NEWSFLASH! My book hits the road! Did you miss my Channel 7 Weekend Sunrise 'Downunder Dunnies' appearance? Watch the Video HERE!


Favourite Place #5 - Innes National Park, Yorke Peninsula, SA

It's a mystery to me why Innes National Park (INP) isn't on any Top 10 Australian National Parks lists. At the south-western tip of Yorke Peninsula's 'toe' (you'll see what I mean on the map) its wild and remote beauty is unique.

BUT ... perhaps the unparalleled coastal scenery, historic buildings, walking trails, shipwreck sites, deserted beaches, fishing, lighthouses, wildlife and stunning wildflowers in season in the park just don't stack up against the nations' finest. Maybe I've got it wrong.

So is this place REALLY awesome? Or is it just me?? Take the tour, and decide for yourself!

Here's the old gypsum mine loading facility at the Stenhouse Bay jetty. And here's the jetty itself. Can you imagine a better spot for a day's fishing? There's a walk to the lookout at the top of the hill if you want an even more panoramic vista.
And here's the view towards Chinaman’s Hat Island and Cable Bay camp ground as you head into the park towards the Cape Spencer lighthouse. The short walk to the lighthouse gives magnificent views on either side of the ridge top, and ahead to the islands. But don't just take my word for it ... the picture at the end of the post shows it all clearly!

The Inneston ruins and lake are where the gypsum mine operated in the early 1900's. The Thomson-Pfitzner walking track follows the old wooden railway line used to transport gypsum to Stenhouse bay and the jetty. It's 4km each way - but luckily you can have lunch at the Rhino's Head tavern at the half way mark!

Here's Inneston, and the INP birdwatcher's trifecta – Emu, Mallee Fowl and Western Whipbird – MAY be spotted on the walking track. Although Western Whipbird is the reason for INP's proclamation, it remains elusive. BUT … we've sighted Australian Shelduck with young on the lake, and Southern Scrub Robin on the track. It's not all ruins – people live here, and some of the cottages are available for rent if you're looking for a place to stay.

Here's the Ethel wreck, one of several in the area. Depending on tidal, storm and/or sand activity you may see more or less than this! Get right down to the beach for a closer look.

The recently renovated rest area (how's that for alliteration?!?!) at West Cape Lighthouse has arguably one of the most spectacular coastal views in INP, even more so from the short walk to the lighthouse. But be warned! The winds can be fierce – luckily there's a sign in case you hadn't noticed …

The north western section of the park includes beaches to rival the tropics. Don't believe me? Here's Brown's Beach! Popular for fishing, surfing and hiking, this area of the park has several camp grounds and some serious walking tracks – try the 11km return trip through to Gym Beach at the northernmost limit of the park.

And I haven't even mentioned the spring wildflowers! My personal favourite, Templetonia retusa – more imaginatively known as 'Cockies tongue' – almost overshadows the orchids, wattles, eucalypts and pea flowers.

If any other selling points are needed, it's not that far from another favourite place - Troubridge Island and Lighthouse!

SO … did I get it wrong, or are these delights enough to make the Top 10?

OK, left is another scenic coastline shot to help you decide!!  And right is the lighthouse shot I referred to above!

Stay awe-struck!


Australia's Scenic Public Toilets #6 - West Cape Lighthouse, SA

Innes National Park on South Australia's Yorke Peninsula has (arguably!) some of the most magnificent coastal scenery in the country.

Any amenities in such a setting are duty bound to be scenic, and these eco-friendly composting toilets are no exception!

Artfully placed among the dunes below the West Cape Lighthouse, the conveniences are somewhat protected from the strong winds that signs in the area warn about.

Signs in the toilets themselves warn of feral bees - several drier than average years mean they tend to swarm where there is water.  BUT ... happily the amenities remained bee-free during our visit!

And the view?  See for yourself!!  Across the road, the coastline rolls away to the southeast - wild and deserted. 

A short climb to the lighthouse above, and a 360 degree panorama unfolds!  But sadly, my limited technology means if you want THAT view, you'll have to head down south and see it for yourself!

Stay amazed!!


Signs #3 - Honey, where are the kids?

Now doesn't that give you a disturbing mental image?!?!

This sign, found in Innes National Park, South Australia, is pretty self explanatory.

The only thing missing is a graphic to go with the third line!! 

But sometimes the imagination can provide a better picture ...

Stay off the edge!!



Downpours, Disasters and the Deadly shoes

The driest state of the driest continent on earth? Certainly not when we crossed the border heading home into South Australia! The bleak desert landscape was, for once, free of dust – pools of water reflected the lowering sky that threatened more of the rain we thought we'd left behind in the Wet Tropics.

The shorts and T-shirts we still wore, so appropriate for the tropical warmth a few days ago, suddenly seemed wrong as the temperature plunged into single digits and icy rain lashed the car. Yes, we were in denial. But it was time to face up to reality - goodbye, warm sunny days and hellooooooo winter!!

Although not the greatest distance we'd travelled in one day, 1000 km was excessive, even for us. Especially given the conditions – as we battled a fearsome headwind, the fuel gauge plummeted faster than the thermometer! We whizzed through the fruit fly inspection point at Oodla Wirra, thankfully closed, and reached the safe haven of home just before dark.

Did I say 'safe'? Tired and emotional, we watched as the storm front that followed us home laid a fresh layer of debris over everything and the torrential rain filled the dam to overflowing for the first time in years. Welcome home – NOT!

Our feeling that we should have just stayed up north in the sun was strengthened a few days later when a massive gum tree collapsed, felling the chook house, fence and garden on its way down. It almost overshadowed the much smaller fallen tree we had to clear off the driveway in the pouring rain in order to get to the garage! Holiday? What holiday??

Then, after what seemed like weeks of cleaning up, we finally retreated to our beach shack for some R&R. I flung the curtain aside - but obliterating the view to the sea was ANOTHER MASSIVE FALLEN TREE!!!!!!!!

Yes, Disasters R US! Well - that's probably how the insurance company refers to us now.

But, in the midst of these woes, during an enforced (and therefore guilt free) shopping day while the car was being serviced, I walked into a shoe shop sale to pass the time (as one does).

There, nestled behind some pretty ordinary footwear, I saw them! Slick black patent leather open toe pumps – a discreet bow lifted them above mere office wear, a medium high heel prevented them from being too slutty. RRP $459 ($AUD) – sale price WAAAAAAAAAY lower! Deadly!!

With bated breath I slipped them on. Brilliant fit, form and style – and even more surprising, brilliant match with casual outfit of black jeans and black jacket!

Another customer walked in, glancing over as I paraded around in front of the mirror. She did a classic double take.

'Are those shoes part of the sale?' she asked. I confirmed that indeed they were.

'Do they fit?' she continued. I confirmed that they did.

'Then buy them!' she stated emphatically. 'They're perfect!'

What could I do but agree? They WERE perfect. I'd felt that little frisson of excitement that tells you when a potential purchase is just right. I knew I'd be able to wear them with EVERYTHING - a handy fact that can be used to justify the expenditure of ANYTHING, irrespective of whether or not it's on sale (feel free to use it).

So, here I sit just loving myself to bits wearing my deadly shoes. And the restorative powers of such shoes can't be underestimated. Disasters? What disasters?!?!?! Bring 'em on, I say! With my deadly shoes, I can face anything!!

Stay safe!


Only in OZ #4 - The Big Park Bench, Broken Hill, New South Wales

The Big Park Bench, Broken Hill, New South Wales
So you're in a mining city, on top of the slag heap.  What's up there? 

No, it's not a trick question - but it MAY be a trick answer!!   Unless mining towns are different where you come from ...

Broken Hill, half an hour over the South Australian border into New South Wales, boasts a killer slag heap with a stupendous view over the 'Silver City' (yep, that gives a bit of a clue!) to the desert beyond.

So what else can you find up there?  The 'Broken Earth' restaurant, Line of Lode Miners Memorial AND ... wait for it ...

...wait for it ...

The Big Park Bench can all be visited from this convenient location!!

More on Broken Hill in a future post - this fascinating city and surrounds deserve more than just an idle photo of me sitting on the big park bench waiting for sunset!!   I'm around 175 cm (5'9") and the tactful would describe my build as 'big', so I appreciate ANYTHING that makes me look small! 

Regular readers may recall a previous description of other Broken Hill delights - and there are many more!

Oops!  Nearly missed this historic blog moment!  Unless I'm much mistaken, this is the first photo I've posted on this blog that actually has ME in it!!  Prove me wrong by checking photos on previous posts if you dare!!

Stay focussed!


OZ Top Spot #2 Frankland Islands, Cairns, Far North Queensland

We marked our 2009 return to Cairns after 10 years by finding a patch of 'absolute virgin territory' - no mean feat given the many attractions we'd seen on several previous visits.

BUT ... a tour to the sensational Frankland Islands - arguably the most misspelled place name in these parts - was a superb reminder of why we keep coming back to Far North Queensland!
Looking from Frankland Islands to the Mainland

Don't be fooled if you see 'Franklin Islands' on some promotional material - it's just another reminder of the pitfalls of phonetic spelling...  All pedantry (reluctantly!) aside, there's only one tour to the islands - and it's got EVERYTHING!!

The cruise leaves from Deeral, a longish hike from Cairns meaning a fairly early start.  But don't panic!!  It's absolutely worth it - the scenery is spectacular as the boat heads out along the Mulgrave River - then it gets even better when you reach the islands!

On the Mulgrave River en route to Frankland Islands

Disembarking at Normanby Island, we were immersed in an archetypal tropical paradise - the five islands are pristine National Park, and the whole tour was a wildlife bonanza.

We sighted crocodiles and Papuan Frogmouth along the Mulgrave river, and a family of Beach Stone Curlew on the beach between Normanby and nearby Mabel Island - accessible at low tide. 
One of the Frankland Islands, Cairns, Far North Queensland

Turtles, whales, giant clams and a suberb array of colourful tropical fish and corals can be seen in the waters around the island, with snorkelling and diving available as part of the tour.

Swimming in crystal clear water, wandering along the spectacular beach (deserted except for up to 99 other tour guests) and walking through the rainforest interspersed with snorkelling and lazing on the sand means a killer appetite - easily sated by the delicious tropical buffet lunch served under the trees.
Beach, Frankland Islands, Cairns, Queensland

Alas, I have no pix of the scenic public toilets on the island, picturesque though they undoubtedly would be - because there aren't any!  The 'toilet run' - a mercy dash back to the cruise boat - happens on demand!

So are you jealous?  It's well worth seeking out the tour brochure for this OZ Top Spot - do yourself a favour and plonk yourself in paradise for a day!

Stay warm!!

PS - What is 'absolute' virgin territory?  That merely means neither of us have been there before!  While AVT is getting rarer we're still managing to track it down!!


Signs #2 - Huh???

Other Australian signs may have more punchy graphics and wording, but this sign, found on a fence in Cooktown, definitely wins the 'Huh???' award.

The fence surrounds a plot of land with an unremarkable building next to a service station on the outskirts of town, from which the sign is clearly visible. 

At first glance, it looked like a pretty standard 'keep out' sign - until I got to the last line.  Hell, I was just thinking about getting out a gun and firing a few random shots into the air, too!  As one does while refuelling ones car!!   

Luckily the sign was there to stop me.  Crisis averted!

The block of land is strangely free of wild boar, rabbits, crocodiles, snakes and any other vermin that might tempt a gun-toter to fire off a few rounds - or at least it was when we saw it.  You'd think the proximity to the fuel station would be at least a bit of a deterrent for a responsible gun owner too.

While I get the 'no trespassing' bit, I'm still none the wiser as to why the Federal Government of a country with strict anti-gun laws has felt it necessary to prohibit shooting on or over the land  - but not the building?!?! 

Any suggestions??


Only in OZ #3 - The World's Largest Deckchair, Winton, Queensland

World's Biggest Deckchair, Winton Outdoor Cinema, Queensland
You don't visit outback Queensland expecting to see the world's largest deckchair do you?  Of course you don't!  BUT whether you expect it or not, Winton, smack bang in the middle of Queensland is home to this record breaking construction!

Yes, it really IS the world's largest deckchair - apparently authenticated in the Guiness Book of Records!!  Once the record had been broken, the owners weren't quite sure what to do with it.  SO ... Winton open air cinema came to the rescue!!

World's Biggest Deckchair, Winton, Outback Queensland
The open air cinema is a tourist attraction in its own right, even without the added inducement of the deck chair.  Tragically, full length movies are no longer shown there, although an evening tour of the cinema is available, where some period advertisments and cartoons are shown.  This may be just as well - we timed our visit 12 years ago for movie night so we could experience the open air ambience.  Sadly, the movie that night was a Nicolas Cage movie so unremarkable I can't recall its title.  Nic played an angel (!) who falls for Meg Ryan, a brain surgeon (!!) and spent his screen time mooning around looking as mournful as a constipated puppy.  BUT ... the experience was worth it for the nostalgia it evoked - and the pebbles thrown over the walls from outside by the kids unsurprisingly bored with the movie.

View from the World's Biggest Deckchair
Other than providing an unusual photo opportunity, the deckchair really plays no part in the cinematic museum which is available for touring throughout the day.  The deckchair isn't visible from the projection room - so the unadulterated daytime view of the cinema looks pretty ordinary!  Imagine watching a movie at night, however, with the BIG outback sky studded with stars clearly visible above the screen! 

Now that's something that even my personal favourite of yesteryear, Clark Gable, would have trouble competing with!!

Happy viewing!!


Off the Tourist Trail #1 - Thargomindah, Outback Queensland

Conveniently located between Eulo and Nockatunga, Thargomindah isn't really on the tourist trail as an end destination – but our 4 day stopover in 2009 showed us there's more to this town than meets the eye …

The Bulloo River crossing at the town's eastern entrance made our arrival unexpectedly interesting, giving us the opportunity to test our camper trailers ability to withstand 30+cm (12+”) of flood waters over the causeway, as shown in the photo at left.

Successful? HHHMMMmmm... the floors needed cleaning anyway!! And 24 hours later, the flood had receded completely as seen at right! Bummer!!

The town relies on a 'Flood Truck', modified so it can cross the river when in flood to bring in supplies. Yep, Thargomindah is in a pretty remote area!

Thargomindah is proud to be the third town in the world (YES, the WORLD!) to have hydroelectric street lighting, and the tour of the hot Artesian bore gives all the details (not to mention some amazing sunset photo opportunities). I'm not sure if Paris and London are even aware of Thargomindah's achievement, but the national flags of each of the three cities are flown as a reminder of its place in history.

The manager of the Explorer Caravan Park where we stayed told us that rain often passes the town by, but falls further north in the catchment area causing the river to flood. The amount of water laying about in the street made us think it rained pretty often – but that's from having sprinklers and hoses running 24/7 to ensure a ready supply of hot water from the bore!  Once modifications are completed this won't happen, but until then it's pretty bizarre to see green lawns and gardens in the middle of the outback.

The bore is critical to the town's survival in more ways than one. The tour guide pointed out the bristles in the pool below the outlet – dead pigs are sometimes left in the hot water overnight to cook them and facilitate skinning! SOOO devastated we didn't see this for ourselves!!

The Visitor Information Centre in the old hospital is well worth a visit for the historical museum and other town attractions including the dodgy Cobb & Co crossing below the Bulloo River bridge, the river walk and town heritage trail.

Nearby Lake Bindegolly was completely dry on our visit in 2009 making birdwatching a bit pointless as we trudged the dusty wasteland – but a year has made all the difference with reports it's now full! Keen birdwatchers will also be aware that 'Big Twitch' author Sean Dooley sighted Painted Honeyeater in Thargomindah, and Grey Grasswren nearby, albeit in circumstances we were disinclined to replicate. Maybe another time ...

One local told us a town's unemployment rate could be gauged by visiting the pub during the day – fewer visitors means higher employment levels! What with the many kilometres of shire roads to be maintained and a plethora of mining exploration, there's virtually no unemployment.

While life in Thargomindah may be challenging (the nearest coffee shop is 2½ hours away and temperatures skyrocket for much of the year), it's a fascinating and unique place to visit!

Unlike the photo above - which is not unique at all!  In fact it's a rather archetypal outback/windmill/sunset shot, even if it is a pretty damn fine one!

Happy travels!!


Only in OZ #2 - A Point of Interest, Outback Queensland

Somewhere west of Windorah (Outback Queensland) en route to the little Public Toilet at the End of the Universe where the track heads south to Birdsville, a tantalising tale unfolds.

The first hint of something weird afoot is a sign - 'A Point of Interest - 5 km'.  What a tease!!  As it didn't actually state what you'd see at the end of 5 km, I spent the next 3 km having a rant about how the wording was probably longer than the featured attraction.

3 km later came another sign - 'A Point of Interest - 2 km'.  Now I was really intrigued, and lets face it - there wasn't much else to look at.

2 km later, and we came across this! The white arrow below the sign does indeed point to a hole in the hill.  Who would have thought there'd be such excitement in such a bleak landscape?  And when you consider the road leads to the above-mentioned public toilet, well ... you can imagine the thrill!

I wonder how many others have the exact same photo?!?!

Incidentally, the road also passes 'South Galway' station.  I found it difficult to imagine a landscape looking less like South Galway - with the possible exception of Antarctica - but it was apparently so named to remind the settlers of their roots.

Now I just KNOW this'll make you want to visit this fascinating area!!

Stay warm!!
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