What a brilliant way to see Australia! And well off the beaten track. I am enjoying this just so much – tiring yes but I would not miss any of it for anything.
I am now over half way through the Qld leg of the research trips for our book on stations. The first couple of weeks were nothing short of wonderful – five very different stations in their individual ways (although mostly cattle and all in this rotten ongoing drought), along with homesteads and owners/managers. A new station came onboard literally a couple of weeks prior to my flight to Brisbane and yet another has joined in since then. More are talking about it. Unfortunately, at the ‘eleventh’ hour a couple did have to pull out of the actual physical visits but remain very much a part of the book – will all be covered by email etc instead or – however. They will not be missed out.
I cannot thank these wonderful and amazing station people enough for their hospitality, friendship and support for both the book and for me. They are all bending over backwards in their efforts to support the book.
To add to the excitement, it seemed that most towns between Mt Isa and Brisbane have a claim to fame. The first of these is the famous ‘Walkabout-Creek-Pub’ made famous by the ‘Crocodile Dundee‘ movie. I could almost see Linda, Hoges and friends walking over the verandah. Sadly, as these coaches are there to serve their passengers for one purpose, to get from ‘A’ to ‘B’ safely and on time, I could not ask the wonderful driver to stop for photos. Another famous town is Winton, home of our wonderful song ‘Waltzing Matilda’. Then of course came Longreach, home of Qantas – which I had known but had completely forgotten, probably because I was still recovering from Walkabout Creek. But lo and behold, talk about reality – there, right beside the road was a Qantas jumbo! I would have loved to have a good look at the cockpit but that time restraint came into play again. As each town came into view, I kept wondering what this one would be famous for – and then getting angry with myself because I felt I should have known. Even little Tambo, which I am told (and should have known) that is the site of the first Qantas crash. Hmmmm…..I fly with Qantas all the time.
There were more towns with their claims to fame as we travelled further down the track toward Brisbane but this was an overnight trip so I didn’t see a lot. Not that I slept well – but it was dark. Then on our way from Brisbane up the coast to Cairns, our first tea break was at ‘Matilda’ – and there was Matilda in full bloom – the kangaroo made famous at the Commonwealth Games some years ago. Might have made an appearance at the Olympics in Sydney, too. From then on, I saw the big pineapple, the big mango, several big birds and lots of other big things. I gave up listing them but all were worth seeing.
The stations that I have had the absolute pleasure to visit in Qld (and the other two states thus far) were all equally wonderful and all had their own tales to tell – well, maybe not the stations themselves, but the people did. I continue to meet some of the most unique people, making some lifelong friends as I travel.
Number one for the Qld leg, was ‘Bluff Downs’, the home of Rhonda Smith and which was my first taste of a ‘Queenslander’ – and absolutely beautiful. One very proud home owner is Rhonda, apart from being a superb host (as they all were) and rightfully so. The second, ‘Ulcanbah’, the home of the Hollingsworth Brothers and families, is also a true Queenslander, under renovation. More unforgettable hospitality and friendship – even managed to sit in on a School of the Air (now known as Distance Education, I think) in action. Absolutely amazing. As I watched I was taken back a ‘few’ years to my own SotA days – oh-so-different. I even unintentionally found myself becoming part of one lesson – I was trying to make a landline phone call and became part of a lesson in progress instead. All part of the fun.
Third station was ‘Torquay’, home of Beryl Hunter, station owner and authoress. Beryl has even been good enough to give me a copy of her book, which I am looking forward to reading. As has happened all along this ‘learning curve’ I found myself with a couple of new perspectives for the book – I was there for three nights (little mistake in dates) instead of the normal two. So the first was spent in ‘Torquay’s’ ‘Queenslander’, the second in their town house in Hughenden and the third – in the Hughenden hotel/motel. I was able to briefly meet Beryl’s outgoing caretaker, Garry Greenwood, who was about to leave on a nationwide trip with his lovely wife, Wendy. Garry and I had quite a chat (he was a cameraman for one of the major networks in a ‘past life’ and is also an author/writer) and we hope to work in conjunction with each other in the future. Hughenden is also where I did have a short chance to put my feet up and watch a tiny bit of TV (having seen very little – no loss). But this just happened to occur on the 7th – yup – election day. The TV only had one channel – or should I say, it actually had a large number working – but all airing the same thing. No prizes for guessing – election coverage from go to wo! Could have done without that and I know I could have turned it off – pretty simple really. But curiosity did get the better of me and I watched it, in between catching up on registering photos etc for the book. Anyway, the result? Well, let’s just say that given the reaction of these true country folk after the event – my support and loyalties have only been cemented. Enough said.
Fourth station (as it has turned out) for this stretch was ‘Judith Royl, home to Barry Keough, of Keough Cattle Company Pty Ltd. Apart from this station, there are five others in this company and two of them have now also come onboard. Again a wonderful time at ‘Judith Royl’ – I even met the mail man, Arthur Crapp. He is not your ‘regular’ mail man and more about him, including a pic, will be in the book. I also met one of Barry’s daughters, Leigh – and her family who live on ‘Windsor Park’, a neighbour of ‘Judith Royl’s’. Quite a few members of Barry’s family now appear to be coming onboard, in some way or other. While his wife does not live on the station, I did have a quick telephone chat to her – she does the most amazing bark paintings. Hope to have further chats in the future. The other member who spoke with and we also plan to work with each other, is Klancie, a singer of growing repute – she actually made it to the final six in ‘Idol’ some years ago. I believe she has an amazing voice (as does her mother) and we have established contact by email.
The next station I cover is ‘Abingdon Downs’, a huge property north of Georgetown, out of Cairns. It is managed by Barry’s son, Campbell and is the powerhouse of the Keough Cattle Company. There is one more after that, ‘Old Glenore’, the Beard’s property out of Normanton. Again there are a couple more on this part but both are now being covered by email.
My last station on the first part of this trip was ‘Lumeah’, home of Tori Carroll and partner Alex. Finally, I have seen wild pigs (they are BIG), deer, camels, dingoes (albeit from afar), many different birds and of course, the inevitable million or so kangaroos, emus and rabbits. Probably a lot more. Even a snake – well I didn’t actually see it, but sure as heck knew about it. This was on ‘Lumeah’ – my host, Alex, found it curled up in a sack full of fodder for their domestic animals, in a back shed. A sack, I might add, that both Tori and Alex delve a hand into regularly to feed their animals. Gives me the shudders. We had just returned from another wonderful trip around the station looking at things (getting photos etc) when Alex suddenly screamed blue murder – to Tori and me it could only mean one thing – SNAKE. The ensuing scene? Alex ran off trying to find something to grab it, Tori running around madly grabbing Roger the Jack Russell and speeding up the nearest, highest object (which happened to be an old couch) while I ran around trying to get positions for great photos while hoping to stay out of the way for one angry snake. Guess it was a good way of cleaning out the little shed – the snake didn’t show itself again (sensible thing) but there were endless hiding places, most of which have been removed now. I do take my hat off to Alex for that effort.
Sadly, dingoes are prevalent in the areas I have visited and evidence of their destruction is clear in many places on these stations – other animals having been caught and brought down – some not killed but just left to die a very slow and painful death. Koalas have all but been wiped out up here – not thanks to humans, nor fires, nor floods – but dingoes. Enough said.The adventure and excitement just doesn’t cease – and nor should it.
And I continue to absolutely thrive on it.