June 22, 2006 GMT
Friendly Folk and Vast Vistas

About 5000 km and one month into Australia and we've not even left one state yet! Queensland has so much to offer; Hame and I could probably spend a year here and not explore it all.

Since I last wrote we've wound our way up from Brisbane, headed out West and then North towards Cairns. You can see the route on my incredibly hi-tech map below (compete with tippex marks where I accidentally re-drew Queensland's borders).

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There's way too much to write in detail, but here are a few photies with the highlights of our trip.

After our brief stop at Someret Dam and its grunty things we rode to the Bunya Mountains National Park, where 160 million year old rainforest is the home to some of the only Bunya Pines in the country. These huge old trees were once a logger's dream as they are very straight and very tall, but thankfully in the park they are protected.

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The campsite was home to (whatever the collective term is)s of wallabies which bounced around amongst the tents and left lots of poo which had to be dodged while we cooked our dinner.

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It was also quite chilly, our blood still wasn't used to wintery weather so a kindly group of holidaying nurses lent us a spare sleeping bag to drape on top of ours.

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With all our clothes on as well we were just about warm enough - it was minus something and I did wonder a few times druing the night why on earth we'd ever left the tropics!

Our next stop was Carnarvon Gorge, recommended by Marcus in Imbil. Although we were getting better at leaving early and getting on the road we stopped to watch a trail bike ride and then to wander around the Historical Village museum at Miles (very good) where we'd been when the starter motor went. This time I didn't have to push start the bike however! As Ken says, this is the real reason for pillions. Great exercise but try pushing half a ton of metal 'down' a hill...

My favourite sign of the week was "Wamboshire, Proudly Rural" - each shire has its own slogan and I think this one must be to do with sheep.

By the time we arrived at the turn off to the gorge (after a stop for the slowest fast food in Australia in Roma) it was getting dark, we were getting grouchy - and the intercom had been unplugged for a while! The road turned to gravel, cows and huge bulls appeared out of the darkness, small marsupials raced across the road in front of us and I got pretty scared for a while. Nevertheless we arrived in one piece and decided to try and plan better next time.

Carnarvon Gorge (yep, named by a Welshmnan) was worth the scary ride though; we spent two full days walking and exploring it.

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For 3000 or more years the gorge was used as an Aboriginal burial ground and in several places you could see Aboriginal art. A guide explained the meanings of the pictures to us which was very interesting.

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I hope to learn more about Australian Aboriginals while here, there is heaps of information and history about the white settlers and what a hard time they had 200 years ago but I think the fact that people lived here for 60 000 years before that is something more of an achievement!

We intended to head to Longreach but stopped instead to try and get rich in the Gem Fields. These are a quirky collection of holes, ramshackle houses and eccentric people all trying to find big gems. We went for a fascinating tour around the 'Bobby Dazzler Mine' while John, the owner, taught us loads about sapphires, geology and mining in general. Afterwards we bought a bucket of dirt and fossicked away for a couple of hours. We found some small sapphires but didn't get rich, however it was great fun.

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And so to Longreach; almost in the middle of Queensland, right in the outback and home to the Stockmans' Hall of Fame and a 747 in a car park. We stayed at the 'Gunnadoo' Campsite which had more Grey Nomads (retirees in caravans) than we'd yet seen and some 'traditional bush entertainment' around the campfire at night, which we avoided like the plague.

The Hall of Fame was interesting and pleasingly did suggest that the first settlers might not have been able to er, settle without the assistance of the locals. This later became forced labour in some cases, although some enlightened people did recored some positive comments about those whose homes they had invaded. The white settlers did have one hell of a job and their stories were amazing but I find it incredibly sad that it was at the expense of a whole race of people. I also find it incredibly sad that many people we have met have been more than slightly cynical about Aboriginals without really looking at the root causes of the problems they are facing today. Right, I'll get off my soapbox now.

The 747 is actually a 'living' museum, donated by Qantas to the Qantas Founders museum next to Longreach Airstrip. This was also fascinating and we got to see all the bits of a plane that are usually restricted.

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The roads have been amazing, so straight that a corner is a major event. I've never seen such BIG spaces, land stretching to the horizon in every direction. We have seen a huge amount of wildlife too, we've both been twitching away taking pictures of birdlife. We've seen emus and kangaroos running across the plains, huge numbers of birds of prey and a couple of very long snakes. We've also seen more roadkill than I've ever seen in my life, dead marsupials almost every kilometre on the main roads, which is such a shame.

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People we've met have been so welcoming too, we've had big kindnesses and small kindnesses and we've both felt incredibly at home, (even though one of us is a Pom!) Whenever we meet people and say where we're from they say 'Oh, England'. And then 'Oh!!! Scotland!! My family were from there in 1880whatever! My great grandfather was a McSomething...' I'm sure Hamish is related to half of the country! But I can't say strongly enough how friendly just about every person we've met has been.

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If you look closely you can see the size of Scotland compared to Australia!!

The intercom on the bike is one thing I'm really glad we added. It's great for passing the time over huge distances and communicating directions, needs to stop and interesting things to see. I can also plug in the iPod which is great for taking your mind off having a numb bum. We've had to invent a signal which means 'I'mgoingtosneeze!!!!' otherwise it scares the living daylights out of the other person. I've been particularly deafened as Hame has had a cold for the past week.

Our camping equipment has also been very good - we will get around to adding some kind of list to this as we found reading other people's very helpful when planning our trip. However, we still have way too much stuff and will be posting another parcel back from Cairns in a couple of days, (sorry Alastair and Sarah!) As you can imagine, there have been several 'discussions' between Hame and I about what 'essential' means.

Right, time to hand over to the other author to write about the last two weeks.

(Emma)

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Posted by Emma Myatt at June 22, 2006 01:48 AM GMT
 
 

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