A Travellerspoint blog


Emerald, Sapphire and Longreach

Master Geoff and a gem of a problem!

This blog is dedicated to my industrious husband (Master Geoff) and the lovely people we met at Sapphire. I will mention their names now in case we forget their names later on our journey! Thank you to Barry and Pat, Jim and Carol and Geoff and Kay. I know you will laugh if you read this.

Geoff has been waiting to hear feedback for his Masters. Finally at the end of Carnarvon Gorge he got word. 20 days later. He had to fix up a list of details which is what he is doing now. Hopefully that is the finish of it. He has passed but not sure what result. If only the lecturer knew the setting in which he is completing this. I will go back.

We stayed the night at Emerald which is an unremarkable place. We were thinking to move on to Longreach the next day. Unfortunately we got put next to the amenities block with some noisy young people using it as a community centre. At least we were handy to everything and we now know what ensuites in a caravan park mean. That was the only nice thing to speak of about Emerald.

We had heard some strange noises coming from one of our tyres and noticed the pressure was not what it should be. After a long drive we checked it but it seemed to be a slow leak. Thought we could make Longreach to get it sorted. This was not to be. Checking it the next day the leak was faster than we thought. On a Sunday nothing is open in these small towns so we decided to stay the extra night until we could get it fixed. We pumped the tyre up and thought we wouldn't waste the day, so, as luck would have it, we went to the gemfields of Sapphire and Rubyvale to see what that was all about. It was only a 45kms drive so not too bad. At Sapphire we noticed a tyre repairer but of course not open on Sunday. We thought maybe it would be a better place to have it repaired and checked out the caravan park/s to stay the night.

We stumbled on a gem (pardon the pun) of a caravan park in a bush setting with Australian sculptures around the place, camp fires around the place and bird life. Sapphire Caravan Park is fully booked in the winter season so we were lucky to get a spot. Bird life is amazing and of course the wallabies. The rainbow lorikeets are so tame here and come to talk and eat with you all day. Two of them even played at my feet (with my brightly coloured crocs on) like 2 playful little kittens. The facilities are clean and the kitchen well stocked.

Met some lovely people and had cocktail hour with them. We got a whole heap of useful info about where to go around Australia. We also learnt that most of these campers were mad keen 'fossickers'. Before long they were showing or telling us about the gems they have found. They are telling us the value of some of their finds and the dollar signs lit up in my mind. We are now fascinated and hoping to stay another night, fix the tyre hopefully and come home with bucket loads of gems! We ended up staying 3 nights it was soooo good.

What happens is that you go to these little gem shops and pan from buckets that you buy. We have got the word on the best places to get rich! One was at Moniques and the other is at Miners Cottage. Miners Cottage offered a cuppa and scones on certain days. They also teach you how to pan and help you find your gems from the bucket. Most people laughed when I suggested that it was easier to buy the already made up gem at the shop in the form of earrings or the like. It's called 'fossick fever' in my view. They even keep their gems or give it to their kids to make up their own settings. I have some words I've learnt so we don't look ridiculous. A 'bomb' is a big, not so clear sapphire and 'best wash' means that the gems are a better quality in the bucket. Some people even have a claim on a mine and fossick in it every day. They stay for a few weeks or months looking for the big one! The names of some of these shops are funny such as Bobby Dazzler.

We busily bucketed for 2 days with 2 buckets @ $10 each, panning the soil/rocks and looking for the gems.
be careful you might miss one!

be careful you might miss one!

Found a whole heap of sapphire shrapnel and have them in plastic bags. Nobody seems keen to buy them though?? We never got fossick fever but had a go and got a cuppa whilst panning for the gems. Anyone at home want to buy some of our sapphires?
In the meantime Geoff is still trying to finish off his thesis which is now hard to do because he is missing out on the fun at cocktail hour. He was also challenged by day with lorikeets sitting on his armchair and walking over the keyboard. They even slept by his elbow and felt right at home with him.
Hopefully they bring him some good news in a few days with a high distinction or close to that. He is now finished and can finally enjoy the rest of the journey. I am very proud of him completing this. It was hard work for him last year and this year as well.

The characters around Sapphire look like something out of a Ned Kelly movie with long beards and fat guts wearing singlets or skinny legs and beards. Everyone seems to be an expert and the talk is about the finds and where to get things cut/polished. I was told by a gem cutter that ours were too small to cut. There would be nothing left!! You can also get gems cut cheaply in Thailand but if you have anything worth dollars then the it could get swapped for a cheap gem.
The housing here is in tin sheds or old vans/caravans that people live in. Doesn't look like anyone is getting rich from it but it seems to be a hobby. It was fun having a go but we didn't get the fossick fever. Nobody sold their finds.

The last night of our stay we had homemade scones for morning tea and a huge lamb roast at night with our newfound friends. We all contributed and cooked it in the camp kitchen. I brought my oven to cook the pumpkin. The joint effort was fantastic and as my friends will know I love a good feed and especially good cooks. The meal was great and so was the company. Barry and I were sharing a birthday - I say that tongue in cheek - it made the occasion special!!

The big bonus was that Geoff and I got to keep the leftovers and the crumble dessert for the next day at Longreach. This was just in case we would forget them.Thank you Sapphire friends, loved your company and the laughs. Hopefully you will read this and respond sometime if you still remember us?? We will definitely call in and see you if we are invited?? Just offer us a feed!

Next stop Longreach for 3 nights. Still busy here sightseeing but will update later. Looking for the next feed??? Anyone offering! We have gems to barter.

Posted by blondnomad 04:52 Archived in Australia Tagged automotive Comments (7)

Brisbane, Bunya Mtns and Carnarvon Gorge

Our first legs of the journey!

sunny 3 °C

We are currently in Sapphire (about 45kms west of Emerald) and I am blogging at night outside in the semi-cold in my pajamas and crocs!

Sorry for delay in blogging but we have been extremely busy with chores and socialising. Have not had a chance to blog. Had our first beautiful free roast and dessert with newfound friends including scones with jam and cream this morning homemade! More about Sapphire in next blog. It is a worthy entry.

The first week of our trip was internet/mobile out of range. Finally I have a a chance to sit down and do a blog (am competing with Geoff for laptop). We called in to Albany Creek to show off our van to Liz and Fred. My original camper buddy many years ago in Holland. We bought a VW camper with a box on top for head room and it was a bomb. She met Fred in Holland and the rest is history!

Marilyn and Mike accompanied us to the Bunyas. We had a very early start to 'roughing it' at the Bunya Mountains (as you will see in the photo)!!
No power and 4 min. hot showers with a button that needed pushing if you wanted more. This meant sticking your hand outside the shower to push. I didn't think anyone was around so I did. WRONG, a lady walked by just as I opened the door to push the button- there I was stark naked, freezing and desperate for hot water. As Marilyn said if she was older than me (and she was) then she would have been jealous! Thanks Marilyn.

Other than that we had all the luxuries with us as far as eating, sleeping and the dinner at the restaurant just capped things off.

We also experienced a rainy night and bitter cold. 3 layers of clothing to bed, the doona and microfibre blanket. I made a note to get one of those polyester blankets from Coles - yuk but very warm.

We learnt a bit from the experienced campers Mike and Marilyn. Thanks and we wish you well next month on your wedding. Hope we can do it again together in the future. We will at least know the good places to camp.

Next stop was at Roma. An opportunity to contact home but alas this was not to be. Both our phones had lost their battery power and to cap it all off Geoff had left his charger at home. This was a good town to do that sort of shopping . We bought a car charger and the power charger just in case. Also bought one of those polyester blankets and haven't needed it yet. Guess what Marilyn, we bought some tent pegs but have since found the tent pegs after turning the van upside down. They were in the laundry bucket!!

We moved on to Carnarvon Gorge. We had booked for 4 nights. When we saw the beautiful bush setting (and there was a roast on the day we were supposed to leave), we decided to stay the extra night and I'm glad we did. It was a very Australian setting we saw. People huddled around a huge camp fire with a guide talking to them. Also a guy was playing the accordion - Waltzing Matilda and such music. The facilities were fantastic and very communal. We cooked in the camp kitchen most nights and sat around and talked to people.

We have met so many lovely people from all walks of life. One day a dentist and his son set up camp behind us and we had some laughs with them. They had very little equipment for their stay so borrowed our luxuries such as toaster and kettle. On the night of the roast we met a teacher who was taking photos for National Parks around Qld and teaches Film and Television at his school. He knew a lot about editing and making movies so it was right up my alley. Quite a few Qld National Parks have commissioned him to take their video and photos.

The walks around Carnarvon Gorge were fantastic. it was a good as Milford Track in a different way. We were buggered at the end of the 21kms walk but it was worth it and I hope to be skinny before long!
So many side diversions to see such as Aboriginal art and Moss Garden.
After a day of rest we did a 14km walk with some spectacular scenery. The sandstone cliffs certainly make it very beautiful and spectacular.
Geoff in the amphitheatre

Geoff in the amphitheatre

the amphitheatre

the amphitheatre

The only walk we missed was walking up 1000 steps to a lookout over the Gorge. Next visit. We will certainly be back here.

This is a must visit place for anyone who loves scenery, camping and walking. They also have tents already set up so you don't need to bring anything except your food. Check it out - Takarakka camp.

Will hopefully be able to find time to learn how to insert some video footage and a map of some sort. That is if we can squeeze it into our heavy schedule of socialising. Tomorrow will leave for Longreach and will hopefully find some time to tell you about our stay in Sapphire.

Posted by blondnomad 05:00 Archived in Australia Tagged automotive Comments (4)

The one and only test run ......

Byron Bay and Binna Burra

We headed off with all our anticipated goods and chattels to Byron Bay. Tried our new GPS system and the lady didn't lead us too far astray. Had to call in to Mudgeeraba to get measured for mosquito screen off the back of the van. We were to have it fitted on our return. The navigation system was mastered!

Next was Byron Bay. The van drove really well and we are very happy with our choice of size. We had no routine setting up the camp but after not too long we had worked out the awning and all the other bits and pieces. Anyone watching us would have known we were new to this thing. We got the laptop working like a charm for TV. In fact the reception was clearer than the TV in our motorhome. We made a new TV room in the motorhome off the back doors. Under the bed was a perfect place for the laptop - had feet up on the rear fender and cocktail of Baileys! Perfect so far.

The next morning after a restful sleep I got up early to have my cuppa. Thought I could slip out quietly and have tea under my awning and a read of a book. Unbeknownst to me, Geoff had locked the van before he went to bed. I opened the door around 6am and the alarm went off. How embarrassing! Geoff said he wasn't coming out of bed for a few hours due to the embarrassment. Everyone would have worked out by now that we were new to this (including the shiny new van).
Geoff went surfing twice that day on Clarke's beach and we had lovely walks.

On the day we left, we met a couple who had a really nice motorhome. Much bigger than ours with a bed permanently made up. What luxury and a whole lot more space. After showing off each others homes we wound up the awning. I suddenly spotted a huge monster goanna across from us sniffing around someone's tent. They were not there. I freaked. Who would have thought you would see these monsters at the beach. Yuk. What is the NT and outback going to be like? I hate reptiles!!! If I had known I would have stayed inside the van all the time. We had a quick surf at Wategoes Beach and Geoff had lunch in the van.
Geoff's birthday lunch

Geoff's birthday lunch

Nicky's excellent driving skills

Nicky's excellent driving skills

At Binna Burra we were already experienced and got set up a lot quicker. Things went really well. Geoff's birthday, so I shouted him a lovely dinner at the lodge. Yumm. The van is very well insulated and was warm even though it was windy and cold outside. So far so good.
in a routine

in a routine

On the last night I went to brush my teeth and saw a 'shiny stick'. I quickly jumped over it realising it was a snake. It slithered along and I nearly trod on it. New note to make for me 'always bring a torch'. We have made a lot of notes and a list. Some things are to be added and others will have to go. Scrub turkeys everywhere at both destinations. Pity they aren't edible. They are always sniffing around your things for food but I would rather them than a big goanna!!!

Anyway I think we are really going to love this life once we get going. That will be around June 19. We have tenants already which is great. All I need now is a buyer for my car. Until the real journey, blondnomad is signing off.

Posted by blondnomad 00:32 Archived in Australia Tagged automotive Comments (1)

All geared up but not going anywhere....

our new home

Well the motorhome is in our carport and looking good. Apart from the crooked parking at least it is under cover. All we need to do now is learn how to use it! Haven't had time to read the manual but hopefully that will be rectified next week
when we go for a few days on a test run.


Geoff is busily studying and I am busily packing our place. We have decided to rent out our place empty and hence a mad scramble to pack it all before I start work mid May. After that the removalists are due in and we hope to depart on the adventure.

Simple one would say. Only thing is there are a lot of things we want to squeeze into our home and not much room to do it in. The shower/toilet is the new shed and some crates for storage. Trying to stick to the KISS principle is very hard when you are so used to having a fully equipped home.
Relaxation will happen once we have left and all is done.
the relaxer!

Posted by blondnomad 23:29 Archived in Australia Tagged automotive Comments (4)

Finding our travelling home

Where do you start?

Have to apologise for not emailing a lot lately or contacting friends. Have been busily planning a big trip. We have decided to see our own country with Geoff's new found freedom. As we are always going overseas, we thought it was time to see Australia in a motorhome - yes blond and ash blond nomads!!

Ash blond nomad

Ash blond nomad

We have spent the last 2 months busily looking for the ideal 'home' to drive around in - taken quite a few buses, bombs and everything else for a test drive. Some gear crunching in the old buses but decided it was too stressful to drive around in those vans with the old gears. The interior layout was also a challenge. What could we enjoy living with? Finally, eureka - we found the ideal home - it is a Ford Transit motorhome complete with shower/toilet - 2nd hand (Geoff has to clean the can). It is currently being 'touched up' and so we won't receive it until mid April.
Our future temporary home

Our future temporary home

In the meantime we are looking for the useful gadgets that will be required for this trip such as BBQ, tarp, chairs, portable oven, esky fridge for extra food space, mosquito screens to fit into the van etc. Have been to the motorhome/caravan show at the Gold Coast and got a heap of ideas from the displays and also from fellow 'nomads'. There are quite some people travelling around doing the same. Had no idea there are so many and all with a wealth of knowledge to us fledglings! We are the young things in the scheme of things from what we can see, which is a very nice feeling.

Will start our journey around mid June after Geoff has finished his studies and I have finished my job. In that time we hope to fill it with the necessities. Will probably head straight to Ayers Rock via several stops inland and then up to Darwin and follow the WA coastline. We will be leaving out Queensland initially as we can always come back and do that. We have already seen some of Qld coastline but feel we can fill that in when returned. As we have no idea what to expect and how much we will like it, we can't say how long we will be away. We may decide to work along the way as people are doing, this is unknown yet. We will hope to be back by summertime end of this year. Apart from possible floods, the heat is not a good time to travel. We also have travel plans in March next year overseas. If we really like it then we can pick up the journey at a later date - if we are still financial by then???

Our cockatiel will probably be staying with Mike, if he is ok with that.

We will be contactable via email (laptop), mobile phone and skype (when we know how to use it)!

That's our news for now and apologies if we haven't been in touch for a while.

From the blond nomads.
author and traveller

author and traveller

Posted by blondnomad 01:40 Archived in Australia Tagged automotive Comments (0)

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