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!!
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.
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)