Chasing totems, caves and more gold – Kirsti

So I’ve been following a great travel blog – ytravelblog – for a while now. It’s written by a couple who are travel lovers, and have just finished 18 months on the road around Australia with two young daughters. When I started following them in October last year, I needed inspiration, and they were just the people to hand it over. In spades.

I loved the blog posts about home schooling, hard things about travel, travelling with kids, great places to visit, and the importance of daily habits when travelling. Their photos were/are amazing, and Caz is an interesting writer. Kept me reading.

So when I read that they’d been to a place called Eidsvold in Queensland and met a local aboriginal woman whose totem was a honey-pot ant, I contacted them for her details. Obligingly, they told me how to contact this woman – her name is Antonia – and we headed for Eidsvold, and the Motel café where we could find her (and good food too).

Little did we know that R.M. Williams owned a property near Eidsvold, and upon his death, in Eidsvold was built the R.M. Williams Australian Bush Learning Centre in order to “showcase his skills and achievements, and bring his passion for bush tradition to life”. I love the following lines in the brochure, that bring out the bush girl in me!:

A place of stark contracts, unsurpassed beauty, warm welcomes, big hearts, indomitable spirit and tenacious character. The bush….rural Australia….backbone of our proud land.

Instead of staying a few hours to talk to Antonia about her totem, the honey-pot ant, we ended up staying the night and spending time in the R.M. Williams centre as well meeting Antonia and another talented local artist and backbone of the community, Scyvina. Scyvina makes jewellery out of echidna quills!  And Antonia paints of honeyants. So guess what I put an order in for?!!

Antonia Kirsti Scyvina

It turns out that Antonia is from Alice Springs originally, and so her family totem is the honeyant from there. Makes sense – honey-pot ants are mostly located in central Australia. Antonia didn’t know too much about her totem or how it influenced, or should influence her life in Eidsvold….. which gives us a mission in Alice Springs!

Mount Morgan was our next stop, and one that Jez was super excited about until we discovered that the original gold mine had collapsed and tours were no longer taking people into it. BOOOOO.  One hundred and thirty years ago it was THE richest gold mine in the world, and the town was one of the biggest and busiest centres outside Brisbane.

Actually, the closure of the mine to the public didn’t really dampen our time there. It was a great few days learning about the kooky history of the place, and the enormous amount of gold, silver and copper that place has produced. As well as one of the best playgrounds for kids we’ve come across!

I just have to tell you the cool story of how the mine, and town, began. Hilarious….. [words borrowed in parts from local history brochure]

The “Ironstone Mountain” in the upper reaches of the Dee River was a prominent landmark in the 1870’s when local stockman William McKinlay found gold in the rocks. He didn’t know anything about mining however, so he told only his family about the find, and they kept it a secret, vowing to make money from William’s discovery at some point.

Now one of William’s daughters – Minnie – started dating a local lad named Sandy and naturally, shared secrets including that her father had found gold in the mountain. William was so angry when he found out that Minnie had shared the family secret with Sandy that he banished her from the family home. The story goes that she and Sandy married and moved to Rockhampton, around 60 kms from Mount Morgan.

Some time later, Sandy worked at a small gold mine near Rockhampton, owned by Fred Morgan, a Rockhampton businessman and mining entrepreneur. It’s said that Sandy had a drinking problem and after being fired for the second time by Fred for insobriety, became destitute. In a desperate effort to save her family and her husband’s job, Minnie approached Mr Morgan offering him some valuable information in exchange for her husband’s re-employment. So it was sealed – Sandy was reinstated and he and Minnie took Morgan to Ironstone Mountain and its gold……

The Morgan Brothers registered the claim on July 22 1882 and since then, Mount Morgan has produced 240 tonnes of gold, 50 tonnes of silver and 360 tonnes of copper. Open cut mining ceased in 1981.

Love that story!

In Mount Morgan we stayed at the Silver Wattle Caravan Park, which had newish owners from VIC. They’d built a high country-inspired hut as the camp kitchen and had an open fire too. Rain and cool weather meant it kinda felt like the high country too! Kids played with the caravan park kids, who had the best collection of lego ever! I also think the rain is one reason I didn’t take very many photos of this part of the trip!

THE PLAYGROUND – just outside the town is No. 7 Dam, built by the mine for water. These days it’s more of a recreation space, and hosts an under cover, sand base playground with fabulous equipment. Lots of climbing bars and ropes, and an up and down flying fox. It’s big too! AND fenced. I seriously wish Armidale would build something like this!!  Nice BBQ area and tables and seats near the dam too. Mia did one of her school telephone calls there, and while she was on the phone we counted about 9 species of bird right near us. We like.

Mount Morgan park
You can’t really see how awesome it is from this picture! But believe me, it was awesome 🙂

 

We visited Capricorn Caves while we were in Mount Morgan too, which Mia blogged about. One of three privately owned cave systems of serious size in Australia. Worth a visit if you are up that way.

Rockhampton, and a visit with friends was next. During BEEF WEEK!!

 

Apologies for the dearth of photos in this post!

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