Back north to Queensland and hunting storms again….

1st November: FINGAL HEAD —–> TEWANTIN

We wandered away from our fabulous beachfront site at Fingal Head and took the shortcut (that doesn’t go over a mountain range) to Esk in the Central Highlands of Queensland which only took 2 hours and cost $2.74 in tolls!!  It’s cool and showery, not the sort of weather we have experienced chasing storms in Queensland in November before!! Even the locals are telling us it’s cold!!!

We paused for morning tea at a spot on the way with an unpronounceable name and another stop in Kilcoy for Clyve to buy a barometer…. from, would you believe….. a stormchaser!!! Clyv14657523_10154223080392779_2439135657152702546_ne gave him one of our “Chasing the Weather USA 2016” DVD’s which made his day and he generously took another $20 off the already reasonable price. We packed the box securely in the motorhome’s bathroom (and spent the next few weeks manoeuvering our way around it every time we wanted to use the toilet…lol)

We chased a couple of storms in the hilly areas SW of Noosa on our way which were moving too fast to get much more than a couple of photos. Got a vapour vortex that reched the ground briefly on the way up the highway towards the caravan park in Tewantin. There had been a hail storm through Noosa during the afternoon with 4cm stones. We got lightning during the evening and a brief shower overnight. The motorhome’s windout awning dried out after the shower washed the salt off it from Fingal Head. The caravan park at Tewantin was really good. Beautiful palm trees and very neat setup but can a bit tight if it’s full.

2nd November:  TEWANTIN ——–> KINKA BEACH

Great sleep last night…..everything is now dry once again as the humidity has dropped. We headed off in the general direction of ‘north’ towards an area where more storms were likely for the end of the week…..stopped for morning tea up past Childers, and continued on through Rockhampton and the roadworks down near Gympie prior to that.

Did some shopping at Emu Park on the way in and discovered that you have to have any order for antihistamine medication recorded on the Medicare database by the chemist if you buy it anywhere outside your home state!!!!

We arrived at the caravan park after closing, and true to their word the owners had left an envelope with all the details in it taped to the door of the office …we found our site …as well as a couple of miniature ponies on lead who I bolted off to have a chat with. We went for a walk on the beach before tea…it’s an odd beach covered in shells and grey sand, nothing near as nice as the beaches further south….but an interesting spot all the same.

We had whiting and rice for dinner and afterwards I had the best ever shower in any caravan park!!! Loitering under a luxurious waterfall….fortunately I had clothes to wash so I had an excuse to stay under there longer (and they didn’t have any water restrictions in force!) Wonderful!!! I would rate this park a 4.5 out of 5 just for the showers if you are up this way!!! Very quiet here except for the peacocks!!

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(to be continued)

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Exploring the New South Wales Northern Rivers….

30th October: CASINO —–> POTTSVILLE

A pleasant night was spent at the Casino Big 4 caravan park where I finally found a laundry tub with hot water so I washed the towels and hung them out undercover overnight. After Clyve filling the van with drinking water and then sorting out the lock (all motorhome water tank filler locks seem to be badly designed), we sent a message to our weather friend of almost 20 years Michael Bath who we had missed having dinner with last night when the local chasers had got to Tenterfield after we had left…..

We dropped up to see him and Alison (and their amazing view of the Nightcap Ranges) in McLeans Ridges.

We spent a pleasant hour drinking coffee with them and then wandered off to Pottsville (via Byron Bay – mainly because we had missed a turnoff and couldn’t be fussed enough to turn around). Byron Bay is still as gridlocked as ever even approaching from the south side. There are beautiful views from up around that way and we tossed around the idea (for a couple of minutes at least) of a small house somewhere up there…just a little cottage with a wrap around verandah…..

We set up at the caravan park in Pottsville and then walked around the beach, along the estuary and then over the road to get fish and chips……then back to the van – a pleasant 3.2km walk…the inlet is really pretty at almost low tide. 14910422_10154217051112779_1247126712262689767_n There was an elderly couple there with 2 poodles…the brown one would get into the water and swim, buoyed along by the current heading out to sea and then get out about 20 yards further along, and go back and do it all again…reckon it got up to speeds of 15kmh! Apparently the local kids do it using pool noodles and get caught on the sand bar rather than being washed out to sea…and they will do it all day!

Fish and chips for dinner was good…and we sat around relaxing in the evening watching a couple of stone curlews demonstrate some really interesting behaviour that we hadn’t seen before …scraping one leg back a couple of times, and a sort of whistle but not their usual call…they are the eerie calls that we hear at night.

31st October: POTTSVILLE —–> FINGALS HEAD

Thanks to Clyve prowling through WikiCamps we found ourselves a total of 30km further up the coast and 4km south of the Qld border, 20 mins from Coolangatta airport and only 2 hours from Gatton!!! On the way we stopped at Hastings Point and took some photos and I tried long exposure waves which I think turned out really well!!

After picking up some groceries and being seduced by a passionfruit custard tart we headed up the coast, found a spot at Fingal’s Head caravan park right on the beach in the and settled in. 14650288_10154219119272779_2621452408352346486_nAfter morning tea with my passionfruit tart and Clyve’s blueberry Danish , we headed off to walk approx 3km up the beach to the Tweed River which is just south of the Queensland border. At the river mouth we sheltered from a light shower of rain and watched dolphins playing in the waves and then found a cormorant and a seagull – the seagull seemed to be using the cormorant’s expertise to locate a small school of fish just under the surface – shortly after they were joined by a couple of terns who just dived like bullets straight past the other two bird……the seagull was having none of that and wasted a lot of his energy shouting at them…and was completely ignored for his efforts.

We walked back along a dirt road, ate an icecream, watched whales breaching offshore and then walked the other way south along the beach and up to the 14925280_10154219824947779_2677290894470177703_nlighthouse and the devils causeway which is tessellated basalt. Cook Island is 600m offshore and was discovered way back in 1770!!! Back to the van and we had Clyve’s green Thai curry for tea with jasmine rice and a pear cider. The showers in the amenities blocks here are the only ones in all of our travels where I have had to turn the hot water off and then adjust it because there was too much (rather than too little) hot water!!!  What a lovely couple of days!!!

(to be continued)

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We got cows!!! and storms!!!! NSW delivers an enjoyable storm entree….

October 28: MUNDUBBERA —–> KILLARNEY

14633156_10154210380297779_384019568258507920_o(1)After a good night’s sleep we headed south towards New South Wales….First was Jandowae where we stopped near the old railway station for a cuppa. We parked unknowingly in the middle of a patch of the nastiest little bindi-eye type prickles we managed to find anywhere on this trip…..which sneakily came into the motorhome embedded in our sandals and made the towels on the floor completely unusable. For me it was an afternoon’s entertainment as it took me ages to pick the tiny little buggers off. The cup of tea and the nenish tarts in the morning were worth the inconvenience of the prickles though.

Crops up this way are doing well and the wheat is already off the paddocks. The citrus and avocados are doing well too. There’s an amazing variety of cropping in this part of Queensland.

We left on our loop through the towns of Crows Nest and Esk….stopping in Crows Nest at an antiques store. We noticed that a convective area just to the southeast of town had everything rushing in from all directions including from the NE. Our problem in that area, which is very pretty….. is that the trees and the hills (oh, and the trees) get in the way of seeing the storms. We hadn’t explored that section of the state so we continued on and enjoyed the drive once we had worked out we couldn’t chase storms there anyway.

From Esk we drove through Gatton and Warwick and down through to Killarney. Most areas, except those which are usually dry, look really good and it is still oddly cool for this time of year.

Storms grumbling around tonight with intra-cloud lightning. Nice van park with very good showers. A bunch of loud and enthusiastic kids down near the back boundary of the park who finally started to quiet down at 9.30pm – but they were happy and having fun and not disturbing anyone.

Dinner was ham steaks, pineapple rings and potato salad.

29th October: KILLARNEY, QLD  —–> stormchase up the Bruxner Highway to TENTERFIELD on the Northern Tablelands and back down the range—–> CASINO, NSW

Today we discovered a scenic “chase road” from southern Queensland into northeastern New South Wales via the village of Bonalbo – the area isn’t good for chasing storms as the best speed for the trip we could average was only 40kmh, but if you are after a pleasant and very pretty drive this one can’t be beaten.

Once over the range and into NSW we hunted for a location to pull over for a break. It was 30C (86F) at 11am and very humid so shade and any breeze we could find was going to be pretty important…..

A spot for morning14883487_10154213855407779_1441854652117474012_o tea at Pioneers’ Park near the little rural village Old Bonalbo in northeastern New South Wales suited us and while there we14859797_10154213893417779_4622376923701212128_o came across what had to be the happiest dairy herd we had ever encountered….their paddock included a creek and a pleasant bank…on this morning a few cows were wading in the creek, a few grazing on the side near the park we stopped at and the majority of the herd just chewing their cud at the top of the bank and taking in the activities around them…..a feeling of calm and contentment hung over the herd.

Moving further south…we detoured off to our west and stormchased our way up to Tenterfield on the Northern Tablelands – we did see a brief funnel but could only get rushed off shots of it (with lots of trees blocking our view).  We filled up with very cheap diesel at the Metro on the east side of Tenterfield on our way back and then sat and watched a couple of storms try and get organised from a vantage point at the top of the range – these storms made the detour completely worth it!!!!

We drove back down to the largish town of Casino on a windy highway through the forest to set up for the night in the caravan park out near the airport. It had been a few days since we had walked any great distance so we decided to go and buy dinner and get some exercise at the same time…..we walked from the van park to the shopping centre on the north side of the river and back again….(nearly 6km /3.5 miles) for some excellent Chinese takeaway.

(to be continued)

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Heading south again…..time to go looking for storms in NSW

October 26: Cardwell —–> Mackay
We said goodbye to Cardwell and headed south to Blacks Beach in the northern suburbs of Mackay. We had a bit of a look around Townsville as we drove through from north to south.

The countryside as we moved south gets highly variable rainfall amounts – in just a few km we drove past a salt evaporating facility and straight into a narrow band of tropical rainforest while around the bend we found ourselves back into dry sclerophyll woodland!! This wasn’t an unusual feature of this day’s journey. Stopped for morning tea and had an icecream on the run.

We got into Mackay mid afternoon and had arranged to have a cup of coffee with Belinda McMahon (an ex Victorian who had migrated north to the tropics). She had told us that her partner Shane Ekerbicer (another migratory Victorian) was on call for his job with the railways…..so it was a very 14610892_10154205512287779_5536391839318096839_npleasant surprise when they both turned up!! We all spent an hour and a half lounging around the motorhome chatting before it got too dark and the mozzies got too friendly. It was lovely to catch up with them again. We waved them goodbye, not expecting to see them again till July next year at the ASWA (Australian Severe Weather Association) AGM in Brisbane.

We had eggs on toast for tea and sat there enjoying the tropical breeze coming in from the Coral Sea – the beach not more is less than 20 metres from us.

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Our view of Blacks Beach in Mackay from the caravan park at mid tide – at high tide the beach disappears!!

October 27: Mackay——> Mundubbera

After a good night being lulled to sleep by the sound of waves we had a leisurely breakfast and set out for southern Queensland and the little inland town of Mundubbera with our route taking us over the ranges and through the towns of Mt Morgan, Dululu, Biloela. The weather is sunny and pleasant for travelling – cumulus clouds are more widespread on the west side of the range but it’s much cooler than you would expect for the end of October.  The climb up the range to Mt Morgan (about 340m ASL) was windy but if there is a passenger with a camera you can get stunning photos of the coastal plain.  The country dries out the further you get from the hilly country. The road from Dululu to Biloela is still under caution, possibly from damage from earlier flooding.

(to be continued)

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Fine weather and a mini break on the tropical coast….

October 24: Charters Towers to Cardwell

We spent a pleasant night in Charters Towers which is a very nice, tidy inland Queensland town and (as a bonus) had a Telstra dealer who also had a new hotspot in stock and told me that when I ran out of data with one of the SIM cards to activate the next one and we would get another 3 gigs of data so there is a saving of $60 and we’ll get a Telstra shop to swap the one that doesn’t work (at some stage).

We drove into Townsville through dry country west of the coastal range and sent our friend Leigh Thomas a message on our way in suggesting catching up for a cup of coffee on our way north along the coast ( he answered in about 10 seconds flat) – we met him at 12pm on The Strand and went down to “Oliver Brown’s”…a Belgian chocolate coffee place which sells the most amazing chocolate creations as well as making very good coffee. Good conversation between the 2 train blokes with some weather thrown in and the most amazing view. It was a very pleasant way to spend hour or so.

We headed north after that with our destination being Taylor’s Beach which turned out to be a bit of a disappointment so we tried the town of Lucinda which had an amazing sugar loading facility (and crocodiles apparently) but not much else and the van park was located right next to it – not somewhere we really wanted to be so we set Cardwell next to Hinchinbrook Island  (which has its own cloud) as our next destination in the GPS and headed further north!!!!!

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We love deserted caravan parks.

This turned out to be a great decision….the Cardwell caravan park is literally on the water and has a restaurant which sells excellent and enormous servings of take away flathead and chips which was well worth $15.50 each. We wandered along the foreshore to the jetty and back again and then14656271_10154200092057779_5699074232894256095_n bought a pear cider and enjoyed the view while we waited for our takeaway fish and chips. It’s a nice van park  and the southern caravanners who are here in winter have gone back south and the parks up this way are pretty quiet which suits us just fine.

October 25:  Cardwell

We like this spot so much we have booked another night – this place is totally underrated!!

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The view from Cardwell across to Hinchinbrook Island.

Hinchinbrook Island just across the way is amazing – the light in the mornings is beautiful and the breeze in the afternoon keeps the mozzies and midges away. Many palm trees have survived Tropical Cyclone Yasi (Cat 5) but a lot of the other trees along the foreshore were razed and they have now been replanted.  There is a brilliant promenade that goes for miles – we know – we have walked it (twice).  I didn’t get sunburnt, but Clyve’s feet were a bit tender so we bought some new sunscreen (the one in the van had an expiry date of 2013!)

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Dessert at the restaurant.

The restaurant attached to the caravan park/motel would not be out of place in a big city – it’s that good!! We had dinner there….a corner table with a view of of the Coral Sea. Clyve had chicken parmigiana and drank Great Northern beer on tap and I had a Strongbow Pear cider to accompany grilled coral trout. We both finished off with pavlova with mango and berry coulis. We don’t often do this but it was worth it.

(to be continued)
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Drifting north through Queensland….and wondering where spring went…

October 22: from Cunnamulla to Barcaldine

Light rain started at about 5am. “Just enough to make the mud stick to your tyres” grumbled one Queenslander. We are heading up to Charleville and then parts unknown. It’s much cooler today and a lot less humid. I even managed to get my makeup on in one go. We’ll spent most of the day driving through the back of a cloudband that stretches 3,150km/2,000miles all the way from Darwin to Sydney!!

14715572_10154193294912779_7471692088283160827_o Today’s road (Saturday) is empty of traffic – there are moments when you feel like you are the only vehicle on the planet. The glorious purple jacarandas are flowering everywhere as we pass through small towns!!

After having managed to kill the 2nd internet hotspot in as many days, it being a Saturday we are now pretty well “internetless” in this part of the world as far as anything other than intermittent Optus on my phone & Clyve’s Telstra iPad till Monday. Good thing that a) it’s raining and today there are not likely to be too many severe storms to chase & b) it’s Australia not Tornado Alley. This is the 3rd hotspot (note…all of them have used Netgear batteries – the same brand that we managed to kill in the USA in an ATT hotspot…hmmmmmm!) that we have had problems with.

We drowned our sorrows with Nenish tarts for morning tea outside the Charleville railway station in light rain. We continued north through the rain towards Barcaldine. Lunch was “on the run”….. upon inspection, I found that the roast beef had gone off ‘slightly’ so it was cheese and green apple pickle sandwiches. North of Tambo the rain got lighter and finally stopped about 90kms S of Barcaldine. It’s still much colder than usual for this time of year. The huge cloud band continues to expand. Got up to Barcaldine to the caravan park with horses in the next paddock -it’s a small park with only about 12 spots – and (unfortunately) an Optus free town which is a bit painful considering now the only internet we have is Clyve’s iPad. I did a lot of reading tonight…. Clyve made bacon and eggs for tea after a late lunch. On a positive note, Barcaldine has had their first significant winter rain for 71 years!!!!!

23rd October: from Barcaldine to Charters Towers

We woke after a cool damp night and turned the heater on ….this in a place and at a time of year where we would more likely have been using the aircon!! The owner of the caravan park said that they hadn’t had a winter/spring this wet and cool for 71 years!!! The women’s amenities were very good but the men’s haven’t been upgraded and resemble the dungeon like qualities of the Jetstar lounge at Melbourne airport (which is dark…very dark). The 5 horses in the paddock next door were gallivanting about and bucking around their paddock in the cool air at teatime so I hung on the fence for a bit and just enjoyed their exuberance. There are a couple of permanent residents in this park and one of them has a rather luxurious 5th wheeler parked up in the corner under the trees.

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The Tree of Knowledge at Barcaldine.

We stopped at the Tree of Knowledge before leaving Barcaldine and are heading out towards Emerald before turning north. The tree is considered to be the birthplace of the Australian Labor Party…but someone has killed it (the tree not the political party). The weather is cool and high-overcast today and dry. We headed up through Alpha (where we had morning tea) and onto the Queensland Central Highlands where low clouds have obscured the hilltops!!! Not common in October and it’s about 12C!!! We turned left at Sapphire and went north up to Rubyvale which is a neat little gem town and fossickers’ location with a shop that sells local rubies in any colour you like (and sometimes 2 colours!!! Like the parti-coloured blue and yellow one). The most expensive stone was yellow and $95,000!!!! (I thought rubies were red!)

On this side of the cloudband the temperature has rocketed up to 20C!! The GPS tells us that we have reached the tropics (although we haven’t seen a roadside sign yet) and when I looked a bit ago it was 18.5C, we are wearing jackets and the heater is on!!! Can someone please remind me what season it is!!!! We just drove past the turn off to the Blair Athol coal mine – I learnt about that in Geography in high school in the 70’s but it has taken me near 50 years to get here!!!……

 (to be continued)

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Living the Dream, Chasing the Weather and Wandering About….”A Storm or Five”

20th October: From Trangie, NSW to Cunnamulla,Qld

14681578_10154186792232779_7250185254588465839_nWe spent a pleasant night in a surprisingly good caravan park in Trangie – it’s the first time I’ve stayed there since a school excursion to a cattle feedlot up that way back in 1973. The caravan park owner’s two happy labradors tussling in the morning and occasionally flopping against the van woke us. Our only neighbours had left even before I got up around 5am to go to the amenities block!! They were having to go around the floods to get south so they left extra early to make a run all the way through to Victoria, so for us it was a very peaceful morning with no neighbours. The shower this morning was better than the one I used last night so I should really test the water flow before I decide on one as I’ve noticed this in a few caravan parks now (hint to travellers).

We stopped in Nyngan , home of the big bogan statue to see if we could find a battery operated drill, a towel rail and a belt so my cargo pants would stop falling off (I didn’t realise I’d lost ‘that’ much weight!!). We found the towel rail (but not the drill) and bought a caramel slice and piece of carrot cake to have with our morning cuppa on the road.

Onwards towards Bourke, our last shopping stop with reasonable prices before the wilds of southwest Queensland. We needed to find more pear cider too. Weather is just glorious – if you can’t have storms, this is a pretty good substitute.

14517346_10154187619602779_7552559020747060224_nWe stopped a little way southeast of Byrock for coffee and I got shots of a couple of the different varieties of wildflowers about this season courtesy of the winter and early spring rains. That nice caramel slice from Nyngan was consumed as well……and…… <sigh> the Telstra hotspot died!! (the second one I have managed to kill in 12 months courtesy of  a 2A charging plug)

A new hotspot was procured from Betta Electrical in Bourke (stormchasers take note if you are in the area). Filled up the spare container and with 20 extra litres of diesel on board we now have a range of 1,000km!!!! The Darling River has overflowed into the swamp just outside town and we encountered our first dust devil in North Bourke!! Two more since then that we have driven through and we haven’t reached the Queensland border yet.

14650710_10154186969232779_8268108120936593805_n14711220_10154188095417779_415818442651071608_oIt is no longer winter out the back ‘o’ Bourke –  my suntan (resting on the window of the motorhome) has begun!! Up here on the Mitchell Hway you drive through paddocks owned by various properties, the road noise broken only by the ‘brrp’ of cattle grids separating one paddock from another and the occasional roadworks traffic light.

21st October: Cunnamulla…to….Cunnamulla..via a storm or five

14691170_10154190087702779_1441094452750843904_nThis morning we woke to a completely different airmass with a brisk, warm and very humid northeasterly and a sky full of the stormchasers’ delight Altocumulus castellanus. I knew it was humid when I went to put makeup on after getting out of the shower and getting dressed and had to dry my face all over again! The showers at the caravan park are so good that we gave it a 4.5/5 – only the 2nd one awarded so far in our travels. Good, hot showers, even water pressure and big dressing areas!!!

14641942_10154190156077779_8699287485861088188_nWe headed south out of town for a bit of a look at the sky and got our first weak storm of the season. Back into Cunnamulla we searched for a drill and then had a very nice cappuccino while sitting in the Main Street watching convective showers wandering around the area. Later, heading southwards  on the road to Bourke we got another storm….lightning, thunder, a flang or two and flooding rains!! As the main line of storms headed southeast we turned north again. Drove through another solid storm with torrential rain half an inch in some places judging by the water in the paddocks and runoff down the road. Did some grocery shopping and sailed down the road past the van park down to watch another storm near a property called “Kickatinalong”!!!! (FYI: there is an Australian Cattle Dog breeder with this as her prefix)

We booked back into the same caravan park with the fabulous showers and kangaroos and 14753243_10154188097012779_6382953993601575156_o14708077_10154188097097779_3294730199715152607_oI went hunting wildlife down by the river for wildlife and found this Monitor hunting for scraps near the barbeque….

Just before Clyve started cooking tea he looked out the window and there was a storm hiding right over our heads – we grabbed the cameras and Clyve chased it on foot down the other end of the van park and over a fence while I took photos from the van site. So we had storms all day really!!  Lemon pepper Hoki with rice and tomato for tea.

14712999_10154191334757779_4178151751988244565_o(to be continued)

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