The Snail Trail

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


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Silos in the High Country

I’m still on the Victorian Silo Art Trail but this time I’m in North Eastern Victoria, roughly in the area from Benalla to Yarrawonga and bordering the High Country.

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I based myself at Broken Creek Bush Camp, about 15 kms to the west of Benalla (more about that at the end of the blog).

GOORAMBAT

There’s double value at Goorambat because not only are the silos painted but the little Uniting Church has a beautiful mural behind the altar.  As part of the 2018 Wall to Wall festival, Goorambat silos were painted by famed iconic Melbourne Street artist Dvate, and Sophia at the Uniting Church was painted by Adnate.

Goorambat Silo Art, Victoria

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Wall Art by Adnate

DEVENISH

Continuing along the Devenish Road we do in fact arrive at Devenish which features my favourite silos on this particular trail. The artwork is of both a First World War nurse and a modern day combat medic.

Devenish Silo Art, Victoria

At Devenish Silo Art, Victoria

 

The Devenish Silosartwork was unveiled on Anzac Day Eve 2018 and coincides with the 100 year centenary of the end of the First World War. Fifty young men and women from the Devenish community enlisted in military service for the First World War.

 

ST JAMES

Well here is a bonus I didn’t expect! The little town of St James is in the process of joining the Silo Art Trail and I happened to pass through when artist, Tim Bowtell, was working on his massive painting of G.J Coles, who opened his first store in the area which grew into the huge Coles Supermarket chain.

St James Silo Art

I’m not sure what he has planned for the adjoining silos but he is working on them until the end of April so if you are in the area pop along and see him at work.

TUNGAMAH

Tungamah was the first of these north eastern Victorian towns to sponsor Silo Art and here it is the last on my trip along the Silo Art Trail.

I’m so sorry that Tungamah doesn’t promote itself apart from the silos because it was a pretty little town with some wonderful historical buildings, green parks and gardens and well maintained homes. It is nestled on the banks of Boosey Creek and you can camp there, only a short walk to the General Store and pub. It’s a place I’d like to go back to and explore further.

Happy Campers:
The Broken Creek Bush Camp is a fabulous place to base yourself to view this particular Silo Art Trail but personally I don’t need an excuse to go back there – the hosts, the facilities and the size of the place make it a winning combination for a few days camping. It’s $7.50 per person per night, $1 for a shower, there is a massive camp kitchen and water and toilets are available. There is no power for RVs but there is power in the camp kitchen if you need to charge up the phone or computer. Friday night is pizza night and Doc and Cathy, the hosts, will be selling their delicious wood fired pizzas for $10. Yum!

A couple of weeks before arriving in this area I went to Rochester, which also boasts Silo Art. This was very special to me because the Motorhoming Club I belong to  (CMCA – Campervan and Motorhome Club of Australia) has a chapter called the Kingfishers and it is my home chapter. The Azure Kingfisher is our symbol as depicted on this silo.

Well, I’ve seen the Silo Art of Victoria! There is so much more to look forward to in other parts of the country and I know they will become magnets that will draw me in their direction. I look forward to you joining me on that journey, too.

 

 

 

 

 

Silo Art at Sheep Hills, Victoria


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Following the Silo Art Trail

Throughout February this year I followed the Silo Art Trail in Western Victoria, an adventure that had been on my bucket list for some time. NOTE: If you follow my daily blog, The Daily Snail, you will have shared this journey with me as it happened.

Map of Western Victoria Silo Art Trail

RUPANYUP

I started from Rupanyup (Ruh-PAN-yup). These silos were painted by a Russian street artist Julia Volchkova and represent the youth of the area and their involvement in team sports.

Rupanyup Silo Art

Rupanyup Silo Art

What else is there to see in the area?
1.     It’s only a two minute walk into town from the campground. Like many of these small towns there are many closed shops but there is a couple that cater to the tourist like the Teapot Cafe and the original Cust’s Store.

 


2.     Next door to the campground there is the amazing Woods Museum. They say one person’s trash is another person’s treasure and Woods Museum …. well, you can make your own mind up about it.

 

3.     It’s an absolute must to travel west a few kilometres to Murtoa to view the ‘stick shed’, built during the second world war using the only materials available at the time – timber. It was a grain storage facility until fairly recently and is the only one of its kind still standing in the world.

 

Happy Campers:
I made myself comfortable in the great little campground at Rupanyup managed by the locals. It was dry and dusty as most of the country is at the moment, but was nestled on the banks of Dunmunkle Creek and only a short walk into town and to the silos. $10 a night for power, $1 for a 5 minute shower and toilet block open 24 hours. There is also a dump point.

 

SHEEP HILLS

The land throughout this whole area is dry, so dry. Most of the dams have very little water in them, if any, and the photo on the left shows you what the drive to Sheep Hills was like. The Silos were like a burst of colour in a barren landscape. They were painted by Melbourne street artist Adnate and you can find out about him and his inspiration for this silo art here.

 

 

Sheep Hills Hotel, Victoria

 

Unfortunately the tourism factor was not enough to keep the local pub open and this wonderful old building is no longer pulling beers – or pulling crowds. I bet there’s been a few good yarns around the bar here over the years.

 

BRIM

Guido van Helten would have to be one of my favourite silo artists. He captures the character of his subjects so well you feel like you’ve met them in the street, or at the bar, or over the fence. As an aside, the tree I parked under nearly stole the show – magnificent!

 

Brim Silo Art, Victoria

ROSEBERY

Although these silos dominate the local landscape they would be my least favourite on this Silo Art Trail – somehow they don’t seem quite so … momentous? The Rosebery Silos were painted by street artist Kaff-eine.

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The silo on the left captures the grit, tenacity and character of the region’s young female farmers, who regularly face drought, fires and other hardships living and working in the Mallee. In her work shirt, jeans and turned-down cowboy boots, the strong young female sheep farmer symbolises the future.

Descriptions from siloarttrail.com

 

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The silo on the right portrays a quiet moment between dear friends. The contemporary horseman appears in Akubra hat, Bogs boots and oilskin vest – common attire for Mallee farmers. Both man and horse are relaxed and facing downward, indicating their mutual trust, love and genuine connection.

 

 

LASCELLES

Love these silos! When I first saw them I was a little disappointed as I thought the paintings were fading into the background of the silos but the more I studied them the more natural it seemed that these ‘locals’ were part of the environment, not separated from it. The couple are painted on the end wall of each silo and you can read about the artist, Rone, and his vision for these silos here.

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Happy Campers:
I had an ‘overnighter’ at Lascelles, staying in the community campground with power, showers, toilets and water available for $10 a night. The bonus was it was next door to the pub so I wandered in for dinner, met some fellow travellers, and feasted on a good old pub parmy! (served by the cook with bare feet!)

PATCHEWOLLOCK

Patchewollock is the northern most silo town in the Wimmera/Mallee area –  the end of the trail ….

Completed in late 2016, the artist ……….. portrays an image of the archetypal Aussie farmer – faded blue “flanny” (flannelette shirt) and all. Hulland’s solemn expression, sun-bleached hair and squinting gaze speak to the harshness of the environment and the challenges of life in the Wimmera Mallee.

Description from siloarttrail.com

This whole Silo Art Trail is only about 200 kilometres from whoa to go and could easily be done in a day but if you are carrying your home with you, as I do, why not slow down and spend a little more time exploring the surrounding areas.

 


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Not All Who Wander Are Lost – Part 2

I did some serious wandering during the last half of 2018  – and I may have been lost occasionally – but I justify that by saying I find a different way :)!

From my base at my nephew’s home in Bundaberg I looked at my options to arrive in Mudgee for a Solo Traveller’s Rally that I was attending in late September. One option was a pretty straight line south – a total of about 1150 kms.

But I found the other option a lot more interesting! I had nearly 3 months, after all! 🙂

 

This was a fabulous trip out to Western Queensland and New South Wales. The map shows my campsites and the times I stopped in caravan parks. As many place names aren’t on the map, my stopovers included Moura, in Queensland, where I camped at the Dawson River campground for about a week while I waited for a new tyre to arrive and be fitted. I did a really good job shredding one as I was coming into a little town called Banana of all places. What’s the saying – If you’re going to do something, do it well? I did! It was no hardship being at this camp ground, though, which had toilets, water and hot showers all for a donation to keep the facilities serviced. Moura has a mural on their water tower and as I left to head further west I came across the first cattle I saw on the long paddock. The drought situation only worsened!

 

My first caravan park stay was at Rolleston to do the washing and also catch up with a travelling friend, Rosanna, who I had met at Boulia in 2013. Other stopovers were Emerald, Jericho, Barcaldine, (to see the Tree Of Knowledge) and then Longreach where I indulged myself with some touristy things which were the subject of an earlier blog called A Tourist in Longreach. 

After a few days on the Barcoo River in Isisford I made my way to Yaraka and a catch up with a friend I hadn’t seen for 35 years. That is also the subject of an earlier blog – Yaraka the End of the Line?

I had a wonderful week with Gerry (pictured above) and her husband Chris, who are the publicans at the Yaraka Hotel- and Chris does a fabulous trip up Mt Slocombe at sunset, which is not to be missed. Then –

  • Blackall – claims the original Black Stump of the Australian outback and is the venue for our Campervan & Motorhome Club of Australia Solos Rally next May
  • Tambo –  home of the world famous (and very expensive hand made!) Tambo Teddies
  • Quilpie – a must visit to St Finnbars Catholic Church to wonder at the opal altar, font and lectern
  • Eromanga – the Natural History Museum is home to Australia’s largest dinosaur discovered on a property nearby
  • Thargomindah – where Brutus pulled up on the side of the road and refused to go any further until he was rescued by my favourite mechanic, Johnno, from Cunnamulla, who worked his magic and Brutus hasn’t looked back since.
  • Cunnamulla – home of the Cunnamulla Fella and, as I said, the best mechanic in the world (in my humble opinion)
  • Barringun, on the border of Queensland and New South Wales,where the old pub burnt down and there is now a pop-up pub
  • Bourke – a nostalgic visit to the place I first visited in about 1970 with my then husband, Rex, whose family owned the North Bourke Hotel – another pub that burnt down, although some years ago now
  • Trangie – who would have thought a little place like Trangie would make it to my list of memorable places, and it was a caravan park to boot. But Andrew, the host, made it a wonderful week, made even better by my sister joining me there

 

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A couple more lovely bush camps and it was time for the rally in Mudgee. I was pretty busy with committee work throughout the rally so didn’t get to enjoy a lot of the activities but there were about 300 motorhomes and a similar amount of people who attended and the program was chock full of activities. At the Poet’s Breakfast I recited my newest poem, Dry as Dust, for the first time. It was written as a reaction to the devastating drought throughout Queensland and New South Wales. Absolutely heart breaking scenes for mile upon mile of travelling.

With the rally over I was off to my next house sit in Casino, looking after a little dog for a fellow Solo when she went overseas. It was only a couple of weeks but gave me a great opportunity to see some of the New South Wales coast, an adventure I hadn’t had before.

 

I got more – and also less – than I bargained for! The rain came down in torrents for days, making it impossible to enjoy all those beautiful coastal towns along the way. It also backed up in the gutter around my pop top and seeped into every cupboard just like house gutters overflowing into the eaves and ceilings …. what a mess. Sodden toilet rolls, wet clothes, and, disaster – my deck of UNO cards got soaked and stuck together. Well, they went straight into the bin and onto the “things I want for Christmas” list! (Thank you Marion for my new cards)

 

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The weather was fabulous after I left Casino so I really enjoyed the coastline, fell in love with Nambucca Heads, caught up with a mad bunch of Solos in Buladelah, had new curtains made for me in Maitland by Solo friend Ros, travelled with fellow Solo Lynn for a few days through Gunning and Jugiong, stayed with my cousin Gretchen in Wagga Wagga and finally arrived at Lee’s home in Albury, the site of my last house sit for the year. And then it was off to my sister’s home in Nagambie, Victoria, for Christmas and New Year.

 

We also shared an adventure when a winemaker friend of Marion’s asked if we’d like to go to McLarenvale in  South Australia to pick up a couple of barrels of wine. This was known as the Two Tarts Wine Run and was shared with a concrete meerkat from the garden next door! I wrote about it in my blog The Travelling Tales of Monsieur M Kat.

I’m exhausted just writing about all the places I went to this year …..  this blog has made me realise what a lot of ground I covered! But none of this was done in a hurry and I loved every minute of it – well, almost ….. I could have done without all that rain. Oh, and it would have been better if Brutus hadn’t broken down but the upside of that is I found a mechanic who finally got him running better than ever before. For the first time in 3 years he hasn’t got a miss in the engine so that’s a win! Unfortunately, Cunnamulla is a long way to go for a car service 🙂

For those interested here is my Expenses Summary. My only income is the Aged Pension which is just under $24,000 a year. Thank goodness I had managed to save some of that to meet unexpected car repairs. But I’ll have to cut back on the Coffee and Cake I think!

Car Expenses $6626
Petrol $2564
Rego & Insurance (inc Roadside Assist) $1420
Maintenance $2642
Food & Drink Expenses $6768
Groceries, Butcher etc $3354
Coffee & Eating out $2498
Booze $ 916
Personal $2152
Hair, chemist, makeup, clothes, shoes etc
Camping Fees $1014
   
Utilities $943
Gas Mobile Phone and Internet
Fun Stuff $2161
Touristy things gifts, newspapers, lotto, subs
Van Stuff $1686
New porta potti, new laptop, new curtains, fridge repair, etc
Miscellaneous expenditure $2336
TOTAL EXPENDITURE $23686

People often ask in Facebook Forums “Can you live permanently on the road on the pension?” Answer is “Yes!” My lifestyle has certainly changed – I value things of little monetary value, my pleasure comes from the places I go and the people I meet. It’s a simple life and one I thoroughly enjoy.

I also began another blog in 2018 called The Daily Snail. So far it hasn’t been quite daily, but it gives me the opportunity to do short posts about where I am or interesting things I have seen. It takes the pressure off these ‘bigger than Ben Hur’ blogs on The Snail Trail. I hope you have a look at it and click on follow for more regular updates from me.

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Xmas photo at my sisters with her dog, Jack Russell

So much to look forward to in 2019 – February, The Silo Art Trail in Victoria, The Man From Snowy River Festival in Corryong, Victoria in April, CMCA Solos Rally in Blackall, Queensland in May followed by the Guiness Book of Records world record attempt for the Longest Line of RV’s in Barcaldine, Queensland.

And after that? ….

Roll on 2019. May it be a great year for us all!

 


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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!

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!