Published: July 13th 2012July 13th 2012
Hargrave's Corner - Used to be Dad's cousin
We’ve traveled almost due north for a while now, and we have been on the middle of the line defining low rainfall to occasional rainfall. This has marked a return to the best part of our Australian odyssey - a return to the songs and poetry of the Australian Outback. We are about level with Rockhampton on the Capricorn Coast, but 650km inland, about halfway to the Northern Territory border.
From Dubbo, we stayed at Bourke (Back o’ Bourke), Cunnumulla, (the Cunnumulla fella), Charleville (the vortex guns), and Blackall (beyond the black stump). The common element of these towns is the rural decline, attempts to grow alternative crops once the golden age of wool was over, and the effects of Government incentives and constraints. They recognize that tourists are a major part of their survival and efforts are being made to encourage them to stay.
To use Blackall as the example, the area grew wool and had a common shearing shed and a co-op wool scouring plant. The town dates from 1864, but the black stump was here a few years before that. Often, the original surveyors used an old tree stump to rest their theodolites on. Anything unsurveyed
Hotel - maybe my granfather had a drink here?
was known as “beyond the black stump”. The original stump, if there was one, has been replaced (symbolized) by a petrified piece of wood on a back street. The town also was home to Jackie Howe who, in 1892, held the record for both hand and machine sheep shearing.
The town is over the great artesian basin and water is provided from there. It’s still free flowing and arrives at the surface at about 62 deg C. The town has fabulous heated swimming pools. Strange to sit on the loo and have a heated bum. The cistern is hot! The basins only have one tap – warm.
The old wool scourer opened in 1908 as a co-op venture by the local graziers. Scoured (cleaned) wool was about 40% lighter than raw wool, so saved a lot of freight cost. They used the hot artesian water to clean and wash the wool. It closed in 1978. Ten years later, a few of the townsfolk got together, got some money together, restored the machinery and re-opened as a tourist attraction. The machinery is in great condition, including the original steam engine which still drives all the machinery by means of
Somehow the hotels have survived and are the most ornate buildings in town.
overhead belts. They get it going for tourists and the whole operation is run by the original workers. It was great, but what will happen when the originals pass on?
The town fortune was built on the merino wool, but there are a lot of Dorper sheep around now. They are a meat sheep, with no wool. The lambs are three times as fast growing as merino, and there are frequently twins, so 6 times the production. We’ve eaten it, but are not impressed.
As soon as we arrived in Queensland (Cunnumulla) all the camp grounds provide entertainment by way of country music (Only a few of the campgrounds in other states offer any entertainment.). These artists get a free spot for their bus or caravan and survive by selling CD’s and taking the hat around at their shows. It’s a lot of fun, particularly as we now have visited or know about most of the places they sing/recite about.
A comment about the weather – we’ve been in about 109 campgrounds so far, and this is the first one where we have encountered mud! We’ve only had a small skiff or two, but there has been
On ites way to the cotton gin.
some serious out of season rain to the north of us, and we are encountering the after-effects. On our safari, we’ve been so lucky in that we’ve only had a few days of rain over the whole trip, and nothing very serious. And that includes our Tasmanian venture in the depths of winter.
By the way, Charleville was special to me because my paternal grandmother was born here in 1884. The family didn’t stay long (don’t blame them!) as their other three children were born elsewhere. My grandmother died in Rawene, ironically a very similar town, in 1932.
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12 July 2012
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