Sunday, 14 September 2014

A Walk in Wondai

Hotel Cecil is what caught my eye when I stopped in Wondai for a little walk around.  It's a beautiful building that looks exactly the same as in the photos I've seen of it taken in 1911 when it was opened.

For those who like the sound of these little country towns, Wondai is the aboriginal word to describe dingoes, so I think it's safe to say there were once a number of our native dogs in the area.  It was once a timber town, don't know what keeps the 2,000 or so residents occupied these days. 

I only walked as far as the post office which didn't look as good up close as I thought it might from a distance.  I passed but one resident who seemed in no hurry as he disappeared into the depths of the hotel. 

I drove around town.  It's neat and tidy, has the appearance of a well cared for place.  If there are any flash, expensive houses, I didn't see them.  I liked the place.

Friday, 12 September 2014

Finks Crossing Revisited

Travelling back to Brisbane from Gladstone I took another detour which took me back to Biggenden again, through Wondai, as far as Kingaroy on the first day.

There were several unexpected delights along the way, one of which was Finks Crossing.  I was doing my best to follow the two hour rule, stopping every couple of hours for a stretch or rest.  I followed the side road about 100 metres to a car park, with a grassed area.  The grass was mostly dead but it looked a pleasant place all the same.  

The restrooms were as nice as you'd find anywhere - on the outside.  You can't expect miracles in an areas where there is no sewerage but the chemical loos work well enough.

Two blokes were returning to their vehicle carrying a light tin dingy above their heads so I walked in the direction from which they had come and came upon this lovely scene.

  I had misfiled most of these photos.


I think of Gladstone as an industrial city but it has a lot more going for it than an excellent harbour, together with many of the services and raw materials needed by industry.  It sits at the south end of the Great Barrier Reef and is gateway to several picturesque islands and reefs, including Heron and Lady Musgrave.  The region is famous for its fishing and crabbing.

I think of the region as on the tropical side of sub tropical but, to be more precise, it has a tropical savannah climate.  This classification needs to have an average temperature over 18C degrees (64.4) for the whole year and a prominent dry season where the driest months have less than sixty millimetres (2.4 inches) of rain.  Gladstone has an average maximum temperature around 27C (80.6) degrees, with an average of 880mm (34.6 inches) of rain a year.  Sounds ideal to me!


When Captain Cook first came along in 1770 there were a few aboriginal tribes in the area.  The first white settlers didn't arrive until 1847 and they appear to have been about 200 convicts.  Free settlers arrived in 1854.


I first visited in 1966 when it had a meatworks, a relatively small port trade  and a population of around 6,000.  My new husband and I called in there on our honeymoon to visit a former workmate of mine and I was offered a job at the alumina bauxite refinery that was being built at the time.  There was no job for my husband otherwise our life may have been quite different.  Anyway, that refinery was the catalyst for modern industrial growth which has seen the district population grow five-fold since then. 

The industrial progress of the Gladstone area represents one of Australia's development success stories. Today, the area is certainly the land of the giants, with the world's largest alumina plant, the State's largest power station, the State's busiest port and Australia's largest aluminium smelter, the world's fourth largest coal exporting terminal.

I've heard Gladstone referred to as the grain port of Central Queensland but grain doesn't seem to compare with the major exports of coal, alumina, aluminium, cement products, Sodium Cyanide and Ammonium Nitrate. I had to dig a bit to find out about the calcite that my brother pointed out to me.  I had never heard of it yet it is one of the most common minerals on earth.  Shows how little I know!  It's a high quality limestone which, when crushed, is a pure white product.  It did look very pretty sitting beside the water.  It is stockpiled at Point Auckland (shades of home) for final shipment to Geelong where it is used as a filler in plastics, paper glossing and tooth paste.  You won't catch me swallowing the tooth paste again!  I still don't know where it is mined.

Thursday, 11 September 2014

A little detour

Driving north from Brisbane to Gladstone to visit my youngest brother and his family, just north of Gympie I saw a sign for a Scenic Tourist Route that would take me to Biggenden.  Up flashed a memory of my Uncle John being stationed as a policeman in Biggenden in the 60s.  I remembered visiting him there and that was enough for me to decide to leave State Highway One and take the scenic route.  The road less travelled always appeals to me.

I owned that road, traffic was scarce, the road good.  In places the road passed through private property with no fences beside the road, the odd cattle grid between properties.  I saw hardly any stock and they weren't near the road.

It was easy to pull off the road and take photos.  I had to have stern words with myself about stopping to take photos of those ghost gums.  I know tourists to Australia complain about the constant gum trees but not this soul.  Never.  I love them. 

I saw the smoke from a big fire miles before I reached it.   Several fire appliances had it under control and had held it at the road and I passed another hurrying to the scene near Woolooga.  Thanks to Wikipedia I can tell you I was 221 km (137 m) from Brisbane and that Woolooga and the surrounding area has a population around 320.  I didn't go into the tiny township, I know what I'm like, I get sidetracked and my brother was expecting me that day.  It's hard to imagine this area under flood, it was so dry and I didn't notice any large rivers but in the 2010-2011 Queensland floods a 2 metre (6.6 ft) wall of water rushed through the town.

Near Biggenden I stopped to admire this rocky mountain range which I'm pretty sure is the 703 metre high, 215 million years old Mount Walsh.

I would have liked to get closer but once again had to remind myself about the time.

I stopped in Biggenden and looked for the police station.  The lady who prepared me a sandwich for a very late lunch told me the original station was now over the road at the museum and pointed me in that direction.  I decided my memory had failed me, at the museum I was on a side street and where I had visited had most definitely been on the main road through town.   Disappointed, I took no photos.  I could have kicked myself when a few days later one of my brothers told me the road path through Biggenden had been changed years ago and what was the main road was now a side street.

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Home from home

Never has home felt so good.  I always feel a bit conflicted when I return from a trip to my Australian home, sad at having said another goodbye to my mother, my brothers and sisters.  And glad, at the same time, to be back with my own family.  

Usually on my holidays home I go to the same places and don't venture too far from Brisbane.  This time, because I had a whole month, I had a great road trip to Central Queensland and a flight to the Central Coast of New South Wales.  More of those to come.  Today the images of the homes of my memory are foremost in my mind.  

I took a drive "up the creek" (the road that follows the Laidley Creek from Townson to Laidley) to where both my parents grew up and where I spent the first five years of my life, before my parents moved to Nudgee, what was then an outer suburb of Brisbane.  School holidays were spent back up the creek with my maternal grandparents. 

All my brothers and sisters could look at this photo and know exactly where I stopped.  As a child once we reached this spot the excitement of being "nearly there" would be starting to build.  I was on my return from further north but hadn't got used to the dry, dry countryside.  It was what I call break your heart dry.  I could imagine the farmers eyes turning to the sky and their prayers that those dark clouds would bring some rain.

We always looked for sightings of Mt Mistake, a sure sign we were getting closer.

 And here is the old Ward homestead, my paternal grandmother's house, my first home.  It is a typical Queenslander, high set, built from timber, deep verandas, corrugated iron roof, so perfectly suited to the sub-tropical climate of Queensland.  I was pleased to see it is a better state of repair than it was when I last photographed it a few years ago.

I stopped to take other photos and by the time I reached the road into my maternal grandparents' home it had begun to rain lightly.  Rain was predicted for the following weekend and I certainly hope it fell in abundance on these farms.

That is the house, there in the distance, set well back from the road.

Thanks to the zoom on my camera I could get a closer peek.  Whereas the Ward homestead looks very much as it always has, the pitch of the farmhouse roof is different here, the windows and doors are much fancier.  But the place still evokes so many emotions.  Some of the happiest, most carefree times of my life were spent in those mountains behind the house and in the creek that ran alongside.

On the other side of that creek sits my great grandmother's home.  The beautiful wrought iron work on the veranda railings has gone, the chimney is new and the kitchen out the back (which was basically a separate structure connected by a covered walkway) has gone but it doesn't look very different from when I was a child.

No holiday on the farm was complete without at least one Sunday afternoon visit to my great grandmother.  After lunch we would all be instructed to take a bath.  This involved Gran heating water on the wood stove and carrying it to the bathroom to take the chill off the cold water. We would all be decked out in our Sunday best.  Gran would don hat and gloves, and we'd set out carrying our shoes and socks which we would put on after crossing the creek.  Gran would put on her stockings and good shoes and we'd set off across her brother's paddock.  Can you imagine the state of our shoes and white socks (and Gran's stockings) by the time we reached the other side after traipsing through that rich soil?  Even if there was a crop growing, we'd still have dirty shoes.   A protocal developed for these visits including who would be the first to be greeted, how long we were expected to chat and catch up with ggran.  

Sorry, I've gone off on a tangent.

Beside the old house I swear that is the same old shed that was always there!  The stockyards were in that same place, too.

My sentimental journey was completed by this sight below.  I heard my grandfather's voice saying, "The Crosby cattle are out in the creek again."  So comforting that some things never change.

To complete my visits to the homes of my memory I took a drive back to Nudgee, to the street where I grew up.

To my old Forrest Street home.  Yes, my parents raised twelve children in that home.