Exact two years ago I started my journey back in Berlin. Since then I travelled across three continents, and met numerous awesome people along my way. I can’t exactly count how long it was, but it was definitely several ten-thousands of kilometre (or if you prefer several deca-millionmetres 🤣). The most distant point from my start in Berlin was during the coastal hike in the Royal National Park with a great circle distance on the WGS84 ellipsoid of 16,106 km (which is the shortest possible distance between two points on an ellipsoid). It was neither the southernmost point, which was at Cape du Couedic on Kangaroo Island, nor the easternmost point, which was in Byron Bay. I was supposed to continue my journey further to the East, and applied for a “Visa Visitor – General” for New Zealand, which costs me more than 200 $. The NZ immigration took about 6 weeks until they granted it. But then they imposed an entry restriction on it, saying that I’ve to enter New Zealand within 4 weeks after the visa was granted. That’s quite arbitrary, because you can’t plan anyhow in advance. I was in the middle of Queensland within this time, and tried to relax this restriction, as I definitely couldn’t meet that restriction. But that would have been even more complex and more expensive than applying for a new visa, so I skipped that process for good. In the meantime the World changed completely anyway. It seems that all borders are closed for non-residents, in almost all countries in the world. This renders me in a pretty uncomfortable positions, as I was in a constant move in the last two years. Now I’m feeling like more than 30 years back, when we had another border measure back in Germany, just that this prison where I’m now is a bit larger. Politicians in Australia and New Zealand put very strict measures in place. The good thing about that is, that we’ve as much as infections and dead people in Australia like Berlin, but with a 7 times higher population. The drawback is, nobody will get immune against that virus. But what does it mean, if it will be achieved to extinct the virus locally, because Australia and New Zealand have no land borders? In essence, it will result in an indefinite border closure, or at least a forced quarantine for all new arrrivals. We’re all going to die, no matter what we do, I’m fine. Anyway, nobody knows what these guys in power will decide. Hence, I don’t know how, when or if at all I can proceed. I always had the subconscious feeling, that something will stop me…and often thought what it could be, but I never thought about something like that. In the end I’m definitely happy to have started my journey two years ago, as now and in the near future it would be impossible. I don’t know if this is already the end, or just the beginning of a long break. The whole thing reminded me to the cousin of my grandmother. He started his trip around the world after WWII and ended up in Spain after he run out of money. So nobody knows what the future will bring. Nevertheless, thank you very much to all the loyal followers. I had constant visitors of my blog during the last two years! Stay safe and enjoy your life.
Friday morning two weeks ago I woke up at sunrise and started my last leg after a quick breakfast. I briefly stopped in the small town of Meandarra, but everything was still closed. So I headed on into the Braemar forest. Within the state forest a whole petrochemical exploitation and conversion complex is hidden. It feels a bit like hidden soviet bunkers in spruce forests. Nevertheless there are still gazetted roads throughout the forest, which everybody is allowed to use. Coming from the south I directly passed the headquarter from QGC (Queensland Gas Company – now a wholly owned subsidiary of Shell) with all the water processing and gas purification units for their fracking bores. They made pretty clear, already at the approach road, that they don’t want to be disturbed by visitors. Hence, I decided not to drive along the approach road until their entrance. Nevertheless the current operation is well documented on recent online maps. I just drove a bit further and then turned into Cyrpess road, which is a public gravel road and several fracking bores are located along it. So I just stopped at one of them and had a closer look. In the end it’s pretty simple, and hence pretty cheap to get the raw gas out of it. One electric pump, which is driven by an onsite gas engine (utilising the raw gas) pumps the water down one bore, whereas at a second bore the raw coal gas gets out of the soil. Free lunch for the gas company. Throughout the whole forest is a complete network of different kinds of low pressure gas and water pipelines. All the water and raw gas is eventually processed at the QGC headquarters and the resulting natural gas is finally compressed and pumped into the transmission pipeline. I continued my drive along Grahams Road, which exhibits every several hundred metres another fracking bore. All running autonomous. I’ve seen some QGC pick-up’s on the sealed road, which I supposed they went for some maintainance work to one of the fracking bores. I then stopped at the Braemar power station, which consists of two times three open cycle gas turbines. The first three gas turbines were delivered by Alstom as it was clearly visible written at the outside. I could directly park infront of the fence and just walk along them in order to take some photos. In the end it’s the same as with the nuclear power stations in Philippsburg and Obrigheim, where a public bicycle path just leads along the fence. Hence, no big deal at all. On the other side of Grahams Road is the large scale Darling Downs solar farm. Unfortunately, the cattle gate was locked, but it was only stated “close the gate”. Such kind of note is typical for cattle gates throughout the outback. So I just parked my vehicle next to it, and walked for about 15 min along the gravel road which eventually lead me to the fenced solar farm. Contrary to the other large scale solar farms, this one had no single tracking axis, instead the solar panels where orientated in northern direction. This setup is for sure cheaper in installation and maintainance costs, but as the orientation is suboptimal during the day (except for noon), the electricity production is also less than with a single tracking axis. A tracking axis is typically aligned in North-South direction, so that the solar panels change their inclination from East to West during the day. When I was walking along the fence I took my photos and past some workers, which digged a hole. I was greeting them friendly from the distance before I started to walk back. Just shortly before I returned to my car, I saw from about hundred metres distance that three pick-ups parked next to my car, and one of them took a photo from it. Then they opened the gate and one of the cars stopped in front of me. An old bloke jumped out of the car and accused me of trespassing his land. I was confused and said, that I was just walking along a gravel road. He said that this is private land, but there was no sign at the cattle gate (it’s a cattle gate, not a fence, just to remember), that this gravel road is private property. There was only a note that you should close the gate, which is just usual for me, as I travelled for thousand of kilometres along gravel roads in the outback. Nevertheless, Ross, the manager of Wambo Feedlot, insisted to see my driver license. I refused to give this data to him, and was just walking away to my car. But he and his two blokes, for sure, followed me with their three pick-ups. Ross tried to threaten me, and said, if I try to drive away, one of his blokes will drive into the rear of my car. Well, in my understanding that’s coercion and also illegal in Australia. But anyway, I don’t believe they would have done that, because I would need to call the police in that case. So, if he really wanted to blame me for trespassing, he would need to call the police anyway, but he didn’t want to do so. My main issue was, that I needed to return my car in four hours in Brisbane, and I still had to drive more than 300 km. Additionally, if I don’t give them my driver license, then they would contact the rental company in order to get the data, but that might result in additional costs for me. In order to circumvent that, I finally accepted that he takes a photo of my driver license. In the end I had more trouble here than during my visit at the border to North Korea in Tumen. If I would really done some kind of reconnaissance, I wouldn’t use a highly visible rental vehicle, and park that on the main road on a working day, and greeting some blokes digging a whole. I guess the latter called some one, and caused all that trouble. One of his blokes followed me for a few kilometres to make sure, I’m definitely leaving the scene. I mean I could use my back mirror, and if I would be seriously interested in some kind of attack, I would also retreat first, change my camouflage, collect all available force, before I launch a new attack. But actually due to that stupid discussion, I was pretty much on the hurry. Hence, I drove directly to Toowoomba (and not because there was a bloke in a pickup behind me), crossed through the town in order to avoid any toll for the bypass highway. When leaving Toowoomba, I finally descended pretty steep from the great dividing range. There was a nice lookut, but I definitely needed to make sure, that I’ll be back in Brisbane after two months travelling around Queensland.
Thursday morning two weeks ago I continued my drive south along the Carnarvon highway. Two heavy goods transports came towards me. One was even escorted by police, and they forced every car to stop at the side of the road. So the heavy truck could speed in the other direction opposite to me. Shortly after that forced stop, I crossed again the Great Dividing range, which brought me into the beginning of the Murray-Darling basin. This huge area of river systems covers about 14% of the Australian land mass, and eventually drains into the southern ocean in Adelaide – theoretically. From the 530,000 gigalitres of annual rainfall (which is about 50 times the size of Lake Argyle) 94% evaporate, 2% drain into the ground, and just 4% run off into the ocean. I briefly stopped in Injune, a small mining town. At the local fuel station several red trucks with fracking rigs from Halliburton (you know the company, where Dick Cheney was CEO before he was appointed by G.W. Bush as vice president…and which was also involved in the construcion of the BP Deepwater Horizon, which eventually exploded in the Gulf of Mexico). Now that company seems to try the next big opportunity in fracking of coal seem gas in the outback of Queensland. Next to the fuel station are the remains of the old railway station, with an old steam locomotive infront of it. As several other branchlines, also this one was closed after the road from Roma to Injune was sealed, and eventually used by road trains. In the regional centre of Roma I had my lunch and briefly stopped at the largest bottle tree of Roma. Bottle trees are pretty common around the outback of QLD, but these are not to be confused with the Boab trees in the western part of the NT, and the Kimberleys. In the afternoon I headed further south to Surat which is located directly at the Balonne river. The Balonne river is mostly a small creek, now after some rain it’s a small murky river, with good fishing opportunities, but also heaps of flies and mossies around. I took a short walk along the river to the local weir, which was constructed in order to supply the town with water, even in times a low rain. Surat is a pretty calm town, the basic stores were still open, but due to the recent restrictions the remaining shops remained closed. Luckily the public toilets including free showers behind the council building remained open. So I took the possibility before I headed off to the west in the late afternoon in the direction to Glenmorgan. I stayed the last night in my vehicle on a flat gravel area a few kilometres before that small community.
Tuesday morning two weeks ago, I crossed the electrified railway shortly before it’s ending at the Albinia Coal Mine. It’s the longest extend of electrification from Rockhampton. Directly next to the coal mine is the Albinia national park, a protection area for the endemic grasses. These grasses are very popular for feeding stock. Hence, most of these natural grasses are gone due to overgrazing from stock. I briefly stopped in the small town of Rolleston which is at the road junction which directly leads to Gladstone. In the late afternoon I arrived at the Carnarvon national park (I’ve no idea, how that name relates to Carnarvon in Western Australia, where I’ve been in 2008). After lunch I prepared my backpack for a two days trip. Luckily the trees in the Carnarvon gorge provided some shade during the afternoon. Hence, the hike was pretty nice between the tall sandstone vertical walls (I was wondering, if it’s suitable for some vertical moves 😏). In essence I followed the main hiking trail along the Carnarvon creek, but I made some detours along the way. The first stop was at the so called Amphitheater, this huge space was crafted by lot’s of water during a long time, and is only accessible through a small crack from the main gorge. Afterwards I walked up into the narrow Ward’s canyon. Within this small, shadow and humid canyon the large King ferns from tropical areas can survive. This small patch is the only known area were this huge ferns grow inland of Queensland. All other known locations from King fern are along the coast. The next stop was at the Aboriginal Art gallery. Over the last few thousand years this area was used for various ceremonies. During this time a lot of paintings were made onto the wall, as well as engravings. For one section the women were responsible, and they graved, as sign of fertility, a lot of vulvas into the soft sandstone. That reminded me to all the penises in Phra Nang Cave in Railway. About four kilometres further up I passed Cathedral Cave, which is another place of former gatherings and some Aboriginal rock art. I arrived in the late afternoon at the campground. I was surprised that two other blokes were already their and enjoyed their dinner. I pitched up my tent and had dinner just during sunset, before I went to bed.
I got up about one hour before sunrise, and started hiking after a quick breakfast. I followed the narrow Boowinda gorge, before I went up steeply in a side gorge along a dry creek bed. After this steep section the trail to the Battleship Spur Lookout followed basically a ridge, which had even some stairs and a ladder. After about two hours I arrived at the Battleship Spur Lookout and enjoyed the view across the complete Carnarvon gorge during the 30 min of my second breakfast. The area around the ascent was extremely green, even as there was some bushfires two years ago, and shortly before the summit a lot of kangaroos were jumping around. The way back to the camp was along the same way. It took me in total about 4 hours including breakfast. After a snack in the campground and pitching down the tent, I walked back along the gorge. I met met Shannon just when I started my walk back, and another couple with it’s two kids at the bench before the Art Gallery, where we had a short chat during my break. On my way back I made a detour to the Boolimba Bluff Lookout at the gorge entrance. The steep hike up was supported by ladders, but still it took me additional 90min to return, which wasn’t too bad. I was alone on the complete way. When I finished my walk, I met Shannon again at the parking area. We had a short chat and she told me, that she just lost her job and is on her way to some friends at the sunshine coast, but wanted to stop here. Unfortunately, the campground was closed, so I couldn’t get a shower there. Therefore, I went to the rock pool, which is located shortly before the breakthrough of the Carnarvon creek through the ridge, which lays like a natural blocking dam infront of the gorge. The murky water quality wasn’t that good, but at least it was refreshing after the long hike.
Monday two weeks ago I headed further to the East. I got out of the outback after arriving in Emerald. The town has all important supermarkets and retail stores, as well as the major fastfood chains. In Emerald I went to the solar farm just west to the town and had a drive around. The solar farm is now owned by a finance investor. It’s one of the poorly operated solar farms I’ve seen so far. The weed is more than 2m high and is heavily spreading throughout the solar panels. This puts a lot of shade onto the PV panels, and definitely affects the electricity production. I went to the only open pub later on in order to enjoy my last beer before they had to close at noon for indefinite time. In the afternoon I headed out to Lake Maraboon. It’s the second largest lake in Queensland but due to the drought, it’s almost empty. The lake had it’s lowest filling level, with just about 10%, by the end of 2019. It wasn’t busy over there, just one woman was sunbathing and some people took the opportunity to get out onto the lake for fishing with their boats. In the late afternoon I headed further south to Springsure. That is a lovely community next to the Minerva Hills National park. I had a walk around the park area, where the families met with their children next to the playground. After a short break I headed on and stopped at the Stairway Range lookout. The spot wasn’t that good, as all the heavy road trains plagued their way in the low gear up the range the whole time.