Wednesday, 26 July 2017

30 Seconds - or so!

As well as Monday's fire drum project, Nick and I tackled another mission.

We'd tested the camper trailer over the weekend, setting it up in the back-yard for some practice camping.

The double-bed mattress worked wonderfully for our bed - and even better, the trailer can still pack up around it.  Hooray!

When we inspected the camper, there seemed to be mould staining on the inside of the roof. The seller believed the marks were from dirt on the outside. I wasn't convinced but we paid a good price for the trailer, so were quite happy with our purchase.

Those dark marks were very evident when we were "camping" over the weekend, so action was necessary.

Some time ago, we'd purchased 30-second cleaner from Bunnings.  On Monday, we cleaned the roof of the camper trailer - parking it alongside our front steps for ease of access (and because there was a tap close-by).

The roof definitely looked cleaner after our efforts but sadly there was no change to the inside stains. (All the fumes from the cleaner became trapped inside, so inspection was super-fast - and we decided a different approach would be necessary when cleaning inside).

Nick was excused from the second cleaning phase - though was on-hand to assist me this morning, mixing the cleaner and sorting the sprayer gadget.

I donned a painter's mask which was a huge giggle, cos I mucked up the straps on first attempt and it looked even more ridiculous in skew-whiff mode! I wore old clothes and decided against wearing a bra cos I didn't want to risk bleaching it. As it happened, that was a wise decision!  Given how drippy the operation was though, I'm quite impressed that I wasn't more bleached at the end!

The inside roof looks vastly improved.  I'm thinking it may require another quick go-over because a few small parts were missed.  (It's a bit tricky to see what areas have been done until the product starts working and due to standing below the canvas, excess liquid dripped down rather than pooling as it had on the outside).

I've been doing a fair bit of reading and it seems the high-octane cleaners affect canvas water-proofing, so we've bought a 5-litre container of Aqua Proof to re-seal the roof (inside and out).  I'll post those efforts separately!

Monday, 24 July 2017

Fire-pit's first firing!

Nick and I were busy today. We ticked off several missions, including buying a 44-drum - which was converted to an excellent fire pit, using a former coffee table we rescued from a neighbour's Council clean-up pile. (I'd spotted the table during the weekend and thought it would work well, so was pleased to see it fit).

My wonderful Mother's Day fire-pit had been gifted to appreciative recipients when we prepared to leave Victoria.

After collecting the drum, we banked the cash received when we sold our van. The butcher near the bank was selling "goat curry meat pieces", so a kilo of those were acquired also.

We made a stop at Bunnings for extra grinding wheels - and then headed home to start work. Well, Nick did most of the work. I took lots of photos!

Our camp ovens hadn't been used since Erin's birthday last October.  Both needed some quick sprucing after being in storage.

We'd collected wood from the yard earlier in the day.  There had been a storm a few months back, so I gathered all the smaller fallen branches.  Nick started the chainsaw (it's first use after nearly two years of storage) and cut the thicker branches.

It's even longer since we've used our Maxi BBQ! It was handy for making a flat cooking area on top of the drum.

I can't remember making a goat curry before.  This one was very mild, probably more stew than curry but it was an excellent effort!

What went into it? About a kilo of goat meat pieces, two chopped onions, at least a cup of fresh green beans, a small pumpkin chopped into chunks, a few potatoes cut into large pieces, some red curry paste, some curry powder, a tin of brown lentils, a tin of diced tomatoes, water, stock powder and a tin of coconut milk.

The onions and meat were browned with the spices - and then everything else added to simmer away for a couple of hours. I wasn't really timing, just stirring every so often and admiring the progress! The pumpkin pieces cooked down to thicken the gravy and it really was lovely.

I often make baked rice in the oven but this is the first time I've tried it in a camp oven. What a success! I'll definitely be making it again! I use a simplified version of this recipe.  Tonight the quantities were 1 and 1/4 cups of (basmati) rice to 2 and 1/2 cups of stock. This cooked, filling my small 2-quart camp oven. The oven rested on coals inside the fire pit, with a few coals on its lid. I made a point of timing the rice. It had 40 minutes in total and was turned half-way. When cooked, the rice had a crunchy crust on the bottom and sides. Brilliant!

Sunday, 16 July 2017

Winner, winner - chicken dinner!

Back in June, Nick and I went to the massive camping/caravaning show in Brisbane.  It was a huge day out and we were amazed by all the big-money rigs on offer.

My favourite was a hybrid camper with rather flash bench-height kitchen unit, accessed by a side hatch. It was marvelous! I could see us meal-prepping en route, in fantastic style and I indulged in a (fair) bit of day-dreaming.

The reality is the cost of the you-beaut hybrid is around the equivalent of what we consider a house deposit, so we resisted temptation.

Our camping gear has undergone various changes over time, to better suit our needs (and experience).  While in Victoria we bought a caravan, prompted by the colder climate and a change in Nick's work hours.  It ended up being our base for almost 18 months while we readied ourselves for inter-state relocation.  As part of those preparations we also sold our trailer, which had served us well for many adventures.

We (finally!) relocated to Queensland in February and have enjoyed a few short trips, staying in Bandit-friendly cabins - cos no-one wanted to go back into the van!

Nick has extended leave booked for December and January, so we are looking forward to getting away for a longer adventure.  Our budget won't stretch to cabin accommodation and we don't consider the van an option.  We still have our tents and camping gear.

I'd suggested looking for another trailer, possibly with some camping specific modifications, praps even a kitchen. Nick was keen for a multi-purpose box trailer. Neither of us were actually looking for a camper trailer - but that's what we bought this morning!

In 2008 we hired a soft-floor camper trailer and decided against that style of camping.  In more recent times we have viewed a number of hard-floor campers at different camping expos. These models seemed far easier to set up and we considered one as a possible option for sometime in the future.

Our new acquisition was advertised as a home-made Aussie Swag camper. It's previous owner ("D9") had made several modifications, the most obvious one being a large storage box on the draw bar.  We have a few ideas for how that may work better for us - and yes, I'm still scheming for an on-board kitchen of some sort! For the moment we've tested that our camping chairs and bi-fold tables fit nicely.  Of course, we'll look at what else can be stashed up front as well as how best to set up generally.

The camper trailer's previous owner spent a fair bit of time at Thargomindah, which seemed a good sign (or sticker) to us!

While living in the van, we bought a new double-bed mattress. It might fit the bed platform of the camper trailer, which would be great! Fingers crossed for that easy improvement. For quick overnight stops, we think two stretchers could be set up on the hard floor area adjacent the bed.  When staying longer, we can set up the awning/annexe and maybe one of our tents. Backyard practice might be in order!

The camper came with a heavy-duty gas burner and a camp kitchen table/pantry unit. We'll sell those as we prefer our dual-fuel stoves and bi-fold/3-height tables. The van is also being prepared for sale - to offset the camper trailer cost. Wish us luck for super-successful wheeling and dealing!

We haven't yet had a cake to celebrate our new camper trailer but we did enjoy a roast chicken dinner!  

Thursday, 6 July 2017

Lunch-time trivia!

We'd had a quick lunch beside the road on the way up, so when Nick asked where I wanted to stop on the way back I said I'd like a nice spot with a table!

Our homeward journey took a slightly different route, following tar roads from Bauhinia to Moura and down to Theodore, then Taroom - rather than the dirt road between Taroom and Bauhinia that we'd used before.

We liked the dirt road but also wanted to see some new scenery.  

It was after 2pm when we drove across the Dawson River and spotted the large rest area.  A table with a river view was a great lunch spot and we enjoyed listening to many birds as we ate.

The table definitely benefited from my picnic table cloths!

I wandered down to the river bank after lunch, to take a couple of shots and read the signage.  I was laughing heartily when I called Nick and Erin down - and then Vaughan was convinced to put on shoes, so he could also join us to see what was hugely funny!

We are keen watchers of animal documentaries and used to spend lots of time at various zoos / wildlife parks, so already had a vague notion of bottom-breathing tortoises but were quite ignorant of the specialist cloacal bursae!  Now, there's some serious lunch-time trivia!!

Picking our moments ...

We were up at 7am and ready to check out by 9:30am - quite pleased with our efforts.  There was time for a few quick photos in Sapphire and a last call for souvenirs.

It was almost 10am when we rolled out of town, heading for Emerald. Once there, Bandit had a bit of a run at the local park, which gave Erin and I opportunity to look at the huge Van Gogh sunflower painting sculpture.

Apparently the painting is one of seven to be painted by Cameron Cross as part of a big easel project.  You can read more about him and his work, here.

It seemed busy when we stopped in briefly at Coles to pick up some lunch items but we were soon on our way again. Next town - Springsure!

Wednesday, 5 July 2017

Sunset sampling ...

We'd driven along Keilambete Road on our first morning in the area - and decided it would make a good vantage point for sunset viewing on our final evening, so headed there after our Tomahawk Creek explorations.

I'd hurriedly packed up cheese platter provisions before leaving the cabin and left a couple of things behind. Even so, we had quite a lovely spread - nicely arranged along Elmer's tailgate!

We had some cheese and many olives purchased from Stanthorpe as well as other offerings bought from our local supermarket.

It was very pleasant watching the sun set and enjoying our nibbles. Even nicer that the few passing cars slowed greatly so we weren't coated in dust as we ate!

Signs of good things ...

I didn't have a clear idea of where we were going when we set out again in the afternoon. I'd packed my cheese platter goodies, just in case we had opportunity to watch the sunset from a good vantage point but the end of the day was still several hours away.

As it happened, we headed out along Clermont Road to the Tomahawk Creek fossicking area. It was a pretty drive, with lots of mountains along the way. We saw a Mt Ball sign at a dirt road and turned down, thinking to get a closer look and perhaps even scale that peak. Nup. The road was actually a drive way!

We did a quick lap of the camping area at Tomahawk Creek and then back-tracked to a sandy creek that Vaughan was keen to play in.

He convinced me to be part buried in the coarse sand with him. It was quite pleasant to sit in the shade with our feet throbbing (praps caused by the weight of the sand), watched over by a few curious cows.

There were more cows on the way back to Rubyvale - as well as the nicely embellished Boot & Kettle Creek sign!

Pretty nifty, eh?!

Mt Bullock ...

Undaunted by our Policeman's Knob experience, we set off to find the other lookout indicated on our "treasure map".

Hah!  Finding Mt Bullock proved even trickier.  Again, there was no signage and GPS assistance was not available.

We had a couple of attempts before deciding that the first rise we'd come to had probably been the extent of the site. Ah, well! There had been some nice scenery en route and we'd seen a bit more of the various claim areas so all was not in vain. Erin suffers from motion sickness though and Vaughan was feeling restless, so we went back to our cabin for a while, to regroup.

The Rubyvale, Sapphire and Scrub Leads Miners Common is available to residents for stock grazing (upon obtaining a permit). Cattle and camels roam freely throughout the township and have right of way.

Tuesday, 4 July 2017

Policeman's Knob lookout ...

I had read a short paragraph about the Policeman's Knob lookout in a visitor guide. The location was roughly marked on a free "treasure map".  There were GPS co-ordinates but our GPS was MIA and our phones didn't have sufficient coverage to use.

Given the lookout was marked on the local tourist map, we thought it's location might be actually sign-posted or at least commonly known to the local residents!  Hah!  We mucked up our first attempt, so circled back for another go.  That wasn't successful either and we asked again for directions in Rubyvale, firstly from a non-local who directed us to to the local cafe where we received clearer pointers.

We thought we were set, till we drove up a dusty track into an out-of-the-way camp, guarded by a couple of chained dogs.  We weren't sure we'd be welcomed but a lady came out of her van and walked over to us.  She confirmed the lookout would be worth our efforts and said we were quite close to getting there. (Seemingly she'd put a sign up indicating the right direction but it had been stolen)!

Fourth time lucky!  It was a beautiful spot.  We left Elmer in a clearing and clambered up the rest of the way.  There were many little wallabies scarpering quickly over the rocks.  Bandit was similarly sure-footed, albeit a bit slower.  The rest of us were far less graceful!

I'd carried my tripod up, hoping for a group shot but we were out of sorts with each other by that stage.  Instead I spent time sitting quietly, observing the wallabies and the pretty light through the leaves.

Fascinating fossicking!

Nick and I both spent periods of our childhoods looking for opal - Nick at Lightning Ridge and me at Yowah.  We have returned to both areas in more recent years as well as trying olivine fossicking at Mount Shadwell in Victoria.

Sapphire fossicking was new to all of us, so we joined a tag-along tour to learn the basics. The day started at 8:30am when our guide met us near Anakie. We then drove in a small convoy to Glenalva fossicking area, which is known for its shallow wash (ie less digging)!

Our tour booking included the use of all equipment as well as the benefit of an experienced miner's supervision and advice.

I have uploaded a short movie to our YouTube channel (linked in a page above), which shows the full process we followed throughout the day - repeatedly!

As usual, Nick did most of the digging. We all assisted at various points, to the best of our strength and ability.

It took a while to get our heads around what we were doing.

All looked quite straight-forward when we watched the demonstration but seemed less so when working independently.

Fortunately our guide was able to double-check our digging site and method.  He confirmed we were on the right track and a little while later we found our first two stones - which caused huge excitement!

We found five stones in total, over the course of around four hours. By lunch-time we'd had enough so handed back tools and mugs before heading off, well-pleased with our treasure! First stop was the small chemist at Sapphire to acquire liniment for Nick's cramping muscles!

We also bought ice-creams in Rubyvale, before taking our stones to be assessed for cutting. Three were considered suitable and we chose the best to be faceted. It will be posted back to us in about 12-14 week's time - so we'll have to be patient till then!

Monday, 3 July 2017

Mother-of-millions and cactus anarchy!

I thoroughly enjoyed seeing the massive bottle trees at Jandowae so when Nick spoke of a historical bottle tree at Anakie, I really wanted to see it!

At the beginning of WW1 local men seeking to enlist departed the area from Anakie station. Many carved their initials into a young bottle tree, which has grown to it's current size - so stretching the carvings upwards.

From Anakie we drove around 40km to the Willows gemfields. Vaughan had commented about these red flowers earlier in the day and there were so many growing on a hillside that I called for a stop - keen to photograph them in the lovely afternoon light.

I've since discovered there are five species of Mother-of-millions ornamental plants, originally from Madagascar.

They are restricted invasive plants described in the Biosecurity Act 2014 - and are poisonous to stock, at times causing significant cattle deaths.

We drove around the fossicking area, amazed by so many huge cactuses. I've googled them, too.

You guessed it - another declared pest! I've found an article where they are described as Willow cactus, which has caused me to wonder if that is how the area was named.  I'm still researching that theory though.

We were based in Sapphire this trip, about 49km from the smaller Willows township. The quieter area really appealed though and we might stay there another time.

Mining (and micro-bats)!

Given our early start and big drive on Sunday, we were a bit slower off the mark on Monday! We drove around a bit before deciding to do a mine tour.

Vaughan wasn't keen to listen to "old farts talking about rocks" so stayed in the car reading his book, keeping Bandit company!

The rest of us enjoyed seeing a different style of mining to those we'd viewed previously (ie. an organised opal mine tour at Lightning Ridge, the walk-in gold mine at Maldon and our excellent geocaching adventure).

Our guide showed us bands of wash that were once river beds (around 70 million years ago), with a few sapphires and a zircon left in situ.

We also viewed a short movie showing equipment being used in a working mine.  The pic at the bottom right of the first collage is a "tummy tunnel".  Pioneer miners excavated these from a prone position. Yep, they were very keen fellows!

Our tour guide wasn't a fan of the micro bats living in the mine but we thought they were lovely.  I've tried to identify them using my Australian Mammals guide but it's a tricky process and I'll need to research further.  (We don't usually see bats so closely, though encountered some in a cave at Kwiambal during our 2010 visit).  

Sunday, 2 July 2017

Sunday sojourn to Sapphire!

Some of our breaks are planned well in advance - and others aren't! Although Nick requested annual leave for the school holidays, it wasn't approved.

We didn't expect to go anywhere so when partial leave confirmation later came through, we needed to come up with a quick plan.

Of course, available funds influence destination choice and once pay-day rolled around we had a better idea of how far we could go.

After a few phone calls, we booked accommodation on Wednesday morning for our Sunday evening arrival - and I started prepping our provisions.

Sapphire is 860km from home.  We were in for a huge drive, so as well as my usual meal preparations I planned to make sandwiches for a quick lunch stop along the way.

We did a few things differently this trip. Juice boxes and water were packed into insulated lunch boxes (with mini ice-bricks). These were stashed inside the car for easy access. Bandit used the coolers as pillows!

Departure was 4:57am and we had already traveled for three hours before stopping for brekkie in a park at Chinchilla. Cereal, fruit and yoghurt were offered. Vaughan opted to eat passionfruit in a tree while Nick accessed a roof-top suitcase. (I hadn't expected Vaughan to finish his book en route, so packed several into his bag rather than keeping the next one of the series handy).

I'd cooked corned beef at home and used it to make bread rolls on Saturday night. We pulled into a stopping bay for lunch and ate standing at the end of the tailgate because there weren't any facilities along that stretch of road. Of course, we hadn't gone much further when we found a pretty lookout with a picnic table - but lunch was gone by then, so we stretched a bit while admiring the view.

We made a few short stops during the day and had several driver changes as well. Even so, we were pleased to roll up to our accommodation at 4:45pm and unpack gear into a neat "billy boulder" cabin (named "Lizard Lodge", which seemed rather fitting for a family of lizard lovers)!  I was definitely appreciative of my pre-cooked bolognese sauce later that night, too - and my bed not all that long afterward!