‘Freedom Explorers’ part 2: Brisbane to Yowah, Queensland

We love receiving traveller’s stories. Keith Skinner’s Dig Tree Trip in August 2019, is a little different. The second blog is when Keith begins the trip itself – with Dinner and Duck races – and flies!

by Keith Skinner

Some of you will have read my first Freedom Explorers blog covering the planning that I put into my August 2019 trip from Brisbane, Queensland to Innamincka, South Australia.

This Blog will cover the trip itself including points of interest (POI), some funny things that happened on the trip, and how the weather affected my trip.

Brisbane to St George
Departing from my home in Brisbane and I headed off. New trips always bring mixed emotions. This trip was no different; with traffic always the first concern when pushing a rig totalling just over 12 meters in length (i.e., vehicle and caravan in total) and the wish to get away ASAP, often means travelling clashes with peak hour morning traffic.

Fortunately, I only have a short drive until I hit the main highway west.

One and a half hours and 120 km later, I’m in Toowoomba. Again there is mixed emotion, as to me, Toowoomba signals the end of the urban traffic and the start of the country part of the trip.

Over the range I start to relax and get into the Freedom Explorers mood. About 30 km on from Toowoomba, is the town of Oakey, known to many as the home of the Australian Army Aviation Regiment. To me, it’s worth the short drive off the highway to stop at the Bakery on the right-hand side of the road heading into the town (from the Toowoomba side).

By now it’s been a three-hour drive from home and time for a stop to stretch my legs; a cup of hot coffee and a pie. But as I know the quality of the pies, I bought three and placed two in the freezer for quick meals later. I try to leave home with only the essential food items and that way I can help both myself (with great local and fresh food) and the regional businesses, with local spending.

The great thing here for the RVer is you don’t have to turn around after making this stop, just continuing through the Oakey township and the same road brings me back out on the highway, just west of the town. Still heading west, I turned south at Dalby onto the Moonie Highway and headed for Lake Broadwater Conservation Park (Camps 10, site 749); a low-cost camp area about 30 km south-west of Dalby.

But for me, it was just an afternoon tea stop. The unfortunate thing here was the lake had turned into a dust bowl with the effects of the drought. The concrete boat ramp led nowhere. It was so depressing to see this area in drought. No dam water, dust and dead grass all around. However, there are clean toilets and a small children’s play area with play equipment.

Next, I headed westward 290 kms to St George and to the Kapunda Tourist and Fishing Park (Camps 10, site 1000); my first overnight stop. It took me about five and a half hours driving time and some 478 kms to get here from Brisbane. That’s not counting pie and coffee breaks.

At first glance, the park resembles a farm and the camp spots look like they’re in a large paddock on the bank of the Balonne River; and to be truthful, that’s what it is supposed to be. Fire pits line the riverbank and I set to building my fire (BYO wood) and setting up my camp.

St George to Yowah
 Next morning I was off to my next intended stopover at Charlotte Plains just out of Cunnamulla (Camp 10, site 957). It’s about three and a half hours and 294 km which resulted in me arriving about late morning tea time. I did intend to stay here for two nights. But as I had arrived too early in the day to make camp, I drove on. A regretful decision, I now consider.

This is a great spot. It’s on private land and visitors are welcome. It offers hot artesian bore baths under the open sky. But, it was onward to the Cunnamulla Township and the Visitors Information Centre for my morning tea. I had a walk around town and purchased a few steaks from the local butcher shop and put them in the freezer.

After Cunnamulla, it was off to one of the trip’s highlights; Yowah. I only found out about this spot by chance when talking to someone at the Caravan and Camping Show in Brisbane. I was told about the Dinner and Duck races held at the Artesian Waters Caravan Park (Camps 10, site 975) every Thursday night, during the tourist season. (Note: it’s only held on Thursday nights.) This sounded like fun, so I planned the trip to place me there on a Thursday. After setting up my camp, having a bath in the warm artesian water with a cold drink in hand, salivating over the up-coming roast dinner, and the fun expected around the duck races. All funds raised from this event, went to the Royal Flying Doctors.

A funny thing here: After the meal, I asked the caravan park owner who was acting as the MC for the night, if he had a tooth-pick. He said he didn’t think so. Even knowing that I had tooth-picks in the van, I thought I could help with the fundraising. I said: “If you can find me a tooth- pick, I’d pay $20 as a donation to the Flying Doctors”. He replied with: “For $20 I’ll whittle down a branch of the tree outside”. I saw staff from the caravan park running around in the closed caravan office shop, and next minute the owner returned with a small pack of tooth-picks and I handed over the 20.

Next morning, I woke to the thought of driving around the local opal diggings. A number of the local miners were at the dinner and duck races and had offered to show me around their diggings. But with some surprise when I went to start my cruiser, I found it had flat batteries. A shock as after spending the prior day driving. Such a drive should have left the batteries fully charged. (Note: My cruiser has two starting batteries.)

As the vehicle was under warranty, I checked the internet for the closest Toyota dealer. It was at Thargomindah; about one and a half hours drive away. There goes my drive around the diggings.

A funny thing here (remember I’m from the city): I rang the dealership number and a young lady answered. I asked to be put through to the service department. She laughed and called for the mechanic by name. I arranged to come in straight away (remembering it’s one and a half hours away). I explained the situation and he said he would look after me.

The local Toyota dealership was a small service station. The mechanic waved me around the back to park. He was very friendly and told me to take a walk down to the coffee shop and he would take care of the cruiser. All was fixed in an hour; new batteries fitted, electrics checked and I was off, less $500. Thanks to the Thargomindah Toyota dealership and the service department.

By the time I got back to Yowah, it was artesian bath time under the Yowah broad blue sky. Having a drink while sitting in the artesian water during the day put me in competition with a few million flies. What a sight, me sitting in the bath tub, wine bottle at my feet, a glass of wine in my hand and a fly screen type bag over my head. But it was a very different and a fun experience, I’ll remember for some time. Of note, out west the flies seem to disappear in the late afternoon before returning mid-morning.

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