Sunday, 8 September 2013

The start of the long trip south

We began our travels south and on the first day came to Townsville. The park we stayed in was beautifully set up and just across the road from the beach with a fine view of Magnetic Island. Sunday morning's main street market was well attended and we enjoyed not only the great variety of stalls selling everything from fresh local produce to homemade crafts and the usual gimmicky of crystals and incense etc, but also the varied and beautiful early architecture of this major coastal town of Queensland.

Our next leg took us inland and we eventually came to Lake Maraboon near Emerald. This park was exceptionally lovely situated right by a lake and nearby dam and so was quite popular for fishermen. It also provided a service we hadn't experienced before - meals on wheels delivered conveniently to your caravan or tent!
First thing each morning a chattering flock of very friendly Rainbow Lorikeets arrived seeking breakfast from the enchanted campers. Despite the many hundreds of kilometres south we have travelled, we are still enjoying hot, summery weather, and are not looking forward to the cool Spring weather at home.

From our base here at Lake Maraboon we drove each day to the gemfields - Rubyvale and Sapphire. We took an underground tour through a mine and learnt about the dangers and sometime the rewards that oldtime miners experienced as they tried to find their fortune. Most of the sapphires found in Australia come from this area and are usually quite a dark blue although other colours are found also. My own engagement ring contains a dark blue sapphire and  so I think it is highly likely it was found here. We were able to buy a few 'buckets of wash' and learnt how to sift and wash the sandy soil to hopefully find some gemstones. This could become quite addictive! We actually found some sapphires and also a couple of zircons - but they were all quite small and not good quality. Oh well - we'll have to find another way to pay for our next trip!

After Lake Maraboon we continued the trip south and once again came to Roma where we had stopped only briefly on our way north. This time we spent a few days here to see what we had missed the first time. A browse of the main street shops was interesting especially one. This was a drapery and I must say I have never seen anything like it in all my born days. It was stuffed from floor to ceiling with items for sale - all higgledy-piggledy. You took your life in your hands when walking down the narrow aisles as the packed shelving  went almost to the ceiling. This incredible shop must have been started around the 1950s and I doubt there has been any attempt to bring any sort of order to the stock in all those years. I think it should be up there on the list of essential tourist attractions of Roma!

We had another surprising experience in Roma. This area was established in the early days mainly because of the oil and gas fields near to the town and a 'sound and light' show each evening tells the story. We joined the queue while waiting for the doors to open and Peter mentioned to me that a nearby couple looked familiar to him, but it wasn't until we moved into the lighted area that we were able to see them clearly - and they us! "South America" we all said together. They were
South Australians John and Bernadette who were also on the trip we took in 2008 to South America. What a lovely surprise to see them again and after the show we really enjoyed a rather long chat. They too were at the same park as we were in Roma and leaving the next day as we were.

We had several overnight stops next - Goondiwindi our final stop in Queensland and then into New South Wales with another overnight stop at Coonabarabran.

At Cowra we stopped for several days and enjoyed sightseeing this rather lovely town. Top of the list had to be the remains of the WW2 Interment camp which was the site of the Cowra breakout of  378 Japanese prisoners in August 1944.  At the same time 231 were killed and another 107 were wounded. All those that escaped were later re-captured. (Four AMF personnel were killed and four were wounded). I hadn't realised that the camp also held some Italian, Korean and Formosan P.O.Ws as well. We also visited the POW Theatre which has a very clever interactive media presentation with a hologram relating the story of Cowra and the details of the escape attempt.

Cowra has since become the centre of Japanese Cultural Heritage in Australia and maintains beautifully the Japanese War Cemetery and has developed (in conjunction with Ken Nakajima, a Japanese Garden Architect), the stunning Cowra Japanese Garden - a strolling garden. We were several weeks early for the cherry blossom trees, but the garden was still quite wonderful.

Goulburn was our next stop and here we stopped for a few days to have a good look around this vibrant town. Peter enjoyed a visit to the Rail Heritage Centre.  In 1869 the first steam railway in Australia was constructed between Sydney and Goulburn (224 kms) and the Loco Roundhouse, built just after WW1. is now the home of the Preservation Society.

We have by now travelled quite a distance south and as a result the weather is getting a good deal cooler and although the days are still fine, the nights are much chillier and blankets are being piled on the bed once again.


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