The Snail Trail

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


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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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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’…..

 


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The Myall Creek Massacre

Myall Creek and Myall Creek Station is about 10 kilometres out of Bingara towards Inverell. The Myall Creek Massacre occurred on the 10th June 1838, when 28 Aboriginal men, women and children were slaughtered by a gang of 10 white people.

What makes it stand out in history is that it was the first time that white people were punished for murdering black people.

So much has been written about the Myall Creek Massacre that I really can’t add anything to what is readily available on the net. It’s interesting to read reports from both the Indigenous and European perspectives. This cartoon was featured on a site called Creative Spirits with the caption

Myall Creek Massacre NSW

 

Aboriginal killings ‘run in the family’. The cartoon reflects that many colonists saw shooting Aboriginal people as a sport [15]. It also plays with the fact that many people see having some Aboriginal ancestry as ‘fashionable’. Graphic: Ian Sutherland

 

Gamilaraay Elder, Uncle Lyall Munro, 2013:

[The Myall Creek massacre Supreme court trials were] the first place white man’s justice done some good. Right across Australia, there were massacres. What makes Myall Creek real is that people were hanged, see. That was the difference.

This site of the National Museum Australia also provides details of the court case – there were two due to some of the white settlers  intimidating theoriginal jurors into staying away from the court. Eventually a jury was formed and 7 men were found guilty and sentenced to public execution. The following are quotes from the NMA page.
The colonial community of New South Wales was more outraged by the execution of British citizens than they were by the massacre of the Wirrayaraay people.

And then …..

The executions of British subjects for the murder of the Wirrayaraay people hardened colonial attitudes towards the First Peoples of Australia and shaped later behaviours on the Frontier.

In Australian English, the word ‘dispersal’ became the commonplace euphemism used to refer to the killing and massacre of Aboriginal peoples, which went on to take more insidious and devious forms: disease, starvation and the poisoning of food rations are just some of the ways that the Indigenous population was further decimated.

Meanwhile, perpetrators took better steps to cover their tracks and avoid prosecution.

In 2000 a memorial site was opened on Myall Creek, set up by both indignous and non-indignous people. It is a memorial not just to this local massacre but to all massacres around Australia. The Bingara website lists the words on the 8 memorial plaques that are placed at the memorial.

Every year on the Sunday of the June long weekend, hundreds of people, both Indigenous and non-Indigenous, gather at the site to attend an annual memorial service. Descendants of the victims and survivors, such as Aunty Sue Blacklock, Aunty Elizabeth Connors and Uncle Lyall Munro, as well as descendants of the perpetrators of the massacre, such as Beulah Adams and Des Blake, come together to remember and reflect on past atrocities, as well as to express shared aims for the future.

Gamilaraay Elder Sue Blacklock, one of the founders of the memorial site and service, talked about what the annual service and the reconciliation process means to her in a 2013 SBS interview:

It has lifted a burden off my heart and off of my shoulders to know that we can come together in unity, come together and talk in reconciliation to one another and show that it can work, that we can live together and that we can forgive. And it really just makes me feel light. I have found I have no more heaviness on my soul.

When I spoke to  local Bingara people about some of the topics I was going to blog about they were upset that this dark part of their history was included. I get the feeling that when people write about Bingara, the Myall Creek Massacre features high on the agenda and I hope I’ve been able to show you, through my other blog topics, there is a lot more to this friendly town than this historical blot on their landscape.


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I’ve Seen Sawn Rocks!

Sawn Rocks at Mt Kaputar National Park in New South Wales are an amazing cathedral like formation, the result of a lava flow from the Nandewar Volcano between 17million and 21 million years ago – I find that time frame hard to get my head around!

The forty (40) metre high cliff face visible at Sawn Rocks is the sheared off remains of a basalt lava flow from the (now extinct) Nandewar Volcano ….The striking columnar fractures are a result of the cooling process: the basalt cools from the outside toward the centre, causing shrinkage cracks to form, commonly, in a hexagonal pattern. The shape of the columns is attributed to tensional stress. When the molten rock within the basalt lava flow cooled slowly and, importantly, evenly, this enabled the individual crystals within the molten rock to align perfectly with each other.

While this type of six-sided (hexagonal) ‘organ piping’ is not rare to lava flows it is exceptionally rare to find them so perfectly formed and preserved and Sawn Rocks is recognised as being one of the best examples of columnar jointing in Australia.

 

Some of these pillars had fallen to the ground and sheared off to look like perfectly formed paving stones.

Mt Kaputar is the highest peak in New South Wales outside the Great Dividing Range and when I went on a guided tour there we were told that from the top of Mt Kaputar there is nothing to obstruct a view all the way to South Africa. Obviously it needs greater vision than I have but isn’t it interesting to think there is nothing as high or higher for just over 11,000 kilometres.

Mount Kaputar, Mount Kaputar National ParkTwo volcanos pushed Mount Kaputar high above the plains, and millions of years of erosion have carved a dramatic landscape of narrow valleys and steep ridges. Many of the mountains are ancient lava terraces. Experience ancient history for yourself by standing on Lindsay Rock Tops – an excellent example of a lava terrace.  (Information and photo from http://www.nationalparks.nsw.gov.au)

Pink Slug (Triboniophorus aff. graeffei), Mount Kaputar National ParkNow here’s something you won’t find in any old back yard! Mount Kaputar is famous for a very unusual, colourful local – a bright pink slug. It can be seen after rain on rocks, trees and amongst the leaf litter. Not what you’d call your common garden variety of slug.

 

Sawn Rocks is located 64km out of Bingara on the road to Narrabri. On the way you pass the ancient Rocky Creek Glacial Area. The glaciers that we are more familiar with were formed about one million years ago but this glaciation is very old, dating back some 290 million years to the Carboniferous Period. A vast amount of weathering and erosion occurs in over 200 million years, so all the original glacial landscape features have been eroded away and replaced by those typically associated with running water.

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Bingara is a perfect base to explore this wonderful landscape. It was recently named the Free Camp Capitol of Australia and the town values all the different tourists who discover all it has to offer. Can you say “I’ve seen Sawn Rocks”?

Roxy Theatre, Bingara NSW


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It’s All Greek To Me

New York has its Greek Theatre – Bingara has the Roxy, a magnificent Art Deco theatre built by three Greek partners from the island of Kythera, in Greece, in 1936.

 

Bingara is justifiably proud of this testament to its cultural history and the Roxy was faithfully restored and reopened in 2004 after languishing unused on the main street since 1958. Step into the theatre and you step back in time, with the original ornate plasterwork, lighting, paintwork and … atmosphere!

Although The Roxy certainly made a statement at the time it was built, it sadly affected the bank statements of its developers who were declared bankrupt. Unfortunately for the developers descendants it became one of those things that the family didn’t talk about and its history was nearly lost to them. Peter Prineas, a grandson of one of the founders stumbled on to his connection when

His attention was drawn after reading a newspaper article about the reopening in 2004 which mentioned three Greek immigrants from the island of Kythera, the same Island his parents came from.

While researching some of the history of the Roxy I came across this great story from the ABC presented in 2017 that is well worth following by clicking here.

Only recently the wonderful retro cafe re-opened and it’s worth calling in for a coffee just to reminisce about other Greek cafes you’ve been in with laminex table tops, timber booths and milkshakes.

The Roxy Greek Museum is also housed in the Roxy building and you can incorporate it into your tour of the Roxy by asking at the Information Centre, which is also in the building.

The mission of the Roxy Museum is to evidence, explain and illustrate the story of Greek immigration and settlement in the country areas of NSW and Queensland in the first half of the 20th Century. This was a period when most Greeks owned or were employed in cafes and a considerable number conducted picture theatres.

So there you have it! I hope this hasn’t been all Greek to you but inspires you to travel to Bingara and call in to experience the fabulous Roxy for yourself.

Happy Campers: There is loads of free camping along the Gwydir River and a neat little Caravan Park right next to the swimming pool and opposite the Gwydir.