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Published: March 23rd 2007
Back to uncivilisation
We had a few days to spare before meeting with Kate , but that was good it gave us the chance to call in on Sue’s sister Barb , and her husband Ronnie , they live on the outskirts of Brisbane, and how welcoming they were, we had a wonderful dinner , followed by ice cream , a rare treat , and a real bed for the night. Nice to see you Barb and Ronnie , and thank you for a lovely evening and for the use of the computer , eventually it did as it was told.
We then drove to the glass house mountains ( named by Captain Cook , the shape of them reminded him of the big glass houses back in England). We were not far from Australia zoo , and although we don’t like zoo’s , we thought as we were there we should go , and so we did. This was of course the home of the crocodile hunter , Steve Irwin , the park is very good the animal enclosures large and clean , and you can see the croc’s real close , we went to the crocaseum
and were shown snakes , it’s good to know what they look like before you actually bump into one in the wild , mind you I would be long gone before I decided whether it was dangerous or not , but I have to say it was informative and a good day out.
We arrive at our motel close to the docks on the 7th march , rise at 6.00am the next morning as we want to watch the boat come in , there is a distinct lack of action, we go into a shop , and ask if there are any boats expected ,’’ alas no not today but the Saga Rose arrives tomorrow’’ we return to the motel. We go for a trip down the river on a city cat , and decide we will do this with Kate tomorrow , stopping for lunch at the Botanic gardens.
The next morning we are back on the docks at 7.15am , and here she comes , and there’s Kate jumping up and down on the promenade deck . When the ship is secured she is one of the first off , we go to the motel and show her
stuck in eulo
the flood truck
the van , and then catch the city cat , we get off after a short while and go for a drink , Kate has also made plans , better ones than us , how could we even think it was a good idea going down the river when she had been on a boat for the last two and a half months. Her plan was for us to go aboard the ship for lunch and afternoon tea , but first a phone call to Nick , poor thing it was 2.45am in England , Kate hadn’t realised , still we all said hello then returned to the ship. What luxury , I can’t describe it very well , but if Piriot or miss Marples had appeared I wouldn’t have been surprised. The theme for lunch was salmon , any way you can eat salmon there it was, and very nice too. We joined a friend of Kate’s ,(I can’t remember her name, but she was looking after her disabled elderly father. ) we then decided we would have a swim we change in Kate’s cabin it has 2 portholes , and was also in the style where you wouldn’t
a day of luxury
be surprised if miss Marples appeared . Kate showed us a certificate she had received , as Woman Of The Cruise , we weren’t surprised she had a word to say to all those we met , and they were genuinely pleased to see her , she told us it was liked being in a village. We swam in the pool on the poop deck , I think that’s what it was called , showered , then it was time to eat again ,afternoon tea….there were neat little sandwiches, scones , cakes, and waiters every where , topping up your cups , or if like me you wanted Earl Grey , fetching your own little pot. All too soon it was time for us to return to the shore , it was a very short day, the boat was due to sail out at 6.30pm , and so with heavy hearts we left Kate , all that evening I wondered if I could do a cruise , I think maybe it would be alright for a week or two but then I would go stir crazy. Thanks for a lovely day Kate it will live with me for a long time, and I have to say you looked really good , I don’t think I would be so disciplined with all that food about.
And so we left the civilised world , where the sun goes down behind the tower blocks at four o’clock in the afternoon , the wild life speeding from one set of traffic lights to another and then screeching to a halt , the starless skies , the constant noise and head west , we were going to Darwin but there is a bit of a cyclone named George in the area wreaking havoc , and the wets wont be over for another two weeks, and so we are going to Innaminka and the dig tree.
Our first stop is a small town called Yelarbon , 300klms west of Brisbane , we wander across the road , to the local hostelry and watch the sun go down , and the only noise are the Kookaburras , laughing there heads off .
The next morning we head for a town called Nindigully , this town has a population of 8 , 6 of whom work in the pub , the other 2 one assumes are the customers. We arrive at the town and are surprised that all it is, is a pub and a house, but the pub is heaving, a coach load on a six day church outing from Brisbane has arrived , we were talking to the organiser , they were going from pub to winery in a loop for 6 days, my kind of church. Our camping guide said there was a camping ground in the town , and further enquires revealed it was any where we liked . We slept just up behind the pub, as this was where the toilets and shower were. After the coach party left the barmaids decided a swim in the Moonie river was a must, David declined but I was game, the water was a dull brown colour , but very refreshing, the temperature was 97 degrees in the shade, when we got out of the river the sun began to bake the thin layer of mud so a quick shower was needed before I set hard. We discovered the town was the location of an Australian film called Paperback Hero , staring an equally famous Australian actor.( no idea )
The next morning we continued west, through St George and Cunnamulla to a small town called Eulo
Population 50 people and 1,500 lizards. This is the home of the world lizard championships, there is no record of there ever being an English contender , in fact there is no record of there being any contenders that live any further away than the two towns either side .
You’ll never guess where the camp site is , I don’t know what you are saying , but if you said up behind the pub you were right, we have a cold beer while the landlord tells us we’ll not get to Innamincka this day as the Paroo river is up point 6 of a metre , best if we just pop the van up behind his pub, ‘’she’ll be down tomorrow’’.
In the morning we go down to the bridge , it is still under water and the river is rising. I didn’t tell you the town consists of the obligatory pub , a shop that sells everything from bread to saddles, there is a date farm and winery and a few houses , we return to the shop , it doubles for a coffee shop , for a cuppa , passing the small dirt runway of the bush airport , the flying doctor is just landing. We ask for a couple of coffees when the strangest vehicle pulls up , it is a flatbed lorry but the locals have modified it so that the body of the vehicle is about 5 feet off the ground we are told by the shop owner that this is the flood truck and if the driver is in a good mood we can ride on it through the flood to the other side where, when the post , bread , milk, boxes of groceries , and roll of lino are off loaded into Ute’s the other side , the people from the next town who have appointments with the doctor will be loaded on and brought back. Oh deep joy , we would have paid to ride on this , it has no clutch or brakes , it is banged into gear and we lurch off, the people waiting the other side jump up and down relieved to see their transport arriving .Let me tell you this vehicle has no registration document , no insurance , bald tyres , and is rusty, we are on our return journey when we see a man waist deep on the bridge , the lorry slows to allow him to board , he stands next to me , we are all hanging on for grim death as it makes another lurch forward, ‘’are you mad ‘’ I ask , ‘’no I’m the local policeman , I have to check the depth on the bridge every day , so as to decide which vehicles can cross, none will be crossing today, but she’ll probably be gone down tomorrow‘’.
Apparently the townsfolk worry every time a new police officer is allocated to the town , ‘’some can be funny buggers’’ You see the town was allocated a small boat with an outboard motor for such emergencies , but it’s too much bother , by the time the Ute’s are loaded driven down this side of the flood , it then has to all be loaded into the boat , then taken across and then loaded onto the Ute’s the other side, this way we just load up the flood truck trundle her over the bridge , and unload in no time, usually the silly buggers come round after the first flood and they are the ones at the deep end of the chain loading the boat. On our return the coffee is ready , we are grinning from ear to ear. We are invited to the rear of the shop , here there is a small history of the town and a grand display of rock opals that are mined from the next town, called Yowah , we look it up it’s 60 miles away and that is where they have driven from to meet the flood truck, we buy a book written about the Eulo Queen one of the notorious inhabitants of the 1800’s .What to do now, we retire to the coolness of the air conditioned bar , Ken the landlord is pleased to see us , he asks if we are enjoying ourselves , which of course we are, we pay for another night , and relax talking to Mac one of the locals , one time opal miner , has a lovely collection perhaps tomorrow morning we would like to see it he lives just over the back , ‘’you don’t think the river will be down tomorrow then ? ‘’I ask, ‘’ depends’’ he said ‘’ whether they have any rain further up’’. That evening several others appear up behind the pub, a couple from the next town have just returned from Sydney , Margaret and Peter, did a months shop on the way , ‘’ no worries ‘’ says our host ‘’I’ll get Marlene to put it in the freezer’’. there are a couple of land trains loaded with pipes , a lady that used to live in Blackpool ,many years ago, we spend a lovely evening chatting with them. The next morning we wander down to the river , she hasn’t gone down yet. We visit Mac and see his opal collection, we buy an opal. That night at the pub we are joined by some shearers working at the station just down the road and a man from the RSL , it’s like our British Legion, and a couple from Bristol. We are all sat on the veranda in the cool of the evening when the landlord starts talking about the war , ‘’if there were another one , our lads would be there, each has a talent , they would all do there bit’’, one of the shearers pipes up dry as you like, ‘’ that’s right mate, you catch ‘em I’ll shear ‘em’’.
The next morning we go down to the river ,she’s beginning to drop just point six of a metre now, we are met by Ken, he has just the thing for us tourists to do today , he was talking to the station owner and we can go and see the shearers in action , mustn’t get in the way mind , or go empty handed, he suggested we take a slab of fruit cake, he draws us a mud map, I go to the shop for the cake and off we go . How different from the demonstration we had seen at the country fair in Tasmania, these men were paid by the sheep , they didn’t hang about , they reckoned on shearing between 120 - 180 a day , we were seeing things you couldn’t pay to see , we stayed until it was their lunch time , they hoped we had enjoyed seeing what it was really like , of course it was harder in the old days with hand clippers , but still back breaking . We thanked them and gave them the slab of fruit cake, to say they looked surprised would be an understatement , but they thanked us. That afternoon we visited the date farm and winery, we bought a bottle of date liqueur. Up behind the pub was changing the land trains with the pipes had left they were going north then crossing the river higher up , a round trip of 600 kilometres, but in their place was a family from Brisbane Mary Graham , Daniel and Anna lees, they had heard the river would be down tomorrow , and they could go on to Innamincka, exactly where we were heading , they retired early , we spent the evening in the bar, it was Margaret’s 64th birthday , there was us the landlord and his wife Marlene, three sheep shearers, the station owner, the lady from Blackpool , Angie from Melbourne ,and her daughter that were on the way to visit her sister at the next town . When we arrived Ken , the landlord was talking to the shearers, ‘’funniest thing,’’ the shearer said ‘’ a couple of tourists came over this morning watching us do the shearing, and what do you think? they gave us a slab of fruit cake, never known such a thing ‘’, ‘’ perhaps that’s what they do in England’’ our host said , he then spotted us, ‘’and what can I get you ?’’ this ones on me. We realised we had been had. The station owner then recalled several ruses Ken had pulled on unsuspecting travellers, one , he had been fishing and caught a big fish in a river further away than the one we were all waiting to cross, it was in the fridge, he and the station owner had been sat on the veranda when a truck of fishermen could be seen approaching the town , Ken rushed inside , got the fish and stood in the middle of the road, he stopped the truck and told them, he had just caught it in the river that was just behind the pub, ‘’no worries, just pop yourselves up the back there, she’ll be right. The next morning we left, the river had dropped….or had the town just opened a dam further down the river, we’ll never know, but it was one of the highlights of our trip and one we will remember a long time.
We followed the family from Brisbane and they were pleased with our company, we stopped at Thargomindah for lunch , this town boasts the third hydro electric supply in the world after UK and France the turbine running from the pressure of water from the artesian bore hole. People would travel from miles around to see the electric light, this would be in the 1800’s.
Our short convoy then made it’s way to Noccundra , last fuel stop before Innamincka. There was some discussion between Graham and Dave and the locals as to whether the road was passable , we were assured it was, The road was dirt and full of huge puddles but nothing we couldn’t go through, it was getting late we had missed the camp ground near the creek , there was lightening and thunder all around us we decided we’d find the next high ground and camp there for the night. The morning dawned , we had avoided the rain although we had seen storms all around us, we decided to plough on , just 48 kilometres from the dig tree we were stopped by a small lake , we could see tracks from another vehicle circling it so Dave and Graham set off on foot to see where they went. Meanwhile I set up an art lesson for the children , Daniel was 6years Anna lees was 4years, we had a great time, eventually Daniel produced a passable painting of an emu that could be sent to his teacher. Although these children are travelling for a year , the school sets up lessons that must be completed and sent to the school at intervals to make sure they are having some form of education. Mary was astounded at what Daniel had achieved. Graham and Dave were suitably impressed when they returned, and I had enjoyed myself. But the news was bad we could go no further that day , we either sat it out there or returned to Noccundra where we could re-fuel and get more information about the bottom road, travelling through Epsilon and getting to Innaminka from the south.
We returned, the town of Noccundra is a bit smaller than Eulo, in fact it was just a pub and a dirt airstrip that was used to transport workers to and from the oilfields. Population 3.Just down the road is the Wilson river and the Nockatunga dairy and sheep station. Now for the history bit. Andrew Hume ,also known as the black prince, and first Australian born explorer, was released from Sydney prison to lead an exploration in search of the lost Leichhard expedition, I don’t know just at the moment what the Leichhard expedition were doing but I will look it up when I reach civilisation , ( seems to me there were loads of explorers wandering around out there, in fact sounds far too busy to me, )but Hume along with Timothy O Hea a famous Victoria Cross winner perished on the station just down the road, the only survivor was Lewis Thompson an ex India army cavalry man and piano tuner. There is probably
a moral there somewhere but just at the moment it escapes me.
While we are waiting for news of the roads a storm erupts and rain the like of which I have never seen falls , we decide to stay put, the landlady puts a film on for the children and we stay there the night, once again we are a strange and varied collection. In the morning we decide we will go north , we hope to reach Darwin eventually. The little family are going in convoy by the southerly route, with another couple , who know the station owner at Epsilon, there is diesel fuel there , our trouble is if we run out of fuel we can’t get any unless we reach Innaminka, the risk is too high, we will try again when we are this way in July.
And so we travel north , we are 120 kilometres from Noccundra on the road to Eromanga when we see a cairn, we love cairns we pull over, it’s not a cairn but the grave of Angus Steele Chapman, he was only 35 , but the inscription made us smile , it’s written in Latin ‘’Nil Carborundum Illegitmi’’ now do I tell you what it means ,or let you work it out., I’ll put the translation at the bottom of this blog ,so those who want to look away ,can do so now.
We eventually reach Eromanga, this is the furthest town from the sea, unfortunately it is shut, we didn’t realise what day it was, just for the record we have been unable to get an up to date newspaper for over a week and we tend to rely on this for the day and date, we have to go to the oil refinery for fuel , they are very good here in the outback, you just help yourself and then go to the office at the refinery , tell them how much you put in and pay, and it is cheaper than the big towns even though it is in the middle of nowhere. And so we reach Windorah , I don’t know what it is famous for yet but before we leave I will, I noticed a cairn on the way in, when I have finished typing this up I will take a look , or I may just pop in the pub and ask, no we are not up behind a pub today we are in a site on the edge of town with the luxury of power, unfortunately we are also in the land of tree frogs who think the toilet is the local pond , the scenery on our journey is remarkable , we drive past huge red sand dunes , through miles of bush with stunted gum trees , and where there has been rain further north it percolates down the creeks and gullies , and small rivers creating small oasis’s of lush grass , and beautiful flowering plants of mauve and yellow carpeting the red soil, it’s at these small oasis we usually see herds of emu’s, sometimes sheep and cattle and wild horses, the sky is a brilliant blue and the air is so clear , the sun relentless, I was just going to go for a cold shower but alas it is also the land of bore water, it comes out of the ground hotter than the water in the hot tap , and so I will bounce the water off the wall, this cools it a little and stand where it rebounds into the shower cubicle. I nearly forgot the translation’ Nil Carborundum Illegitimi’’ means roughly, ‘’don’t let the bastards grind you down’’. pretty good inscription I reckon. Our next stop is Longreach I’ll try to get this posted there.
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