Southern Highlands, NSW, Australia

Thursday, January 14, 2010


So our first exciting holiday in Australia had begun in the winter of 1956. Two families in two caravans travelled north from Sydney to Brisbane via the inland route on the New England Highway.
First stop was Maitland and would you believe it was raining. In those days (50's) Maitland was an industrial town with coal mines being the biggest industry, so it wasn't a very attractive place. (How it has changed! Today it is part of the Hunter Valley Wine region, with thousands of tourists and hundreds of resorts and it is a lovely place to visit.) The next morning Dad lovingly cleaned the mud of his new(2nd hand) Oldsmobile and we ignored the rain and continued on.

We crossed many rivers but there weren't many bridges. We had to cross on a car ferry or barge. This is the Manning River. ( Now there are bridges over all the rivers on the main highways.)

The rain continued as we arrived in Tamworth. The grown ups rigged up a tarpaulin over the two vans to give us a little shelter from the rain as we shared time in one another's vans. Jenny is wishing it would stop raining so she could play outside. Tamworth was a pretty place when not flooded like it was then in 1956. (Today Tamworth is famous for it's huge Country and Western Festival. People go there from all over Australia and the world. Many famous singers have been discovered at the festival competitions.)
The Peel River in flood at Tamworth. NSW.

We journeyed on and at last the sun came out. The next drama was when one of the vans had brake problems. We saw some travellers going our way with the slogan "Brisbane or Bust" written on the back of their cars. The roads were not in the best condition and at this point in our journey we thought we might be joining the ones who "Bust". However, Dad and John fixed the brakes with fencing wire found on a nearby farm and we were on our way.

Excitement was mounting as we crossed the Queensland border and left New South Wales. We camped at Warwick for the night. A small country town in Queensland and a big farming area for sheep and cattle. As we headed for Brisbane we climbed over the Great Dividing Range.
Mum disappearing into the jungle to explore a waterfall. It was cool in the mountains.

We stopped at Cunningham's Gap and went for a walk in a real rainforest. Mum was very excited to be in a tropical rainforest where the plants had enormous leaves. I tried to pick one for a souvenir. It had little hairs on the stem and it was hard to break. I squeezed and pulled but it wouldn't come off. Suddenly, my fingers started to sting and burn and pain like being stabbed with red hot needles. Being ignorant of tropical plants then, I had grabbed a giant stinging nettle. The pain was severe and I can remember it to this day. I certainly respect the tropical plants now. I probably messed up my mum's desire to go hiking in the forest, lucky for me she was a nurse.

Next stop Brisbane.


  1. diane! Who took all these photos? Can you remember all the details (not counting the giant stinging nettle! Ouch) Thanks for a wonderful wander down your memory lane. Also for the update on what the places are like today.

  2. What an adventure ! I had to laugh about your van because they are still used today in Holland ! The dutchs are famous for always travelling with their "houses" and these old models still exist ! It's the nightmare of all other tourists because they are so slow on the motorway, lol ! We always meet a lot of them when we go to Italy.

  3. Hi Diane, I love seeing all of the old pictures --of your journey to Brisbane. Have you been back to see that waterfall since then??? I'd love to see it.


  4. Hi Diane
    What an adventure! These old b-w pics are great!

  5. I enjoyed very much looking at the photos that record your trip so well. Imagine no bridges, fixing the brakes with wire and stinging plants. Thank you for showing us the Australia of the '50's.

  6. We had a van about that time too ... one my Dad built. You bring back such memories ... the river crossings on ferries, the breakdowns, the cold or wet weather, the miles and miles of rough road. As for the stinging tree, being Queenslanders we grew up knowing not to touch the leaves on the big leafed tree.

  7. Betsy: I can't remember exactly which falls these were and I must sadly admit that I haven't been walking in the Cunningham Gap area. Maybe it is time to revisit.
    Jo: My Dad was a pretty keen photographer and he would have taken most of the shots but I was getting interested too and I nagged him to let me take some. Our friends also took some.
    I am in the process of taking the old photos out of old albums and making new scrap books with them. At the same time I am scnning them to keep on disc and to write these posts and print in a book form. Hopefully my daughters will enjoy them in the future.

  8. How interesting Diane! You were real setlers! Thanks for sharing these photos and telling your adventures. About the stinging nettles: I remember that one of our Aboriginal guide told us never to pick a flower or leaf from one of those rainforest plants: "If you leave them alone they'll leave you alone". He also showed us the plants we could use and what you have to do to survive in the bush. I wrote about him in my post of 9/02/2008. If you click Australia Queensland in my sidebar, you'll find it. But of course you know far more than I, about Australia.
    It's all very overwhelming! Thanks for sharing.

  9. I especially like the photo of people underneath the camper. You have such a nice history. Those times are not meant to be forgotten. Good for you in keeping it up.

  10. Wonderful old photos and memories. So precious to us as we look back on our lives.

  11. Ouch. The stinging nettle sounds painful!!!!

  12. Fencing wire is remarkable stuff. Driving from Rhodesia to S.Africa one trip with my Mum in the most barren part possible, the accelerator cable on my Dad's Mercedes broke. (He would not let me use my car as he said that the Merc was a much better car!) Anyway some kind guy stopped, managed to cut a bit of wire off a nearby fence and we were on the road again.

    I am amazed how similar our two stories are in different countries with their own little twists. t'other Diane