The Snail Trail

Travelling with my home on my back and in no hurry to get anywhere

Collinsville Pit Pony


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Collinsville – It’s the Pits!

The coal pits of Collinsville have forged this strong community inland from Mackay and Bowen in Queensland. It is at the northern most tip of the huge Bowen Basin Coal Deposits, which is so extensive it covers an area half the size of England!

The Bowen Basin contains the largest coal reserves in Australia. This major coal producing region contains one of the world’s largest deposits of bituminous coal. The Basin contains much of the known Permian coal resources in Queensland including virtually all of the known mineable prime coking coal. ….

….. The Bowen Basin covers an area of over 60,000 square kilometres in Central Queensland running from Collinsville to Theodore.

Brett, from the Information Centre in Collinsville, is a ‘mine’ of information about this town and credits the sense of community on the coal miners that rely on each other every day to keep them safe and alive as they worked underground. The threat of disaster and death bands them together and that mateship forms the strong bonds that unites the community of Collinsville. (Mining at Collinsville is no longer underground and is now done by the open cut method)

Not so long ago pit ponies worked at the Collinsville mine hauling the containers of coal to the surface. When mine management decided to retire the pit ponies the union signed them up as members so they couldn’t be ‘sacked’ and sent off to the knackery. This gave Wharrier and Mr Ed, as they were known, 2 more years of work before an agreement was reached to retire them to a local property in 1991, where they lived for another 8 and 10 years respectively.

Collinsville felt so strongly about their ponies that they instigated a crowd funding exercise to build a bronze statue in town. It’s a wonderful memorial to the role of the pit ponies in this town.

Unfortunately, the history of most mining towns includes a disaster and Collinsville is no exception. In 1954 a high pressure pocket of carbon dioxide moved 450 tons of coal and destroyed everything in its path. 7 men were killed and 2 pit ponies died. There is a wonderful display at the United Mine Workers Club called The Coalface Experience that pays tribute to those men and illustrates the mining history of Collinsville. It’s a must see!

The Coalface Experience, Collinsville, Queensland

The Coalface Experience is an interactive display with fantastic information. Until I’d spoken to Brett I had no idea of the history of this town and was so glad I stayed an extra day to find out more about it.

Collinsville is a town of boom and bust, dependent on mining, which in turn depends on the price of coal and market demand.

A great way to support this community is by staying at the excellent RV stopover they have created right opposite the Workers Club. There’s a grassy central park with shelters, potable water available, a black water (dump point) disposal …… and let’s not forget Brett at the Information Centre on site.

At the moment the Workers Club offers showers for a gold coin donation, and the motel next door has laundromat facilities.

Collinsville is more than an ‘overnighter’ if you’re travelling through this area. Take some time to get to know this proud mining town and enjoy discovering its history by talking to the locals and visiting The Coalface Experience.

PS: Leesa at Beaute at the Ville does a great pedicure and has been so inspired by traveller’s tales she just bought herself a van to convert to a camper. Pop in for some pampering and to share some travel stories with her!

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Mosaic wall, Ingham Queensland


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Ingham – La Dolce Vita

Ingham embodies ‘the sweet life’ in more ways than one! It’s a thriving sugar town in FNQ (Far North Queensland) and is the service centre for many sugarcane plantations. Victoria Sugar Mill, the largest sugar mill in Australia and one of the largest in the southern hemisphere, is located close to the township of Ingham (Approx. 6km).

 

 

It also celebrates it’s Italian heritage originating back in the 1890’s when Italian migrants came here to work on the sugar plantations.

The Australian-Italian Festival is held in Ingham the first weekend in August each year and is one of the most popular events in the region, with thousands of people attending the event. The festival celebrates Ingham’s cultural background, dating from the 1890s, when the first Italian immigrants came to the region. More than half the population of the town are of Italian descent. The town is known as “Little Italy”. Wikipedia

I’ve been lucky enough to be in Ingham for this years Italian Festival, a celebration of good food, good music and good fun enjoyed by locals and tourists alike.

There was something for all the family and it did indeed have a wonderful family atmosphere…. lovely to see young teenagers being ‘kids’ rather than playing the bored young adult. One of the challenges was a Slippery Pole competition, the first to reach the top a young, very agile, girl. Some participants never made it off the mat. I decided it would need a lot of upper body strength and as mine isn’t at its peak I gave this activity a miss. Fun to watch though!

The Gondola Races also proved popular – and chaotic – but once again a lot of laughs.

Along with spaghetti eating competitions, cooking demonstrations, fabulous food and wonderful singers crooning everything from Volare to opera it truly was a feast for all the senses.

The first time I was in Ingham, on my way north to a Christmas in July celebration in Mareeba, I had a wander around town and discovered this fabulous laneway of mosaics and murals telling the story of Ingham. I’ve put them together in this slide show with some of the explanations for the panels to ‘put you in the picture’, so to speak.

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The Italians who came to Australia so long ago to chase opportunities for a better life for themselves and their families have certainly built a wonderful culture in Ingham.

La Dolce Vita – The Sweet Life………………………………………………… Perhaps not always ……

Ingham, North Queensland

The Canecutter’s Lament

 

 


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What does this Rollingstone gather?

Rollingstone QueenslandNo moss, that’s for sure, but it does appeal to a lot of campers. It’s a large free camp about 1km off the highway heading north from Townsville. If you are planning on staying here at this time of the year (June/July) you need to arrive early and wait for a spot. It’s very shady, so if you are relying on solar power there’s only a few places that will give you full sun to charge up those batteries.

I went for a walk along the river that flows along the edge of the park and there were a couple of nice swimming holes. I was tempted to take Brutus off road here and have this beautiful spot all to myself, but I wasn’t sure if I might be sharing it with some local crocodiles, so thought better of it.

IMG_7816Rollingstone

A couple of days at Rollingstone and it was time to move on, but not before I took a drive to Balgal Beach, about 5 kms away. Just past that lovely waterhole above you have to go under a 2.4 metre high bridge which Brutus had no problems with at all (even though I did duck my head)! A bigger motorhome than mine – aren’t they all? – and you would have to go back out to the highway and take the long way round.

The countryside was literally ripe for the picking – pineapples, pumpkins and mangoes in paddocks as far as the eye could see.

 

This sign helped me decide that today wasn’t the day for swimming!

Go as far north as you can along the Esplanade and there is a little cafe with the best waterfront location you could wish for. It’s called Fisherman’s Landing and is right opposite the small free camp and looks out over the water. I’ve been told it has great fish and chips, too.

There is a grassy foreshore park that was providing a feast for the local red-tailed black cockatoos. These photos don’t really show you how big these birds are and you will need to look closely to distinguish their tails from the flurry of red leaves scattering the ground.

I didn’t stay at Balgal Beach this time around but it’s certainly on my list of places to stay in the future. And with a fish and chip shop over the road, what more could a girl ask for?


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Queensland Heritage Park, Biloela

Biloela MapHow come I’m here in Biloela? I was meant to go to Calliope! Ooops, wrong turn again! This meant that I crept into Biloela (Billo-weelah) on the smell of an oily rag because there certainly wasn’t much petrol left in the tank after doing 100kms more than I expected! Anyhow, Brutus didn’t let me down and he saved me the embarrassment of calling the RACQ for emergency fuel…. thank you, Brutus.

I filled up with fuel and made my way to the Queensland Heritage Park where you can stop over for 48hrs for $15 a night on power – hence the mad rush to blog! While checking in the friendly lady in the Info Centre asked my name for registration to camp. Surname – Robinson, First Name – Rosemary. “Oh”, she said, “my name is Rosemary too! You’re the 2nd Rosemary I’ve come across today. I was just reading a newsletter and there was a Rosemary that ran a rally for Solos recently. Her name was Rosemary Robinson. Wait a minute …. it’s you!” Sometimes you are just meant to take that wrong turn!

Today I explored the Heritage Park. What a wonderful display of machinery and historical memorabilia exhibited on behalf of the Callide Dawson Machinery Preservation Club.

Cindy, who manages the facility, also manages the Annual Old Wheels in Motion Rally & Swap Meet for Machinery Preservation buffs. The next one is coming up at the end of July and they usually get about 5000 people visiting. When the National Rally was held here they had around 10,000 visitors! Click on the link above to find out more about it and the program of events at the rally, such as the vintage tractor pull and the tractor balancing competition.

The camp ground is pretty basic but with good ensuite style showers and toilets, potable water and that wonderful luxury (for me) of plugging into power.

Info CentreNow here’s a bit of trivia for you! The silo shaped building that houses the Information Centre was originally displayed at Expo 88 in Brisbane and used to showcase Australia’s rich primary industries. Today it also has a coffee shop, souvenirs and a gift shop with some colourful ceramic tiles – thank goodness they won’t fit in Brutus!

 

I have a saying that I’m never lost, I’ve just taken a different route. I was fortunate this one took me to Biloela and the Queensland Heritage Park.

 

 


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The Unique Egg

What an amazing find this is! Tucked into his son’s sportsgood store in outback St George in Queensland is the most incredible display of carved emu eggs. When I left the Nindigully Pub I travelled about 50 kms north west to St George to find out what all the buzz was about these eggs…. I wasn’t disappointed!

The Outback, an R.M. Williams magazine, tells it exactly how it is upon arrival.

Story By Kerryn Suttor

“I’m going to tell you somethin’ that nobody else in the world knows,” Stavros Margaritis says with a conviction that makes you listen. “It will cost you three dollars … and if you’re not happy, well … then I give you back six,” he says, eyes twinkling.
Steve (Stavros) Margaritis is St George’s own ‘unique man’, an emu-egg carver who has an extraordinary collection of more than 150 hand-carved emu eggs tucked away at the back of his guns and ammunition shop, The Balonne Sports Store, in the main street in St George in south-western Queensland.

IMG_7654Unique Egg Gallery, St GeorgeSteve, the emu egg carver, welcomes you to his display which is like a potted history of Australian and world events over the last 60 years. A short video fills you in on Steve’s life and decision to come to Australia from his native Greece. Can you buy his eggs? No! This is not a ‘come on’ to part with your dollars, for how could you put a price on the hours of work that goes into each of his creations.

The video explains the many layers of an emu egg and how, as you carve through each layer you reveal different colours. Steve has one on display to demonstrate this.

IMG_7669Unique Egg Gallery, St George

Imagine the perseverance and imagination to create these works of art that are lit internally with LED lights and positioned in a mirrored box so all facets can be seen.

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This place hadn’t even been on my bucket list until the day before I arrived here! What better reason could there be to visit St George in outback Queensland?


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The Nindigully Pub

On my way back to Queensland a few weeks ago I turned left instead of right when I left Moree and visited the Nindigully Pub, a well known stopover for travellers. It offers free camping in the grounds or down along the river with a donation tin on the bar for charity.

Nindigully map

The pub is 160 kilometres west of Goondiwindi, 45 kilometres east of St George and approximately 70 kilometres north of the Queensland/New South Wales border. It is situated on the banks of the Moonie River.

IMG_7625Nindigully Pub

It looks like many other outback pubs in Australia but has a fantastic atmosphere, friendly staff and is “must do” destination for travellers like myself.

 

Not long after I arrived I met a couple of other solo travellers from a group I belong to called Rolling Solos. Bev and Judy gave me the lay of the land and mentioned they were being visited by another Roller, Ruth, the next day. Well, I had to stay on for another night to catch up with Ruth, who I had met when I stayed at Ariah Park a few weeks earlier!  We were off to the pub for lunch!

Nindigully Pub

Bev, Ruth and Judy in the beer garden.

The Nindigully Pub is well known for a good meal and we all enjoyed our lunch. I had a burger but NOT the one they are famous for! It’s called the Road Hog, costs $60 and feeds about 6 hungry people. The little one was still too much for me!

 

There was a nice walk along the banks of the Moonie River and this very dilapidated bridge that tempted a couple of fishermen when I was there – I took notice of the Warning Sign though and stayed well clear!

There was a heck of a racket going on one day – I thought someone was letting off fireworks. It turned out to be an army exercise and soldiers wandered past our vans looking for snipers….. not too many of them to be found among the grey nomads!

Well, that’s another experience ticked off the bucket list! Funny how it never gets shorter though …. I meet someone else who tells me of another place to see so more goes on the list than comes off it. Bev and Judy told me about an emu egg carver in St George so I’m going to detour yet again!

Utes in the Paddock, Ootha


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Utes in the Paddock

Every now and then someone comes up with a crazy idea that captures the imagination and becomes a reality. Utes in the Paddock at Ootha, New South Wales, is a typical example of this. Ootha is situated about 430 west of Sydney and boasts a population of 94!

Ootha

They are all Holden Utes – what could be more Australian than that – and several artists have displayed their own interpretation of the iconic ute! Unfortunately the paint work has deteriorated on several of them and they are fading away but I hope you can get an idea of this crazy initiative in the middle of nowhere.

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You’ve gotta love the Aussie sense of humour 🙂 Thanks Ootha for keeping it alive!