Hi I’m Gus the wonder dog, writing about – “the trip” – Bundaberg to Perth with Ross Clarke & Peter Durrant. This will be in a couple of postings as the trip proceeds and Peter or Ross gives me access to their computers.
Peter, who I hadn’t met before, started in Perth at 04:00 on the morning of Thursday 7th June; making ready for “the trip”, he was just a little bit excited.
Australia is such a huge and fascinating Continent. I was reminded of a Paul Keating comment – “First thing is to recognise what we have and what we have been given – when they were giving Continents out not many people got one. There are 20 million of us and we’ve been given a Continent of our own. And this is why our stewardship of the Continent, the sheer scale of the inheritance is such that we should conduct ourselves as a nation always with an eye to our International responsibilities and as members of the society of nations in this part of the world”
Peter was coming across to meet me as his highlight and with Ross we are driving across this wonderful Continent of ours, East to West, through the middle. Peter & Ross are dear friends from way back – commencing their working careers at the same alma mata, HMAS Nirimba, way back in ‘70/’71 and joined Submarines at the same time in ‘76.
I live in Bundaberg, a modern, progressive city servicing a district population of 112,000. Bundaberg was named in 1867 by combining “Bunda” (the name of an aboriginal elder) and “berg” (Saxon word for town). Nowadays, the more familiar ‘Bundy’ is used for a sweet nectar drink called ‘cane cutters cordial’. Not that I have had any of that, however, it is rumoured that when Peter & Ross were a bit younger and not so wise they had a dram or two of the said cordial. Here I am with the boys – not an easy pair to keep under control!
With the Great Barrier Reef just off our shores here in Bundaberg, ancient mariners (my friends the turtles) return annually to nest at Mon Repos Beach and plenty of things to see and do – both natural and man-made, there’s something for everyone. The entire Bundaberg region really is a great place to visit. I managed to show Peter around as you may have seen on Facebook.
Our trip commences with the first leg to Emerald a town on the Nogoa River 590 km north west of Bundaberg.
The drive along the Bruce Highway out of Bundaberg especially between Miriam Vale and Bajool is all part of Operation Queenslander, the largest reconstruction effort in Queensland’s history rebuilding the communities affected by the floods and fixing the damaged infrastructure.
Multiple sites along a 265 km section of the Bruce Highway are being reconstructed over the next two years. The reconstruction works include stabilisation and bitumen resurfacing along with pavement rehabilitation.
The whole reconstruction works on the Bruce Highway are between Gin Gin and Rockhampton including: between Raglan and Bajool, between Bajool and Archer and south of Miriam Vale. We copped a lot of that which slowed us down a little.
We did have some respite when taking a food stop at Mt Larcom where Ross & Peter had the world’s best curry pies – an amazing thick chunky beef curry filling – none for me unfortunately. My suffering was extended as Peter ate his pie, being so hot, then, changed to driving while Ross ate his in front of me. Not even a liver treat the bastards.
Emerald, whilst largely a cattle growing area has a lot of sorghum grown here for more than 50 years proving the fertility of the land. The construction of the Fairbairn Dam south of the town in the 1970’s allowed the area to grow cotton and most farmers changed to the new crop. The region now supplies 25 per cent of Queensland’s cotton. But personally I think they should give that water hungry crop up for hemp.
Cotton fibres for cloth are produced from the fluff around the seeds of the Cotton plant. It needs long growing season for good yields and has high water requirements. Hemp fibres are from the stems of the hemp plant, each fibre is many times the length of a cotton fibre meaning energy saved spinning the fibres into thread. Hemp is drought tolerant and can produce good fibre yields without irrigation, particularly useful for this drought-prone country.
Water is a major limiting factor in cotton production within Australia. Over 90% of the cotton grown in Australia is irrigated using some 12% of Australia’s irrigation water. Hemp is drought tolerant and can produce good fibre yields without irrigation, particularly useful for this drought-prone country. Hey; but what would I know I’m a dog.
Nice place Emerald, it has a sound infrastructure base, including campuses for Central Queensland University and Central Queensland TAFE, Emerald Agricultural College and private and government schools. It also features general and mining-related rail networks (the boys made me sleep under one line), a major regional airport and a hospital.
The Nogoa was up a fair bit as we went through and luckily we didn’t have to ford the river.
We stayed in a 20 hour camp site – these are set up, I surmise, because of the difficulty in getting accommodation in the mining areas, even caravan parks in this area are full of fly-in-fly-out workers of drive-in-drive-out types.
Here we are underneath the railway line – one train came through early evening so we had a quiet night. We are really comfortable because I’m allowed in the tent on my own mattress and with my jarmies on I’m really warm!
Next Leg was off to Longreach with a population of 3,700 and Longreach is located right in the centre of Queensland on the Tropic of Capricorn 700kms west of Rockhampton and 1200kms northwest of Brisbane on the Landsborough Highway.
Half way there we had a very pleasant stop for smoko in Jericho a tiny, sleepy rural settlement servicing the surrounding area. With a population of less than 200 people and located on the Capricorn Highway 221 km west of Emerald, Jericho is another tiny Queensland town which has outlived its origins.
The area around Jericho was first explored by Europeans when Major Thomas Mitchell passed through the area in 1846. By the 1850s settlers had moved in. It is thought that one of the early settlers was a man named Harry Jordon, after whom the nearby, and very unreliable, Jordon River was named. It seems that a joke based on the religious connotations of the Jordan River was to serve the town well. Some wit decided that as it was on the Jordon River then the town should be named Jericho. I put my order in for smoko but only got water while Peter & Ross had a cuppa billy tea and fruit cake – hardly fair!
The attractions in Longreach for Peter were the Qantas Founders Museum which house the amazing sight of an ex-Qantas 747-200 VH-EBQ the fully restored Boeing 707 VH-XBA, the very first passenger jet registered in Australia and Qantas’ first jet aircraft. Also resplendent in its original livery is a Qantas Empire Airways DC3 aircraft. Well worth the visit – Ross & I went to the pool; I was too tired to swim so I let Ross do his laps while I had a siesta in the shade.
Peter also saw the Australian Stockman’s Hall of Fame & Outback Heritage Centre opened since 1988 it is a spectacular outback experience especially paying homage to our pioneers. It showcases Australia’s greatest and bravest explorers, stock workers, pastoralists and Aborigines.
Peter’s favourite part was the Pioneer gallery which houses large open displays to allow visitors a better look at Australia’s pioneering past. It examines the pastoral life of Australia prior to the introduction of power in the forms of electricity and the internal combustion engine.
Pioneer life from the 1860’s to the 1920’s is also examined in the gallery. Subjects covered include transport, housing, rural trades, and the wool industry.
As the explorers opened up the inland, the pioneering settlers followed close behind seeking suitable land for pastoral pursuits and a place to raise their families. These brave settlers were often explorers in their own right. They had to clear scrub, build huts and tame difficult land in order to forge a living and bring wealth to the inland.
We are experiencing a small part of this but marvel at those who have gone before us they were made of some tuff stuff!
In Longreach we stayed in a Caravan Park – not a bad spot really and again I was in the tent with the boys. They had a powered site so out came the Nspresso coffee machine – these boys don’t do it tough.
Travelling north from Longreach, we moved into Waltzing Matilda country – the unofficial Australian national anthem.
It is interesting to reflect on the origins of this tune where Winton and Kynuna, on our track, are central to the story.
In Winton the next main town on the road to Mt Isa are laid claims to being the place where Waltzing Matilda was written. Also I hear Winton is the town where Qantas opened its first office, despite Longreach’s claim to be the home of Qantas. Interesting the rivalry amongst these towns!
Banjo Paterson the author of bush ballads such as Waltzing Matilda, The man from Snowy River and Clancy of the Overflow – a Sydney lawyer no less wrote articles for The Bulletin. This was a popular journal of the time and he used the pseudonym “The Banjo”, which was the name of a racehorse his father owned. Thus his nickname “Banjo” Paterson.
Anyway Banjo came to Queensland during the 1894 shearers strike to visit his long-time fiancée, Sarah Riley, who lived in Winton. One of Sarah’s friends was Christina MacPherson whose father owned Dagworth Station, a sheep farm about 150kms from Winton. The pair was invited to spend Christmas with the MacPhersons at Dagworth.
While there, Patterson heard the story of “Frenchy” Hoffmeister, a shearer who had taken part in burning down a shearing shed on the property and had later been found dead – apparently a suicide – at a nearby camp. (By the way, “Frenchy” was German, just like a ranga being called “bluey”. It’s an Australian thing!)
Banjo also heard the story of a swaggie who had been found dead at Combo Waterhole which was between the station and Kynuna.
One evening, after dinner, Christina played a tune she had heard while living in Victoria and Patterson made up some words to fit the tune based on a combination of Frenchy’s story and the swaggie’s death. Thus was born Waltzing Matilda.
When the strike was over, MacPherson and the shearers met to celebrate at the Kynuna Hotel and Waltzing Matilda was apparently performed in public for the first time that evening.
Further on we went through Cloncurry after a picking up a snack for lunch and I had a piddle and a drink. Cloncurry is another town on the Flinders Highway and next to the Cloncurry River with a population of 2,300.
Cattle grazing is the significant industry in the region, and a large sale yards is located in the town.
Historically it is said that the first Europeans to traverse the area were Burke and Wills on their epic, and ultimately fatal, transcontinental expedition. The Cloncurry River was named by Burke after Lady Elizabeth Cloncurry, his cousin, with the town eventually taking its name from the river.
Ernest Henry discovered copper in the area in 1867, and the town sprang up to service the Great Australia Mine to the south. The town was surveyed in 1876 and Cloncurry was proclaimed a town in 1884. Queensland’s Northern Line railway reached Cloncurry in December 1907 and was officially opened the next year.
The discovery of uranium at Mary Kathleen brought wealth to the community in the 1950s. Until the development of Mount Isa in the 1960s, Cloncurry was the administrative centre of the region.
The first ever flight of the Royal Flying Doctor Service took place from Cloncurry on 15 May 1928, using a de Havilland DH.50 aircraft hired from the then small airline, Qantas
The final leg in “The Isa” we started to leave the wide open spaces of the Northern Channel Country, with lots of low grass and few trees behind. We started to see more vegetation, with lots of scrub trees and flowering plants beautiful wattle everywhere.
I shall write more on the Isa visit because it is here we caught up with Leigh and Graham; Greg, Kim and Lachlan.