay here, the first in what became a chorus of bird songs over the morning awoke us at 4am. We had no idea what this particular bird is, but its noise reminded me a little of the bull roarer sound as it winds up: non – stop until way past sunup, it’s the alarm for those wishing to rise.

Our stay in this delightfully quiet caravan park had come to an end, as we exited the gate onto the highway: destination Andrew Drynan Park, Running Creek Road, Running Creek.

The first hour or so had us traversing terrain already covered during our trips to Christmas Creek, The lost World and Green Mountain section of Lamington National Park. Despite that, the ride was still interesting: with every passing day, the countryside becomes ever greener as the rains fall with increasing frequency bringing an end to the dry.

Yearlings romped, and herons prowled. It was interesting observing the relationships between various animals. The cow disturbed the earth as it grazed, and the white heron had learnt this unearthed its favoured scrumptious delicacies. This being the case, one sighted one – and in some cases two or three – of the birds keeping close to the Bovine, ready to pounce on their unwary prey.

Upon arrival at Rathdowney, the first left was taken onto Running Creek Road: a narrow tract of bitumen that led us toward Chinghee Creek and the New South Wales border.

The landscape brought to mind Mary Grant Bruce’s descriptions in her ‘Billabong’ classic where Wally returned to his Queensland home to sort out issues on his property. (Although outdated, this series is worth a read as it transports the reader back to the iconic ideals of the Australian back in the early 1900s. She was also one of the first authors who wasn’t afraid of telling the true facts and effects of WWI.)

Beehives around which the occupants buzzed, dotted the landscape – these Queenslanders love their honey!

Winding road

and narrow bridges – many of wood that crossed the gaily tripping Running Creek, took us further into the ranges.

An occasional marker highlighted the depth flood waters can attain.

Cleared long ago, many of the slopes are now open grasslands where the beef cattle graze and fatten.

Eighteen kilometres later, Bob turned the Rolling G rig into an open parkland on ourleft. Towering gums and covered seating provided shade, BBQ areas were dotted around the park, and a set of brick toilets were the only amenities. To our right, was Running Creek. With its waterholes it was possible to partake in a swim to wash off the grime. No soap, however, for this is the habitat of the elusive Ornithorhynchus anatinus, more commonly known as the platypus.

Mid – afternoon, with the van unhitched, Bob and I hopped into the car and continued southbound upon Running Creek Road. Steep rolling hills with inclines of up to 17%, led us into New South Wales and the Border Ranges National Park, where towering gums and rainforest aligned the mountainous slopes.

Coming to Border Loop Lookout, we pulled in and alighted. Startled, tow pademelons skedaddled, whilst the piercing call of the Bellbird tinkled and chimed, deterring all other birds from entering its territory.

Scenically beautiful with a view into Grady’s Creek, with picnic area set up for the traveller, this is also the site of an historic railway loop situated almost 500m below. Constructed after WWI, this was the first standard gauge railway line to link two of our capital cities – Brisbane and Sydney. The conclusion of the Great War saw a time of massive unemployment and this project was a way of providing work for the returning men.

What makes the rail so unique is the way it spirals round the mountain in a steady climb prior to entering a single track tunnel that leads it through the hill to the other side.

‘Climbing almost non – stop at the ruling gradient of 1 in 66 or 1.5%, the line has almost continuous curves of 240m radius. Near Cougal, the alignment finally runs out of valley, and has nowhere else to go.

Fortunately, a convenient hill allows the line to circle back on itself so that it climbs 30m without having to make any forward progress. Soon after the border Tunnel under the watershed is reached, and the line descends on the other side. The spiral has two short tunnels, one where it passes under itself, plus another through a small spur of the hillside.

……… The structure has been heritage listed due to its historical, scientific and architectural rarity.’


Continuing onward, we traversed narrow wooden bridges.

A mix of scrubland and beef cattle farms it is an iconic Australian scene.

Bridges and road undergoing major reconstruction, a detour took us along a narrow track that wound its way around the mountain slopes.

In all, it was a delightful end to the day.

Advancetown Caravan Park, Advance: Queensland, Australia

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Upon preparing to set up the van on our return, we found the batteries to be rather flat. Recharging them, we hoped it would be enough to do the trick.

With the intention of staying in parks not offering 240 volt power, Bob turned the mains off overnight so as to check how well the batteries would survive on the 12 volt system. Sadly, it wasn’t good news when he checked them this morning.

On to the phone went Bob, searching for a business with three lead batteries that, when placed, could be laid on their sides. This was easier said than done, he discovered, as most businesses preferred to order them on demand rather than hold them in stock.

An hour or so after starting, he was at last successful. Down to the Gold Coast we motored to make our purchase.

Back at the van, some juggling was required since the new purchase were slightly larger. It was a hot and bothered Bob who attained success at last.

Instead of departing for Andrew Drynan Park, which is situated at Running Creek, we made the decision to hold off until tomorrow.

Lamington National Park, Binna Burra Section: Queensland, Australia

gratisaustralisAustralia, Australia 2017, Queensland

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The last of our visits to the eastern side of Lamington National Park took place today, and it didn’t disappoint. Yet another contrasting landscape greeted us as we traversed the winding narrow road up the mountain side.

At Rosins Lookout, a far distant Mount Warner that had once loomed over Lamington and the valley far below us was a faint shadow in the background.

On arrival, Bob and I enjoyed partook in one of the many walks available. Disappointingly, our preferred choice to the caves was undergoing repairs after last summer’s cyclone Debbie, and closed. That left option two, the Bellbird Circuit. Twelve kilometres in all, we undertook a shorter version that took us to the Bellbird and Koolanbilba Lookouts.

First, a shoe wash at the base, set up by Parks and Wildlife: the aim, to prevent disease permeating the bushland.

Bird calls replaced the eerie silence we have been so used to as: the cat bird meowed, bell birds tingled, parrots screeched, the whip bird whipped, and brush turkeys scratched: then there were the numerous others we were unable to identify!

Dense thick forest, in which a wide variety of trees, shrubs and low undergrowth existed: a glimpse into what Tamborine Mountain would have been prior to the logging era.

A narrow winding pathway covered in roots and dust brown leaf litter led us gently down and around the eastern mountain slope.

Trees proved to be tall here. This beauty had to have been a minimum of one millennium, but we believe it is much older.

This gives you a true idea of its size.

A few trees had massive knobbles where branches had once grown. They heal quickly here.

An occasional flower in early bloom added colour in the dim light.

Lichen and moss decorated trees, both young and old.

Lizards scuttled and tiny wallabies grazed, seemingly unafraid.

A Mamma and her youngster entertained us as they enjoyed a play in the shadows .

Never before, had Bob and I had the privilege of sighting so many in an environment of this ilk.

A little further on, yet another!

Some time later, Bob and I emerged onto a more open escarpment from which one viewed the most beautiful vistas below.

Every so often, the path further narrowed, where a landslide had been set in motion, causing rocks to tumble over the sharp cliff edge into the valley far below.

At times, the ground became damp and moist, a sign of the waters that race down these hillsides, creating cascading waterfalls in a flooding rain: one wouldn’t want to take a misstep!

The highlight was the waterfall that trickled over its pathway of stone. A part of our walking trail, there was time for Bob and I to sit in air cooled by the waters and enjoy the view.

At last, the vista at Koolanbilba Lookout spread out before us.

Meanwhile, tonight a tropical storm reigns supreme overhead whilst rain gently patters down.


The Lost World Valley and Christmas Creek: Queensland, Australia

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Having driven to Beaudesert, a turn into Kerry Road had us heading south toward the imposing Razorback Mountain, on the south western edge of Lamington National Park.

The region of The Lost World Valley, settled in the late 1800’s, bushland had been cleared to make way for the open green pastureland on which dairy cows and cattle are fattened today.

The further in we drove, the more natural became the scenery: ancient trees reaching skyward, Xanthorrhoea Glauca, Hoop Pine and more, had one seeing the land of which poets such as Lawson and AB Paterson wrote.

The sound bitumen road soon gave way to first a surface covered in bumps and potholes, then a typical narrow bush road of dirt.

Razorback Ridge:

Through a gate or two, past hidden cottages, campgrounds and farms until our path came to a sudden end as a fence, beyond which lay a lush valley of green, brought us to a sudden halt and Lost World Valley, Lamington National Park.

A track was visible past the gate, but it involved fording the Albert River, beyond which walks were highlighted on the map. We chose to give that a miss, and instead sat down to enjoy a lunch of homemade pizza and strawberries upon the banks of the crystal – clear river that bubbled and burbled over smooth, worn river stones.

Gentle at the moment, this giant upon the bank provided a visual image of the forces at work during times of flooding.

Retracing our steps a few kilometres, we took at left turn at Darlington Connection Road a road that cut across to intersect with Christmas Creek Road. Upon arrival at the junction, a left turn took us onto a corrugated road that rapidly narrowed into a one vehicle track.

Repeatedly fording Christmas Creek, the road led us first up, then down as we circled round the mountain and arrived at the end of the road.


These tiny water beetles showed their strength as they repeatedly swam against the current of Christmas Creek.

This, too, was an entrance to Lamington for the walker who is experienced, fit and eager enough to undertake the Stinson Track.

Expecting a well – marked trail, Bob and I commenced walking, the intention to enjoy a leisurely 30 – minute sojourn,

but had only made it a few hundred yards in, when a massive fallen tree proved to be the pathway across Christmas Creek.

Deeply cracked rocks, just waiting for the next major flooding for their thundering crash to the ground.

Christmas Creek

Cooling ferns.

Already difficult to follow, we called it a day.

Throughout the drive, blackened Xanthorrhoea dotted the countryside. After seeing this plot, we realised they had been deliberately burnt, for that is a requirement if they are to survive and reproduce.

A bit of googling later in the day, and we discovered there is history to this particular hike, with the route retracing the steps of a rescue party for the survivors of a crash known as the ‘Stinson Plane Crash’. Not maintained by ‘Parks and Wildlife’, compass and topographical map are musts for this 8km walk that will take a minimum of 8 hours, as visibility is poor, and as BOb and I dicoc=discovered, the track overgrown, indistinct and rough.

Lost World Valley was beautiful, but for Bob and I, Christmas Creek was the pick!