The 35 degree heat of the previous day was well on the way to repeating itself again as Pete and the girls arrived to show Marilyn the caravan.
We arranged to meet later for dinner where Marilyn promised to cook one of her Pancit Canton meals that we had so much enjoyed years earlier in Brisbane.
We were able to get a couple of hours work done with the air conditioning turned on in the van. It was quite pleasant and as we hadn’t used the air conditioner much since purchasing the van it was good to know it worked so well.
Marilyn was hard at work cooking when arrived and as expected the food was delicious.
After dinner the girls had more questions about our childhood and our lives and were fascinated by the endless stories of our antics and the trouble we caused as kids growing up.
Peter’s stories were interlaced with his many experiences travelling in some of the worlds rough spots including Somalia.
It was good to see the wonder and disbelief on the young faces as they tried to relate these experiences with their own life at school and play in Moranbah.
It was quite hard to say goodbye knowing it could be a while before we see them all again. It was a truly rewarding experience seeing this part of the family again.
Monday morning found us heading toward the Gemfields area. We’ve heard of a free camping spot in Sapphire so once again the open road became a familiar companion as we drove mile after mile past the Peak Range again and its wide fertile downs.
We stopped at the pleasant little town of Capella on the Gregory Highway for lunch.
Sixteen Bowen Basin coal mines operate within a one hour drive radius of Capella and for its size has a lot of activity.
We turned off the highway at Capella after lunch and headed down the Rubyvale Capella Road.
There was an abrupt end to other traffic expect for the occasional road train and the road itself, although only a subsidiary road, was of exceptional quality. It was a pleasure to drive this area an once again the landscape took on a different much drier, more isolated appearance.
There were large properties but few residences and the surroundings gave a strange aura of isolation and peacefulness.
We eventually came upon the town of Rubyvale and we were fascinated by the small mining leases with their vast array of different accommodations. From very rudimentary tin shacks to large caravans the properties each had a common addition – the homemade machinery for extracting Sapphires from the round mine shafts visible on each property.
We loved the area because even though it was a mish mash of strange buildings and machinery it gave the impression of a place of pure private enterprise with few of the normal barriers that are the product of parasite infested councils and local governments.
Of course this may be in appearance only but it was good to imagine.
We were fascinated to visit the Rubyvale Gem Gallery and see the beautiful gems for sale as well as inspect some old machinery from an old mine probably left over from the 1940’s or 50’s.
These tough individuals obviously made these remarkable machines to extract the treasure from their pits from anything and everything and the innovation of that era was great to see.
The signboard outside the Gem Gallery had a painted picture of an individual mining operation which allowed us to imagine what the scene must be like beneath the surface on these hundreds of small mining sites.
We moved on to Sapphire and found the spot we were aiming for in the middle of the town.
The town consist of nothing more than a general store a few permanent houses, a swimming pool, (new and not yet open), a Rural Fire Brigade Building and a long disused but very well constructed child care centre, (A CHILDCARE CENTRE – HERE?).
The camp spot was nice with a water machine available, that when you placed coins in you got your measured amount. 10c for 20lit, 20c for 40lit, $1 for 200lit & $2 for 400lit. It is quiet but interesting and seems a bit of a Mecca for miners coming to fill up tanks with water using every conceivable type of vehicle.
They also had good toilets. But remember to close the gate to the toilet area as live stock roam free in the “Common Gemfields”
There was a van similar to ours here when we arrived and the friendly bloke who told us of some great free camping spots between here and Longreach. He also showed me a couple of neat ideas that he’s implemented on his van that we’ll definitely look at.
One idea was a booster that can be clipped on to the Winegaurd antenna that improves TV reception particularly for digital channels. It cost $60.00.
He also had an ingeniously simple safety catch to stop the weight distribution bars from ever letting go which if ever was to happen would be catastrophic for the van.
There were also a couple of small campervans with foreign tourists.
We decided to stay in this nice spot for a couple of days as it is quiet yet interesting and once again we have great mobile phone and internet coverage, good TV reception and we can easily work all day with two computers permanently working. Even with the inverter switched on all day to supply the laptops the solar panels are easily replacing all the power that we use.
Admittedly there is plenty of sun to maximise the charge from the solar panels but even without as much sun we can work as many hours as we need to and we haven’t even needed to use the generator yet. This will change on a cloudy day of course but we’re amazed at the efficiency of our electrical system.
We’ll head off tomorrow morning, Wednesday, and head for maybe Jericho or one of the other free camping spots we’ve learned about.