Australia: Brisbane to Prosepine
by Ian Hawkins © 2000

Ian and Vivienne Hawkins, of Brisbane Queensland, flew from Brisbane to Prosepine in the far north where they hired a car. Throughout their journey, they used caravan parks with wheelchair accessible cabins.

Ian writes, “As far as I  know there are no accessible caravans in Australia. I have been trying to find one but to no avail. We would have to have a specially built one made,  but the cost is prohibitive. The caravan parks we used were those that had accessible cabins. In Australia when the International disabled sign is used it means that there is a wheel- in shower/toilet etc. 

Over the years QANTAS has learnt to how handle wheel chairs, but it still 
very much dependant on the personnel at each airport. So far in our travels  we have had no wheelchair damage. We travel with my wheel chair AND a shower chair in its own bag. This is a handy way for my wife to handle it.

At the moment the Physical Disability Council of Australia is trying to get 
QANTAS to have specially built containers, like the bike boxes, for wheel 
chair transport. The automobile associations in each state publishes accommodation guides. Some of the motels/ caravan parks etc. have the international symbol for either " access with assistance" or "independent access", so we use those places.

Wednesday 30 August 2000

8.45 am. The taxi turned up on time or at least 5 minutes late even though a telephone call had been made to check that the booking had been accepted. On the badgering of the management, I did ring to see where it was, and it turned up immediately. “The taxi driver was mad, making the plane trip a picnic” (a quote from the management). Arriving at the airport to find that the plane was 10 minutes late. QANTAS was at their usual best. We really have them well trained. The plane was a BAE 146 probably the best for comfort in the fleet arrived at Proserpine, the staff there needs a bit more training. At Hertz the lady had every thing organised, complete with an upgrade to a Falcon (a red one, at least 30 KM faster than the rest). First class travel definitely has the edge over the rest. 

Flame Tree Tourist Park
Access to the unit needs a little more thought, but once inside the unit is well designed, except for light switches and the TV control. The bathroom and toilet are well designed. Off to town and chicken stir fry ingredients-good tucker – a few beers and wine and everything is good in the world. Booked a boat trip for Friday.

Thursday 31 August 2000
Went to Bowen. What a poor town. Brilliant beaches, - but no accessible accommodation. Lunch at the pub (Grandview) after trouble finding some where to eat. Nice steak sandwich. The view from Flagstaff Hill is something to be seen. Bowen is a town with murals on many of the walls; some good--others leave a lot to be desired. 

The coal loader at Abbot Point was closed due to an industrial dispute, so we watched the trains being unloaded from outside the fence. Back to Bowen. The museum is not accessible; the gardens are not accessible. What a shame as they both looked good on paper. Back to the Coral Sea Dioramas. A bit of a struggle to get in. but with a lot of grunt and sweat we gained admission. A great deal of work, forethought and effort has gone into the presentation, a credit to the community and the volunteers. Well done. Bought Viv a hat and sunscreen. Dinner at the Greeks place in Arlie Beach – enough said. Back to the unit to sleep perhaps to dream.

Friday 1 September 2000
The day started well. Fused all the electricity in the unit, it turned out to be the jug cord. When the manager bought over the new one she informed us that the boat trip had been cancelled due to lack of patronage. Looked at alternatives but none seemed to be suitable. Settled on a tour of the Wildlife Park. Breakfast and off down the track to Cedar Falls. A pretty place with secluded valleys of pandanus and red cedar trees. Big surprise. No water, no falls due to the current drought. Onwards to Conway’s Beach. This must be the place that the locals go for their holidays. There was next to no one about. No shops, only houses. Anyway, the view from the beach was great. The islands, the other side of the inlet and the clear blue water, a vision to behold. 

The wildlife show was just about to start. The tour guide/owner Bob Bredl, after telling us what he knew, how he knew it, and what it all meant proceeded to feed some rats to two western taipans. They accepted their meal but only after being woken up. They seemed to know what was expected of them; so after some handling they ate their dinner/lunch breakfast whatever. Down a fairly steep slope to the furry exhibition. Here one of the staff bought out two Bettongs, a Brush Tailed Possum, a Northern Brown Bandicoot, and one very large cane toad, (oh, for a piece of 3x2), and a one very tired Koala. He seemed to be saying “Why do I do this for a living?” They were all handed around except the toad. I wonder what it is like, not to be loved by anyone? The Koala was fed gum leaves and the non-locals oohed and arhhed in the right places and formed queues to have their photos taken with them. The Bettongs were only about 3-4 months old but were very active. 

Off to the crocodile pens. Here we were told that crocodiles are misunderstood, and that no one loves them and that Rod would be their champion. Well, he’s welcome to them. I am still yet to be convinced. Lunch and off to the raptor’s cage. A steep hill, much shoving and grunting and we were there. What a smell, but there they were in all their glory. Eagles, hawks, falcons, and owls all free to fly around their huge cage. A mesh screen protected the populace. Back to the unit, a sleep and it’s dinnertime. The disabled parking space was just opposite the Mexican Cantina. The staff was great. Nachos, tortillas, etc. as it was a BYO we walked around the corner to the bottle shop to purchase a Gramp’s Chardonnay. Pretty good. A doggie bag- Jonathan Creek and off to bed. Would have been better just off to bed.ll

Saturday 2 September 
Down to Arlie Beach markets. Bought a chocolate sapote. Onto the main drag to purchase t-shirts etc. Refused to pay $1.09 per litre for petrol. A pleasant drive to MacKay. To the tourist centre and across the road to the Boomerang Hotel for lunch. Onto the caravan park. The unit is not to Australian Standards but it will be adequate. Book in and off to the Canelands shopping centre. Bought what we needed, watched Inspector Badger and off to bed- better than JC. The bed was a bit small and the noises from the railway yards carried but we will survive. 

Sunday 3 September 2000
Breakfast and off to the Victoria St. markets. Lost, asked directions at a boat repair shop, and I thought that the bloke was going to take Viv’s hand and take her there. Watched a bloke wood turning, and he gave us a wooden hand carved top. He also made an offer for Viv’s hat. Said it would make a good water storage unit. Mr Frost was cutting out animals on a band saw. He gave me a crocodile to undo and put it back together again. The cuts were not parallel to each other, so he gave us it. It is now called Mr Jack Frost crocodile. Around the rest of the markets. They block off a section of the street and run the markets every week. Very simple purchases – breathe easy, date slice and that was about it. The view from Slade’s Hill was great. Down to Hay Pt. where there were 9 ships at anchor waiting to their turn to load. The foundry markets were a waste of time. Back to the Victoria St. markets and lunch at Gordo’s, nachos and panni (hollowed out and filled with cheese sauce, bacon, capsicum, onion, etc. and placed in oven until crisp) not bad. Followed the heritage trail. There are some magnificent old original buildings, including an up-market toilet that sings whist you do your business. I could be tempted to say, “It does its business whilst you do yours”. A quick tour past the Raceview sugar mill and back to the unit, a quite beer on the balcony dinner and watched Seachange. Off to bed, it was bloody freezing. We found out in the morning that the air conditioner was on reverse cycle, so we will not be cold tomorrow.

Monday 4 September 2000
Off to Sarina via Hay Point coal loader. Boy are they big. One is 4.5KM and the other much smaller at 2.7 KM. Total of 10 million tonne per year. The mind boggles. Coal, coal glorious. Coal nothing quite like it to keep BHP prosperous, or something like that. The trains are 136 trucks long. 2 engines, 68 trucks, 2 engines, 68 trucks onwards ever onwards. 54 tonnes per truck 54x136 = lots of tonnes of coal. The view from the hill over looking the site is fantastic. Out to sea 35 KMs, up north to MacKay and at least 30 KMs south to whereever.Sarina- "see Sarina and die." No, that’s not right- one flash and you are through it. 

The craft shop ladies were lovely. After much lady like BS, a mug bag was purchased. Labelled Sarina Arts and Crafts Centre. The ladies also wanted to buy Viv’s hat. Maybe she should sell it and make a profit? On to Homebush silk and silver exhibition. What a failure They seem to have an over sense of value. The General Gordon pub, originally built in 1860, this makes it one of the oldest pub in the district. The barmaid was a South Sea Islander or …….. A couple of beers and pies for lunch, life is great in the sunshine state, or so it seems. We were given a history of the area collated by some one in the pub. A good history collation like this should be saved for and protected for the future. Back to town. Victoria St. craft shop (Jacol’s). More lady type BS and fat tarts. Back to Canelands shopping centre to buy some essentials (wine and what else did you want)? On to Steins for whatever. More lady type BS and fat tarts. Back to the unit for a beer or three, dinner and bed.

Tuesday 5 September 2000
After breakfast down the Nebo Rd. towards Eungella National Park. Canefields, canefields nothing but bloody canefields. Canefields to the left of us, canefields to the right. My kingdom for a decent pub. Just out of Marion is Dame Nelly Melba’s house when she was married to the mill superintendent. It was shifted to its present site by the Mirani Shire and restored to its former glory. The site is the home of the biggest chook toilet in the world. Mirani Museum the Shire can be proud of its folk museum, and it’s well worth the effort to stop for a look. 

Finch Hatton Gorge, crossing the creek lotsa times gave us a good idea of what the countryside would have looked like when the dinosaurs roamed the land. The gorge was dry, so the waterfall was not falling, and the gorge was not gorging, but a good time was had by all. Lunch at the Pinnacle Pub and Wendy’s famous pies. No wonder they are famous; they were bloody magnificent. We also found out why it is called the Pinnacle cricket club, as the bowlers have to run up a step slope at each end, the pitch is flat. Thank goodness for small mercies. 

Onwards the intrepid explorers go up the hill to the Broken River guesthouse. What a view. The hill climb would do justice to Lakeview. At one stage the climb is 1:12. The road is as wide as the track beside our house. At Broken River the rain forest was great. OK, now we have to turn around and return. 
List of wildlife sighted. (1) black snake
(2) bustard
(3) coucal
(4) willy wag tails
(5) magpies
(6) pied butcher birds
(7) tortoise on log in river
(8) carpet python

Took photos of the local ambulance station and the Pinnacle cricket ground. Across country to the daylily farm. The people must have known that we were coming as they were closed. Picked up meat from Jamie’s Meats. Very weird the shop has china butcher animals everywhere. Back to the unit for rest and recreation.

Now a word from the sponsor. But there was washing to do! Sometimes in life turns have to be taken –clothes driers in a community laundry being one example. We (unknown to each other) folded each others washing- it was smile making to go to a laundry to find the drier still working with some else’s wet washing and ours dry and neatly folded on the ironing board- thank you unknown person! I’d taken her towels out earlier and folded them so I could use the drier! And I saw a glossy green tree frog on the way.
That is the end of the sponsor’s message.

Wednesday 6 September 2000
The day dawned; also it dawned on us that we had a long drive ahead of us-- MacKay to Emerald. A quick shop more knives and some CDs from Silly Sollys. Then off into the wild blue yonder. Go west young people. The cane farms gave way to hills that were reasonably steep. Then onto the western downs. The country looked similar to western NSW (strange that). We bypass all the towns; they seem to be 1.2KMs off the road. Had to stop several times for road works, I think that the workers have bets on how many vehicles they can hold up. We were delayed at one point for 10-15 minutes on repairs that were only 200-300 M long. After the “traffic controller” had held up 57 cars and trucks, he then let us go. Good trick. Off the road along the edge of the scrub, I watched a pure bred dingo padding along. Anything to break the monotony. 

Clermont for lunch (the Grand Hotel- it was not). Viv helped the economy of the struggling country town by buying a new backpack. Back to Blair Athol mine. The buggers would not let us in. Through Capella to Emerald. The motel is a bit, no a long way up itself. I think that is a reflection on its owners. Dinner at the restaurant not bad. The room was quite good, but the bed will have to be raised by about 75MM.

Thursday 7 September 2000
Breakfast at the motel. Viv’s was not too bad. Enough said about the rest. Told owner about the sticky lock and the height of the bed. He said he would have them fixed. Off to Anakie. First stop “The Big Sapphire”. Here we bought a bucket of gravel and proceeded to wash and make our fortunes. Oh well! Next time. Viv checked out the jewelry – maybe we will come back later. Up the road to Sapphire. After checking out Bobby Dazzlers walk in mine- it was closed we ended up at the Heritage Walk In Mine”. Viv went to check it out, and I waited with baited breath. About 1 hour later she came back all enthusiastic for what she had seen and described all to me. The description was so good that I felt that I had been there. 

Off to the “New Royal Hotel” for lunch, which turned out to be a huge ham and salad roll complete with mayonnaise. Yuck!!! The pieces of ham were huge, very tasty. Back to the Heritage Mine and a bucket of gravel. We were getting pretty good at this fortune seeking, good at the seeking…… We found some good pieces, but once again, alas, no fortune. 

Back to Emerald, passed the local, but we were not tempted. Bought tomorrow’s breakfast from the local bakery and were told that the Emerald Star Hotel was a good place for a feed. Called into the Botanical Gardens. They had tried very hard and it was a credit to the shire and its people. The door had not been fixed, but upon opening it the owner and one of his mates turned up with an extra mattress. The door lock would need a locksmith. To the room and booked the local accessible taxi for 6.30pm to go to the pub for dinner. The taxi driver was mad,  but we made it. He told the staff that he would be back and that we needed help down the steps. All solved, the dinner was good. The taxi turned up on time but took us back by the scenic route (amazing both cabs were on time). 

Friday 8 September 2000
Slept in. A leisurely breakfast of apple turnovers and coffee. What will we do today? I don’t know. Back to Sapphire to look for earrings. Called into Pat’s and washed a bucket of gravel, got some good xstals. But once again our fortune eluded us. Pat told us that one of the pieces that we found could have been cut but for the crack in it. What a bummer!! You win some, you lose some. Morning tea, fresh scones, jam, cream, and coffee, were real good and well worth it. We inspected Pat’s display but she did not have anything suitable. She suggested that we go to Mad Mick’s, just up the road from the pub. 

Back to the New Royal for their terrific ham and salad rolls (no mayo thank you for small mercies). That made all the difference better than yesterday’s beaut lunch. Mad Mick’s no go, off to Faye’s, around and around. Faye’s turned to be just around the corner. Yes, she had exactly what Viv wanted. So Fay was commissioned to set the chosen stones. Come back in ˝ hour and they will be ready. Back to the Heritage Mine and took some photos, back to Fay’s. Nothing had been done; one of the stones was slightly lighter than the other. Who could tell the difference? 1/2 hour later after a visa card, as well as a deposit on a cat they were finished. They looked great. Back to the motel. A quick beer or two, then off to Abc Chinese Restaurant, no M.S.G. a good feed. Watched McCallum then off to bed.

Saturday 9 September 2000 
Got ourselves organised, a short breakfast (we will get something at Capella), petrol at the cheapest place in Emerald at the Woolworths. Quite a queue, but well worth the wait. Then off to the Capella Pioneer Village Craft and Machinery Fair. Listened to the Capella Choristers, not bad. Bought some marmalade and capsicum chutney. Watched the old machinery working and the mechanical making of rope. Looked at the craft stalls and was told that the building was the original Peak Downs homestead. Chatted with an ambulance driver and his wife on the wood turning stall. We told them about the mulga logs at the side of the road where they had been pushing up scrub as cattle feed a good source of timber. Had a type of lunch at Cappella. A stone, a single stone thrown up by a truck going in the other direction resulted in a chip in the windscreen. Oh well, it can’t be helped. Onto Rocky. The drive was hot and long. Tried to get onto Blackwater coal mine--no go. Had a rough look from the outside. . A fence, a big hole and onto Dingo. Took a photo of the dingo guarding Dingo. 

At Comet we stopped to see the replica of a tree carved by Edward Leichhardt. Another credit to the locals. Past Stanwell power station and onto Rocky info centre. Got a map to show us where to the caravan park was. First accommodation disaster. No the unit was not wheelchair friendly, but Noel the owner went out of his way to be helpful. Showed Viv another unit and offered to take the door off the shower. And he did. Settled in and off to the bistro and dinner with the Australian Olympic track cycling team (ATCT).  I asked Noel if the team would sign a t-shirt for me. Yes, just get one and place it in the pile. A pleasant dinner, back watched Inspector Badger and off to bed.

Sunday 19 September 2000
Viv wants to show off to ATCT, but there is no one around. Still managed to lock her out of the unit. Pulled the cushion off chair and went and opened the door. Breakfast and onto the info centre to find out about local markets and the tourist route. Looked for the local market, could not find one, so along the tourist route to the market at the Causeway. A good one learned about star apples. 

Onto lunch at the Emu Park pub. Service slow and definitely not worth waiting for. The beaches along this part of the coast are great and not discovered as yet, eat your heart Gold Coast. Onto the Highfield National Park and state forest, no fringe lilies out so we could not tell which was which. We could not sort the grass from the grasses. The lunch at the pub put us behind time. Dinner at the bistro, where there was a frantic swap session going on. SOCOG had done it again. Even though the team had been measured for their uniforms, etc., when they arrived they did not fit, so the swap session. Noel took our t-shirt and placed it in the pile for the team to sign. They were not all there that night but he said that they would sign it by the morning. Off to bed. 

Monday 11 September 2000
Breakfast at the bistro and a talk to some of the ATCT. Next stop, Olsen’s caves. The lady at the kiosk says that the way up is a bit steep but one of the staff will help. She was right it was a ”bit” steep. Scot did a great job and the effort was well worth it. The sound of music in the cathedral chamber was good, but not as good as the Pom who sang “Walking His Bulldog” to the tune of “Waltzing Matilda” Tea and scones for morning tea. Thought that we would try the local for lunch – no go--not accessible. 

Onwards to the Dreamtime. Had a pie and no beer (not very Australian). There are several guides each with their own expertise. First was the talk about the sand block country around Carnarvon Gorge. The people that originally inhabited the area were called “The Stencil People”, for their habit of using charcoal and ochre to draw/blow hands, etc. on the gorge walls. Into a “cave” to look at a comparative history and how the cockies ordained kings, so that they could have more control over the local aboriginal population. The lovely Jane explained the differences between Torres Strait Islanders and the Mainland aboriginals. At the boomerang throwing area, my boomerang nearly came back. But the bloke showing us the technique was good. Thank goodness that hunting and gathering has gone out of vogue, as most of us would have starved. The digeroo player, (after his boomerang throwing show) was great in both his digeroo playing and his explanation of what it was used for in some of the ceremonies as well as how to play it. Whilst it appeals my lung capacity would not stand up to it. On the way out, had a good talk to both the boomerang/digeroo player and the Stencil People guides. A quick trip to the zoo to find out that feeding time was 15.10, not 15.30 as advertised. Managed to get rid of our carrots and cabbage to the kangaroos, cassowary and a couple of kids. Dinner at the bistro, not as good as previous. No ATST as they had all left for Sydney and the games. Watched the last episode of the Games, a bit disappointing. Off to bed to sleep.

Tuesday 12 September 2000
A quick breakfast, (as we had forgotten to get anything), and eventually off to Mt. Morgan. Back to the unit as we had forgotten the papers for the car, and they will be needed when we return it to Hertz. We set off again; the view from the top of the Mt Morgan Ranges was spectacular. We could see all the way back to Rocky. The road is not as windy as the one to Kuranda, but it narrow and is not suitable for long loads and some types of caravans. First stop, the info centre at the old railway station. Here we met an old guy who knew all. Boy could he talk. He suggested the Gold Nugget for lunch. There were a lot of old buildings around town, expensive to build in their day but all well preserved now. The first lookout gave us a great view of the whole (hole) of Mt. Morgan. There is still an exploration team in the huge hole in the ground that once was the Mt. Morgan Mine, the richest gold mine in Australia in its time. Whilst looking for the second lookout, we ran into a bus tour an two blokes dressed as members of the Light House, complete with emu feathers. We stopped and were invited to come closer and listen in. This we did. The old bloke, who claimed to be the boss and could talk the hind leg of a donkey, was a mine of information re the Light Horse and their escapades in the Palestine Desert during the First World War. Viv learned a lot. Lunch at the Gold Nugget, a good country pub lunch. On to the Museum, the Mt. Morgan Mine had given the community a great deal of items and documentation regarding their operations and the community and the Shire had put it all together very well. The museum is run by volunteers and well worth the visit. Back to the unit.

Wednesday 13 September 2000
Up early and off home. The cab arrived on time. The driver was another mine of information, and we offered our services for his code of wheel chair cab driver ethics. Railway coffee at Rocky has not altered in the 2 years that we were here last. It is still terrible. Also waiting at the station were a group of kids, all excited, as they were to perform at the opening of the Olympic Games soccer at the Gabba. They were so enthusiastic. As it turned out, more kids were picked up at Gladstone and other stations down the track. The staff on the train was excellent. Nothing was too much trouble for them. The corridors and the toilet were w/c friendly. They tied the chair down and the train took off on time. The maximum speed reached was 160KM per hour. Once the motion of the train was compensated for, the journey was easy. This first class travel definitely has a lot going for it. Orange juice, morning tea (coffee and pastries), real coffee, a choice of mains and deserts, plenty of liquid refreshments. At Roma St. station, the upgrade had made the place dirty, mud everywhere. The cab driver was caught up in the power politics. The traffic controller not only thought he was god but played the part well, holding up the traffic for no apparent reason except his will. This made everyone cranky, including the driver. At last home, another adventure was over.

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