We left Carnarvon Gorge back through the construction and cattle to the main road.
There we turned west and headed towards Mt. Morgan, an old gold/silver mining town.
Along the way we saw our first camel. Supposedly some of them run wild in Australia
but this is our first and he looks to be in a pasture and owned by someone. But maybe
he just likes the food and water here, who knows?
Mt. Morgan is an abandoned gold/silver/lead mine that was the richest in the world
in the early 1900’s. There were thousands of tons of gold and silver taken out of
it as well as a lot of lead. But like all mines it ran out and has been abandoned.
A fire destroyed many of the buildings and rust has taken over. The only way to see
it is to take the guided tour. We signed up for it and rode in a small bus with 3
others. The driver/tour guide was interesting and showed us the town and took us
to the mine headquarters, now a museum. Then we were driven up a rough road to the
rim of the open pit. In the mid 1900’s this was the largest open pit in the world.
We stood on the rim and learned about the ongoing and costly environmental recovery
program and issues. It will be a long time in transition. The water in the pit has
to be treated to be allowed out of the pit. The local rivers are just beginning to
have a return of fish and frogs. The smokestack in the center is the same one in
both pictures but shown from opposite directions.
The guidebook we had read, printed several years ago, had said that a dinosaur footprint
cave was part of the tour. The footprints are in the ceiling of the cave and stick
down rather than being in the floor and recessed like the dinosaur stampede we saw.
The “cave” was actually the firebrick clay mine where the gold mine got its raw material
for all the brickwork in the smelter. The footprints are part of the clay layer that
settled on top of the recessed footprints that were made in the mud. The miners removed
the clay leaving the ceiling footprints. But because of a rock fall a couple years
ago the cave was closed until further notice. The town is trying to get federal or
grant money to open it but none has arrived yet. We did get to see one footprint
that was in the museum. It is about the size of an adult human hand.
When we got back to the coast we were again in sugar cane country. And the mills
that turn it into sugar to satisfy our human sweet tooth. We went to the Bundaberg
distillery and Kathy tried to take this with us but I couldn’t find room in the van
for it so it is still there.
Sugar mills preceded distilleries by quite a few years. A waste byproduct of sugar
mills is molasses. This mill (right behind the distillery) had so much waste molasses
in the early 1900’s that it was running down the streets of town. They didn’t know
what to do with it until a gentleman built the first distillery next door. Now it
is a big producer of Australia’s (self described) best rum.
Some of the old vats were turned into a very nice display hall/museum in 2014. We
toured it and skipped the distillery tour (and saved $10 each) because we have toured
several distilleries in several countries. The process is the same, only the original
product is different. The result in every case is a flavored alcoholic drink.
Now for a little digression. Some comments about Aussies’ and others’ camping styles.
We like to camp. One gets to meet a lot more people than one does sitting in a motel/hotel
room. We have camped in 38 different countries throughout North America (NA) and
Europe, as well as this trip. In NA the campers are big, as big as a tour bus, as
a common size. In Europe they are small, around 4-6 meters (15-24’) and easily towed
by a small car. In Australia they are a little bigger than Europe but almost always
have a poptop which reduces drag when being towed. In Europe we seldom saw a pickup
or SUV, in Australia they are the most common vehicle, but the smaller size like
a Toyota Tacoma or Nissan Pathfinder.
Campgrounds (professional, private not forest or government owned) in NA have neatly
aligned spaces each with its own power, water and sewer. In Europe and Australia
a few may be like that but most are a grassy area with central power stations and
water faucets. (Maybe there will be some concrete slabs for patios, maybe not.) Everyone
has at least 30 meters (100’) of power cord. (The orange cord going left is ours.)
Very seldom are there sewer hookups. NA campers have holding tanks for gray and black
water but are usually attached to a sewer when parked so that it all flows right
through. Europeans have a cartridge holding tank for both gray and black water that
can be removed and wheeled over (like an airport suitcase) to a common dump station.
In Australia most of the gray water is run out into a dry well or just onto the grass
but the black water is in a removable cartridge to be dumped in the common station.
Toilet blocks come in all qualities in all countries depending on the owners’ ambitions
and the money available. We had one campground a couple weeks ago that had an individual
building at each campsite with a toilet, sink and shower in it. That is a first for
us, normally it is a bit of a hike to the toilet. In Casablanca, Morocco we stayed
in a campground that I didn’t want to even stand in the toilet building much less
sit down. I felt sorry for Kathy and we left early the next morning for the nearest
Enough digression, we are now headed south to a beach resort campground (with individual
patio slabs but common power/water). We wandered on the beach, Kathy looking for
more pretty rocks, and I found these interesting lines in the sand. In the center
is a hole that something lives in and brings out these balls of sand and puts them
in lines. (Those are my dark glasses for scale.) They were hundreds of them, all
just below the high tide line. Imagine living in a flood zone where you had to clean
out the flood debris every 12 hours or so. I never saw one of the owners so I don’t
know what makes them.
We stayed here two days, did some maintenance, and just relaxed.
The countryside around here is hilly with flat areas that were probably the bottom
of the sea at one time. The flats are agricultural (mostly sugar cane) and the hills
are residential. We followed labeled “tourist trails” over several routes.
Near by was a Woodworks Museum that I just had to go to. As a retired forester I
can’t pass up a chance to see how others do the same job as I did.
There were lots of pictures of the old ways of logging and reforestation. Interestingly
enough the Australians were using methods that we in the US didn’t implement for
30-50 years. Containerized seedlings and vegetation management with herbicides. I
have no idea what these 1950’s foresters are spraying to kill the brush. The sign
didn’t tell us but in that day the herbicides were much more dangerous to animals
(including humans) than today’s herbicides are. These guys are not wearing any protective
gear like gloves, waterproof suits, masks. Another picture showed a guy in shorts,
hat and shoes with a backpack sprayer, and wearing nothing else.
The museum had cut samples of the common trees used for wood products in the area.
I enjoyed looking at the grain, rings and color of the various woods.
And then there was this Kauri Pine slice with famous historical dates marked on the
appropriate ring, like when Columbus discovered America.
As we wandered over the hills and dales of this area we made a point of being in
Eumundi for the Wednesday morning market. This small town has been holding a craft/food
fair twice a week since 1979. There are hundreds of stalls with fine crafts to imported-by-the-container-load
We wandered for three hours, listened to the music and watched the “statue”. We have
seen these “statue” persons in several cities in several countries. I sure wouldn’t
want to make my living that way!
Back on the road over more hills we see lots of these Jacaranda trees. The purple
flowers, and the lack of leaves makes them stand out spectacularly. (The green in
the center is another type of tree growing close by.) The recent winter was very
good for them and they are blooming more wildly than usual.
We are headed to the Glass House Mountains. They were named in 1770 by Captain Cook
because, from the sea, they looked like the smoke stacks of the glass furnaces in
his hometown in Yorkshire. They are the remains of volcanoes, the central core of
rock after the softer sides have eroded away. We have several examples of these back
home in Washington and Oregon. Beacon Rock, named by Lewis and Clark in the Columbia
River Gorge is one.
This is a 12% grade we went down near those mountains. This would be a great area
to ride by motorcycle! Not high speed but just fun.