In Life, its not where you go, it’s who you travel with. We leave the drama and attentions seekers to their own little groups and enjoy life with people with goals and an appetite for adventure.

September 30, 2017

RUBYVALE & SAPPHIRE GEMFIELDS, CENTRAL QUEENSLAND. AUSTRALIA

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Encompassing around 900 square kilometres of irresistible gem fossicking opportunities, while in Emerald we couldn’t miss the Central highland gem fields. This was quite an experience. We left Lake Maraboon for a short drive to the mining towns of Rubyvale and Sapphire, and embarked on a guided tour of an underground mine.





Kim Caught gem fever as see discovered the famous jewels of the Central Highlands, and explored the famous gem shops, galleries, jewellers and locally created cottage industries that are the lifeblood of the Sapphire Gemfields.
We first stopped for a big brekkie at the Rubyvale Café and browse the adjacent Gem Gallery where Peter Brown, pioneering miner turned gem cutter and jeweller, showed us his collection of rainbow sapphires.
If you’re Kim and get seduced by all the bling you can buy a readymade piece or choose a loose sapphire and commission a special piece of jewellery.



Given the sheer vastness of Australia, it isn’t surprising to learn that the country comprises many natural resources and numerous gold rushes from as early as 1851 onwards. This has contributed to a maintained interest in fossicking activity, which still lives on to this day, especially in the Gemfields townships of Anakie, Rubyvale, Sapphire and The Willows which annually host GemFest, a celebration of jewels.




Many Australians and tourists alike still enjoy the rather unique activity of panning for jewels and who can blame them? It yields an unmatched experience which is rather different from retail ventures in the big cities or lazing on New South Wales beaches, revealing more about themes of culture while for those lucky enough; they’ll be able to take away a shiny souvenir.
The pioneering spirit is alive and well in the Sapphire Gemfields around Emerald. Treasure seekers have been coming here since the seventies, searching for precious stones. It’s a magnet for free spirits and adventure seekers who want to experience the real Australian outback and aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty.





It’s hot, dusty work fossicking for sapphires, you have been warned! But it could be worth it. After all, you’ll hit pay dirt if you find a big old sapphire in your sieve. Stranger things have happened in the gemfields around Emerald and all the locals have a story or two to tell about sapphires they’ve unearthed.




We escaped the heat and went gem crazy with a Mine Tour at Miners Heritage. If you can’t take the heat, this is a great option because no matter how hot it is outside, it’s always cool underground.
Miners Heritage is Australia’s largest underground walk-in sapphire mine tour so you can experience what it’s like to be a miner. The short tour is fun for all the family and the sapphires sparkling in the walls will get you fired up for more fossicking later.




There’s an underground museum where you can read about some of the sapphires that have been found over the years, and after the tour, you can buy a bucket of ‘wash’ (the leftover dirt from commercial mines) and fossick for your own gem.

While we were visiting the area a grey nomad picked an eight-carat yellow sapphire out of a $8 bag of wash. You never know what you’ll find!
September 16, 2017

KONDALILLA FALLS, SUNSHINE COAST. AUSTRALIA

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Stunning views are always a rewarding part of hiking but views plus a refreshing swim under a cascading waterfall in a rock pool surrounded by rainforest is an even bigger incentive to lace up your walking shoes and head to Kondalilla National Park. For us it’s only 1-½ hours rive north of Brisbane near the picturesque village of Montville on the scenic Blackall Range.



From the car park at the end of Kondalilla Falls Road you head down a 50m downhill walk, with multiple stairs, that leads to the large grassy picnic area and the start of the walking tracks. With its lush surroundings, shade trees, barbecues, picnic tables and toilet facilities, the picnic area is a beautiful spot to refuel before or after your walk.




There are several walking tracks you can choice including a section of the Sunshine Coast Hinterland Great Walk. The shortest walk is the Picnic Creek circuit at 1.7km.  It’s a relatively easy walk suitable for children and takes around 45 minutes to complete. The track however is not wheelchair or pram accessible and there are many steps so smaller children will need to walk or be carried. The circuit crosses Picnic Creek with its little cascades and passes through tall open eucalypt forest with an interesting mix of rainforest species in the wetter areas. Along the journey children can search for elves and fairies in tree roots or try and spot faces in the tree trunks. There are beautiful views over the valley from the lookout point and bench seats are scattered along pathway so you can stop to rest and listen to the birds chatter and sing in the canopies above. If you are not continuing down to the falls but want to swim, you can take a small detour down the escarpment to the rock pool.





We love the Kondalilla Falls circuit which is 4.7 km and will take between 2-3 hours to complete. This walk includes more than 100 steps so it’s quite strenuous, particularly on the way back up! From the Picnic Creek circuit you follow the signs down the escarpment and continue past the rock pool onto the lookout with first views of Kondalilla Falls. From here you will walk through lush subtropical rainforest to the base of the waterfall and then continue back up the ridge to complete the loop. Another dip in the rock pool on the way back plus the cool breeze through the rainforest will help cool you down after climbing up the stairs!





Kondalilla National Park has an abundance of wildlife including over 100 species of birds, as well as a variety of reptiles and frogs with some species rare and close to extinction like the pouched frog and the bopple nut. With this in mind, it is important to protect our National Parks so be sure to take all your rubbish with you, keep the creeks clean and leave your pets at home. Insect repellent is a must as is taking your own drinking water and food. The best time to visit the falls is during the wet season, January – March, although the water still flows in the dry months and the park is open during daylight hours year round.


September 08, 2017

SCENIC DRIVE: BOONAH TO KILLARNEY. SOUTHEAST QUEENSLAND, AUSTRALIA

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There are several great scenic drives in South East Queensland, and one of our favorite and purest scenic drives has to be the road from Boonah to Killarney via The Head. This is a lovely winding road that has numerous scenic spots to stop at on the way, two very different cafes, a few short walks and of course the whole drive is book-ended by the two lovely towns of Boonah and Killarney.





The Drive starts on Carneys Creek Road just outside of Boonah, which then becomes The Head Road and then becomes Spring Creek Road which takes you to Killarney. Most of the major scenic spots are well sign posted, while minor ones can usually be identified by a place to stop on the side of the road.




The road itself is mostly a single lane but all of the traffic here are people specifically doing the scenic drive plus a few locals. No matter what Google Maps tells you, this is not the fastest route as the twisting narrow road will slow you down. If you are visitng Killarney from Brisbane, it is better to go over Main Range via Cunninghams Gap and go through Warwick. As a result, The Head road is one of the most pleasant roads to drive or ride. Everyone slows down and gives each a little wave as they pass on the narrow road. Yes, even people in big four wheel drives do this. In fact, because the road is so narrow our fellow 4wder’s are the most grateful on this road. 

Our first stop up the mountain is the Teviot Falls Lookout. This lookout is not that well signposted and many people fail to see the falls itself, as they focus on the view of the mountains down Teviot Gap




.Moving on from the lookout our first major stop is Carrs Lookout and Spring Creek Mountain Cafe & Cottages. Both provide similar views of the mountains with the lookout being free and Spring Creek Mountain Cafe serving delicious coffee, cake and meals made from the freshest local ingredients. For lunch on weekends, it is recommended that you book ahead.



There are numerous other little spots to stop along the way, including patches of farmland. Once we hit rainforest country, we would wind down the windows to enjoy the fresh mountain air and also to better hear the bellbirds (which we could hear with the windows wound up).



Once over the head we arrive at Queen Mary Falls. This is one of the best spots to linger. There is a beautiful picnic area with both electric and wood fired barbecues, toilets and the falls itself. It is only a short easy stroll to the two lookouts above the falls and a 2 km walk down to the base of the falls and back up (lots of stairs but well worth the effort).





Directly across the road from The Queen Mary Falls Picnic Area is the Queen Mary Falls Caravan and Tourist Park which includes The Falls Cafe. If you started early then the Picnic Area or The Falls Cafe are great places to have lunch. You can just have a break here with coffee and cake while sitting on the deck at the front watching the rosellas and king parrots which are attracted to the bird feeders.



We then move onto the Daggs Falls. Just stop, walk 10 metres to the lookout, take some photos, and keep on driving. The spectacular waterfall is worth the quick stop.




Our last falls are the smallest but has the most interesting walk. Be aware that it is a rough and muddy track along and across a beautiful creek to Browns Falls. While it is not difficult for most people, you might rethink the walk if you are wearing clothes or shoes that you don't want to get dirty.
From Browns Falls, the land opens up into beautiful farmland. 



This is Killarney where the black soil is two feet deep. They grow a little bit of everything but the steep hills means that most of the area is cattle country. If you have timed your trip properly your mind will be turning to steaks for lunch or dinner at the Killarney Pub.



Vegetable lovers need not despair. As you approach the town you will see a few roadside vegetable stalls. Simply stop, grab the vegetables that you want and put money in the tin. We picked some lovely pumpkins for $1 and $2 each. A lot of people have never heard of Killarney and even fewer have visited it. It is not on any major routes, so if you arrive here you are either lost or meant to be here, rather than passing through. While it is a sleepy country town, it is not a bad destination with a number of attractions.
Along with country cooking from several cafes and the pub, it is also worth visiting the Heritage Centre or shop at one of several shops selling local handcrafts and products such as the Willow Gallery. These places are usually run on a co-op basis with several local people taking turns at running the shop, while part of the sales goes to the rent and upkeep of the shop.

The quickest way back to Brisbane is via Warwick and the Cunnighams Gap. Longer scenic routes suitable for multi-day trips included heading north through Toowoomba or south through Stanthorpe and Tenterfield, before heading back towards the coast or Brisbane.



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