The Snail Trail

Travelling with my home on my back and in no hurry to get anywhere


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Beyond the Black Stump

Beyond the black stump, the Never-Never, the back of beyond, the back of Bourke, the outback. These are all Australian expressions to indicate that point in the countryside that is the perceived boundary of civilisation. Wikipedia defines it as

….   the name for an imaginary point beyond which the country is considered remote or uncivilised, an abstract marker of the limits of established settlement.

The origin of the expression, especially in its evolved use as an imaginary marker in the landscape, is contested

I’ve spent a rainy afternoon in the library at Nambucca Heads researching all about the Black Stump, and I’m going to share that research with you in this blog  …..

but I know the true story!

You see, when I was a little girl, a long, long time ago, our family lived in country Victoria. Over the back fence of our house there was a vacant block of land and in the middle of the trees there was a burnt out tree stump – The Black Stump. Even as a six year old I knew that if I went past that stump I would be lost in the never-never and no-one would ever be able to find me again. So Wikipedia and all my other information sources have got it all wrong …. but this is what they say anyway!

Blackall, in Queensland, claims the original black stump.

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Read all about it!

And here’s the iconic ‘stump’ at Blackall ….

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And an artist’s interpretation of the origin of the Black Stump.

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Mural depicting the origin of The Black Stump, Blackall, Queensland

Historically, though, the black stump was referred to in a land dispute in 1837 around the Woolloomooloo area of Sydney, so you can see this predates the 1887 claim of Blackall.

The term “Black stump” was used as land markers on a surveyors plan and was first referred to as a boundary marker in a New South Wales court case involving a land law dispute.

….. The case refers to vacant land at Woolloomooloo where a surveyor had difficulty in ascertaining the boundaries  “…and he pointed to some old stumps, which he said had been marked…..he said it ran to a black stump beyond the line, which he said had been marked…; utmost extent claimed by defendant was the black stump of which I have spoken...

As a traveller of the highways and byways of Australia there are rest stops near several Aussie towns called The Black Stump. Here’s one at Coolah, in New South Wales.

Black Stump Coolah

The Black Stump, Coolah, New South Wales

Coolah is one of several towns to claim bragging rights as the home of the legendary Black Stump. It was here that the colloquial saying ‘Beyond the Black Stump’, meaning ‘beyond the limits of civilisation,’ is said to have originated.

Supporting Coolah’s claim is a document showing land boundaries declared by Governor Darling in 1826. This boundary line passes through the centre of a property known as ‘Black Stump Run’. The local Aboriginal Gamilaraay people were said to have called the area ‘Weetalibah-Wallangan’, meaning, ‘the place where the fire went out and left a burnt stump’.                                 Information from Visit NSW

At Mundowran, in Queensland, there is also a rest area known as The Black Stump ….

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The Black Stump, Mundubbera, Queensland

Approaching Mundubbera, from an eastward direction, a large Rest Area emerges on the northern flank of the Burnett Highway.  The Rest Area signage reads:

“The Black Stump

Gateway to Mundubbera”

Directly under the signage, a concrete black stump is situate.

My grisliest find about the origin of the phrase, the black stump, is this tale from Merriwagga in the Riverina area of New South Wales.

The village of Merriwagga and nearby community of Gunbar, in the Riverina district of New South Wales, have strong claims to the origin of the expression ‘black stump’. Gunbar cemetery is the burial-place of Mrs. Barbara Blain, the woman whose accidental death in March 1886 possibly gave rise to the term.

When her husband returned to camp after a day’s work he….

found Mrs. Blain had been fatally burnt, probably after her dress had caught alight from the flames of the camp-fire. ……. an inquest into her death was subsequently held. James Blain apparently stated that when he found his wife she “looked like a black stump” . A watering place near where the tragedy occurred – roughly halfway between Gunbar and the village of Merriwagga – became known as Black Stump Tank.[6]

The Black Stump Picnic area at Merriwagga has a waggon and memorial stone, with an inscription which explains the details of these events.

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The Black Stump, Merriwagga, NSW Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons

The Black Stump has also been immortalised in literature.

In 1956 British novelist Neville Shute published “Beyond the Black Stump”, a novel set in the 1940/50s, contrasting the social mores of a still remote Western Australian sheep station and a small town in Oregon, USA, which still thought of itself as a frontier town despite the Cadillac dealership and the fast food joint.

and

Robbery Under Arms, a fictionalised work by Rolf Boldrewood first published in 1888, refers to the Black Stump as an actual place “within a reasonable distance of Bathurst” and known to everybody for miles around. Boldrewood says it “had been a tremendous old Ironbark tree- nobody knew how old, but it had had its top blown off in a thunderstorm, and the carriers had lighted so many fires against the roots of it that it had been killed at last, and the sides were as black as a steamer’s funnel.”

And when you don’t have a Black Stump to claim, be like Boulia in Western Queensland and create a whole new myth with a Red Stump.

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This really is the end of civilization!

So there you have it! The  story of the Black Stump that’s put out to the world when the truth is the real Black Stump was over the back fence in Bittern, Victoria in the early 1950’s.

Yaraka Queensland


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Yaraka – The End of the Line?

Not only is Yaraka the end of the line, it has disappeared off the map! I’ve been searching for a map to show you just where it is and Google has decided Yaraka is to be a secret. Fortunately, Wikipedia recognises the name and puts it in its place!
Yaraka is a small town in Central West Queensland, Australia. It was the terminus of a branch railway line. It is located 220 kilometres south of Longreach, 165 kilometres west of Blackall and 100 kilometres south of Isisford.Wikipedia
Yaraka is no secret to ‘grey nomads’ though, it’s a place that is mentioned around the campfire where tall tales and true are shared. What makes Yaraka so special? Why the Yaraka Pub of course!
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But it’s never about a building is it? It’s the people that make this place memorable. Now I have a confession to make before I wax lyrical about the people…. Chris and Gerry, the publicans, are old friends of mine. As a matter of fact I was their bridesmaid 40 years ago in 1978. Then about 35 years ago our lives went in different directions and we lost touch with each other. What a wonderful reunion we’ve had! And in a bar, of all places (hehehe)

 

The Yaraka Hotel is much more than a good place for a reunion though. This tiny town, with a permanent population of 12 people, is full of community spirit. While I was there the Dubbo South Rotary Club brought the participants in their Expedition Outback rally to Yaraka – 130 people turned up and the ‘town’ catered for them, both dinner and breakfast. Some achievement by such a small group! The rally was supporting the Pink Angels for their Yaraka stopover and they dressed for the occasion.

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There were swags and tents and all sorts of vehicles set up in the campground out the back of the hotel which has plenty of room for campers. There’s also a spot provided by the Longreach Council where, for $3 a night you can hook up to power with facilities including toilets and hot showers. (They collect the fees at the pub)

Apart from my wonderful catch up with Gerry and Chris, another highlight of my visit was the bus trip to Mt Slocombe that Chris does in the evening, just in time to catch the sunset and the changing light over this magical landscape. Chris is passionate about the area and conveys this to the group as he talks about its history and the things that make Yaraka such a special place.

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This photo shows the tiny township of Yaraka viewed from Mt Slocombe nestled at the foot of the Yang Yang Ranges.

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If you would like to know more about the history of Yaraka this link will fill you in on the details, particularly why it is known as the End of the Line – a grand plan literally stopped in its tracks!

As more properties erect dog proof fences they are gradually restocking the land with the sheep that made Yaraka so prosperous in the past and moving away from the cattle that replaced them.

Yaraka – on the outer Barcoo, where the preachers are few….. A few kilometres west you’ll come across Magee’s shanty, immortalised in Banjo Paterson’s poem The Bush Christening

This excerpt from The Visit Longreach Visitors Guide sums up Yaraka pretty well –

Yaraka is truly the hidden gem of Outback Queensland with a fascinating history, breathtaking landscape and locals that will make you fee like you’ve found home all over again.

And I guess that’s why so many travellers make their way back to Yaraka time and again – just like I’m going to do!


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Dry as Dust

Augathella, Thargomindah, Eromanga, Yaraka –
I’ve been out in Western Queensland, travelling on and off the tar.
Where everything is dry as dust, both the locals and the land,
They haven’t lost their Aussie humour, but they could do with a hand.

At Isisford and Blackall, Windorah, Quilpie, Tambo
If they can’t keep their stock alive they’ll pack up and they’ll go.
The drought is devastating as it sucks the country dry
And the wind blows off the topsoil, and the wild dogs multiply.

So they’re building dog proof fences to keep wild dogs at bay
And they’re hoping this will keep their stock alive another day.
A farmer told me recently he’d lost seven hundred sheep
And that was just one pack attack, it’s enough to make you weep.

The long paddock is well stocked with beasts grazing the stubbled ground
And stockmen and their horses and their dogs move them around,
I’m not sure where they’re taking them, there’s no relief in sight,
There’ll be many miles to cover before they rest up for the night.

Cunnamulla, Eulo, Toompine and on to Bourke
This drought’s affecting everyone, not only those the land they work.
The little towns are dying, although they’re struggling to the end,
And shops are closing one by one without a local spend.

The “nomads’ keep their hopes alive as they buy their fuel and food
Any dollar spent in town can only do some good
So on your travelling adventure to our outback Aussie land
Spend up in little country towns, it’s a way to lend a hand.

And leave a little something in the RFDS tin
Or other outback charities, it’s a chance for them to win.
Too many farms have closed their gates, they’ve just packed up and gone
Where they’ve farmed for generations is worth nothing but a song.

Longreach, Winton, Isisford, Jericho and Jundah
Aussies need to band together, stop these towns from going under.
So while we all appreciate a cloudless, clear blue sky
Think of the west that needs the rain to put an end to this long dry.

Rosemary Robinson
August 2018

Isisford, Queensland


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Isisford – The Middle of Everywhere

There’s a sign in Isisford that declares the town is not in the middle of nowhere, it’s the middle of everywhere! I like that thinking ….

Isisford is located 1,237 km north-west of Brisbane and 117 km south of Longreach.

Isisford map

Isisford (1)As you enter  the town, from Ilfracombe in the north, you are welcomed by a giant sculpture of a Yellow Belly fish, with the sign proudly declaring Isisford is the home of the Yellow Belly.

An annual fishing competition is held on the last weekend of July, attracting competitors from all over Australia to catch good old Yellowbelly. This is a great weekend for fishing enthusiasts.

The Barcoo River is the venue for the fishing frenzy but it also offers some wonderful riverside camping. I stopped for a couple of days but could easily have stayed much longer and there were people there who came for a couple of months. I’m not sure if this sign at my campsite was a memorial for someone or to mark the spot for future reference but I was happy to claim it as my own for the time I was there.

You may be familiar with the Banjo Paterson poem of The Bush Christening which starts

On the outer Barcoo where the churches are few
And men of religion are scanty,

But Isisford is also well known for it’s ancient ancestor of today’s crocodilians and the Interpretation Centre shows a short film and has displays of the history of the area.

The Outer Barcoo Interpretive Centre, a museum depicting the evolution of nature from 100 million years ago to the present. The feature attraction is a life-sized replica model of Isisfordia Duncani, who lived around 98 million years ago. He was the evolutionary ancestor of all crocodilians that live on earth today. The Bulldog fish was also found in the area dating back 100 million years ago. There are displays of local fauna, flora, reptiles, birds and fossils that have lived in this region, as well as formation of the Great Artesian Basin and general history of the Isisford area. An audio-visual presentation portrays life in the Isisford area since settlement. The film depicts Isisford as being ‘the middle of everywhere’. The building also houses 60 seat theatrette, cafeteria, local arts and craft displays.

The town itself is typical of many outback towns that has seen a declining population and disappearance of services although there’s still a couple of pubs and the Information Centre serves a decent coffee. Banjo Paterson has certainly made his mark in this town!

Happy Campers:

For only $3 a night there are two wonderful camps at Isisford. The Barcoo River camp that I stayed at is right on the edge of town and has drinking water, toilet and dump point at its entry. Oma Waterhole is a few kms out of town, also $3 a night. This charge includes the use of showers in the town park.

Isisford might seem like it’s in the middle of nowhere but to the locals it’s the middle of everywhere! To me it’s the perfect place to return to for a relaxing stay on the Barcoo River.

 

Longreach, Queensland


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A Tourist in Longreach

Longreach is a town in Western Queensland and the whole area is currently in drought. It was similar when I passed through 5 years ago – life on the land is certainly tough!

Location: 1,181 km (734 mi) NW of Brisbane; 687 km (427 mi) W of Rockhampton; 649 km (403 mi) SE of Mount Isa 

Longreach Queensland

If you’ve been following my travels you’ll know that I don’t do the tourist scene as a rule, but I broke that rule in Longreach, and I’m glad I did! On my first visit to the area in 2013 I went to the Stockman’s Hall of Fame but I also noticed a couple of tours run by Kinnon & Co, so this visit I shouted myself the Dinner Cruise and Stagecoach Run. Both were worth every cent!

What an entrepreneurial family! The story goes that a few years ago Dad and the boys were driving into town from their cattle station and Dad passed the comment that if they had a couple of dollars for every caravan and motorhome that went past then they would be able to ride out the tough times of drought, low cattle prices etc. So they set to work to see what they could do to get their hands on the tourist dollars – and they came up with some winners!

1.  Starlight’s Cruise Experience

The Cruise experience was enhanced by some great commentary by the skipper and when we disembarked we enjoyed a camp oven dinner around the campfire, a movie about Captain Starlight, billy tea and damper drizzled with golden syrup and a very funny show that included some bush poetry and a lot of belly laughing humour provided by younger members of the family.

The Thomson River Cruise revolves around the story of Captain Starlight who was the famous cattle duffer (cattle thief), Harry Readford, back in the 1870’s. This summary of his exploits is from Wikipedia…

In 1870, Readford was working as a stockman on Bowen Downs Station near Longreach in Queensland. Realising that remote parts of the property, which stretched some 228 km (142 mi) along the Thomson River, were seldom visited by station workers, he devised a plan to steal some of the station’s cattle. With two associates, George Dewdney and William Rooke, he built stockyards in an outlying part of the property, and gradually assembled a mob of about 1,000 cattle, which he then took from the property, all without any of the station workers realizing what was going on.

Readford knew the cattle would be recognized from their brands as being stolen if he tried to sell them in Queensland, so he headed for South Australia through the Channel Country and the Strzelecki Desert. Only ten years earlier, explorers Burke and Wills had set out to cross the continent along the same track, and died in the attempt. As a droving exercise, it was a remarkable achievement, as anyone who has travelled the present-day Strzelecki Track will know. Three months and 1,287 km (800 mi) later he exchanged two cows and a white bull for rations at Artracoona Native Well near Wallelderdine Station. They then moved the remainder of the mob via Mt Hopeless, and sold them for £5,000 (2009:A$250,000) at Blanchewater Station, east of Marree.[1]

So Harry became a legend for his amazing droving experience and is still regarded as a bit of a hero for his exploits. He got caught because he also stole a famous, and easily recognizable white bull, that he also sold, and the long arm of the law reached out and dragged him back to Roma in Queensland where he was notoriously acquitted by the jury. The Australian classic novel, Robbery Under Arms, by Rolf Boldrewood is said to be based in part on Harry’s exploits.

An annual Harry Redford Cattle Drive commemorates Readford’s exploits as a drover. A range of riders from the city and country participate in this droving expedition, taking part for three days or up to three weeks, at their choice.

2.  Cobb & Co Stagecoach Experience

What a ride!

Our morning started with Smoko – morning tea – of scones, jam and cream and then we were taken to the yard to board our coach. There were 2 stage coaches leaving this day so we were loaded up and made our way to the Town Common for a gallop – a very dusty gallop I might add! On our return we watched a great old movie called Smiley Gets a Gun which suited the bulk of the audience who probably saw it when they were kids (like I did), so it was a competition to recognise the Australian actors who had gone on to bigger and better things many years later. These included Leonard Teale, Chips Rafferty and Ruth Cracknell.

Then it was out to be entertained once again by the young Kinnon boys. They are so naturally funny with a great sense of dry Aussie humour.

I’m glad I stretched my budget to go to both these experiences and would highly recommend them to anyone passing through the area. Not only will you be well fed and entertained it’s a way to leave some money behind in these towns that struggle to survive in times like this.

Happy Campers

There is a massive camp about 5kms out of town on the Thomson River called Apex Riverside Park. It is provided by the Longreach Regional Council for $3 per night

Self-sufficient campers can stay at this site, toilets are available but be aware that there is no power, potable water or showers.

$3.00 per night, per vehicle, payable at the Longreach Visitor Information Centre, Eagle Street, Longreach QLD

Hot showers available at the CWA building in QANTAS park. Potable water is also available at the back of the Visitor Information Centre, Showgrounds, Kite Street Caravan Day parking area.

There are a couple of caravan parks in Longreach but unless you are desperate I would avoid them. I stayed at the Longreach Caravan Park in Ibis Street for one night and although friendly it was extremely crowded with vans crammed in together and facilities old but clean. $30 is an expensive shower!

I knew I had to give Longreach a second chance after my 2013 visit and I’m so glad I did!

 

 


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What a load of bull …

Banana, a tiny town in Queensland, doesn’t have a banana tree in sight! So why is it called Banana?

Apparently in the mid 1800’s there was a famous local bullock that was a banana colour, so with great imagination that’s what they named him – Banana! I’m sure no self-respecting bull would be happy with that!

He achieved his fame helping the stockmen herd the wild cattle into the stockyards. When they formed the local government area it was established in Banana and the shire is still known as the Banana Shire today although the government offices are now in Biloela.

This is where Banana sits in the big picture.

Banana has a population of around 350 people but, as I found out, no one who knows how to change a tyre! I had to wait 2 hours for someone to come from Moura, only about 25kms away. I know, you’re asking why I didn’t change it myself? Well, that’s why I pay for Roadside Assistance – I don’t want to change dirty old tyres!

So there you have it …. some travel trivia to amaze your friends with.


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Falling in Love Again…

What am I to do? I can’t help it! So sang Marlene Dietreich many years ago, and many times over the last 12 months I have felt exactly the same. Unfortunately – or fortunately – however you might look at it – it’s not been with a fellow human but with my fellow humans’ pets.

I have been ‘off the road’ for  much of the last year as I have been pet sitting to give others the chance to ‘hit the road’, and me a chance to consolidate my finances for future travels.

All this began in October 2017 on the Sunshine Coast in Queensland when I looked after Chai, a dear little Milky (cross between a Maltese terrier and a Silky terrier). What a sweetie! Couldn’t help but fall in love with this darling.

Then over Christmas I kept Lily the cat and Lucy the dog company in Bundaberg while my nephew and his family had a well deserved holiday. Loved these two for a long time – and you can tell they made themselves right at home on my bed!

No sooner were the family home I took off to Bingara in New South Wales where I looked after a this delightful little doggie, CJ, for my friend Janet. As I was there for a couple of months I also got to know some lovely locals and share their Wednesday morning meetups for coffee. Thank you ladies for making me feel so welcome.

 

It was a quick trip back to Bundaberg and my next pet sitting experience – and what an experience it was! Two dogs – a Rottweiler called Cujo and a Pomeranian called Bella – talk about from one extreme to another! And both lovable and cuddly…

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Two cats, Millie and Columbia …. neither of these two were cuddly and Columbia could be downright nasty (and I have the scars to prove it!)

And then this adorable baby, who was very, very cuddly ….. DaisyMae …..

A few days later and I was in Image Flat near Nambour on the Sunshine Coast while my cousin’s family were away for some school holiday time off. Such a magical setting that I forgot to photograph all the animals but there were three cats, two dogs, four chooks and about 20 sheep. Unfortunately Wylie, the new dog that hadn’t been raised as a farm dog, spooked the sheep as I was trying to pen them at night and old Rambo took a dislike to me and knocked me off my feet, leaving me with a massive bruise on my thigh – and a bruised ego! Not only that, when cousin Geoff came to visit the next night Rambo did the same to him! (There is a poem in there I am sure!) Anyhow, it was all an experience that I wouldn’t have missed for the world as it also gave me the opportunity to get to know Larissa, Walter and their three wonderful young sons Clinton, Christian and Keegan. And the view was pretty good to wake up to everyday, too.

So with my house sitting and pet sitting stints at an end I am, in the words of Willie Nelson …. ‘On the road again’…..