Top Spot

Western Queensland Road Trip Square Tops Challenge #27

When restrictions in Queensland are lifted and travel within our state is allowed, we’ll be on the road again. We have a new caravan we only got to use for two nights before everything closed down and there’s a long list of places we want to visit. Our first destination will be this top spot.

This free camp on the banks of the Moonie River at Nindigully will be perfect for trying out the off grid features of our van – solar panels, extra water tanks and, most important of all, an ensuite bathroom. I’m looking forward to sitting out under the awning with my morning coffee, enjoying the birds and the bougainvillea.

We might try some water sports, go for a gentle bush walk or just sit quietly by the river.

I just hope the Nindigully Pub is open next time!

While our travels are on hold, I’m joining in every day with Becky’s April Square Tops Challenge over at The Life of B. The rules are simple: photos must be square and fit the theme word “top”.

Up On Top

Western Queensland Road Trip Square Tops Challenge #20

What do you do when a Prime Mover bearing an “over size” warning is heading towards you?

Move out of the way!

When the load up top is this big, it’s best to give it a wide berth.

While our travels are on hold, I’m joining in every day with Becky’s April Square Tops Challenge over at The Life of B. The rules are simple: photos must be square and fit the theme word “top”.

From Top to Bottom

Western Queensland Road Trip Square Tops Challenge #13

This old cottage in Mitchell is in need of a “Grand Designs” makeover from top to bottom, inside and out. Someone’s made a start by replacing the old stumps with termite proof steel posts, but there’s a long way to go.

While our travels are on hold, I’m joining in every day with Becky’s April Square Tops Challenge over at The Life of B. The rules are simple: photos must be square and fit the theme word “top”.

A Top Drop, But Not Today

Western Queensland Road Trip Square Tops Challenge #12

The signs at the turn off to the Nindigully Pub weren’t encouraging.

But Mr ET wasn’t going to be put off that easily. We continued down the track to the pub, which has been sitting on the banks of the Moonee River since 1864. There was no one about – only nine people live in the town of Nindigully.

It was looking more positive up on the veranda…

but even though the sign said “Happy Hour” there was no beer.

The pub was closed!

We’re definitely going back to Nindigully once the travel bans are lifted.

While our travels are on hold, I’m joining in every day with Becky’s April Square Tops Challenge over at The Life of B. The rules are simple: photos must be square and fit the theme word “top”.

What’s Up Top?

Western Queensland Road Trip Square Tops Challenge #7

It’s not the delicious cakes in the cabinet which first attract our attention when we enter the Gidgee Bean Café in Cunnamulla.

The old building is enjoying a new lease of life but the interior gives clues to its age. The pressed metal ceiling and broad high skylight immediately draw our gaze upwards. And right at the top is a tiny door, mysteriously leading nowhere.

Down at floor level, an eclectic collection of china sits in mismatched cupboards and old black and white photos of Cunnamulla’s past decorate the walls.

We’re distracted by the arrival of our almond and orange cake and we forget about the oddly placed door for a while.

It’s only as we’re leaving that I remember to ask about the building and that door. It turns out to be not so peculiar after all. The building used to be a haberdashery with a second floor, long since removed, used for storage.

The Up the Top Mystery is solved!

While our travels are on hold, I’m joining in every day with Becky’s April Square Tops Challenge over at The Life of B. The rules are simple: photos must be square and fit the theme word “top”.

Top Secret

Western Queensland Road Trip Square Tops Challenge #5

Do you know how close World War Two came to Australia?

Enemy ships and submarines cruised in Australian waters and engaged in several naval attacks. Two towns in the far north were repeatedly bombed in air raids. And one million American service personnel were stationed at bases around the country.

In 1942, the airport at Charleville was handed over to the United States Air Force and turned into a military base. Charleville was chosen as the site of the base because of its remote position; it was unreachable by Japanese bombers. 3,500 American servicemen lived and worked there but, after the war ended, almost everything was removed. Today only a few traces remain of the buildings on the base where top secret work took place.

To learn more about what happened here, we joined the Top Secret World War Two Tag Along Tour. In our own vehicle we joined a convoy and set off up a dusty track to explore several sites near the airport.

All that’s left of most buildings are the foundations but, with the help of information boards, it’s easy to imagine what once stood in each location. Local girls looked forward to joining the servicemen for regular social gatherings at the Dance Hall.

The open air shower block was a necessity for good personal hygiene.

These hollows in the ground were once lined with bitumen, creating rudimentary bathtubs where the men could enjoy a relaxing soak.

One surviving war time building is located at the airport. Hangar 104, one of five hangars constructed by the Americans, was returned to the RAAF after the war. It’s now the Charleville base of the Royal Flying Doctor Service.

Another relic left still standing is this small concrete shed. During the war it was camouflaged with branches cut from the surrounding mulga trees so it couldn’t be detected by planes passing overhead.

What was inside that required such clandestine measures? I can’t tell you! It’s top secret and you’ll need to join a tag along tour to find out.

Or you could do some research online. Let me know if you find out.

While our travels are on hold, I’m joining in every day with Becky’s April Square Tops Challenge over at The Life of B. The rules are simple: photos must be square and fit the theme word “top”.

Top Notch

Western Queensland Road Trip – Square Tops Challenge #2

After travelling more than 740 km inland from Brisbane to Charleville by road, rail or plane, mid 20th century travellers would have revelled in the top notch accommodation at the Hotel Corones on Wills Street. In the 1930s and 1940s the hotel boasted opulent lounges, luxurious ensuite bedrooms and broad, sheltered verandahs where guests could escape the extreme heat of a western Queensland summer.

Many famous people have stayed in these rooms. The hotel lists top tier stars including Amy Johnson, Gracie Fields and the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester among their patrons.

The public bar, once the longest in the Southern Hemisphere, is decorated in the Art Deco style found all through the building. Even now, 90 years after the hotel was built, those who’ve travelled far can quench their thirst with a top drop!

While our travels are on hold, I’m joining in every day with Becky’s April Square Tops Challenge over at The Life of B. The rules are simple: photos must be square and fit the theme word “top”.

Small Town, Big Walk!

Western Queensland Road Trip #13 Eulo

With a population of just 48, the outback town of Eulo might be small in numbers but it has plenty of personality. And you can easily explore all the sights on foot, from one end of town to the other.

On the corner where the Adventure Way enters town and becomes Leo Street, you’re greeted by a giant lizard who’s seen better days. It’s a relic of the famous Eulo Lizard Races, held annually for 30 years up to 2000.

Nearby stands a memorial connected to the lizard races which, at first glance, appears quite ordinary. But the dedication to champion racing cockroach “Destructo” tells of his unfortunate demise at the peak of his career.

While lizards and cockroaches might reside in Eulo now, huge diprotodons, ancestors of today’s wombats and koalas, lived here during the Pleistocene Epoch up to 2.5 million years ago. The largest of Australia’s megafauna, the plant-eating diprotodon weighed as much as 2.8 tonnes.

The historic Eulo Police Cells are a reminder of days not so long ago. Built in 1923 to replace the original jail cells, which were destroyed by termites, these tiny rooms would have been uncomfortable for those unlucky to be imprisoned in the heat of summer.

Opposite the old police cells on Leo Street is the Eulo Queen Hotel, named for Isabel Robinson who moved to the town with her second husband Richard Robinson in 1886. Together they owned a general store and a butcher’s shop as well as the local hotel, and Isabel added to her fortune by acquiring opals from local miners. Her reputation as the Eulo Queen was enhanced by her habit of “entertaining” the hotel’s patrons while her husband conveniently looked the other way.

No such entertainment is available at the hotel today but enjoying a cool drink while seated on one of the hotel’s unique bar stools is a refreshing alternative.

Further along the street is an unusual structure you wouldn’t expect to find in the outback – an Anderson air raid shelter, built during the second World War to protect residents in case of attack by Japanese forces. The decision to build an air raid shelter was made by the government of the time, as Eulo was a crucial communication link between Darwin and Sydney. It was made long enough to fit up to 50 people, but luckily the need to protect the townspeople never eventuated.

The Japanese may never have attacked but there have been other times when Eulo’s residents have needed protection. When flooding rains come the Paroo River quickly breaks its banks, closing the highway and isolating those on either side. A modified truck has long been used to negotiate floodwaters, carrying both people and goods. Five years ago when the old flood truck was replaced with a modern version, it took up residence in a place of honour next to the store in recognition of its service to the community.

There’s no chance of the bridge over the river going underwater during the current prolonged drought.

Past the bridge, Leo Street once again becomes the Adventure Way and heads further west – time to stop walking and get back in your car!

Join Jo for Monday Walks

Larger Than Life

Western Queensland Road Trip #10

Australia’s rural landscape is dotted with silos used for storing grain and silage, while water towers dominate the skyline of many country towns. Most are simply utilitarian structures, not given a second glance. But it’s becoming more common to see both silos and water towers being used as giant canvases.

The first painted silo appeared in Northam in Western Australia in 2015. Now, right across the country, there are 35 silos and 40 water towers decorated with scenes and characters typical of each region. This constantly growing collection is known as the Australian Silo Art Movement.

We came across two rural masterpieces on our road trip. The first was in Cunnamulla and was still being completed. The artist, Guido van Helten, was working high above the street on a blank section of the water tower.

The painting features young football players and celebrates an annual competition between teams from Cunnamulla and Charleville.

Our first glimpse of the silos at Thallon came as we drove along the highway. Even from this distance, across the bare drought-browned paddocks, the vivid colours in the paintings glowed .

The artwork titled “The Watering Hole” highlights a brilliant sunset over the Moonie River. Two pale-headed rosellas perch in a gum tree on the bank of the river. A mob of sheep in a dusty paddock represent the agricultural industries of the local area and a scarred tree acknowledges the traditional owners of the land.

The entire collection of painted silos and water towers can be viewed on the Australian Silo Art Trail website. If, like us, you’re planning a road trip in Australia make sure you download the map. You won’t want to miss any of these amazing works of art.

Outback History

Western Queensland Road Trip #7 Charleville

The small town of Charleville, established when the first hotel was built in 1865, now has a population of around 3,500 people. Despite its isolated location in outback Queensland, Charleville has a rich history full of intriguing personalities and interesting places.

The building now known as the Charleville Historic House Museum has stood on Alfred Street since 1887. Originally the town’s first bank, it was also a boarding house before being purchased by the local Historical Society in the 1970s.

In the main room, the vault once used by the bank to store money now holds precious documents and records. The museum is full to the brim with dozens of items once used in everyday life, while outside is a collection of vehicles and machines from bygone times.

Two more relics of the past stand proudly at the Graham Andrews Parklands on the Mitchell Highway.

The Steiger Vortex Guns are two of six built in 1902 in Brisbane on the orders of the Government Meteorologist Clement Wragge. He’d heard about the guns being used in Austria to prevent hailstorms in wine growing areas. By firing ammunition into clouds, storms were dispersed. Vibrations in the clouds also caused rain to fall and Clement hoped similar guns might be used to break a long running drought in outback Queensland. He brought his guns to Charleville and, on 26 September 1902, ten shots from each cannon were fired into the sky. Sadly the experiment was a failure – no rain fell in Charleville that day.

The Charleville base of the Royal Flying Doctor Service is located further along the Mitchell Highway at the airport. Founded by the Reverend John Flynn, the Royal Flying Doctor Service has provided medical care to those living in outback Australia since 1928.

At the Visitor Centre, videos explain the history of the service and dramatic recordings bring to life the first hand experiences of patients and their families. Displays of historic medical equipment and radio technology are compared with 21st century methods of health care in the outback.

The hangar used by the Royal Flying Doctor Service dates from 1943. It was built as part of the occupation of Charleville Airport by the United States 45th Air Base Group, 43rd Bombardment Group, 63rd and 65th Bomb Squadrons and the 8th Material Squadron during the Second World War. From 1942 to 1943 more than 3,500 US servicemen lived at the top secret site, which was used to store and maintain American B-17 Bombers. Most of the structures built to cater for the servicemen are long gone, but the foundations of mess halls and shower blocks remain as evidence of the war time activities in this remote posting.

Many of those American servicemen would have enjoyed themselves at the Saturday night dances at the Hotel Corones. Built by Greek migrant Harry Corones in the 1920s, the hotel was famous for its luxurious interiors – marble floors, beautiful furniture and a grand staircase leading to the first floor where the accommodation included ensuite bathrooms, a rare luxury otherwise not seen outside of Brisbane.

An afternoon tour of the hotel tells the story of Harry’s rise from penniless immigrant to successful business man and visionary. Visitors can order a drink at the bar, once the biggest in the southern hemisphere, and climb the silky oak staircase to the rooms where dignitaries including Princess Alexandra, performer Gracie Fields and Australian Prime Minister Gough Whitlam have stayed. The tour ends in the dining room with an afternoon tea of scones, jam and cream.

A stroll along the Wadyanana Pathway on the banks of the Warrego River soon works off that delicious afternoon tea. Charleville is located on traditional Bidjara lands and the pathway, designed by local Bidjara residents, tells the story of Mundagudda, the Rainbow Serpent.

It’s also a timely reminder that this land was occupied long before that first hotel was built in 1865.

Join Jo for Monday Walks