Sunday, 30 April 2017

All the way to Jandowae!

There is a two-metre tall metal dingo at Jandowae. We parked Elmer in a side street and walked across the road to view the sculpture. In truth, we were far more impressed with the absolutely massive bottle trees than the art-work!

We'd seen very tall bottle trees earlier in the day.  These were tall and wide.  Just amazing!

Bottle trees can grow to a height of 20 metres and some achieve a girth of 8 metres. They develop their bottle shape between five and eight years of age - and may live 150 years.

Erin's "Wild Food in Australia" book has entries describing both Leichardt and Major Mitchell's early exploration parties chewing the wood to release a nutritious jelly.

Prickly pear ...

We traveled through some lovely country and the super-tall bottle trees beside the track were a definite highlight.

When I saw "Boiling Springs Lookout" listed as a picnic stop on the tourist drive, I was keen to sit and view the springs.  Yeah, well.

Upon arrival as far as I could see, there were no boiling springs.  There were two steel posts where some signage might once have been supported and no picnic table, though there was a shelter.

On the edge of the clearing was a large rock upon a large base of brown, patterned cement and I walked over to see if that offered any information. Nup, it was just a rock.  Nick called out, asking if was like the one near Eulo - which was what I'd been thinking, also!

Vaughan decided it was a great opportunity to harvest prickly pear fruit and given he is usually very picky about his food we foraged for tongs in the picnic case.

Although the drive was described as being  a loop of 110 kilometres long with a suggested time of two and a half hours, we took a lot longer (and drove much further).

Some areas were not well marked and we needed to double-back later in the day.  It was late in the day when lunch was finally eaten at a very nice picnic area beside the Jandowae dam.  Vaughan offered prickly pear tasting as a finale.  I was dubious but the taste was quite bland - and far, far more palatable than the snotty gobbles!!

Snotty Gobbles!

After patting the cotton modules one last time, we set off again along the Dingo Barrier Fence Drive.  We had the road to ourselves, except for a few roos bounding along the fence-line and we spotting for bottle trees, prickly pear and admiring the pink-topped grass along the track.

There had been much amusement the previous night when I read out the various alternate names for Weeping Pittosporum - especially Snotty Gobbles!  Vaughan called for a halt, keen for us to sample the fruit!

You can see footage of our reactions!

The tree is also known as Native Apricot, which prompted our tasting.  Since coming home, Erin has dug out her "Wild Food in Australia" book.  It gives another name for the tree, Bitter Bush.  Shame I didn't read that before believing Nick's perfectly straight face and well delivered: "Something you really have to experience for yourself, darling"!  Gullible.  That's me.

Great bales of cotton!

On Saturday, we spotted a truck heading out of town carting huge cotton bales. I wasn't quick enough for a pic but we were all very impressed by the sight!  Wow!

After our excellent Sunday breakfast, we packed up for a day of exploring. Erin was delighted to see cotton plants growing en route to Lightning Ridge a few years back.  

(The next year Erin insisted Nick chase some cotton trucks through Bourke when the two of them collected Nissa to spend a week with us at Yowah)!

As we drove from Dalby toward Jandowae, we could see many rows of cotton plants. Nick pulled over at a safe spot so we could cross the road for the a closer look.

We stopped again a bit further along, to see the huge cotton bales.  Hmm.  It seems the correct term is round module - and four of these are processed to create one bale of cotton lint.  Cotton Australia has a set of fact sheets and one states that a processed cotton bale weighs 227kg, enough to produce 680,000 cotton balls! (From my reading this afternoon, it seems these yellow "modules" weigh a similar amount).  Pretty neat, eh?!

Saturday, 29 April 2017

Bunya mountains ...

Nick and I took a drive out to the Bunya Mountains in the afternoon.  There was some lovely scenery en route and we saw hills with many fruiting prickly pears, which made us wonder where all the cacto-blastis moths were!

There were quite a few trees with small orange fruit along one roadside, so we stopped to collect a sample - then later identified it as a Weeping Pitto-sporum using my Australian Trees book, cos my library was in the back of the car (yep, I'm a bit nerdy)!

We enjoyed our afternoon tea at one of the tables in the Dandabah picnic area.  A male satin bowerbird was busy in the undergrowth nearby and the scrub turkeys also wandered very close to us.  We could hear currawongs calling overhead and it was a lovely place for sitting quietly.

The sun was setting as we made our way back to Dalby, driving carefully due to the many small wallabies beside the road.  (They were grazing in house yards as well as more open areas).

Bunya Mountains National Park is home to the world’s largest stand of bunya pines. (They can live 600 years)!

Dalby dawdling ...

Nick works shift-work, so isn't always rostered off for weekends and often works during public holidays.  When we saw this opportunity for a mini-holiday, it didn't occur to either of us that it was also a long weekend for all the state.  That fact became clear when I tried to book our accommodation!

(As new QLDers we aren't yet up-to-date with our now local public holidays).

After lucking out on several destinations I found a budget, pet-friendly cabin at Dalby - so booked quickly!  I did a little research and read the town boasted a monument to the cactoblastis moth! Of course, we had to see that!

We've visited all kinds of monuments and memorials in our travels.  We regularly see prickly pear also and know it as an invasive plant. I was very surprised to see it being grown in Victoria - in netted areas to protect it from birds!  Given our extremely negative experience of prickly pear jam (purchased during our Lightning Ridge visit), it didn't make sense that a pest species would be grown as a prized crop.

Since returning from Dalby, I've done more research and some communities value the fruit very highly.  I'm still not sure what legal requirements exist for growing the cactus in Victoria.  In Queensland many of the subspecies are "prohibited invasive plants" and must be reported within 24 hours to Biosecurity Queensland, under the Biosecurity Act 2014.  ("Prickly Pear" is a general term used to describe more than ten species of cactus, most from the opuntia species).

There was an abbreviated history of prickly pear reported on the Dalby monument. I've learnt a lot more since returning home.  Some facts were revision, while others were new.  It's a very interesting story.  Biosecurity Queensland has published a detailed four-page PDF file, here.  There are more photos and facts, here.

About 70km from Dalby is another memorial to the cactoblastis moth.  The Cactoblastis Memorial Hall at Boonarga is the only building in the world named after an insect. (Boonarga is near Chinchilla, where the first prickly pear plant was destroyed by the cactoblastis larvae in 1926).  The local community celebrated the hall's 80th anniversary last year.  

We love Tyrepower!

Our first mission of the morning was to get the tyre repaired. Given it was the Saturday of a long weekend, Nick and I went out before breakfast.  There were five tyre repair options in Dalby. We chose the one closest to us - and then the GPS took us there via the most indirect route, which saw us arrive at the rear of the building!

It was a busy morning for the employees and I found it quite interesting to see them all at work.  Our tyre was fixed and then re-fitted to the car in it's rightful spot.  Nick put the spare back and we headed "home" for breakfast, which was a lot quicker when we navigated more efficiently!

I'd flash-frozen cooked pikelets for microwave reheating during one of our Lithgow/Ironfest visits, which was a wonderful success.  I'd similarly pre-cooked pikelets for this trip though cut them into heart-shapes for extra pizzaz!  Very happy to report they were heartily (hah!) enjoyed by all!

Friday, 28 April 2017

Feeling flat?!

Our plan was to depart when school finished on Friday afternoon - and we left pretty much on schedule. 

One of my last missions was to reheat some party pies and sausage rolls to keep warm in the thermal cooker (an idea that was successful for our Mortlake camping trip in 2014).

Of course, when packing these snacks I envisioned eating them at a nice picnic table!

We hadn't been on the road long when we spotted another Landcruiser the same colour as ours. When it exited the freeway, we were checking it's snorkel and thought the driver was waving but in fact he was shouting "tyre"!

Nick exited the freeway as soon as he could and found a quieter stretch of road for changing the tyre.  Vaughan helped - and we all enjoyed hot pies and sausage rolls during the delay, even though it wasn't quite the rest stop I imagined!

I was reminded of another trip where the commodore had a flat tyre en route to our campsite.  Fortunately this time we were staying in a cabin and didn't need to set-up a tent etc in the dark!

Elmer the Gold!

As it happened, we purchased our new-to-us truck not quite two weeks after we farewelled the original Elmer Fudd.

Our replacement is fairly standard - no lift, winch, driving lights, roof-rack, cargo barrier or drawers. He doesn't look, sound or feel the same but has traveled considerably less - 182,000km vs the starting 290,200km of his predecessor , a very worthwhile investment.

We managed 130,000km of adventures with the original Elmer, so there is plenty of potential for even more with this one!

Once home, we quickly organised four new tyres and pondered what to do next.  We've been out on a few local-ish day-trips and collected various furniture bargains but left the truck as purchased, while we considered what improvements to do.

In preparation for a weekend away, Nick fixed the awning (which hadn't been quite the same since a gust of wind caught it about 12 months ago at Beaufort).  He then fitted the roof-rack regalia. And now, the truck really feels like ours!  Hooray for Elmer the Gold!

We decided to stay in a Bandit-friendly cabin for the long weekend.  Fitting the roof-rack meant several suitcases and other gear could be stashed in our Aldi cargo bags, leaving plenty of room in the back of the car for food, picnic cases and a variety of essentials.

Typically, no-one remembered to wash the Elmer Fudd sign while the roof-rack was at ground level - der!