Traditions. LSM and I created the tradition of taking each of our grandies on an ‘end of primary school’ trip. I believe it was an acknowledgement of the fact that we knew they would soon consider grandparents a bit boring and not in the league of their peers for fun or frivolity, so we thought a week or so on their own with us in a place in Australia of their choosing would be making memories for them. And it has been fun! A bit of trepidation with this one though…….
So that’s how we left Toowoomba bleary-eyed at 5.54 am (bleary car clock too) and started on Miss E’s chosen trip out west of Queensland.
She was fully equipped in the back seat with downloaded movies, mobile phone, personal snack esky, books, pillow and blanket…..a far cry from my childhood road trip days where my youngest brother was coralled on the front bench seat between Mum and Dad and the other 3 of us kids were sworn to not wriggling and pinching each other in the back….no snacks, no movies but plenty of rollicking singing, games of I Spy with my Little Eye and Number Plates or Riddles. Marvellous memories actually!
So an hour down the road we had wound our way through Charlton and seen the newly completed road works outside Toowoomba which will revolutionise the heavy vehicle access to the west. It’s been a few years since I regularly drove this way for work, so it was encouraging to see the progress of road repair which had held up traffic for so many years in the making.
The road trains, rail trains, silos for wheat, chick peas and other grains, the black soil plains for cotton and the Acland Coal Mine and its controversies all slid by on the one hour section coming in to Dalby.
Then on through Chinchilla, and our first stop at Miles. Breakfast and a driver’s stretch. Anyone for a nutritious twistie and fruit combo? What had Miss E enjoyed so far? Being asleep!
On the road again through to Roma (home of the bottle trees) for a fuel top up – petrol prices cheaper than in Brisbane – and our lunch stop an hour further on at Mitchell. Miss E’s favourite part of this section? The movie Madagascar!
Mitchell (home of the small annoying bush flies) has been diligent in keeping its park and toilet facilities watered and invitingly green. Much appreciated. Out came the well equipped (and new for the occasion) esky, and we tricked the flies while we made our sandwiches, and wandered the historic park and rated the toilets as ‘you beauty there’s paper’.
The food stop must have ignited the energy gland, because E started to ask questions and enjoy some of the scenery along the next section. What an amazing country we are so blessed to share. The ravages of weather patterns and political decisions have created a pock-marked landscape and a potted history.
In this International Year of Indigenous Languages it was pleasing to try a few of the local names and imagine the sources and reasons for the Muckadilla, Mungallala, Dulacca, Yuleba, mixed in with the Morven, Mitchell, Charleville etc glimpses of European settlement. Little country towns which grew up on the Cobb and Co coach routes, and then saw grazing and crops and rail and raw materials flourish and sometimes flounder. More Googling needed.
So 7 plus hours after our departure, we rolled in to Charleville. We had booked tickets for the 3pm Bilby Experience, and had time to book in to our accommodation at the historic Hotel Corones in Wills St (not without a slight upgrade once we learnt that the shared bathroom gig would not be wise). What an echo of times past! Fabulous silkyoak staircase, furniture, memorabilia, corridors and wide open verandah off the upstairs rooms.
We strolled down to the Information Centre where the helpful volunteer plied E with maps and brochures to track tomorrow’s leg to Longreach. Then to the Bilbies. Informative, well-displayed, contemporary, entertaining. The nocturnal house and the frenetic scurrying of the 2 bilbies on display chasing their crickets etc was mesmorising and E loved it. Too quick to film in the dark.
Back to the hotel after a saunter around the town to find its charms (including one of the painted silos now so much a tourist feature around Australia) and to see that the Thai cafe was closed on Tuesdays…so it was decided to book an early table at the hotel restaurant in time to get to the Cosmos Centre for the Star viewing booking.
As we prepared to head down to the dining room, we received ‘the call’ from the Centre cancelling the night’s session due to cloud cover. Disappointment Plus! Refund on its way 😣 Many other disappointed families in the dining room as well!
The pizzas almost made up for it though. Gf pizza supreme…yum! The others had enough left for a cold pizza brekky or lunch…….we put it in the communal fridge. It will be interesting to see if it is still there in the morning. 😁
A good first day on the trip…….now to show E how to come to terms with the smell of the mineralised bore water we will encounter from now on, and try to get the soap to lather. Off to a well-earned sleep for our driver.