Saturday, 7 May 2011

May 6 Longreach to Cloncurry via Winton

Departing Longreach by 9 am we tracked over more desolate flat country to Winton – the home of Waltzing Matilda. Arriving at the aerodrome we saw crosses on the main strip as workers were building a new taxi/parking area. Luckily the wind favoured the cross dirt strip 14 and we landed on that about 10 am.

In the little terminal we couldn’t find any info on a taxi so called the Waltzing Matilda Centre to be told that there wasn’t a taxi in town! So they sent a car and drive to collect us. He took us on a cooks tour of the town explaining many and varied buildings as h
e went.

Back at the WM centre we entered to find room upon room of interesting displays, a life like video show of the poem with life size diaorama. Another room held numerous versions of the WM song sung in opera style to country. Outside were railway carriages, historic artifacts from tools to dentistry, clothes to kitchenware. It was a vast array of well details items and well set out.

We wandered up and down the one main street of Winton, me staring longingly at the opal earrings and necklaces, Kevin enjoyed the historic pubs and wide streets.

We enjoyed an afternoon tea – I with scone, jam and cream and Kev enjoyed his meat pie and coffee. Back at the centre they arranged for us to return to the plane which we did by 1.30ish.

Back on board we departed about 2pm setting our track for Cloncurry. Our GPS was playing up in that it turned itself off every 2 minutes and did not seem to be charging. However the road is easy to follow and we tracked for Mckinlay a small town which holds the Walkabout Hotel pub that was used in the Crocodile Dundee movies. We over flew the town and conti
nued on down the road. The country turned from flat brown nothing (again) to hillocky stuff with flat topped mesas.

Finally arriving at Cloncurry at 3.30 we landed (still no GPS) and taxied around looking for a suitable place to camp. A friendly mob from the CAM (Cloncurry Aerial Muster) company invited us in for a beer and chat about the town. We decided it wasn’t necessary to go into town so set up our camp. Quite a few of the chopper pilots came to look at the plane and were very friendly and helpful.

We got everything set up by nightfall and even had an electric cable left out by the CAM guys so we could charge the GPS. (What lovely people). An easy dinner of cheese, gherk
in and salmon (yeeha no cooking) and we sat around in the dark enjoying quite a few scotches.

Tomorrow Mt Isa…..

May 5 - Day in Longreach

First on today’s agenda was to cook eggs and bacon for breakfast then walk to the Longreach Hall of Fame.

Lining the driveway was a limestone wall upon which plaques of winners and riders of the L Stockman’s Endurance ride from the 1970s to 1990’s. I was impressed with all of the riders who actually took part in this wonderful horse event.

Entering into the spectacularly proudly structured designed H of F we were immediately impressed with the vastness of the building and its levels. The high quality displays were on all aspects of the pastoral industry and the stockman’s way of life.
First on today’s agenda was to cook eggs and bacon for breakfast then walk to the Longreach Hall of Fame.

Lining the driveway was a limestone wall upon which plaques of winners and riders of the L Stockman’s Endurance ride from the 1970s to 1990’s. I was impressed with all of the riders who actually took part in this wonderful horse event.

Entering into the spectacularly proudly structured designed H of F we were immediately impressed with the vastness of the building and its levels. The high quality displays were on all aspects of the pastoral industry and the stockman’s way of life.

We spent an hour looking around and were then called to see the Outback Show. The one man (Neil) event commenced with him riding his paint mare bareback and bridle-less around the yard. Along the way he lost his hat and when finished the mare walked over and picked it up for him. He then straddled her backward and sang us a song whilst he played his guitar. A few tricks were performed by the mare for him – one being to jump a chair on his command. Another horse played games whilst he saddled him and when saddled, the gelding layed down so he couldn’t mount. Another show member was his dog Tina – a kelpie who brought 8 sheep in from the paddock and yarded them. Following that was an introduction to his camel. Then the finale was a team of 8 bullocks who walked into the yard and immediately took their positions in pairs around the fence. Neil told us a long yarn as he yoked up the bullocks and then proceeded to drive them outside the arena, connect up a log, drag it back in and alongside a dray. He then rearranged the chains and the bullocks pulled the log onto the dray. That was how it was done in the early pioneer days of Australia. Very impressive and a great show.

Finishing all the levels at the S H of F, we walked back toward town and attempted to see Banjo’s shearing show, however the show was not on due to the owner’s ill health.

Catching a taxi into town we (I) wanted to see the Station Store – a beaut early days set out- with gifts and trinkets galore. We enjoyed coffee and cheese cake out the back in their café when the 4 horse Stage Coach pulled in from their ride of the day. The horses had obviously had a good gallop and were all sweaty and steaming. The driver advised that the horses do 2 x 16km runs per day every day for 7 months of the year. They get very fit and obviously were very well cared for. The company actually does 6 runs per day – a very lucrative tourism business.

Back at the Caravan Park, we showered, dressed and prepared for the evening event. A paddle steamer river boat cruise followed by a camp fire dinner. Collected by the coach at 4.30 and with the bus almost full we arrived at the Thomson River by about 5pm to be greeted by the paddle boat Captain, Graeme and his crew Jeremy. A quick briefing and we were aboard the Thomson Belle and chugging (and paddling) down the river. The boat actually runs from a diesel engine and the steam engine room is just for display. This was obvious by the sound of the engine. The river is murky brown – but apparently quite clean because there is no P in it (he he) and is about 20m wide. We saw turtles popping their heads out of the water as we departed.Down the river for 10 kms whilst enjoying biscuits, cheese, dips and crudités, we turned around and headed back for the sunset. And what a sunset we were given! The darkness almost closed in when the most brilliant purples and reds filled the sky. Just superb.

Back at the mooring we sat ourselves in the camp site with the fire roaring and the billy on the stones. Our hosts were Neil (the bus driver, come cook & chief bottle washer) Jeremy – ships crew then waiter and Scotty – waiter and joke/yarn teller. Firstly we were served with good Irish stew with bread followed by apple pie with custard and cream. Then the finale was the damper with cocky’s joy (golden syrup) with billy tea served in stainless steel mugs.

The jokes and stories were superbly told by Scotty and we all laughed til there were no more jokes. It was such a great experience and all finished by about 9am – a very reasonable bed time

May 4 Charters Towers to Longreach

We miss you so much little man. 

Oh! What a night.  Kevin’s mattress went flat, we shivered with cold, seemed to be awake more often than asleep but otherwise a great night for camping.  (he he)

Kevin dragged me out of my semi stupor with his crashing around to boil the billy.  A lovely cup of tea was the result which I enjoyed partially – only partially because my cup split and most of it dripped onto the ground.  What else? We said.

With a repair to the mattress complete, tent and all luggage packed away, we chatted to the locals who had come to see us off, (“Aviation Tragics” they called themselves), whilst a Cessna Caravan stopped by to collect 2 passengers.

We departed at 8.45am in the still calm morning air.  Turning back for a low pass over the friendly locals we set our track for 200 degrees over 230 nm of nothing. Although cloud was to the ground to our right ahead lay clear conditions and smooth air. 

The miles of green nothing with numerous river courses and white cattle seen from above changed to miles of more open country brown nothing with brown rivers.

Finally arriving at Longreach after 2 hours and 15 minutes before us lay the 2 km long runway with Qantas Jumbo clearly evident.  The small town lay off  to the south west of the airfield.

We refueled, parked and tied her down before deciding to look at the Qantas Aviation Museum which is adjacent to the airfield.  Walking through the RPT terminal we entered a large domed building which was completed in recent years.  The main room of this museum held a number of exhibits with video footage of people speaking about the historical early pioneers of Qantas.  There were a few of the original aircraft used by Qantas as well as engines and personal artifacts – all very interesting.  Kevin took the guided tour of the 747 and 707 aircraft on the other side of the terminal and this took almost 2 hours. During the tour he climbed into the captain’s seat of the 747 and collided with switches above his head and took quite a large piece of skin off!  I meanwhile spent my time in the museum then the coffee shop reading all about Longreach.

We then lugged our gear to the Discovery Caravan Park and gladly fell into our cabin for a refreshing shower and regroup.

It was too late to book tours etc so we walked in the town centre about 1.5km (amazing for Kev) and browsed around the shop fronts.  After purchasing some supplies we caught a taxi back to the CP and Kev went onto the airport to collect some forgotten items.  Walking back from the airport in the dark Kev walked into a cut tree branch and gouged a 3 cm chunk out of his bicep!

We phoned Nikki and Sarah before they went out to celebrate Bailey’s birthday. Bailey wouldn’t talk to us. L
An easy dinner and restful evening was necessary prior to a good nights sleep.

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

May 3 Tuesday Townsville to Charters Towers

We have camped on the airport at Charters Towers.  The sun has gone down.  It is sooo peaceful except for the crickets chirruping loudly.  It’s about 20 degrees, 7.00pm and we’ve finished eating dinner by the light of the CT arrivals/departures room (ha ha).  I’ve watched an owl catching dinner by another light pole – his silent flying entrancing me.  Our only spectator is the green frog on the stairs and the geckos catching bugs.  How special is this?

Filling in today’s activities.

We enjoyed our simple breakfast in the CP unit before packing all the gear back into the rented Getz.  Such a zippy little car – and very economical too – only used $5.00 worth of fuel for all our running around.

Our first port of call was the Marine HQ – an indoor aquarium facility with numerous small displays and huge underwater tunnel.  They showed movies of marine life, talks and demonstrations with a scuba diver in the tank explaining all the inhabitants and their daily life.  They had volunteers at many places offering presentations on all marine life in northern Queensland.  We were able to touch 4 month old carpet sharks, shovel nose and starfish.  I also had my nails cleaned by ‘cleaner’ shrimps who tickled my fingers as they climbed around and over every crevise. 

 They rehabilitate injured and/or sick turtles and had 11 in their hospital at this time.

Due to time constraints, we moved onto the Museum which had their main display as the ship, Pandora which had struck rocks and sunk in 1771. (Before Captain Cook!)  The extent of the artifacts found as well as the history of it’s voyage was very in depth.  We thoroughly enjoyed the variety of displays as well as the replica Pandora itself.  The museum also had a floor of interactive activities for children and an extensive coral/ marine exhibit. 

The area surrounding Townsville has also revealed dinosaur and other pre-historic creatures which were on display at the Museum.  Very much worth the visit.

We enjoyed a quick lunch by the beach before returning the Getz to Meteor where one of their employees kindly ran us back to the airport. 

Airborne by 3.05pm we climbed over 3,500 foot ranges on our way to Charters Towers 65 miles to the south west.  Slipping into the CT circuit area only 35 minutes later we had a lovely approach onto runway 24 with the panorama of the town before us.

The fuel man, Denis Meaghan met us and after fuelling up, offered us “the pilots car” for a drive through town and on up to the local look out at sunset.

A beautiful town, with numerous early 19th century buildings lining the main street, was very impressive with its character and historic value from the gold rush days.  Overlooking the town from the lookout at sunset was extremely peaceful and we were able to closely observe a rock wallaby sitting comfortably close by on rocks.

So glad we took the time to check this place out – and a complete surprise from what we both expected of Charters Towers.  Most Impressed.

Back to the airport as darkness set in we established our camp with tea made up of noodles, beans, meat balls, scotch and pineapple juice.  Man, how life is fantastic!

The peace and tranquility of the airport is beautiful and we look forward to another wonderful day of our trip tomorrow - to Longreach 230 nautical miles to the south west!

May 2 Airlie Beach to Townsville

We enjoyed our last breakfast at “Paradise Found” with Margaret and Alan prior to lugging all extra luggage (left here days prior) and the entire usual bags down to the car.  Margaret had given us fresh bread, boiled eggs and tomatoes to make lunch as well as filling our water bottle with fresh rain water (YUM).  We were very well prepared for the day.  We couldn’t express our thanks enough for their hospitality and we hope we can repay them when they next travel to WA.

Avenger & Mini Pitts nose to nose
Arriving at the Whitsunday airport we saw the Grummen Avenger and Pitts Special mini parked nose-to-nose having a conversation.  A few aeroplanes were still to depart and there was parachutists dropping as well as a chipmunk completing joy local rides.

After re-fuelling the Stinson and loading the equipment we were finally prepared for departure.  The entire journey was to only take 65 minutes.  A Nanchang, the Avenger and Pitts all gave us quite a show as they departed.  It was almost as good as the previous day’s airshow.

Lifting off the curved runway we climbed out over the bay showing more still and clearer waters than the previous day.  It would have been lovely to snorkel again.  Circling back around in front of the beach and town we took photos of the lovely sight.  Turning north up the coast we said goodbye to lovely Airlie and the Jarretts.

The short flight ended with the vast sight of Townsville and its airport.  It’s a military base as well as having a population of 165,000.  Requesting runway 07 due to a 10+ knot crosswind on duty runway 01, we landed easily, taxied to the GA area and were very quickly shown a place to park.

After some mucking around we found ourselves a hire car from Meteor Rentals – a beaut little yellow Getz and booked ourselves into a cabin at the Coral Coast Caravan Park.

We took a drive along the city foreshore with all its restaurants spilling onto the walkways and saw 100’s of people walking.  We also watched children in a spectacular water playground which had many varieties of wet fun. 
Townsville lookout
 Following our map we wound our way to the lookout mountain.  The road was almost impassable due to the 100’s of joggers going up to the top.  It was obviously a very popular walk/jog track.  At the top the views were stunning in 360 degrees.

As the sun set we headed back to the CP and fell asleep immediately after dinner.

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

May 1 Whitsunday Air Show

A later start with a sleep in was lovely before a cooked breakfast (getting bad habits) and then the trip to Airlie.  The only access to the airshow was via buses as there was no parking nearby.  Unfortunately we waited nearly 45 minutes to get on the bus and missed the first item on the programme which was the Roulettes. 


We arrived at our Stinson to find the wing shade fully taken up by spectators but we squeezed our way in and opened up the doors to enable people to look inside. 

Just after settling down we watched the Pitts aerobatics performance, Grummen Avenger display and many others.

The aerial action was quite regular and interesting and the weather superb.

Grumman Avenger

Avenger folded with stilt walker in foreground

Viewing from under the wings

Geoffrey Ruddle's helicopter

We left Kevin in charge of the plan and returned home to a light lunch and then a lovely walk around the garden.  It is far more extensive than I thought.

Lots of pathways, rock walls, a creek flowing to a lovely pond covered in water lilies, 100 year old mango trees and huge spreading rain tree gave me plenty to see and admire on the way round.  The property had been originally a farm so it had lots of history.

Shortly after Kev phoned to say it was all over and he was ready to be collected.  Arriving at the airport we went inside for a while to listen to a superb singer who had been employed to perform for the crown.  She was very talented and entertaining and we enjoyed ourselves immensely whilst sipping on a L L & B.

The cool of the afternoon was spend out here on the verandah finishing the blog updates and watching aeroplanes doing aerobatics over the bay.  Birds called in the background whilst geckos chirruped occasionally around the walls.

Tomorrows plans were made dependant upon what was open as it was another public holiday.

Sunday, 1 May 2011

April 30 Whitsunday Cruise and snorkeling trip

We had booked on the Whitsunday Xpress to have a full day cruise around the islands with a bbq lunch included.

Collected by their bus from the local Centro shopping centre by 8.40am we were on our way with a bunch of 20 year old guys.  We thought we would be the “grandies” of the trip but luckily for us another couple got on at another stop.

At the marina we were quickly ushered down to the boat to join the remainder of the 40 people booked on the day trip.
Heading off on our boat trip

The 45’ boat was quite tightly packed and we found seating near a young English/Scottish girl named Nicolla traveling with a Swedish lass named Vikki.  The other companions seated nearby were from Newman in WA.  What a small world?

Bush walk to lookout
The ships crew was very welcoming and quite entertaining, Scotty and Rick being the deckhands and captain Chris.
Our first stop was Tongue Bay where we walked up a 1km steep track to Hill Inlet Lookout where we walked 1 km up a steep path to a beautiful area which showed most of the inlet, Whitehaven Beach, and the close islands.

We were given morning tea prior to the next leg of our cruise which was to Whitehaven Beach for relaxing and the BBQ lunch.  Many of the participants chose to swim to shore whereas the remainder of us took the rubber dinghy.  On the beautiful white sand, we laid our towels and simply soaked up the sun.  Whilst we weren’t looking about 5 other tourist boats, catamarans and even a plane on floats arrived with their discharge of tourists.

Enjoying Whitehaven Beach

Perenti joining us for lunch
Lunch was served up at the bbq site, cooked to perfection by our Skipper -  with either steak, rissole, sausages and onion with a lovely choice of fresh salad and fruit.

Several perenti lizards joined our tables for scraps and had some members of our group totally scared and trained to lift their legs from the ground so they could scavenge scraps.

Sand art on Whitehaven
Kev and I walked up the beach (mainly to view the seaplane) then turned around and walked back to the rock end.  The volcanic rock had set in the formations of either squares where it thickly rolled to the edge or rough plashed shapes where it had set when it hit the surf.

At about 2pm the time was time to return to the boat and I decided to swim back whilst Kevin caught the dinghy with our gear.  Nicolla wanted to swim also and was not very confident so I stayed with her all the way back.

The water was very warm and the swim very easy especially as Alan and Margaret had loaned us short wetsuits to help keep us warm.  Back on board we moved on past multiple eagles’ eerie where Scotty threw sausages for them and they caught and dived for their lunch.

Sea Eagle preparing to dive

We moored at Pinnacle Bay for our snorkel.  Geared up and ready Kevin and I jumped in quickly and swam to the shallower water where visibility was better.

Unfortunately the vis. was not very good and the coral rather bland but the fish life was very varied and abundant.  We swam in all directions to view the best of all the bommies and ledges and corals. Underwater photos were taken with a cheap throwaway camera.  When finished I will publish the photos (if they are any good).

Back to the boat we boat we floated about in the water until most of the snorkellers had returned.  Those who did not swim had been showed the reef and fish through the glass bottomed dinghy.  Everyone agreed that the day had been action packed and very full, the crew great fun and weather superb.

We exchanged addresses with Nicola and Nikki then caught the bus home.

Dinner prepared by Margaret was superb almond chicken, rice and stir fried veggies followed by lemon meringue pie and/or fruit salad.  Yum Yum

April 29 Lakeside to Shute Harbour Airlie Beach

A change of plans saw us up early, packed and ready to depart for Shute Harbour.  The weather was becoming clearer and we wanted to play tourist and wander Airlie for some time alone.

Once again Garry cooked a beautiful breakfast of chops, eggs, tomato and bacon.  Kevin is regaining his pre holiday weight loss.

Airlie Beach and Bay
Upon giving our thanks for their wonderful hospitality we taxied to the southern end of the strip. It had a slight downhill gradient and we also had a tailwind which is not an ideal situation for departure.  However the conditions (hills and trees) did not allow us to take off into wind.  We chased 3 large juvenile brolgas off the strip because we did not want to hit any of them on takeoff.  I was quite nervous at the tailwind departure but Lady Bird did us proud and was off the ground within 350 metres. (Whew!)

Tracking to the north and then coastal under a 3,000 ft cloud base we could see the start of the Whitsunday/Cumberland group of islands.  It was partly cloudy but the views were magnificent anyway.

Winding serpentine river to the ocean

Once again serpentine rivers wound their way to the estuary or coast where they pushed silted mud coloured water into the ocean. 

It wasn’t long before we were setting ourselves up in the approach pattern to Shute Harbour airstrip.  The approach has to be curvy to avoid a hill, then you sink into the valley whereupon the wind gusts throw the plane about before you even arrive at the threshold.  Just on short final the cross wind component swung to about 10 degrees from the right.  I was hanging on tight and mentioned the cross wind and reminded Kev that Geoff (airport owner) had suggested we land well into the runway.  Kev did hold off a bit longer where the cross wind dropped off and we landed safely onto the tarmac.  (Whew!!! Again)

We tied her down, enjoyed a coffee at the café then caught a lift into town.  We spent quite a few hours playing terrorist (tourist) around the shops, buying myself a lovely skirt and a few other trinkets. We dined on fish and chips with salad (bit healthy?), enjoyed a lovely ice-cream and generally hung about at the man made lagoon (only safe swimming place at Airlie) until we had enough.

Here's your postcard from Whitsunday's everyone! Enjoy - love from the Baileys

We phoned our hosts Alan and Margaret Jarrett (Sam’s parents) who kindly collected us and took us back to their property. “Paradise Found” I call it.  It is the most magnificent timber house with bifolding doors onto large verandah decks. Our room with King size bed had its own ensuite with bath and our own access to the deck. No neighbours can see into or build over the property and the vast exotic gardens cover the 5 acre property.  Out the back is a pool with a rock wall including a waterfall.  {Oh, How I hate slumming it – but someone has to} he he.
Alan & Margaret enjoying a taxi in the Stinson

Prior to home Alan took us for a drive up to the high points overlooking Shute Harbour itself.  The views were magnificent – however the local café was shut.

Stinson Reliant SR8C VH-UXL

Stinson Reliant SR8C VH-UXL
over Perth city (Photo: Greg Hill)

About Us

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Flying farming couple who live on 135 acres. Kev is obsessed by aeroplanes. Vicki is devoted to horses and White Swiss Shepherds.