A Mosaic Story

Queensland Road Trip, May 2022

Let’s go on a road trip! Come with us to Townsville and west on the Savannah Way to Karumba on an adventure in far north Queensland.

In the park across the road from the Railway Hotel in Ravenswood there’s a remarkable piece of public art; a wonderful mosaic chair created for the 150th anniversary of gold mining in the town. Each detailed panel tells a story about gold mining in the area, with scenes depicting people and activities from the past and the present.

Historic mining locations are listed on brass plaques, while images of old methods of finding gold contrast with modern technologies.

Even the local birds are included in this amazing work of art.

Joining Marsha’s Photographing Public Art Challenge

Built on Gold

Queensland Road Trip, May 2022

Let’s go on a road trip! Come with us to Townsville and west on the Savannah Way to Karumba on an adventure in far north Queensland.

Like Croydon and many other Queensland towns, Charters Towers was founded after the discovery of gold in 1872. And just like Croydon, many of the buildings were constructed to service the booming young town still exist. But these are different. Most of them are grand, colonial style buildings still in use today.

Almost every building in the centre of town is heritage listed and at night they’re beautifully lit.

Old signs retained on the buildings tell the story of their original purpose, some not that different from today.

The tiny town of Ravenswood, an hour east of Charters Towers, also flourished when gold was discovered. Even though the population dwindled from a peak of 5,000 in 1912 to fewer than 130, many of the gold rush era buildings still stand and the whole town is now heritage listed.

In Ravenswood though, most structures were utilitarian: family dwellings, government offices and community buildings.

Only two of the 50 pubs which once quenched the thirst of the people of Ravenswood remain. And while most of the town’s buildings are quite plain, the elaborate façades of these hotels are an indication of the prosperity brought by gold.

Living History in Croydon

Queensland Road Trip, May 2022

Let’s go on a road trip! Come with us to Townsville and west on the Savannah Way to Karumba on an adventure in far north Queensland. 

The Savannah Way passes right through the centre of Croydon and it would be easy to drive on without stopping. But this little town, isolated in the vastness of the Gulf Country, has a history worth learning about. 

Today Croydon has a population of just 266, but in the late 1880s it was the third largest town in Queensland. The reason for this population boom was, of course, the discovery of gold. People flocked to the area after the first discovery was made in 1885 and, by 1887, the town had a police station, general store, hospital and 36 pubs!

The population may have dwindled over time but the buildings from the gold rush era remain in Croydon, preserved in a Heritage Precinct on Samwell Street. We enjoyed a gentle stroll from one building to the next, going inside each to read their stories and look at the photos of times past. 

The Police Sergeant’s residence (1897)

The Police Station and Old Gaol (1896)

Croydon Court House (1887) 

Croydon Town Hall (1892) 

Club Hotel (1887)

Hospital Male Ward (1887)

In earlier times, kerosene lamps lit the streets of Croydon. Today four original lamps have been joined by several replicas along the length of Samwell Street, adding to its historic character.

After wandering through town on foot, we used our car for the next part of our exploration, to the site where Chinatown and the Chinese Temple once stood. The foundations of the temple are the only remnants left of this once bustling area of Croydon. More than 300 Chinese people lived in Croydon, mostly working in their market gardens growing fruit and vegetables to supply the settlement. 

Plaques telling the stories of some of the Chinese families are set beside the walking track. 

Another couple of kilometres along the road we came to Lake Belmore, an earth walled dam constructed in 1995. The lake may be far more modern than the historic structures in town but its legacy is just as important. It is the largest body of fresh water in the region and supplies the town and surrounding area. The lake is a popular venue for water sports and fishing.

On our way back into Croydon we stopped at Diehm’s Lookout. Its location in the hills behind Croydon gave us just enough elevation to look down on the historic town, isolated by the seemingly limitless expanse of woodlands and savannah of the Gulf Country. 

Joining Jo for Monday Walks

The Last Camp

Queensland Road Trip, May 2022

Let’s go on a road trip! Come with us to Townsville and west on the Savannah Way to Karumba on an adventure in far north Queensland.

On 20th August 1860 an expeditionary party of 19 men set off from Melbourne with the goal of travelling across Australia from south to north. Led by Robert O’Hara Burke and William Wills, their destination was the Gulf of Carpentaria. 

173 days later, on 9th February 1816, four of the original party reached the Little Bynoe River in far north Queensland. Here they set up Camp 119. John King and Charles Gray stayed at the camp while Burke and Wills continued north in an attempt to reach the gulf. With their way ahead blocked by swamps, Burke and Wills turned back after 24 kilometres and the decision was made to return south. 

The expedition ended in disaster, with food supplies running out and illness and exhaustion taking their toll. Gray died in April 1861, while Burke and Wills died in June. John King owed his survival to a group of Aboriginal people who gave him food and shelter. He was found by a search party on 15 September 1861 and eventually returned to Melbourne, but he never fully recovered from the physical effects of the expedition and died in 1872.     

The site of Camp 119, the final camp of the party on their northern route, is located 38 kilometres from the town of Normanton. The explorers and their fateful journey across Australia are commemorated by a set of plaques and information boards. 

While Gray and King waited for Burke and Wills to return from the gulf, they blazed 15 trees at the campsite. A couple of the marked trees are still alive and the location of each of the others is marked with metal poles or plaques. 

The expedition may have ended in failure but the explorers’ efforts left an important legacy. Five further expeditions, all travelling in different directions, were sent to search for the lost men. The knowledge gained during all these journeys contributed to the development of inland Australia. 

The town of Normanton was settled in 1867, just six years after that first exploration. With the discovery of gold in the region, the building of the railway and the development of the fishing industry, Normanton flourished.  

After paying our respects to the Burke and Wills expedition at Camp 119, we made our way to Normanton. Unlike those unfortunate explorers we had no trouble finding lunch, at the iconic Purple Pub on Landsborough Street. 

Learning While Walking

Queensland Road Trip, May 2022

Let’s go on a road trip! Come with us to Townsville and west on the Savannah Way to Karumba on an adventure in far north Queensland. 

After going on two guided walks in Undara National Park, it was nice the next day to head off on our own. Seven bush walking tracks start from Undara Experience and we selected two of medium length with different themes. 

In the morning we walked to Atkinson’s Lookout. For most of the 3.84 kilometre walk there was no formed track; we followed white arrows pointing the way over huge slabs of pink granite. 

This walk focused on our natural surroundings. We found clumps of white paper daisies and wattle trees just coming into bloom.

We were intrigued by these very large ant nests but thankfully we didn’t meet the inhabitants. 

When we reached the lookout on a rounded dome of granite, we found a rather unusual cairn, perhaps a bush version of travellers’ stones. 

The view over the plain was dominated by Undara, the volcano we’d come to know well. 

Our afternoon walk, on a well worn path through the bush, was a history lesson. Watched by a friendly kookaburra, we headed off on the 3.6 kilometre Pioneer Track following the route of the first telegraph line, built in 1872.

Native Cypress pine trees were used for the telegraph poles. The timber’s termite resistant quality means that 150 years later some of the poles still stand beside the track. 

As we neared the end of the track a small timber cabin came into view. Constructed by hand using pioneering techniques, this slab hut is a replica of the first home built when the Collins family moved to this area in the 1870s.

With so many walks to choose from, we covered everything on offer at Undara – geology, geography, nature and history.

Joining Jo for Monday Walks

On the Edge of a Volcano

Queensland Road Trip, May 2022

Let’s go on a road trip! Come with us to Townsville and west on the Savannah Way to Karumba on an adventure in far north Queensland. 

While the lava tubes at Undara are only accessible by guided walks, there is another way to get up close and personal with a volcano on your own. The Kalkani circuit track goes around the rim of a volcano even older than Undara.

Unlike Undara, Kalkani erupted in a violent explosion of magma, gases and volcanic rocks which formed a cone with a deep crater inside. 

The rim of the crater is only a couple of metres wide. This is one of those times when staying on the track is a very good idea.

On the right hand side, the ground drops away into the centre of the crater before rising up again to the opposite edge. 

To the left, the steep outer side of the crater falls away just as sharply. From this elevated spot it’s easy to make out some of the other 163 volcanos in the region. Sections of darker green dry rainforest growing in collapsed lava tubes contrast with the rest of the forest.

A family of pretty face wallabies rests in the shade, surrounded by large volcanic boulders. They watch cautiously as walkers pass by. It’s as if they are surprised to see other living things in this vast landscape. 

Joining Jo for Monday Walks

Driving the Beef Road

Queensland Road Trip, May 2022

Let’s go on a road trip! Come with us to Townsville and west on the Savannah Way to Karumba on an adventure in far north Queensland.

Leaving Townsville, we began the long trek west to the Gulf of Carpentaria. The first 134 kilometres of the journey were on the Hervey Range Developmental Road, a wide two lane highway in excellent condition. 

It wasn’t always so good. Just past Stockyard Creek, we came across a memorial and plaque commemorating the completion of the road in 2005. 

In 1864, when Townsville was a new settlement, a rough track was forged west from the coast up and over Hervey Range to Georgetown. 

In the 1960s the Federal Government devised a plan to seal the roads right around the country of most importance to the burgeoning beef industry. Being the most direct route from the Gulf and Burdekin districts to Townsville, Hervey Range Road was included in the plan and construction started in 1971. 

When the Beef Roads Scheme finished in 1975, 120 kilometres of the road were still unsealed. In the early 1990s work began once more and the road was finally completed in 2005.

We were glad the road up the range was not still that rough dirt track from 1864.

Note: The name for the range and road is Hervey Range or Hervey’s Range, depending on which map I’ve looked at. I’ve chosen to continue using Hervey Range. 


Girraween National Park, Queensland

Do you ever think about how or why places are named? At Girraween National Park in southern Queensland, the reason for some place names is more obvious than others.

The designation of Underground Creek is self-explanatory, as the tannin stained water disappears beneath an ancient rockfall. The creek might be hidden from view, but it can be heard trickling between the granite boulders before it emerges further downhill.

Girraween is an Aboriginal word meaning “place of flowers”. In late summer, drifts of golden paper daisies brighten the bush while delicate fringed lilies bloom close to water.

It’s logical to assume that Dr Roberts’ Waterhole was named for a local personality, but it’s only at the end of the track his story is revealed.

The wide sandy path leading to the waterhole winds through open eucalpyt forest. Huge slabs of granite, laid down as magma 240 million years ago, are revealed where the topsoil has been eroded by wind and rain.

At the end of the track a panel explains the conservation work of Dr Roberts, and the reason for honouring him becomes clear.

After good summer rainfall, the waterhole is full. A light breeze sends ripples across the surface, blurring the sky’s reflection.

I wonder how many times Dr Roberts visited this waterhole in his wanderings. I think he would be delighted that this beautiful place bears his name.


Joining Jo for Monday Walks

Brought Back To Life

Glengallan Homestead and Heritage Centre, Warwick, Queensland

On the drive towards Warwick along the New England Highway, the scenery is beautiful. On the eastern side, the forested mountains of Main Range National Park rise abruptly from the land. To the west, the fertile plains of the southern Darling Downs extend all the way to the horizon.

Not far from Warwick, this spectacular vista is interrupted as an elegant two storey house comes into view. Glengallan Homestead has stood here, surrounded by farmland, since 1867. Built by Scottish pastoralist John Deuchar and his wife Elizabeth, the house was once known as the most elegant in the colony. But in 1949, after passing through the hands of several owners, the homestead was left unoccupied. Exposure to the weather began to take its toll, with some sections of the veranda collapsing and water leaking inside. In 1993 a project to restore the homestead began; grants and donations allowed an army of volunteers to rebuild the home before it was opened to the public in 2002.

The exterior walls of the house are made of huge blocks of sandstone excavated locally. Deep verandas on the ground and first floors shelter the interior from both the high temperatures of summer and cold winter winds.

Inside, the building has been restored just enough for visitors to visualise its former glory. The house tells its own story though, with deterioration caused by decades of neglect not completely covered up. In some rooms, the original construction methods are visible.

The garden too is a mere remnant of what once existed. A wide curving drive originally led to a tennis court and extensive orchard. All that remains is the rose garden and, like the house, its faded beauty tells of a much grander past.

Glengallan Homestead and Heritage Centre are open 10am to 4 pm Wednesday to Sunday.

#27 Spending Time with Vincent

I’m joining Becky in her February Square Photo Challenge over at The Life of B. The rules of the challenge are simple: most photos must be square and fit the theme word Odd, referencing one of these definitions: different to what is usual or expected, or strange; a number of items, with one left over as a remainder when divided by two; happening or occurring infrequently and irregularly, or occasionally; separated from a usual pair or set and therefore out of place or mismatched. Look for #SquareOdds.

While we didn’t travel as much as usual in 2021, we were fortunate to enjoy several holidays in our home state of Queensland and one short trip over the border into New South Wales. Join me this month in a retrospective look at the very odd year of 2021. 

 Brisbane QLD, December 2021

After starting 2021 in Brisbane, we ended the year there as well. Again, we were there for a special exhibition. This time it was an exhibition with a difference at the Grand Pavilion in Northshore, Hamilton.

Van Gogh Alive, a multi-sensory extravaganza of light, sound and colour, featured the beautiful works of Vincent Van Gogh. After visiting 65 cities around the world, the exhibition came to Brisbane in October.

More than 3,000 images of Vincent’s paintings, drawings and writing were projected onto huge screens inside the pavilion in a 45 minute display, accompanied by music and animations. We stayed for almost two hours, enjoying the visual spectacle of Vincent’s art on this grand scale.

Did you spot the very peculiar image of us, looking short and squat, captured in a mirror?