Blog #2 - 2013 Outback Queensland Travel Plans and Kit

Sunday, Mar 17, 2013 at 15:21

Member - Ossiejs (Qld)

Plans are well advanced for my 2013 solo outback trip and further exploration of the sights and places this country has to offer – weather permitting.Cooper Creek in flood might be awesome, but … I intend to see Queensland first.

I bought a good, second-hand Jayco Penguin Outback (a 13 foot Camper Trailer). I’ll soon set off on my “little” extended trip to see western Queensland via Longreach from Camooweal to Birdsville, and then eventually home along the Queensland/New South Wales border. That’s a minimum of about 6,500 kilometres folks.
Preparation for the trip has been interesting, and at times challenging. Not wishing to become a statistic from being lost or having perished in the Outback, preparation has been time-consuming and exciting. As experienced by Australia’s early explorers, or indeed any explorer, planning for safety and survival in our harsh outback is critical. Risks need to be minimised. A modern-day adventurer (moi) has a few technological advantages over early explorers; only limited by how much one van carry with our modern-day packhorses/camels: a Prado followed by a Penguin.
Included in my safety and survival armoury is a Personal Locator Beacon (PLB), UHF radio, solar power, generator, electric brakes (for the Penguin), tools for (temporary) repairs from punctured tyres to burst radiator hoses; from blown fuses to holed water containers) and almost a spare everything (a second spare set of wheels and tyres for both the Prado and the Penguin). It’s about being as independent and self-sufficient as possible. I now have a Warn winch fitted but hope not have great use for it - it's nice to know it's there!

North West.
Outback travel is also about being clean and comfortable in the circumstances. I don’t have room for my little 240v washing machine; washing is for occasional overnight stays in a Caravan Park! I’ve also added a few essential (luxury?) items to my inventory: a 12 volt shower; an MP3 player; a Porta Pottie; yabby nets; 12v fluoro lights; etc.
For me, the real adventure begins in Brisbane at the end of March 2013 with the Penguin loyally following the Prado to Ilfracombe where I’ll catch up with cousins. This will be an easy four-day trip, taking it easy with the Penguin while scoping out a few recommended (ExplorOz and Camps7) free camping sites, National Parks and Caravan Parks for later and longer trip with my wife Marie.

Australian Age of Dinosaurs (AAOD) Museum
Marie will fly to Longreach after the School Term finishes. As I can’t take the Penguin to the AAOD Museum site, I will leave it with cousins at Ilfracombe (just east of Longreach). At Winton, Marie and I will undertake volunteer work on extracting 98 million year old dinosaur fossils from rock at the AAOD Museum on a 30 metre Jump Up (mesa), about 25km from Winton. Our visit there in Spring 2012 was amazing. Our accommodation will be near the AAOD Museum.
Marie and I return to Longreach after a week of messing around with the dinosaur bones when she flys back to Brisbane ready to go back to her work. I’ll then collect the Penguin from Ilfracombe and hit the shops in Longreach to stock-up with food and other provisions before heading back via Winton, North-West to Camooweal near the Northern Territory border.
After Winton, I have no particular timetable, so I could be out bush for a few weeks or longer, with as much free camping by rivers and billabongs as I can handle. I intend to see as many historical and scenic sites as I can.
In a nutshell, I plan to slowly make my way up to Camooweal to deliver a copy of my Dad’s self-published book “L R Cattleman” to the Drovers Camp Association for its Library – a promise I made during a visit in 2012. The book is part-my grandfather’s biography and part-family history.

Family History (briefly)

During my 2012 visit to the Queensland Outback, I met with a few direct descendants of Hop and Annie Thomas – my great-grandfather and great-grandmother - at Mt Isa and Barkly Downs Station. We visited Hop's previously unmarked gravesite and placed a permanent headstone on his grave.
Hop Thomas was born at Goangra Station, NSW in 1865. Later, Hop became overseer on Currawinya (near Hungerford) and in 1915 accepted the management of Headingly Station (near Urandangie). Hop managed Headingly Station until his retirement in his 70's. At the age of nearly 77, while visiting neighbouring Barkly Downs Station, he passed away in 1942 and was buried at Barkly Downs Station.
Hop had a twin brother Isaac (Ike), and a sister Ernestine (Cissie) who later married Thomas Jago.
Annie Brophy (my Irish great-grandmother), born inRoyaloak, County Carlow, Ireland migrated to Australia in the 1890's. She married my great-grandfather Hop Thomas in Rockhampton in 1895. They had four children: one of whom died as a child. The only female, Marjorie Thomas (Anna), married my grandfather Laurie (L R) Shaw in 1926. Sadly, Annie Thomas died in 1926 aged 56, and is buried at Urandangie cemetery.

Where to from Camooweal? South.
My quest is to view Annie Thomas’s eternal resting place in Urangangie, say “Gidday”, and pay my respects. I regularly remind myself that i would not exist if these two never met and married. I also think of the hardships facing a young lady from the green Emerald Isle, working and raising a family in the harsh and extreme Urandangi environment.
Afterwards, and in no particular hurry, I’ll explore western Queensland from Dajarra and wind down to Birdsville with possible overnight camps near Boulia and Bedourie. I’m planning to have a feed and an ale or two at the Bedourie Hotel, once owned by an Uncle and Aunt of mine, and close friends. Sadly, my Uncle passed away some months ago.
Ah Birdsville. With no great desire to risk damaging my Prado by driving into the Simpson Desert and tackling the 35 metreBig Red (Nappanerica Dune) 30 kilometres west of Birdsville, I might take the comfortable air-conditioned bus to the sand dune for a sunset viewing offered by the Birdsville Caravan Park. Next time, and in company with another vehicle, perhaps!
Further South, and over the South Australian border, Innamincka and the surrounding desert area would be an attractive and historically interesting place to visit. However, travelling solo begs a certain amount of caution, so I’ll visit there on another trip.

Time to head East.
So East through Betoota through to Windorah it is then. I plan to meet distant relatives and look at the gravesites of some generations of the related Kidd family. Camping atCooper Creek also has particular interest; being the start of the famous (or infamous) Channel Country.
Then via Quilpie, I plan to have a feed at the award-winning Adavale Pub, followed by a look at the Wakes Lagoon area. After I was born in Charleville, I spent the first tender years of my life at Wakes Lagoon property, and want to see the environment I learnt to crawl and walk around. Unfortunately, I have no recollection of those years. Nearby (in Outback terms) Mariala National Park is the possible overnight stop. Then again, facilities at the Adavale Pub sounds a bit more attractive.
After a good day's driving to Thargominda, I will overnight and have a look around the Currawinya National Park for two reasons. Hop and Annie Thomas spend time there before moving much further North to Headingly Station – (Currawinya became a National Park in 1991). Secondly, the Park contains a 25 square kilometre bilby enclosure surrounded by a seemingly predator proof fence. Marie and I loved and supported the Charleville bilby captive breeding program. Released into the Currawinya sanctuary, the expected survival of the species has been seriously threatened in the last 12 months with the discovery that part of the fence had rusted through, allowing feral cats to enter the predator proof enclosure. D’oh!! I like cats, but if I see a feral one in the Outback, it’s road kill.
I hope to have a look at, and spend an overnight or two, at theBowra Conservancy, Cunnamulla. Family and friends interested in photography and native birds have raved about Bowra. So, I am intrigued and want to scope out the area for a later visit with Marie.
Back on track towards the NSW border, I will take in Dirranbandi, Goondiwindi and probably camp overnight just East of Texas. This may the last of my free camping The next day I will call into our favourite wine cellar at Ballandean Estate Wines, Ballendean to stock up on quality wine until our next annual visit to the Granite Country. After picking up some apple juice and cider (and maybe a slice of delicious apple pie with a good coffee) from Suttons Apple Farm, and fresh fruit and olive oil around Stanthorpe, I hope to catch up with another cousin near Applethorpe.
Final leg of the trip is home to Brisbane is via Warwick and Ipswich. Then time to start planning my next Outback trip.

Ciao, until my blog after I hit the black top and dirt roads in less than 2 weeks.

To forget one's ancestors is to be a brook without a source, a tree without a root -- Chinese Proverb
John & Marie
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