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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.

Blown Sky High

Western Queensland Road Trip #9 

To open up the far western districts of Queensland, the state government constructed a new railway line between Roma and Cunnamulla in the 1890s. The bridge over Angellala Creek, south of Charleville, was an amazing feat of outback engineering. It consisted of seven vast steel spans totalling 630 metres in length, and the timber trestles approaching either end were the longest in the state.

With the advent of heavier locomotives the bridge was reinforced in 1946 and again in 1994. In 1992 it was listed on the Queensland Heritage Register because of its historic and cultural significance. The bridge continued in service well into the 21st century.

That was until the night of 5th September, 2014.

Just before 10pm a truck carrying a load of ammonium nitrate crashed and exploded on the road bridge on the Mitchell Highway over Angellala Creek, destroying both it and the historic Angellala Creek Bridge nearby.

A new road bridge was completed the following year, but the railway bridge has never been repaired.

The six cast iron piers which once supported the bridge now keep watch over the site, commemorating the event and the first responders who risked their lives to help others.

During Queensland’s celebrations of the Centenary of ANZAC 2014-2018, the new road bridge was named Heroes Bridge, drawing comparisons between those who served that night and the spirit of the ANZACS who served our country a century ago.

It seems the perfect way to remember those who toiled to bring much needed transport routes to the outback as well.

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

Not a Drop

Western Queensland Road Trip #4 Mitchell

There must have been good rainfall in western Queensland in the first half of 1846.

When the explorer Thomas Mitchell passed through that autumn on his fourth expedition, he found lush green pastures and bushland filled with wild life. The river flowing through the area was teeming with fish while birds were plentiful in the trees on its banks.

Mitchell named the river Maranoa, an aboriginal word meaning “duck egg”. His journal entries made much of the abundance of fresh food, which was a welcome addition to his expedition party’s diet.

When we visited Mitchell’s campsite on the Maranoa River 173 years later, the scene was very different. After six months with no rain, the bush was tinder dry and the river’s course was only recognisable by the wide expanse of water worn pebbles between the tree-lined banks.

The town of Mitchell, named after the explorer, is located downstream from where he set up camp. Where the bridge into town passed over the river, pools of water reflecting the bright blue sky were all that remained of the Maranoa.

The Neil Turner Weir, on the northern side of Mitchell, was built on the river in 1984 to store water for irrigation, aquatic sports and fishing.

With not a drop of water to be seen, there was no chance of a swim let alone a risk of flash flooding.

A local farmer we met summed it up in typically succinct outback style. “We’ve had no rain since November. It’s diabolical.”

Since our visit rain has fallen, but not enough to break the drought. Thomas Mitchell would not find fish on his dinner plate if he came to western Queensland now.

 

In the Bottle

Western Queensland Road Trip #2 Roma

In western Queensland, the landscape is punctuated by native trees with a distinctive shape. Brachychiton rupestris, commonly known as the Queensland bottle tree, has a bottle shaped trunk designed to store water in the dry climate.

A very unusual specimen has been planted in the garden at the Miles Historical Village.

Further west in Roma, the more typical type of bottle tree is celebrated.

With more than 100 years’ growth, the largest bottle tree in the Roma district has a circumference of 9.51 metres and a canopy spreading more than 20 metres across.

More bottle trees line many of Roma’s wide streets. In 1918, 140 trees were planted by local families in remembrance of their loved ones – soldiers lost on the battlefields of World War One.

All along the heritage listed avenue, plaques beside the trees acknowledge the service of each soldier.

These trees hold precious memories as well as water!

 

A Loo With a View – The Canadian Edition

Canada #44

Canadian loos have wonderful views

of mountains, sea and sky.

Coast to coast, from west to east,

these views will satisfy!

~

In summer at Butchart Gardens

where flowers are celebrated,

they are blooming everywhere –

even the loos are decorated!

Butchart Gardens, Vancouver Island, BC

~

A gentleman in his bathroom

could always sit and ponder

the view from his bathroom window

of the mountains over yonder.

Craigdorrach Castle, Victoria, Vancouver Island, BC

~

At beautiful Deep Cove

you’ll find this deluxe facility.

Pitt River is very scenic

but the toilets aren’t so pretty.

Deep Cove, BC

Pitt River, BC

~

Before you take a gondola ride

have a toilet stop.

There are no handy bathrooms

on the mountain top!

Sea to Sky Gondola, Squamish, BC

~

A toilet block amidst the trees –

its location is quite practical.

With running water everywhere,

you might need to be tactical.

Brandywine Falls, BC

~

Old buildings at the village

tell tales of long ago.

This outhouse has seen better days.

It’s only there for show.

Black Creek Pioneer Village, Toronto, ON

~

A long walk around the islands

might leave you feeling needy.

With a bathroom halfway round the track

you won’t have to be speedy.

Toronto Island Park, Toronto, ON

~

When the Blue Jays are in town

and you go to see the game,

learn about baseball history

in the Washroom Hall of Fame.

Rogers Centre, Toronto, ON

~

This pretty little restroom

is very well disguised.

It’s only when you walk around

that you can see the signs.

Montmorency Falls, Quebec City, QC

~

So when you visit Canada

and you need to use the loo,

it’s highly likely it will have

an amazing view!

 

Revisit other loos with fabulous views:

A Loo With a View – The Kevtoberfest Edition

A Loo With a View – The English Edition

A Loo With a View – The Cruise Edition

A Loo With a View – The Hawaiian Edition

or search #looswithviews