Here we are spending a few days in Thargomindah in far south-western Queensland. We arrived here after an eventful trip covering several days while we travelled from Boulia.
We left Boulia on the morning of 23rd April with the intent of going to Bedourie (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bedourie,_Queensland) and staying overnight there. A brochure we obtained in the Visitor Information Centre suggested the road to Bedourie was 90% sealed; we were pleasantly surprised to find that, in fact, it was all but sealed all the way with only two short lengths (about 5 km in all) of gravel to negotiate with one of these being a road construction site.
We lobbed into Bedourie mid-morning and visited the information centre. There was not much in the town to hold us overnight so we decided to push on to Birdsville (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Birdsville). The ladies in the information centre advised us the main route to Birdsville was flooded in some sections and we would need to take the flood bypass which would add another 50 or 60 kilometres to the trip.
The first 35 kilometres toward Birdsville were sealed road and we were well along the road to Windorah (part of the bypass) before we found the unsealed section. This section wasn’t too rough but very dusty and we travelled about another 30 kilometres before we turned onto the Lake Machattie (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lake_Machattie_Area) flood bypass. This is a 70 kilometre unsealed section which was in reasonable order. Along the road we saw numerous cattle some emus and a wild dog which watched warily until we passed by – too slow to get a picture but if we had pulled up the dog would probably have bolted.
We stopped for lunch after we re-joined the main Birdsville route on a small section of bitumen south of Lake Koolivoo. The bitumen doesn’t last long but it’s wonderful after travelling on the gravel. After lunch the road became quite rough in parts and a lot more loose material was thrown up when we arrived in Birdsville about 3:30pm we found the road had played havoc with our mudflaps. At that point there appeared to be no trouble with the caravan apart from some dust intrusion.
We booked into the Birdsville Caravan Park – a dry, dusty and sandy establishment which could not have contrasted more markedly with the grassy park at Boulia where we had spent the previous night. Once we had the van set up we went for a walk around the town taking photos and talking to some of the locals. We had a cold drink in the iconic Birdsville Hotel (the front facade is original but much of the balance of the building has been modernised) in the welcome relief of the cool air-conditioned environment then returned to the van for tea and a night’s rest.
Windorah (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Windorah) was our destination for the next day and we made an early start. The roughness of the road is apparent just off the sealed section at the edge of town. There are small sealed sections along the road which have been funded by the Black Spot program (a safety initiative to improve roads). It would be nice if all the black spots could be joined up but that scenario is millions of dollars and many years away – if it ever happens.
We stopped for morning tea at a public art site near the turn off to Betoota (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Betoota,_Queensland); the art, in the form of a dream time serpent, was created partly to link the three towns in Diamantina Shire (http://www.diamantina.qld.gov.au) Bedourie, Birdsville and Betoota. It was at this stop that I discovered a stone had damaged one of the taps on the water tank of the caravan and water was slowly leaking away. We pushed on along the dusty and rough gravel road periodically experiencing relief from the dust and gravel as we found the short lengths of bitumen along the way. After some 240 kilometres we reached the bitumen which would take us the next 104 kilometres into Windorah. At this point we decided to have lunch and found the water tank tap had broken away completely and the last of the water in the tanks was pouring out to the ground.
We reached Windorah in mid-afternoon and set up in the local caravan park – power and water for $10.00 a night. Margaret headed for the vacuum cleaner and after setting up the van I crawled under to inspect for damage and endeavour to sort out the water tank – free camping is difficult without water. I didn’t have a spare water tap but I did have some black plastic Philmac fittings which I thought may be of use. Having extracted the tap I went in search of a replacement or a plug or other item with which I could fix the water tank; I even asked the lady from the Council who was collecting the fees for the caravan park; – no luck with a new tap but picked up a few more black plastic bits and eventually cobbled together a fix that would keep water in the tank. We waited until we got to Quilpie to fill the tanks as we didn’t like the water at Windorah.
Dust Dust Glorious Dust and more Dust
It was Anzac Day when we departed Windorah and we decided to go to Quilpie (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quilpie,_Queensland) and stay the night with a view to visiting a hardware shop on Saturday in search of a replacement tap or other spares. The road between Windorah and Quilpie is sealed all the way but most of the sealed section consists of the usual narrow strip down the middle and gravel on either side. During this trip we pulled off the road for a number of oncoming trucks to minimise any damage from flying stones – the truckies seem to appreciate the gesture.
At Quilpie we checked into the local tourist park and found a nice grassy space with concrete annexe slabs. As it was after one o’clock we headed to the Imperial Hotel and had burgers for lunch complimented by a cold drink, returning to the caravan park for fruit and coffee. Our journey between Bedourie, Birdsville and Windorah had resulted in a very extensive collection of dust both in the caravan and particularly in the back of the truck. We found there is not a lot of call for dust collections and as Margaret had dealt with the inside of the van at Windorah I decided to attack the back of the truck at Quilpie. The task resulted in lots of dirt on me but a little less on everything in the back of the truck – far from being clean but a dam site cleaner than it was. There was no spare tap at the hardware store in Quilpie but I did manage to buy a couple of plugs. We filled the tank and so far the cobble job is holding the water in.
There is an historic hotel at Noccundra (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Noccundra,_Queensland) and a camping site nearby so we decided we would head there. Our route took us via Eromanga (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eromanga,_Queensland) and we pulled into town and parked in front of the police residence as there was shade to park under. The policeman’s dog welcomed us and it wasn’t long before we were talking to the young officer and his partner (wife). He will get on as he found out where we were going where we were from and how long we will be on the road in the first few minutes of the discussion. The couple have been in Eromanga since last August and expect to be there for at least three years.
While I was talking to the young cop I recounted the details of a trip I had made with my grandfather probably fifty-five years ago. We had travelled by train from Toowoomba to Charleville and been picked up by one of grandad’s nephews (in-Law). There were two brothers – Ross and Murray who had married two Rabig family sisters (I can’t recall their Christian names), both families lived at Arrabury Station where Ross was the manager and Murray the head stockman. My grandmother – Bertha Rabig was raised on Cudappan Station and it was this connection that saw my grandfather and I on this trip.
After being collected at the Charleville railway station, we travelled west to Quilpie then on to Eromanga where we collected mail. Our evening meal was at Mt Margaret Station south of Eromanga then we drove to Mt Howitt station (Ross’s brother managed this property) where we camped in the shearers quarters. Next day we drove to Durham Downs arriving at lunch time then on to Arrabury via Lake Pure. We were at Arrabury for four or five days before we drove on to Cudappan, where we overnighted then on to Windorah and Charleville the next day. It was a long trip covering the two weeks of the August School holidays and it was obviously memorable for me.
From Eromanga we drove on to Noccundra about twenty kilometres south from the Nockatunga Station homestead (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nockatunga_Station); at one stage my mother worked here for a time. We pulled into a parking area opposite the hotel and had our lunch sandwiches before walking over to the pub for a looksee – the flies were very friendly and probably would have been friendlier still at the camping area near the lagoon. Inside the bar we ordered a cold drink and a souvenir stubby cooler – the price was staggering – $29.50 for a stubby, a soft drink and the stubby cooler. We drank our drinks and returned to the flies – at least they were open about sucking one dry. We decided that Thargomindah (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thargomindah) would be our destination for the night and drove on.
In town we set up in the Explorers Caravan Park (http://www.thargotourism.com.au/explorers-caravan-park) run by the Bulloo Shire Council. We have a very pleasant reasonably shady site not far from the modern amenities block set on a grassy rise overlooking the park. Saturday night was quiet and good for sleeping. On Sunday morning we explored the town and quite by accident found out that Ergon were shutting down the power from 10:00am to 2:00pm.
Back to the caravan to turn the fridge over to gas and we discovered that the problem that caused us to delay our trip departure for two weeks (the fridge doesn’t work on gas) has reoccurred and we are forced to us our house battery to keep the fridge cold. As with a lack of water it’s also difficult to free camp without the fridge on gas. While under the van checking on the fridge we also discovered another water fitting which has begun a slow leak and will need replacing when I can acquire one.
This morning we did some laundry then walked into town and managed to catch up with a friend who works for the local Council. After lunch we were privileged to be given a “Cooks Tour” of the new office building to be occupied by the Council. The building is very modern and is designed to cater for the needs of the Shire for the next 50 years; it has been specifically designed so that, if necessary, the entire internal structure of the building can be gutted and a new layout configured. Bulloo Shire should be proud of this unique facility.
We are in the process of preparing for the next stage of our journey which should take us on to St George where we will stay for a few days.