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Saturday, July 24, 2010

The scenic route to Mt Isa - via Boulia

We discovered that travel takes a lot longer when there's another van. There are twice the delays when getting going in the morning as one van usually discovers a problem just as the other is ready, and by the time that's sorted the other van has found something else to fix. When the second van also contains a photographer there seem to be more photo stops, and of longer duration. Oh well, not a bad place to be hanging around waiting.

There weren't too many 'roos out and about, but we did see a couple of camels.

Means of transport and haulage, now and then.

Our favourite section of the road. Amazing colours and formations.

A classic outback sunset to finish of a great day of travel.

Longreach to Winton

We did a few of the tourist things in Longreach. The 747 had bits cut away here and there so we could see into cargo bays, behind wall and floor panels, and in the cockpit. We also enjoyed a stock-whip making demonstration at the Stockmans Hall of Fame.

Just outside Winton, on top of a jump up (mesa), is a great view and the Australian Age of Dinosaurs. It's a fairly new museum with most of their fossils still encased in rock. The tour took us through the work area where staff and volunteers painstakingly remove rock to reveal the fossils within.

You think he would have learnt his lesson...

No, not about the wheel. He did check the tyres and wheels and decided the tyre had rubbed unevenly (similarly to one that was replaced on the other side in Victoria earlier in the year). Since we had quite a bit of dirt road in front of us over the coming weeks we decided a new tyre would be a good call.

No, not the springs. They are cracked, but they're not ours! A cousin has a livestock trucking business in Muttaburra, and he'd cracked a few leaves on one of the trailers.

Yes, something as innocent as these kittens caused the trouble. We'd been standing outside our vans chatting with the family when the kittens from across the road started poking about. The door to mum & dad's van was open and they were about to hop up for a look when they were chased away. When we went to bed it was suggested that the kittens might get up in the car (since the back door was open to ventilate the fridge while the man of the house worked on his computer). A short discussion ensued where I was assured that there was not enough room. Of course, I thought, there was plenty of room, but there was no point pursuing the matter further...

Next morning as we were getting ready to sight-see around the district I was asked to come and smell the back of the car. The cats had been in there. Turns out that when he went to open the car in the morning he was being stared down by two kittens who had spent the night keeping warm next to the fridge compressor. They had been locked in when the back door was closed after the computer work was finished!

It was rather reminiscent of the mouse episode as we sniffed here and there, discovered a message, could still smell something and found the second message. A good clean and a spray with disinfectant and it was back to normal. Maybe now he's learnt...

Outback Queensland is dinosaur fossil territory and Muttaburra is the home of the Muttaburrasaurus. The bloke who found the fossil in 1963 was actually the guy who gave us a tour of the local hospital museum, which has been set up as it would have been back in its day.

Corellas were almost in plage proportions in the town, covering trees and power lines and creating a general nuisance of themselves.

Just before we left town we had a run in the road train out to a property to pick up a load of cattle destined to market. It was amazing how quiet they were and how quickly they were loaded.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

The King of Specking

After a very slow week and a half, finding nothing much in the diggings and only one decent cutter (pictured in the last blog), Dazz finished off with quite a bang. The day after the family left he went out specking in the morning and came home with nothing, reminding himself that perseverence was necessary. After lunch he said he was going for a walk - not serious specking.

'Leanne. Come out here.'

'Hhmmm. He's found one, and has put it on the ground for me to 'find' (since I hadn't found anything this time)' I thought to myself as I went out the door.

'Hold out your hand.'

'I thought you'd put it on the ground for me to find.'

'You wouldn't miss this one!'

As I held out my hand he place a big black rock on my palm. Wow! I held it up to the light and twisted it around. It wasn't clear like the first one, and there seemed to be a crack, but as I turned it this way and that, colour was coming right through. It didn't seem like a bomb.

It was about 3:30 on Friday afternoon. 'We have to go in to town and show the cutter. She might not be there tomorrow.' So vegies were left half cut and we raced in to town. The cutter called us a name that, roughly translates as 'lucky pigs'. It was almost 50 carats. One end definitely has some cracking but the other end looked okay, with some imperfections that may cook out. We won't know until it's cut how big it will turn out, but of course the imagination has been running wild!

On Sunday afternoon he had time for one last speck. Once again my name was called from outside the van, and this time I was pointed in the direction of the road. I had a look around, walked past it and then turned around to see a very obvious sapphire just behind me. This one was the smallest of the three, but will still probably cut a very nice stone. We decided not to take this one in to be cut just yet, but show it off to a few people first.

Now we're at the weir just south of Barcaldine (the photo is what's become of the dead 'Tree of Knowledge'), waiting for Mum & Dad to arrive. Apparently you don't have to be a Dickson to have things go wrong with your van - travelling with them, or just intending to travel with them seems sufficient! While packing the van on the planned departure day the door lock broke and they had to wait for a part, putting them a day behind. Hopefully all the breakages are behind us now!

Friday, July 9, 2010

Through the eyes of children

Dazz likes to teach people about photography, and has recently taken to letting the kids in our life use his old camera, giving them pointers along the way. His nephew took to it with a passion (maybe this is genetic too!), and even put on a couple of slide shows for us. Here are a selection of his favourite photos:

Not to be outdone, his older sister also had a go and produced a great slide show. Here are some of her photos:

Oh, that's right, we were here to fossick. This year there seemed to be more time spent around the camp fire sampling the delights of the camp ovens than digging, but Dazz did speck a very nice sapphire.

Friday, July 2, 2010

A lot of things are genetic

We're well aware of a number of the traits that characterise Dickson males, but the more time we spend with the family the more they become apparent. This year, not wanting to arrive at the Gemfields to choose a camp and dig spot an hour before sunset, we planned an extra stop along the way. The first night Haydo, Meg & the kids made it comfortably to Chinchilla Weir, and so we decided that we would aim to catch up with them (after leaving a most lovely family wedding in Brisbane mid-afternoon). It was a late night for us, but the family awoke to find that the rude people who parked so close to them in the middle of the night were us.

The other van is only on its third trip out, so there's even more to and fro, back and forth, in and out, forgot to do this before that can happen, etc. than happens when we pack up. In the process of all of the packup one of the clips fell closed under the fly bag and as the van was wound up just enough to get the door closed it was noticed that the mechanism wasn't working properly. No one was too concerned - it could be fixed that night.

We meandered our way through country towns taking a little longer at every stop than planned, and so decided to make camp at Rolleston rather than Springsure, since there was the minor repair job to be done. What is it about Rolleston? Readers of our blog with good memories may recall that last year Rolleston was the site of an 'inside oil change' and a towbar that almost fell off...

Plan A was to wind up the top and support it with pieces of wood so access could be gained to the inside to work out what needed to be done. The top was a LOT heavier than expected and as a certain someone wound the handle it didn't seem to be going up. 'A bit more' was yelled, followed by the distinct snap of a metal cable. Hmmm. That didn't sound good.

An inital look inside the cupboards (lying on the floor of the un-popped van) didn't reveal any access into the workings of the machinery. It was a race against the sun and attempts were made to pull off panels from the outside - unsuccessfully. It was quickly decided that our travelling companions would be staying in a cabin, not the unpopped van that night. As light faded and torches were produced it was discovered that there was access through the floor of the cupboards, and the inital problem (caused by the latch that fell closed) was discovered. Fortunately it seemed like it would be easily fixed. The old mate at the caravan park had brought over a roll of wire when he heard the cable had snapped, so a plan was hatched for the morning.

A few hours of daylight and numerous trips to the back of our truck for bits and pieces resulted in a successful fixing of the cable and winder. When the clicking of the ratchet resulted in the lifting of the roof there was much jubilation.

We were back on the road and heading for a sunset arrival again! It didn't take much discussion to decide on a one-night camp in a spot we knew, then the next day we would fill all the water containers and head off looking for the perfect spot to camp and dig for the rest of the time.

This year the chainsaw wasn't left at home, and the cooking fires have been great. Stay tuned for more adventures which will no doubt occur with all the Dickson genes congretated around here.