Monday, August 8, 2016

A Gate less Golden

In my recent travels I passed through a locality called Golden Gate, once a prosperous mining community approximately 10 kms West of Croydon.

The only sign that a township existed here can be seen on the southern side of the highway marked by a number of metre high steel posts and a sign saying no camping. In the background is a small mound of earth which was the railway station. Travelers here should be careful as there is a single strand of wire strung between a number of the trees at caravan height.

The railway station that once handled a lot of passenger traffic along with the freight that was needed to support a growing community now lies dormant except for the passing of the tourist train from Normanton on Wednesday and from Croydon on a Thursday.

A short walk to the Northern side of the highway and through a fence onto a cattle station I found some more stark reminders of a prosperous past. These boilers were once used to generate the energy needed to raise the ore from deep under ground and be processed to extract the fine golden metal. 

This area is fenced separately from the rest of the property because of the dangers these old diggings present to anyone who passes by, including the cattle. If you fell into this pit you would almost certainly die. It took a couple of seconds before the sound of splashing water was heard when I threw a stone into the pit.

The reader may like to visit another post about Golden Gate School.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

A view of Normanton

Sunrise in the main street

There isn't much that remains of that part of Normanton that was on the north bank of the Norman River. There is a popular freecamp on the western side of the road to Karumba (only when it is dry) and this tower on the eastern side.

At the northern end of town is the old Burns Philp building where either everyone worked or shopped.

This is now the information centre.

This is where the shire of Carpentaria (64,373 km²) is administered.

In the main street, Landsborough Street, you will find these cast iron plates over the gutters. They were manufactured in Croydon.

Two of the hotels in Normanton. The Central in the foreground and the Albion on the left.

The Albion hotel was once owned by Emily McDOUGALL, the author's grandmother, in the 1920s. She sold it to Mrs. Lee in 1929 when she went to Croydon for the day to seal the deal.

The third hotel in Normanton is the Purple Pub, which in a previous incarnation was the National hotel.

Further down the street is a cafe with petrol bowser.

Another prominent business in town is Gallagher's butcher shop which specializes in beef that is paddock to plate.

Road trains in the main street of town are not unusual and we see here some braham cattle that are off to be made into tomorrow's roast beef.

Nevile Shute stayed in town for a while.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

ANTS - costly little buggers

Woke the other morning to discover there was no 240v power in the van. Went to check the pole outside, no, it's fine, back inside to look at the circuit breaker.

the old one
The circuit breaker is inside a small cupboard and when I open it I notice a couple of very small brown ants wandering around apparently lost, I mean, why would they be in here, there's no bread, no sugar and nothing else that they would like.


the new one
The circuit breaker is a nice secluded place to hide where the little brown ants can get in but nothing else can. It doesn't take many of the little buggers to mess with the internal workings of the circuit breaker. They are a sealed unit just to stop us OAPs from playing with them and so they have to be replaced. $99 and ten minutes later, I get to make my toast and coffee. Now I have to spend more money to buy some chemicals to try to keep the little buggers at bay.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Day trip to the Isa

The good thing about not having a plan or timetable, is that you can do things on the spur of the moment.

Today I did a one day trip to Mt Isa. It is only 121km from Cloncurry on a good road which is shared with a number of road trains, mostly four wagon side tippers going to and from Mt Isa.

70km west of Cloncurry is the once thriving Mary Kathleen uranium mine and today there is just a small sign showing where it is.

The whole of the mine site is now on private property and this is the view of the entrance on the Barkly Highway. I saw one section of road on the property which is out of bounds to visitors and you do have to keep an eye out for cattle. If you have a four legged companion with you, be aware that 1080 poison baits are distributed on the property.

These next three photographs are of the original township. You will see a number of caravans parked in this area, allowed by the property owner, for free camping.

 All that remains of the township are the roads and some concrete slabs, which I assume are where the car ports stood next to the houses.

(click on any photo to see a larger view)

This area is well patronized and I saw about a dozen caravans parked in here. You have to be self sufficient with your own water and power. There is more than enough room so that you don't have to be right next to another van with a generator. No fires are allowed on the property.

There is a bitumen road (lots of potholes, farmer wont have the resources to maintain it) from the entrance of the property on the highway leading back into the property and if you follow it you will find the main entrance to the township shown on the right.

Following the road back behind the photographer in the last shot for a few kilometers you will come to the end of the bitumen and barely 50 meters further on the right you will find a two wheeled track leading to the right.

A short distance later you will see these concrete structures and if you continue to the left of these you will arrive at another road at which you turn right. At the end of this road, which has been blocked by loads of big rocks to stop you driving any further, you will find some walking tracks that lead to the big pit.

It is a nice place to explore and on a future trip I will stay here and explore the rest of the property.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Ilfracombe to Cloncurry

It wasn't a pleasant start in Ilfracombe on Saturday morning. Once the inside of the van was sorted I had to go out in the rain and prepare everything and hook up the van. Just after 9am I headed off through Longreach and north to Winton 212km away.

Still wet but I stopped to have some lunch. I went to the local bakery where I saw some pies and asked for one with meat in it.
"All of our pies have meat in them" came the reply, so I had a plain one for $4.00. Back to the van and made a cup of tea to go with my meat pie. I'm guessing that there was meat attached to the gristle at some stage, but it wasn't in my pie. Disappointing, very disappointing. Fuel in Winton was $1.26 a litre.

I decided that Cloncurry was only another 361km to the north and that I should be there by 5.30pm, so once again I headed off. All of this trip I am only doing a maximum of 90km per hour and soon the southerners were passing me, obviously in a hurry to make the most of their limited time where I don't have a timetable so it doesn't matter how far I go in one day. 

About 4pm I found a large truck stop 60km south of Cloncurry S 21 01.267 (01' 16.0") E 140 56.355 (56' 21.3") and decided to stop there for the night. Being a large truck stop and having seen several road trains around I decided to park on the dirt up close to the farm fence about 30m away from the bitumen area. It was mostly hard and the few soft patches were easy to spot and avoid and it turned out to be a good choice. A refrigerated road train came in during the night and I was glad I wasn't parked next to it.

Sunday the 17th I arrive in Cloncurry where diesel fuel is $1.29 a litre and I have settled in at Wal's Camp on the south side of town. It is still overcast and drizzling at times.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Filthy day in Ilfracombe

It is 10am Friday the 15th, sitting in my van looking out the window on a miserable day. It has been raining all night and the weather radar shows that it is clearing, so is the caravan park. The rain is light now but there is a south-westerly blowing which makes it much colder than it should be.

I imagine that if you were free camping in the area last night you wont be going anywhere for a while. A little rain makes the soil soft, slippery and boggy. Out here you don't drive off the bitumen if it has been raining.

I will be leaving tomorrow morning for Winton and I hope that the rain and wind ease up a little more later today so that I can do a few things to be ready to leave in the morning. Better go make another cup of hot coffee.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Mt Morgan to Ilfracombe

I left Mt Morgan Motel and Van Park on Sunday 10th of July and traveled to Dululu and then turned north to the Capricorn Highway where I turned west to Emerald which is 273 kilometers from Mt. Morgan. I stopped in the car park of the shopping centre in Emerald, as did several other caravans, for lunch and also refueled at the Woolworths service station. There is easy access to both for caravans. Fuel, in my case diesel, is ten cents a litre cheaper ($1.15) than in Rockhampton ($1.25).

After having lunch there I traveled to Bogantungan to stay in the free camp for the night.

After I traveled 101 km from Emerald I found this sign on the highway, and from this road junction it is very short distance to the railway station and the free camp is along the side of the road outside the station. Yes, there were two trains during the night, but nothing to bother most people.

This is the scene outside the railway station which is on the right side of the photograph. There were eight caravans that stayed for the night and there are three houses on the left of the road. There is a turn around area at the end of the road to the right of the photographer.

The railway station at Bogantugan which is one kilometer west of the cemetery.

An eight o'clock start on Monday the 11th saw me heading further west towards Ilfracombe which is 299km along the Capricorn Highway from Bogantugan. On the northern side of the highway at this coordinate, S 23 39.639 (39' 38.3")  E 146 55.849 (55' 50.9") you will find the Major Mitchell cairn. Sorry I didn't record the distance from Bogantugan.

Five kilometers before Ilfracombe, S 23 30.098 (30' 05.9") E 144 33.105 (33' 06.3") there is a turnoff to the south for a large area for free camping and it seems to be well patronized. There is currently light rain falling which makes it slippery and the mud will stick to the tires. Leaving the bitumen in this part of the country can be dangerous, even in dry weather.

I am staying in the only caravan park in Ilfracombe which seems to be cheaper than those in Longreach which is only 22km further down the highway. Although there are sixty sites it is busy and during the winter months it is best to ring ahead and book a site. Even though I saw a large number of vans heading east, there are still a lot of them out here. There is a free camp at Newstead Creek 3km east of Ilfracombe which had about half a dozen vans in it when I passed. There is good phone reception for both major carriers in the area. 

On arrival at the caravan park I was handed nine pages of information on places to visit. Prices were quoted for all but as a pensioner I was a bit surprised and I think families would be more surprised. An example is the Quantas Museum. For a pensioner, a self guided tour is $23, but no planes, museum only. A 1.5 hour guided tour of museum and the 747 and 707 is $53, no wing walk, no flight deck (cockpit for those who remember) just the seats inside. After that the more you include the dearer it is. The same applies to all the other attractions in the area. Diesel fuel at the only pump in Ilfracombe is $1.35 a litre.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Caravan Repairs in the Rockhampton area

On the 3rd of December, 2015 while I was in Mt Morgan, a storm came through in the afternoon and took the awning over the top of the van and tore one of the arms out of the top of the wall of the van.

The arms of the awning were bent and this panel damage was the only other visible damage.

Because of the way the cladding is installed, ie. from the top down, you have to remove all of the paneling from the bottom up and then replace it.

You put the first length of paneling on, and staple along the bottom edge and then the next sheet is pushed up inside the grove on the bottom of the previous sheet, which hides the staples. To do this job you have to remove all of the doors and windows, lights and speakers and the track that the awning slides into (that is the black strip you see in this photo).

The dust on all of these parts shows that they were not disturbed, ie. they were not removed so that the paneling behind them could be removed so that the whole wall could be replaced.

After 21 days I got my van back and in the next photograph you can see two things (click the photo to get a better view). The white paneling across the top of the door and down to the right is different to the rest of the wall (which hasn't been touched) and there is no awning. NO AWNING, you ask. The reason is, that after 21 days when he decides to install the new awning, when he takes it out of the packing he discovers that it is damaged, presumably in transit, and it has to be sent back to Victoria and a replacement sent up to Rockhampton.

Three days later I had to take the van back to Rockhampton, because I'm staying in Mt. Morgan, to get the new awning attached. It is during this trip that I discovered that while they were working on my van the first time they had created a leak in the roof just above the door, rain water all over the floor coming in through the ceiling and dripping out of the light fixtures.

Although it can't be seen in any of the photographs, when they sealed the gap between the door frame and the paneling, they simply put a dob of sealant on their finger and painted it on, spreading it out over both surfaces; what a mess. The same mess was applied to the corner strip around the edge of the wall.

When you read the quote that was submitted by Ox Trailers for this work you will see what work was supposed to have been done compared to the little amount of work that was actually done and one can only suggest that the actual work done was by a complete novice. I could have done the work myself and in only three days and the finish would have been better. Needless to say, Ox Trailers did not adjust their quote and still claimed the full price quoted for the little work they did.

The insurances assessor took one look at the work and said NO, we are not accepting this, this is a terrible finish.

When the van was damaged, I was faced with the problem of either taking the van on a 700km round trip to Bundaberg just to get a quote or finding someone in Rockhampton to do the work. I had spoken to a couple of other repairers in Rockhampton but one well known caravan sales and repair company said that they didn't do this type of work and another company I approached on Gladstone Road had stories circulating that they had left Mackay because they couldn't pay their bills and they also said that they wouldn't deal with insurance companies.

Now I have made the round trip to Takalvans in Bundaberg, and Best Caravan Repairs in Pialba, to get new quotes to submit to Suncorp, who have been very good about the whole fiasco.

On the 9th of May I took the van to Takalvans in Bundaberg and on the 13th of May I picked it up at lunch time, all done. A professional job well done.

Now, about oxtrailers, I would suggest that you don't go near them. 

The owner of the business is Paul Downing and he does not answer the phone during work hours. You are asked to leave a number and he calls you back after 6pm.

If you go to his workshop you will notice a number of jobs there that have obviously been there for some time judging by the amount of dust on them.

If you are in need of caravan repairs in the Rockhampton area, head south, Bundaberg, Maryborough and Brisbane. Best Caravan Repairs in Pialba was recommended but they do have a lengthy waiting period.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Tough frog

Five nights ago I stepped out of the van and felt something squishy under my foot. I started cussing; how could something like that be up on the step leading into the van ?

I lifted my foot and there was this flattened green thing, something akin to one of those green frogs you get in a bag of sweets. My 94kgs squashed a lot of fluid out of him.

Poor little bugger. I bent down and put my finger under his chin, he sat up and hopped away. I didn't see him the next night, but he has been here every night since, and always on the step.

One lucky little frog.
During the day he was hiding under a 20lt water canister.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Oaks Beach

Now staying at Oaks Beach Caravan Park, Burnett Heads, waiting for repairs to the van to be done.

 This was the sunset yesterday

Saturday, February 6, 2016

At the Silver Wattle Caravan Park

I arrived back at the Silver Wattle caravan park on the 29th September, 2015, when I couldn't get a spot in the free site in Emerald at two o'clock in the afternoon. It was 8pm when I arrived and although I was apprehensive about the timing, I was assured by Margaret that it wasn't a problem.

On the 3rd of December there was a brief but strong afternoon storm which folded my awning up over the top of the van and ripped a small section out of the top of the wall.

This along with the two bent arms that hold the awning up was the extent of the damage. But given the way the cladding on the walls is installed, it all has to be removed and replaced, about ten days work which should be done in the next fortnight. Thank heavens for insurance, I couldn't afford this out of the pocket.

Although the Silver Wattle guard dog, Beau, was present at the time as she is now, she was no help at all. She can't hang onto the guy ropes and she can't type.

A ferocious guard dog with the killer instinct who has been gainfully employed of late exterminating some of the vermin, but not all of them.

Really just a pussy cat who enjoys sausage and cheese followed by a banana smoothie for lunch.

The weather here at the moment is hot, 35 to 37 most days, and very humid. Thunderstorms most afternoons with some spectacular light shows after dark and a lot of rain.

 This is Sarah, manager of the Silver Wattle Caravan Park in Mount Morgan.

There are motel rooms, cabins for singles up to families of 5 and powered and unpowered sites for vans and tents. But don't cook or eat food prepared in the camp kitchen, there are good reasons not to and you probably don't want to know.

The Mt. Morgan Motel and Van Park down the road is thirty percent cheaper, and yes they do have some permanents, but surprisingly they are not a problem, no fowl language and no pestering other travelers for anything. The only time I have heard fowl language, was from the drunken permanent at the silver wattle, and in front of children.

The silver wattle caravan park is now up for sale for $1,150,000 on one site and $1,160,000 on another. That was 19/7/2016 and I was told it was no longer for sale, BUT, both for sale signs are still active 25/5/2017

Monday, February 1, 2016

Water Pressure

In my van I have a pressure / flow rate regulator valve of the brass variety and the pressure, or should I say the flow rate inside the van has always been very poor, ie. wait for ages to fill a bottle. I had a look on the net for any mention of this problem and someone mentioned that the easy fix was the spring (C) inside the valve.

When you dismantle the valve, you only need the take parts (A) and (E) apart and then remove the spring (C). In the photo I have expanded all the parts so that the viewer can understand the way it works.

When the pressure in the van increases, it pushes the plunger (D) compressing the spring (C) back into the regulator part (B). It is a little hard to see, but part (B) has some small holes around the middle where the water entering the device through (A) continues to the inside of (B, C and D) and exits through (E). The pressure inside the van forces the black tip of (D) back inside (B) and thus closing the holes in (B) and thus reducing the amount of water able to flow through device.

The only thing you need to do is to stretch the spring (C). It is a tough little bugger and it took all of my strength to stretch it just an eighth of an inch or 3 millimeters. The holes in (B) aren't much bigger, so it would be pointless to stretch the spring (C) any more than that.

Reassemble the device being careful not to damage the 'O' rings. The pressure in my van now is such that I can easily wash all of the soap off me in an instant.