Serendipity Part 1 : Yungaburra, FNQ.

In November 2020, during the middle of a Pandemic, I wrote about a musical tribute to our servicemen and women in the form of a CD called Spirit Of The ANZACS. Country singer, Lee Kernaghan, along with other Australian singer/songwriters Garth Porter and Colin Buchanan, were given access to the diaries, letters and stories of Australian and New Zealand diggers held by the Australian War Memorial as a project for the 100th anniversary of Gallipoli.  These letters covered 100 years of ANZAC history from the First World War right through to Afghanistan. Many of the lines in the songs on this CD have been directly lifted from these letters, many written on the battlefield.

The song I included in that post was titled I Will Always Be With You from a letter written by Private Benjamin Chuck, 2 Commando Regiment, who lost his life in 2010  in the mountains of Kandahar Province  in a chopper accident during his third tour of Afghanistan. 

It’s been a year for serendipitous events.

Earlier this year I attended a social function commemorating Australian servicemen and women. There were several interesting stories including that of Hilda Rix, artist. Google her -it’s a fascinating tale. Another story was that of a father from Far North Queensland who lost his son in Afghanistan and who fund raised and worked his tail off to create The Avenue of Honour at Yungaburra on Lake Tinaroo.


The Avenue

The Avenue with its 250 m of sand coloured path representing the barren Afghanistan landscape, twin rows of Illawarra Flame Trees and Central Monument symbolizes ‘the final journey home’ of the Fallen. It comprises 3 main elements:
– The entrance and pathway to the Central monument
– The Monument and The Honour Board
– The journey home leading from the Memorial

A plaque representing each one of the 42 fallen soldiers (40 killed in action plus one training casualty and one non-combat related death) from the Afghanistan Campaign is present on the Honour Board adjacent to the Memorial. The centrepiece of the Memorial is a cairn of stones sourced from Afghanistan surmounted by a pair of sculptured wings in full flight depicting the contributions made by all services and symbolizing the undaunted spirit of the Australian Digger. The Avenue has all night lighting with the Honour Board and Monument bathed in blue light.

A series of plaques distributed throughout the Avenue feature service commendations from Military Commanders, Five VC Award Recipients, references to major engagements fought, the role of Explosive Detection Dogs, and literary contributions from community members.  

     – from https://www.avenueofhonour.com.au/memorial/history/


The entrepreneurial gentleman was Gordon Chuck, father of young Benjamin Chuck.

In April at my local Dawn Service in Cleveland, thousands stood in the cold and the rain to honour those who had served. This year the names of the fallen from recent theatres of war were announced over the loud speakers with nominated persons depositing a wreath by the cenotaph. It was a moving service with many shedding a silent tear. And Benjamin Chuck’s name was amongst those called.

I’ve started packing for a road trip. Shouldn’t. The financial advisor will spit chips but you know what ? You’re a long time dead.

One of my stops will be The Avenue Of Honour at Yungaburra, Far North Queensland.

Coochiemudlo Island

Or a reminder about “why we live where we live”.

Beautiful Spring weather and our fourth Donut Day (without any new Covid cases) propelled a visit to nearby Coochiemudlo Island for the first time in nearly thirty years. Such a long time ago neither Pocahontas nor Cat Balou remember having visited the island during their childhood despite it being less than ten minutes drive away from our front door, and another ten minutes by ferry to cross southern Moreton Bay. Isn’t it sad that we sometimes need a reminder of “why we live where we live”. A case of Life getting in the way, I guess….

Catching the ferry from Victoria Point is a breeze. $5.60 one way travel or $2.40 for concession and pension card holders.

The name Coochiemudlo is the English language version of the Yuggera  (First Nation) words kutchi (meaning red) and mudlo (meaning stone). You can easily spot the evidence with a natural cliff composed of iron-rich rock exposed on the south western side of the island. 

Coochie, as she is affectionately known by locals, is only 4 square kilometres in size with a permanent population of less than 800. To be honest, this is Coochie’s biggest attraction : there are no high rise, no tourist parks, no shopping centres. For entertainment there are beaches, reserves for bushwalking and a 9 hole golf course manned by volunteers. Next visit, we are packing the fishing rods and sun screen.

We lunched at the Curlew Cafe ( yes, there were curlews everywhere) followed by a visit to the Art Gallery.

The biggest social event on the Island takes place annually in July : Flinders Day, the re-enactment of the landing of explorer and navigator, Matthews Flinders, celebrated with markets, navy cadets and pirates.

It took us a little over an hour to walk around Coochie to get a feel for the place.

Back soon, Coochie, armed with cossies, buckets and fish bait.

Cows, Gas, & Bottle Trees

Roma is situated 480 kms west of Brisbane and is the administrative centre for the Maranoa Region, Queensland. It is one of those country towns I’de heard of but had no interest in visiting. 

Stupid me.

The town was incorporated in 1867 and is named after Lady Diamantina (née di Roma), the wife of Sir George Bowen, the Governor of Queensland at the time. Currently with a population of over 6,000 Roma is big enough to provide plenty of choice for all the essential services with a smattering of the arts and culture and a strong connection to heritage.

It’s a Cow Town with the largest store cattle saleyards in the Southern Hemisphere. This means you can get a good steak at any pub in town. Don’t dis this : most of our better quality meat is exported overseas. It may also account in part why so many of my female millennial friends make the journey west all frocked up for the picnic race meetings and the annual rodeo.

Believe it or not, the saleyards are a popular tourist attraction and a visit is highly recommended. I loved it – who ever thought that you’de ever hear such a statement?

The other big tourist attraction is the Big Rig and Oil and Gas Museum. Bizarre, granted, but a fascinating history of our Natural Gas and Oil industries. It’s well worth paying extra for the guided tour or to the evening light show for all the fascinating tidbits.

Who knew you could sell tickets for this kind of venture?

Roma’s War Memorial and Heroes Avenue are Heritage listed. Residents planted a Bottle Tree for each of the local lads who died during World War 1, and Heroes Avenue is lined with 140 trees, each bearing a soldier’s name. 


Attached to Roma’s Library is a delightful Art Gallery which is well worth a visit, and as per usual in a country town, the clothing shops sell quality over quantity.

Also add the Bush Gardens to your Must Do List. The garden is 14 hectares wide and contains many species that Roma is famous for such as the Mulga, Coolibah and Brigalow.

My visit coincided with the last legs of this years winter mouse plague. All I can say about this is that you don’t understand the situation until you’ve experienced it. Nothing quite says Good Morning like greeting the day with half a dozen dead mice at the front door.

I’m looking forward to a return to Roma for the races. Guess I’m just over the rodeo stage of life …….and the mouse stage.

Longreach – Lonely or Otherwise

With house guests and travels my recent reading history is abysmal.

Lonely In Longreach” by Australian author, Eva Scott, is chick lit that I picked up after having spent a few days in Longreach, 1000 kms north west of Brisbane.

I wont bore you with more holiday snaps though Longreach is home to some really big hitters in the tourist department. The Australian Stockman’s Hall of Fame, which opened in 1988, showcases the history and the culture of life in rural Australia. It is nothing short of spectacular : informative, user friendly, and totally fascinating.

Sitting in the outside arena watching a drover working his horses in the daily show reminded me of Errol Flynn in the 1950 movie Montana. (Yeah, I wonder about the things that go around in my head too.)

The Qantas Founders Museum is another Must Do as is the Sunset Cruise on the Thomson River.

All of these venues are mentioned in the book “Lonely In Longreach”. Which in turn had me thinking of another movie : Sleepless In Seattle. Same premise – kid worries his widowed Dad is lonely so fixes him up by signing him up to a Dating App and arranges for his choice of stepmother to fly in from the Big Smoke to give a career chat at the local high school. We all know how the story ends, don’t we?

Then I had to read “Everything Is Beautiful” by Eleanor Ray for Book Club.

Amy is a loner who suffered major heartbreak a decade ago and deals with it by collecting bits and pieces. Read: she is a hoarder with a house full of junk.

Readers were meant to be sympathetic to Amy’s situation though consensus amongst this group of readers was that Amy needed to “have a teaspoon of concrete and harden up”. Not the outcome the author was looking for, I would suggest , and I wondered if this was the Australian readers’ take as opposed to the English ( which is Ray’s ethnicity). Okay, agreed, the answer could be that my Book Club is full of neanderthals……..

Thank goodness for the coming Pop Up Book Sale fundraiser on the weekend.

NOTE:

Coming out of a three day Lockdown which had me housekeeping like crazy. I’ve deleted 350 “Followers” from Word Press. My apologies but at this stage of the game I am not in any need of nutritional or financial advice, information about cryptocurrency nor the stockmarket, and nor do I require the services of a pretty Asian lass. Don’t even start me on Life Coaches…….

Barcaldine, Western Queensland

Barcaldine is a sheep and cattle town 520 kms by road west of Rockhampton, and over 1000 kms from Brisbane, on route to the popular tourist destinations of Longreach and Winton. 

Affectionately known as Barcy, most travellers on the road through town stop to peruse the Tree of Knowledge. The current tree is a copy, the original having been vandalised in 2006, and represents the trials and tribulations of the Great Shearers Strike, one of Australia’s earliest disputes between union and non-union labour, and an event that is today acknowledged as having led to the formation of the Australian Labor Party. It is a glorious sight by night and the original rootball remains under glass – even Liberal voters are impressed.

A recent addition to Barcaldine is the Desert Dreaming Centre.

Local First Nation woman, Cheryl Thompson, is a big believer in “closing the gap” and “sharing the Dreaming” and runs a hostel in town, with no Government funding, for children from indigenous communities who want to complete their secondary schooling. Remote areas do not have internet or other facilities so the School of Air is not an option. These students learn about work ethic and managing finances through weekend shifts at the Ridgee Didge Cafe, and are also involved in traditional Aboriginal activities and learn about the local Iningai history of the area through Thompson’s Desert Dreaming Centre, where they follow a curriculum that combines school work with learning about culture, art and tourism. 

There is a dedicated work room which is strewn with artists’ materials where the students work on projects which are then sold at the Desert Dreaming Centre’s Gallery.

The Desert Dreaming Centre is also a tourist destination from which Thompson offers a variety of authentic aboriginal cultural experiences. Activities include :

Ocre Workshops, 

Boomerang Workshops

Creating artworks and message sticks. 

Sitting around a corroboree ring stories, song, and dances are shared, often involving the students, who are also being trained in other arms of Cheryl’s business activities such as the Barcy Base Camp (hospitality) and Trackers Tour Company( tourism). The latter includes the concept of Dreamtime Guides who are trained by Thompson to present culturally appropriate and culturally safe information.

We enjoyed the Desert Dreaming Dance and Dinner Experience around burning log fires whilst being entertained by the young dancers who explained the cultural significance of each performance.

Cheryl’s partner, Paul Stumkat, is a renown palaeontologist with a passion to further open up the Queensland Outback’s Dinosaur Trail. Together they present a blend of palaeontology and living cultures in order that tourists gain a better understanding of both the past and present life of outback Australia.

Paul has developed workshops that he uses to this result which I found both fun and educational. Here’s my caste of a fossil footprint of a small dinosaur, and I’ve also gained some experience in identifying the tracks of both kangaroos and emus. For the Little People there is even a sandpit where they can unearth a dinosaur skeleton. I warned you : mega fauna freaks are everywhere in the outback!


Yeah, so artwork is not my forte……..

NOTE: The students currently participating in Thompson’s dream have a 100 per cent school attendance rate. Now that’s called ” closing the gap”!

LIFE LESSON :

A reminder to never dismiss a country town. You would be surprised by what lies lurking…..

Winton, Outback Queensland.

Winton is over 1450 kilometres northwest of Brisbane. It has three major attractions that draw travellers from all across the country:

  • The Waltzing Matilda Centre, the only museum in the world built around a song.
  • Dinosaur bones. I cannot tell you how many professional and amateur palaeontologists I came across.( And I thought I was eccentric!)
  • Black Opals. 

Because I’m skipping the tourist brochure bits here are my personal highlights of Winton :

  1. O’kay, we can’t completely bypass Banjo Paterson, (Andrew Barton Paterson 1864 – 1941), journalist, author, and the bush poet who wrote Australia’s unofficial national anthem, Waltzing Matilda – whilst visiting Winton. Indeed, the North Gregory Hotel is the venue where it was first performed in 1895.

         This was a beaut find (as was the steak sanger) but not what excited me. No, it was the Daphne Mayo glass etchings of the jolly swagman in the dining room named in her honour. Who was Daphne Mayo, you ask ? Mayo was a significant 20th-century artist, most prominently known for her work in sculpture.

           I also saw my very first Coolibah Tree. I honestly thought they were like Enid Blyton’s Faraway Tree…….and unicorns.

        2. The Royal Theatre, established in 1918, is one of only two remaining open-air picture theatres in Australia still in operation.  

Wednesday Night is Nostalgia Night which is a guided presentation that recreates the experience of going to the movies during the 1960s.  

Many movies have been filmed in the area including The Proposition and Mystery Road, and the Royal Theatre now hosts the annual Vision Splendid Outback Film Festival in June (following on from the Writer’s Festival).

          3.  The Age Of Dinosaurs is well worth a visit and not only is the area a veritable garden of fossilised dinosaur bones that keep popping up on cattle stations, but this venue makes the Top Ten Dark Skies in the world. So not only is this place jumping with mega fauna freaks but stargazers as well.

This photo looks down on Channel Country, where water run off after big rains channels into a basin: 

And the bush hath friends to meet him, and their kindly voices greet him

In the murmur of the breezes and the river on its bars,

And he sees the vision splendid of the sunlit plains extended,

And at night the wond’rous glory of the everlasting stars.

                       From Banjo’s Clancy of the Overflow.

Road Trip: Queensland Outback

Aussies are most certainly travelling : mobile homes, caravans, utes loaded up with camping equipment, and families packed into sedans are keeping the outback townships of Queensland busy as. Indeed, word on the street has it that Longreach, 1600 kms out of Brisbane (our capital) is fully booked until November (when the weather turns stinking hot and only for the brave and/or stupid).

Looking out a window – Longreach

My adventures have been many and memorable. I thought I’de share some that aren’t highlighted in the tourist brochures. Currently in transit between Tambo and Augathella, two rural townships, both with a population of approx 400. The former is famous for it’s Teddy Bears and historic buildings, the latter for its bushrangers, its Meat Ants – don’t go there – and it was where the movie, Smiley, was filmed in the 1950’s.

Queensland is a big state, bigger than Texas, and you often travel for several hours before finding a township, and not necessarily one with bathroom facilities or appropriate refreshment facilities.

Life Lessons gained from this trip:

  1. Always travel with water and a few supplies. Not always available and at inappropriate times.
  2. Even though some small towns may give off a very real *Wolf Creek feel don’t hesitate to investigate. There are so many hidden gems to discover, like this one at Movern, population 250

So how do you know when you’ve reached The Outback? The landscape is as flat as a pancake for as far as the eye can see, roads are straight and go on forever, and emus. Lots of emus.

And the sunsets are sensational!

Thomson River, Longreach


*Aussie horror movie which saw a couple of young travellers butchered. Literally. I’ve not been a fan of meat hooks since.