Tags: Tourism, travel, Australia.
Episode 23 – Banjo Patterson Country – From Winton to Bourke
with Sabine Von Graz
Our last few days were spent slipping back in time at Winton, between dinosaurs and historic pubs, we didn’t want to leave. However as usual Richard’s work at Brisbane was calling, and the closest airport was located at Longreach, where he took off right next to the Qantas Museum.
Featured Image(above): Ilfracombe caravan park exit
Although we had a few things to do and see in Longreach, we decided to stay in Ilfracombe 15km south, with a less dusty and busy caravan park, next to an amazing old pub and some hot springs within walking distance. The claim to fame however for this little caravan park in ‘Ilfi’, is a tribute to the owners, who know how to make the ‘Happy Hour Shed’ roar every night, while they tell their colourful life stories. Fun was also to be had once we finally got around to do our overdue washing… Remember the time we spent in Darwin with my in-laws?
They always have some good advice on the side of caution, this time it was to keep a closer look out for our precious undies on the line. As my mother in law pointed out, she was worried hers would get stolen if they were left on the line overnight. And she was right! Mysterious things can happen to ones washing overnight as we found out that morning in Ilfi, with all our washing having been moved to a different line, held up by new rainbow pegs…go and figure! With the washing dry and safe and the ‘Winds Behind’ us, we said goodbye to our humorous hosts, who told us to head to Lara Wetlands, 28 km south of Barcaldine.
The distance was not a problem, but the 13km corrugated dirt road leading in was! It took us over an hour driving at 10 km per hour, rattling us to our core in the Dodge, while in the van the lid of a coffee container unscrewed itself, emptying its granules into the fluffy white beanbag! Nevertheless, it was all worth it by the time we parked our caravan next to a beautiful lake, dipping into an ice-cold swimming hole before warming up again in a 57 degrees adjacent hot spring! With its magical surroundings, this bush camp is a feast for birdwatchers and photographers alike, not to mention the walks and kayaking for the fitness lovers, and a colourful playground for the little ones.
We decided that our fitness campaign solely encompassed sitting in the springs, to be rewarded with a glass of wine or two on accomplishment. This was accompanied by an amazing sunset framing the lake while roasting marshmallows over our own private fire pit… We all agreed that Lara Wetlands had the vibe! It would have been great to stay another week, but with a heat wave of 42 degrees on the horizon, a struggling fridge and no power for air-con, we decided to pull up stumps and face the dirt road once again, nosing our way to Sapphire.
At Sapphire, one of the gemstone towns near Emerald, we hit a jackpot with a luxurious caravan park on top of a hill, shaded by trees and in striking distance to some sapphire fossicking. We loved getting our hands dirty, sieving, de-mudding and picking through the gravel with tweezers for hours before showing our treasures to the gem inspector. By then it was late afternoon and just before closing time, with a fast-dwindling crowd dropping off from dehydration and heat stroke.
Fossicking for sapphires
This meant that Ginger and I had the full attention of the boss, with the leathered skin and ‘know how aura’ of a real underground miner. In no time our hard-earned treasure was dismissed, and instead, the boss picked out half a dozen minute muddy rocks from our reject tailings, which were meant to be the real deal mini sapphires… Ginger suggested that mining for gemstones would be a good career change for Daddy, and might suit him like a rat up a train-pipe, with no more flying around like a headless chook and instead of hitting a bonanza with some dug out rocks!
Bilby on the Brink(left) & Craig and Shirley from Evening Star(right)
Needless to say, we needed a bit more time to think that one over… However, one thing we were sure of, was that after a year on the road we still had no farm-stay under our belt, as most farms were too remote for Richard to fly out from, or had no Internet connection. But now the time finally had come, and we were heading a few hours south from Emerald to Charleville, also well known for the Bilby centre. There we bought a nice drop of red called ‘Bilby on the Brink’, which we sampled on the first night of our farm-stay at the ‘Evening Star Caravan Park’ just out of town.
Ilfracombe store est.1893
The owners, a mother and son team, were amazing hosts, caring and entertaining at the same time, especially when we all gathered at the camp kitchen for Happy Hour. There you got a rundown from the son Craig, on the local farming industry, pests and endangered species, why you will find goats down south and not up there, why you see dead wild dogs hanging on fences and why all the sheep have disappeared from the now empty shearing sheds… The highlight of the night was the demonstration of the Aboriginal Artifacts owned by Craig, who pays for his passion by living on vegemite sandwiches, just to buy back another grinding stone, spear or boomerang from overseas auction houses.
And last but not least, the news I mentioned in the previous edition stirred up some wild imaginations! I never had that many responses!!! Every suspicion from staying on the road indefinitely, building a grand design tree house, breeding snakes, buying a farm or being pregnant was up for grabs! And no…I am sorry to say the news is not quite as grand as that but still exciting to us, as we have decided on slowly winding up our adventure and start a new one by moving to Bribie Island!
Sunset at Lara Wetlands
A big moan of disappointment could be heard by fellow travellers and budding Nomads… not to mention the sheer relief by some of our parents, that we finally would give up that dreadful embarrassing gipsy life! I am not sure which camp you are in, but before I finish this episode, I should mention that Richard had a rather unusual big surprise for me in store for my birthday, which kept me constipated from excitement and worry for the next couple of weeks! Any guesses? email@example.com