Sunday, August 29, 2010

Einsleigh Camping Weekend

Chillagoe smelter

A free weekend! Woohoo!
After the Cape York trip, what we needed was more camping! We couldn’t resist the urge to get away from the recent wet weather Cairns and the coast has been experiencing, and the call was go west. The trip out from the tablelands is really beautiful, lots of changing scenery and history galore, for those who wish to find it. It is all in the landscape from Aboriginal peoples to the pioneer cattleman and miners (Ion Idriess wrote many famous stories of this area) to the Second World War and the modern day eco-friendly wind farm.
I reckon there are places around here that if you stay still and listen really carefully, just on dusk, you can hear all these people still in the bush. The aboriginal kids chasing lizards, the miners yarning as they roll a smoke after another hard day digging rocks. The bullocky’s whip cracking as he swears at his reluctant team to haul the huge boiler teetering above them up the impossible slopes to the new field. The young Aussie soldiers stirring each other up during what is supposed to be marching practice. It’s all here, and most of it is just a short walk from the road.
We traverse the ranges, the little Suzuki motor giving all of its 47kw to get up and over the Great Divide. Loaded with only enough gear to make dinner, a cup of tea and sleep comfortably, the trip takes only a few hours. The landscape changes dramatically in those few short hours though. What was lush rainforest and tall rose gum trees is now low shrubs, grey stumps, brown grasses and ironbark trees. There isn’t a lot of shade, but it’s important not to camp under the trees, as they are likely to drop a limb when you least expect it.
The people out here are very welcoming as well, they really appreciate the effort you’ve made to come out and say hello. It’s a genuine friendliness too, the same we experienced on the cape. People willing to stop for a yarn, to answer your questions, and curious to know where you’ve come from and are going to.

First night is at Einsleigh. We pick a spot near the confluence of the Copperfield and Einsleigh Rivers, just below the Copperfield Gorge. The ground doesn’t like tent pegs, and refuses to even consider letting them in, so we find a reasonably level spot, away from the trees, unfold the tent and put the billy on to enjoy the sunset, and clear star-filled night skies.

The next day sees us back in Forsayth, after being away for too many years. We have visited here before, on the Savannahlander train. The town hasn’t changed much, but the atmosphere is still the same. Faded pictures of the towns’ roaring days displayed in the main street, along with notices for the next RFDS clinic and fund raiser for the hospital.
The road to Georgetown is an easy run. The highway back to Mt Surprise full of construction trucks making the new high level bridge over the Einsleigh River.
We detour down the Ootaan road. We have been here before as well. Things have certainly changed along this stretch. It is now a designated road-train road, and is barely recognisable since we last visited about 17 years ago. Luckily, only one road train had to move aside to let the Suzuki pass, so it wasn’t too scary for them.
We set up camp on the banks of the Chillagoe Creek and headed back to the smelters to take far too many sunset photos, once again. The smelters at sunset seem to have that effect on photographers. We know we have already taken that shot, and that one, but we still take it again.
Another lovely clear night, listening to the wallabies thump through the bush on their way to where-ever it is that Wallabies go to at night.
We pack up and head back into the developing coastal grey, only to find out the weekend we left behind has been OK. There hasn’t been any rain and everyone is feeling much better, including us!
If you get the chance, head west to the old goldfields. You will find history, scenery, mighty rivers, gemstones (if you are lucky and actually look for them, unlike us!), wide open spaces, starry nights and good people.
Einsleigh train station
sunset on the Copperfeild River Gorge
Happy Dog!
sunset Chillagoe smelter

The Historic Einsleigh pub