Thursday 30 May 2013

Mount Morgan - The Mountain of Gold!

On our trip towards Rockhampton, Jeni and I decided we’d spend a night in Mount Morgan and check out the mine on the 28th May. The major attraction for us was that there was a swinging bridge and dinosaurs, well there used to be dinosaurs.

We decided we’d go on a guided tour. Not sure if guided tours are the best approach for us, but it was enjoyable all the same. We were the only couple on the tour who paid the adult fare rather then the aged pensioner fare everyone else was paying!
The father-daughter team took us around the town and then to the mine. All sorts of good info was shared.

First we went to the swinging bridge, which wasn’t as swingy as I was hoping, it was a replica created for tourists as the originals had all fallen down. After some swinging on the bridge we headed up to a lookout which showed a great view of Iron Stone Mountain, the mine, and the huge chimney. Which also happens to be the largest free standing chimney in Australia. Down one side of the lookout was an area known as Tipperary. When the mine was booming 2000 Irish miners lived down there, today only 200 people do. Was amazing to think this small town once housed 15000 people!

At the base of the mine we entered the museum, which houses a bunch of rocks describing what ores would be found within, old dinosaur fossils found onsite and a bunch of stuff showing how the place used to operate. Including a really interesting 3D model of the mine with mineral hotspot locations.

We then cruised up the hill and scoped out some of the old mining machines and facilities. Old buildings that looked like something from Western movies, machines all rusted and right up the top the view of the catchment of all the contaminated water which is probably where the plesiosaurs live!
Was all quite fascinating and one thing we most surely learnt is that mining operators definitely have it much easier these days!

- Cameron

Monday 27 May 2013

1st month summary of trooprock.

It is now a month since we arrived in Thangool. On April 24, 2013 we began, leaving friends, family and Newcastle behind, to finally start our journey at Hotel Thangool. This is the first time I (Jeni) have had the opportunity to post on here. I thought I would summarise our first leg of our travels from my perspective. Since it is my first time, I decided I would write about some of our firsts that have happened this year. Some of the mistakes I have made, and some of the triumphs we have had, and lessons to be learnt. Some I will just list, others I will detail, and help others not to make the same mistakes we made. In saying this, I am glad of the lessons, and experiments we are learning from everyday. For one not to make mistakes in life, or to always know the most direct root, the easiest way to go about something is not possible, and to take a bumpy road occasionally instead of the highway allows for a much different experience, gives you stories to tell, and things to discover off the beaten track.

  • Finding and purchasing a vehicle - Keep your options open. You never know what you will find.

Upon deciding to travel around Australia in November 2012, Cameron and I started to look for a vehicle. We spent many hours over the next few months looking, sifting through the good from the bad. Eventually after looking at a few, and talking to people, we had narrowed the selection of our backpacking vehicle to a Toyota Hiace - a hi-top to allow for more storage and sleeping room.We also had a selection criteria; price, number of kilometres, year model, condition, practicality.  I learnt quickly that one thing for sure, people know a bargain when they see one. Often we would find vehicles that met two of the conditions, but let us down in others.  One time I was searching. I found a vehicle that was advertised only 3 hours prior. It met all of our conditions, which was rare. I rang up to organise an inspection the next day in Sydney. This was another rarity, as we would often also find a great vehicle, but advertised in Western Australia. The next morning, Cameron rang the owner back just to double check a time, only to find out he had already sold it to somebody who had rung up only 5 minutes before I had the day before.
Even though we had practically decided on the Toyota Hiace, I still kept my options open. There were a few times I had seen a Toyota Landcruiser Troop-Carrier, which had been modified similar to the Hiace hi-top campervans. I started to think that maybe a 4X4 would be the way to go. There were positives and negatives about this new option. It would allow access to many more places around Australia, as Landcruisers were built for the Australian outback. However, these vehicles had slightly less room in the living area of the camper part because the Hiace engine is mostly underneath, while the Landcruiser is at the front under the bonnet.
Another day after now about 3 months of looking I found a Troopy that was heading to Sydney. After looking at it, and getting Cameron's brother who is a mechanic to do a mechanic check on it, here we are today, owners of a 4X4, Landcruiser, Troopcarrier (Troopy) hitop, campervan.

  • Selling vehicles - Don't assume you will be able to sell within a month of initial advertising. Use more than one method of advertisement. Think outside the box.

Ok, so our previous cars are still a touchy subject. Both were loved, well looked after and bought with the intention to have them until the day they died. If you want to read more about Cameron's interesting experience he has written an article here. In summary, my car sold the day we left on our travels luckily, Cameron's sold on the day his Registration ran out, with many many thanks going out to his mum as we handed the keys to her when we left. For our first two weeks of us being here, Cam was on the phone every couple of days discussing if either of them had received any offers, and when test drives could be arranged. I NEVER want to sell a car again. First mistake was not allowing ourselves enough time. The second we decided to travel they should have been on the market, and being advertised! Due to our ignorance, or maybe just naivety, and a few other circumstances, we didn't start to advertise until the end of January, maybe even February. I think Cameron's didn't hit gumtree or Carsales until March once we had moved out of Wangi Wangi. I thought of many ways to try to sell it. One of my ideas (not successful but an idea none the less) was to send emails out to Driver Instructor companies in Newcastle and the Hunter. My question to them was were any of their students soon to get their P's (Provisional driver's License) and in need of a car. Another thought was to put flyers up in the local Universities, and TAFE's as students are another demographic usually in need of a car that is priced cheaply. This worked for me, with no time to spare.

  • Working a new Job. - Have fun, experiment, broaden your horizons. It is easier to find a job face to face and talking to people, rather than via Internet, however there are many unusual jobs you might not have even thought of out there to be discovered. Cover letters are important to be attached with your resume.

The last 4 years I have spent working in Childcare. Last year I gained another Diploma in Outdoor Recreation, but right now I am about to leave my first bar job. Whilst we were in limbo, eagerly awaiting our departure, I was madly job searching. Knowing we would be doing backpacking, I was searching all types of jobs. Jobs relating to childcare/ Nannying, jobs relating to outdoor recreation, kayaking, abseiling, hiking, jobs to do with fruit picking, jobs for couples, anything I could find really. Some days I was frustrated. I thought being Australian it would be easier to pick up backpacking jobs, but maybe it wasn't as easy as I thought. There were many jobs that would say "only females" or "experience required" which that one is fair enough. Other jobs I would apply for, only to be told I was over qualified.
One evening I found the job for Hotel Thangool. I kind of glanced at it, but was tired and went to bed not long after. The next morning I was checking jobs again, and I actually read the ad properly this time. The job was for 2 people (PERFECT), no experience necessary, and willing to get RSA (Responsible Service Alcohol). It was to start in two days time in central Queensland (QLD). I rang Cameron to see his thoughts and he said to go for it. I applied, two hours later, management rang me back and said they were impressed with the cover letter I wrote with our situation. Mark the manager said he would give us a chance, and wished more people had given him and his wife more of a chance when they were younger, doing the same thing we were. That afternoon, I had already arranged for somebody to test drive my car. This was finalised the next morning, then after doing a quick stop to buy some new shoes for Cameron, we embarked on our travels, driving 2 days straight to be here. So here we are. This is some of the firsts I have had while working here

  • First time pouring beer (from tap rather than bottle)
  • First time making cocktails for customers and shots
  • First time having a shot named after me
  • First time having a housekeeping job
  • First time using a truck pullover area, setting up the Troopy at night and sleeping,
  • First time going to the horse races,
  • First time being hit on by an old drunk guy that kept indicating he wanted to go outside and hook up, despite the fact that I told him Cameron was my boyfriend, and even got him to come over and prove it, and I kissed Cam in front of him.
  • First time hearing the musical rocks at Mount Scoria
I must say that working in a Bar is in a sense similar to working in childcare (minus the liquor), in the sense that you always have to have a level head about you. You have a duty of care to people who may not necessarily be able to make decisions, or look after themselves. Working in a bar or childcare there are responsibilities of making sure these people are in a safe environment, and try to keep out of harms way. You need a clear head to make reasonable decisions.

Mark and Fiona have been wonderful managers. I am glad we have gotten to know them. They own a business called Outback Now. A web address focusing on allowing people such as backpackers, to have a true Aussie experience. On the site there is information regarding festivals, events, jobs, off the beaten track towns. They have had years of experience travelling Australia and still love it. I have learnt many things including how to find more space for storage when we thought there was no more.

I am excited for many more firsts over our travels. Today, May 27th, 2013, is the day we are leaving the area of our first chapter of our many more adventures. If you are reading this blog, you may become inspired to travel around also. I hope so. You will come across many things that you have not done before. I also hope that after reading this, you can be more prepared than I was, but there is a first time for everything, so just give it a try.

- Jeni

Sunday 26 May 2013

Thangool Race day!

Thangool starts to get a lot cooler during May, plenty of rain and Queensland's coldest day recorded definitely pushed us towards the decision to get back to the coast and move up north soon!
Our final day was to be Race Day the 25th of May.
Jeni and I were yet to attend a Race Meet, but we got into it like anyone who attends the races. We dressed up nice and went out with a smile.
Ended up having a win and up 10 bucks for the day! Our winning horse for his race, Tropic Gem, was quite the entertainer, throwing his jockey off and bolting off the racecourse while the rest of the horses lined up. Top horse, scored me a win, would like to buy him an apple sometime.

We put a few bets on, playing pick the horse with the cool name and then pick the best booky for a few hours. A lot of people were dressed up over the top, like our good selves, although quite a few blokes were sporting the humble flanno, wielding tinnys and stumbling around. I personally found great humor in watching the horses prepare for their races whilst they bucked, pooped and pumped themselves up pre-race.
Tropic Gem for the win!

After the final race for the day, Jeni and I returned to the Party Bus, ready to take punters to the Hotel Thangool Races After Party - Wooo!
During the ride back I was treated to some kind of Blues Brothers tune thanks to my John Belushi like getup, quite inspiring indeed! 

Back at the pub we served a variety of race/Trooprock themed cocktails and shots needed for a great after party.
Was a great turnout for our final night at the pub.
Once we closed the doors we sat around the fire for a few sneaky ones and also discovered a really cool s'more-like treat by popping hot marshmallows between a couple of Nestle choccy bickies! Very nice!

The races were great fun, as was the after party and the after after party! Had a great time at the pub, but well looking forward to beginning the next step in our adventure tomorrow morning!

Some of our themed drinks for the night:
"Camo's Slurpee" - Creme de Monthe and Baileys shaken with ice
"Jeni's Climax" - tequila shot with blue curacao and a dash of grenadine
"Troopy Fuel" - rum, vodka, tequila, Galliano topped with coke and a few splashes of tobasco!
"Racehorse" - Dry Vermouth, Midori, vodka with lime and dry ginger

- Cameron

Wednesday 15 May 2013

Cania Gorge

Cania Gorge is a beautiful Queensland national park, located not far from Monto. It is filled with a variety of giant sandstone cliffs, large boulders, booming rainforest and great bush walking trails.
Just driving past gives you amazing views of some of the cliffs.Whilst several great paths exist through the national park, we decided to check out a few key locations through the park, to see everything you would want to spend about 2 or 3 days in the area, and there is a caravan park not far from the Gorge. The points of interest we visited in order were Dripping Rock, The Overhang, Gorge Lookout, Bloodwood Cave and Dragon Cave.

As we pulled into the picnic area we had a look at the possible paths as well as some information about the area. With our boots strapped up we headed off towards

 Dripping Rock The path was amazing, sounds of wildlife all around, an army of birds formed a natural choir as you walked through Cania Gorge. Rock steps are throughout the park, and really add to the beauty .

Not far up and you reach a board-walk  as you walk across on your left is dripping rock, a sandstone formation which hangs over. This has a constant slow trickle of water which runs below the board-walk and eventually flows down into Three Moon
Creek. On the right of the board-walk is the canopy of an amazing part of rainforest, across the other side of the gorge are more sandstone cliffs.As you continue to walk through Cania Gorge you see a variety of different rock formations, some gigantic boulders and some that have hollowed out to create a dry shelter.

We began walking after midday and sadly saw no frogs and minimal wildlife, however after passing Dripping Rock we did see a lot of cane toads clogging up the path. My heavy duty steel capped boots allowed for me to do my part for the local ecosystem, sadly Jeni's soft shoes didn't allow her to knock a notch off our 30 list, soon!

 The walk to the Overhang saw us constantly looking to the right to see interesting parts of the forest connecting with Three Moon Creek and looking to the left to see interesting rock formations, how the vegetation, cliffs and rocks have all intertwined to create this great scenery.

Down the final set of steps on this track and we reach the overhang, a giant overhanging rock which goes over Three Moon Creek. A great spot to relax, just up the end of the Overhang is a collection of boulders which turn the creek into a mini maze of little passages by the rocks. As we turned to head back to the beginning of the track, Jeni noticed a Lilly Pilly plant with some ripe fruit and pulled some down for me to try some bush tucker. Lilly Pilly fruit is like a cherry with an apple'ish texture and taste, quite interesting and my first attempt at bush tucker, still no witchetty grub though!

We walked back towards the picnic area and shot off along the track with Bloodwood Cave, Dragon Cave and Gorge Lookout. The caves were all offshoots of the path, so we decided to walk to the furthest point, Gorge Lookout, then see the caves on our trip back.
We found this path to be more of a bushtrack around the side of the gorge, rather than the previous forest between a row of parallel cliffs. The rock formations were still amazing around this side, at one point Jeni ran off to climb up some random thing as she does and I found this really unusual collection, of what I believed to be, caterpillars all bunched up together smacking there butts against the bark of this tree. Not sure what they are the larvae of, but sticking together in a huge bunch, throwing their butts around is either a great snack for a passing bird or some random defence mechanism, either way I didn't see them when we came back!

Up at the Gorge we got a great view at one of the iconic sandstone cliffs in the area. You'll see this shot, maybe without the trees and a little zoomed in to promote the area in books and what not.

Just around the side of the official Gorge Lookout is a nice little spot with more beautiful shots of the landscape.
A variety of plants rooted into different parts of the cliffs are located around here. I personally feel things look more awesome when you are right by the cliffs too.

Once we had enough of the epic scenic views we began to head back down towards the caves. The first cave on our trek back down was Bloodwood Cave, it is called such as in one of the corners of the cave roots of the Bloodwood tree protrude through the rock and into the cave.
The cave was really cool, from the outside it seems really small, but once you duck down and creep in, it opens up into a small cavern where you can escape the sun for a short while. Would be really interesting hiding in a place like this in a storm.

Next stop was Dragon Cave, so called as it appears to have a mural of a black dragon naturally etched into the sandstone. Again another cool little hidey hole hidden away in Cania Gorge. Some cool rocks inside are a great
opportunity for silly silhouette photos as you can see from this photo to the right of Jeni pointing at something or other in the distance!
Outside of Dragon Cave you will surprisingly find, even more amazing views to finish your day out.
Cania Gorge is a great place to visit and has a variety of different walks, suitable for all different physical fitness levels.

- Cameron

Wednesday 8 May 2013

Heavy Rock, The music of Mount Scoria!

Another day off to explore central QLD was on our plate Tuesday the 7th of May. We had heard of a place called Mount Scoria, not far from where we were staying and decided to head out and see it ourselves. Only about 8ks from the Hotel Thangool, it was a short drive, you could see the mountain pretty much as soon as we could see past the trees lining the road. It is very different to most other mountains in the world, in fact it is the only mountain like this in Australia, other similar mountains can be found in Scotland and Sicily. It is pretty much just a pile of molten lava gone cold. The volcano had died, the lava had turned to a bunch of 5-8 sided prisms, the earth which formed the walls of the volcano had flattened out, but the lava rocks remained.

The walk leading up to the mountain was a narrow path through dense bush full of native scrubs and gums, one particular tree that caught our attention was the Queensland Bottle Tree, a gum tree with a robust mid trunk scattered about the mountain. The bush walk has a few plaques talking of the mountain and it’s importance through history to the local Aboriginal community (The Gangulu people), Dreamtime stories, myths and connections to cultures around similar mountains.

Mount Scoria was a place the Gangulu people used for their corroborees with their totem animal, the carpet snake.

As we got through the bush and to the foot of the mountain we were really amazed by the view, it was like all the rocks were separate but glued together to make this mountain. We began to climb up the steep wall of rocks after a short climb (Pretty much where I am hiding in this photo on the right) we began to play! See when the lava had turned to rock, parts of the lava was gaseous, so the rocks have  hollow parts on the inside, allowing them to make musical like noises when struck, similar to that of a xylophone! We experimented with making noise on the rocks and our inner child really came out, bashing rocks with smaller rocks to make unusual sounds, trying to find the coolest sounding rocks and attempting to play music, the climb was very slow, but really fun, I think all kids parks need a collection of these rocks!

It was a slow climb to the top, with all our attempts at heavy rock, but once we reached the top, like any mountain, we were rewarded with an amazing view… and the joy of knowing we have to get back down!

Mount Scoria really is a hidden gem in the Aussie outback and definitely worth spending a day there. Don’t expect to just climb up and down because playing with these rocks can be really fun, it’s no suprise to me why the Gangulu had there corroborees here!

- Cameron

Sunday 5 May 2013


Working the hotel was pretty laid back for Jen and I, although the hours were quite long and we didn’t really get much opportunity to see too much. So when we got our first day off, we were pretty pumped!
When we knocked off Tuesday night (30th of April), we set off for a place called Calliope (Cal-eep-ee) and decided to camp out in the free camping location Calliope River Rest Area.
Calliope River Rest Area was pretty nice location, busy yet quiet plus we were even fortunate enough to have an efficient security alarm in the form of the neighbouring caravan's yap yap dog. In the morning we brewed up some coffee on the gas burner, had a spot of breaky by the creek and took in the serenity.

Up the road was the Historical town which we observed from the troopy as we set off towards Gladstone!
It had been a while since Jen and I had been on the coast, well over a week which was long enough for us! And upon entering Gladestone we appreciated the feel of the breeze, however it is very much an Industrial town, much like that of Newcastle in the past. The beaches weren’t quite as enticing as we imagined, so we decided to head up to Aukland Hill Lookout.

It was a nice lookout, could see all around Gladestone and out over the ocean where several small islands dotted the coast. I thought to myself that this is one of those places that if man had never touched would be incredibly beautiful.

After driving around Gladestone for a while we decided we’d treck north and scope out Rockhampton, which was an hour and half away. Might seem quite silly spending our day off just driving around however we had quite the pleasant day!
When we got to Rocky we exchanged an Ipod we purchased (We felt the way Apple and Itunes operates is disgusting) for a really neat tablet. We then found a nice little park with a creek through it called Wood Park where we munched on some Sandwhiches, didn’t end up walking through the park, however it had some beautiful gardens through it and is definitely something we shall do on our next trip in, we wanted to keep moving as we heard about the chimpanzee in the free zoo!  

Rockhampton Zoo is located within the botanical gardens, a really beautiful part of the city which you can see the council truly prides themself in, the hole city of Rockhampton has a very “Green” coastal town feel despite it still being about 20ks from the coast. As you walk into the zoo you see a small bridge leading into a great green sphere, it’s a giant birdcage!
Full of all sorts of various avian life you walk through over a boardwalk and can split off to see some Cassowaries nesting or continue into the park and check out all the Aussie favourites, Koalas, emu, kangaroos, crocodiles and dingos. A variety of cockatoos and other birds seem to fly around uncaged calling the park home too, but the big attraction here is the chimpanzee!

Now these buggers are crazy, yelling and screaming, chasing each other around, banging the cage and getting into all sorts of strife, initially they were quiet, just doing there own thing, but hang around long enough and they’ll put on a show that will make you laugh, look around and be thankful there is a cage between you and them!

We strolled around between the zoo and the garden for a little longer and realised we were loosing sunlight. Back in the troopy we began to plot our next course of action, whether to head to Yeppoon, find a close by camp site or something else… As we sat in the car, Jeni said something and I just stared at her with wide eyes. Jeni didn’t understand why, but when Jeni was trying to speak, all I could hear was the radio saying “$2 tacos”. Needless to say we cruised straight into Rockhampton and ordered ourselves a plate of tacos from the Giddy Goat Pub and it was a mad feed!

When we departed the Giddy Goat we decided it was too late for Yeppoon and thought it best to drive back to Thangool, after all we had such an awesome day it couldn’t get any better!
On the drive home we decided on a name for the troopy, since our first super awesome and memorable day out and about in the troopy was in Rocky, we decided the name for our beloved troopy should be just that, ROCKY!

- Cameron

Saturday 4 May 2013

Our adventure begins!

Jeni and I had been planning for our adventure for a while, we had purchased our Troopy Hightop camper, which my brother helped get into tip top shape for us, our other "city" cars were up for sale, but we were both at home living with our parents waiting for the time to be right.
Jeni had been applying for jobs like crazy, just wanting to get out of Newcastle and head north before the weather had become too cool. She asked if she should apply for another job at a small pub in Thangool, of course I told her to go for it. A couple of hours later I was on the phone with one of the managers who was more than happy to have us join the team, only thing is, he needed us there by Thursday midday... It was Tuesday midday and we were about 1200kms away (That's about 745 miles for the metrically challenged). We were excited, packed our things, well by pack I mean throw too much stuff into the troopy without much thought, bought a new pair of shoes and began our trip!
We drove until about 11 pm and had our first night camping out in the troopy in a lovely truckstop north of Goondiwindi. After barely enough sleep to keep a zombie active, we packed back up and began to cruise further up inland. When we finally reached Banana Shire I had the overwhelming urge to drink a Banana flavoured milk.
Not much further and we were on the final stretch to Thangool! I began to pump myself up, after all, today was Anzac Day, and after seeing how insane Anzac Day was back in Wangi Wangi, I was ready for anything! Was excited to begin work in a new pub on a busy day!
Finally, Thangool, we saw the pub, drove around the back and saw all the customers, it was overwhelming! Total customers at Hotel Thangool early Anzac arvo: 0.
A very different pub than I could ever imagine, it was moved from Banana and placed in Thangool in the early 1930's. The hotel is also known as the Qantas Lounge due to the fact a couple of hundred metres down the road is a small airport.
When I first saw the hotel I almost thought our Troopy may have had some Delorean type capacitors  despite not reaching 88 miles per hour on the trip, the vibe was really "oldschool". Flick taps, bottles of soft drink instead of postmix, black and white photos on the wall, worn bar stools and a ceiling covered in writing from all the previous workers.The place really had character! I'd recommend anyone passing through checks it out!

We met the couple who were overhauling the place and the Swedish backpackers who we were replacing and settled in!

So the first leg of our Aussie adventure had begun!

- Cameron