The sunsets are pretty awesome, but the best thing about visiting Emerald is seeing Lizy, Barry and Mikayla. My sister and I have always been close and it’s easy when we visit each other. Relaxed and no expectations. Easy.
We had a belated birthday gift giving with our Pokemon obsessed niece Mikayla. A plush Pikachu toy was the most cherished gift. She slept with it and left instructions for Xavier and Amelie to train him, feed him, bath him and tell him stories while she went to school.
Fairbairn Dam, the Big Easel, Botanic Gardens and historic train station are the main local attractions in Emerald, and a trip out to the gem fields have all been done in past visits. This trip we were happy to go to places we haven’t seen before. First up, traditional homeland to the Ghungalu people, Blackdown Tablelands. A place of sandstone cliffs, gorges and rock pools.
As we drove through Comet, Blackwater and Dingo, it gave us a chance to test our UHF set up. We settled on a channel and used the call signs, Wookie-1and Ecto-1. I should explain. Barry is a pretty big Star Wars fan and Craig and I relived the 80’s last Halloween by dressing up as the Ghostbusters. Our ute is white, same colour as the Ghostbusters vehicle. Coincidence? I think not! We are contemplating naming our van Ecto-2. What do you reckon? Yay or nay?
It was a beautiful day. Big blue skies and a comfortable 28 degrees. As we approached the Blackdown Tablelands, which I kept incorrectly referring to as the Blacktown Tablelands, there was a huge amount of grey smoke billowing from the top. Burn off! Okay, so the vistas might be a little hazy but we were looking forward to visiting the rock pools.
There are no formal school requirements that need to be fulfilled while the kids are away for two terms but we do ‘school of life’. Craig is a nerd and great at explaining things to the kids. The top of Blackdown Tablelands is 900m above sea level, for every 100m you rise above sea level you drop approximately 1 degree in temperature. Our outdoor temp reading according to Ecto-1, was 28 degrees at the bottom and got down to 22 degrees at the top. I’ll have to google the elevation at the bottom to see exactly what height we were at to begin with. It also took us about an hour to get to the top after stopping to check out the view along the way so it’s likely the temp would have increased within that hour. We worked out that we definitely lost 6 degrees, possibly 7, maybe at a push even 8 degrees. Close enough to the prediction. Boom! Science class dismissed.
It’s only a 2km walk to the rock pools, yet it will test you. The path is covered with tiny round rocks that brought back memories of roller skating at the Argonaut Rollerdome. Amelie was nervous about falling on her recently healed wrist, so we walked down hand in hand. Too many times to count, I did single arm bicep curls while Amelie was doing side splits, front splits and diagonal splits. Thankfully, we didn’t both get wobbly feet at the same time. It was pretty funny walking back with a large group of teenagers walking down to the pools. Every one of them had a little ‘slip and recover’ moment. I read ‘shame worthy’ on their faces. Could have been that teenage stage where everything matters, or it could’ve been because I was laughing at them.
A trip down a set of stairs brought us to ‘Rainbow Falls’, a rock pool with waterfall, giant ferns and palms. The guys and kids all braved the refreshing (code word for freezing bloody cold) water. While it was fine for the guys and kids to strip off with discrete towel placement, change into their togs and brave the water, Lizy and I stayed high and dry. The logistics of getting naked and changing into togs under the cover of a towel was not worth the probability of flashing body bits to strangers and their children. Everyone else loved jumping off the rocks and ducking under the falls.
Back up the 240 stairs, my trainer’s voice echoed in my head, counting the step-up reps. “That’s 50. That’s 150, less than 100 to go!”. Sadly, I have to admit being puffed at the top. A short walk further down the track brings you out to a few smaller pools and the creek. Xavier braved the jump into the largest one. There were a group of younger guys and gals, drinking, playing music, bomb diving into the pool, sliding along their bellies into the smaller pool below and braving the jump into the smallest of pools which would have been the size of a floating ring. They were having a great time and I was expecting one of them to miscalculate at any minute and crack their heads on the rock. How things have changed! No doubt a decade or two ago, I could have been any one of those kids!
The next day we headed out to Theresa Creek Dam which is not far from Clermont. There’s a large campsite with a great playground for the kids and small shop doing decent takeaway food for lunch. The wider area is pretty dry but this camp site was lush and green. A benefit from being right on the dam’s edge.
While we were in Emerald, Craig conducted swim squad for us. The fact that Xavier is better at backstroke than me overcame any earlier grumblings. I don’t remember disliking backstroke quite so much, but I do now! I’ve always sucked at swimming. Our races were pretty close except for backstroke, and swim squad was actually fun. Craig would like to do a public pool tour of Northern Australia. We should all be better swimmers by the time we come back!
The cousins had a ball hanging out together. Eating ice cream at the movies, playing endless games of Pokemon (Miky’s rules), laughing and mucking around way past their bedtimes. It’s always bittersweet saying goodbye to my sister and Barry. Not so much for our niece Mikayala. She was ready for us to leave and was looking forward to getting back to her usual routine. I appreciate her honesty. It’s refreshing.
So off we go again. Next stop Barcaldine.