Friday, October 26, 2012

Outback and back

Well, that was a tiring trip.  Drive up north, pick up my mother, then head further north and out west.  My mother's definition of outback means emus.  It ain't the Outback until you've seen an emu.  Which I think was somewhere between Tambo and Longreach.  So, both of us sitting in the cab of my VW Caddy, chanting "Are we there yet, are we there yet, are we there yet" and giggling...  Yes, maturity can be wildly over-rated, although I'm sure (at 46 and 79) we displayed elements of it.

Not so sure I recommend driving almost 4,000km to someone still recovering from CFS.  Particularly when you have distinct time frames.  There's coal/gas mining going on out west, so booking rooms well in advance is advisable.

Snapshots (memory and digital) coming up.

White bread and all sorts of interesting interpretations of Chicken Parmigiana. Who knew a chicken breast dunked in batter and deep fried would count?

Lots of places have been painted up.  But - there are also a lot of closed businesses (including pubs) and houses that have obviously been repossessed or walked away from.  Artesian water supplies most towns and the greenery makes a huge difference to the feel of the towns.  The mining is an unknown in relation to the water supply, and there is a very real fear of contamination.  A lot of places don't have hot water systems - they have cold water systems that they turn off for winter....

Driving through the Bunya Mountains and having the most magnificent meat pies at Blackbutt (also an incredible selection of fudges, but we didn't sample those).  The Bunya Mountains are a deep green and literally covered in Bunya pines.  My grandfather used to have the nuts sent to him during WW1.  Highly nutritious as well as a reminder of home.

Wide flat plains full of mitchell grass and feeding the Lake Eyre basin.  No emus, plenty of wallabies.

Augathella cemetery. Grave of a local Chinese and a comparatively close encounter with an Inland Taipan.  We stayed at the Augathella Palms and made friends with the owner's blue heeler.  I've already got dog-withdrawal.

Longreach.  Several visits to the QANTAS Founders Outback Museum, as this is a topic dear to Mum's heart.  She was an international hostess between 1956 and 1960, a time when most hostesses burnt out or married after a year.  She also donates a relevant book "in memory of" when a crew member from her time dies.  Scratch dinner on the Saturday night made up from what I could scrounge in the local petrol stations - Mum was too tired to eat out and the Chinese was shut.  No supermarkets until Monday morning..... I WAS able to get coffee (make that a double shot) from the Stockman's Hall of Fame.  I'm sure there were places open on Sunday morning, I just couldn't find them.  They also had a great selection of books for sale (guilty as charged. One of them was a biography of Daisy Bates).  One great-grandfather drove coaches for Cobb and Co up to Longreach.  Great variety of housing - classic Queenslanders up on stilts with wide shaded verandahs.  Tiny cottages dumped on footings and held together with whatever comes to hand.

Wide streets.  Wide enough for a bullocky to turn a team and a load of wool carts.

Main street in Roma lined with bottle trees.  Relatives ran a sheep station out that way.

Morella - a CWA building in corrugated iron and a railway line stretching to the horizons.

Winton.  QANTILDA museum - a room devoted to QANTAS, another to Waltzing Matilda, outside shed with carriages, another one with communication devices (old telephones, old phone switchboards, telegraphic equipment, computers, typewriters).  A room full of different bottles.  An old wooden railway cottage full of day to day memorabilia.  Some of which I live with and use.....  Mum worked for several months as a companion/governess to a small child on a property outside Winton.  Too isolated, and being propositioned by the owner was a bit much.  Signs that say "Dinosaurs, 5 km". This is also fossil country and there have been spectacular finds in the last 10 years.  And yes, all the street bins are in dinosaur feet.

Barcaldine.  Absolutely magnificent sculpture incorporating the remains of the Tree of Knowledge, poisoned by some mongrel bastard.  The old theatre remains.  Coffee and an awesome white chocolate and butterscotch muffin in a local cafe.  I was flagging and needed instant energy.

Charleville. Chinese that night - OMG - fresh vegetables and no hot chips!  We also lived it up with a glass of wine each.  Yep, we sure know how to party.  Staying at Hotel Corones - built over 5 years by the Corones family and still running as a working pub and hotel. If you are not able to cope with the idea of staying in a working pub that's a bit run-down - probably not for you.  But we once went out to Bourke and the rules on that trip were "no accommodation that isn't at least 100 years old". Heritage listed, so hopefully there will be a conservation plan and funding for much needed work. Definitely not to the silver spoon standards of Papa Corones, but very evocative.  The floods came through last year and ran about 5 foot high through the ground floor.  Lots of beautiful silky oak used throughout.  The roof has been repaired and solar panels put in.  Once the big structural stuff is done, other repairs can follow.  Not much sense in repairing plasterwork until the building is water-tight. Other relatives worked on Rosewood Station out this way.  Proper coffee and an amazing cooked breakfast at Heinneman's bakery in the morning.  It's opposite the Historic House which is well worth a potter through.

Tambo.  I was very pleased to see Tambo on the way up.  I'd left Augathella and forgotten to check the fuel levels.  The Caddy made it in with the gauge on the right side of E for empty. 874km out of one tank of diesel (I'd filled up at Maleny).  The most amazing teddy bears are made at Tambo.  Initially a way of bringing in some money during the drought, over 35,000 bears have been made from sheepskin and stuffed with wool.  They live all over the world and the shop keeps a register of who they live with and where.  Suzi Quatro has one :).  No real coffee though.

Ilfracombe.  Langenbaker House.  11 children were raised here.  Nothing wasted, everything used, re-used and kept against need.

Goondiwindi.  Home of  Gunsynd, a grey thoroughbred who won major 1 mile races and had a song written in his honour.  Dinner at the Vic.  Last time Mum went through, it was up for sale and potential demolition.  Now it's back in use, done up and maintained.