Archives

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

Advertisements

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

Two Buildings in One Day

Canada #43 Montréal

Two buildings – one we plan to visit, one we find by chance; one religious, the other administrative; both located in Old Montréal.

Notre-Dame Basilica, with its twin towers named Perseverance and Temperance, dominates Place d’Armes square. It’s only mid-morning but already there’s a noisy crowd outside, indicative of the 11 million people who visit every year.

Once inside, everyone is silenced by their surroundings, their gaze drawn upwards. The vaulted ceilings and sanctuary glow, richly ornamented in jewel colours and gold leaf.

Wooden carvings, paintings and statues fill every space. The stained glass windows portray people and events from Montréal’s religious history.

Not far away on Notre-Dame Street is Montréal City Hall.

Here there is no crowd. The doors are open and visitors are warmly welcomed. A free guided tour starts in the Hall of Honour where portraits of the city’s Mayors are proudly hung. In the Council Chambers, walnut panels line the walls and more stained glass windows depict scenes of Montréal.

Outside, on the sunny deck where staffers gather in their lunch break, there are raised garden beds. Meant to provide a relaxing pastime for council workers and also to encourage bees and insects, they’re overflowing with summer crops ready to be donated to food banks.

Two buildings – both designated National Historic Sites of Canada; both keepers of stories of the city and people they serve; both worth a visit.

Built on Faith

Canada #42 Montréal

By definition, an oratory is a small roadside chapel open to travellers for private worship. Brother André Bessette and his colleagues founded an oratory fitting this description on Mount Royal in Montréal in 1904. The chapel still stands today and the small rooms occupied by Brother André have been left as they were when he lived there as caretaker.

Nearby is a much larger building, also called an oratory and founded by Brother André. Saint Joseph’s Oratory of Mount Royal is a Roman Catholic basilica and the largest church in Canada.

Brother André was well-known as a healer and, as stories of miraculous recovery spread, devotees flocked to his chapel. He attributed these miracles to Saint Joseph and a larger crypt church dedicated to the saint was completed in 1917.  Construction then began on the basilica in 1924 and it opened in 1967. Today Saint Joseph’s Oratory is visited each year by more than two million people.

After Brother André died in 1937 at the age of 91 the miracles continued. In 2010, he was formally canonised as Saint André of Montréal. A display in the entrance to the church depicts the story of his life of dedication, while his black marble tomb stands in the Votive Chapel where pilgrims and visitors may pay their respects.

Outside the basilica, the Garden of the Way of the Cross provides another opportunity for quiet contemplation. The 14 Stations of the Cross depicting the last day of Jesus Christ are represented by beautiful sculptures located throughout the garden.

While the oratory has become much more than that simple wayside chapel, its purpose as a peaceful place of worship remains the same.

 

Over, Under and Back Again

Canada #40 Montréal

As we explored the streets of downtown Montréal, we often caught glimpses of the elegant curves and contrasting geometric patterns of Jacques-Cartier bridge.

Built in 1930, the bridge spans the St Lawrence River and is 3,425.6 metres long. Originally named the Harbour Bridge, it was renamed in 1934 in honour of the French explorer Jacques Cartier, commemorating his first voyage along the St Lawrence River 400 years before.

With more than 35.8 million vehicles using the bridge every year, it is the third busiest in Canada and it’s not restricted to cars and buses. A sidewalk on one side of the bridge caters for pedestrians and cyclists while on the opposite side there’s a pedestrian only walkway. With amazing views of the river and the city, we knew this was going to be a walk with a difference.

Our walk began on the approach viaduct, where only a low cement wall separated us from five lanes of traffic. At the start, the sidewalk seemed as busy as the road. We had to be careful to stay on the right and listen for the warning bells as cyclists came up behind us.

Further along it became less busy, as those on bicycles hurtled past and regular walkers hurried on their way. We dawdled, admiring the views of the city, picking out familiar landmarks and watching as ferries and boats passed far below.

The views above us, of the huge steel trusses crosshatched against the blue sky, were equally as impressive.

Around the halfway mark where the bridge passes over St Helen’s Island, we came to a doorway leading to a staircase. We assumed the steps would take us down to ground level where we expected to find a corresponding staircase in the opposite pylon.

Instead, the steps went down just one level. An enclosed walkway one floor below the road was decorated with a colourful timeline of the bridge’s construction. Again we took our time, learning more about the history of the bridge.

At the far end, we climbed up the stairs to the pedestrian only sidewalk. With no need to keep an eye out for cyclists, we could stop at any time to enjoy more views of the river and the city. From our elevated position we heard the screams of people on the rollercoasters at a nearby fun park.

As we left the bridge and walked once more along the approach viaduct, we stopped and turned back for one last look. Luckily, with an pedestrian underpass nearby, we didn’t have to brave the traffic to cross the road!

 

Join Jo for Monday Walks