From Prairie to Emerald, and all the towns in between!
6.10.14 - 14.10.14 28 °C
Finally, we've been "out west". A flying visit, because it was so hot and dry - 38 degrees every day. But we will return, in the winter. There is so much to see and do, and we love the outback. Such a different way of life.
From Prairie we headed west to Hughenden. Further back than we could imagine, dinosaurs thrived in a lush environment alongside a vast pre historic inland sea. Today, Hughenden honours the memory of those creatures - there are replicas in the street, in the museum and works of art through the town. We followed "the dinosaur trail" to Winton, which is known as the Dinosaur Capital of Australia, and houses the world's largest collection of dinosaur fossils. Winton is the birthplace of QANTAS, which was first registered as a company in 1920 and is the home of Queensland's Boulder Opal, It's where Banjo Paterson wrote Waltzing Matilda - at a property just out of town.....it was first sung in one of the pubs at Winton in 1895.
We passed through a tiny town called Corfield, Population 3, and had to stop for a photo. it's known for its' annual race meeting, The Corfield Cup, when the population explodes with people visiting from near and far - a real outback race experience!
Driving through the grassy plains, starkly beautiful red earth and spinifex, and Channel Country, with undulating plains as far as the eye can see, there's a myriad of dry channels, waiting for the wet season. Some parts haven't had rain for 8 years, they didn't have a wet season last year.
Next stop, Longreach, a thriving town in the Central West. You need to allow loads of time to visit these places, preferably in the winter months when it's not so hot. Longreach is not just a town, it's a way of life - there is so much to see and do, and it would be nice o get to know the locals. We started at the Powerhouse Museum, which houses huge generators used to provide power to Longreach from 1948 to 1985, when the area was linked to the local grid. A wonderful museum, with a house which is set up to depict family living conditions way back then.......you can almost smell dinner cooking in the old wood stove!
We visited the Longreach School of Distance Education (LSODE) which used to be called The School of The Air. Technology has overcome the power of distance in the most amazing way, and a rich education is delivered to kids thousands of kilometres away. We observed an on-air maths lesson, with the teacher sitting at her computer, camera attached, delivering a lesson to kids somewhere on an outback station. The school, although there are no kids in the classrooms, is full of their artwork, projects and school work. It has a bright friendly atmosphere and it was truly an eye opener. Kids come to the school once or twice a year for lessons and social interaction, and there is a tutor who will visit them at home once a year. Secondary education is usually in boarding schools in the towns, but the drought has meant that this is no longer affordable, so more grade 6 to 12's are staying at home. The government allows about $3.40 per pupil per year more than a regular state school. LSODE is very reliant on donations from people like us.
Now for the Australian Stockman's Hall of Fame - the unique architecture making it a landmark in the town. It is a spectacular tribute to the people of outback Australia. It was created from the vision of Hugh Sawrey in 1974, who wanted to create a memorial to the pioneers of the outback and preserve the rich cultural heritage. The exhibits comprise an eclectic mix of objects, images, touch screens, open displays and short movies. My favourite was the royal flying Doctor Display and Joe loved the whole lot! The landscaped gardens surrounding the building house sculptures, windmills and water features. And theres a replica homestead in the grounds, built by RM Williams. In the evening there's an Outback Show, telling the story of real life stockmen and women who work on the land - along with a horse, a cattle dog with saddle and rider, a pig dressed as the mother in law and a huge Brahman bull, also with saddle and rider! All followed by a yummy steak on the barbie with salad and chips. Next time we visit we'll finish off what we missed this time.
We stayed at the Longreach tourist Park, a huge park, dry and dusty, tiny little pool, no shade and no grass - although there was a sign saying "keep off the grass". We were able to watch the lunar eclipse, in The Big Sky that the outback is famous for. We were parked nest to 3 other Crusader caravans - that's never happened before. Driving around the town you notice that all the streets are named after birds. The streets that run east-west are named after waterbirds, and those that run north-south are named for land birds. The caravan park was in Thrush Road and the closest intersection was Wompoo Road!
Next time we will visit the Qantas Founders Museum, and maybe do an evening cruise on The Thomson River.
Next stop Emerald, we found a bush camp about 16 km out, called Higher Ground Homestay. Owned by Kathy, this is a great place to stay, $15 with power and water, peaceful and lovely in the bush. Kathy has an eccentric house and garden, with a huge array of chooks, an amazing veggie garden, several guinea fowl, horses and dogs, a bookcase on the verandah for travellers, and about 300 solar powered butterflies which all light up at night! We spent a couple of nights there, as we needed a wheel alignment and they were able to do that at Emerald on Saturday morning. We found a great Irish Pub where we had a pint of Guinness, and realised that the Emerald Races were on. Damn, I didn't have my fascinator!!
On the road again, through Ilfracombe which has a gorgeous quirky pub which wasn't open, Barcaldine, where the locals were playing croquet on the nature strip, Jericho on the Jordan River. to arrive here at Calliope for a couple of nights. It's so lovely to have soft green grass under our feet. We're camped on the side of a pond full of ducks, cormorants and herons. We have a resident turtle and her baby which bask on a log just near our van, providing our entertainment.
Last night we had a thunderstorm and loads of rain. We filled our big bucket a couple of times with rainwater off the awning, tipping it into the tank to replenish our supply. We're slowly making our way back down south, heading back to the coast for some very desirable ocean. Joe's keen to get his paddle board out, knowing that there won't be a man-eating croc lurking under the waves.