Moura free camp

The road here from Rolleston was probably the roughest Qld bitumen road we've encountered so far on any of our trips. We spent last night at the Dawson River Rest Area. It is a lovely spot on the banks of the river.

The rest stop is beside the highway but far enough away from the highway for its traffic not to be a problem. The town of Moura, Queensland is 7 kms away.

There's heaps of room, nicely mown grass, hot showers, toilets and even free firewood delivered by a ranger. There is an honesty box for donations.

While maybe you'd like to catch a Barramundi which are apparently kept stocked in the river, as we've said before, we are not really fishermen.

Bus woes 

While we were looking for a spot to camp, we noticed some serious noise coming from our gears, they were slipping. This is so serious that Rob has to investigate.

You can see the stretched chain here - it should be hanging like that!

Though there are problems to be expected from an old bus, we certainly didn't expect to have problems with our gear chain as that was fully replaced with brand new ones that we had to have made for us in America just 14,000km ago. The bad news is that the chain has stretched. Rob doesn't want to move on until he can do something. He decides to make a run to Bundaberg and pick up a nylon block or two to do a temporary fix.

Lake Elphinstone

Lake Elphinstone is approximately 90k west of Mackay. We arrived after experiencing some rather bouncy rough roads and lots of cattle grids.

The Lake Elphinstone free camping area has flushing toilets, showers, tables, chairs and a few electric BBQs. There is no potable water so make sure you have topped up before coming here.

We woke to drizzly rain and strong winds. The lake is home to many species of ducks and geese. Red claw is to be found here but we had no success during our time here. Maybe it had been farmed out. Someone advised us that you had to drive around to the other side to have some success. We didn't deem it worthwhile. It is also apparently good for fishing but we are not really fishermen.

We didn't do much in the three days we stayed here but that's fine. We enjoyed the quiet times and I enjoyed my crafting times. It is a nice relaxing sort of place and I would happily come back again and again.

Witnessing a cane farm burn

Greg the owner of the working sugar farm where we are staying at, invited us all to witness a cane farm burn. We took it up and it is a fabulous experience.  WOW!!!! Let me cut to the chase: It was super awesome. LOL

Being up close to the sound and fury of a cane fire in full roar is like nothing else you could experience without being engulfed in a real bushfire. It all happens relatively quickly From the first fire lit to the end takes maybe no more than 10 minutes, which adds to the excitement as well as the danger.

Now the details: 

Apparently the Burdekin region is the only cane growing region in Queensland that still burns all of it's cane before harvesting it. I am not going to get drawn into the environmental debate here.  But here is some of the info I garnered:

The farmers have stuck with burning for practical reasons: There are many varieties of cane and the cane they grow here is thicker and taller than average. This variety copes better with the abundance of water in the region but it also makes the cane too leafy to cut when it is weighed down by more leafy growth which is of no value. Apparently the Burdekin crops are murder on mechanical harvesters which is why the Burdekin region still burns their sugarcane before harvesting.  A side note: you can see a selection of the different varieties of sugar cane at Ingham's Tyko Wetlands. 

The fires are lit from June to December. The farmers take a lot of things into consideration including waiting until dusk when the temperatures and winds have dropped.

The farmers work together like a co-op. There's fire engines present to help ensure safety. Constant monitoring of the wind direction. The farmers form a mini co-op sort of thing, helping each other out in turn. Preparations are meticulous. First, the farmer would plough a 5m corridor in the cane to make a fire break with a tractor.

A drip torch is carried along the break they've cut through the dry cane. Flames dance into the darkening sky, in almost no time at all it towers over the two men and soon the cane itself. Shortly the whole paddock is engulfed.  Safety is their number one concern ensuring the person who's back-burning doesn’t get too far ahead of the others in case the wind does change. This cane is tough stuff. Someone cuts off a piece for us to taste. I missed that opportunity. The area relies on flood irrigation and is crisscrossed by water channels and furrows that would be choked if cane trash were left on the ground.

In no time at all the whole experience is over and done with. I was probably just 10 minutes all up from the first lighting of the cane to the end. I am guessing it was a paddock of 300m square (I forgot to ask that question!)  It is so exciting that the quick end is almost anti-climatic. It is something I will remember for the rest of my life.

If you have the opportunity to witness one, take it as obviously it will end up being closed down on environmental as well as safety issues one  day.

Buredekin Cane Farm Stay

Just out from Ayr or an hour south of Townsville, our friends Steve and Lorraine had been camping here at Burdekin Cane Farm for weeks and weeks so we just had to catch up with them and find out for ourselves what was it here that kept them glued to this spot! Of course we love their company and so off we went.

It is a lovely spot right alongside Sheep Station Creek under the mango trees, and the owners supply and campfire wood for the daily happy hour too! Apparently you can even throw a line in the creek too, not sure what if anything you'd catch! ;) We certainly had the chance to sit back and relax alongside Steve and Lorraine.

An opportunity to witness a cane burn off.

This is truly a working cane farm and soon Greg the owner gives us the opportunity to  witness a cane burn up close if we want to go. and boy do I want to see this. That experience is so fantastic it gets a post all of its own.

Fletcher's Creek

This is a free campground is 45 km north of Charters Towers and is on the banks of the Fletcher Creek, suitable for caravans.

Part of the free camp looking across the creek.
All set for relaxing and some crafts
It is a very large camping area on both sides of the road with toilets on just one side. This campsite is near a river or creek that has some swimming holes.

Beaut riverside walks
On our first morning we slept in as it was a particularly long day the day before and this was a great opportunity to catch up on some sleep. Our time here is mostly one of relaxing and recharging our energy levels. We were blessed with warm to hot days though the evening got cook about 4am each day.

Beaut days but very cool first thing in the mornings
We found that some friends, Ken & Wendy were camped on the other side of the road. We caught up with them on one of our big walks up and down the river.

Following the shade to do my crafts
While you are here, make time to visit Charters Towers. We did on our last trip through this area when we were camped at the Macrossan free camp.

Part of the old bridge

Riverside flowers abound. I counted over 10 flowering species.

Chillagoe to Herberton

During our week long stay with friends, Joan & Ernie at Atherton,  we took a day trip out to Chillagoe. (Joan and Ernie are the lovely people who kidnapped us years ago and we went back and volunteered to be kidnapped again LOL)

The drive from Atherton is some 150km of mostly sealed road with about 30km of it dirt road.  The drive is unspectacular but we enjoyed each other's company and the drive itself.

We had a pub lunch, then went along to the almost instinctive visit to the Info Centre where we were advised to visit the Balancing Rock and nearby Smelter works. We opted out of a visit to the Chillagoe Caves due to Rob's health.

Balancing Rock

The walk around Balancing Rook was lovely and relatively easy though there were a few steps which rob had to take easy. The views are wonderful.

Smelter Works

The smelters are a part of the local history from 1901 to 1943 at least, though there was some nearby mining of marble going on. There are lots of informative signs explaining the various parts of the operation.

We also decided that a different route back would be interesting. We took a route back to Herberton through some 70km of dirt road.

Lots of little anthills along the way.
 I loved the relatively new mural on the side of a shop in Herberton.

We have been to Herberton before and I can certainly recommend the Spy Camera Shop. Click on the link to read about it from our previous visit.

We were soon back home after this. It was all in all a lovely but full day's outing but so worth it.

Christmas In July CMCA Rally, Mareeba

 Rob & I have have gone to the Dam Fine Rally in Townsville and now the Christmas in July one at Mareeba even though we didn't really appreciate our first CMCA rally.

Happy Hour at the Wanderer's 'site' That's our motorhome centre back!

Because we came in with Leigh & Wil and a few others from the Mareeba Bush Stays,  we were able to camp adjacent to them in a general area that had quite a few Highway Wanderers. This made it easy to join in the general friendliness of our neighbouring Highway Wanderers. We had to be careful not to forget to talk to people not in the HW so that we don't come across as being exclusive or cliquey.  I am not game to mention many in case I forget someone, but I do want to especially mention Chris who shared a stall with me at Market Day.

The rally flowed rather well.  I am still amazed that with the 300 or so RVs on site,  and many of these making use of the free hot water showers, that they never ran of of hot water, ever. I didn't hear of one incidence. Amazing! The volunteers also did a  great job keep the toilet blocks and the grounds lovely and clean.

Light entertainment, disc bowls, morning teas, happy hours were held as normal. There was a Christmas craft table running with felt poinsettias and pine cone crafts being the main craft being taught. There was supposed to be a craft/sewing table set aside, but I turned up and the appointed 'starting' time and no one came and so I joined the Christmas table. I tried again the next day but it took a couple of hours before 2 ladies turned up. I didn't try anymore after that. I am happy to craft on my own.

One of our row of tables at the Christmas dinner. Rob is there centre left.

Christmas in July Dinner

Leigh did a great job co-ordinating the table decorations for the Highway Wanderers even though there weren't prizes for the best looking tables, I am sure we would have won if there was.

Dinner was plentiful
There was however a competition for the best head dress/hat for the night. It was fun to join in this. I didn't win with my snowman hat, but the fella that did win did a fabulous job with his hat which was a wine bottle and wine glasses around the brim all done up with tinsel.

Leslie wearing my hat and I wearing someone else's hat hamming it up.
The winning hat!
There was a lot of fun generated at our tables and then later on a band with dance music.

Dancing on the lawn

Market Day

A beautiful Sunday here got off to a fabulous start with a rousing church service. I then set up a table at the markets run here at the Christmas in July CMCA rally at Mareeba. I got to have my 2nd ever doll stall and sold a few dolls and dogs as  well ashave the opportunity to talk about the cahrity, Without a Ribbon and rare cancers. There was a demonstration of  whip cracking  which was just specatular. I also enjoyed looking at the other handcrafts on display and for sale as well as sampling some of the food stalls.

My small market table together with my hat which I wore most of the day!

All in all,  we had a relaxing time chatting to friends and crafting. I basically accept that I can not join in a lot of the activities due to my deafness, which is a bit sad, but a fact of life. Still joining in with friends certainly makes up for it. We had a ball.

We have really enjoyed our time at the Christmas in July rally held at Mareeba.
Now it is time to move on again.