The Carnarvon experience will be with us in our memories forever, but there is so much more of Queensland to explore so we are heading back to Roma. We see the two motorcyclists that we had met at Takarakka Camp site and get a couple of good photos of them to pass on.
Roma is our last large town for about 10 days and the last in which we will have internet access with Vodaphone, our mobile provider. In the bush, Telstra is the only service provider as more than one telecom provider would not make economic sense. So for the next couple of weeks, we switch to our temporary Telstra sim card. Here also we meet a fellow traveller who has hired the same vehicle as us and could not work out how to open the fuel cover. We are used to a lever to pull in the car or just press the flap to open. He was stumped as we were initially. You have to open the passenger door to get the fuel flap open. He was grateful for our assistance. We also advise him the the ignition for the gas stove is linked to the range hood, go figure.
As we head west from Roma on the Warrego highway, we need to decide on a destination for tonight. Anne always picks a couple of options for our overnight stops to give us some flexibility depending on how we are travelling, where we have stopped and how many pictures Anne has taken. This allows us to be off the road by 3 to 3:30 pm to avoid adding to the carnage at the side of the road in the form of mostly dead kangaroos. On the main truck routes, which we assume run overnight, we see corpses probably every 100 m / 300 ft but have not seen any live animals in daylight. Great for the carnivorous birds that feast on the carcass. Fresh meat delivered nightly, what a service.
Anne has picked Gidgee’s Bush Camp in Morven, a farm stay, as our next stop based on the good reviews she found online. We are met by Kylee the owner in the office that doubles as the showroom for another business, Gidgee Smith Bags, manufacturing high quality colourful bags and holdalls. We understand from another camper who buys them for promotional items for their off-road accessory business that the bags are tough and can be used for just about anything. Another ingenious bush business. In addition they run a coffee van and bar. Talk about hard working. So if you need bags, gidgeesmith.com.au and you will be supporting both Australian manufacturing and regional employment. Kylee also crafts wire sculptures in her spare time and organises workshops to bring remote communities together or help people at risk. Mick and Kylee were both very inspiring people.
We are slowly visiting regions and towns that until now have been names in the news or a spot on the state weather map. Each one has a story to tell. The small town of Augathella is our next stop.
Tambo is such a place of which I had no knowledge, but is famed for its Teddy Bears, “Tambo Teddies”, which the locals started producing from lambswool in 1993. Today, demand is such that four people work full time in Toowoomba making them in addition to the workers employed locally. For small babies they have a flat teddy that is easier to grasp. I had to ask the question, “did they put normal teddies in the road for passing trucks to run over?”, as we had seen in Asia for crops. NO I was told, they just did not fill them.
Lara Station south of Barcaldine is known for its birdlife with over 120 species recorded there. The waterhole which forms this bird oasis is a small clay depression that was first used in 1908 as the overflow for newly drilled bore. Water comes out of the ground at 69 degrees celsius and is drawn from the Great Artesian Basin, an amazing underground water source that covers much of Queensland and parts of NSW and the Northern Territory.
We are meeting, by chance, friends Gary and Heather who are also roaming the west of Queensland. Together we celebrate Anne and I having known each other 46 years, having first met in August 1974. While only planning to spend a single night, the good company and the relaxed atmosphere around the waterhole enticed us to stay a second night. Perfect!
We had noticed as we travelled fences that seemed sturdier than the usual four wire fences. At Lara we were told that these are designed to keep out packs of wild dogs from sheep farms. A pack of wild dogs can kill over 100 sheep in a night, for sport not food. Dingos generally kill enough for food. At AU$7,000 per km to install, it is not cheap to protect your sheep. An example of the damage that domestic animals gone feral can do.
Anne wanted me to see the Q.A.N.T.A.S Founders’ Museum which tells the history of the founding and founders of Qantas in Longreach knowing of my interest in aviation. The museum hanger stands tall as we approach the outskirts of Longreach. It is big enough to cover a B747, B707, Lockheed Constellation and a DC3. The B747 is a 200 series VH-EBQ. It is one that I have flown on, way back in 1996. The museum provides a detailed history of the founders of QANTAS and the trials and tribulations that they encountered in starting and running an airline in the 1920’s and 30’s and beyond.
The delivery of each aircraft to the museum is a story in itself. The 747-200B had to land on a runway designed for B737. After landing it spent an hour doing a 57 point turn at the north end of the runway before taxiing to the final resting place. VH-EBQ was chosen as it has the most recent paint job of the B747’s to be retired in 2002 The first Qantas Boeing jet, a B707-138 VH-EBA had to be restored at Southend Airport in the UK, taking some six months and 15,000 man hours, before being flown back to Australia. Due to COVID-19, tours of the inside of the aircraft require social distancing and were fully booked. Next time. We did the night tour which is an audio visual experience that neatly draws together all the elements we had seen in the museum in a cohesive manner.
There is also a Catalina used in WW2 by QANTAS to link Ceylon to Australia avoiding Japanese fighters based in S.E. Asia. These non stop commercial flights could last over 30 hours which is still a record today. The length of time in the air led to the awarding of the double sunrise certificates to those passengers who saw two sunrises en-route. A quick look inside showed that comfort was not the name of the game. This is a very interesting museum which is not funded by Qantas but relies on people like us making the trip out west.
We also visit the Stockman’s Hall of Fame which charts the development of the cattle and sheep industries in the Australian outback. A combination of hardy European settlers and aboriginal local knowledge in the beginning laid the foundation of todays world class sheep and beef industry.
Longreach is also the end of the line for Queensland Rail’s (QR) train “The Spirit of the Outback” that runs from Brisbane to Longreach twice a week taking over 24 hours. As an over 65 year old Queenslander I am entitled to a seat, free of charge, on a long distance train once a year. I have thought that it would be great if they would also take motorcycles so one would could both enjoy the train and then ride the other way. These wagons being unloaded looked like the perfect containers for motorcycles. So all you engineers out there get your thinking caps on and come up with a feasible plan to secure bikes in them and a way to load/unload. Sadly I suspect we will fall foul with QR because of “Dangerous Goods” due to petrol/gasoline in the tank. The same reason you cannot fly your motorbike into the USA, but you can to Canada.