It was an absolutely wonderful couple of days at Duaringa.
This facility is by far the best we’ve encountered so far.
You can’t help but feel welcome here.
The town’s people and the local council have gone out of their way to offer a unique free camping spot that benefits both travellers and the town.
It seems more and more people are catching the nomadic lifestyle bug.
Almost everyone we speak to now is either on the road permanently, long term or plan to be soon.
We met a couple from Townsville. She still works as a TAFE teacher and hopes to be taking a retirement package soon so they can get on the road.
I asked another bloke my age, (with a large Jayco and a huge white beard well below his chest), where he was headed.
“Dunno,” he said, “I’m past worryin’ about were we’re goin’ or how long it’ll take. We might be in Sydney for Christmas, then again we might not. We just get up in the morning and decide which direction to go.”
We’ve noticed a few more single older men, both in small caravans and fold out camper type arrangements.
Of course it’s much harder to get their story as most are aloof.
I don’t think the men are aloof, just quiet. They talk to you if you speak to them. I think because there isn’t a women around making them talk most men don’t say much.
Have you ever watched a couple out walking…the women are usually going 10 to the dozen and the man hardly says anything except “ah ha”.
Anyway just my thoughts on the subject.
We noticed that the bike rack had almost parted company from the back of the caravan, sheering the high tensile bolts off that the Aussie Wide boys had used to bolt the rack to the bumper.
This was a really silly idea and I should have refused to accept it when I first saw it as I was doubtful of its longevity. It should have been welded as we did in the Old Girl.
The shaking and vibration and the weight of the bikes was just too much for the bodgey setup.
Her Highness has finally agreed to “think about” getting rid of the bikes, (I would’ve binned them in Melbourne).
I think we’ll visit the bike shop in Strathpine that sells the Apollo folding bikes as we could have the best of both worlds by getting one of these which will easily fit in the Ute and not having the heavy rack on the back of the van.
We headed off from Duaringa under a cloudless blue sky and headed for Dingo where we got a bit of diesel, (too expensive to fill up), and then headed for Blackwater.
We stopped and had a coffee on the side of the road just outside Bluff which is the major interchange station for coal trains.
Many trains are over two kilometres long and the signature feature of this area. We stopped beside one of these huge coal trains and watched It loading from the conveyor bridging the Capricorn highway.
We arrived in Blackwater about lunch time.
I worked in Blackwater some 27 years ago on the construction of the Curraugh mine. Blackwater was then a town of one small shopping centre and many “Quick construct” houses.
Apart from a lot more of those same types of houses, and a Mining Information Centre, nothing much has changed from when I was first there.
The shopping centre, with a large Woolworth’s supermarket, was closed. It was Sunday but there is obviously not enough business in the town for supermarket trading on Sunday even though Blackwater is the mining capital of Central Queensland.
Some shops were empty and others shuttered, giving a rather depressing feeling.
Blackwater boasts many surrounding mines, huge flow of coal trains, mining vehicles everywhere, endless succession of trucks and still the town has the appearance of a stagnant economy, a temporary place.
Of course the locals would probably heartily disagree but we can only go on appearances.
We were glad to head off toward Emerald.
Emerald was a big contrast to Blackwater with the town having the appearance of a bustling; prosperous place looked after with pride.
There are few empty shops and the buildings are either modern or beautifully restored and the town’s gardens are well maintained and bright.
We free camped for the night at the Botanical Gardens, a pleasant spot beside the Nogoa River.
It’s beside the highway which is busy and also right beside the rail line that accommodates the coal trains.
We parked under the rail bridge and as the trains passed overhead it was a unique experience having 2 kilometres of train on top of you with about 100 carriages each full of 104 tonnes of coal!
We did notice that picnicers or cars just stopping, left their mess behind. The nomads clean this up. This is what closes free camping spots.
Neither the traffic nor the trains worried us in the slightest; it was a nice spot to spend the night.
We shopped for a week’s groceries at the local Coles and Kerrie cooked an amazing roast chicken dinner.
It was a peaceful, restful night’s sleep again in the superb comfort of our Aussie Wide home.