Yeppoon, Emerald and Carnarvon George

On the big drive towards Rockhampton on the Bruce Hwy there's a bunch of trivia alongside the road on big signs. "Who was the first Premier of Queensland?".  We missed the answer 10kms down the road!

The Capricorn Caves are amazing! We would recommend to anyone travelling to Rockhampton to stop and have a look because it is a great adventure and really didn't cost much. The quality of the tours and the way the guides conduct them is exceptional. Our guided tour takes us down into some open roofed (or collapsed caves) but it's very soon afterwards we find ourselves in small closet sized spaces. At one point the caves open up into a huge cathedral where funnily enough they actually host weddings functions. Why anyone would want to get married down there with all that bat poo is beyond me, but each to their own I guess. We all sit down on the church style seating looking toward the pew, candles lit all around us, breathing funny bat cave air when suddenly booming opera music is being played. The acoustics are the best I have ever heard. With a little pre warning, our tour guide explains how the first person to discover these caves actually went in with a rope tied to their waist and only one candle, and then he turned out all the lights. PITCH BLACK. You cannot see your hands right in front of your face. We head out of the caves in a different direction, literality zig-zaging through shoulder width walls in almost darkness, and make about 15 turns before the light at the end reminds you that you're safe. River was saying "I'm not scared, this is Batman's cave". Olive held onto us for dear life.

Rockhampton is more of a working town and we really only spend a few hours there before making our way back onto the coast at Yeppoon. We end up treating ourselves to a Big4 caravan park that we were suckered into staying at after reading a tourist brochure that showed a picture of 'the big massive water slide'. More of Rivers words. So after settling in we make our way over to the main attraction and get on a huge big triple winding water tube and discover the biggest kid of all... is DADDY. Yeppoon is lovely, but it's raining the next few days and so we don't spend any time at the beach. We took a big walk up to Double Heads and Pebble Beach, check out Fan rock and the shell museum but then we hit the road again, this time onto the Capricorn HWY heading west, inland bound for Emerald.

"90kmph x 1minute and 18seconds makes that coal train 1.95km long" More on the road games before arriving in dusty dry Emerald and setting up at the free camp in town. We've come to Emerald for another break from the coast and to experience something different... No. Not really..... we've come to find jewels!  We still have our fossicking licence and so we take off with yet another terrible mud map to the Big Bessie Fossicking Area in Sapphire and start having a dig. As the name suggests, we are looking for sapphires. At first we don't find anything and I'm sceptical that we would even know a rough sapphire if we saw one, or that we know anything about what we are doing at all. In town there's a place called Pats Gem Den and they offer you a $12 wash bucket and teach you the right method and how to identify a sapphire.  After an hour in the hot sun I've convinced Reece we need to go and do this first. This is a big recommendation to any fellow armature fossickers. We head back out with confidence and a few local tips and guess what???  We found one!!! A tiny insignificant one!! But it's OURS and River is so happy with his new treasure that we add to the rock collection.

Outback central Queensland is at its very finest on the drive from Emerald down the Dawson HWY and onto the Carnarvon Highway. A display of sunflowers line the road side before an endless stretch of dry scrub and eucalyptus trees with huge mountain ranges in the distance. We are heading into the Carnarvon National Park and on approach the tree trunks get thicker and taller and more and more impressive. Takarakka Bush Resort is really just the fancy name for a camp ground we are staying at. There's a beautiful river circling around the grounds and talk of platypus sightings. We didn't see any again after hours of (not so) quietly waiting. I'm really starting to think this might be a job for the zoo. We meet our beautiful new Friends, The Gobles. Naomi, her husband John and their three kids. Matt (he's maybe 15) and Roxy and Stella (I'm guessing 5 and 3) The Gobles are off on their family adventure around Australia too and it's so nice to meet like minded people. The kids get along famously and we plan to catch up later down the track.

The Carnarvon Gorge is phenomenal. The land is cracked open like the shape of a lightning bolt that cuts right through The Great Dividing Range. It is absolutely huge and as visitors for a few nights we will only scratch the surface of how big and boldly impressive this land is. We take a look at our visitors map and soon realise that there is only a smidgen of this gorge we can actually access. There are no 4WD tracks and to see this totally remote landscape, you must travel by foot. Can you imagine how relatively few people would have ventured  right throughout the gorge?  There is a walking track named "The Great Walk" that is 87kms and recommend 5 to 6 days. Without kids, Reece and I hope that one day we will try to get back here to do some of it. There are two 18km walks into closer sections of the gorge called  The Cathedral or  The Moss Walk  but that's much too far for us. A 6.4km walk to the Boolinda Bluff  temps us but we also decided not to do that. I would recommend to anyone visiting this area with small kids to be prepared with quality hiking equipment and carriers for the kids. We were simply not prepared for this and so for now we take a small drive to the discovery centre and then head out on foot to some selected areas we know the kids can tackle. A 3km walk into Mickey's Creek Gorge was easy and fun. We are still amazed by the absolutely towering rock formations covered with moss and ferns, and trees that reach through the cracks leading out to the light and blue sky. The magical creek was alive with wildlife and there was a rich aroma of earth. We took our time and pointing out the beauty to the kids.  We visit the Rock Pool for a swim the next day and Warrumbah Gorge to see amazing ancient artworks. What we were able to explore is just like touching the tip of an iceberg and even that discovery was incredible. Carnarvon George is a place that is truly untouched and a walkers / hikers paradise.