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Tales of the travels, trials and triumphs as we explore Australia in a converted bus

Motorhome Travels - April 2004


Doh!, we missed April fools day!

After spending a day with Tracey's cuz Alan and his partner Lynn we headed inland on the way to Emerald. Here Tracey hopes to find a fortune in precious stones (Sapphires and Emeralds) whereas I hope that we do not end up with as much weight in useless rock onboard as we did following the opal fossicking phase. It is likely that we will both be disappointed.

Calliope Bridge - [Click for a Larger Image]
Calliope Bridge

We stopped for two nights at Mount Morgan to take some photos of the historic high school and to look around the town. Mount Morgan was toted as Queensland's best property buy some months ago on channel nine. While both house and land prices took a sharp rise after that, you can still buy a three bedroomed house in town for under $50K.














After one night at Emerald, lots of shopping (stocking up) we headed to the gem fields west of the town.

We set up camp on one of the fossicking areas and I whipped the (new) chainsaw into action and in 5 minutes flat we had enough wood to have a camp fire every night for a week - as Tracey said "Why did we not spend the $138.95 on a chainsaw 9 months ago" - oh well.

We have now been here for 5 days and I can honestly say that we are not knee deep in sapphires - we are not even toe deep - in fact we have found ..... nothing. Now I'm just guessing here, but it might have something to do with the fact that we don't know what a raw sapphire looks like. Never mind, it is quiet and very peaceful here, it's warm but not too hot - the cats like it coz there is lots to explore and not too much trouble to get into. We think we might stay here until after the mad Easter rush is over. We have now finished planning the next few months. More complex than you would think - there is a lot to consider - the rain and cyclones of the tropics etc.

After Easter we will probably head north to Clermont to give the metal detector a workout.



We now have stripped the gem fields bare and have struggled away from our camp, weighed down with tons of huge sapphires. OK - a slight exaggeration, Tracey found a couple examples of what a huge sapphire would look like it you hit it really hard with a large hammer (tiny fragments of colour). Still, we had lots of fun, we had a big camp fire every night, the weather was perfect and the nearest neighbours we the correct distance from our camp (about 20km). Tracey came back to the motorhome each night looking like a dusty version of the creature from the black lagoon (with breasts) - but a nice solar shower and a few beers soon washed that memory away.

As planned, we are heading for Clermont to see how more digging and generally grovelling around in the dirt feels - this time gold is our aim - great huge nuggets of the stuff. The metal detector is charged up - we are charged up - so we are charging north to the gold fields.



The gold field are amazing! We have seen more gold here than anywhere else we have been. Sadly it has all been in shops. Yes, slightly less gold found at Clermont than sapphires at Emerald.

The coal mine at Blair Athol - [Click for a Larger Image]
The coal mine at Blair Athol

The flies, spiders, heat and nasty prickly grass stuff make wandering around the fossicking areas very unpleasant. The ground is also heavily mineralised (as you would expect) so it makes life difficult for detectors not specifically designed for gold work (these cost around $5000 - so you need to find a lot of gold to justify one of those - and they do nothing about the flies, heat and spiders).

On Friday we went on a tour of the Blair Athol open cast coal mine. This was very interesting (and great value for money - being as it was free). It is very hard to describe the scale of the operation - but I'll try anyway ... IT'S BIG - OK?

The photo to the left is of one of the coal seams. The top of the seam is 30m from the surface and extends down about 30m. The machine in the background is called a dragnet - it's big.


D-11 at Blair Athol - [Click for a Larger Image]
D-11 at Blair Athol



This photo shows a D11 dozer in front of the dragnet. It is too big for tracks and so it walks on giant feet - the D11 is clearing ground for it to walk on. It is electrically powered and is "plugged in" to the grid via an 11,000 volt flexible cable that just trails along the ground behind it.

We are going to move north from here tomorrow - not sure yet if we will go via MacKay and the coast or via the inland route. I guess we will decide when we get to the intersection.








After leaving Clermont we headed for the coast - MacKay to be exact. We found a nice camping spot near the beach and relaxed for a couple of days. As we headed north from MacKay we found some really nice accessible beaches. Unfortunately many of the beaches have a couple of billion tiny insets called midges - these little nasties are so small they fly right through our insect screens. We both suffered about 500 bites each from these tiny pests.

Airlie Beach is an interesting place. A major tourist attraction and stepping stone to the Whitsunday's. It reminded us of Russell in New Zealand's Bay Of Islands. Here we went to a local market. Apart from the usual local craft type stuff (which appeals to me about as much as chicken pox), we found a bloke selling satellite TV equipment. After lots of thought and discussion (centred mostly around the fact that Tracey has missed the last two episodes of ER), we asked for an "in-bus" demo. To cut a long story short, we now have a satellite dish on the roof of the motorhome. I am very surprised at how easy it is to align and get a good strong signal. 

We have now had the sat gear for about a week and it is very good. The only down-side is that we have tended to watch it quite a lot and our average power consumption has increased by 50%. That combined with rain and cloudy weather has meant that the generator has been required a couple of times.

Townsville is a nice place and very motorhome friendly. No "No Camping" signs on every conceivable stopping place (unlike Bowen).

North of Townsville there are free camping grounds about every 20 - 30km. Most of these are right on the beach and have water and toilets.   



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