By Phil Jones
Recently, Garth Morrison the moderator of the GoSee forum was chatting to me about the delights of travelling this wonderful country or ours, and asked me to supply a regular 'blog' of our July-2009 tour, describing the 'what-where & when' and even to include some of the 'unplanned or unexpected' that besets us travellers from time to time.
So here goes with some background first...
I have been running Tag-Along-Tours for 3-4 years in the eastern half of Australia. Tours are aimed at caravanners and campervanners, couples and solos, experienced or novice does not matter.
We stay in caravan parks 1/2 to 2/3 the time and independent camping locations the rest of the time.
Tours have up to 10 vehicles maximum, but usually have 4-6 in the group.
In planning all my tours, I get out the maps, then with some typists white paint, delete the big red lines and select the travel route from the little red lines that are left behind.
In doing so, we traverse many wonderful back roads, passing through farming communities and seeing lots of the real Australia. None of our tours are over bumpy 4wd roads although an occasional gravel road may be encountered. Each day has about 4 hours of driving and covers between 150km and 250km. Nice and easy.
This tour, a 21-day job called the Queensland Explorer, goes from Moreton Bay in Brisbane to the Coral Sea at Cairns, and along the way traverses much of Queensland's spectacular mountainous scenery and agricultural farmlands, some of its wonderful northern-Queensland coastal shoreline, and the Atherton Tablelands as well.
On this tour there are 4 vehicles ~ myself, Phil Jones with my partner, copilot and navigator, Alayne Russell; also we have Allen Suzanne Driver from W.A. (they are going round the block); Neill Roberta Lawson from southern Qld and Bill and Helen Nesbitt from central NSW.
I also had a Sydney couple booked in as well, but at the last minute a medical issue arose and changed their plans ~ something that with us grey nomads becomes an all too often reality affecting our travels.
We joined as a group at Wellington Point in Brisbane's south-eastern area at 8am on the 1st of July. The fishermen were out in their small boats, others were fishing from the jetty, a few power-walkers were striding past getting the day's exercises done before going to the office I remember those days!
We had been greeted by a magnificent sunrise, bright colours and beaut reflections off the gentle waves.
Having appointed our tail-end-charlie for the day, we started our journey through Brisbane's southern suburbs and down to Beaudesert for a 90-minute lunch break and explore of the town. Leaving Beaudesert we went westwards towards Coulson and Boonah, aiming for the visually spectacular Macpherson Ranges and Mt Barney area.
We traversed excellent roads, no problems at all there; had some photo stops and made our way around to Rathdowney and Woodenbong.
From here the road follows the foothills and becomes a bit windy and the surface is a bit bumpy, best speed was about 60kmh, but we continued until the turn off to Queen Mary Falls National Park and our day-1 destination, the Queen Mary Falls caravan park.
Our hosts, Dianne and Paul are a 10 out of 10 couple, could not do enough for us to ensure a good time was had. Information about short and medium walks to the waterfalls close to the caravan park was supplied, wood available for campfires, and lots of bird life in and around us.
Their park is a small independent caravan park, and it was well supported -I found that it was the start of the Qld school holidays and this caravan park is obviously a good one for families to stay a while.
Army Air Museum Oakey Qld Bill Helen Nesbitt talk to Maj B Readon DirectorRHS
Day-2 saw us head north-westwards, meandering through Killarney and Warwick. Most travellers in this area do the New England Hwy from here toToowoomba: I chose the back roads alongside the railway line - nice bitumen roads passing alongside farms of cattle, sheep and maize (to be used as silage during the winter months), and we made our way up to the village of Nobby.
Nobby is the heritage area for Steele Rudd of the Dad and Dave books of the 1920s, and the home of Sister Kenny, who pioneered the use of physiotherapy for polio victims prior to World War 2.
We enjoyed a good cuppa and scones for morning tea at the pub before striking northwards again. We by-passed Toowoomba city centre and turned westwards towards Oakey, some 40km away, to see the world-famous aviation museum there.
Oakey is the Army aviation museum with aircraft from World War 1 days (including a fully-flyable replica of the German Red Baron's tri-plane), and includes lots of planes from the Korean war and Vietnam war days.
The director of the museum, Major Brian Reardon gave a guided tour and his commentary of the planes and their histories was excellent.
Jondaryan Homestead Alayne Russell gets damper and billy tea
From Oakey it was westwards again to Jondaryan, a recreated homestead from the 1800s days of the big sheep station era. The woolshed, stables, saddlery, blacksmithy and machinery shed are all there and some of the equipment is still operational. Staff demonstrated various sheep station skills to us and the damper and billy tea went down well as tired feet got a rest.
Day-2 concluded at the Bowenville rest area with the group around a campfire, chatting amiably about the world in general and how good it is to be in a country where we can travel so freely and safely.
Day-3 started out very, very cold. It was 3 degrees over much of the Darling Downs in the morning. Once on the road with the sun shining brightly, we warmed up quickly.
The Warrego Hwy soon brought us to Dalby, a vibrant medium-sized country town with a population around 10,000.
The local Food Works supermarket supplied all our needs; Bill disappeared into into a Maccas for a coffee and some internet time, and Alayne whisked into a hairdresser for a trim.
Departing Dalby for Tara on the northern aspect of the Moonie gas field, the GPS unit decided to give me some unwanted trauma. While I extensively choreograph these tours on the computer screen before loading the tour waypoints into the GPS unit on the dashboard, today the GPS unit decided to take us off the track and on a scenic tour around the district.
This aspect of GPS operations occurs all too frequently for my liking. I cannot understand how, when the computer and GPS units have both been set to the same defaults and the way points having been pre-set and extensively double-checked on the computer screen before it is loaded into the GPS unit, how the damn thing then takes us off into areas that are totally unwanted and unprogrammed.
In the old Dr Who television series the catch-cry often was exterminate exterminate; today it seems to be recalculate recalculate as the female voice puts on a tantrum and asks me to do a U-turn when on divided highway, or tries to take me off the highway and through some farmers back yard towards some yet-to-be-seen road somewhere in the distance.
Some of the group Army Air Museum Oakey Qld
It almost defeats me - and confirms the old wisdom of always have a good set of paper maps at your fingertips. By the way, the GPS software is Whereis by Sensis, and I would give it 3/10 for accuracy and completeness when away from towns.
In towns, it provides good information about streets, speed cameras and school zones (even at weekends when schools are closed), but for rural and off-the-main-highways country driving, it is a poor performer.
Anyway - back to our touring... From Dalby it was a nice drive along the Moonie Hwy and then across the Surat Development road to Tara.
Tara has a nice feel to it ~ good selection of shops, the people are very friendly and it seems to offer lots of things to us travellers as well as the locals.
From Tara it was northwards to Chinchilla, where we have booked in to the Cypress Pines caravan park, run by Pam and Col Volker.
The caravan park is just as clean and tidy as it was two years ago when I brought a previous tour group through here. Col and Pam are most helpful and willing to talk with us about local places of interest, and places to see.
Some of the group around the campfire Bowenville Rest Area
Walking the main street, we bumped into Bill and Helen Nesbitt who, from one of the ever-friendly locals, had received the advice - try the coffee shop up near the railway - and into a place called Simply Indulgent we went and it certainly lived up to its name.
As well as the usual tables and quite comfortable chairs, there were several lounge suites surrounding coffee tables, making it a comfortable and homely little shop.
The staff were friendly with a ready smile; the coffee when it arrived was excellent in both taste and temperature, and the waitress serving our table was ready with quick responses to Bill's jokes towards her. (Can I have a bag to take the cream home for my dog?).
Another day ended with a gathering in the caravan park barbecue area, under cover and out of the cool breeze, lots of coloured lights around the perimeter and two clean, ready to use barbecue cooktops available for the evenings clientele.
PS: none of the businesses referred to herein have supplied any services or discounts to Phil Jones to secure any preferential comment in the above travel blog.
Editors Note: The tour continues with Days 4 to 12. Please see -