The Wandering Tops

The Wandering Tops

31 October, 2016

Gin Gin - Gold Coast across NSW

After leaving Yepoon we called into Rockhampton to empty the 'shitter' and fill up with water before travelling to Gin Gin and setting up camp at Greg & Debs (approx 20kms east).  Upon arrival we were met with burnt out countryside as a big fire earlier in the week had burnt up close to their home. Quite a bit of smoke and when Greg & Deb got the OK they back burned at night while the wind had dropped off.  Another day of smoke and when wind blew up and a few spot fires flared up Helen was ready to pack up and leave. I had a chat with Greg who explained the situation and in particular pointed out that the trees here are different to the ones down south ie they do not explode in a fire.  I decided it was safe to stay but Helen had already nearly packed up - consequently I was blessed with a few hours of quiet while Helen stewed!!

Greg & Debs camp kitchen

Gas hot water shower run by a solar pump

However the smoke cleared and we were invited up to the house to watch the Melbourne Cup - had a good afternoon but did not get the winning horses as Deb cleaned up with 1st 2nd & 3rd!!! Had some showers of rain which cooled things down and helped distinguish the fire and with an early evening thunderstorm the air was a lot fresher.

Greg feeding the pig sweet potato

Greg & Deb's Dorper Sheep



Fire down by the creek, unfortunately a couple of the trees fell down over the creek.

The fire continued for days ...... and of course the smoke!

From Greg & Debs it was back onto the Bruce Highway with heaps of cars and trucks - we were going to head inland and take the back roads but decided it was quicker to endure the Highway. Stopped for lunch at a park in Gympie and noticed a Windscreen Repair van - the guy had stopped for lunch but was happy to repair a chip for us! Continued onto Beerwah where we stayed at the Sports Ground.

Friendly kookaburra keeping a watchful eye on our camp at Greg & Debs


Drove onto Maudsland where we pulled into Wayne & Susan's (Tenelle's parents) property and had a great grassed site right next to the pool and spa!!!  Said we were so well set up we may not leave!

Great camp spot in the back yard - coffee, bar and spa at our door step/

Had a day visiting friends and meeting baby Abe and called into Helen's neice Julie to collect Briony's boxes she had stored.  So now we had quite a bit of extra weight to distribute in the car and caravan.  After having a fantastic few days with Wayne & Susan we reluctantly packed up and after taking the stands of the van down, noticed a punctured tyre where a nail had gone through. Wayne got his jack out and it was fixed quickly - so lucky to have it happen there instead of out on the highway somewhere.
A few 'hazards' to watch out for @ the pool in Kooralbyn

Headed up to Kooralbyn and spent the night with Leon and Sandy - spent a lot of time in the pool as the temperature was quite hot.  From here we travelled back to Beaudesert and drove on the Cunningham Highway up over the range through Boonah then turned onto the New England Highway to Warwick.  Lunched at Lake Coolmunda which was a nice spot although quite a hot day and plenty of flies!  Stayed at Yelarbon Recreation Gounds which is a nice spot for an overnighter with lovely gardens maintained by volunteers.  Next morning it was already 29 degrees by the time we departed at 8.30am.  Fuelled up at Goondiwindi before battling with millions of trucks on the Newell Highway.  Pulled into Moree and stayed in Mehi River Caravan Park and with the van temperature at 37 degrees, put the aircon on for some relief.  A storm blew in but no rain or thunder. Decided to stay another day as weather was cooler - Helen had a haircut and I had an artesian bath. Afternoon brought thunderstorms and rain which was most welcomed.

Moore artesian baths, I took a "refreshing" dip into the 37 degree water

Picked up repaired tyre and took Gwydir Highway heading to Walgett where we were going to free camp however I was not happy to stay there.  Continued on Castlereagh Highway to Coonamble where we stayed at the Show Grounds which is a nice spot with power/water and toilets for a gold coin donation.  Stayed an extra day and checked out the main street, particularly all the murals of local characters which form part of their Hall of Fame.  Another hot day with the van recording 42 degrees - out to the Bowls Club for dinner and people watching!!

Lake Coolmunda, our lunch spot adjacent to the camping area.

Yelarbon Recreation camp ground, great overnight spot.
Coonamble pub


The main road thru town passes the pub at the end of the main street

Some of the art work of local characters in Coonamble

From Coonamble our next stop was Warren where we called into their local Fete.  Travelled down Oxley Highway to Nevertire then onto Mitchell Highway, had lunch at Nyngan before turning off onto Barrier Highway to Cobar.  Was continually being passed by a Police Patrol car who was catching quite a few vehicles speeding.  Free camped at Cobar by the Lake.

25 October, 2016

Down the Coast

We packed up, said our goodbye to the cat and dogs and started heading south. We are on a mission to be south in the Barrosa Valley, South Australia (some 3,500 km at the other end of Australia), by the end of November for a reunion.

Not far down the track we met up with Brett, Kylie & kids and were able to thank them for the opportunity to house sit. They had a great holiday and were happy to hear there were still 3 dogs and 1 cat at their home!!!!

I had a training course to attend in Cairns on the Monday for a position I was going to fill for a couple of weeks in the lead up to Christmas -  ho, ho ho!! We decided to stay with Rod and Ruth again in the tablelands and I drove down for the training. What was going to be a couple of nights turned out to be a week - not the first time that has happened.  Had a day out driving to Speerwah, Kuranda - up to Wrights Lookout, Barron Falls.  Had lunch in Kuranda which was very busy with visitors from all around the world!  On the way back 'home' we called into Emerald Creek Icecreamery just out of Mareeba - the best tasting ice cream!

Wrights Lookout

Barron Falls

After departing the tablelands our first stop was to catch up with Chris and Mike who were house sitting just out of Yungaburra. The timing worked well as we celebrated Mike's birthday and followed up in a couple of days with Helens.  Was great to catch up again - we may not see them for a while as our travel plans do not look like coinciding in the near future.  From Yungaburra we travelled through Millaa Millaa, Tully, Cardwell.  Was going to stay at CMCA RV Park in Ingham but did not have a grey water tank nor a tap on the outlet so Council Rules we could not stay!!! Drove onto free camp - Rollingstone Bushy Parker Park where we stayed for the night - went to the Pub for tea (very average).

Off again down the Bruce Highway passing through Townsville and Ayr, stopping at Guthalungra Rest Area for lunch.  Stayed night at Gunnago Caravan Park approx 10kms north of Proserpine - nice spot.  Met up with Phil and Rosemary who have been on the road for 18 years!  From here we continued on the Bruce Highway stopping for lunch at Clairview and camping at St Lawrence Campground - plenty of room and clean amenities $10 (no power/water).  Flocks of Magpie Geese in the wetlands and heaps of kangaroos around.

St Lawrence camping area

Kangaroos feeding as the sun sets accompanied by hundreds of Magpie Geese in background 


St Lawrence camp area is also the local rodeo grounds

Drove to Yepoon and stayed a few nights with David & Elaine enjoying the warm weather while we can as have heard down south is still freezing cold!




18 October, 2016

Cooktown Museum and History Centre

In 1876-77 the Post & Telegraph Office was built in Cooktown however the building was taken over by the Council in 1893 after a fire destroyed their original offices.  Now it is home to the History Centre and staffed entirely by volunteers from the Cooktown & District Historical Society.

This is a wonderful place to visit as it showcases life through the ages in Cooktown with award winning displays, and well worth a visit.  Displays include early mining, the Cooktown Railway and the wharf area. There are many historical photos enhancing the area along with stories of life in times past.  Incredible to read all the cyclones, fires and hard times this community has encountered and how they are able to build themselves back up again.

Cooktown History Centre (next to the post office which was erected in 1887)

Excellent display cabinets following Cooktown's time line

Scetch map of Cooktown in 1874 with historic photos showing buildings in the town

The building in which the James Cook Museum is housed was completed in 1889 as St Mary's Convent of Mercy boarding school. In 1941 World War II resulted in the outbreak of war in the Pacific and women and children, including the remaining 4 sisters and 13 children at the Convent, were evacuated to Cairns.  By 1943 the Convent building was occupied by a Fleet Radio Unit Detachment of the US 7th Fleet, with the attic used as a radio room, the first floor as living quarters and the ground floor as storage for Convent furniture.  The Convent was returned to the Sisters at the end of the war, but was never occupied by them again.  It fell into a state of disrepair and became the temporary home for Hans Looser and his family for 5 months in 1955.

James Cook Museum

Administered by the National Trust of Queensland, the James Cook Museum is considered one of the most significant Trust museums open to the public.  Highlights include displays of the original H.M. Bark Endeavour anchor and cannon, Cook's diary extracts, stories from local Aboriginal elders, the Palmer River Gold Rush, everyday life in early Cook's Town and the Chinese who flocked to this area.
The Cooktown Manual Telephone Exchange operated from 1973 to 1985 when the Exchange became the last coastal manual system in Australia to be converted to automation


This spiral staircase was used by the girls boarding in the convent as only the Sisters were allowed to use the main wooden staircase.

This display showed early dental equipment - certainly would not be keen to sit in this chair and have work done with instruments displayed!

The Palmer Goldfield differed from earlier Australian goldfields by its high Chinese population.  By 1877 the number of Chinese on the Palmer had reached 18,000, over 90% of the fields population.  An infrastructure to support the Chinese population grew with the establishment of many market gardens, the construction of two Joss Houses in town and a shrine at the Cooktown Cemetery.  Chinese cooks were employed at many of the hotels and a Chinese Consulate was appointed in the late 19th Century

One of the displays in the Chinese Section of the Museum - Ladies shoes made for bound feet