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Vivid rainbow lorikeets
Emerald, Sapphire, Rubyvale, Banana and Elphinstone. The land of gems, coal, cotton, sugar cane, pineapple and cattle. They are all near or sit on the Tropic of Capricorn. A bit of research reminded us of what we had learned in elementary school, the T of C is the line farthest south you can go and still get a noon day sun directly overhead. It is a semi tropical area around here and the weather is fantastic.
During our travels I have made it a point to take a little time to talk to some locals. It helps put a human face on the country. Our bus driver at Hervey Bay also coaches a girl's fast pitch softball team. He's hoping for a great showing at the games this October in Sydney. He's very proud of his girls.
In Rubyvale, I met Pam who cuts the gems people find and also makes jewelry. The day I brought our find to her she was also monitoring the fire brigade radio so she had no time to cut our gems. Our conversation was interrupted repeatedly by radio calls. We had noticed all the fires and traces of fires since leaving Brisbane and had the impression that all of Queensland was on fire. Pam showed me the fire truck that had been caught in a "blowback" with the driver inside. The driver (a women volunteer) was fine but the entire wiring in the truck plus the fuel line was destroyed, the paint was bubbled. The most interesting thing about it was how matter of fact she was about the whole thing. Her biggest concern was the funding for the brigade. They get only 2,500 (Australian) per year and this was going to take it all. She also sells meat pie trays at the hotel on Sundays to fundraise for the brigade.
I asked our Rubyvale innkeeper about the camels we saw walking around Sapphire. Seems the lead camel is named Capricorn and was the winner of the cross Australia race held a few years back. The others are his kids. She also explained what the fat trees we had been seeing were. Boab trees. Before the Europeans found sources of water in this dry area they used these trees. The tree stores water and when the bark is cut through the men and cattle can drink. Now these trees are always left standing in the paddocks by the ranchers.
A boab tree
At Carnarvon we had great guides. Simon is one of the founders of the guide company. He fell in love with the national park when he came there on a field trip when he was a kid. I can see why. Margie our Mickey's Creek guide declared it a lifestyle choice; she's a trained vet by profession a guide by choice.
We met some very interesting people while on the all day trek. The most interesting was a mixed couple from New Hampshire who had recently lived in China while she taught English at university. They were very interested in Russell's prior trip to China and how much it had changed. Another woman had taken her kids around the world years ago and was very encouraging about our trip.
At Carnarvon we finally got our act together and had great walks with the boys. What that means is we made sure we had snacks with us. I was amazed at the staying power of Cameron and Joss. They loved walking ahead of the group, blazing trail. We lost sight of them so often that finally we broke out the whistles just so we could be sure they hadn't wandered off the trail, a tool I recommend to every parent.
An interesting fact of Australian travel is that you never seem to reach your destination as quickly as you think you should. Speed limits are generally 100 kmph, which sounds really fast. Add the fact that the roads are one lane each way and you can understand why it's a bit slow. Now add to this the wide load factor and reality sets in. We have been stuck behind or forced off the road by wide loads all through our travels here. First you notice flashing lights up ahead then a patrol car with a wide load sign comes heading toward you. Not on his side mind you, on yours, leaving you no option but to hope that the shoulder that slants down at 30 degrees has dirt under all that grass. You manage to get off on to the shoulder just in time for this huge truck to go by hauling, oh say, a water tank or Tonka dump truck on steroids; whatever it is it will take up the entire road. If you're lucky the load was going in the opposite direction from you, unlucky and you're stuck behind it until and if a place comes up for him to pull off, could take a long time. All you can do is wait and watch as he squishes oncoming traffic off the edge. The choice is a patrol car coming toward you or the monster on the horizon ahead of you. We have had both experiences, can't say which I enjoyed less.
Oncoming traffic (note the poor car ahead of us pulled off on the side)
Tomorrow we start back south. We have gone as far north as we needed. We hope to see the Australia Zoo, Glass House Mountains and the big Pineapple on our way down to Brisbane.
All this sounds exciting but nothing at all compares to the news that our grandson Keegan was born today. It's appropriate as today is Father's Day here and Dawn got her sapphire baby after all.
Keegan Ryan (Lee) Miller Schaefer
Born September 1, 2001, 1:24pm
8 lbs 4 oz, 21 inches
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