Following the Big Wet - 2011 Trip – Part 20: Clermont to Broadwater Lagoon

Wednesday, Dec 14, 2011 at 15:59


It was foggy next morning as we drove back into Clermont where we filled up our water tanks at the friendly tourist centre. Then south to Emerald through dryland cropping areas, where wheat and sorghum were the main crops. At Emerald we stopped at the Tourist I centre for some information about Lake Nugga Nugga, and admired the giant replica (well, close-ish) of Van Gough’s famous Sunflowers painting in the nearby park. We went out to the Fairbairn Dam for lunch – although it is well set up for visitors we were the only ones there. We admired the big expanse of water that is Lake Maraboon. It is the basis for the extensive irrigated agriculture around Emerald. There is a road that goes across the dam and back to Emerald that would make a good loop drive for a day trip.

Continuing south we passed through some very scenic country around Springsure before stopping a few miles south of the town where a lookout gives extensive views to the south. There is also an impressive stand of Cycads on either side of the road. Just below the lookout, on a short side track is the Staircase Range cutting, part of the old road that was built by Chinese labourers in 1905. They used only hand tools to carve the steep road through sandstone. There is a pleasant campsite there, although it would get a lot of noise from vehicles climbing up the range. We considered using it as a stopping point but it was a bit early for that.

Near Rolleston we turned off onto the Carnarvon Highway, which gives access to Carnarvon Gorge, although we were not stopping there this time. The country in this area is dotted with stunning sandstone ridges and eroded peaks and worthy of another extended visit to really explore the various National Parks. By now we had decided against going to Lake Nugga Nugga, as that would have required a lengthy detour as the approach is from the east. After a bit of searching we found a camp for the night along a recently cleared track that ended under a towering sandstone peak beside a pocket of remnant rainforest with big bottle trees (Brachychiton sp., not related to the boabs of the Kimberley).

During the night there were some light showers from storms that crashed their way around the hills providing impressive displays of lightning. Just south of our camp the next morning we found a number of well-used campsites near the road – isn’t that often the way! We made a note for next time.

Our one concession to exploring the National Parks in the area was to drive into The Lonesome NP (an outlier of the Expedition NP and still called that on some maps). The first section of the road was quite rough gravel, much used by mining vehicles. Soon though we were back on bitumen that took us into the NP, before we turned onto a bush track that took us up to a lookout that gave wonderful views north into the aptly named Arcadia Valley.

There were also quite a few wildflowers there – Grevilleas, Hoveas, Acacias and everlastings making a colourful display, so of course we spent a while there with the cameras working overtime. Storms were still rattling around and we felt a bit exposed, perched as we were on the top of the ridge.

We continued south through Injune and on to Roma, which seemed to be quite a big bustling town boosted by recent mining activity. We refuelled and bought a few supplies there before heading east on some tree-lined back roads towards Condamine. There was a lot of water lying on the ground and in some places we hoped that we would not have oncoming traffic to make us move far off the centre of the road. Fortunately there was little traffic as the road went through what seemed to be a remote area. As we approached the little town of Condamine there were storms towering on either side of us, and storm warnings on the radio. So we were relieved when we found that the free campsite a few kilometres south of the town was a lovely spot with only 4 other rigs beside a big lagoon.

We chose a site and as we were getting set up one of the neighbours (from a caravan) came across to invite us to the campfire that was planned for the evening. What a pleasant change from yesterday - and we readily accepted. We even had some well travelled wood to contribute.

But this evening was still young and there were a few surprises in store for us. No sooner had we had set up and had dinner before a big ugly looking storm bore down on us. The low churning clouds had that ominous greenish tinge that portends hail. We quickly rigged a tarp over the tent and battened down the hatches, and then the wind and rain was onto us. For what seemed an eternity heavy rain, jagged hail, strong winds and brilliant lightning lashed us - although we were really only on the edge of the storm. We huddled in the tent while the storm raged around us, but fortunately no damage was done. We hoped that our neighbours in their vans were OK. John tried for some shots of lightning without drowning his camera. The tripod was inaccessible without getting drenched so we were thrilled to find that a couple of handheld shots were successful.

By the time the storm had passed it was dark and soggy and sheets of water covered the ground, ruling out any hope of a campfire. An early night seemed the best and only option.

Next morning was sparkling and fresh, with a thin mist over the water. There was not a hint of a breeze to ripple the surface of the billabong. John, who is an avid dawn and early morning photographer was in his element as the sun rose and the colours glowed golden and red, silhouetting the river red gums that lined the billabong.

It didn’t take us long to decide to stay here a day to dry out and relax after a few long days driving. A man from the local Council came by to clean the toilets and empty the bins. He told us that Condamine had 30mm of rain from the storm, and that there were still deep drifts of hail lying on the ground in the morning.

There were only 4 others campers set up, most of them in caravans. Two of the caravan couples – Vicki and Neville and Tom and Chris - were delightful folk, and restored our confidence in caravanners after the stand-offish attitudes we had encountered a couple of days back. After a day of chatting and being lazy a group campfire was arranged for the evening. Everyone attended and a friendly, happy time was had by all. This is how travelling and camping should be, and all credit to the local council for making this excellent spot available.

Next morning everyone moved on after exchanging travel cards. The country that we passed through was very wet from the storm, which must have been quite extensive. In an area that has had a lot of rain over the past year we were surprised to see a lot of prickly pear growing along the roadsides and in some of the paddocks.

We had an easy run down to Broadwater Lagoon just west of Dalby, where there is a big camping and picnic area that would get busy at holiday time. At this time of the year though there were only a few campers. The lake is used for water sports and there are good facilities including hot showers even if they do operate on a rather temperamental push-button system. There is also a bush camping area with secluded camp sites but no showers or water views.

Next morning we got chatting with a couple camped nearby and noticed that they had an old-style clothes wringer set up on their bullbar. We commented that we had only seen that idea once before, on a Troopy driven by friends in our 4WD club. It turned out that they were related to our friends, yet another example of how small the travelling world can sometimes be.
J and V
"Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted."
- Albert Einstein
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