Western Queensland 2003

The holiday Continued... Back to Page 1.
Derek wanted to see the out back whilst it is in the grip of the worst drought in 100 years. Our route takes us back south down the coast to Townsville then inland to Chaters Towers where we spent the night. We were up and away early the next morning looking for a breakfast stop, the road was very quite we only saw a handful of vehicles in the first hour and nowhere to get breakfast. Just as thing were looking grim we passed through Pentland, not a town just a collection of houses by the road but it did have a caravan park with a small shop which come up with a good breakfast and pleasant surrounding in which to eat it. If we had know we would have spent the night there as they had cabins and it was just our sort of place, life making a go of it even under difficult conditions
We were heading for Hughenden to look at their Dinosaur display's. The area is well know for its fossilised remains. The town is small just a couple of pubs a few shops and a dinosaur museum which was closed for renovations, just our luck. We had our lunch and pushed on to Winton. The road from Hughenden to Winton was to prove one of the most isolated on our trip, during the 2 hour journey we passed only 5 vehicles and apart from a road house at Corfield there was no sign of life.
The draught we had come to see was more than evident here. Vast plains of grey parched grass, the trees didn't even have any leaves. The sides of the road was littered with bodies of dead kangaroos at some places they were no more than 5mtrs apart. We tried to count them but there were so many we lost count. There were a few Emu's about but even they were victims of the road. The animals come to the road side at night looking for any moisture they can find and unfortunately get hit by passing vehicles. Maybe its a blessing, rather that than a slow death of thirst.
People who don't know Australia wonder why we can't feed and water them. The area is so large and we are talking millions of animals, our farmers have had to sell off all there livestock because they have no feed or water. They are hanging on to the best of their breeding stock hoping they can keep them alive until the drought breaks. We saw many herds of cattle walking the "long paddock" ( an Australian saying that refers to the land at the edge of the road) the farmers walk their cattle along the road side as it offers some of the only feed available. Many of these cattle have been walking the long paddock for months, the drovers with them live in a caravan with only their cattle dog for company.
We overnighted in Winton and were up early for a visit to the local cemetery to see the graves of the early pioneers of this region. What strikes you is the number of children's graves, many are buried two or three from the same family. It must have been a hard life its not easy now with all our modern conveniences the women must have found it particularly difficult. A visit to Corfield's & Fitzmaurice was a must the guide book said as it contains a great collection of gem stones plus many life size dinosaurs. It opens at 9am we waited till 9.30am then gave up.
Today was only a short run to Longreach about 180kms (110 miles), once there we went to visit the Stockman's Hall of Fame. This building houses a tribute to the people who opened up the Australian Bush and made possible our current way of life. It was very interesting taking you from the very early explorers to present day, with lots of audio visual and great pictures. After lunch we went to visit the birth place of Qantas, (Queensland and Northern Territory Air Services) Australia's national airline. Set up as an air link for outback towns just after the 1st world war it went through many difficult times before it finally became the country major air transporter.
This morning see's us on the road again heading for Barcaldine and breakfast, next Blackall then Tambo where we stopped for lunch. Many of the small towns have populations of under 1000 and that is counting everyone who lives in the surrounding area. When possible we visit their local museum or have a meal to help spread our tourist dollar around they need all the help they can get. We have lived in a country town for 5 years so we know how hard it can be to make a living, even without a one in 100 year drought.
Next stop was for afternoon tea at Augathella. What a nice little town, quite oh it was quite, we didn't have to worry about cars getting in our photo's there weren't any, cars that is. While we were in the only craft shop a kangaroo hopped passed the front door, these are very timid animals they must be hungry to come that close to humans. The lady in the local store said that at night the lawn at the hospital was so thick with Roo's that it was standing room only. We had noticed in other towns that any area of green grass was covered in Roo droppings.
Unless you have seen a real drought it is hard to imagine the difference between the green of the towns and the bleached grey the instant you reach the town boundary. All these towns out west rely on artisan water pumped from deep underground, it is hot and has a sulphurous smell but it keep them alive. Our destination tonight is Charleville. we visit the cemetery again and are kept an eye on by several Roo's who are in the new lawn cemetery enjoying the grass and standing under the sprinklers.
A change of plan today we were going to head further south to Cunnamulla but I wanted to visit the bore baths at Mitchell so we turn east. Breakfast is at Morven then we arrive at Mitchell midmorning. The bore baths are very inviting, one pool is a nice 39c (100f) the other cooler at about 30c. The water makes your skin feel like velvet and doesn't make your hair frizzy, I want to bottle it and take some home. We enjoy lunch around the pool then off to Roma for a quick visit afternoon tea at Surat and on to St George for our over night stay
Most of these towns have very little in the way of restaurants, of course there is the Chinese, every town seems to have one but one cannot live on Chinese alone. We have been eating at the R.S.L, for those non Australian that's the "Returned Soldier League". An institution in most Australian towns its a bar come gaming room come restaurant, the food is usually good and best of all cheap. In the very small towns it does go quite when you walk in and everyone stares at you as though you have two heads but they are friendly once spoken too.
Today is our second last day of the trip so we are trying to make the most of what is left. We head out of St George towards Goondiwindi on the Queensland NSW (New South Wales) boarder, our breakfast stop is at Talwood a small town just off the road. We ate at the village shop which for such a small town was a bustle of people coming and going and gave the place a real village feel. Our next stop was to be Texas via Inglewood but we took a short cut and for awhile I was sure we were lost But all of a sudden there it was our lunch stop. We ate our lunch to the sounds of 50's pop music which must have been a favourite of the man who ran the shop, it looked his sort of music
Our over night was to be Casino in NSW, we decided to return home from the south for a change and miss the traffic around Brisbane. The road from Tenterfield to Casino is very hilly and winds around, Derek was having great fun in my car it handles well on the corners just like a rally car, then he got the word "My tummy feels a bit funny with all these turns". Back to driving like a Sunday outing, at least you get to see the scenery when you go slow, well that how he consoled himself.
Our last day and only about 2 hour driving left, first Bangalow for breakfast then on to the freeway for the run home. Its funny when you have been on outback roads for a week then you suddenly hit a main road, everyone seems to be in such a hurry. I suppose we will be back into this routine very soon with out even realising we are doing it. Its been a great holiday, we've covered 6000 kms (4000 miles) in 14 days for Australia that's taking it easy only 600kms per day if you don't count the 5 days in Port Douglas. This is such a vast country and so sparsely populated, it has a beauty all of its own, not one that you fall in love with immediately but it does grow on you. The out back has skies that go on forever, with some of the best sunset you will ever see. It is hard to take pictures of the beauty, when you look though the lens it is just not there it doesn't capture the grandeur. You just have to go and see and carry the picture around in your head.
Derek & Cindy