Yikes! When I heard last week someone say it was October, my heart missed a beat!
Three quarters of the way through the year –
Where has it gone?
What have I done?
Is the year escaping me?
I’m convinced the world is spinning faster as days fly, weeks skip and months on occasions simply disappear!
Four years ago I felt the need for a way to summarise my year.
A single sheet that would encapsulate what I’d been up to over the course of 12 months so at year’s end I could see what I’d experienced – I could view my year at a glance.
I pulled out a Journal Map.
Seeing the central map on these A2 sized sheets as a representation of journeys both in general – and more specifically as a portrayal of Life’s Journeys.
My Years at a Glance from 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013
Above are my past 4 years of Year at a Glance –
As you can see – They’re no works of art!
They’re merely a pragmatic way to summarize my year on a single sheet!
Using each of the 11 surrounding boxes I record a highlight at the end of each month.
A scribbley, messy, reminder of what the main thing was that happened in the preceding 4 weeks.
How to experience the fun of an outback road trip in just 3 days
Why should the grey nomads, gap-year’ers and young families doing the big lap of Australia have all the fun?
If you can’t take 3 months off to hit the road – Try taking 3 days -
You’d be amazed what you can experience by leaving the beach and the coast behind and heading off on an inland adventure…
Day 1 of My Mini Outback Queensland Road Trip
View out of my air-plane window leaving the city and landing just 1.5 hours later in outback central Queensland’s Emerald 900 km NW of Brisbane
In an hour and a half from Brisbane you can be in central outback Queensland, transposed to this vast wonderful wilderness for (usually) under $250 return per person with either Qantas or Virgin.
Emerald is 900km (560miles) NW of Brisbane, 300 km (185miles) inland from the coast at Rockhampton.
And for precision, about the same from Barcaldine to the east where the Roma road that comes up from Brisbane intersects and would take you on out to Longreach and the Stockman’s Hall of Fame.
Hire cars are available in Emerald including 4WD that are allowed off-road, which is perfect if you want to do a bit of fossicking – It’s then time to hit the road where the big road trippers roam.
Leaving Emerald on the Capricorn Highway (named as it follows the geographic Tropic of Capricorn) head west and after just 45km (28miles) turn left off the main drag to visit Anakie, where any final remnants of fast city life will fall off your shoulders as you step into historic Gemfields time.
Anakie Station where the Spirit of the Outback passes through twice a week
Sit a while on the platform bench of Anakie’s Railway Station and peer down the line where twice a week the Spirit of the Outback will come into view.
Then check out the huge Kurrajong tree that marks the end of the platform.
Stand at its base and look up –
High, high up in the Kurrajong’s canopy you can see initials carved into the trunk made by men waiting on this platform to leave the region for WW1, when this tree was but a sapling –
And about half way up are letters engraved by men leaving for WW2.
The passing of time sprouting before your eyes.
Back in your vehicle, cross over the Capricorn Highway – Australia’s old Highway 66 – and head towards Sapphire and Rubyvale where ramshackle miners’ humpies are scattered across the 4500-hectare miners’ common, which was established in the 1890’s about 20 years after gems were first discovered in the region.
It allows for ‘non-permanent’ structures to be established on small pegged out mining leases along with the right to graze livestock at $1 per annum for a cow (incl a calf) or $2 per annum for a horse.
And rusty relics of vehicles from a past era.
After checking into Rubyvale Gem Gallery’s self contained apartments we headed up a nearby hill on the edge of town to admire the view across the plain to ancient volcanic plugs peppering the horizon line, behind which the sun was radiantly setting.
Watching the rock wallabies scampering over the hillside it was hard to believe we’d woken up in civilization that morning and but a few hours previously were breathing in the fumes of Brisbane’s city air.
Here’s my travel journal story map summarising Day 1 of my mini outback Queensland road trip.
Story Map of Day 1 in Outback Queensland
Day 2 – Fossicking for Gems, Exploring Underground Mines & Kicking Back
We awoke to a classic Queensland winter’s morning – about 20 degrees Celsius with the sun shining in a perfect crystal clear blue sky – with first up a wonderful breakfast at the Rubyvale Cafe, just at the front of our accommodation.
Fresh carrot, ginger and orange juice – Delicious
And then off we set on an outback fossicking adventure –
where we met an RV’er who’d found a $10,000 yellow sapphire just days before!
I don’t need an excuse to head off the beaten track, away from urbanisation to enjoy nature –
But having said that I have to confess it was a bit of a thrill (and a lure to return) to actually find a little blue sparkler of my own under Michael’s guidance (from the Little House of Gems) who took us out and showed us exactly where to dig for wash and then process it.
Having experienced how to fossick from the surface, we went on a short but informative underground tour at Miner’s Heritage, before visiting a small family operated plant, where we watched drums of wash they’d dug out from tunnels underground being hauled up… poured into hoppers… rolled around trummels… jiggled down pulsators… to finally reveal the spoils of the day in gravelly trays.
Bringing the wash up from underground to pour it into the hopper, down the trummel and through the pulsator to extract the gems
All that country air gave me quite an appetite… so after a bite to eat…
…we returned to Rubyvale’s Gem Gallery to admire how wonderful the world is that nature can produce such pretty precious gems from volcanic eruptions that spurted fiery molten lava across the region millions of years previously.
Yes, they’re ALL sapphires… even the yellow ones!
As the day came to a close we returned to the Miner’s Common to watch the sun set over the mullock heaps.
The last of the sun’s rays catching the dried ochre grasses and scrubby bushes turning them uncharacteristically into autumnal shades of orange, yellow and gold –
While as the air cooled, kangaroos ventured out to graze along the distant bush-line.
It was oh so peaceful.
But what outback road trip would be complete without a beer in the local Pub. So we popped over to the Royal in Rubyvale and enjoyed some liquid amber with the publican who recounted tales of times past, while their Nepalese chef prepared us a tasty meal.
Beer and a meal with the publican at the Royal in Rubyvale
Here’s my Story Map summarising Day 2 – Which was full of new experiences, fresh country air and the smells and sounds of a region a thousand kilometres from my buzzing city life.
Story Map illustrating Day 2 of My Mini Road Trip to Outback Queensland
Day 3 of My Mini Road Trip Adventure
Day 3 started with much hilarity!
Outback Queenslanders have a wry sense of humour, and we’d been noticing many funny Australian signs – Such as…
“The Willy Wash”
…as well as a place for Getting Your Nuts Tightened…
It was then time to start making our way back towards Emerald for the 2.30pm flight back to the city –
We went via Lake Maraboon and over Fairbairn Dam (my namesake hehe!)
Lake Maraboon is huge – and with a circumference of 260km appears like an inland sea – Hard to imagine that Lake Argyle in the NE of WA has a circumference of 1,500km!
Such a gorgeous big body of water to play in so far from the coast – If we’d had a bit more time it looked super inviting for a dip, or hiring a boat for some fishing or water ski-ing.
And as we left, we came upon a cattle drove that had come all the way from Winton – about 600km (375miles) to the west.
What could be more quintessentially Queensland than quad bikes, cattle dogs and big shady cowgirl hats.
Here is my third story map extracted from my travel journal for this fun 3 day trip ~
Story Map of Day 3 of My Mini Outback Queensland Road Trip
So… Who would have thought?
That you could experience the real feel of an outback Queensland road trip in just 3 days and…
without having to drive all those miles and miles and miles to get there –
Next time you’re ready for a break – instead of doing the obvious and heading for the beach – think about taking a flight out bush and experience a world away from home for a few days –
When you get back to the city you’ll be glad you dared to be different.
You’ll have stepped into the shoes of the grey nomads, experienced adventures of a gap year’er and had some of the fun of those road-trippers doing the Big Lap!
Why let the big road-trippers have all the fun?
When did you last dare to be different
and take a flight inland, instead of to the beach?
Or have I planted a seed?
A change, is what makes a holiday!
There can’t be too many places you go on holiday, or for a break, where your destination appears so intent on ensuring you’re left wanting for nothing, as on my recent visit to the Gemfields in central Queensland’s outback.
The Willy Wash
First port of call – “The Willy Wash”, which comes decked out with south pacific umbrellas so you don’t get hot and bothered when shaking out the dust and putting your rocks through the willoughby.
Then on to the Big Spanner should you need a little readjustment to Get Your Nuts Tightened.
Get your nuts tightened at The Big Spanner
All spruced up – It would be perfect to now head down to the Grave Hill Nudist Colony…
Grave Hill Nudist Colony
But, slow down… not too fast there!
Slow Down This is not a race track. Let our Grandkidz live
Wouldn’t want you following this Gemfield Hot Rod…
Gemfields Hot Rod
And in case you had any thoughts of deviating along the way…
If you dig on this claim you will be shot!!
But once you’re done digging…
If you haven’t made your fortune, you could always try your hand at some other profession?
Trying my hand at pole dancing ;)
But on the other hand…
You may now be able to afford to buy Buckingham Palace.
Which on face value, looking at it front on gives a first impression of it all being hunky dory…
But with a secondary sideways glance…
The Leaning Palace of Buckingham may be more apt?
Be sure you don’t get caught up in the rush hour at the Rubyvale roundabout.
Before you head up to enjoy the sunset atop of Policeman’s Knob.
View from Policeman’s Knob
And the final sign that I was here in the Central Highlands of Queensland was the 25 meter high easel sporting a reproduction of Van Gough’s Sunflowers in the township of Emerald (900km NW of Brisbane, 300km inland from the coast at Rockhampton)
Emerald’s Big Easel (for scale, do you see me at the bottom of the left leg?)
The Emerald Easel is part of the Big Easel Project –
A project initiated by Cameron Cross, which he hopes will eventually see seven such constructions across the world each portraying one of Van Gough’s seven Sunflower paintings.
The first was made by the artist in Altona, Canada in October 1998.
Emerald’s was the second to be constructed in 1999.
The third was completed in 2001 in Goodland, Kansas, USA.
Map of the Gemfields in Queensland’s Central Highlands where you can dig the tropics
And if this has tickled your fancy – Here’s a link to find out more about how you too can…