Chillagoe Queensland

 

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we seek a new adventure in the West country 200km  from Cairns, some warm and dry and open bush. dry out our lungs and explore the limestone caves in the Chillagoe Mungana national park. 

 A retrospective post.

Remembering Chillagoe region, inland, tablelands, North Queensland; August 2013

castles of stone

caves, crevices, dust, marble bones

choking dust

bleak heat

dreamtime vista

turquoise mineral spring bathing sancturary

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there are long bumpy stretches of dirt road which we have to take at 10-20km an hour as we are heavily loaded with extra timber, 100lt water and 80 ltr of fuel, never mind the brain splitting rattling of our 4 tonne home… it’s torturous for me as driver on this hot hot day, and i rage internally {and a little externally} and finally retreat to the bed with sunglasses on as Jesse takes over the wheel. it is my least favorite endurance of this adventurous life. hot travel with no swimming respite in sight, cranky tired hot and bothered children… {be forewarned, i am going to bang on alot about how hot this trip was!}IMG_2422

gathering firewood roadside on the trip in. I am stunned by the dry midday heat, the starkness of sky and and bleached colors after weeks in the lush coastal regions. it is familiar from my childhood in WA and a little part of me also relishes the crackle of crisped leaves and bark underfoot and the open bush and ant trails. epic sky and thin shade kissed by eucalypt breeze

we fill the floor space with perfect dry hardwood for campfires, it’s awkward sweaty hauling but we focus on the enjoyment of fire gazing and cooking. Jesse finds some perfect straight Mulga for making rhythm sticks.

and then we are arriving into tiny Chillagoe township looking for the Eco Lodge as we hear it boasts a small observatory and resident astronomer {part of our attraction to come to this open sky country} a population of about 250. with fluctuating tourism nodded to by the 4 campgrounds. there is a more private camp ground on a property right on the creek near the airport, but the caretaker is ill.

we are simply  heat shocked and wondering what the hell we are doing here!

im ecstatic to here there’s a swimming hole near town.

turns out to be a lovely shady deep spring fed hole. phew. everyone is refreshed quickly and it all seems worthwhile and copeable. is that a word? the rocks are amazing!

IMG_2414 IMG_2413the swimming hole becomes our base for half of each day we spend in the area. i sit by the water and understand how the indigenous mob survived out here, in the shade by water is the only place to be in a lot of Australia on the hot days. if there’s water…

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we visit some caves and do some short walks. we skip the guided tours in to the deeper caves. {i’m quietly glad the children give me the excuse for this as it frightens me just a little} finding ourselves alone in some huge caverns, sitting on besmoothed stones and watching captured sunlight glittering the dust moats is surprising and awe-some. singing and didging and echoing in the tumbled caves, it’s good to be together in a cave. a new experience.

the rock formations and the self guided caves are striking enough to fulfill our rocky quest.

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i awake on the second day better adapted to the climate and find gradually heating with the rising sun easier than driving into the hot midday from the coast.

we monkey around at the old train station near the campground in the twilight. there are great mobs of wallabies. this was a rare campground stay. we usually find independant camping or stay on properties. we want to experience the astronomy session in the evening however, and it’s simply so appealing to have access to water. we claim the little patch of grass out the front of the Eco lodge. Cedar declares the sprinkler his truck wash.

the session at the observatory is inspirational and full of facts and numbers and anecdotes. i saw Saturn and it’s rings! and two of it’s twenty something moons! it really does look like those funny colour drawings from school books! it sparks many wonder-full conversations about life, other life, gallaxies, stars, moons, space travel, wonderment, constellations, feeling small, feeling big, feeling like a speck, how time and space move and are measured….

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Have you ever roasted a whole pumpkin in the coals?IMG_0009

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before you go to bed, make a nest in the coals and ashes and plop in a really great pumpkin; cover it with a good blanket of ash and coals and you’re all ready for bed; uncover your golden treasure in the morning! we used a Japanese variety here; the more ripe and good your pumpkin the better caramelized result you will have!

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Enjoy your roast pumpkin in many attitudes; here a savory delight but previously it’s been breakfast on pancakes with maple syrup and cream! decadence!

and here is a proof I’m not some super unrealistic lady who can’t do wrong. {just in case anyone wondered; as Jesse pointed out it’s easy to falsely represent myself here on an edited blog}  burnt food is one of my occasional talents! i am a bit dreamy{creative} at times and become absorbed in other activities, than watching the meal cook!! oops. still good. just cut off the charcoal…. I have been banned from using the toaster and cooking rice in a previous life…IMG_0024

Lily spent the first morning engaged in making a flower fairy palace from bark, sticks, marble chunks and flowers. unfortunately she built her house on the sand {the mat} and it had to go down with the packup tide. rebuilt in the bushes and a learning about how to choose a safe site to build…IMG_0022

our last night, we left the township of Chillagoe and visited a more secluded cave with relatively intact Indigenous paintings. The energy of this place was strong and beautiful. We spent the afternoon and gloaming in the cave watching the changing light and dreaming of life as a tribe in the caves, in this remarkable landscape.

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Discussing how and where and what and why was a rich experience. The children chose their rock beds and imagined where the fire was and how we would use the cave and how many people would share it and so on. I realised how little i know of the nomadic tribal culture in Australia, how disconnected i feel at times from the cultural history of this land I was born in. Sadness arising for what is lost now. the questions i’ll never know answers to.  noticing the discomfort i can experience when I am in company of people of culture because i don’t have many reference points. and ultimately I’m a white fella and there is a massive burden of racism and tragedy between us. at other times it just naturally is and I’m connecting with ease and humour. often the children break the ice and connecting through play is a gift.IMG_0090

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the open verandah effect of the cave creates an empowering view over vast land. a safe standpoint.IMG_0094 IMG_0109 IMG_0102 IMG_0113

i awoke to didgeridoo echoes across the land from the cave above at sunrise. when i return from my solo adventure to the cave i am met by singing and music. thankyou Jesse you bring melody to my life.IMG_0133

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there are many old marble quarries in the Chillagoe area. many massive blocks have been lifted out and left on the red dust like a giant’s play blocks. We stop at one of the quarries on the way back East. {some conspiracy about bleeding away private money…} we met an epic conspir-ollogist our here! wowzers.IMG_0156 IMG_0153 IMG_0175 IMG_0166

the bush is open with tall ironbarks and malga among the trees. their thin canopy offers little shade in the oven hot morning. with termite mounds being the bush furniture. the spindly crisp grasses remind me of country up near Katherine and Darwin.
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quirky old machine installations IMG_0181i certainly left with a puzzled feeling from Chillagoe, its been great to reflect on it from my midnight table here in Bellingen.

i hope you enjoyed the story and the photographs.

Roselinde

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9 thoughts on “Chillagoe Queensland

  1. Hello Rosi,
    This is a spectacular wee article by you….Dreamtime photos….lovely dialogue.
    Your kids are going to quietly thank you and Jesse when they look back on their childhood ,in their later years.
    Love Mike

    • Thank you Mike.
      I’ve just read it again and am feeling pwoud! I think you are right. And if I get amnesia, Alzheimer’s or dementia they can prove their identities!
      Love to you both
      R

  2. Wow Rose magic post. What a stunning and powerfull land. I also love your photographic eye, one inparticular of the kids sitting on the ledge and holding their knees up. Beautiful, timeless xx

  3. Wow R sounds like its been a epic journey the heat sounds wonderous as I sit here listerning to the rain on a slightly cool autumn afternoon.
    Cashew cream please share recipe what dishes do you use it on? I have a veggie biriryani in the oven. Hugs Emma

    • Oh Emma autumn rain! Yes intense heat. I am a shade girl. I think autumn is my season. Cashew cream.
      1-2 cups of raw cashews into the blender add water or coconut milk until nice smooth moist sauce. Pour over lasagna and bake or use for all sorts of other things!! Yum. Pinch of salt or some sweetener like maple syrup. Adjust liquid to suit the purpose. I think you can freeze it above a nut/date base to have an ‘ice cream’ cake. Yum.

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