Archive for the ‘Australia’ Category

After a day of activity in Iluka, whether it be walking on the beaches or in the bush, playing golf or bowls, swimming, reading or just lazing about, a great way to end the day is to stroll along the path beside the bay to watch the sunset.  I did just that one day after a late afternoon visit to the mouth of the river and a walk on the ocean beach.

P1240762  ©  JT  of  jtdytravels

P1240762 © JT of jtdytravels

Where the Clarence River is channeled out to sea by two long breakwaters,

dolphins can often be seen.


P1240759  ©  JT  of  jtdytravels

P1240759 © JT of jtdytravels

By the time the sun had begun to sink low in the sky,

the main beach at Iluka was almost deserted.

Summer visitors had not yet arrived.

It had been a warm winter’s day but now the breeze was a little chilly.

  It was time to go back to my room at Iluka Motel.


P1240992  ©   JT  of  jtdytravels

P1240992 © JT of jtdytravels

I made one last stop for the day at Iluka Bay.

There, I found birds also ‘coming home’ from their day out.

A small flock of corollas flew in to hunt for a last minute feed of seeds.


P1240994  ©  JT  of jtdytravels

P1240994 © JT of jtdytravels

A couple of Ibis also flew in.  This one showed off its lacy tail.


P1250015  ©  JT  of  jtdytravels

P1250015 © JT of jtdytravels

It soon began to search the waters for a late afternoon feed.


P1240779  ©  JT  of  jtdytravels

P1240779 © JT of jtdytravels

A small boat caused rippling waves behind this grey heron.

The waters had begun to take on a tinge of the colours of the setting sun.


P1250026  ©  JT  of jtdytravels

P1250026 © JT of jtdytravels

A couple of ducks shovelled for food in the mud.


P1250008  ©   JT  of  jtdytravels

P1250008 © JT of jtdytravels

The pelicans swooped in for a final feed along with a small group of seagulls.


P1240964  ©   JT  of jtdytravels

P1240964 © JT of jtdytravels

As the sun sank even lower, this pelican seemed to pose for his portrait.


P1240952  ©  JT  of  jtdytravels

P1240952 © JT of jtdytravels

The late afternoon light also added extra charm to a common seagull.


P1240959  ©  JT  of jtdytravels

P1240959 © JT of jtdytravels

Even the boardwalk took on a golden glow.


P1240766   ©  JT  of  jtdytravels

P1240766 © JT of jtdytravels

On a quiet part of the bay, the water had retreated leaving puddles in the mud,

providing the opportunity for this heron portrait.


P1250012  ©  JT  of  jtdytravels

P1250012 © JT of jtdytravels

More pelicans arrived as

a ribbon of golden sunlight made its way across the bay.


P1250021  ©  JT  of  jtdytravels

P1250021 © JT of jtdytravels

By this time, the other evening walkers had left the path.

I was left alone to enjoy this quiet evening scene.


P1250022  ©  JT  of jtdytravels

P1250022 © JT of jtdytravels

The sky burnt a firey red as the sun slipped away

giving a final kiss of light to wispy clouds.

This is indeed a special place.

I’ve promised myself to return one day.


Photography  ©  copyright JT  of  jtdytravels

(Accommodation was at Iluka Motel… I can recommend it)

Stories and photos of our overseas travels can be found on













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For the keen walker, there are walks in abundance from the village of Iluka.  The walk beside Iluka Bay is the gentlest.  But there are walks along the beaches facing the Pacific Ocean and even more through a rainforest and through Bundjalong National Park.

P1240948  ©  JT  of  jtdytravels

P1240948 © JT of jtdytravels

The main road from the Pacific Highway into Iluka goes through the Bundjalung  National Park.  Side roads lead off into the forest and to the bluffs and beaches of the Pacific Ocean. The roads are unsealed but in good condition and the drive through tunnels of trees is a peaceful start to a day out in the bush.


P1240877  ©  JT  of  jtdytravels

P1240877 © JT of jtdytravels

The best known, and very well set up bush parking area is at Iluka Bluff.  Leaving the car here, you can choose to enjoy a walk or a rest on the beach, pick your way across the rocks at the headland, climb up to the bluff or walk in the forest; or do all of the above.


P1240879  ©  JT  f jtdytravels

P1240879 © JT f jtdytravels

My first choice was the beach – not to swim or laze in the sun but to walk.

When I was there, this beach was not patrolled, so care is needed if swimming.

One part of this beach is called Shark Bay – enough said!


P1240885  ©  JT  of jtdytravels

P1240885 © JT of jtdytravels

I shared this long beautiful stretch of coast with just two other people.

With a gentle sea on one side

and a forest alive with native birds on the other

it was a most pleasant walk.

There would no doubt be many more people enjoying this beach in summer.

P1240881  ©  JT  of  jtdytravels

P1240881 © JT of jtdytravels

However, this is not a bare foot beach.  It’s made up of small shells so …

a good pair of walking shoes was essential.


P1240896  ©  JT  of jtdytravels

P1240896 © JT of jtdytravels

Coming back from my beach walk, I began to explore the rocky headland.

It was the resting place that morning for hundreds of birds, most of them small terns.


P1240893  ©  JT  of jtdytravels

P1240893 © JT of jtdytravels

Amongst them were Cormorants and, of course, sea gulls.


P1240902  ©  JT  of  jtdytravels

P1240902 © JT of jtdytravels

My favourite bird of the morning was this Brahminy Kite (Haliastur Indus).  I had taken a short bush walk to get further out on the rocks below the bluff.  I found this magnificent bird sitting on a rock shelf quietly finishing off a feed of fish.  T’was a magic moment.

Brahminy Kites feed exclusively on fish and other marine animals.  I have read that they often scavenge for dead fish floating on the surface rather than catching live fish.  Once this bird had finished its meal, I enjoyed watching it soar high over the rock platform.

Iluka is almost to the southern edge of the Brahminy Kite’s range.  They occur only in warmer coastal areas and on offshore islands; in the eastern states they may occur from Port Macquarie north and, in Western Australia, they can be seen north of Carnarvon.  We saw them in the tidal rivers of the Kimberleys when we were there a few years ago.


P1240910  ©  JT  of  jtdytravels

P1240910 © JT of jtdytravels

There are good paths through the seaside scrub which seems to be alive with birds.

Most are impossible to photograph as they flit through the trees.


P1240912  ©  JT  of  jtdytravels

P1240912 © JT of jtdytravels

Some are much more used to human company. This magpie joined me on my walk.


P1240913  ©  JT  of  jtdytravels

P1240913 © JT of jtdytravels

A Masked Lapwing was a little more wary as he trotted across a more open area of park.


P1240939  ©  JT  of  jtdytravels

P1240939 © JT of jtdytravels

The common Australian native tree, the Paper Bark, Melaleuca sp., abounds in this park.

Birds love them and some artists like to use the papery bark in their creations.

However, collecting this bark in a National Park is not permitted.

Take only photos, leave only footprints – that’s the rule.


P1240947  ©  Jt  of  jtdytravels

P1240947 © Jt of jtdytravels

Day visitors are well catered for with plenty of tables in shady places for picnics.

There are also eco friendly long drop, composting toilets near the car park.


P1240938  ©  JT  of  jtdytravels

P1240938 © JT of jtdytravels

A shaded, raised information area also has a picnic table and tank water.


P1240935  ©  JT  of  jtdytravels

P1240935 © JT of jtdytravels

From the information platform, a steep set of steps leads up towards the top of the bluff.


P1240922  ©  JT  of  jtdytravels

P1240922 © JT of jtdytravels

From the top of the steps, a steepish gravelled path with steps leads further upwards.

A more gentle board walk path then leads on through the bush.


P1240921  ©  JT  of  jtdytravels

P1240921 © JT of jtdytravels

There are some interesting trees to look at along the way.


P1240934  ©  JT  of  jtdytravels

P1240934 © JT of jtdytravels

A volunteer landcare group has been busy cleaning out weeds in this area.

They’ve also planted several more native trees and bushes.


P1240924  ©  JT  of jtdytravels

P1240924 © JT of jtdytravels

Finally, the look out comes into view.

And the view from the top is well worth the climb.

This is a great place to watch for whales on their migration route.

Looking south is the breakwater lined mouth of the Clarence River.

Yamba can be seen on the hill beyond.

Iluka is further back to the right behind another long, sandy beach.


P1240927  ©  JT  of jtdytravels

P1240927 © JT of jtdytravels

The sound and sight of waves folding over rocks below is something I always enjoy.


P1240926  ©  Jt  of jtdytravels

P1240926 © Jt of jtdytravels

There were many more walks I could have taken in this National Park,

but I was happy to take a rest here

and enjoy the solitude and the beauty of the sea scape.

The other walks will have to wait until I return some other time!


Photography  © Copyright  JT  of  jtdytravels

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The small seaside village of Iluka is a very quiet, relaxing place on the north side of the mouth of the Clarence River in Northern NSW.  It’s a place far away from the hurly burly of the daily life of cities and towns.  As a holiday destination, Iluka’s neighbour across the river, Yamba, is a much bigger and livelier place.  But I wanted a quiet place to recharge my batteries, to slow down and enjoy the gentle things in life.  I found that place in Iluka.  So why not come with me for a quiet stroll along the riverside.

P1240838  ©  JT  of jtdytravels

P1240838 © JT of jtdytravels

This walk will take us along the edge of Iluka Bay, a man made safe harbour and refuge on the edge of the river.  This was the first view from the path I followed down to the river.

P1240843  ©  JT  of jtdytravels

P1240843 © JT of jtdytravels

There to greet me were two of those well known and much loved birds of the waterways, the Australian Pelican, Pelecanus conspicuillatus,  a very conspicuous bird.  We are so used to seeing pelicans in Australia that we often pass them by without stopping for a good look.   Common though this bird may be, there are some things we might not all know about this bird.  Here are some points of interest that you can use in a Trivia quiz!

1. There are seven species of pelicans in the world, all of them black and white except for the brown Pelecanus occidentals. That’s a pelican we have seen in the Galapagos Islands.

2.  Pelicans have a wingspan of 2.3 m – 2.5 m.  They need those big wings to help lift themselves off the water.

3. And even when they do get airborne, Pelicans can’t sustain flapping flight.  But they are excellent soarers, using the thermals to remain in the air for 24 hours at a time, covering hundreds of kilometres in search of food and water in dry seasons.

4. A Pelican’s skeleton weighs only 10% of its total body weight.


P1240969  ©  JT  of jtdytravels

P1240969 © JT of jtdytravels

That famous bill is about half a metre long.  Perhaps some of you will be familiar with Edward Lear’s rhyme about the Pelican’s long bill and massive throat pouch:

“A wonderful bird is the pelican; His beak can hold more than his belly can; He can hold in his beak enough food for a week; But I’ll be darned if know how the hellican! “


P1240820 ©

P1240820 © JT of jtdytravels

Of course pelicans are much heavier with a belly full of fish and, after eating, they just cruise around or rest on a safe rocky ledge like a break water.  I expect this pair are ‘locals’ and don’t go far from ‘home’ at Iluka Bay where there’s plenty for them to eat.


P1240813  ©  JT  of jtdytravels

P1240813 © JT of jtdytravels

They no doubt wait for the next fisherman to come back through the breakwater with hopefully a load of fish – and fish heads that are not wanted!  And at the end of this bay is the harbour for the professional fishermen.  It’s a very good place for a pelican to live.

P1240815  @  JT  of jtdytravels

P1240815 @ JT of jtdytravels

Further along the beach, an Australian White Ibis was searching for food. This bird comes with a real tongue twister of a name; Threskiornis moluccus.  Using their long curved bills, they dig up food from the mud.  They eat invertebrates.  Best of all they seem to really enjoy mussels which they open by whacking the hard shells on a rock.


P1240824  ©  JT  of  jtdytravels.com

P1240824 © JT of jtdytravels.com

I had hoped there was a path along the breakwater but it’s just a jumble of very large rocks protecting the bay from the river currents and strong tides.  This breakwater is essential to Iluka because the Clarence River is also known for very large floods.


P1240814  ©  JT  of jtdytravels

P1240814 © JT of jtdytravels

In a park beside the bay, is a rather smart looking shed for the rowing club and other aquatic sports.  The mural is very much in keeping with the scenery.


P1240822  ©  JT  of  jtdytravels

P1240822 © JT of jtdytravels

A Masked Lapwing, Vanellus miles novaehollandiae, kept an eye on me as it searched for insects.  Since it lives, nests and feeds on the ground, it is always wary.

This fairly common Australian bird is also known as a Masked Plover, a Spur-winged Plover or just Plover.  The distinctive black neck stripe on this bird distinguishes it as an eastern state variety.  The northern variety has an all white neck and larger wattles.


P1240826  ©  JT  of jtdytravels

P1240826 © JT of jtdytravels

A new addition to the foreshore here is a very good and solidly built workout station.  I tried it out with a lady who had ridden her bike down to do her morning exercises.  It was a very pleasant way to do exercise while looking out at the bay, the boats and the birds.

P1240853  ©  JT  of jtdytravels

P1240853 © JT of jtdytravels

Walking back towards the other end of the bay and the professional fishing harbour, I enjoyed some shade in the heat of the day.  The path is in excellent condition and used by walkers and bike riders.  There’s one thing that is very certain about this village; people are encouraged to get out and about and enjoy the delightful environment. And they do.


P1240829  ©  JT  of jtdytravels

P1240829 © JT of jtdytravels

Even this pretty pigeon was out for a walk and followed along with me for quite a while.

P1240840  ©  JT  of  jtdytravels

P1240840 © JT of jtdytravels

Among the usual seaside flowers was this unusual one that I had never seen before.


P1240832  ©  JT  of  jtdytravels

P1240832 © JT of jtdytravels

But this magnificent flower of the coral tree, one of the Erythrina family of plants, is well known to me.  It reminds me of our wonderful, kind neighbour, “Gran”, who lived next door to us when I was a child.  Between our house and hers was a row of coral trees and  seeing these splendid red flowers always brings me a special sense of joy as I remember her with love.  Our own Grans lived far away.  She was our special Gran.


P1240861  ©  JT  of  jtdytravels

P1240861 © JT of jtdytravels

A white heron flew down to try its luck in the waters beside me.

I love to watch them stalking their prey.


P1240862  ©  JT  of  jydytravels

P1240862 © JT of jydytravels

As usual in most Australian water ways, a couple of ducks came by to see if I had some food for them.  No such luck.  There’s plenty of natural food for the birds here. These ducks are Pacific Black Ducks, Anas superciliosa, a very common duck.  It frequents all types of waterways and feeds mostly on seeds, especially of aquatic plants. However, they also like to eat small crustaceans, molluscs and aquatic insects.


P1240856  ©  JT  of  jtdytravels

P1240856 © JT of jtdytravels

On just about every coastal walk in Northern NSW you will come across the glowing pink flower of the Mesembryanthemum, a native of South Africa.  And since this flower’s name means ‘midday flowering’, you’ll see them at their very best in the heat of the day.


P1240865  ©  JT  of jtdytravels

P1240865 © JT of jtdytravels

There are several paths back up from the river to the village.  This one was a little steep. A tree on the side of the path seemed to grow out rather than up, its trunk an art gallery of lichen.


P1240950  ©  JT  of jtdytravels

P1240950 © JT of jtdytravels

Grevillea is one of my favourite native Australian flowers and this one was a real winner. These were growing in someone’s front yard.


P1240951  ©  JT  of  jtdytravels

P1240951 © JT of jtdytravels

Beside it, this beautiful creamy Grevillea was just beginning to uncurl.


P1240871  ©  JT  of  jtdytravels

P1240871 © JT of jtdytravels

A standard garden plant in any northern NSW coastal garden is the bougainvillaea.

They provide wonderful splashes of colour – mainly reds and pinks.


P1240874  ©  JT  of jtdytravels

P1240874 © JT of jtdytravels

After a delightful morning walking by the water, I returned ‘home’ to the Iluka Motel for lunch, a rest and a quiet read on my private back patio.  This is a great country motel and I can’t thank Margaret and Les enough for the warmth of their hospitality.  I’ll be back!


Photography ©  JT  of  jtdytravels

PS.  A good place to look for information on the water birds I had seen on this walk is


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Lake Burley Griffin, Canberra, Diorama P1010476      ©   JT   of  ‘jtdytravels’

Lake Burley Griffin is at the heart of Canberra, the Capital City of Australia. There are two bridges that cross the lake and form the sides of  the Parliamentary Triangle.  At the apex of the triangle is Parliament House.  Below it, the white building is Old Parliament House, now used as the Museum of Democracy.  The National Art Gallery and Portrait Gallery, the High Court, Questacon – the National Science and Technology Centre – and the National Library are all set in the park that stretches along the lake’s central basin between Kings Bridge on the left and Commonwealth Bridge on the right.  The red avenue in the centre of the diorama is ANZAC Parade and that leads to the War Memorial.

Eastern Basin Diorama P1010477 © JT of ‘jtdytravels’

To the left of Kings Bridge is the lake’s eastern basin.  Bowen Park, where we walked in a previous journal, is at the top of this part of the diorama.  We live just a couple of suburbs away.  The Carillon is set on it’s own small island just to the right of the bridge.

Main Diorama P1010476 © JT of ‘jtdytravels’

Back to the main diorama.  Top right, above the Commonwealth Bridge,  is the western basin of the lake.  The building far right is the National Museum of Australia. The walking bridge does not exist yet – it’s in the planning stages.  Centre right  is Commonwealth Park and the smaller lake, Nerang Pool, is where we’ll visit in our next journal entry. This diorama is housed in the Regatta Point Building, the white building in Commonwealth Park.  It’s set on a hill, a great vantage point from which to view the other side of the lake.

Now let’s look at some photos I took yesterday from Regatta Point.

Questacon (left) and National Library (right) P1010471 © JT of ‘jtdytravels’

The National Library of Australia is perhaps my favourite building in Canberra.  The fiery autumn leaf photos in an earlier journal were of the trees, now bereft of their leaves, on the lakeside walk by the library.  The flag pole on top of Parliament House is to the left of the library.  Questacon National Science and Technology Centre is on the left.

High Court of Australia P1010327 © JT of ‘jtdytravels’

Further along that lakeside walk, passed the flags of all the nations that have diplomatic ties with Australia, is the High Court. Tucked in behind that is the National Art Gallery of Australia and the National Portrait gallery.  I do enjoy walking by the lake in that area.

High Court, Kings Bridge & Carillon P1010325 © JT of ‘jtdytravels’

In this photo, the High Court of Australia is on the right and the Carillon is on the left. The bridge is Kings Bridge, one of the two traffic bridges that cross the lake. Canberra is well known as a divided city – with suburbs and satellite city centres to the south of the lake and those to the north each engendering great loyalties.  We are southies!

Nerang Pool, Canberra P1010333 © JT of ‘jtdytravels’

Turning into Commonwealth Park from the main lake there’s a short walk to the smaller lake known as Nerang Pool.  It’s a haven for water birds close the main civic centre of Canberra which is just beyond those trees.  This area around Nerang Pool is the site for Canberra’s spring flower festival, Floriade.  The garden beds for the 2012 show have already been prepared and planted and are currently protected by mesh.  Floriade begins in mid September and goes until mid October.  Just now, in the colder months, it is quiet here and in the next JT’s Jottings we’ll take a walk around this small lake.

Photography  ©   JT   of  ‘jtdytravels’

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Today was scheduled to be a drive up onto the Atherton Tableland and a steam train ride from Ravenshoe to Tumoulin and return.  We were told right at the beginning of the trip that the steam train had been taken out of service only a couple of days earlier, to until at least the end of the year.  The tour company, instead, organised a bus tour around the Tableland and a cruise on Lake Barrine, a crater lake I’d visited before.  On that occasion I walked the 5.6km trail so it was really interesting  to see it from the water and to get a totally different feel for the place.  The flat bottomed boat was driven by batteries so it was lovely and peaceful to boot.

Tropical rainforest along the shores of Lake Barrine
P1080778 DY of ‘jtdytravels’

Basket fern
P1080790 DY of ‘jtdytravels’

a non-threatening carpet snake
P1080739 DY of ‘jtdytravels’

P1080776 DY of ‘jtdytravels’

Tea Rooms, Lake Barrine
P1080792 DY of ‘jtdytravels’

As an added bonus, an attempt to dampen the disappointment of not having the steam experience, we travelled from Kuranda to Cairns down the 7.5km long Skyrail Rainforest Cableway.  It took 12 months to construct and was opened in 1995.  This was after the 7 years it took to get the necessary planning and approval processes dealt with.

P1080831 DY of ‘jtdytravels’

All the towers, there are 33 of them, were lifted into place by a heavy-lift Russian helicopter.  The highest tower is 40.6m high and there are 114 gondola cabins.  There are two stopping points on the cableway, an opportunity to leave the gondolas and take short walks to viewing platforms, a couple of which look over Barron Falls.  It was a fascinating ride over the top of the tropical rain forest.

Barron Falls
P1080825 DY of ‘jtdytravels’

In Cairns we stayed in The Hotel Cairns.  It was a very nice hotel, centrally located, one parallel street off the Promenade, so it was easy to get anywhere but not noisy.  The remarkable thing about the hotel was that it had Smart cars for free!  Free as long as you paid $30 insurance and had the vehicle back by 11pm.  I’ve never come across this sort of deal before.

One of The Hotel Cairns Smart Cars
P1080730 DY of ‘jtdytravels’

This brings me to the end of my Queensland Outback Railway Adventure.  See you in Africa in July. But next we’ll have some stories of Jennie and her sister Annette’s travels to Ireland.   David

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The ‘Savannahlander’ awaits us at Forsayth
P1080524 DY of ‘jtdytravels’

An early morning was called for this morning as we had to have breakfast finished by quarter to seven so we could be transferred by bus the 48km back to Forsayth in time to catch the ‘Savannahlander’ which was to take us to Mt Surprise, and later, on the Cairns.

Riding with the driver and observer
P1080564 DY of ‘jtdytravels’

From Forsayth to Mt Surprise, a distance of 162km, the 20 pound rail had been laid as cheaply as possible.  To this extent, the track even ran along a river bed as that route was much cheaper than constructing a cutting higher up the steep bank.  As the train didn’t run during the wet, it didn’t matter that the line would be under water for a couple of months each year.  Steel sleepers were again used, laid directly onto the ground without any ballast or formed track bed.  It was a slow but very relaxing journey up and over the Newcastle Range.

When it breaks, it’s not always fixed
P1080574 DY of ‘jtdytravels’

Often we had to slow down to wait for cattle to cross the track but as we were only travelling at 20 – 40k/h, this didn’t really pose too much of a problem it just added to the quaintness of the whole experience.  The ‘Savannahlander’ only runs once a week, taking two days each way.

with hundreds of thousands of acres to walk in…
P1080680 DY of ‘jtdytravels’

All the distances on the ‘Savannahlander’ line are in kilometres as its track is physically joined to the main QR network.  As the ‘Gulflander’ line is an isolated section of track, the distances are still in miles as this better represents the era during which the ‘Gulflander’ was the main means of travel through the Outback, a time before roads were built and long before Australia went metric.

Again, our lunch order was phoned ahead to the one and only place that could provide food in Einasleigh – the pub.  I don’t think there is anywhere else for anything else in Einasleigh!

The train just slowed to a stop at the crossing with the main road and we all got off and walked the couple of hundred metres to the hotel.  Here our lunches awaited us along with the odd liquid refreshment.

The Einasleigh Hotel is within easy walking distance of the train stop
P1080585 DY of ‘jtdytravels’

A bit further on from the pub is the rather Copperfield Gorge.  Most of us took the opportunity to stretch our legs and walk the half kilometre or so for an inspection.  It was worth the effort.  The river has cut a deep and narrow cleft through the rock leaving interesting shapes, pools and colours in its wake.

Copperfield Gorge with road and rail bridges
P1080584 DY of ‘jtdytravels’

After our lunch and exercise we reboarded the train for the run to Mt Surprise.  The railway line of course crossed the river we had just taken a look at so the photographers amongst us we treated to a ‘Savannahlander’ exclusive.  The train traversed the bridge, let us off, then it backed up to the other side.  Once we were all in place the train made a slow crossing of the bridge.  Many pictures were taken.  Obviously it stopped for us to get back on, all happy little Vegemites.

The ‘Savannahlander’ performs for us on the bridge
P1080592 DY of ‘jtdytravels’

We arrived at Mt Surprise at 2.30 and were transferred by bus to Undara Lava Tubes Village.  We just had time to drop our bags in our converted old wooden railway carriages which were to be our overnight accommodation before a guided tour of the lave tube complex began.

We slept in converted railway carriages
P1080638 DY of ‘jtdytravels’

Basic but comfortable

190,000 years ago when volcanic activity was still shaping the Australian landscape, the Undara Lava Tubes were formed.  The sloping topography of the area allowed the lava, which was oozing to the surface at between 1175 and 1220 degrees Celsius, to flow across 1550 square kilometres of land.  The depressions caused by rivers aided this flow.  The rate of flow was 1000 cubic metres/second, or enough to fill 1500 semi-trailer tankers

The tubes formed as the surface cooled but the flow beneath was great enough to keep flowing for up to 160km in a NW direction.  Once the eruption ceased the insulated lava drained away, thereby creating the pipelines.  Over time weaknesses formed and portions of the tubes collapsed.  This is what gives access to the remaining system.  Much has been filled with sediment and not all the tubes are accessible, however an impressive amount is open for 2 and a half hour guided walks.

Part of the Undara Lava Tubes complex
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On the short drive back to the camp we saw Pretty-faced and Grey Eastern macropods.

Eastern Grey Kangaroos
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More anon   David

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Cobbold Gorge can be found on Robin Hood Station which is 48km SE of Forsayth in Queensland.  Robin Hood Station is a 1284 square kilometre property which is currently running 15,000 head of Brahman and Brahman/cross cattle.  It is located in the Newcastle Ranges.

Cobbold Gorge Village pond
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pond reflections at Cobbold Gorge Village
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A 4720ha Nature Refuge was declared on 5 June 2009 which protects rare and vulnerable plant species such as Solanum carduiforme, Gilbert River Ghost Gum (Corymbia gilbertensis) and Leptospermum pallidum.  The refuge also connects several wildlife corridors.

Melaleuca leucodendron Cobbold Gorge
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Calythrix sp. Cobbold Gorge
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Cobbold Gorge is around 6km long but only the last 500m is accessible by flat bottom boat.  It has 30m high vertical walls and is only 2m wide in places.  It is fed by several springs which keep the water level constant during the dry winter period of the year.  It becomes a raging torrent during the summer wet.

Cobbold Gorge
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quietly cruising down Cobbold Gorge
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Johnson River crocodiles basked in the sun on flat rocky ledges, mostly oblivious to us.  A couple of them took umbrage at our presence and slipped off into the water to insidiously sink below the surface.  They have never been known to kill a human.  Nonetheless, they don’t endear themselves to me under any circumstance, no matter how nice they maybe.

Johnstone River (Freshwater) Crocodile, Cobbld Gorge
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There was quite a lot of bird life including a snake bird, parrots and whistling kites and a wedge-tailed eagle flying overhead.  There were a couple of wattles in flower along with a red-flowered grevillea.  It was a most interesting morning on the water after first of all walking around the top of the gorge.

Whistling kite, Cobbold Gorge
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In the afternoon there was a tour of the workings of the Robin Hood Station, which I declined, instead choosing to go for a walk around the settlement.  There were a couple of walking tracks which produced more birds including a wren, red-tailed black cockatoos, pale-headed and rainbow lorikeets and some unidentifiable honey-eaters.  A better option, I thought, to seeing another cattle station, a few of which I’ve toured around before.

Back at the camp and after a cleansing shower, I sat on a chair outside my cabin upon which no sooner had I settled onto my chair than a couple of butcher birds turned up on my roof.  They looked hungry, so, having some of those cashews I bought in Cairns left, and with me, I crushed one up and sprinkled it on the far corner of the small table.  I hadn’t got my hand back to pick up my whisky than the first bird was on the table enjoying my offering.  Soon joined by his mate I was having a better bird experience than that gained on the earlier walk.   Not to be outdone, a couple of noisy minor birds turned up closely followed by a flock of grey apostle birds.  I was in heaven, although the butcher birds were too busy eating to sing for me.  They must have listened to my mother who always said you shouldn’t talk with your mouth full, or sing for that matter either!

Pied Butcherbird, Cobbold Gorge Village
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Noisy Miner, Cobbold Gorge Village
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More anon   David

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The present ‘Gulflander’ (RM 93) has a 102hp Gardner diesel motor.  It was built in the Ipswich Railway Workshops in 1950 and arrived in Normanton in 1982 having served on other parts of the Queensland Railways network for the intervening 32 years.

up the front grill of RM93 P1080285 DY of ‘jtdytravels’

The ‘Gulflander’ leaves Normanton at 8.30am every Wednesday and has done so ever since it began running all the way to Croydon on the 20th July 1891. It returns from Croydon on Thursday after an overnight stop.  The train consisted of the rail motor itself and two carriages, each a bit younger than the rail motor.  Each of these coaches was refurbished a couple of years ago and were quite comfortable to travel in – if the condition of the track is taken out of the equation.

RM93 with its stable mate RM60 at Normanton Station
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The track is quite interesting as it was laid using metal sleepers, some sourced from Australia and some from the UK.  They were designed by QR’s Inspecting Surveyor, George Phillips, as he understood the difficulties of constructing a railway line through the monsoon flood plains of the district.  He envisaged a line that would offer as little resistance as possible to the masses of water which result from the torrential rainfall the area gets during the monsoon season.  His metal sleepers were “U” shaped in construction and were filled with mud and laid directly onto the soil the line traversed.  There was to be no embankment or ballast.  As this line is still 98% intact after 124 years attests to the vision of this early engineer. The first track of the Normanton to Croydon railway line was laid on 2nd July in 1888.  Metal was used for two main reasons: firstly because there were no suitable timber trees growing in the area for wooden sleepers and secondly: because termites would have eaten out the wooden sleepers which would have needed replacing every couple of years.

Metal sleepers P1080314 DY of ‘jtdytravels’

Mind you, the track has deteriorated a bit over time and is not as smooth or straight as it was when built.  The train manages around 40k/h for most of the journey.

The track is not always in the best of condition
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The carriages RM93 pulled along
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There is a half way stop at Black Bull Siding where the train stops and morning tea is served.  Enamel billy mugs of tea and a muffin were enjoyed by all on board.  After a thirty minute stop it is ‘all aboard’ for the rest of the journey.

RM93 at Black Bull Siding

A hot cup of tea and a muffin at Black Bull Siding
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We were 15 minutes late arriving in Croydon, nonetheless, lunch was ready for us at the local pub.  The choice of cold meats and salad may have something to do with the unpredictable arrival of the train.

After lunch it was onto a bus which took us the 238km to Cobbold Gorge via Georgetown and Forsayth.  It was a late arrival at 6.30pm, dinner being served almost immediately and bed.  It was a long day.

It is interesting to note that the ‘Gulflander’ has not turned a profit since 1907.  This shaky situation is why I wanted to do this trip, and although the train and its infrastructure are heritage listed, I can’t see it continuing for ever.  It is only going to take an extra big storm or fire to destroy some of the quite significant wooden bridges, and the powers to be will most likely decide to pull the plug.

More anon  David

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A Dash 8, 100 series plane, built in 1987, took us from Mt Isa to Normanton.  Although only 380km, a relatively short distance for these parts of outback Queensland, it took us four hours to reach our destination.  We landed at three other places before arriving in Normanton as we were on the twice weekly ‘milk run’.

Dash 8 aircraft belonging to Skytrans P1080226 DY of ‘jtdytravels’

Firstly we landed at Doomadgee, an aboriginal settlement, then Burketown before flying across the north coast and over the Gulf of Carpentaria for a short distance to Mornington Island and its main centre of Gununa.  Apart from exchanging a few passengers and some AustPost mailbags, not a lot happened at these stops.  As the flight was booked many months ago, our tour company requested window seats for us all.  Skytrans obliged so we all had wonderful views of the everchanging patterns and colours below.

We were running 50 minutes behind time so were only allowed off the aircraft in Burketown.  Wandering around the outside of the terminal (a small tin shed) we did see some black-faced wood swallows, zebra finches, a couple of brolga who obligingly took off to join some black kites already soaring on the wind currents.

Burketown is an acknowledged centre for burramundi fishing.

The Welcome sign P1080227 DY of ‘jtdytravels’

Black-faced Wood Swallows P1080238 DY of ‘jtdytravels’

Flying in this area of Australia presents some wonderful patterns on the ground.  The flight bookings had been made many months ago with window seats being requested for us all.  This request was met so everybody had a good view.

Wonderful patterns of the Gulf Country P1080246 DY of ‘jtdytravels’

We eventually arrived in Normanton where we had a late lunch at the Albion Hotel. Our tour leader generally had the lunch menu so we made our choice from this before he phoned ahead.  This gave the limited staff at these places a chance of serving us in a reasonable time. The menu generally had things like pies, sandwiches and wraps to choose from.  This pub was built in the late 1880’s in Croydon and relocated to its present location in Normanton during the early 1900’s.

The Albion Pub, Normanton P1080268 DY of ‘jtdytravels’

There were some interesting signs in the pub P1080267 DY of ‘jtdytravels’

After lunch we boarded our specially chartered Rail Motor (RM 60) for the four mile run to the first turning triangle out of Normanton.  This length of track is all part of the Normanton yards, if we had wanted to go any further east, we would have had to get permission from ‘Control’ in Townsville.  The driver could loose his job without this approval.

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RM 60 is a unique vehicle.  It is powered by a 45hp AEC motor and was built in the Ipswich Railway Workshops in 1931.

RM60 in Normanton Station 1080279 DY of ‘jtdytravels’

It’s a rough ride over rough lightly constructed track, but a thoroughly enjoyable experience.

view from observor’s seat RM60 P1080297  DY of ‘jtdytravels’

More of this journey anon   David

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Mt Isa – a mining town

Mt Isa mines, which is owned by Xtrata, is a huge operation.  The main mine and processing infrastructure sits on the western edge of town.  The metals extracted from the area include silver, lead, zinc and copper

Mt Isa Mine from look-out hill

As big as the mine is, the whole infrastructure is to be demolished over the next 3-4 years as the ore bodies beneath this part of the mine are worth many more millions of dollars than the buildings.  The removal of these buildings will allow for the creation of a super pit which will be over 5km long and provide ore for the next 70+ years.

At present the mine is working at a depth of 2800m.  The lift that gets the miners to the workings has two decks, each of which carries 92 people.  The lift descends at a speed of 63km/h to level 22 which is at a depth of about 1000m.  From there the workers are taken to their worksites in Toyota vehicles.  These vehicles only last two to three years because of the very difficult conditions under which they operate.  Once no longer serviceable they are crushed, presumably by some vehicle larger than themselves, and pushed into a worked out stope which is then back-filled.  Why does the mine keep using Toyotas, when they only last a few years?  They outperform and outlast any other comparable vehicle.  Apparently there is billions of dollars worth of equipment that has been dealt with in this manner, buried underground.

The mine produces its own pollution which is expelled from four large chimney stacks but as the prevailing wind is westerly, this pollution is blown away from the town and out into the dessert.  It is said that the copper content of this smoke is the reason why the Western Red Kangaroos out in the Simpson Desert are a coppery colour!?

There is a small mine which was abandoned many years ago a little further into town.  Xtrata has set this old working up as their training centre for new workers and as a visitor experience.  Called the ‘Hard Times Mine’, it was not given that name for the obvious reason but because it was the name of the dog that belonged to the prospector who discovered the mine!

‘Hard Times’ poppet head, winding house to left P1080213 DY of ‘jtdytravels’

Visitors are taken underground where all facets of a day in the life of a miner are experienced.  We had to don safety gear which included a bright orange set of coveralls, a helmet with light and gum boots.  We really looked as though we meant business.

A miners safety gear – we mean business P1080217 DY of ‘jtdytravels’

We were ushered into a cage which lowered us into the mine, down a distance of only about 20 metres, and certainly not at the speed of the real thing.  It was a rather sedate descent, with of course, the obligatory ‘power failure’ and therefore unscheduled stop.  This all fell a bit flat as most of us had been underground before and were up with the tricks the lift operators get up to.

Underground there were all the usual things from reo bolted to the walls and ceiling to prevent cave-ins, to vehicles and various drilling apparatus.  The miners don’t like the reo bolted into the rock as they preferred the old wooden props which they say ‘talked’ to them.  This gave the experienced miner a warning of trouble ahead.  The metal doesn’t talk until it fails; then it is all a bit too late!  It was a great tour with the two and three quarter hour experience coming to an end all too quickly.  It is, however, as close to being a miner I want to get.

We were not permitted to take any cameras below ground.

One comment that has to be made is about the size of the meals served around town.  They are huge and rightfully so for a workforce which expends so much energy all day, every day.  But, for us poor pensioners, the thought of having to wade through the colossal plate full of food is all a bit daunting.  Mind you, most of us manage, but I think it is mainly because we were brought up to eat what was put in front of you and not waste food.  Please, more buffets, where portion control is our business.

Two of our group have lived in The Isa in the past.  B.. was an R and D manager and lived in the town for 8 years, the other, S…, was the wife of a mine worker.  They decided that they wanted to reminiscence and have a look at their old homes so we jumped in a taxi and ventured into the suburbs.  This took us off the beaten tourist track and gave a pretty good idea of the real Mt Isa.  This turned out to be a worthwhile exercise for us all, as they found their respective houses in equal or better condition than they remembered them.

More anon  David

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