Sunday, November 13, 2011

Gemfields - Sapphire Country - Central Highlands, QLD

We decided to try our luck at the Gemfields. With some local advice from Nola, a lovely volunteer at the Information Centre - Alpha, we headed to Willows Gemfields. Ross and the older boys took off fossicking out in the country-side... they collected samples, crushed and cleaned the rock samples and put them through a saphire finding machine... The boys (including Dadda) are grinning from one ear to the other at the moment, they are absolutely loving being 'fossickers'!!

The most common sapphires found in this area are green and yellow sapphires and for those of you who are interested... apparently rubies are red sapphires...

Everyone getting into the sorting - cleaning process
Sorting through the treasures

Sorting out the sapphires from rocks...

The boys found one small green sapphire!!!!

Next stop was Lake Maraboon, Central Highlands, QLD, 16kms south of Emerald. The lake is huge (three times Sydney Harbour apparently). We hired a motor boat, dropped some pots to get a feed of red claw lobsters (note to self for next time.... they don't eat cauliflower or apples). We threw out the fishing lines, all fiveluckyducks had a turn to steer, we ran out of fuel (had spare fuel on board)... and we had a swim in the lake.... Forgot to pack the camera today....

Longreach - Barcaldine - Jericho, QLD

We are really enjoying the little outback towns of Queensland, the people are friendly and its quiet and peaceful... There are not many travellers on the road at this time of year, so we are often the only one or one-of-two at any campground...

From Winton, heading south-east, we stopped in Longreach for a few hours, to get out of the car in the hottest part of the day. We visited the library and swam at the local pool.

waiting for the buckets of water to drop on Dadda

We passed Barcaldine's Tree of Knowledge, a 200 year old ghost gum, regarded as the birthplace of the Australian Labour Party (ALP).

Looking up at the Tree of Knowledge - Barcaldine

.... and stopped in Jericho community park, camping by donation by Jordan Creek. The creek is good for swimming, there's a swinging rope and a big rubber tyre on the riverbank to play with. We had a fire in the evening, toasted some marshmellows.... one of those beautiful understated spots, love it.

At the time we passed through Jericho there were only sixteen children living in this town...

Locals leave a floating ring by the creek to play with

our camp by Jordan Creek

Rope swining boy number 1

Rope swinging boy number 2

swimming across the creek

balancing on the rubber ring

bedtime for the happy campers :-)

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Hello Queensland - Sunshine State and Cowboy Country (North-west)

So from where we left off.... We reunited with our caravan at Threeways and headed East across the NT/QLD border.

NT/QLD border...

We found ourselves, almost by accident, in the middle of Banjo Patterson country (north-west QLD). We visited Combo Waterhole (now a Conservation Park), just east of Kynuna (the origins of Waltzing Matilda). This is the billabong where the swagman/men drowned fleeing the policemen at an unspecified date in the 1890's, leading on to Banjo Patterson creating the lyrics to the Aussie classic 'Waltzing Matilda'.

Scene of Banjo Patterson - Waltzing Matilda

Oh there was once a jolly swagman, camped by a billabong.... with his three boys xxx

After a hot walk out..
Next stop was Winton, home to 300-odd dinosaur footprints and the Waltzing Matilda Museum.

Banjo Patterson (Andrew Barton Patterson) is believed to have performed 'Waltzing Matilda' for the first time in the North Gregory Hotel in Winton in 1895... well we had to go there! There are now officially four versions of Waltzing Matilda.... see the end of this post for the original (highly disputed) lyrics by the man himself.

The North Gregory Hotel.... Banjo Patterson's first live performance of Waltzing Matilda

Homeschool in Winton Library

The fiveluckyducks are in full swing of 'Waltzing Matilda'....

Waltzing Matilda - Banjo Patterson, 1895

Oh there once was a swagman camped by a billabong
Under the shade of a coolibah tree
and he sang as he looked at the old billy boiling
Who'll come a Waltzing Matilda with me

Who'll come a waltzing Matilda my darling
Who'll come a waltzing Matilda with me
Waltzing Matilda leading a tucker bag
Who'll come a waltzing Matilda with me

Down came a jumbuck to drink at the waterhole
Up jumped the swagman and grabbed him in glee
And he sang as he put him away in the tucker-bag
You'll come a-waltzing Matilda with me

You'll come a waltzing Matilda my darling
You'll come a waltzing Matilda with me
Waltzing Matilda leading a tucker bag
You'll come a waltzing Matilda with me

Up came the squatter a-riding his thoroughbred
Up came policemen, one, two and three
Who's is the jumbuck you've got in the tuckerbag
You'll come a-waltzing Matilda with me

You'll come a waltzing Matilda my darling
You'll come a waltzing Matilda with me
Waltzing Matilda leading a tucker bag
You'll come a waltzing Matilda with me

Up sprang the swagman and jumped in the waterhole
Drowning himself by the Coolibah tree
and his ghost can be heard as it sings in the billabongs
Who'll come a-waltzing Matilda with me

Monday, November 7, 2011

The Red Centre, NT - Kings Canyon and MacDonnell Ranges - Part 2

We arrived at Kings Canyon in the pouring rain and luckily for us the following day the sun was out.... So we took off for a hike along Kings Creek into Kings Canyon, this was our littlest man's first solo hike, out of the backpack.
At the base of Kings Canyon

Walking along the Kings Creek track

Ross meets a friendly lizard

People at the rim of Kings Canyon

Upside down rainbow over the canyon
Returning to Alice Springs, we travelled along the Mereenie Loop Road, an unsealed road through Aboriginal Trust land, requiring a permit to use. This was such a fun drive, with the rain there was quite a bit of sloppy mud and water, so the boys were loving it.

us on the Mereenie Loop Road

Ginty's Lookout - Mereenie Loop Road

We then travelled along the picturesque MacDonnell Ranges, back into Alice. We stopped in at the Gossee Bluff Meteorite Crater site for lunch and a look around.

Inside the meteorite crater

Up the top of the lookout

We carried on to Redbank Gorge, where we camped up for the evening. Whilst we were there we heard a family of dingoes howling at sunset. The fiveluckyducks howled back until mumma duck thought it sounded a little too authentic and asked everyone to stop!

This was such a great trip, we really loved being in the Red Centre.

Passing through Tennant Creek, NT - on our way to QLD

Sunday, November 6, 2011

The Red Centre, NT - Alice Springs to Uluru - Part 1

We had a great stop in Alice Springs, it's got a good vibe here, perfect coffees and loads of emphasis on indigenous art. We met Queenie at the local markets and purchased a beauty 'Possum Dreaming'.
Queenie and the boys with 'Possum Dreaming'

The Red Centre is spectacular countryside, so much to see, this was so unexpected for us.. I guess we were expecting dry red barren land all around and nothing for miles...

We travelled the Red Centre Way to Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park (460kms south-west of Alice Springs). The heavens opened up and it rained and rained and rained, so we booked a room at the motel there and headed out to Uluru for a cloudy sunset, a bottle of Moet and ginger beer, for the under 18's.

Having a champagne at Uluru

Water running down Uluru

all thebumps, ridges and marks on Uluru have dreamtime stories as to how they occurred

Textures of Uluru

The following day whilst Mumma walked around the base of Uluru, 10.6kms, silence and bliss.... the boys visited the Cultural Centre for a talk on bush tucker and learnt about which seeds you can grind into porridge and dampers. Here are some pictures from the base walk...

Base Walk - Uluru

Men's Cave

Cool chairs on the base walk to stop and take in Uluru

We then all walked into Mutitjulu Waterhole (at the base of Uluru) and saw some rock art and edible plants, like bush plum and the native fig.

Mutitjulu Waterhole

Rock art in a cave at Uluru

some more rock art in a cave in Uluru

For those that are interested in the dreamtime stories...

"'The Dreaming' is not a creation myth, but a myth of formation. The world existed, but was featureless. Giant semi-human beings, resembling plants or animals, rose up from the plains, carrying out tasks (camping, digging for water, fighting each other and performing ceremonies). When the heroes became tired of doing these things, Dreamtime came to an end.

Uluru is inhabited by dozens of ancesral 'beings' and the physical features at each ancestrial site on Uluru represents the activities of the ancestral being a the time of its formation and the living presence of Tjukurpa within that physical feature today. One story is that Kuniya, the woma python, lived in the rocks at Uluru where she fought the Liru, the poisonous snake.... Most of the explanations are in the realm of secret information and are not disclosed to non-Aborigines." (Source: Department of Enviornment)  

We then went out to Kata Tjuta (the Olgas), for a look around...
Its so cold we are wearing jumpers and wool blankies at Kata Tjuta

Karlu Karlu - Devils Marbles

From Daly Waters, we drove south along the Stuart Highway and pulled into Threeways (the turnoff for QLD) and left our caravan there.

With Bilbo loaded for a week of camping, the five lucky ducks headed south towards the Red Centre... first stop.... Karlu Karlu (Devils Marbles).  These massive granite boulders were a never-ending playground for the dare-devil lucky ducks..The boulders change colour throughout the day, glowing at their most spectacular at sunrise and sunset...

our camp

boys playing on the marbles

balancing marbles

never-ending entertainment

hanging around camp with Moochy (the bear)

sunset at Karlu Karlu
We had a dingo come through camp in search of some food scraps... Ross kindly asked him to leave.

the yawning dingo

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Katherine - Daly Waters, NT

We drove into Katherine,  intending to camp at Nitmiluk (Katherine Gorge) National Park, however the Gorge Road was closed, so we headed north to Edith Falls instead. We hiked upwards and into the Top Pool for a beautiful swim...

Top Pool - Edith Falls

Boys enjoying Edith Falls

We had a few days around Katherine but the heat was getting too much for us, so after a couple of 35 degree nights we decided to head south for Mataranka Thermal Pool and Bitter Springs (Elsey National Park). We are loving the thermal pools and springs...

Mataranka Thermal Pool

Getting ready to snorkel in Bitter Springs

Boys adventuring around Bitter Springs
 Heading further south, we stopped in at Daly Waters. Daly Waters is a historic town, home to Australia's first international airport, refuelling planes in WWII and also lays claim to have the oldest pub in Australia. We had a night camped by the pub, the most relaxed staff and icy-cold refreshments. There's a pool off the side of the pub too, which stays open for a night swim!

Daly Waters Pub