Easter road trip day 2: Maidenwell to Dalby (Queensland, Australia)

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Despite the noise from the locals last night, I wake feeling refreshed and content. I almost always feel this way when I wake up in a tent. Rain patters on the roof but it is slowing down. It’s so pretty outside. I’m glad I gave up my second job on a Monday to free up time for Paul and traveling together. I only worked 2 hours and wasn’t paid enough to justify the loss of living.

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Magpies warble outside the tent. It’s a magical song. I get up to look around and take in the morning. Farm equipment rusts in a nearby paddock. Moss grows on fence posts. Cattle graze in long grass. Fog hangs in the air as an orange glow starts to colour the eastern sky.

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I cook us banana pancakes for breakfast. This is my favourite way to eat: outdoors. After breakfast we drive down the road to the Coomba waterhole. Paul used to come here regularly when he lived in the South Burnett and I came here in June 2014 for a visit. It was full of algae then but is now clear despite the lack of water flow. We spend some time taking photos and telling stories. Paul points out the rocks he used to jump off and those he never dared to.

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From Maidenwell there is a road that leads to Boobarran Ngummin (the Bunya Mountains). This stunning patch of rainforest is famous for its bunya trees, which drop massive bunya nuts every three to four years. The mountains are a significant place for the Aboriginal Peoples of the surrounding areas. Traditionally, when the bunya pines fruit, the local Aboriginal Peoples would travel to the mountains for ceremonies and festivities. It’s a tradition going back thousands (possibly tens of thousands) of years. Unfortunately, the historic monuments and information plaques that the National Parks and Wildlife Service have erected around the mountains totally ignore this part of the area’s history: focusing instead on the timber getters and other Europeans who here since the late 19th century.
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The mountains are a beautiful place to visit and it’s easy to see why they are so popular with walkers and families. Most of the bushwalking trails up here are relatively short but they are still worth the trip up the mountains. We start with a walk up Mt Kiangarow. A 2.3km (1.5 mile) track starts at the Burton’s Well camping and day use area. It’s an easy walk with only a little altitude gain.

Whip birds call out around us as we walk back from the summit. There seems to be a whole colony living in a small group of trees right beside the track. We stay for a while listening and watching. Both Paul and I thought these birds were larger but they are actually quite small. The video above is just to share the sound of the birds. Don’t bother trying to find them because we couldn’t capture them on film.

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The other stunning aspect of Boobarran Ngummin are the views. Our second walk takes us from Westcott day use area in a loop past the Koondaii Lookout. From here we can see all the way out across the seemingly endless plains of the Darling Downs. We’ll be heading out there later in the afternoon. The Darling Downs represent the start of Australia’s vast flat interior. To the east of the Downs, the Great Dividing Range cuts Australis’s narrow, populated and rainforest dominated east coast off rom the rest of the continent. The range runs from the top of Queensland all the way to the bottom of Victoria. Almost everything to the west of the range is arid and sparsely populated, with a few limited exceptions on the southern coast around Adelaide, the west coast around Perth and the north coast around Darwin. But those places are thousands of kilometers away from where we are taking in this view.

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We continue our adventure by driving down to the Darling Downs. It’s flat and hot down here. Far hotter than it was up on the mountains, despite there only being a 1,000m (3,000 foot) altitude difference. The landscape opens up too. No longer are we in the rolling hills of the South Burnett, nor the lush rainforest of Boobarran Ngummin. We are now in cattle and crop country where the locals wear Akubra hats and 4WD utes angle park along the main streets of towns.

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We stop for a picnic lunch in Kaimkillenbun, known to locals as ‘The Bun’. The township’s claim to fame is that it has the longest name in the State of Queensland. That’s about the longest thing in the town too. It boasts a pub, a school, a couple of houses, a park and an old run down church that is now a derelict house. Even the plaque naming the church has been removed from the front of the structure and the word ‘church’ no longer appears on the town’s information map. There are some quite cool old trucks lying around behind the pub though.

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Speaking of trucks, we reach Dalby in the later afternoon and set up camp at the Pioneer Park Caravan Park. Across the road there’s the Pioneer Park Museum, which is a fantastic small town labour of love that also hosts some wonderful old vehicles.

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We only have an hour before the museum closes and it’s just not quite enough time to really take it in. Entry is $5 for an adult; less for concessions. For that single entry fee you can return as often as you like for up to one week. We only have one night in town so have to make do with the final hour before closing to see as much as possible. The museum is about half a dozen buildings cram packed with the stories of European lives in the region. There’s everything from an old school building to the old hospital, a telephone exchange, a residential cottage and a mechanic’s workshop.

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A small section of the museum is set aside for Aboriginal Peoples’ history and there is a selection of photos, dilli bags, tools and rocks that largely tell the story of how Aboriginal Peoples interacted with the Europeans. It’s good to see that this small labour of love does include some mention of the First Peoples; something that the national parks could learn from up at the mountains.

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There’s also plenty for Paul and me to reminisce about. For example, he remembers some of the brand names and items that are on display. And we both recall the days when the milk man came to deliver 600ml bottles of milk to our homes. Mum used to have one of these milk holders when I was a child. We’d put milk bottles out in the holder and the milk man would replace them with fresh bottles sealed with a small alfoil lid. It was okay if your mum stayed home during the day but my mum often worked so we’d come home from school to put the hot milk in the fridge and hope it hadn’t gone off in the heat. I have to say that I’m glad we now can just go to the shop to buy milk from the refrigerated section – there’s less chance of it being sour.

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It’s been a big day and I’m quite tired. We’ve only driven about 200km (125 miles), maybe a little less but we’ve seen and done so much. I can’t believe it can take us 6-8 hours just to cover these short distances in a car. It shows just how much there is to see and do here in regional Australia. We take an hour to relax in the tent, sorting through our photos and enjoying the quiet. It will soon be broken when, on the way to dinner, I drive the car into some taps that are situated in front of my car. They are so low I can’t see them but we certainly hear the crunching sound as I first drive over them then force the car off them. The front bumper is damaged and almost comes off. It’s embarassing and, tomorrow, will cost us $100 in the beer economy when the campground manager’s boyfriend saves us all the cost of a plumber by repairing it. The $100 pays for cement, parts and a case of beer (an expensive item in Australia). But we don’t let the accident ruin our night. We still go to the pub, eat a steak and come home to chill out at camp. It’s been a good day.

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