Saturday, 8 June 2013

Roma to Emerald

 As we tried to pull out of the caravan park in Roma, three road trains and three utes sneaked in front of us. The exhilaration of a morning ride was replaced by frustration as the road trains lumbered up the hills and the work utes, manned by drivers paid by the hour, seemed reluctant to overtake but insisted on driving close to the trucks and only a couple of car lengths from each other. Overtaking seemed like a hazardous procedure so we stayed in the queue, down to 40kph at times. Eventually, one by one, the road trains took their leave but we didn’t have the road to ourselves until we reached Injune nearly one hundred kilometres away.

We topped up with fuel and sipped a cup a soup while we enjoyed the warmth inside the visitors information centre at Injune; it was only 12 degrees outside.

From Injune we continued northwards. We had settled down by now and had fun with a few twists and turns along the way. Now and then we passed cattle grazing on the side of the road. We slowed down for each one but these old timers just looked at us as if to say “what are you slowing down for, we ain’t goin’ nowhere.”
We easily found the turning to the Carnarvon Gorge National Park. The first 25km is a narrow, sealed road. Then there’s an undulating stretch of gravel for a further 12km. We both got our boots wet on a creek crossing by making a slight misjudgement on the depth of the water. There were many young steers lining the unfenced road. These feisty beasts galloped away when we rode by and it gave us an uneasy feeling wondering which way they were going to turn. When the road turned to gravel we trundled along at an easy pace to the Takarakka Bush Resort campground.
Carnarvon Creek at the campground.
As soon as we arrived we could feel the peaceful atmosphere soaking into our bones. It was like everyone who stays there is under the spell of the Carnarvons (as the locals call them). No one rushed around, everyone spoke in a quiet tone; it is something I will never forget.



One of the many creek crossings.
We stayed at Carnarvon Gorge for three nights. On the first day we walked 14km along an easy track and enjoyed the moss garden, the natural amphitheatre, and Aboriginal cave paintings. When I was alone in the amphitheatre I couldn’t help myself and I sang. I was surprised that some of the low notes resinated more than the high notes.

When we rode away from Takaraka, and the gravel track turned to bitumen once more, I noticed that I didn’t want to “kiss the pavement;” off-road motorcycle instructor, Simon Pavey, would be proud of me. The cattle were still grazing close to the road, some of them locking horns over a tuft of grass. We were both pleased when the cattle properties were fenced again and we could adopt a more relaxed riding style.

Main crossroads at Rubyvale.
We made Emerald (named after the green pastures and not the precious stone) home for a few days and we wasted no time before visiting the eccentric gem field towns of Sapphire and Rubyvale. Sapphire is the only miner’s common left in Queensland. Under common law, each miner is entitled to own two head of cattle. These cattle are allowed to graze, untethered, in the confines of the common’s land. On the day we visited, a small herd were making themselves at home in the main street of town. If you accidently run over one of these beasts you are required to pay full market value as compensation. I dragged Steve into every jewellery shop I could find to gaze upon the beautiful sapphires. Lucky for Steve I found the selection of sizes, cuts, and colours completely overwhelming and I left town with only a souvenir to remind me where I’d been.

In Emerald we borrowed a hose and tarted up the bikes ready for the next part of the journey. When I settled down onto my sleeping mat that night I felt happy in the knowledge that we’d be riding the outback again in the morning.

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