The bus drivers that went above and beyond the call of duty

Palmetum carpark

Today we decided we would visit the second Botanic Garden in Townsville. Checked the bus timetable then walked down town to catch the 11-15am bus. Just as we turned the corner we saw it pull out. We waved to attract his attention, but I don’t think he saw us. Oh dear, it was an hour before the next bus left.

Then one of those things happened that really restores your faith in human nature. Another bus driver saw us and asked where did we want to go.

“Hop aboard” he said, “I can radio ahead and get him to wait for you. I’ll be able to catch him up.”

So as he drove along, still having to stop and pick up and put down passengers, he rang the depot and passed on the message, which was then relayed from the depot to the driver of bus 209, the one that we had just missed.

Sure enough 10 minutes later we caught up with 209 where he was waiting for us. But that is not the end of the story. When we told the driver of 209 where we wanted to get off, he said, “There isn’t a bus stop there, but I will drop you as close as I can.”

Well 20 minutes later I saw the sign for the Palmetum and wondered how far from the entrance there would be a bus stop. Well to my amazement and absolute delight the bus driver turned into the car park of the Palmetum and dropped us right at the front gates.

These two men really made our day.

Tomorrow I will send a card and letter to the council in appreciation of the employees that went out of their way to help us.

The gates into a Botanic wonderland

This Botanic Gardens was totally different to the Queens Gardens, we were immersed into a tropical wonderland and, of course, we took more and more photos, trying to capture that magic. Now I have to sort them out and tomorrow I will take you into this special Botanic Garden.

When our tired legs finally carried us back to the hostel we decided to have a roast pork pub meal at the heritage Shamrock Hotel, it is just a 5 minute walk from the hostel. With a glass of wine and a beer for Jack it was the perfect end to the day.

Shamrock Hotel

Categories: Australia, australian travel, botanic gardens, photos, Pubs, Townsville, travel, tropical garden | Tags: , , , , | 6 Comments

On, On never retreat….

Come back with me to last Monday. We have recovered from the trauma of almost running out of petrol. We are now in Queensland, our home state, and heading for the coast. One last 300 kilometre day to Cloncurry then it will be short hops, stopping at small interesting towns along the Flinders Highway.

Cloncurry is at the junction of the Matilda Highway, heading south, and the way we came 2 months ago when we were heading north, and the Flinders Highway. This time we follow the Flinders Highway east, into country we have not seen before.

Some towns have character that you feel as soon as you arrive; some good, some bad, some nondescript. 150 kilometres along the road from Cloncurry we arrived at Julia Creek. This town was definitely in the good category . It was friendly with a vibrant community spirit. A new, award-winning, information centre caught our eye, it was a pleasure to browse around. So we decided to book in at the caravan Park and stay a night. As it was still early we drove around and explored the surrounding area. At the lake and picnic ground just out-of-town we parked to have a cuppa.

Then it happened….

Matilda could not go backwards, reverse gear had died…

Going forward was not a problem, thank goodness. We went round town to the mechanics, then we found that both mechanics could not help us for over a week, they were fully booked. I rang ahead. The mechanic in the next town was on holiday, the next town mechanic was also fully booked. Finally we managed to find a mechanic in Charters Towers, 500 kilometres east of Julia Creek, who would look at it for us. This will be a 2 day journey being very careful to always leave room to go forward…

So, on on….

Julia to Hughenden is 250 kilometres and Hughenden is the dinosaur capital of Australia. More bones and fossils have been found here than anywhere else in Australia. In the “Discovery Centre” they have a full-sized reconstruction of a Muttaburrasaurus and a number of other dinosaur sculptures around town.

Hughendon dinasaur

Hughie the Muttaburrasaurus

The Flinders River runs through town and this is the longest river in Queensland. We walk to the bridge and look at it. It is a wide expanse of sand with a trickle of water winding through a channel in the centre. When the wet season starts this will become a raging torrent.

This brings back memories of the 1950’s


Holden cafe


After all the walking and exploring we go in this old style café for an ice-cream.

We stay the night at the caravan park…

Next morning it is up and away by 7-30. 50 kilometres along the road we pause for a photo session at a small town called Prairie with a population of 50. It has a very interesting hotel. Approximately every 40 to 50 kilometres we pass these small towns. In the gold era of the early 1900’s they were all thriving communities.

Prairie information

This was once a Cobb n Co stage stop

Relics of a time gone by

The scenery changes, the flat, wide open, black soil plains of Mitchel and Flinders grass give way to undulating country, the road dipping and curving like a switch back and the railway lines running parallel. The bush grows thick across the hills. We are now in another bio-region.

Matilda is going well…

At Balfe’s Creek we stop under a tree behind the pub and have a cuppa. Jack strikes up a conversation with a local, he is knowledgeable about the area and in particular about mechanics. The advice he gives us, if we need major work done to go to a specialist. He gives us the names of two transmission experts in Townsville he has used.

Finally we arrive at Charters Towers. It was the site of a massive gold rush in the late 19th century. Now it is a bustling rural centre. The main street has many beautifully restored heritage buildings. In its hey-day it was the second largest town in Queensland after Brisbane.

We deliver Matilda to the mechanic then walk along the main street to choose a pleasant café, in one of the heritage buildings, to have lunch and wait for the diagnosis.

An hour later we are told Matilda needs a new gear box. They can do it for $4000. !!!!#*@#!!

I had already rung the transmission expert in Townsville and discussed our problem and booked in with him for Monday.

So here we are at Bivouac Junction. It is within 120 kilometres of Townsville, so if we need towing our RACQ road assist insurance will cover it. Till then we will relax.

Categories: australian travel, photos, Pubs | Tags: , , | 8 Comments

The eccentric, quirky, iconic Daly Waters Pub

The Barkly Highway that we have followed across the outback, ends abruptly at Three Ways. It joins into the main north south Stuart Highway. We turn right to head north. To the west of this Highway is largely impenetrable desert. The landscape changes and the volume of traffic increases. This is the route that the explorer John McDouall Stuart discovered in 1860’s and then the telegraph line was put through from Adelaide to Darwin which eventually connected Australia to the world. It is still the only route through the centre of Australia.

The distances between camp grounds dwindles, only approx 150 kilometres. We start to dawdle again, getting up later, stopping for more photo opportunities, taking longer to have lunch.

Lubras Lookout

This amazing rocky outcrop stopped us in our tracks when we came round a bend and it dominated the country side. It had been so flat for days now, so this was quite startling, and I wonder about the geology of this land and how and why this outcrop survived the erosion around it. I made enquiries and was told it has significance in the Aboriginal culture and Dreamtime and the women of the tribe would use it to watch for the men coming back from a hunting expedition.

Now we are approaching the turn off to Daly Waters Pub. It has a solid reputation as the must stay place. It is an Icon in these parts. In the droving days it was a stop off as it had reliable water source. During WW2 an air port was built here and service men would spend leave here. It’s reputation now is built on its hospitality. First is “happy hour”, a tradition in the camping grounds. Then every night they put on a “Barra n Steak” BBQ and the Barramundi is wild caught and fresh from the gulf and the steak is rib-eye from the local cattle station. The salad bar is help yourself and is fresh and delicious. To top the evening off they have “Chillie” to entertain us. Well by 7-30 when Chillie arrives we are all watered and fed and feeling very mellow. Chillie puts on a great show. He is a stand-up comedian and he knows his audience. Each state plus the Asians plus the Americans are given the once over and we all love it. He sings some Country and Western songs and ends with the patriotic Australian song “We are one, but we are many”. The show is so good that Jack buys his CD. We have sat with another 3 couples and made instant friends and all agree it was a great night.

The weather is warmer and we didn’t need a thick jacket on…

Daly Waters Pub

Oops some one missed the air port

Spare thong and shoe post…

Inside the pub the walls and posts and all surfaces are covered with collections of hats, t-shirts, bras, money of all nationalities, memorabilia of all sorts. It is an entertainment just looking around.

Famous Barra and Steak BBQ

Help your self to all you can eat salad

Stand-up comedian, Chillie

Categories: aboriginal history, Australia, australian travel, Northern Territory, outback, photos, Pubs | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

Last brush with Banjo

Track through the Mitchell grass to the Combo waterhole

We had 6 very interesting days in Winton but it is now time to get on the road again. The road is heading north/west and the weather is warmer. Tonight I plan to stop at an old outback pub called “Blue Heeler”, another pub Banjo Patterson frequented, he certainly enjoyed outback life, his poems capture that outback spirit and the characters he met.

One more iconic place to visit is just before we reach “Blue Heeler”. 6 kilometres drive down a narrow dirt track takes us to the start of the 2 kilometre walk to the famous billabong featured in “Waltzing Matilda”. The track winds through lush stands of Mitchell grass across the braided channels of the Diamantina river. It was interesting to see the influence of the chinese again in this area where they had built stone overflows to hold back the river after heavy rain and create waterholes. These were built over 100 years ago, by hand, each stone put in place one at a time, and still working today creating waterholes for the stock.

Stone overflows on the Diamantina River

We crossed 4 of these overflows. It was a well-defined path and approx an hours walk past the coolibah trees. There are a lot of young saplings growing, a sign that it has been a good rainfall this past season. Also the lushness of the grass. The rain mainly falls in summer, winter is a dry season,a good year can be 400ml but all in a short time so it can be flood then dry for months so these overflows are very important.

Finally we reach the billabong, Combo waterhole. This is where the swagman drowned and not be taken by the troopers and put in prison. The water is clay coloured and though this is a favourite picnic and swimming spot for local people I would not like a dip in these muddy waters. We stood and listened but the ghost didn’t talk to us!!!!!

The billabong in the song Waltzing Matilda

Jack sitting under a coolibah tree at the billabong

Picnic party at the Combo waterhole 1800’s

An hours walk back to our Matilda patiently waiting in the car park and on to the “Blue Heeler”. The caravan park is behind the pub and rather dusty but the amenities are clean with good hot water. It is Sunday night, so time to have a Sunday night dinner in the pub. Amazingly the dining room is crowded. We find out why when we order the roast of the day. It is buffet style, help yourself to as much as you can eat. Truckies love this type of meal, so do we…..

Categories: australian travel, out back, photos, Pubs, travel, Waltzing Matilda | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Waltzing Matilda

Matilda Highway

We are travelling on the Matilda Highway, through Matilda County,in Matilda, our old van. This outback highway is a well maintained bitumen ribbon stretching endlessly to the horizon through the vast plains of silver-gold Mitchell grass. Cattle are dotted across the plains with the occasional stunted gum tree. The sun beats down from a cloudless blue sky and road-trains pulling 3-4 trailers filled with cattle for the market, roar by in both directions. These are the drovers of the present day. The aroma of their cargo envelopes us as they zoom past, splattering Matilda as we chug along in their wake.

The modern-day explorer in 4 WD pulling a caravan also passes us, they fuel the income of the new trade in the outback of tourism.

Tourism in this area is based on a song: “Waltzing Matilda”.

I wonder how many of my blogging friends and readers have heard of this song. It is known world wide as the unofficial anthem of Australia.

It is the story of the swagman who drowned in the bill-a-bong when confronted by the troopers. Banjoe Patterson, the prolific poet and lawyer composed it in 1895 when he was staying at Winton. He based it on the shearers strike and stories he had heard in the district. Winton now has the “Matilda Centre“, the only museum in the world devoted to a song, it also tells and shows pictures of lives of the pioneers and settlers of that time. It is an interesting museum with interactive displays and dioramas showing the Billabong with the swagman and troopers creating the atmosphere around the waterhole.

The song was first performed at the North Gregory Hotel in 1895. The hotel has been rebuilt over the years due to fire, but is still a thriving old pub. We went for an evening’s entertainment to hear and join in with Helen in a sing-a-long of favourite old tunes from the 1950’s and 60’s. Then she told us the story of Waltzing Matilda and sang the original version followed by the modern more up-beat version. For a gold coin donation it was a good night out. Then of course we finished the night off with a roast dinner in the Hotel dining room. The dining room was full with most of the patrons being grey nomads….

North Gregory Hotel

Sing-a-long with Helen

Roast lamb dinner, $10 special at the North Gregory Hotel.

Categories: australian travel, out back, photos, Pubs, travel, Waltzing Matilda, Winton | Tags: , , , , , | 10 Comments

Longreach outback town…

The pub is the centre of out back towns

Heritage buildings

After a day exploring the town and having lunch at the local RSL club we walked back to the Longreach Caravan Park which was only 4 blocks from the main street. It is a small, shady, friendly camp ground and they have a “happy hour” at 10am and 4pm every day when you can have a cuppa or “whatever” and meet and greet and swap stories with the other travellers. We arrived back at 4pm and had “whatever”…..

Shady Longreach Caravan Park

Matilda at rest

Smoko time get together for the campers

We spent 3 days in Longreach. Now we turn north-west and head toward Winton. The town famous for the song “Waltzing Matilda” that Banjo Patterson wrote.

Categories: australian travel, caravan park, outback, photos, Pubs, travel | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Global Village back packers

Global Village back packers, originally uploaded by gypsy woman1

The destination of the Transalpine train was Greymouth on the West Coast. We had not booked any accommodation in advance. Part of the adventure of travel is a certain amount of the unknown factor. The information office told us about Global Village and then rang them to see if they had any accommodation available. They did and would also pick us up from the train station  This was a very good choice of accommodation. We have stayed at many back packers and this was certainly among the top places we have stayed at. It was clean, colourful, warm and friendly. The kitchen area was amazing in the world of back packer accommodation because all the crockery was the same colourful african design, no chipped, cracked plates. The pots and pans were clean and useable not bent, scratched and burnt, and the stainless steel bench areas were spotless.
The bedrooms were all decorated in different country themes. We had an African room with posters and artifacts on the walls. The lounge was big and had a fire to warm the place. It was a funky, vibrant atmosphere. The staff were friendly and helpful and to top it off they had free bikes you could use to go the 10 minute easy ride into town.
Greymouth is not a tourist town,just a serviceable starting point for our West Coast experience. We needed to hire a car, buy groceries, camera batteries and memory cards, get maps of the area then we were ready to head north the next day…
The pub across the road was recommended for a feed and when we walked in it was crowded, hardly any empty seats in the bar area. Must be good we thought. Finding two empty seats at the end of a table I sat down and Jack went to get us a drink. I started talking to the man next to me and found out that we had joined a family wake. “just put the dear old lady under, she was 82” he told me, then introduced us to the rest of the table. After a while we went into the restaurant and had a delicious 1/2 serve of roast, it was still a plate full, almost more than we could eat.

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Categories: New Zealand, Pubs, travel | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Otira pub

Otira pub, originally uploaded by gypsy woman1.

In 1997 a couple travelling on the train noticed a for sale sign on this pub. They hired a car and went back to investigate, and bought it for $70,000. When they studied the small print they found they had bought the village. Otira ( do click on this link to take you to a very interesting page about the history of Otira) is a small settlement near the top of Arthur’s Pass and was built in 1923 to house the railway workers as they built the line. So they tidied things up and put the cottages up for rent at $90/week. It became a thriving little community and last year they were offered $1,000,000 for it. They declined the offer…

Categories: New Zealand, Pubs, Transalpine train | Tags: , , | Leave a comment


We had been recommended this caravan park by Molly, as all the ones she had recommended had been good we knew this would be as well, and it was…

It was quiet, friendly, clean and even had flowers and pot plants in the shower block, a real “homey” place. The price was right at $21 for the first night and the second night free. Of course we stayed two nights and as it was weekend it suited us to stay.

Jason, Jade and me...

After setting up the van we decided to bike into the main street of Biggenden for lunch, about two km. As we biked over the railway bridge a line of 4 vehicles had to slowly follow us as they couldn’t pass. A van tooted at us, “impatient drivers” I thought, but then it pulled up in front of us at the other side of the bridge and out hopped son Jason with his daughter Jade. What a huge surprise!!

Jason was visiting some of his correspondence pupils in the area and he had no idea that we where passing through at the same time. What a coincidence. It was lovely to see them.

They could not stay for lunch with us as Jason had to be back in Brisbane. He was going to be back in about 4 hours, a distance that had taken us nearly 4 weeks the long way… 

It was almost 2pm and the lunch at the Commercial Hotel was really appreciated…

Categories: australian travel, camping australia, Camping grounds, photos, Pubs, travel | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment


Wondia campground

This is another  small town that we really enjoyed. Peter and Molly told us about it as we drove away from their farm, “Don’t miss it” they said.

We asked the Kingaroy campground manager if they knew of a place to stay in Wondai. She not only knew a place but also rang them to find out how much it would cost, at $17 it was a beauty. It had the municipal pool on one side and the RSL on the other. We made good use of both of them. It was also in the centre of town with all the museums, art gallery, main street and pubs in walking, or biking, distance, and another bonus the library was across the road with free internet… Only two permanent campers were sharing the place with us and we never saw them. Think they were workers who left before we got out of bed.

About 7pm we heard a brass band playing so went out to investigate and found in the RSL next door the Wondia Brass band was having its weekly rehearsal, so of course we had to buy a beer and listen to them. They were good and the barman told us there had been a band for approx 100 years. 

Wondai Brass Band at rehearsal

We spent 2 days in Wondia lots to see, a very good heritage museum, wood museum and art gallery and interesting curio shops. The town was very attractively laid out and we had a tasty meal of corned silverside at the Cecil Pub.

Click on images to enlarge them

Categories: australian travel, camping australia, Camping grounds, photos, Pubs, travel | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

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