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  • Keef Hellinger

Blog 188 - Jones Family Road Trip Sydney 2 Rockhampton, Queensland, Australia, 1969 - Retrospective

Updated: Dec 18, 2022

Created by KeefH Web Designs, December 3rd, 2022, 07.13 AM

A KeefH Web Designs Travel Blog

Genealogy Trip No 2 & Not the Motorhome trip No 21: August-September, 1969


INTRODUCTION

This is a very retrospective blog, during the winter months of November and December 2022 I decided to translate most of the handwritten diaries we hold in our Family Tree data to supplement our Genealogy info featured here under the Family tab, good website design, backing up audiobooks, videos and slideshow with text. Enjoy!


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  1. Diary

  2. Audiobook

  3. Videos with audiobook overlay showing relevant and irrelevant areas of Australia, cars, and images from places visited, created via Clipchamp by KeefH Web Designs

  4. Trailer

DIARY

Rockhampton Tropic of Capricorn sign 1969
We visited this in 2007-8, Jean & Wilfrid 1969, Rockhampton

Jones family holiday to Queensland, Sydney to Rockhampton, written by Wilfrid Masters Jones, this is an account of the Jones family’s winter holiday, taken at the end of August 1969, in Australia. There were five of us, myself, my wife Jean, and twin daughters Anne & Margaret (aged 15) and my son Brian (aged 13). We headed north from Sydney, crossed the border into Queensland and travelled up the road known as Highway 1 with the intention of reaching Proserpine. Australia has often been described as a country of strange contrasts and we found this, even on our short tour of 2,000 miles. We passed from floods to drought conditions in a distance of 200 miles and changed from a bitter cold wind coming off the sea at Port Macquarie to the heat of a tropical sun at Rockhampton. We passed through Buderim, a land flowing with milk and honey to a drought-stricken area of dead trees, scorched grass and dried up creeks, where the cattle were being moved south in an effort to save them from starvation. We found a contrast in accommodation too. One night we slept in a beautiful glass fibre caravan and on another occasion in a single decker bus, about 30 years old, which had been converted by a very amateur carpenter. Knowing that we would find bad roads I had new rear springs fitted to the Rover and carried quite a few spares. We had two tents on the roof and carried complete cooking equipment. I removed the windscreen washer bottle from the side of the engine and made a wire basket to carry a kettle, three saucepans, a meths stove and five enamel plates, which all fitted between the exhaust manifold and the wing. It looked odd, but it made quite a talking point whenever I lifted the bonnet to take on oil at a garage. I also removed the arm rest from the front seat to make space for a first aid kit and my wife’s handbag. The car alone weighted 30 cwt (hundredweight) and when fully loaded it must have been well in the region of two tons. I think some of our Aussie friends thought that they would never see us again, because we had warnings about staying with the car if we broke down and not trying to get help. I know there are some regions in the north where the police refuse permission to proceed any further unless one has a Land Rover. There must be thousands of these go anywhere vehicles in Australia, giving good service in rough country. Well, we started our safari at 6 am on a Saturday morning. Rain was falling, but we hoped that as we proceeded north up the Pacific Highway the weather would improve and so it did, after two days of torrential rain which at times slowed us down to 15 m.p.h. Some roads were flooded but fortunately not enough to hold us up. At O’Sullivan’s Gap we passed through our first rain forest, and it was so heavily wooded that we had to put our headlights on. We slept in motels or caravans, as camping was out of the question and spent our first night at Port Macquarie. We found a motel on top of the cliffs and took a family suite. I thought any port in a storm. The rain was coming off the sea and just running from the car to our quarters got us wet through. We left Port Macquarie the next morning after the proprietor had given us a large sheet of plastic to put over all our belongings on the roof rack. Our canvas sheet was no match for tropical downpours. On the second day we came to a place called the banana bowl, acres of banana plantations growing on steep slopes. This area is supposed to have the most equable climate in Australia. Average winter temperature 67°F and in the summer 80°F. Each banana plant produces a bunch of about 300 fruits every 18 months. The plant is then cut down and a new one grows out from the base. A good bunch can weigh from 70-100 pounds. Growers use coloured plastic bags to help ripen the fruit and this makes a strange sight when seen from a distance. The bags are a light blue colour, and it appears to every traveler passing by that they are growing balloons on the trees. On approaching Grafton, we had a drive through floods six inches deep and progressed very slowly in bottom gear. I called at the NRMA office to find out if there were floods ahead, we wanted to turn back after 400 miles. Whilst waiting for them to phone I bought a canvas tarpaulin and some rope at a government surplus store and we lashed everything down on the roof, guessing that wind would be our next hazard. We were too early in the season to see the famous Jacaranda avenues in bloom, so we bought a picture postcard instead. We crossed the Clarence River which was in flood and looked like the Mississippi. At Tweed Heads we had just erected our 2 tents when a hurricane arrived, blowing off the sea bringing most of the sea with it. We found under these conditions the tents were not waterproof and so it was necessary to pack up in double quick time and bundle everything in the car. Jean tried to find accommodation for us in the town, but everybody had gone to earth, and so we had to sleep in the car, all 5 of us. The third day brought us to a stretch of beach known as the Gold Coast, and Surfer’s Paradise, a brash holiday resort very much akin to the French Riviera with concrete hotels, neon signs and various devices for extracting the visitor’s money – we passed on. The following day we came to Glasshouse Mountains but could only see the base of two of them, because of the low rain clouds. We had no idea how spectacular they were until we saw them on the return journey.

On the fifth day the weather improved, and we found ourselves in sugarcane and had never seen pineapples growing before. They are cultivated on slopes facing the sun where there is good drainage. A detour then brought us to Buderim, a place we had read about in England and wanted to see because of its amazing fertility. The soil is unbelievably red, and produces strawberries, pineapples, and ginger of very fine quality. We spent an hour touring round a ginger factory, the only one in the southern hemisphere we were told. By the way Buderim is the aboriginal word for honeysuckle. We thought the place was rather aptly named. On our return to England, we found Merry bud Ginger could be bought in most of the better-quality shops. On the sixth day we passed through more sugarcane plantations and noticed they were usually on flood plains alongside wide rivers. The cane factories run their own railways called trams and the lines cross the roads with no gates or barriers of any sort. We came to a town called Gympie, where 170 dollars’ worth of gold had been mined about 100 years ago. The few remaining homes were built up on stilts to get a flow of air underneath during the hot weather, at least that’s what we were told, but I think it probably has something to do with snakes. It was about here that we were climbing a steep hill and came up behind a heavy lorry struggling up in bottom gear. The road was narrow, and I was wondering if there might be an opportunity to pass when I suddenly noticed the letters TNT painted on the back. Now in England it is the law that any vehicle carrying explosives must have the fact painted on the lorry and TNT to me meant trinitrotoluene. If that lorry was loaded, I thought, there was enough explosives to flatten the whole of Paramatta and if it was likely to go up, I preferred to be in a different part of Australia when it happened. So, I pulled off the road and let the mobile bomb get ahead for a few miles. It was sometime afterwards that I discovered what TNT meant in Aussieland and we all had a jolly good laugh. We were now a thousand miles north of Sydney and the temperature was rising. The next town on Highway 1 was Childers, in the midst of sugarcane country and we stopped for petrol and a picnic lunch. I got talking to a cane harvest contractor and was complaining about the heavy rain we came through earlier that week. He said, “pity you haven’t bought some with you, the last time it rained here was on Christmas Day”. That was nine months ago, so we had passed from floods to drought country within 200 miles. As someone said, it was so dry you had to be primed before you could spit! My children were very amused by our visit to Childers. It was exactly like one of those Texas ranch towns one sees in westerns, with swinging doors to the pubs, verandas over the shops and a main street which was just about shooting distance wide. One could imagine 2 stockmen coming out of opposite pubs and whipping out their six-shooters. The men wore wide brimmed hats and at midday the place was quiet as Tombstone in the film High Noon. The weather seemed to be set fair, so we decided to camp alongside a dried-up creek, on a space set aside for travellers called a rest area. This was provided with a fireplace, kindling wood and toilets, by the department of main roads. There was a gas station near the only sign of habitation we had seen for many miles. We pulled in at 4p.m and everybody had a job to do, as we had two tents to pitch, get a meal and wash up before 6pm when darkness falls suddenly. We were running low on water and offered to buy some from a petrol station. They were using bore water, running a Lister engine to pump it up and gave us two gallons. We carried a folding table with four seats, all combined, which was a great asset. I always think a meal on the ground is more of a picnic for the ants than the humans. I unloaded the roof rack while others prepared a meal and pumped up the beds. In less than an hour we were having our tea and supper combined. There were several brilliantly coloured parakeets flying about in the tops of trees and bullfrogs were complaining to each other concerning the shocking shortage of water. We turned in at 6pm, pretty tired, as we had done 260 miles that day, some of it on really rough roads. As it turned out it was fortunate that we were tired for we discovered that we had chosen a campsite within 50 yards of a creek bridge. There was no harm in this if it hadn’t been for the fact that most of the planks on the bridge were loose and as soon as it got dark all the heavy lorries in Australia decided to make for Cairns, crossing the bridge like a herd of elephants stampeding in a drum factory. The next day we rose at 5am but couldn’t strike camp until 8.30am because the tents were wet with dew. When we did get going, we found ourselves in real outback country and saw something we had been looking for – an aboriginal stockman sitting well back on the rump of his horse watching over 500 head of Hereford cattle. Because of the drought they were being moved south along recognised stock routes and sometimes these routes paralleled the road. Miles and miles of barren country, no grass, all the trees dead and no animals or birds. At least, so we thought, until a two-foot lizard crossed the road in front of us. He froze on seeing us coming and I straddled him with the wheels. This was lonely country, with mountain ranges to our left and the Pacific about 5 miles off to our right and it was here that we had our worst moment of the whole trip. The bitumen road suddenly changed to rough corrugated gravel, and it was on the brow of a hill. I did not see the change in surface in time and we took a series of potholes at speed, which nearly shook our teeth out. When I depressed the pedal to accelerate the engine roared up and I found that I had no drive. Immediately a broken back axle came into my mind as the car was slowing to a stop. How far was help, I wondered and what could I do about it? As there was no grating noise, I thought I would try third gear, in case of a gearbox failure, and to my relief the drive picked up again. I then realised what had happened. The gear lever had jumped from top to neutral with the shocks from the road. When I returned to work and told them what a scare we had had, someone said “that’s not unusual here. Whenever I go into rough country, I get my wife to tie the gear lever to the floor with a piece of string once I’ve got into top!” The further north we got the warmer it became, and we passed cars with canvas water bags hanging from bars in front of the radiator. These bags hold about two gallons of water, and this is apparently the only way to carry it in high temperatures. It would be very hot water if carried in the boot. The evaporation through the canvas lowers the temperature of the water and keeps it cool enough to drink. It is something to do with the kinetic energy of molecules, but you will know all about that anyway. At midday we arrived at the Tropic of Capricorn and stopped to have a look at an aluminum pylon erected to mark the exact latitude of 23.5°. The temperature was 85°F and we had crossed into the tropics. We were approaching Rockhampton and passed a lake with hundreds of herons and pelicans. Rockhampton was our furthest point north. It was a fine city with wide streets and coconut palms down the centre, blazes of colour everywhere with bougainvillea and poinsettias. Average temperature in the winter is 67°F and only exceeds 95°F for 17 days of the year. It has been known to go up to 114°F. We had hoped to go further north than this but the very bad weather we encountered at the start of our tour forced bus to cut back our programme because of time. Rockhampton was the best place we’d found so far, very clean and tidy with an obvious civic pride and very prosperous looking. We spent two nights in Rockhampton in a beautiful fibre glass caravan with a Morphy Richards fridge and electric cooker. A laundry was available with plenty of hot water and all the services the traveler could want. The trams ran down the centre of Rockhampton, the driver ringing a bell to warn absent-minded motorists. We found the people in Queensland very friendly, and they live at a much slower pace than the Sydneysiders. On our second day at Rockhampton, we visited the copper mine at Mount Morgan, having a three-hour conducted tour. An open cut mine, 900 feet deep – the ore contains copper, silver and gold and the whole production goes to Japan. We saw the complete process from mechanical digging to ingot pouring. The ore is ground to a fine powder and separates out by a floatation process leaving slurry of copper, silver, and gold. This is reduced to molten metal and poured into ingots weighting about 2 hundredweight each. When we reached the retorts, they were just about to pour five tons of metal and we saw the most spectacular fireworks display with sparks bouncing on the steel floor in all directions, the intense glare from the molten stream of metal and the showers of sparks made the place look like Dante’s Inferno. I turned away to shield my eyes from the terrific heat and found I was facing one of the foundry workers. He had his name on a metal badge riveted to the front of his steel helmet, Alf Brimstone. I could hardly believe my eyes! When I got home, I looked up the Oxford English Dictionary and there it was Brimstone, the fuel of hell fire. I thought Charles Dickens couldn’t have thought up a more appropriate name if he’d tried. In the afternoon the botanic gardens were visited in Rockhampton were visited and I discovered a new parking hazard. One had to look upwards before parking the car. Many palm trees were carrying coconuts and if one of these dropped on the roof from 35 feet it would have left quite an impression. That evening we were preparing to turn in when my daughter Anne spotted a large spider making for the light in the doorway. The sun had set, and I suppose the light attracted him in the caravan. He was on the side of the van, and I had nothing in my hands at the time, so I whipped out my knife and took a stab at it. This seemed to interfere with his steering mechanism, and he started to go round in circles, so I knocked him on the ground and trod on him. This was the first time we had seen a large spider since we came out to Australia, but of course we were in the tropics. The following day we started the return journey and I drove 355 miles before 6 in the evening. I forgot to mention something we saw on the way to Mount Morgan. The road climbed up over a mountain range and there were some very tight hairpin bends. To stop drivers from taking these bends too fast the council had put posts in the middle of the road. Anyone taking a corner too fast and swerving out across the wrong side of the road might or might not live to regret it. We’ve travelled in several different countries but never seen this done before. I felt much safer when taking the outside of a sharp bend with a drop of 509 feet on my left. On our way back we saw the Glasshouse Mountains again, but this time in fine weather. What a fantastic sight they were rising straight up from the pineapple groves like cones or candle snuffers. It was Captain Cook who gave them their name.

At Brisbane we turned inland and left Highway 1 for a district called New England, with many Scottish names such as Glen Innes, Ben Lomond, Aberdeen, Warwick, Ipswich & Puddle dock. We even came across a Welsh name - Llangollen. This was a rich tableland of pasture, citrus plantations, and grain fields. We climbed up through Cunningham Gap to the Darling Downs. When we reached Stanthorpe it was late afternoon and we started looking for a caravan site. We had left it rather late for camping and for hiring a caravan too, for all we could get was a converted bus. When the Queensland border was reached, we went through the tick gate. An inspector examined the contents of our boot, saying he was looking for rocks and plants. I thought that fruit was the forbidden import. We now wished we had brought back some cheap pineapples. We had seen these at Nambour. After the tick gate we pushed on to Tenterfield, the town of willows. You cannot imagine what a lovely sight it was to see the fresh green of waterside willows after the grey green, sun scorched eucalyptuses that we had passed for miles earlier on. Seeing a nice creek which looked a likely place for prospecting the children tried their hand at gold panning and looking for gems. Although it was very rough there was plenty of room for the five of us and what it lacked in amenities it made up for in novelty. My children thought it was just the ticket, so we unloaded all our bags passing everything right down the bus to the sleeping quarters at the back end. After our evening meal was finished and just when everyone was ready for bed, I couldn’t resist the temptation to call out “all change”. Situated next to our bus were two old boys with permanent quarters in a small caravan and a couple of timber shacks in which they did their cooking. Another small shed rather intrigued us because we could see a small red flame through the cracks in the boards and my wife was convinced, they were running an illicit still. I think I rather spoilt the idea by suggesting that it could be a Calor gas refrigerator. However, we were off early the next morning so we will never know.

As we were on high ground it was fairly cold at six in the morning, so our idea was to motor on for about 50 miles and then have our breakfast which we did on a clearing between the road and the railway line. The table and chairs were all set up and the kettle was about to boil. We heard a noise like an empty rail truck coming. When it came into view it was a rail trolley. Four men were sitting on a flat truck with four wheels, facing each other in pairs, and working a lever backwards and forwards to propel the wheels. We supposed they were going to work, but it did seem a funny sight to us and no doubt we appeared to be a surprise to them. It was some time before we got over the shock and waved to each other. We gave them some of our tin plates and they panned in the traditional way, scooping up sediment from the bed of the stream and gradually washing it away with a sideways motion. They said it would be nice if they could find enough gold to pay for the petrol we used on the holiday. I said “yes it would’ but they didn’t. Now I suppose everyone does the same as I do when touring a long way from home, one watches the dials on the dashboard and listens for the slightest noise which might spell trouble. I kept an eye on the water temperature gauge, as we weighed over 2 tons. It normally reaches 76°F but suddenly it started to rise, and I wondered if the fan belt had gone, but fortunately it levelled off to 85. I carried a spare belt, but one must be a bit of a contortionist to change it. Then someone shouted from the back of the car, “we’re now over 4700 feet above sea level, we have just passed a sign”. “Well, that accounts for it” I said and relaxed once more, thinking the old car wasn’t doing so bad after all, considering its age. We slept in a hired cabin at Glenn Innes that night and explored Armidale the following morning. We were struck by the tidiness of the camp site at Glenn Innes, but we very quickly found the reason. The owner employed a female person that took the role of warder, park keeper, snooper and tidy-upper, all combined. One of our girls described her as a super pernickety fussy pants! We saw an old gentleman come out of the showers and go over to the clothesline to hang up his wet towel. All the space on the lines was taken up, so he draped his towel on a bush. Like a shot, Irma (that was the name we gave her) appeared from nowhere and ordered him to take it down, which he did pretty smart as if he had been caught robbing the poor box. There was a mat on the step outside our cabin and after all the children had bought in the cases from the car, it must have got displaced slightly. As soon as we were inside and shut the door, Irma came round and straightened it up. I could almost hear her saying under her breath “Barbarians!” Two women went into the laundry, and we saw Irma hovering outside, ready to pounce, if they used too much water, left a tap running or drew rude pictures on the walls. We drew the blinds of our cabin in case we should unwittingly commit a misdemeanour. I was going to run a line from our cabin to the roof rack of our car in order to air our tent, but I could see Irma rushing up like the queen in Alice in Wonderland and screeching “off with his head!” We escaped from Glenn Innes Caravan Park early the next morning and just before we reached Armidale we passed Thunderbolt Rock, where Fred Ward, the last of the New South Wales bushrangers used to stand and survey the surrounding country looking for victims. We visited this in 2007-8 Later we came to Kentucky Creek where he was shot. On leaving the plateau country we descended into bush and saw our first live kangaroo, which was about 4 feet 6 inches tall. It crossed the road in front of us and jumped a fence. On reaching Singleton the only accommodation we could find was the Agricultural Hotel. We were too tired to camp and the weather looked ominous. The next day we crossed the Macdonald Range and ran into the first rain for nine days, at Windsor. My wife kept a diary every day and also noted some of the more picturesque names of the creeks that we crossed. Cold Tea Creek, Boiling Point Creek, Jacob & Joseph, Christmas Creek, Old Darkey Creek & Emigrant Creek were some of the names she noted.

When we at last arrived home after our 2500-mile tour I looked at a map of Australia and found we had only travelled one sixth of Highway 1, which is 7664 miles long. It certainly is a big country. Our tour is something we will remember for the rest of our lives and our only regret was that we failed to reach Cairns and the Great Barrier Reef, but of course one would require more time and it was our first attempt at exploring more than a thousand miles from home. THE END Return to Menu

AUDIOBOOK

Now follows 3 SoundCloud audiobooks of the trip, the 1st 2 constructed using text to speech with reasonable digital voice attached, from Jean & Wilfrid's diary of the road trip, the 3rd is with Keef's voice reading out Anne & Margaret's diary. Annie will also do the same thing in early 2023 so we have both our voices for prosperity reading something that really happened.

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VIDEO


I have also included a video of associated places etc. with Keef's voice over as an audiobook reading Anne & Margaret's supporting diary for this trip. Annie will do one as well in 2023 so we have a record with our voices for prosperity later on, a transcript is not available to post here but there is an equivalent PDF on the family tree.


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