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.

Much Needed Therapy : A Day On Straddie

North Stradbroke Island, affectionately known as Straddie is an island that lies within Moreton Bay off the coast of Brisbane. It is a 45 minute vehicular ferry trip from my sandpit or half that on the people-only Straddie Flyer. At 68,000 acres it is the second largest sand island in the world. Known as Minjerribah to the First Australians the Quandamooka people are the traditional land owners and their presence is still keenly felt on the island.

Fun Fact: Originally there was only one Stradbroke Island but in 1895 it split into North Stradbroke Island and South Stradbroke Island after some bizarre events. Firstly, in 1894 the 1,600 tonne barque Cambus Wallace from Glasgow, carrying explosives, shipwrecked in a narrow passage. Five sailors we’re lost, the others managed to salvage barrels of rum and most of the explosives, although they were deemed unstable. Rum and explosives being a heady mix there was one hell of a BOOM, and further storms and strong currents led to the fragile strip of land dissolving and breaking completely away in 1898.

All ferries arrive in Dunwich. The township has a fascinating history having started as a military post, becoming a temporary lazaret, a quarantine command, and then the largest asylum in Queensland for the poor, disabled and disadvantaged. There also remains evidence of the financially rewarding Dugong harvesting industry.

Used For Boiling Down Dugongs

Myora Springs has been the meeting place of our First Nations people for eons with it’s fresh water feeding into the bay. 

Amity Point remains relatively untouched by progress and is a camper’s and fisho’s paradise.

Do you remember the Disney movie Finding Nemo? This movie featured The East Australian Current, a large scale flow of water that runs south along the east coast sweeping warm tropical waters from the Coral Sea southwards to interact with the cool temperate waters of the Tasman Sea. You know what that means? All manner of sea life including sharks – big, hungry buggers. We sat mesmerised and watched dolphins and whales at play. Look hard and you may just spot Nemo.

Point Lookout is nothing short of spectacular. The old beach shacks of days gone by are well and truly gone and the high end real estate is at such a stage that I could probably afford to purchase their letterbox and possibly a water feature or two. Despite the exorbitant prices, it is still acceptable to walk sand in through the house and barbeque on the verandah overlooking the view. It retains that holiday vibe. 


I just have to tell you that the Straddie Pub is a Must Do item on any visit to the island.

Wind burnt, sun burnt, and thrilled to have to stop driving in order to allow a koala to cross the road we returned to Dunwich for the ferry ride home.

From Dunwich back over to the mainland.

Feeling improved and in a much better head space, thank you for asking…………….

War Memorials on my travels

Did you know that there is a Queensland War Memorial Register, currently with over 1300 sites listed?

War memorials resulted from a ground swell of community sentiment going back to the Boer War when memorials were usually situated within cemeteries. With the mass casualties of the First World War affecting almost every family communal memorials in prominent public places were established as a tangible symbol of national mourning. 

These memorials are ever so present in country towns where the names of the fallen indicate just how many local families lost their husbands, fathers and sons. Some are big, some are small. Each are poignant.

Roma, Qld
Longreach, Qld
Ilfracombe, Qld
Chinchilla, Qld
Exhibition in Winton, Qld, in a Troop Train transporting soldiers to the Big Smoke. ( Located in the Waltzing Matilda Museum)

These are just a selection from my recent travels. I’ve always been a sucker for these memorials and how they correspond to a township’s history. When I was in my teens and working for Veterans Affairs ( then Repat) my dream was to travel Australia and photograph all those in small, country towns. Copped the ” responsibility lecture” instead. In those days I listened to what I was told. How things change.

For more information go http://www.qldwarmemorials.com.au

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…….

First 5 Forever

My local Library has a First 5 Forever program that caters to three age groups: babies, toddlers and pre-schoolers.

First 5 Forever is a statewide program providing strong early literacy foundations for all Queensland children ages 0-5 years at which local libraries provide fun, free, family-friendly activities and resources to help make the most of a child’s first 5 years”.

So of course when I recently played the devoted Meemaw I booked 8 month old Harry Kilometres into two sessions of First 5 Forever, one outdoors at a local park and the other at the Library.

The outdoors venture was a bit of a disaster because of the weather. Bub had flown in the night before from remote northern Australia where at night he sleeps under a ceiling fan with the air conditioning on, and Brissie decided to emulate Melbourne with chilly winds and 8 degrees. He had to wear long pants for the first time in his life as well as socks and a beanie and was suitably unimpressed. And not a subtle beanie either, thank you Meemaw.

Our indoor venture was much more successful with sessions only 45 minutes in duration ( 30 in songs, movement, and stories and 15 in play) and more favourable climatic conditions.

Of course I bribed the little blighter with the promise of his first babychinno – which was another success.

During my recent travels I visited the Chinchilla Botanic Gardens.

Chinchilla is most commonly known as the ‘Melon Capital of Australia’, and plays host to a Melon Festival every second year in February. 

( Aside : Not a fan of Watermelon though I detest the waste of good food during this popular tourist festival. As for Rockmelon, also known as Canteloupe, why it is considered a complement to seafood has me stumped. What a waste of decent prawn meat.)

Located in the Western Downs Region of Queensland, Chinchilla is just on 300 kms northwest of Brisbane.  In 2020 its Parkland was announced as winner of the Park of the Year at the Queensland Parks and Leisure Australia Annual Awards.  It IS beautiful and caters for all demographics with a variety of facilities.

I was delighted when I came across this cute First 5 Forever bench seat to encourage our Littlest Readers. A wonderful initiative.

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.

Silos, Rivers and a Boneyard

Other than the astonishing artwork on silos and murals in some of the country towns in the Southern Country Queensland landscape I was honestly taken aback by the beauty of the rivers.

Firstly, I didn’t realise that there were so many waterways in that part of Qld – the Balonne, Macintyre, Moonie and the Condomine – and that they all have a tendency to flood. My road trip provided a better understanding of why so many of our early poets and writers romanticised the river systems, the life blood providers, with the magnificent gum trees along the waters edge.

Where the lone creek, chafing nightly in the cold and sad moonshine,
Beats beneath the twisted fern-roots and the drenched and dripping vine;
Where the gum trees, ringed and ragged, from the mazy margins rise,
Staring out against the heavens with their languid gaping eyes…….”

– Henry Kendell : The Wail In The Native Oak

Never was the river more appreciated than at Nindigully, with the Grey Nomads out in force at Queensland’s oldest (1864) licensed pub.

If it looks familiar that’s because the Nindigully Hotel was used for filming Hugh Jackman’s first film in the ‘90’s – Paperback Heroes – where he plays a truckie with a penchant for writing bodice rippers.

( NOTE : No apologies for still preferring Todd McKenney as The Boy From Oz).

I have always loved the monuments in our country towns honouring the lives of those lost during times of conflict. They provide so much history about how much families and local industry lost during wartime.

Don’t even get me started on the history that can be found in cemeteries – but can I recommend Dunwich Boneyard on North Stradbroke Island for sinking ships, Spanish Flue, Leprosy, and Insanity?

The Freedom Tree at Surat
The Pilots Memorial at St George. I wrote a book review a while back on The Missing Man. This was Len Waters story : a decorated indigenous ace fighter pilot who couldn’t get a job after the war. Tragic.
And a summation of Wandoan’s history.

Silos And Murals – Part 2

Forty kms out of Toowoomba along the highway to Millmerran you bypass the town of Pittsworth. Take your foot off the accelerator or you’ll drive past some of the prettiest murals along the trek each depicting the township’s history, culture, produce and attractions.

It’s amazing how much you learn from a mural and how many fellow travellers you meet along the way. I had to google Arthur Postle, a Pittsworth lad with the nickname “ The Crimson Flash” who held records in running in the early 1900’s, racing all around the world.

Another 40kms along the highway and this greets you at Millmerran.

Just WOW with parkland and onsite parking where you can stretch the legs. ( And a coffee cart. Yay!)

Just up the road is the Visitor Information Centre housed in a defunct railway carriage which is worth a visit in order to pick up a brochure about the historical murals dotted throughout the district.

My ex brother-in-law lived in Millmerran for a time. Because I didn’t like him one bit by association I did not like Millmerran. I know; makes me sound horrible but you wouldn’t have like the dipstick either.

I owe you an apology, Millmerran – what a lovely little town!

100 kms down the track is Yelarbon, with a population of 350 and with 8 grain silos covered with the most magnificent artwork telling the story of When The Rain Comes using over a 1000 litres of paint.

Australia is a big country, and Queensland is bigger than Texas, so you can drive vast distances and see nothing but landscape. Luckily I’m partial to landscape.

Last drive for the day, thirty minutes west to Goondiwindi.


Get a good nights sleep. You’re going to need it.

NOTE:

All of these rural towns have so much more to offer. In this instance I am restricting the attractions to murals and painted silos.