Notes of a traveller

Alan Dodds – photographer (among other things)

Notes of a traveller

Back to Queensland

Posted on Friday, September 7th, 2018 at 12:51 pm

North to the Devils Marbles

We are nearing the end of our time in Alice and decide to spend the last weekend with Pippa at the Ross River Resort some eighty kilometres into the East MacDonnell Ranges. We enjoy a delightful weekend in a very laid back (and pet friendly) camping area with lots of time to have a last catchup before we leave. Unfortunately we will miss Tara, who arrives back from Europe in a few days.

An image of Jacqui and Pippa at the Ross River Resort near Alice Springs

Pippa and Jacqui. I think these two like each other!

However you choose to leave Alice, you have a long drive ahead of you. We set off to the north with the intention of following the Stuart Highway as far as Tennant Creek and then turn to the east onto the Barkly Highway towards the Queensland border. Wikicamps tells us that a good overnight stop is to be had at the Devils Marbles Conservation Park some four hundred and twenty kilometres to the north. It is a very popular stop for good reason and is one of the few stops along this stretch of the highway. At seven dollars per night, it is a bargain. And what an amazing rock formation it is, especially in the late afternoon and early morning light.

An image of caravans and campers in the camping area of the Devil's Marbles national park.

When we arrive at the Devil’s Marbles there is already a crowd.
An image of the granite rocks sculpted by erosion at the Devil's Marbles

Erosion has left these huge granite boulders lit by the late afternoon sun at the Devil’s Marbles
Devil's Marbles

The rocks take on many shapes.
Devils marbles in the early morning light

Sunrise highlights the beauty of these rock formations with the grasses and trees of this park.
Panorama of the Devils Marbles, Northern Territory.

Difficult to resist taking a selfie!
Image of a car with a roof tent

Travellers come in all shapes and sizes!

Back to Queensland once more

Continuing to the north we enter the realm of the termites. Termite hills stretch to the horizon in every direction.

An image of termite hills amid the trees in the northern territory

Termite hills lurk in the grass.

We are now entering cattle country, and soon the cleared land has been given over to the grazing of livestock. In the Northern Territory there are said to be more than two million beef cattle at any one time. Much of the original vegetation has been cleared. To drive from the Devil’s Marbles to the Queensland border is a further six hundred kilometres. The distances here continue to amaze! We are now driving for hundreds of kilometres through completely featureless country.

An image of cleared cattle country in the Northern Territory.

Featureless country stretches to the horizon. At least there’s not much traffic.

Mount Isa and the Gulf Country.

We hardly notice crossing the border into Queenland – the same flat country, the same empty roads. Until, that is, we reach the rocky ranges on the approach to Mount Isa.

Mount Isa Mines is reputed to be one of the most productive single mines in world history, based on combined production of lead, silver, copper and zinc. The area between Mount Isa and Cloncurry in the Queensland gulf country is all about mining!

Image of the Mount Isa Mines processing plant in central Mount Isa

No mistaking what Mount Isa is about.
An image of a farm water cart at the Cloncurry Museum.

The museum in Cloncurry has a large collection of old farming and mining machinery.

Onward to the coast

We had planned to go across to the coast and on up to Cairns, but with another thousand kilometres to go, we are having a change of heart. When in Alice, Pippa had talked about her time on Magnetic Island off the coast of Townsville and so, thanks to the wonders of the internet, we abandon Cairns and book an AirBnb on the Island which is a twenty minute ferry ride from Townsville in north Queensland.

But we still have to get there; another few days driving!

On this road trip, we have found many excellent free camps and towns that welcome self sufficient travellers, as well as those which ban free camping and insist you go to their caravan parks. The best of the trip so far is Julia Creek where, instead of discouraging visitors, they have reserved an area near a water hole and welcome free campers and caravans to spend a night or two. Newly planted and well nourished trees provide shade and a home for many birds, the whole adding up to a really pleasant spot.

An image of six white-breasted wood swallows in a tree.

White breasted wood swallows having a breakfast cuddle at Julia Creek RV Park.
Image of several budgerigars

A flock of budgies land in the tree above us at Julia Creek. It’s the first time I have seen them outside of a bird cage.
An image of the toilet block in Hughenden with a sign forbidding camping anywhere other than in caravan parks.

Not so friendly Hughenden. Well decorated amenities though!
An image of a dinosoer in Richmond Queensland.

Passing through Richmond in Queensland, the Dinosaur capital of Australia. I wonder how they know this one was blue?

Magnetic Island

As we approach the east coast it begins to get crowded once more and we leave cold nights behind. Rivers have water in them after weeks of dry creeks. The humidity rises as we arrive in Townsville and find a parking place for the next three nights. Then it’s off to Magnetic Island for a break away from Winnie! We completed seventeen hundred kilometres of the Explorer’s Way in travelling from Port Augusta to Tennant Creek, and now the complete sixteen hundred kilometre length of the Overlander’s Way in travelling from Tennant Creek to Townsville.

An image of the roots of a large strangler fig on the strand in Townsville, north Queensland.

Strangler fig roots on the Strand in Townsville.

Magnetic Island is a very easy going sort of place and reminds us of visits to Bali in the nineteen eighties before it all got swamped. There is little traffic. More than fifty percent of the island is designated as a national park with a reputed eight hundred or more Koala bears (although we didn’t see any – not that we were looking that hard) and many different bird species. There is a good regular bus service with cheap all day passes which runs between between Nelly bay, where the ferry docks, and the other three bays, Picnic and Arcadia bays on the south of the island and Horseshoe bay in the North. Since it is in the Great Barrier Reef marine park, the sea is flat and there is coral to be found just off the shore. We love it and it is great to have a break from driving!

The Airbnb amid the greenery at the end of a garden.

Our AirBnb is at the end of a tropical garden. So much green after weeks of brown.
An imag of the road from Nelly beach to Picnic Bay on Magnetic Island.

Not much traffic here … lazy days.
An image of the mainland of queensland from Nelly bay Beach on Magnetic Island

Across the bay, the mainland is misty.
Cafes in Horseshoe bay

Horseshoe bay is a favourite place for lunch and to sit for a while.
Image of the Skaywags restaurant on Magnetic Island Queensland

Watch out for Hobbits on bicycles guarding the restaurants on Magnetic Island.
The sealink ferry to townsville

Alas, it’s time to leave.
An image of the backpacker accomodation from the ferry to magnetic island.

Backpacker accommodation is much more luxurious that at times in the past.
A view of Nelly bay on Magnetic Island from the sealink ferry.

We wave goodbye to Nelly bay and leave it in the wake of the sealink ferry.

Time to go home

Across in Townsville and back in Winnie we turn south, and like any good riding school pony, it is an effort to stop ourselves bolting for home. We have been on the road for nearly three months and we are full up. It’s been a wonderful adventure but it’s now time to return to Noosa. Only another twelve hundred kilometres to go. We manage to slow ourselves down a bit and first head for Airlie Beach via Bowen through the sugar cane country of north Queensland. So many more small towns now and lots more traffic on this, the number one road which circumnavigates Australia. It is the height of the season here and everywhere we go there are plenty of tourists and travellers.

An image of sugar cane fields in Northern Queensland

Lots of the sugar cane is now used to make Ethanol which is widely used as a fuel additive.

In Airlie Beach, as in many of the larger towns in this part of the world, they have built an extensive lagoon on the sea shore for swimming. Swimming is safe enough for much of the year, but in the summer, in particular, there are nasties in the sea, in particular the various small jellyfish which can even kill in some circumstances. Not to be recommended!

An image of the lagoon in Airlie Beach, North Queensland

Shaded swimming pools of various depths make up the lagoon in Airlie Beach.
Image of the apartment buildings rising up from the main street in Airlie Beach, North Queensland.

Holidayville! Apartments with a view abound above the main street of Airlie Beach
Image of a yatch in the harbour at Airlie Beach with lots of flags flying.

This dive boat should be flying the Jolly Roger!

Seaforth and Mackay

We have arranged to look up an old friend who is staying with her daughter in Mackay, so once again we continue south. Just outside Mackay, we drop in on the beach at Seaforth, which somehow has the feel of an ideal tropical location. A long empty beach lined with coconut palms with the Whitsunday Islands off in the distant haze amid a calm sea. Mmmmmm.

Image of a person fishing from the nearly deserted beach at Seaforth queensland.

A lone person fishes on Seaforth beach with the Whitsunday islands on the horizon.
Shells on the beach at seaforth queensland.

Shell fossickers paradise!
Image of Seaforth Beach near Mackay Queensland.

Seaforth beach.
An image of people swimming inside the shark nets on Seaforth Beach Queensland.

The nets give some isolation from the nasties in the ocean.

We have a lovely evening with our friend and her family who live in Bucasia beach some ten kilometres north of Mackay. We spend the night camped in the street outside their house, before making our run towards home. Thanks to Sue and family for such a warm welcome!

Having driven straight through Rockhampton, the cattle capital of Queensland, our last free camp is next to the Boyne River bridge, just south of Gladstone.

An image of grafitti on the Byne River Bridge.

In the sixties it would have said LOVE. How times change!
An image of a group of Ibis feeding in the shallows of the river Boybe Queensland.

Ibis feed in the evening light.


We are nearly home and having bought our last tank of fuel in Maryborough we drive into town to look for a cafe for the last coffee of the journey. It is Saturday and we find there is an event happening in the middle of town. A live band plays fifties country music, while locals, dressed for the part, dance in the street. The line of restored vintage cars glint in the sunshine. This is definitely a part of Australia influenced by America, so different from the York Motor Museum in Western Australia which was completely influenced by Britain and Europe. This is another of the many faces of Australia.

An image of dancers dressed in fifties style clothes dancing to country music in the streets of Maryborough Queensland

Dancing in the street and dressed for the part.
A couple drink coffee in a cafe in Maryborough Queensland

Some are content to watch from the side lines
Classic American car

This Chev is someone’s pride and joy!
Image of a classic thunderbird convertable decorated with God Bless America.

There are cars and cars and then this Thunderbird. Only in America!
Image of a fifties style caravan in Maryborough Queensland

Caravans are not a new idea it seems.
Image of the inside of a fifties caravan Maryborough Queensland

Don’t see many like this these days!

Back to Noosa

And so, after nearly fourteen thousand kilometres and almost three months, our road trip is done and we are back in our house in Noosa. What a trip it has been! Much more social than we anticipated, it has been a delight to catch up with friends that, in some cases, we hadn’t seen for more than thirty years. It has reminded us that Australia is indeed a huge country and that to traverse it by road is a major undertaking … one that we will probably not attempt again. We have confirmed that most people in Australia live along the coast and that there are vast areas in the centre which have extremely low populations.

At this point I would like to give a shout out to the guys at Van Works in Adelaide and Butler Mechanical in Port Augusta who did such a great job of making sure Winnie got there and back again. Also to all you out there who have followed this adventure and those who have commented or emailed your encouragement. Thanks to you all!

An image of three Kookoburras sitting on our back fence in Noosa.

Some of the locals welcome us back.

It would be impossible to select favourites, save to say that for Jacqui and I it has been a such a delight to spend this time together and share this adventure with each other. May there be many more in the years to come!



Alan and Jacqui

We danced our way around Australia … Tee Hee! (Image by Pippa Samaya)

6 responses to “Back to Queensland”

  1. Danielle says:

    Such a beautiful photo of you two that last one. Keep on dancing in love at home dear friends.

  2. Tony Dodds says:

    Dear Alan & Jacqui,
    Home sweet home, must be bliss to put your feet up in your own rocking chairs and reminisce, wondering if ‘Winnie’ will make it! then on the road
    to ‘ never neverland ‘ until you got there! but then enjoying your moments with both friends and your lovely daughter Pippa. I have to say though I think that I would would have wanted new wheels underneath me ( and Beryl ) if facing that stretch of never ending road ‘Alice through to Mount Isa. I’d certainly have had the collywobbles with Winnie the Ford with her history!!!!! So bully to you two.
    Having got to your end destination I now realise that your not that far off ( a few thousand kilometres are nothing to you Aussies! ) Ipswich where we visited our fellow Ipswich Rotarians with Ipswich, Mass, USA for a three clubs get together, a most enjoyable visit. Pity we’re not repeating it ( yet as far as I know ) if we did yours truly would endeavour to make it and then visit my young brother and sister in law. Oh, if only ( subject to you inviting us that is!!! ).
    Lovely trip,super photos as usual and an absorbing travelogue, well done.

    All our love,

    Tony & Berylxxx.

  3. Hanneke And Frank Beijer says:

    Dear Alan And Jacqui, we so enjoyed Reading about your adventures! Australia is a very special country, to be enjoyed by many people from all around the world.
    We hope you can have a good rest now. And make plans for the next trip. The last picture is the most beautiful one.
    With all our love, Hanneke And Frank


  4. Elizabeth says:

    The power of an image! And the eyes that see it and can share it. Thanks for sharing your great Australian adventure and it’s good to know you both arrived safely home and that Winnie upheld her part of the deal once she got what she needed! Some very special moments and memories to now ‘digest’ in the space, time and comfort of home!

  5. Max says:

    Beautifully written Dad! Brought a tear to the eye. What an amazing journey you’ve both had. X

  6. DrB says:


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