Brisbane to Allora (Queensland, Australia)

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I takes us ages to get going in the morning. There’s stuff going on and returning to bed after my fat bike ride along the beach is much better than starting to pack gear. But eventually we get everything sorted, the car loaded and the new cast iron frying pan seasoned. Paul takes first turn at the wheel while I use the WikiCamps AU app to research the best place for us to camp tonight. It feels so good to be on the road. We chat away as we hoon through Brisbane’s tunnel network to get us past the city and heading west.

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Before long the crazy shapes of the Great Dividing Range come closer in the windscreen. To me this horizon evokes feelings of freedom and adventure. I’ve crossed the range many times and always on the way to some grand exploration of what this vast land of contrasts holds. The range runs all the way down the east coast of Australia, separating lush coastal lands from arid inland outback. We will follow the path discovered by Allan Cunningham to cross the barrier through the gap named after him.

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The late departure means that this afternoon we just drive for a few hours to make a start on our adventure and get out bush. We don’t stop for much other than buying some fuel and ice. Until we see the fantastic shapes these sprinklers make. The way the water is moving against the dry corn is pretty. We pull up in a side road and walk back to take some photos and play in the corn. Paul can’t decide whether to caption the video of me “Children of the Korn” or “If you build it they will come”. Perhaps the absence of baseball diamond means it has to be the former.

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We decide to camp in Allora where there is a roadside park that allows free camping for up to 24 hours. The critical elements for us are clean toilets and showers. While this camp doesn’t have showers we did only shower before leaving home so should manage a night. However, it does have a good grassy pitch for us, clean toilets and pretty aspect. I love camps like this. They are places of memories. I spent most of my school holidays traveling the Outback with my family camping in rest areas like this or just along the side of the road. For Paul, it’s his first time and he seems to be enjoying it despite never really being a camper.

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With the Taj Mahal pitched and an hour until sunset we walk into the township to explore. According to the 2011 Australian Census there are just 890 people living here. But the way they have preserved their history is wonderful. There’s a cute old fire station that is now a men’s shed.

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The old CBC Bank of Sydney with its stained glass windows and red bricks reflecting the early evenign sunshine.

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An old hospital dating back to the first decade of the twentieth century that has been converted into a residential home. It is typical of Queensland homes with the wide verandah that has been enclosed over time to give more living space.

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The Anglican Church at the end of the main street dominates the town depsite being a good quarter mile from the main center. It’s creamy white walls reflect the setting sun and almost glow. I noticed it in the rear vision mirror as we drove into town, so naturally we have to walk there.

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But the most fantastic and interesting building is the house where P.L. Travers lived before she moved to London to write Mary Poppins. I never knew this little bit of local history until recently when I watched the movie Saving Mr Banks. Since then I’ve wanted to come to Allora to see where she drew her inspiration and now I am here in this tiny town so chock full of local history.

We return to camp as darkness falls and the temperatures plummet. I made pad thai last night so we heat that on the camp stove and sit around watching the stars come out. By 7:30pm it’s quite cold so we tidy up and retreat to the warmth of the tent wearing jumpers, tracksuit pants and beanies to stay warm. We have enough blankets but decide that we need to go to an op shop or Target Country to buy a blanket to put on either side of the air mattress to protect us from the cold coming up through the earth. We have flannelette sheets on there but they’re not quite enough. We don’t freeze but a little extra comfort never goes astray.

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