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Street Art Outback Style

Western Queensland Road Trip #15 

Street art tells a story, and every outback town has a story to tell.

A mosaic shield on the Maranoa Regional Council building in Roma depicts the region’s rich history of agriculture and natural gas production.

Inside the building a much larger mosaic shows more detail: vineyards and wineries, gas fields, sheep and cattle farming, the road and rail routes which opened up the outback. Indigenous first peoples and industrious pioneers are featured along with those beautiful bottle trees Roma is famous for.

There’s no mistaking the purpose of these parking bays at the Roma Community Art Centre.

The wall around Roma’s Bassett Park has been transformed into a giant canvas. A mural 100 metres long details a day in the life of the Maranoa Region, from sunrise to sunset. Aboriginal art, local native plants and a rig on the oil and gas fields all feature on the panels. Most spectacular is the image of Carnarvon Gorge, with its rugged sandstone cliffs disappearing into the distance.

Just south of Mitchell, a cluster of dramatic red figures stands beside of the highway. The memorial pays homage to the local constabulary who, in the early 20th century, protected the district from the Kenniff brothers, the last of Australia’s notorious bushrangers. A nearby plaque tells the story of the crimes and final demise of the brothers.

On Wills Street in Charleville, Matilda the big kangaroo greets visitors with a friendly wave. With her bush hat on, a swag on her back and a joey in her pouch, she’s ready to hop away on a new adventure. Further down the street, a giant yellow belly encourages anglers to throw in a line at the Warrego River.

Outside the Paroo Shire Hall in Cunnamulla, an Australian bushman sits on his swag, savouring a mug of billy tea. Titled “The Cunnamulla Fella” the statue depicts the iconic Australian character described in the song of the same name, written by Stan Coster and recorded by Slim Dusty.

Just across the road are more well-known Australians.

The beautiful painted silos at Thallon are easily seen from the highway but it’s worth driving right into town for a closer view.

There’s no need to get up close to see this Northern Hairy Nosed Wombat. Located in the park in the centre of Thallon, the oversized sculpture brings attention to the wombat’s critically endangered status. Once found right across eastern Australia, this species of wombat now survives in just two areas of Queensland; in a National Park near Clermont and a conservation park near Thallon. At the Richard Underwood Nature Refuge, more than 200 wombats live in a securely fenced colony, protected from predators like wild dogs.

Flora and fauna, history and heritage, people and places – street art tells the stories of the towns of the outback.

Top Brass

Western Queensland Road Trip Square Tops Challenge #25

Whether you visit Australia’s capital cities or the smallest of rural towns, you will find one common element in them all. Every place in Australia has a war memorial dedicated to those who have served or are still serving our country, both at home and overseas.

Most were created after World War One to acknowledge Australia’s contribution and commemorate service personnel who died in far away lands. Since then, names have been added as Australians served in more recent engagements.

Many memorials are small and simple, in recognition of local people who served.

Wyandra

Thallon

Cunnamulla

Some pay tribute to local individuals who gave outstanding service while others honour those who remained at home.

St George

Bollon

In larger towns the memorials are grander. They remind us that, for more than a century, Australians have been and still are on active duties in many parts of the world.

Charleville

In August 1915, Australian and New Zealand forces led a successful campaign against the armies of the Ottoman Empire in what became known as The Battle of Lone Pine. Some war memorials include a tree, a descendant of the single pine tree which stood on that long ago battlefield.

Morven

For Australians and New Zealanders, today is ANZAC Day. Every year we remember the soldiers of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps who served at Gallipoli in a campaign which began at dawn on 25th April 1915 and lasted for eight months. We gather to give thanks for their service and also for those who have served our countries since then.

This year is different. There have been no community Dawn Services, no marches or parades and no gatherings of comrades, families and friends. Instead we joined our neighbours in a minute’s silence, all standing outside our homes as the sun rose, with candles lit and phones streaming the playing of the Last Post and Reveille.

Lest We Forget

 

Read more about ANZAC Day here

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 Gear

Western Queensland Road Trip – Square Tops Challenge #4

Old trucks discarded on a farm – once someone’s “top gear”, now just old gear.

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 Marks for Innovation

Western Queensland Road Trip – Square Tops Challenge #3

At first glance this small hut outside the Morven Historical Village looks like any other old slab hut. Look closer and you’ll see it’s not made of timber – the shingles are tin.

During the Great Depression, thousand of Australians lost their jobs and their homes. For many families huts built out of flattened kerosene tins were a cheap alternative. Kerosene tins were plentiful and construction was simple.

With a dirt floor and no lining on the walls, daily living in a hut like this would have been hard but at least it gave a family shelter.

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”.

Top of the Range

Western Queensland Road Trip – Square Tops Challenge #1

These top of the range household appliances would once have been the pride and joy of any housewife. Now on display at the Charleville Historic House Museum, they are a reminder of days gone by.

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

Where Water Flows

Western Queensland Road Trip #12 

In front of the visitor centre in Cunnamulla, crystal clear water sparkles in the sunlight as it tumbles from a pipe into a small storage pool. Drawn from an underground source far below the surface of the earth, the water first fell to earth as rainfall two million years ago.

The water comes from the Great Artesian Basin, the largest and deepest underground reservoir in the world. It covers one-fifth of subterranean Australia – 1,700,000 square kilometres beneath four Australian states and territories. In some places up to 3,000 metres deep, the basin has a capacity 130,000 times greater than Sydney Harbour. For people who live in inland Australia, this is often their only source of fresh water.

While it’s not possible to see the Great Artesian Basin, a journey through the Artesian Time Tunnel inside Cunnamulla’s visitor centre is a fascinating alternative. Going more than 100 million years back in time, the adventure begins in an old opal mine lift. The screen counts back through the centuries in a flash before the doors open to reveal an underground landscape of ancient sandstone, complete with fossils of dinosaurs and other creatures who lived in the area at that time.

Further along the tunnel sits an old opal miner, who comes alive to tell stories of life on the opal fields of western Queensland. Beyond the tunnel, displays explain how the Great Artesian Basin has enabled outback towns to flourish.

To access fresh water supply from the basin, most towns have a bore. Wells are drilled down into the earth until the aquifer is reached. Often the pressure of the water is enough to bring it to the surface, without the need for pumps. At first the water was allowed to flow freely, but now the supply is controlled. The bore at Eulo, 69 kilometres west of Cunnamulla, draws water from a depth of 223 metres. It’s hot and often smells of sulphur, but the residents are grateful to have a regular supply.

It’s not only outback towns who rely on the water. Farmers on the vast cattle properties of the west use the valuable resource for their stock. Bores like the one at Paddabilla provide welcome relief for cattle and other animals.

In some places, water from the Great Artesian Basin rises naturally to the earth’s surface. Where a weakness or fault occurs in the rock layers, the natural pressure of the trapped water forces it upwards, sometimes with tremendous energy.

In the Eulo region, a group of mud springs brings life to the desert. Even when no water flows, moisture in the soil allows plants and wildlife to flourish. A ring of flotsam around the spring shows how far the flow can extend.

In a landscape where every drop is precious, the water of the Great Artesian Basin is an asset treasured beyond measure.