Before I plunge into this blog (which is well overdue anyway – a bit longer shouldn’t hurt) I do need to thank the people on those stations in the NT and WA who responded to my email of a few weeks ago, apologising for the length of time it is taking me to cover the research for our book. Most of these people have been lovely enough to respond telling me that they understand and are still interested in participating – so they are still very definitely ‘in’ for next year. There are still two stations in SA and one in NSW to cover yet. During my research trips I have also been given heaps of info and contact details for various people – as yet I have not contacted many but will be doing so. This includes those amazing retired pastoralists who are, or were, joining in. I had hoped to do most of this contacting when I returned from Qld but a few – unexpected – things have happened which have caused more than a few hiccups.
But this book is far too important to me – and I believe to all those that I have already met throughout our mighty outback – I also thank those of you who have contacted me to offer the most amazing encouragement and support. All phone calls etc are on my list and those people will be contacted early in the new year, including all the retirees.
So onward and upward.
After leaving Tori and Alex I caught the overnight coach through to Brisbane. Stayed there for one night before heading all the way up to the coast to Cairns. What a trip! Have to take my hat off to Greyhound – they do the best job. That trip turned into a bit of an adventure – all good but all will be revealed in the book. I had three nights in Cairns which I did enjoy, have to admit – but was more than ready to head bush again once that time came. Usually I make the most of these ‘town stops’ to play catchup – get a blog out if I can, upload and register all photos, make phone calls, whatever. But none of this happened this time. The net wasn’t working in my room and my mobile decided to go on strike. Camera wasn’t very happy either.
An early start on Friday 20th September saw me heading inland again. Cairns would be one of the most stunning places to enter and leave, both by air and road. Winding up to the Atherton Tablelands provides spectacular views back across Cairns, hills and the water – out to the Great Barrier Reef and some of the islands therein. Can’t fault it. And cannot equal it either. Arrived in Georgetown a couple of hours later – actually have two stations there – and another one enroute to Georgetown – but for many reasons, two are now possibly being covered by email (they will not be missed out, just have to figure out the best way to bring them in). Tragically there was a fatal light plane crash which occurred while I was travelling further south – I did at the time, vaguely wonder whether any of ‘my stations’ would be affected. But then I figured – this is part of the mighty outback of Australia I am writing about. So – YES – of COURSE some of ‘my stations’ were affected – direct for a few – as in the deceased were actually relations or extremely close friends for some. Remembering that most of these remote areas in our great nation are very close-knit, yes this certainly did affect people, far and wide.
And because of this some of my plans had last minute changes – but this is all part of the learning process and adventure, as far as I am concerned – just a very sad reason. I finished up spending a couple of nights in a lovely little motel in Georgetown itself but Saturday night was spent on the HUGE Abingdon Downs Station, some hours north of Georgetown. As previously mentioned, it is the ‘engine room’ of the Keough Cattle Company and as it turned out, I wouldn’t have missed Abingdon if I was paid to. It is 1.1 million acres small – naturally cattle country, even has crocodiles (STILL didn’t see one though), cane toads (almost stepped on one) and just so much more. Absolutely wonderful. Even a gorgeous little foal was born – just for me! – or so I like to think!! My hosts, Anita and Campbell had asked all their staff and several other property owners from around the area, to a lovely BBQ in the evening. While tinged with sadness – overall a good time was had by all – well by me anyway.
But – oh-so-dry. Travelling west from Cairns, the countryside does vary hugely but the one common fact – it is DRY. I found it to be absolutely fascinating – AND beautiful. While many of the city folk that I talked to during this trip said they had also been out to different places in the outback of Qld, they all had the same opinion. That it’s very boring with nothing to offer.
But what so many do not seem realise, or care about, is that there are people out there – people who literally are struggling to survive. On chatting with many of the actual station people I found that those who have lived out there for most of their lives – do not see a future. How incredibly tragic. And when they explain this feeling – I can understand. The reasons for this feeling – not going into here – but some do make my blood boil.
There was one more station on this trip that I did visit, briefly. I did not stay overnight but did visit the house and took many photos (by the way my camera is playing up so while I do have heaps of photos, they are all coming up as pretty flowers – which is lovely, but not what I want – this will be corrected the next posting – I hope). But again lovely people, another very different homestead and surrounds – they all vary so much, so hugely and this fascinates me in itself.
Karumba was my last outback stay for this trip. Karumba Point to be exact – and what a finale. What a gem of a place. It truly is where the outback meets the sea – right on the Gulf of Carpentaria. It ranks at the top of my list of favourite places in Australia now. But it was also my last hope at seeing a croc in the wild – and that vanished at dawn on my third morning there, when I left and returned to Cairns. Ah well.
There were a few aspects about Qld particularly that left me rather stunned – in the best way. Or maybe I just hadn’t noticed this previously – but as I travelled deeper into the outback, I noticed that every station, irrespective of how remote it was/is, was well signposted on the main roads. I would have said that meant it’s not easy to become lost – but I know that it is. All these signposts are very neat and tidy – or those that I saw were. Very easy to read. Once you leave the main road and head off into the blue horizon might have been a different matter – but certainly those signposts told their own stories.
And there was/is one other thing that ‘hit’ from the very first station in Qld. Not going to tell you about it now – but it is/was something that I found that many of ‘my’ stations appeared to have in common. Apart from the continual struggle to survive and all associated therein, that is. Not sure that I actually liked the idea or not. This aspect actually scared me – terrified me in fact – but also caused the deepest fascination and desire to know more. And no, it is not spiders.
All will be revealed in our book.
The further west and away from civilisation that I headed the more the terrain amazed me. I do love water, I do love lush green grass and general growth, hills and mountains – but the further I ventured into our mighty outback – the more I know that this is the land I love. They desperately need water, yes – but it is and always will be the most magnificent place on earth to me.