22-24 March: Meanwhile…in Bris-Vegas….

Author: Mrs A

Location: Brisbane, Australia

While Mr A was off on his explorations on two wheels, I was off to Brisbane. Regular followers of our adventures might recall that I met with a couple of otolaryngologists (ear, nose, throat, head and neck doctors) last September as we passed through Brisbane on our journey back to Sydney. They invited me to talk at their conference this year and had found sponsorship for my flights and accomodation from a pharmaceutical company, Smiths Medical.

This was the weekend of the event. I flew up to Brisbane, took the train into the city and over to my hotel at North Quay. Checking in, the clerk proudly announced I had a room upgrade to a river view. And indeed I did. A fine view from my window, should I be hanging around to look.

Brisbane knows how to do a good sunset!

I had a quiet Friday night, opting for a laksa in a local food court before returning to my room for some final tweaks on my presentation.

Saturday morning was a bright and early one. I woke regularly throughout the night having panics that I had slept through my presentation, and finally got up about 5.30am. The conference centre was on the other side of the Brisbane River, so I headed over in the hope of attending some interesting sounding sessions starting at 7am. I met up with Dr Liz Hodge and Dr Hannah Burns, relieved to see some friendly faces, and Dr Daniel Novakovic, my surgeon in Sydney was opening the morning’s session with the first presentation.

My venue for the day
The conference

Throughout the day I chatted with a few doctors and a number of industry providers – it was really interesting to understand more about their world. Before long it was time to present.

I was part of the ‘Adult and Paediatric Airway Stenosis’ session, with five other presenters. Third one up, I was the only non-doctor on stage. I was really pleased with the turn out with standing room only in the auditorium. Feedback suggests it went well, with several doctors following up with me afterwards to ask more questions and thank me for the presentation.

As the doctors disappeared to their AGM and gala dinner, I headed back to the hotel to shower and change. Libby and Phil (friends we made this time last year through our common ownership of Zone caravans), had invited me to join them for dinner. They collected me and we headed up to Brisbane’s highest point, Mount Coot-tha. It’s a popular location for its lookout and walks, and it was busy with people admiring the night view of Brisbane, a bushy haven just 7km from the CBD. Mr A and I visited last Easter, barely able to see the city through the torrential rain! It was much drier and clearer this evening.

We were joined by more Zoners, Greg and Therese, and Darryl and Natalie. We had a lovely evening – predominantly the company – the restaurant seemed to be having some issues cooking, and our food arrived 90 minutes after we ordered it! The views were spectacular, and we took a moment before heading home to pick out the sights we could recognise.

L-R: Phil, Libby, Catherine, Therese, Darryl, Natalie, Greg

The Brisbane city skyline sparking under a nearly full moon

After a good night’s sleep I awoke on Sunday to another fine day. I packed up my case and left it with reception while I headed over to the Queensland Gallery of Modern Art. A 34 degrees centigrade day, it was ideal for escaping the heat, a beautiful building with some inspirational exhibits.

Love the vibrancy of these landscapes by Aboriginal artists

Before long it was time to head to lunch. I had booked a table at Chu The Phat, an Asian restaurant, for a meeting of Queensland ladies who, like me, suffer from idiopathic subglottic stenosis. Dr Burns and Dr Hodge joined us for half an hour before they headed to a networking lunch, and then we enjoyed a fun couple of hours sharing our stories and chatting over food. I cannot emphasise how good it is to meet with people who understand what you’re going through, particularly when it’s a rare disease. I was particularly excited to meet Joanne, with whom I have exchanged messages with for around 10 years and never met – she was one of the first members in my now 3,300+ people strong support group.

L-R: Lana, Dr Hannah Burns, Dr Liz Hodges – listening to our stories
L-R: Rosemary and Tammy
L-R: Kerry, Lana, Tammy, Catherine, Christine, Rosemary and Joanne

I flew back to Sydney later that evening – the flight leaving late plus the hour’s time difference meaning I finally crawled into bed around midnight. A great weekend!

3-4 September: Heading south & back into NSW

Author: Mrs A

Monday – Location: Noosa to Coolum Beach, then to Brisbane

We were all sad to say farewell to our friends Ray and Wendy in Noosa, particularly Tassie, who had become accustomed to her choice of laps and enjoyed her days relaxing on the daybed watching the activity on the river. But it was time to collect our Zone from its couple of days of pampering and head on our way.

We called into Belmondo’s on the way out of Noosa, finding ourselves spending a ridiculous amount of money on a handful of items, before heading south to Coolum, the home of Zone.

Before long, we were pulling away, and heading on the highway south to stay the night with our fellow Zoners, Libby and Phil.We had a brief whirlwind of time to transfer our cases and food back into the caravan, dig out the smart clothes and get changed, before the four of us drove into Brisbane for the evening.

The weather has been tumultuous – really cold for Brisbane (about 15 degrees centigrade!) and wet – but as we arrived at South Bank the clouds lifted to give us a fabulous display across the river into the city.After this, we parted ways, Phil and Libby ending up at a pub helping celebrate a nephew’s birthday, while Mr A and I joined three lovely ladies for dinner in a French restaurant beside the water.

I’ve been invited to talk at the Australian Society of Otolaryngology and Head and Neck Surgery here in Brisbane next March regarding my work with the rare disease I have, idiopathic subglottic stenosis. Two of the ladies we met were paediatric ENT surgeons here in Brisbane, and the third worked at a pharmaceutical company, supplying equipment for the surgeons, and a sponsor for the event.

We had a lovely evening, delicious food, and I got to talk about a cause very close to my heart (and airway!). I’m looking forward to next year’s event already and all the good it can potentially do.

Our very generous hosts collected us at the end of our meal, and whisked us back to their home for warm drinks and conversation. Such incredible kindness from friends we only met for the first time in March this year!

Tuesday – location: Brisbane, Samford – Queensland and Woombah, New South Wales

Breakfast was our first port of call, the four of us heading down into the nearby village of Samford to Phil and Libby’s favourite cafĂ©, Black Sheep. Delicious Eggs Benedict for three, and a breakfast wrap for me, and we were all happy campers, definitely not in need of lunch today!

We had a chance to admire the five plus acre property we’re staying on, full of birds, rolling hills and bushland – just beautiful – before our hosts escorted us on our way via their secret route to the main road south.

There followed a stressful few hours on the M1 motorway, packed full of tailgating semitrailers and road trains going much too fast for the wet conditions.

We finally pulled off the road at the little settlement of Woombah, breathing a sigh of relief as we left behind the noise and the traffic and set up camp in a site with a fabulous view.We have probably driven past this area a dozen times without any awareness of what’s here, but it’s a lovely rural settlement sat on the banks of the Clarence River close to the estuary. There are over 100 islands in the wide river here, the nearest to us being Goodwood Island.

In need of fresh air and exercise, we set up camp, donned our rain coats and headed off for a walk.The sun was starting to set so we only went a couple of kilometres, crossing over the bridge to Goodwood Island and checking out the wet sugar cane fields before returning for the evening.More rain and thunder entertained us, a novelty after the dry and drought of the inland areas. Sadly, it seems the rain is sticking to the coast, not helping out the farmers this time.

We’ll continue our journey south tomorrow, and with a continued forecast of rain, have not made any plans for where we might end up…all part of the adventure!

30 August – 2 September: Noosa…we love yer!

Author: Mr A

Location: Noosaville, Noosa River, Queensland

Thursday: We left Tin Can Bay to drive down to Coolum and drop our van off at Zone for a service. I was reflecting on how well things had gone as we approach the final leg of this trip….Lo and behold, a logging truck approaches on the other side of the road, and suddenly there’s a big crash as a massive stone puts a hole in our windscreen and showers Catherine and Tassie with shards of glass!

We quickly paint the broken area with nail polish lacquer to prevent the cracks spreading. A phone call to NRMA and a repair is easily organised. It could have been a lot nastier if the windscreen had totally shattered.

We arrived at Zone and ran through the job sheet of minor warranty work and service items, then left them to it and headed up to Noosa. Our friends who live there had invited us to stay with them for the weekend. Just driving along the river to their place brought back so many happy memories from our last stay here on the way up the coast back in April.

We all piled into their car and headed for lunch to one of our favourite spots in town, Belmondo’s, a deli on steroids. You can find every kind of produce here and lunch was a taste sensation after so many outback miles of fine food deprivation!

Back at Wendy and Ray’s apartment, the next treat is a quick trip out on their boat up the river. The water is pristine after weeks with no rain.We chat about our plan to come and rent here when we have had enough of our full time nomadic phase. It certainly is nice to be in an apartment again with endless water on tap and a toilet I don’t have to empty every morning! Tassie also approves, taking up her position on the day bed watching the non-stop action on the river. Watching the sunset turn the water to red, we both feel that we want to see this view a LOT more.

Friday: The windscreen repairer made short work of popping in a new one, and we are ready to roll. We met up with some fellow Zoners in the evening, plus Caroline and Brian, with their lovely kids, Hannah and Hamish, who we knew from Sydney before they took the plunge and moved up here. It was a great evening, and reminds us how much we miss friends being on the road and constantly travelling.

Saturday: We headed off to the Eumundi markets, we had loved them last time we visited and had some present buying to do.All sorts of local folk are selling their wares, or cooking up tasty treats. We could so get used to this life!

Back in Noosa we had a bit of a special dinner planned with our fabulous hosts. A new restaurant had just opened up down the road, so we gave it a whirl. What awesome food, very innovative taste combinations right from the pre-dinner coacktails. I had a cheeky little number containing bourbon, Shiraz (yes!) sugar and lemon. Delicious – check out YoYo next time you’re up this way.Sunday: A little worse for wear this morning, it was market time again – this time at the local Noosa farmers market. It seems the whole town turns out to buy their weekly fruit and veg, so you can see it is a bit of a social catch up as well. The food we buy is all just so yummy. Fresh olives with flavours that just leap out at you. Nitrate free bacon. Oranges and apples that are bursting with juice.

Our hosts again take us out on their boat and we pull up onto the white sand at the mouth of the river and wander down the beach. It’s just simply the most beautiful lifestyle I can imagine.We come back and pile into the fresh produce for lunch.

No wonder everyone we meet here is so friendly and jolly. Yes, its an expensive area to live in compared to other parts of Queensland, but if you can afford it why wouldn’t you try it? It will be interesting to be here through the hot and muggy three months of summer though. Let’s see…

To finish off the weekend we went to the Sunset Bar for a couple of drinks…guess why they called it that?What a view. Great beer on tap, free live music, good bar service. I could enjoy making this a regular Sunday night catch up spot with friends!

27-29 August: Back on the Fraser Coast in Tin Can Bay

Author: Mrs A

Location: Tin Can Bay, Queensland

Monday: We packed up and moved on from Seventeen-Seventy, heading south. Our destination was the bizarrely named Tin Can Bay, due east of Gympie and just north of Noosa.

The origins of its name are unclear, but there is some suspicion it is linked to an Aboriginal word which sounds similar to Tin Can – perhaps meaning mangroves, dugongs or vine with large ribbed leaves. I think it is very odd that nobody has recorded the reason for the name given it was only named in 1937.

We arrived early afternoon and set up in the campground. We’re in a quiet suburban location, surrounded by melaleuca trees and birds. We jumped on the bikes for an explore.

Tin Can Bay is known for its tame humpback dolphins which visit the point each morning for fish and to delight visitors young and old. It’s a fishing port, with a working marina. The bay itself is tidal, and we arrived at low tide to see boats strewn around the mud flats like stranded whales.

We remembered driving up Rainbow Beach near here with my mum a few years ago, before taking the ferry over to Fraser Island.

Tuesday: It was slow start to the day with Miss Tassie enjoying the sunshine and exploring our little garden site. We’ve no canine neighbours so she feels relatively safe here, though still quite shy of other people. The caravan is always her ‘safe Zone’ – any perception of danger and she rushes back inside.

Mr A and I decided we should get out and do some walking, and a little research online and we found the Cooloola Wilderness Trail started a short drive away. This trail is generally a 2-3 day hike all the way down to Elanda, on the outskirts of Noosa, but we thought we would try a 10km return walk just to stretch the legs.And what a beautiful walk it is. We are days away from the offical start of spring here (1st September) but the wildflowers were out in abundance.Several varieties of boronia, teatree, bottlebrush, peas, heath, eucalypts and more brightened our pathway, accompanied by the rhythmic hum of insects feeding on the nectar. It really was good for the soul and reminded us how much we love bush walking at this time of year.The pathway was well marked and predominantly white sand or grass, very easy walking with a couple of water crossings along the way. The landscape was quite open with good views to the east, across to the Great Sandy National Park.Even the trunks of the gum trees were beautiful!We stopped walking after around 5km when we saw the path dropping steeply downhill, remembering we had to turn around at some point and return via the same route.We definitely recommend getting out and enjoying the Australian bush at this time of year.

Returning to camp we had a couple of hours’ rest before deciding to do some more exploring on two wheels. We rode up to the marina and followed the point around, finishing another 10km circuit before dinner.

Wednesday: The day commenced with a little US trip planning, continued with a bbq brunch, and proceeded with a great deal of cleaning inside and out.

The mobile apartment is off to its birthplace tomorrow for a long weekend, having a little TLC from the Zone crew for its latest service. Meanwhile, the three of us are off to Noosa for some civilisation with friends.

24-26 August: A weekend in Agnes Water and 1770

Author: Mr A

Location: Seventeen-Seventy, Queensland

Friday: Leaving Cania Gorge behind we headed towards the coast, our destination being the tiny settlement of Seventeen Seventy, so named after it was discovered that Captain Cook made his second landfall in Australia here in…that’s right…1770.

We arrived in time to get the bikes off and explore, it was a short ride down the road and this spectacular view confronted us.So good to be back by the ocean again, with those lovely smells of the sea air, the calm waters of the Coral Sea exuding a tranquility that we just soaked up, over a cold beer.I did smile though on seeing this cafe perched in a car park, next to the road, when the other side of the building was…..…this view! I don’t think 1770 has quite made it into 2018 – and that’s part of its appeal.

Saturday: Again we were off on the bikes down to the beach at the back of our caravan park, then a great ride along the sand to Agnes Water a few kilometres down the beach.This was a little less sleepy, with a few shops and restaurants, one of which we had been told was going to be offering an Indian focused menu tonight. A booking was made – this little business is clearly making an effort to do something a bit different. A range of speciality teas lined the walls that almost rivalled our selection in the Zone!

We pottered back to our camp down the bike path and spent a very productive afternoon organising more of our upcoming US trip and being taken on an exploration by Princess Tassie. Then it was back to Cafe Discovery for their take on Indian food. A beef vindaloo and chicken tikka masala went down a treat.

Sunday: Rain in the night! So exciting! We haven’t heard that soothing pitter patter on the roof for so long. We made it down to the markets and back via the lookout in 1770 before the thunderstorm started in earnest. A great little market as well, lots of locals and grey nomads alike picking up these fresh fruit and veg so totally absent from any supermarkets we had seen for weeks.We decided to brave the weather and headed out for a walk, so glad we did. The first short walk we did through a paper bark forest was magical with the sun making the dripping vegetation just sparkle. Then it was a 6km coastal walk, although the weather then closed in and it really started to throw it down, complete with thunder and lightning.Back to the park and a quiet Sunday night (when isn’t it nowadays!) and plans made for our departure tomorrow.

Well done Agnes Water and Seventeen-Seventy.

23-24 August: At peace among the bloodwoods

Author: Mrs A

Location: Cania Gorge, Queensland

Wednesday: We awoke to the sound of bird footsteps on our roof, the well fed and humanised parrots expecting their breakfast. With temperatures near to zero again, we weren’t keen to leave the heated confines of our Zone, but I stuck my hand out of the window with a few raw peanuts in my hand, and I soon had a pair of king parrots sat on it munching away.

Before long, it was warming up a little outside, so Mr A fired up the Baby Q and cooked up pork sausages and eggs for breakfast. Not a bad start to Wednesday morning.

Of course all this eating meant we needed to burn it off, so we decided to tackle one of the walks. We chose a circuit, first hiking up to a lookout (the Giant’s Chair) and then looping around to the Fern Tree Pool.Queensland is very dry currently, not having had rain in this area for a couple of months. This is very evident in the sheer numbers of birds flocking to this little water source, particularly grey fantails and flocks of silvereyes, so gorgeous.Six kilometres later we were back at camp for a relax. This is one of the nicest places we have parked our mobile apartment in a long while, surrounded by tall gum trees, dappled sunlight and high sandstone walls providing a picturesque backdrop. As we sat outside with a cup of tea a couple we had seen on our walk strolled past, the American man inviting Mark to join him on a cycle up to the dam later on in the afternoon. Mark accepted his invitation, and jumped on his bike for a ride.I meanwhile finished baking an orange and almond cake, and left that to cool while I went off on another 6km walk.

This time I walked to the babbling Three Moon Creek, hoping to see platypus doing backstroke along the clear pools. Sadly it was not to be, but I did enjoy the gorgeous reflections in the late afternoon sun.From there, I walked up to Dragon Cave, so named for the black ‘mural’ of a dragon up on the wall in there…with a little imagination. Generally I just enjoyed the clean fresh air, the sound of the birds and just being outdoors in the warm light of the late afternoon.I reached camp just as the sun was setting, and Mr A was already sipping a glass of French red wine with his cycling partner and some other neighbours. It turns out the cyclist, Ben, works with mutual friends in Sydney. What a small world!

Thursday: We had a slow start to the day, getting our washing done and enjoying pancakes and blueberries in the early morning sunshine.

By 11 o’clock we were out in the car this time, whizzing up to the reservoir Mark had cycled up to yesterday. It was strange seeing such a large body of water after so much dry land.Cania Gorge had a gold rush in the 1870s, and the remnants were visible on a short walk. There was little gold here, with 183.5 tons of rock yielding only around 4.3kg of gold – a lot of work for little reward under gruelling conditions. Today felt pretty warm at about 25 degrees centigrade in the middle of winter. We had a wander around, then headed off to do another, longer walk.

Our next hike took us up to Bloodwood Cave, named for the roots of a bloodwood gum tree which intertwine through the cave. The towering bloodwoods were a key feature of the walk overall.We hiked up to a lookout giving us a fabulous view across this little National Park, before returning to camp.

21-22 August: Heading East to Cania Gorge

Author: Mrs A

Monday – location: Emerald, Queensland

We left Barcaldine and continued our journey east along the Capricorn Highway, and with it the landscape began to change. The flat treeless plains gave way to hills and forestry and we began to climb into the Great Dividing Range.

We stopped for a break at the bizarrely named Bogantuncan, once home to about 28 pubs, but now just a smattering of old houses and a historical train station. It was a nice spot to stretch our legs before we continued on.Before long we were seeing signs for Rubyvale and Sapphire, and finally our destination for the evening in Emerald. Yes, you guessed it, we are in the gemfields, but not having a go at fossicking this time. That would involve attention to detail and patience, not Mr A’s strengths!

This area was formed around 70 million years ago, with around 80 extinct volcanic peaks around the region.

We set up camp in a big field, nice and peaceful if nothing else going for it – we paid $15 for the privilege – worth it compared to the packed free-camp on the edge of town we spotted – metres from the main highway with road-trains thundering past and with a bridge overhead carrying freight trains…no thank you!

Tuesday – location: from Emerald to Cania Gorge, Queensland

It was a very cold start to the day, with temperatures around zero first thing, and by the time we pulled away around 7.30am had reached the dizzying heights of 3 degrees. We had a long drive today so wanted to get a good start.

After an hour or so of driving we stopped in the town of Blackwater for some groceries and fuel, and then continued towards Biloela and down to the tiny Cania Gorge National Park.

The landscape continued to change as we drove, becoming the rich agricultural lands of Channel Country and then to a winding road through forested national park and state forest.Looking at the map, it would be easy to miss little Cania Gorge. It sits about 150km from the coast inland from Gladstone, and like Carnarvon National Park has deep sandstone gorges and apparently a healthy population of platypus. We had been recommended this location by two separate friends who are or have been in the past local to this area, so thought it would be crazy to miss it.

Pulling into the bushland caravan park, we are as close to the National Park and its multitude of walks as possible – they start literally metres from our front door. It’s so lovely to be in a bushland setting again, particularly at this time of year. The acacia flowers are blooming yellow, providing a spectacular display as well as a beautiful perfume wherever you go – we’re looking forward to doing some walks in the next couple of days.

The campground is home to many birds, and 4pm sees the owners putting out lorikeet food, seeds and peanuts to attract them to the visitors. We popped along for a look, spotting rainbow lorikeets, pink cockatoos, king parrots, Australian magpies, kookaburras, crows, blue-faced honeyeaters and more.A short cycle along the road allowed us to learn more about the multitude of wild creatures living here, many rare and endangered, and the evidence of 19,000 years of Aboriginal habitation in the gorge. Incredible. Already it feels like a very special place.

18-19 August: Biking around Barcaldine

Author: Mr A

Location: Barcaldine, Queensland

Saturday: Wevoted for a two day stay here – feeling the driving distances since Darwin a bit – sore eyes. So we settled in to a cosy little park that only has space for less than 10 vans. Very nicely kept with a tea house adjacent.

Barcaldine is a sleepy little place, it just doesn’t have the vibe of Winton. No welcoming pubs with outdoor seating, just the usual closed dark entrances with a glimpse of pokies inside. So we gave them a miss, and just had a 10km ride round on the bikes.

Not a great deal here that interested us, although the town does boast the start of the Australian union movement, celebrated with a fine monument in town that made us look twice – the Tree of Knowledge encompasses a Ghost Gum tree which stood on this site as a silent witness to the union struggles. The wooden blades represent the blades of the shearers and pastoralists who made up those first workers in 1891, and clink melodically in the breeze. But we just couldn’t imagine what you would do for the weeks that some people are clearly spending here! There are four caravan parks in town, and no shops that seem to cater for them. What do all these nomads do here? Some on our camp look very settled in. Each to their own I guess.

Sunday: We had a cruisey 9km ride around some wetlands on the edge of the sand hills that now seem to be encroaching on the edge of town as the climate changes.Then a very chilled out day, concluding with a Goan fish curry courtesy of Mrs A’s fair hands. Well I have now graduated to kitchen assistant preparing the garlic, turmeric, ginger and blending up with pestle and mortar. Its a start!

17 August: There be dinosaurs here…

Author: Mrs A

Location: Winton, Queensland

Throughout the 1800s dinosaur bones were discovered in every continent all bar Australasia. It was not until 1904 that the first bone was discovered here, a jawbone down in the Otways in Victoria. Since that first find, very little has been found elsewhere in Australia until 1999.

A sheep farmer near Winton was out rounding up his sheep when he came across a huge bone – much larger than anything likely to be on his land. He photographed it, sent the picture to the Queensland Museum of Natural History and received confirmation it was a thigh bone from a dinosaur not ever seen before on this continent.

And so started a lot of digging. In 2002 funding was found and land donated to open a palaeontology laboratory just outside of Winton to handle the huge volume of fossils revealed here. It was this lab, display theatre and visitors centre at the Australian Age of Dinosaurs that we visited today.

The centre is sat high up on top of a hill, overlooking the flood plains below with fabulous views.One of us (me) is more enthusiastic about this type of thing than the other, so we compromised and did a short visit, encompassing a trip to the working laboratory to see technicians working on the fossils, and some of the smaller fossils found, and then to the theatre to see a film about where many of the fossils were found, and the two most complete dinosaur skeletons in their collection. We missed out a longer trip which visited a collection of bronze models of how the dinosaurs may have looked, down on the flood plain.

The creatures lived here in a time when the inland sea was receding and the land was full of coastal waterholes surrounded by 100 metre high pine trees, ferns and cycads. As we walked into the lab, we passed a huge petrified pine tree branch, the length of most trees we see today.Although it was dated at 150 million years old, it was hard not to believe it was just a sawn up log lying there!

In cabinets, there were shells, crabs, pine cones and leaves – often the first known evidence of species still in existence today. Some of the timescales being displayed were way out of reach – 190 million years ago for the plants…830 million years ago for the stromatolite…and even a meteorite dated back 4.5 billion years ago to around the time of the birth of the solar system.We watched the painstaking patient work of the technicians removing the soil from the fossils. It takes literally years to reveal a fossil, and there is a 10 year backlog of work in the laboratory. You can volunteer to be a part of the team – there is a training course and exam, and once you are approved you can come along and join in whenever you would like. Patience and attention to detail an absolute must.The final part of our tour took us to the theatre where we were shown the fossils recovered from a single site, revealing two completely different species of dinosaur – a carnivore and a herbivore.

The theory is, an elderly herbivore came to the waterhole to drink but became bogged in the mud. Unable to escape, it drew the attention of the carnivore, which attempted to attack. The herbivore managed to kill the carnivore but still remained stuck and died itself. Nice story and associated animation. It’s a bit like trying to solve a murder which occurred 150 million years ago!Still it was interesting (for me) and so great there are people with such incredible passion in the world to ensure such things are pursued.We spent the remainder of the afternoon doing some trip planning, gave a tour of our Zone to some potential future Zoners, and finished off our day back at the local pub for a fine feed.

On to adventures new tomorrow.

16 August: Across an ancient sea into dinosaur country

Author: Mrs A

Location: from Boulia to Winton, Queensland

It was a long day of driving the 361km from Boulia to Winton. We left around 10.30am after chatting to several of our neighbours in the caravan park. As the last signs of human habitation disappeared in our rear view camera we lost phone signal, once again isolated on a long stretch of road.

This time, however, the road was a single lane of sealed surface, and oncoming traffic either pulled off onto the gravel hard shoulder to let us pass, or we both straddled the tarmac to allow each to have a partially smooth ride.

The scenery was quite surreal. Earlier this year this area completely flooded for several weeks, and you could see the markers indicating how deep the water got. The orange and ochre soils stretched out as far as the eye could see, allowing the curvature of the earth to be observed.

After an hour or so, the flat plains gave way to bizarre looking hills and knolls. Around 110 million years ago, this whole area was under water as part of the Euromanga Sea. As that drained, it left rivers, which carved out the hills which are left today. They’re capped with erosion-resistant rocks, which stand out like flat plateaus.The occasional roadkill of kangaroos, wild boars and cattle brought back plenty of raptors, with the giant wedge-tailed eagles always the last to leave their meal as we drove by. Flocks of button quail, green budgerigars and tiny firetails and zebra finches accompanied us for a few seconds at a time, before swiftly changing direction and disappearing off over the plain.By 1pm we had reached the Middleton Hotel. Back in its heyday it was a major stopping point on the Cobb & Co route between Boulia and Winton, where tired horses were exchanged for fresh horses, with accomodation provided. Apparently the settlement of Middleton was once home to 26 permanent residents, but now it is just the rather surly and unfriendly publicans. We decided against stopping for lunch there after an unwelcoming response to our greeting.We continued our journey, reaching Winton shortly after 5pm. We decided to set up camp at the Tattershall Hotel, and fortunately had booked ahead last night. As we reached the pub bar, a couple ahead of us took the final free spot on the campground.

Back online again, we checked our emails and were pleased to see we had a personal response from the acting CEO of Bank West – we are applying for a credit card to use when we head to the USA in a few weeks’ time, and had some trouble with the process. It seems many staff expect people to be online or at least with phone signal 24/7 – I don’t think they have travelled to remote Australia! Anyhow, once Pieter Vorster stepped in everything was quickly sorted, and we can save some money on exchange rate fees. Phew!

By 6.30pm we were back in the pub for dinner. Today’s our 16th wedding anniversary, so we treated ourselves to seafood platters (oysters, prawns, calamari and Balmain bugs – delicious). Winton feels like such a lovely friendly town. The pub has a decent(ish) choice of wine and food beyond the usual pub fare and there’s a high street full of independent businesses. We’re looking forward to exploring tomorrow, and of course seeing some of the dinosaur fossils the area is famous for. Watch this space!