The Snail Trail

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

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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Gone to the Dogs!

After Pit Ponies in Collinsville I’ve continued the animal theme and have been dog-sitting in a couple of locations for fellow Solo travellers. My first jaunt was to Buderim on the beautiful Sunshine Coast where I looked after this little cutie, Chai, while her mum was in hospital. Chai is known as a Milky – a cross between a Maltese Terrier and a Silky Terrier.

She’s pretty cute, isn’t she? It wasn’t easy to leave her when Lesley arrived home but she left me for dead when her mum walked in the door!

Christmas was spent in Bundaberg, my home base on the mainland – with nephew Simon (I call him my surrogate son as I never had children of my own – fortunately my sister is happy to share him with me), his lovely wife Sandy and their daughter Lauren. As they had booked a holiday to the Gold Coast I looked after the pets while they were away. Lily the cat and Lucy the dog let me know who was in control by lolling on MY bed, although they did leave just enough room for me to squeeze in too!

By the way – Lily the Cat is a male but that hadn’t been determined when he was named! Anyhow, he doesn’t seem to have a personality complex about his sexuality.

And now I’m at my third dog-sitting venture looking after this cheeky little devil, CJ! Once again, whose bed is it???

I have been looking after CJ for a month now and have another month to go before mum, Janet, returns from her trip to India, Vietnam and Cambodia. This house/dog sit is in a cabin in the Bingara Caravan Park in New South Wales. In my first year travelling (2013) I attended a Solos Rally in Bingara and loved the little town then and particularly the fantastic camping beside the Gwydir River.

I’ve thrown myself into what Bingara has to offer and have been going to Aquafit classes 3 times a week at the swimming pool next to the Caravan Park and last week CJ and I visited Touriandi Lodge, an aged care facility on the other side of the CP to the pool. CJ was cuddled by everyone and fussed over and slept for hours when we came home. The next day we visited the hospital where once again he was made to feel very special. Funny about that, CJ was supposed to be making the residents and patients feel special! I’ve also been going to Wednesday coffee mornings with some of the locals so all in all I feel like I am a little part of the community.

There’s some really interesting information to tell you about Bingara and surrounds so I’ll do several short posts over the next couple of weeks. I’m looking forward to telling you about Sawn Rocks, Cunningham’s Track, the Roxy Theatre and the Myall Creek Massacre along with a couple of other quaint local customs.

PS: Thanks to an old friend Sam (Rudi) for prompting me to switch my brain back on and get back on The Snail Trail.

Collinsville Pit Pony


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Collinsville – It’s the Pits!

The coal pits of Collinsville have forged this strong community inland from Mackay and Bowen in Queensland. It is at the northern most tip of the huge Bowen Basin Coal Deposits, which is so extensive it covers an area half the size of England!

The Bowen Basin contains the largest coal reserves in Australia. This major coal producing region contains one of the world’s largest deposits of bituminous coal. The Basin contains much of the known Permian coal resources in Queensland including virtually all of the known mineable prime coking coal. ….

….. The Bowen Basin covers an area of over 60,000 square kilometres in Central Queensland running from Collinsville to Theodore.

Brett, from the Information Centre in Collinsville, is a ‘mine’ of information about this town and credits the sense of community on the coal miners that rely on each other every day to keep them safe and alive as they worked underground. The threat of disaster and death bands them together and that mateship forms the strong bonds that unites the community of Collinsville. (Mining at Collinsville is no longer underground and is now done by the open cut method)

Not so long ago pit ponies worked at the Collinsville mine hauling the containers of coal to the surface. When mine management decided to retire the pit ponies the union signed them up as members so they couldn’t be ‘sacked’ and sent off to the knackery. This gave Wharrier and Mr Ed, as they were known, 2 more years of work before an agreement was reached to retire them to a local property in 1991, where they lived for another 8 and 10 years respectively.

Collinsville felt so strongly about their ponies that they instigated a crowd funding exercise to build a bronze statue in town. It’s a wonderful memorial to the role of the pit ponies in this town.

Unfortunately, the history of most mining towns includes a disaster and Collinsville is no exception. In 1954 a high pressure pocket of carbon dioxide moved 450 tons of coal and destroyed everything in its path. 7 men were killed and 2 pit ponies died. There is a wonderful display at the United Mine Workers Club called The Coalface Experience that pays tribute to those men and illustrates the mining history of Collinsville. It’s a must see!

The Coalface Experience, Collinsville, Queensland

The Coalface Experience is an interactive display with fantastic information. Until I’d spoken to Brett I had no idea of the history of this town and was so glad I stayed an extra day to find out more about it.

Collinsville is a town of boom and bust, dependent on mining, which in turn depends on the price of coal and market demand.

A great way to support this community is by staying at the excellent RV stopover they have created right opposite the Workers Club. There’s a grassy central park with shelters, potable water available, a black water (dump point) disposal …… and let’s not forget Brett at the Information Centre on site.

At the moment the Workers Club offers showers for a gold coin donation, and the motel next door has laundromat facilities.

Collinsville is more than an ‘overnighter’ if you’re travelling through this area. Take some time to get to know this proud mining town and enjoy discovering its history by talking to the locals and visiting The Coalface Experience.

PS: Leesa at Beaute at the Ville does a great pedicure and has been so inspired by traveller’s tales she just bought herself a van to convert to a camper. Pop in for some pampering and to share some travel stories with her!

Mosaic wall, Ingham Queensland


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Ingham – La Dolce Vita

Ingham embodies ‘the sweet life’ in more ways than one! It’s a thriving sugar town in FNQ (Far North Queensland) and is the service centre for many sugarcane plantations. Victoria Sugar Mill, the largest sugar mill in Australia and one of the largest in the southern hemisphere, is located close to the township of Ingham (Approx. 6km).

 

 

It also celebrates it’s Italian heritage originating back in the 1890’s when Italian migrants came here to work on the sugar plantations.

The Australian-Italian Festival is held in Ingham the first weekend in August each year and is one of the most popular events in the region, with thousands of people attending the event. The festival celebrates Ingham’s cultural background, dating from the 1890s, when the first Italian immigrants came to the region. More than half the population of the town are of Italian descent. The town is known as “Little Italy”. Wikipedia

I’ve been lucky enough to be in Ingham for this years Italian Festival, a celebration of good food, good music and good fun enjoyed by locals and tourists alike.

There was something for all the family and it did indeed have a wonderful family atmosphere…. lovely to see young teenagers being ‘kids’ rather than playing the bored young adult. One of the challenges was a Slippery Pole competition, the first to reach the top a young, very agile, girl. Some participants never made it off the mat. I decided it would need a lot of upper body strength and as mine isn’t at its peak I gave this activity a miss. Fun to watch though!

The Gondola Races also proved popular – and chaotic – but once again a lot of laughs.

Along with spaghetti eating competitions, cooking demonstrations, fabulous food and wonderful singers crooning everything from Volare to opera it truly was a feast for all the senses.

The first time I was in Ingham, on my way north to a Christmas in July celebration in Mareeba, I had a wander around town and discovered this fabulous laneway of mosaics and murals telling the story of Ingham. I’ve put them together in this slide show with some of the explanations for the panels to ‘put you in the picture’, so to speak.

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The Italians who came to Australia so long ago to chase opportunities for a better life for themselves and their families have certainly built a wonderful culture in Ingham.

La Dolce Vita – The Sweet Life………………………………………………… Perhaps not always ……

Ingham, North Queensland

The Canecutter’s Lament

 

 


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What does this Rollingstone gather?

Rollingstone QueenslandNo moss, that’s for sure, but it does appeal to a lot of campers. It’s a large free camp about 1km off the highway heading north from Townsville. If you are planning on staying here at this time of the year (June/July) you need to arrive early and wait for a spot. It’s very shady, so if you are relying on solar power there’s only a few places that will give you full sun to charge up those batteries.

I went for a walk along the river that flows along the edge of the park and there were a couple of nice swimming holes. I was tempted to take Brutus off road here and have this beautiful spot all to myself, but I wasn’t sure if I might be sharing it with some local crocodiles, so thought better of it.

IMG_7816Rollingstone

A couple of days at Rollingstone and it was time to move on, but not before I took a drive to Balgal Beach, about 5 kms away. Just past that lovely waterhole above you have to go under a 2.4 metre high bridge which Brutus had no problems with at all (even though I did duck my head)! A bigger motorhome than mine – aren’t they all? – and you would have to go back out to the highway and take the long way round.

The countryside was literally ripe for the picking – pineapples, pumpkins and mangoes in paddocks as far as the eye could see.

 

This sign helped me decide that today wasn’t the day for swimming!

Go as far north as you can along the Esplanade and there is a little cafe with the best waterfront location you could wish for. It’s called Fisherman’s Landing and is right opposite the small free camp and looks out over the water. I’ve been told it has great fish and chips, too.

There is a grassy foreshore park that was providing a feast for the local red-tailed black cockatoos. These photos don’t really show you how big these birds are and you will need to look closely to distinguish their tails from the flurry of red leaves scattering the ground.

I didn’t stay at Balgal Beach this time around but it’s certainly on my list of places to stay in the future. And with a fish and chip shop over the road, what more could a girl ask for?