Therefore, changes are embraced and this was one of those times.
We have visited Carnavon Gorge twice: the first time on our Central Australian trip with the children in 1995, when we joined by my parents; and the second following our daughter'so first marriage when we thought our own version of a honeymoon was required as a reward for months of negotiation and planning. A third visit was always on the cards during this trip but it wasn't till a review of our location at 1770 that it dawned on us that the gorge was as close as it might get.
So armed with a new plan, we struck out west along the Dawson Highway at Callipoe (a town Sue finds impossible to pronounce), after a short stint north on the Bruce Highway toward Rockhamption.
Before we could leave 1770, ABC Radio in Tamworth rang me for a request to go on air and talk about the death of Richie Benaud or more accurately, the life which predicated it. This was big news, no less to me, as before they rang I was not aware of it. A few minutes later, I was discussing The Beige on air with morning presenter Kelly Fuller, she in her studio, me in a pair of shorts in a half-packed campsite at 1770. Modern technology and communications adds a touch of the surreal to our everyday life and yet, unwilling to slow down to observe the passing scenery, we so often miss it.
By late morning we had reached Calliope, still being pronounced in variations by my travelling companion and were perplexed as to where we might park for a cuppa. Most small towns have obvious parks or signs to caravan/RV friendly spots but no so in this case, so we retraced our steps and went a few kilometres further north to Calliope River (Sue managed the second word of the title this time whilst still mangling the first). On our first plan of passage, this would have been our overnight stop. Elaborate signs to the Heritage Village located there raised our expectations of a unintended treat but arrival soon put those to rest. What may have held interest in 1970 to Australians thirsty for the authentic experience of life a hundred years earlier, was now just a collection of old buildings, a kiosk and managers whose memory of such times may have been first hand. A sign to the public toilets didn't mention the password "donation" which unlocked them and neither of us were prepared to run the gauntlet of the ancient one who stood ready to block our passage. She was what my mother would have described as formidable. We rattled her tin for the sake of comfort.
Still, loss is only felt by those who fail to grasp the opportunity to take advantage of their circumstances and I struck up a conversation with fellow convenience refugees, who like us, had parked their van in the dusty and extravagantly named "parking lot". As is the way of such chance meetings, we swapped stories of places the other should visit and I put in store a few spots previously unheard of.
Returning to the road for Biloela, Sue, exhausted from efforts of frustrated pronunciation, had a kip whilst I drove on listening to regional ABC radio - a favoured pastime for both of us.
In Biloela, we restocked the petrol tank and food supplies for the three nights at Carnarvon Gorge and visited the Herotage Museum. It's on the western edge of town, mostly housed in a purpose built and stylised recreation of a silo. Murals, recollections, old photo albums and more old bottles than I thought were actually produced across the last century were on display. The main building also housed several vintage cars which had either been lovingly restored or garaged and never driven. Two outer buildings - an old Presbyterian church and a former railway station - contained displays that hadn't changed much since they were first mounted. It was a hotch potch of hand written information and inexpertly mounted photos which once might have been fascinating. A collection of old irons - the staple of any rural museum - underlined my point. Still, amongst it all, I found enough things of interest to make the small amount we paid on entry seem like good value. Photos and a description of the crash of the Beautiful Betsy, an American Liberty bomber which crashed into the ridges of nearby Kroombit NP on a wet and foggy day in 1943, killing all of its crew, was good reading. The wreckage had remained where it lay until discovered by a NP ranger in 1994.
The last part of the afternoon was a seventy kilometre hop to the bank of the Dawson River not far from the western side of Moura. Any thoughts we had of a free camp adventure under the stars on a remote southern central Qld highway were extinguished on arrival. At least twenty vans were already in situ, many of them complete with generators. The attraction of hot showers provided by the local Apex club, a boat ramp and free digs was not just attractive to us.
It was a pleasant evening - the stars were indeed there for us to see - and it would have been close to perfect if it wasn't for a gas leak under the van. Sue's hyper sensitive nose discovered it first and it took me a while to find the problem but eventually I tracked it down to a loose connection under the van, immediately before the cut off valves under the stove and three-way fridge. For the uninitiated, a three-way fridge is one that runs from 240 volt, 12 volt or gas. The connection must have worked loose over time and rough roads, likely being bumped into finally leaking as we left our corroded and deeply rutted campsite at 1770.
We were asleep by 10pm.