Following the Big Wet - 2011 Trip – Part 21: Broadwater Lagoon to Grafton

Thursday, Dec 15, 2011 at 14:17


Leaving the Broadwater Lagoon we thought that by taking some back roads we could bypass Dalby and move on south more easily. Leaving the Conservation Park on a road that was being upgraded we soon found ourselves on a minor road that quickly became a new road not even marked on the map. Signs indicated that this was a private road being constructed by one of the companies drilling for coalseam gas (CSG). The message was reinforced as a mining vehicle pulled up and a polite young man explained that we could not get through and would have to turn around.

So we had no option but to go through Dalby, a busy town servicing the rich Darling Downs and made busier by the recent spate of gas exploration and drilling. Once through town we turned south through Cecil Plains and on towards Leyburn on a route that took us through some splendid irrigated cropping country. Huge water storages to feed enormous travelling or centre-pivot irrigators dotted the flat countryside, where the rich black soil grows cotton and a variety of grain crops. In places there was a proliferation of anti CSG mining signs, with almost every farm gate sporting a standard sign. This seemed to be a precautionary measure as we saw little evidence of actual mining or exploration drilling, but it brought home the depth of feeling about CSG exploration and mining.

Further south we passed through bush and rougher grazing country until we reached the Cunningham Highway and turned east towards Warwick. From there south through Stanthorpe we passed through the intensive fruit growing areas of the Granite Belt where a few early fruit trees were just coming into bloom. Wine and strawberries are now produced in this area as well as stone fruit, and Val recalled memories of a working trip through there with her parents in the late 50s. The country is dotted with big outcrops of granite rock that breaks down into the light sandy soils that produces excellent stone fruit, grapes and berries.

Our destination for the next couple of nights was the Giraween National Park, which features huge granite outcrops and a wealth of spring wildflowers. The highway was narrow and quite busy with plenty of roadworks, requiring a lot of concentration. So it was a relief to find the NP turn-off and climb up the range towards the campgrounds. There are two camping areas and both were quite busy and steadily filling up for the weekend, and what was a long weekend on the Gold Coast. We chose the big Castle Rock campground, found a suitable spot and set up camp. It’s all fairly regimented with sections for tents, camper trailers and caravans, making it difficult to decide where Troopy fits in such places. But there are hot showers and flushing loos – all very civilised. Many of the younger campers there were city folk travelling in sedans and once again we noticed that reluctance to talk to strangers – disconcerting city habits that have little place out in the bush.

The next day we set out to walk at least some of the closer tracks to get a feel for this area. It was only a short walk from the campground to the Visitor’s centre where we had a quick look, then down across a grassed area where a lot of kangaroos were lazing about. Just beyond the Visitors Centre the well-marked tracks fan out from a beautiful area where swiftly flowing water gurgles around and under huge rocks. We walked towards, but did not climb The Pyramid, a dramatic granite dome that dominates the surrounding countryside. We then explored around Granite Arch before going out to The Junction where Bald Rock Creek has carved its way through the granite leaving giant rounded boulders and wide smooth sheets of exposed rock. It was mostly easy walking, although our habit of photographing flowers as usual slowed our progress considerably. Although the air was cool the sun was hot making the shady spots along the creek seem very welcoming.

There were plenty of flowers to see, although at the start of September we were probably a bit early for some of them. Wattles were plentiful making a yellow glow through the trees. Yellow bacon-and-eggs pea flowers, Epacrids, Leucopogons, daisies, and occasional Banksias and Boronias all combined to make a colourful display either in the forest or heathland areas that we walked through. There were also many lichens, mosses and ferns adding softer touches. We will put photos of the plants and flowers into a separate blog.

By mid afternoon we were back at camp, enjoying a relaxing hot shower and a cold beer. The Ranger came by a couple of times making sure that everyone had paid their camp fees. That evening it would have been good to have a campfire but there were just a few fireplaces scattered around, built up above ground level and designed for cooking rather than sitting around. In any case we had no firewood and there is a ban on collecting it in the park.

Next morning was dewy as we packed up for an early departure. We did not get far before we spotted another Troopy using an unusual tent arrangement off the back of the vehicle. There was nothing for it but to stop and have a chat with the owners, a chat that lasted nearly an hour, and as often happens when Troopy owners get together, included an extensive and enjoyable note swapping session. Its always interesting and instructive to see how others have set up their Troopies.

Finally we were back on the highway for the short run down to Glen Innes where we would stay the night with family. From there we headed east to Grafton to spend some more family time. Between these towns we were keen to use the Old Glen Innes Road – despite having made numerous trips on the highway, Val had never been on the whole length of the old road, and John hadn’t been on it for many years.

Once we found the turn-off from the main road we were initially on a good gravel road. Soon we were back on a sealed surface as we wound down the escarpment where the road descends rapidly via many sharp bends. This is very steep rugged country and the road passes through pockets of rainforest, although mostly we were passing beneath big tall gum trees. We found a spot where we could pull off the road for lunch near a pretty little creek that was running swiftly. Just a short distance further on we came to the delightful Mann River Nature Reserve where there is a big grassed camping area with long drop loos. We spent a while there exploring along the river among big granite boulders and little sandy beaches. This would be a wonderful spot for a few days camping and swimming in summer.

The road from there to Grafton was long and winding, and steep, slippery and narrow in places. In some places the road seemed to cling to the edge of the ridge right above a river, and there is even a short tunnel in a particularly rocky spot. It is very picturesque country with the creeks and rivers surrounded by tall hills and ridges, with occasional cleared farming areas, but the road required our full attention. We stopped for an afternoon cuppa and a couple of log trucks went past us – we would not like to meet them coming towards us on some of the sections of this road. We were surprised at the number of houses along this road – it must appeal to those who want to get away from towns and cities, but we wondered what it would be like living in these valleys through a hot dry summer and the inevitable bushfires.

Eventually we were back onto bitumen, and the country became flatter and gentler as we approached Grafton just on dusk. We felt that we had done a lot of driving in the past couple of weeks, so we will rest here with a dear family member before we make a final dash for home.
J and V
"Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted."
- Albert Einstein
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