Monthly Archives: August 2018
We took it slowly along the road to Birdsville, hoping to nurse the water tank to an early repair. It held up well with the make shift bung getting a good dust coating to ‘cement ‘it well in place with no leaking! A closer look at the problem when we arrived in town found that it was relatively simple thing to fix. Friend Neil Imlay suggested a trip to the local hardware shop for a replacement plug, screw the remains of the old one out and put the new one in! An exact match wasn’t to be had, but the replacement was more than adequate. All fixed up in about half an hour. Bought a couple of spares for next time!
We have been here in Birdsville now for 5 nights camped behind the Old Hospital Museum with a group of others, there are about 20 of us all up. We are all volunteers on a couple of activities organised by the Uniting Church (UC) capitalising on the presence of the crowds here in Birdsville for the annual race meeting. The Old Hospital complex is the base for us and is the location of the ‘Pancake Palace’. We have another stall located in the town centre selling souvenirs and various clothing items. It is located next to Fred Brophy’s travelling boxing tent and amongst all the other spruikers in town for the races. Our aim is to raise some funds to restore parts of the hospital museum, which dates back over a hundred years and was founded by UC forerunners, as well as help fund the work of the UC in the outback.
Since arriving Homealone and Allthego, assisted by friends Neil and Dianne Imlay, have put time into both the pancakes and the souvenirs, it has been a rewarding experience as well as a bit tiring. It is starting to warm up out here in the west and yesterday we had quite a dust storm, although not like you see on the TV. It was really just a strong wind blowing dust around the place. It nevertheless drained the energy tanks.
With the races starting today (31st August) and continuing tomorrow with the main program the crowds have started to build up in town, although some have said they are not as big as last year. We are off to the races tomorrow afternoon for all the action.
We have visited a couple of the iconic attractions here in town, the old hotel and the more modern bakery. It was the Sunday roast at the pub and a cold beer. At the Bakery it was a bit of a mixed bag, egg and bacon sangers and a curried camel pie. Homealone avoided the camel pie and instead had a chunky beef pie. Both of the establishments do a roaring trade.
Now it’s off to bed to for a good sleep and an early start on the stall before race time at 1pm!
We are now in Birdsville for a week or so. Leaving Windorah we set out west on a good sealed road to the turnoff to Birdsville. From this point on the road is mostly reasonable gravel with a few rough spots and loose rocky stretches. A few cattle beside the road, not much wildlife to be seen. It took us a little under three hours to make it the 240 km to Betoota.
Just short of Betoota there is a lookout, named after Deon; he was a young helicopter pilot who was killed in a crash nearby. Great views over the landscape here. We alighted for a good look around. Strolling around the van Allthego noticed some water spurting from under the van, creating a rather large wet patch. A quick look saw that we had sprung a leak, the tap on one of the water tanks had been knocked off by a stone, hence the water pouring out. For how long was the question? Allthego quickly sprung into action under the van with his index finger dutifully inserted into the tank to stem the flow. This could not be the solution though……..after some deep thought a rag was stuffed into the hole. This allowed time to search around for a piece of shrub timber to fashion into a plug to fill the gap. A very suitable piece was found and along with some plumbing and gaffer tape the flow was arrested. We had lost half our water, the remainder just enough to get us through the two nights at Betoota in the free camp beside the creek. No camping grounds or power at Betoota and limited water.
So we limped into Betoota and settled in beside the creek with a fair few other people. Betoota has been holding a race day continuously for 40 years. Nobody has lived at Betoota for 20 years. The last resident was the publican and when he died in 1997 the pub closed. It then slowly fell into disrepair and is now marked on maps as ‘ruins’. But it is being reopened and has undergone significant repairs and modernisation. It was due to reopen for the races but has run into some bureaucracy which has held things up, some suggest maliciously. Anyway we were able to have drink as a ‘social licence’ had ben obtained. You had to buy tickets that were swapped for drinks and eats. All proceeds going to charity. There were 50 or 60 people there at the time, but evidence of plenty others! The next day was race day so we retired to our abode by the creek. The plug in the water tank was holding well.
Plenty of action on race day. All up there must have been close to 750 people in attendance for the 6 race program. We grabbed our camp chairs and sat in a covered enclosure not far from the finish line. Great view of the track and the various characters coming and going from the bookie tent and bar area. Plenty of fashions of the field on display, ‘quality’ somewhat variable! All seemed to be having a good time. The local member flew in on a little plane, having come from Canberra for the day. There is dedication for you.
Homealone managed to pick two winners and a third place based on the horses names and colours. Same principles also yielded a last place. We didn’t lose any money or for that matter win any as in her usual style no bets had been placed. We departed after the fourth race to ready for our departure the next morning for Birdsville.
Apart from a couple of shops, the pub, Post Office and the service station there is not a lot in Windorah. A truck comes once a fortnight with fresh fruit and vegs for the 80 townsfolk. One of our fellow campers has been off on a full day mail run with the postie, 800 km out and back to various stations. The camping ground is a hive of activity, with vans coming and going as they travel east or west. The Council has recently developed another section with new amenities and camp kitchen. Not a tree or blade of grass on it and has been nick named ‘Siberia’, the older park (where we are) is a little greener and has a number of trees and small gardens.
What to do when you have a spare day in Windorah? Some go fishing. We chose to head off to Haddon’s Corner. This is the border corner of Queensland and South Australia. Cameron’s Corner to the south is three ways with NSW and Poeppel’s Corner to the north and west is also three ways with the Northern Territory.
It is about 200 km to Haddon’s Corner from Windorah, out along the Birdsville Rd and then a turnoff down the Innamincka Rd. A lot of gravel road, mostly in good condition. Just short of the Corner we had to traverse two red sand hills, the DMax did it in style. Homealone was hanging on as we went up and over with no difficulties. No one else was there! After the obligatory photos and signing off in the attendance book we had lunch and then turned around and headed back. We had left at 10.30am and arrived back at 5.30 pm.
Countryside was pretty dry, but the few cattle we saw looked in reasonable condition. One rather large dam was bone dry.
It was an interesting day out in this remote part of the land. We now head to Betoota for two nights for the races there. It will then be on to Birdsville on Sunday.
Leaving Eromanga the road took us through some very dry grazing land. The cattle and sheep were not looking great and the pastures were very bare and stony. Rain is certainly needed in these parts.
On our way into Windorah we stopped for the night beside Cooper’s Creek. We were all alone beside the ‘creek’ having driven down the western side to escape the crowds near the bridge. There had been some debate about whether we should stay on the eastern side or the western side, but we settled for the western side. This meant the setting sun was behind us as we settled in for the night. Very quiet place indeed. The resident pelicans paraded up and down the creek and a few other water birds gathered as the sun set.
Cooper’s Creek was named by the explorer Sturt after some chap from South Australia named Cooper. He named it a ‘creek’ rather than a ‘river’, because at the time he perceived there was little if any flow in the stream. Apparently, rivers flow and creeks don’t; at least back in the mid 19 century. In more recent times, map makers have dropped the possessive and are calling it ‘Cooper Creek’. Local Windorahians, all 80 of them, are resisting and endeavouring to preserve ‘Cooper’s Creek’.
As the sun went down Allthego scouted around for some wood, not a lot to be found unless he cut loose with the axe on some almost dead trees and roots. Fortunately, a few pieces of red river gum were found upstream by a vacant old camp spot. These were enough to fuel a nice little fire for a couple of hours and in between allow the BBQing of some pork sausages for dinner. Prior to dinner he had also set a yabbie trap in the creek. This was expected to be brim full of yabbies the next morning.
The fire slowly subsided and we retired for bed. It was really quiet, the sky crystal clear, stars brightly shining with the moon half full and waxing. There is not a lot we know about the moon.
We have arrived in Eromanga after the short drive from Quilpie. Pretty good road coming out from Quilpie, much of it a lane each way. After the turn off to Eromanga there were some lengthy stretches of a single lane down the middle, meaning one has to move on to the shoulders as traffic approaches. Countryside is also a little greener and fresher looking with some water beside the road. Plenty of emus running around, as well as road kill with feathers and bones spread everywhere. The emu population appears to have taken a recent battering.
Just outside Quilpie we stopped at the town opal fossicking area to try our luck among the rocks. After a bit of rock smashing Allthego struck a small rock and lo and behold there was an opal flash to be seen. Nothing to rave about, but in the pocket it went. After a few more hits we returned to the road to Eromanga.
The area around Eromanga is where the south-west oil fields start to make their appearance. Allthego was out this way 30 odd years ago when he was doing some work for one of his old clients who were part of some joint ventures looking for oil. They were successful in finding the Kenmore Oil field as well as a couple of other fields in the area. The Kenmore field is still producing today, although now owned by other parties. We passed by Kenmore Number 9 well beside the road. On the outskirts of the Eromanga township is the IOR Mini Oil Refinery which produces diesel and some other petroleum products from the oil produced from the surrounding oil fields. It was built in 1985 and was at the time also a client of Allthego, it has also now been sold to others.
The oil fields breathed life into the then declining Eromanga township. Today it is dinosaurs bringing tourists and nomads to the town. We had an hour-long tour of the first stage of the museum/research facility which is about 3 km outside town on a bit of a hill which we suspect is above the flood line for the area. The Eromanga township has been known to have had the odd flood or two in the past. Fossils have been found in the area of titanosaurs, these are some of the largest dinosaurs known. The prize specimen is known as ‘Cooper’, a sauropod titanosaur. This is one of those 4 legged varieties, growing to about 35 m in length and 5 m tall at the shoulder, with long necks. They were herbivores and ate enormous quantities of vegetable matter. Cooper would have filled the building we were in. The palaeontologists are still in the process of prepping all the bones found, about half the skeleton. They have one of the fore limbs and one of the rear limbs done and 3-D prints have been made of these, they are about 4 m or so tall, amazing the way this has been done. There were a lot of other fossils in the place on display and we had demonstrations of the prepping process, requires patient and meticulous jig saw puzzle solver type characters for this job.
After the tour we retired to the Royal Hotel for a light lunch and then back to the van for a break before dinner.
Following two nights here in Eromanga our next stop is to be a free camp beside Cooper Creek, not far from Windorah.
We are now bedding down for a third night here in Quilpie at the Channel Country Caravan Park. Have had a BBQ rump steak for dinner and sat by the big camp fire with a glass of red. Feeling very smooth, particularly after having had a plunge in the artesian spar. There has been a lot of action over the last two days and we have seen much of what there is to see in Quilpie. The walk along the Bulloo River is a real highlight for anyone with a photography bent, the river twists and turns with all sorts of trees overhanging it. You could spend hours here waiting for the light to be right! We have trotted around town checking out the Information Centre displays and memorabilia, the murals, St Finbarr’s Church with the boulder opal inlaid font, lectern and communion table. Have also tried the local butcher’s beef sausages and they were not bad at all, quite meaty with a touch of fat to ease that cooking on the Caravan Park camp kitchen BBQ.
In the last blog I mentioned we had been through here twenty odd years ago and was wondering whether much had changed. Well there has been some change! In 2017 Quilpie celebrated 100 years since its establishment in 1917 as the rail head for the line west. It never went any further despite plans for a route north to Darwin. When the rail came out here Quilpie quickly grew because it sucked population from some of the already established nearby towns. Well the train has long stopped coming west from Charleville, although there is a sometime tourist steam run from Brisbane out here for rail enthusiasts. The 100 year celebrations saw some tourist type things constructed, a railway museum, the new info centre and park area. There is also a new housing sub division (not many houses on it yet) and the caravan park has had a recent renovation. Good place to stop!
Our stop over here has coincided with a polo tournament weekend. Quilpie has been playing off against Goondiwindi and others , including a team from the Hunter Valley in NSW, over 3 days. We lingered a while watching some of the action, along with a couple of hundred polo enthusiasts from far and wide. Never seen live polo before. Prince Charles on TV has been it. We sat on the sideline, luckily the wind was blowing down the field taking the dust with it. Not a blade of grass on this pitch. Interesting time watching the action as well as the assembled human beings, quite a social scene and may be a forerunner of the Birdsville Races.
Back from the polo and lunch beside Lake Houdraman, with its resident emu population, we headed off to Baldy Top for sunset from the lookout. Bit of a scramble to the top but the view was pretty good looking out over the plains stretching for ever into the distance. Not a spectacular sunset as we didn’t have much cloud. Homealone a bit anxious up here. Allthego is known for finding high spots to go to.
We are now moving on to Eromanga, about 100 km west and a little south to check out some old dinosaur remains.
We are off to the Birdsville Races.
Held at Birdsville of course which is in far western Queensland, near the border with South Australia and the Northern Territory. About 1600 km west of Brisbane. The races are held on the 31st August and 1st September. The population of Birdsville swells from around 120 to over 6000 for the event. The races are known as the ‘Melbourne Cup of the Outback’. More about the races when we get there!
The week before the Birdsville Races a race meeting is also held at Betoota. It is an uninhabited spot about 140 km short of Birdsville. But the ‘locals’ from far and wide put on a race day and bush dance. We are attending this event as a warm up for the main action in Birdsville. The week after the Birdsville Races, Bedourie to the north of Birdsville hold their race day. These three race events are called the ‘The Simpson Desert Racing Carnival’, in honour of said desert which lies a little further west of the towns. Rumour has it that the same horses run around at these three locations.
As usual we got away from Brisbane a bit late, around 12.30 instead of 8.00am. This delay put us behind schedule somewhat. But we have now arrived in Quilpie, 950 km west of Brisbane. Along the way we stopped for the night in free camps at Warra (near Chinchilla) and then at Morven. We have stopped at Morven before in the excellent free camp at the town’s Recreation Grounds, best hot showers in the west! $5 a night, great spot.
The country is pretty dry and dusty, drought is taking it’s toll.
It is about 20 years since we were last in Quilpie. We came through here on a road trip with two teenage daughters. They were not overly impressed my memory recalls. A lot may not have changed in Quilpie since then, we will find out! Allthego though is going to go for a plunge in the artesian water spar tubs in the campground, don’t recall these being here last time.