North to Numurkah?

I know that it does not have the same ring as the song title ( North to Alaska) suggests, but it was good to get back on the road. In our case we were going to follow the sun , North.
If you has been following our Facebook page, you would know that we have been waiting patiently for a new water tank. We wanted to double our capacity to 200 litres, a must when travelling through the Outback.

On the Friday before Mother’s Day the tank was finally fitted and we were off. The Friday night saw us get about 100km out of Melbourne along the Hume Highway. There is a good rest area called Grass Tree. It is well off the highway and you cannot hear much road noise. Around 10pm it started to rain. We do like the sound of rain on the roof, but if made for a restless night sleeping.

Saturday morning over breakfast we decided on a route north. We would go through Shepparton, cross the NSW border at Tocumwal, through Finley and Hay, follow the Cobb Highway to Hay and then to Hillston and up to Cobar. This would lead us to the western area of Queensland. The exact routing to Julia Creek could wait until later.

I digress from the reason of writing this post. In the many years I have cycled throughout Victoria I have obviously seen water wheels that pump water through the irrigation channels. Not once have I known their actual name. Today in the centre of Numurkah I found out.

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The Dethridge Water Wheel was invented in 1910 by Mr J S Dethridge- Commissioner of the then State Rivers & Water Commission. The wheel is the standard means of measuring water deliveries to irrigated farms throughout Australia and to 1700 irrigated farms in the Murray Valley irrigation area.

The water supply for the district is stored in the Hume Dam – capacity 3,038,000 megalitres and the Dartmouth Dam – capacity 4,056,000 megalitres. The water is delivered via the Mulwala Lat at Yarrawonga.

The Murray Valley irrigation area, consisting of 120,000 hectares was proclaimed on October 17, 1938 and the first water from the weir at Yarrawonga flowed into the main channel on October 3,1939. This channel now delivers 365,000 megalitres through 3218 Dethridge water wheels via 1000 kilometres of open Channel.

The irrigation water used on these farms produces a wide range of dairy products, irrigated grain,sunflowers, soya beans, maize, lucerne, wine, stone and citrus fruits, vegetables, prime cattle and lambs. The annual value of this production is in excess of $150,000,000.

Here as elsewhere throughout this country WATER IS LIQUID GOLD.

Stone the Crows -Voices of Gallopoli

Jim Haynes, one of the Chief Crows, is an extraordinary entertainer. When you read his biography you discover that he started out as a teacher and academic. He has written several books about facets of Australian life.

In 2004 he wrote a book entitled Cobbers – Stories of Gallipoli 1915, which was a series of first hand accounts, stories and verse written by the soldiers who were at Anzac Cove.

As Jim pointed out tonight some of the stories appeared in The Anzac Book, but there were many more stories not made public that can only be found in the archives of the Australian War Memorial.

Voices of Gallipoli is a one hour dramatic presentation consisting of music, songs and dialogue that explains what went of during the eight month campaign that shaped the Australian national character.

The script for this presentation is still in progress. Tonight’s presentation was a first public reading. Three actors from the local university with Jim Haynes and Katelyn O’Donoghue gave a marvellous reading. The audience of grey nomads gave them a standing ovation. This augurs well as it moves to a final version, becoming a CD and stage play in the twelve months leading to the 100th anniversary of Gallipoli.

The Adventure Continues

It has been quite a while since we last updated our blog and I should bring you up to date. Mind you if you have been following us on Facebook you will have some idea of what we have been doing or not doing.

After living full time in a Motorhome for the last two years we had come with a list of things that we would like. Similar to living in a new house,you soon decide that this power point should be in a different location and that the TV point should be In the other corner, or the bathroom should be closer to the back door, you understand what I mean.

We had come to the conclusion that we need a little more room, the engine needed a bit more grunt and the shower and toilet need to be separated. Well iMotorhome ran a review of the Winnebago Esperence. Needless to say it seemed to tick all the boxes.

We were on our return from up north when in early November we decided to call into Roberts Winnebago to have a look. Several hours later we walked out with a contract to purchase. Delivery was to be February/March. We also had the option to sell our current vehicle rather than trade in. All was good.

During December and January we spent some time in Maryborough (Victoria) as well as a couple of weeks in Bright. In between trips we parked in the front yard of each of the four children. We appreciate that they put up with us.

I had put the Dreamtime up for sale on GumTree as well as the Motorhomers Forum and iMotorhome. Unfortunately these adverts resulted in several scam approaches. I refused to sell without actually meeting the purchaser. These people were too busy to inspect and the vehicle would be picked up by a shipping agent to be sent overseas. They were happy to pay the price, but something was very fishy. In the end spoke to Sydney RV. Norman had sold us the Dreamtime in the first place 4 years earlier when he was with Kea. He was very quick to make an offer which we accepted as it was better than the trade in price. He was also happy to wait until the end of February (our expected delivery date).

Everything was in place. We checked in mid January to ensure everything was on track. Being assured it was, we booked a hotel in Sydney and a train ticket to Melbourne for the Friday before the Sydney Gay Mardi Gras. It was a holiday , three days drive to Sydney, dinner with friends , a day sightseeing in Sydney and a train trip back.

Just before we left we double checked again our delivery date. Bad news. Delivery was delayed. We were homeless. Fortunately two grandsons were happy to give up their bedroom so we did not need to sleep in the street. We are grateful to Hanna and Colin for letting us stay. Our delivery date turned out to be 1 April .

Delivery date, we paid the final payment and rolled up to Roberts. There were a few formalities and a handover. Various aspects of the vehicle were thoroughly explained and several minor issues were sorted. We hitched up Terry and were ready to roll.

Straight down Sydney Road , left turn at the site of the former Pentridge Prison and to onto the freeway to Wheelers Hill. At Pentridge the “check engine light ” came on. 7 km on the clock and problems. We rang and were advised that as long as there was no loss of power we could continue to drive her home.

Roberts had arranged to come to Wheelers Hill to fit a few items that had not been completed satisfactorily on the following Monday so when speaking to Iveco we made arrangements to drive to Dandenong to have the engine light checked and repaired.

After a few hours we were given the keys and drove back along the freeway via the service station to fill up with fuel. Damn, engine light back on. A phone call with the service department and an arrangement to deliver the vehicle back to Dandenong the following day.
After a four hour wait, it was suggested that I should leave the vehicle overnight , while they tried to ascertain the problem. No choice really and the grandsons once more gave up their bedroom to Opa and Oma.

About midday I rang as was advised that a part would arrive about an hour later and they would ring. Success they replaced the “lambda” sensor. We drove her home and decided that we needed to finish packing up and be on the western side of town for Monday morning as we had booked the vehicle in at Roberts to have work done, the list of issues was getting longer. There was nothing major, but they were irritants and needed to be addressed sooner rather than later.

As I write this we are sitting in the lounge as they work on the vehicle. If the work is not completed today, we will stay overnight in our vehicle in their yard.

What is in a name?

In general, the early explorers where financed by governments, royalty and private benefactors. These explorers often felt that the names of places they found should bear the name of their benefactor of his wife. There are numerous examples a distill leave it to you to look the up. Suffice to say the the NSW / Queensland border town of Texas did not fit into this category.

The McDougall Brothers originally settled on the land where Texas Station is now situated around 1840. The property was abandoned during the1850’s when the brothers tried their luck on the goldfields.
On their return they found that the land had been taken by another settler and it was some time before they were able to establish their prior claim.
In 1836 Texas (America) was at war with Mexico,fighting for their independence. The McDougalls called their property Texas due to the similarity of the dispute.

There is a current link between the two cities. On 10 September 1988 the people of Texas USA planted and donated the Pecan Trees in the town park ( oddly named Pecan Park) as a sign of friendship and goodwill.

The Artesian Time Tunnel – Cunnamulla.

At the Cunnamulla Fell Centre there is a display that transports you back in time 100 million years. As well as the time dinosaurs roamed the earth, it was also the time that water became trapped in sedimentary rock layers, only surfacing through mound springs, the natural pressure relief valves of the artesian basin. The importance of this water source to the outback cannot be underestimated. The work of the Great Artesian Basin Coordinating Committee can be found at gabcc.org.au .

Here are some facts

  • the Great Artesian Basin covers an area as large as 1,711,000 square kilometres or approx 1/5 of the Australian continent
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  • The Artesian basin starts at the tip of Queensland and underlies parts of New South Wales, South Australia and Northern Territory
  • The age of the water is estimated to be 2 million years old and dates back to the ‘Ice Age’
  • The Aboriginal people have been utilising the Artesian water,through mound springs, for many years prior to European Settlement. Mound springs are places where the artesian aquifers naturally flow to the surface.
  • The first ever bore to be sunk was in1878 on ‘Kallara’ station (north west of Tilpa,NSW.
  • The first bore to be sunk in Queensland was 100km South East of Cunnamulla on a property by the name ‘Noorama’ in 1887.
  • The average temperature of the water from the Basin is 30 – 50 degree and a maximum of 100 degrees in some places.
  • In 1999 the Commonwealth and State Governments established what is called the Great Artesian Basin Sustainability Initiative – GABSI. This is a joint initiative between property owners and the government to conserve water through the capping of flowing bores and installation of piping to reduce the amount of water wastage and evaporation that occurs through the use of bore drains in properties.
  • To date GABSI has saved more than 18,538 Mega litres and has involved 306 properties
  • A DVD presentation explained the formation the Basin and it’s importance to the outback communities it serves. However it did leave unanswered questions about the effect of Coal Seam Gas drilling on the Great Artesian Basin. There is a lot of CSG mining in this area of Queensland and some communities are protesting loudly. It seems to me that mines are being developed where food should be produced. I am also not sure that drilling through the aquifers in the basin is not affecting the quality and amount do water available.
    I hope that further studies are done to ensure the safety of drinking water from the Basin .

    Beyond the Black Stump

    11/11/2013
    How many times have you heard the expression” Beyond the Black Stump”?
    Here in Blackall anything west is beyond the Black Stump.” We have been beyond and are now on this side.

    The Black Stump was used for surveying purposes and permanently marks the Astro Station which was established in 1887. Surveyors placed their transit on the stump for latitude and longitude observations and a stump was used rather than a set if legs to give more stability to the transit. At the time any country to the west of Blacks was considered to be “beyond the Black Stump”.

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    World War 11 site

    About 50km northwest from Mount Isa is a rest area that commemorates the building of a supply road to Camooweal. The rest area was donated to the community by the Kalkadoon people.

    The original road was built during WW11 as part of the inland defence road system in 1940. The war moved to the Pacific region and the defence of northern Australia became an urgent issue.
    The Queensland Main Roads Commission (now Queensland Department of Main Roads) was given the responsibility to build the road west from Mount Isa, to link up with the north-south road at Tennant Creek.

    Prior to 1940 the road west was a track which ran close to the telegraph line erected in 1897 and meandered from waterhole to waterhole. In 1941, work commenced on the road which was ten miles shorter than the track. However there we difficulties in building the road,with funds exhausted and chronic shortages of machinery and manpower.
    By the end of 1941 , Australian and American military traffic on the East-West Road increased with volumes of 1000 vehicles per day.
    Further funding was obtained from he Commonwealth Government and machinery borrowed from across Queensland. By virtually working around the clock, the roadways gravelled and bridges over Spear Creek and the Buckley , Georgina andRankin Rivers neared completion in October 1942.

    By late 1943 ,due to heavy traffic usage , the Mount Isa to Camooweal Road was bitumen sealed to a width of sixteen feet. The road,used unaltered for more than twenty years afterwards, represented a significant contribution to Australia’s wartime defence priorities and improving the lives of the people of northwest Queensland.

    The road had since been rebuilt, but the Main Roads department are committed to remaining this section of original road at thirst area.

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    An Observation

    Travelling through the Outback gives us an opportunity to relax, observe, take part in activities and IMHO to learn about this land that we call home.

    I am sitting here, about 50km north west of Mount Isa, at a roadside stop commemorating the building of a highway between the Isa and Darwin during World War II. The road was built to enable supplies to move north.

    But I digress from the main purpose if this post. I think back on my history lessons many years ago, I can remember the names of Burke and Wills, Blaxland, Wentworth and Lawson and Charles Sturt .
    But I cannot recall being taught about John McKinlay, who led a party in search of Burke and Wills, or William Landsborough who also led a search for Burke and Wills. Landsborough and bushman Nat Buchanan explored the areas around what is now Aramac and Barcaldine.
    No doubt there are many others that we do not learn about until we go travelling.
    My question then is why?

    I struggle to think of a reason . I find the history of this country fascinating and believe that more needs to be done to teach our children a full history.

    I would be interested in your thoughts.
    Please leave a comment.

    The Underground Hospital – Mount Isa

    Tuesday 13/08/2013

    Mount Isa rose out of the desert in north west Queensland in the 1920s. Today 90 years on it is a booming mining town. In 1942 however it was on a war footing.

    The Japanese had bombed Darwin in February, resulting in heavy casualties and it was feared that Mount Isa could be the nex target. With this in mind the Mount Isa Hospital Board decided that an underground hospital was needed to care for patients and handle casualties In the event of attack. The site chosen was the hill next to the existing hospital. And who was better qualified to build such an establishment an the miners from Mount Isa Mines? When the proposition was put by hospital medical superintendent Dr E J Ryan, there was no shortage of volunteers and the Mount Isa Mines management was quick to supply the necessary materials.

    A H shaped underground bunker was dug out of the solid rock over a sixteen week period.The underground hospital was completed quickly,with surgical, medical and maternity facilities, and even an outpatients department and operating theatres.
    Fortunately, it was nurses on night shift as well as being a storehouse for the above ground hospital.

    It fell into disuse and in e early1950s the entrances were covered win earth. This facility was completely forgotten until 1977 when workers ‘rediscovered’ the tunnels when looking for a reason for subsidence in the area.

    Not surprisingly the hospital was found to be in disrepair, with the roof partially collapsed in the main ward area, debris scattered throughout and wooden fittings white-ant eaten.

    In 1999 a restoration of the site was begun. Photographs of the original hospital were used to restore the facility as faithfully to the original as possible.

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    Today it stands as a monument to the community spirit of the people of Mount Isa.