637. Sunday 2nd September 2018. Clermont to Charters Towers, Townsville, Airlie Beach and Mackay. Visiting family…

This was a big week of photos.

Monday 27th August

At the beginning of this century, Donnis and I drove (in my beloved sadly missed, Subaru, Liberty, Rallye) from The Lynd Roadhouse along the developmental Gregory Highway south to Charters Towers. The distance was 260 Klms and took three hours, much of it at nighttime and through parts which were still unsealed and it was raining. Today we travelled north from Clermont to Charters Towers on the Gregory Highway, a distance of 397 Klms. The trip took 4 hours.

The flat landscape allowed us to see, in the distance, some of the rocky features of the Peak Range National Park. The now extinct volcano was active around 32 million years ago. These high “jump ups’ are all that remain of the ancient caldera.

We passed through a constantly changing landscape although everywhere we looked it was dry. Typically in this area and with the flat horizon to horizon landscape there was a cloudless blue sky. One day rain will come but in the meantime the parched landscape will prevail. Even the trees have leaves the colour of grey green, containing more eucalyptus oil than chlorophyl.

Somewhere between the middle of nowhere and the middle of nowhere on a long straight stretch of road we saw an animal crossing. As we got closer it moved quickly with a gait familiar to us. It was a feral cat who once having gained the safety of the verge stopped and looked at us over its shoulder before slinking into the crisp brown grass. In all our years of travelling all types of roads around Australia this is the first time we have seen a feral cat in the wild. Feral cats are a huge problem in the outback. They kill native wildlife at a faster rate than native predators. They also breed more rapidly and are vicious when approached.

There was fresh and aged road kill. The fresh road kill almost always had a cloud of carnivorous birds pulling at the carcass. As we approached some would fly away, some would hop off to the side of the road but always there was one brave bird who stood his ground, defying anybody to distract him from the business of feasting on fresh meat. It seems the most prevalent diner at road kill is the Torresian Crow. Quite often eating side by side with the others is one or more Wedge Tailed Eagles. At one kill we saw 6 eagles working together. As a car approached they would take off but within moments of passing they were landing back on the carcass.

Our first and only stop was both unexpected and disappointing. At the 169 Klm mark was a bridge over the dry sandy bed of the Belyando River. I understand that once upon a time when the road was little more than a gravel track, there was a low level river crossing here. It was known then and still is known as Belyando Crossing. There is a garage and some basic accommodation and a few campsites on the hill above the dry river. (yes the river is dry much of the year but come the wet season that all changes) All around the site are signs telling you what you can and cannot do, The toilets have a sign to say they are not public toilets and you must buy at least something over $2 to get the password to gain entry to the toilets. I agree the site has to have some rules in order to survive as a business but I just think the proliferation of signs is over the top.

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Belyando Crossing Roadhouse.

Although isolated, Belyando Crossing is quite a popular stop. Spring is approaching which explains the 30° temperature which was offset by a wonderful breeze wafting along and up from the dry river bed. A dry bed it may be but typically of arid landscapes it is well endowed with shady trees along its length.

The next 200 Klms was much like the first part of the trip with a change in the flora from time to time. Most of the countryside was flat to the horizon but as we neared Charters Towers rocky hills became the norm.

We stopped for lunch at McDonalds at Charters Towers. Nuff said about that.

The road to Townsville, 159 Klms away, was through similar territory although now we crossed the Great Dividing Range at Mingella Range and came down to sea level arriving at Karen’s house around 4pm.

A bushfire was burning somewhere on a knoll nearer the coast. The offshore breeze was blowing the smoke across the suburbs and leaving a smudge of grey over the ranges.

Sleeping was difficult with the smell of smoke seeming to fill the lungs.

Tuesday 28h August

Woke to a clear blue sky with only a few puffy white clouds and that smokey haze left over from yesterday.

We managed a short visit with daughter Shelley and although this was a school day both Matthew and Jack were at home. Georgia was also home from her job as a Jillaroo on an outback property some distance out of Alice Springs.

Both Shelley and our friend Karen ere at 1300 SMILES Stadium last Friday night to watch the last home game to be played by Rugby League legend, Jonathon Thurston with his team, the Cowboys. Both were part of the sellout crowd who stayed after the game to farewell JT.

Wednesday 29th August

While I had another visit with Shelley Donnis and Karen went curtain shopping at Spotlight. Matthew was at school today and his class had a Fathers Day sale and I was invited to attend as Grandad while he went shopping.

Our friends Tony and Dawn have arrived at Balgal Beach and will be able to meet with us tomorrow.

Thursday 30th August

Karen lives in a bushland setting suburb. There are many walking tracks and paths in and around the suburb. Those tracks are all set in native vegetation including footbridges over natural creeks.

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One of many footbridges scattered through the suburb.

The bridges have warning signs advising not to play in or near the water due to the danger of crocodiles!

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A long way from the water but soon the water will arrive and so will the crocs.

Cocodiles! But this dry creek bed is several Klms from the ocean! The creeks may be dry now but the wet season is approaching. 300818 creek1The wet season could be as long as October until May.

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An overgrown creek.

When torrential rain falls in the tropics is does so with a vengeance. The rain increases the humidity levels to around 90% day and night for months at a time. Crocodiles lay their eggs in the humid season. These dry creek beds will soon become, raging torrents of deep water then calm wide and equally deep creeks. It is easy for crocodiles to swim upstream looking for food and or a place to nest. Later the creeks will become smaller disjointed billabongs then small isolated pools with lots of dry sandy creek beds once again and the cycle begins all over.

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Who would paint a dead tree?

Karen wanted to have lunch at Brothers Rugby League Club. Our long terms friends, Tony and Dawn have just arrived in Townsville so we all agreed to meet for lunch. Brothers had a T-Bone Thursday special. Afterwards we went back to their caravan for our usual catch up. They have had a series of problems in the last two months and have decided to postpone their round Australia trip for this year.

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Landing Jetty on Ross River.
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Ross River with Mt Stuart in the distance.
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Cormorants drying in the sun.
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Look at the webbed feet of the Cormorant.

Friday 31st August

Another beautiful day in Paradise. Actually Paradise is all along the Queensland coast.

I met up with daughter Shelley, hubby Dwaynne and grandchildren Georgia and Jack. Lunch at Hogs Breath Cafe. Maybe it was the location but the noise of patrons was louder than the noise of the music being played. In the meantime Donnis and Karen visited with another friend before Donnis joined us. After lunch we bumped into, accidentally on purpose, Tony and Dawn. WE arrived back at Karens house in time for dinner but I fell asleep instead.

Saturday 1st September

I was walking along a track in the opposite direction to many walkers and runners taking part in a world wide health and fitness group, Park Run who stage 5 Klm Run/Walks every Saturday morning. ( www.parkrun.com.au ) One of the organisers waiting back at the finish line told me what a glorious morning it was for the first day of Spring. I could not disagree with her but commented that it has been glorious Spring like weather for some weeks.

Today we met daughter Shelley and grandson Matthew for an open day at the Army Lavarack Barracks in Townsville.

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Two Army groups fight it out in a Tug O War. The group on the right won.

There was an extr special reason for me to be here. A Squadron 2 Cavalry Regiment is based here.

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Armoured Personnel Carrier

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2nd_Cavalry_Regiment_(Australia) I was a member of this regiment when it was based in Holsworthy NSW. I must admit that today’s modern Army is far more technology equipped than my day.

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Armoured Troop Carriers

I suppose in my day we thought we had cutting edge machinery and equipment.

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The Army LARC… Lighter, Amphibious ReSupply, Cargo
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Heavy duty, fast, armoured patrol boat.

In my day both tanks and armoured personnel carriers were part of the one regiment. The personnel carriers and associated crews have now become part of 3 Royal Australian Regiment while tanks and associated crews are now all that make up 2 Cavalry Regiment.

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M1 Abrams tank. 62 tonnes of armour, speed and firepower.

Much of the equipment I was familiar with, including weapons, are now virtually museum pieces. Weapons such as Carl Gustav anti tank weapon and the 50 Calibre machine gun are still in use while everything else has been replaced. Only the tracked Armoured Personnel Carrier still remains in service but even it will be retired in a few years.

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Blackhawk helicopter

We got to look at helicopters and amphibious vessels and boats.

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The Boeing CH-47 Chinook is a twin-engined, tandem rotor, heavy-lift helicopter manufactured by Boeing. The CH-47 is among the heaviest lifting helicopters.

The big highlight of the day was when the big tank drove over cars and flattened them.010918 tank2

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M1 Abrams Tank speeds over and crushes a car.
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A car which has been run over by the Army tank.

A big joy for Donnis and myself to greet Trooper Courage a huge Wedge Tail Eagle who is the Regimental Mascot. ( http://www.contactairlandandsea.com/2017/11/15/2nd-cavalry-regt-recruits-new-mascot/ ) I was part of the original 1 Cav Regiment which started the very first Trooper Courage Mascot in 1967 and often assisted the very first handler Noel with his duties. It was also in 1967 the unit name was changed from 1 Cav to 2 Cav.

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Handler and Trooper Courage both needed a drink of water.
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It was a hot day. 30 degrees in fact. The handler has just given Trooper Courage a splash of water across his back.
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Trooper Courage with wings at three quarter spread.

We were also greatly impressed with the Dog Squad and how even the dogs are part of a fighting force.

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The Army attack dog has a special muzzle which has a thick panel of steel embedded in the front. The dog can deliver a pinpoint accurate blow to an aggressors chest. The power of the dog can stop an attacker, bowl them over and probably break a few ribs as well.
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The assistant who was suitably padded with protective armour vest and arm cverings was hit once and rolled over several times, got to her feet and the dog launched at her again and again bowling her over several times. Even with the protective padding she was still winded and took a minute slowly stand up.

The day was hot and the displays were spread over a large area with lots of walking and in some cases chasing after Matthew who thought this was the best day of his life.

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Matthew wearing an Australian Army Camouflage jacket
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Matthew loved playing with the machine guns but the powerful loading mechanism of the M50 had him struggling to even pull the cocking lever halfway.

I really enjoyed my day and pay tribute to the Army band which played mostly pop music and their lead singer was fabulous. The band seemed to be enjoying themselves as much as the audience was.

Thankfully there were lots of food and water outlets. Some food outlets were 3 CSR, which is also part of 3RAR. Other outlets were commercial operators.

All in all a very well organised day and the Army personnel were on hand to answer questions and interacted marvellously with the children.

Top marks to the Amy and their involvement with the local community.

To top off the day I picked up a head cold. It has probably been with me for a day or two but today I really noticed the symptoms. Grrr! I last had a head cold in May this year when we were travelling in Canada.

Sunday 2nd September

Happy Fathers Day.

We were on the road by 7am.

First stop was our once upon a time home – Airlie Beach.

We had a family gathering, brother Allan with wife Rae, and sisters Enid and Sandra with daughter Jo-Elle, son Luke with his girlfriend Ash.

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Ash Luke Jo-Elle Donnis Enid Al and Rae
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Enid Ash Sandi Jo-Elle and Luke who towers over everyone including me.
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Sandi Rae Allan Enid and a couple of faces in the shade.

We met at a new resort Northerlies, in Woodwark Bay to the north of Airlie.

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A busy Fathers Day at Northerlies.

This resort did not exist 4 years ago.

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Is this the Wreck of the Hesperus
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There was a sign on the beach warning of a recent crocodile sighting but no mention was made of this specimen under the resort entrance bridge.

The road was very steep and winding, slippery clay and mud, littered with potholes and the road was closed to the public. The entire area was thick bush. The road is still steep and winding but is now sealed and the bush has been cut away so the vista of Pioneer Bay can be seen. The resort is is a little difficult to find, off the beaten track and seemed to be patronised by locals. The food was good if a bit overpriced but the scenery was something special looking across the bay to Airlie Beach and giving views to South Molle Island, Whitsunday Island and Hayman Island.

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A scrawny Pandanus looking over Pioneer Bay to Point Almora.
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Looking back to Airlie Beach
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My guess is these poles were installed to give the impression there was once a jetty here.
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Looking through the poles to Airlie Beach.
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The original plans for the resort included using boat wrecks from several cyclones to be included in the accommodation.

All too soon our gathered participants started to drift away and it was time for us to get back on the road also.

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Australian White Egret

After 4 hours driving we still had another 2 hours ahead of us as we are staying at sister Sandra’s house in Mackay. We covered 450 Klms today.

It has been a remarkable week with lots of highlights.

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