This poem was inspired by my recent trip from Yaraka to Isisford in Western Queensland but it could be any country road out west … Continue reading
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.
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.
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.
This photo shows the tiny township of Yaraka viewed from Mt Slocombe nestled at the foot of the Yang Yang Ranges.
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!
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.
I thought I’d spend a couple of days in Longreach, but I drove straight through and went to Ilfracombe and stayed in the Ilfracombe Caravan Park. What a great night! They have a fantastic Happy Hour Shed and the night I was there they did a Sausage Sizzle in aid of the Royal Flying Doctor Service. It was a great way to meet even more wonderful people.
Their regular entertainers were away at the Yellowbelly Classic in Longreach so we entertained ourselves with jokes and bush poetry from the crowd. I plucked up the courage to tell my Green Frog poem, which went over really well.
I started back to Longreach late the next morning, making the most of the power to charge my lantern, computer and phone – and to catch up on some blogging.
I arrived at the Longreach Stockman’s Hall of Fame and paid my money to see the museum.
I have to say I was disappointed in the museum. Although filled with an amazing amount of information it was very sterile, I found the displays quite dark and hard to see the artifacts, and if you aren’t a reader you would miss so much – there is a lot of reading!
I had missed the live stockman display in the arena out the back as I got there after 11am, so that was disappointing, too. Perhaps I just wasn’t ‘in the zone’ for Longreach so I definitely have to go back and give it a fair go. I would like to visit the Qantas museum and also do the river cruise or wagon trip which I have been told by other travellers are both fantastic experiences. Next time.
After filling up with petrol and refilling my gas bottle I headed south to Stonehenge, 151kms away. I was entering the Channel Country in the Barcoo Shire.
If you want to get an idea of the size of this shire, think approximately the size of Tasmania – 61,974 square kms. It takes in the townships of Stonehenge, Jundah and Windorah.
The little caravan park at Stonehenge offered showers, water and power for a $10 per night in the honesty box. The Community Centre opposite is also the Information Centre and a very friendly lady was more than happy to fill me in on what to see in the area.
The same facilities can be found in Jundah and Windorah for the same price. Each of these little towns also has a dump point.
I stayed 2 nights at Stonehenge and whacked the lantern on charge again to make sure I had plenty of light for the free camps I would be staying at over the next few days. You can get too comfortable when you are ‘plugged in’!
Jundah had a lovely looking free camp on the banks of the Thompson River but I decided to keep going to Windorah, where I stayed at the free camp at Coopers Creek. Coopers Creek is formed by the joining of the Thomson and Barcoo Rivers and when in flood it fills multi channels and flood plains that stretch outwards from its banks for up to 100kms as the water commences its journey to Lake Eyre.
Windorah has a solar farm that provides most of its energy requirements and looks so out of place in this little country town.
The free camp is just out of Windorah on Coopers Creek. The best spots were taken when I got there but I found some shade, set up camp and not long after was joined by another person, Derek, who it turned out was from Swansea in Tasmania, a town close to where my sister lives. By the time he left I had to get out my lantern to see what I was cooking. Bugger me dead – it didn’t work! All this time I’d been charging it for a night just like this and it was the globe that was gone, not the charge!
Out with the trusty head lamp, which I hadn’t used until now, and looking like an alien I cooked my dinner and then read by the same lamp until sleep time. I LOVE this little lamp. It’s hands free, throws a great light – and it cost next to nothing. I think Laurance convinced me to buy it at Crazy Clarks when he was in Mt Isa – thank you!
There are soooo many places I want to go to out here. You could spend months, if not years, travelling around Queensland visiting the most amazing little towns with incredible history. I have to keep telling myself ‘you can’t see everything’……but I’m hungry for it. I feel like a little kid stamping her foot saying ‘but I want to!’
Tomorrow I’m going to Quilpie – but I’m missing Toompine, Eromanga and Adavale. I have to come back!
Cattle dying by the roadside, skin falling from their bones
In the drought struck red dust country of the west
Crows fighting wedge-tailed eagles for their share of roadside kill
As they compete in nature’s cruel survival test.
No water in the dams or creeks, there’s been no rain for months, not weeks,
Cattle forage where no blade of grass is found
Behind fences and roadside, amongst livestock that have died
On the dry and barren western red dust ground.
Hills hover in the heat haze disconnected from the land
Trees dance above the soil from which they grow
Red hills rise on the horizon, ancient relics of the past
As they push from out the dry red earth below.
No clouds. No rain. Wind blows the dust through every vein.
There’s no relief from scorching heat and clear blue skies.
Ringers check the bores and cattle in this never ending battle
And farmers watch and cry as all around them dies.
When Dorothea Mackellar wrote of ‘drought and flooding rain’
Did she ever see the west in a long dry?
Did she see the dust bowl waterholes, the rivers and the creeks?
Did she feel the heartache watching cattle die?
Yet there’s beauty in the landscape even when it’s dry as dust
Ancient mesas rising where there once was inland sea
And the bones within the earth have witnessed changes since the birth
Of Australia, and this dry, harsh, red dust country.
Her jeans hung low upon her hips
Beneath her ample girth.
You’d find no-one else more dinkum
If you travelled all the earth.
Her nickname is the Brolga
And it’s on her number plate
She’s nobody’s companion
But she’s everybody’s mate.
She volunteers at cub scouts
And she works at Isa mine.
She’s in the stores she tells me
And she reckons it’s all fine.
She takes no cheek from anyone
But is quick to give some lip,
And if she’s walking through the Isa
I’m giving you the tip.
Sing out g’day and give a wave
And say, “Is your name Bev?”
You’ll recognise her straight away
From the bush hat on her head.
And the way her jeans are slung low down
And her swaggering fella walk
She’ll give you the time of day, OK,
And stop and have a talk.
When you travel round this country,
No matter how you go,
You’ll get to meet some characters
And some you’ll get to know
But you’ll seldom meet a character
As dinky-di as Bev
The sheila from Mt Isa,
Her bush hat upon her head.
11 October, 2014. RIP Bev Kerkhoffs – The Sheila from Mt Isa