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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

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

Canada’s Best

Canada #45

“What was the best thing about your trip?”

We’re often asked this question when we return from a holiday and it’s always difficult to give just one answer. After five weeks in Canada, here are the things we loved best.

The Best Party 

The Best Airbnb View

Vancouver, from our 21st floor apartment – by day,

at night,

and early in the morning as the cruise ships arrived at Canada Place.

The Best Water View

Pitt River

The Best Mountain Views

Sky Pilot and Co-Pilot, Coast Ranges, Squamish BC

Fitzsimmons Range, Whistler BC

The Best Wildlife Encounters

chipmunk, Whistler BC

raccoon family, Mount Royal, Montréal QC

and the squirrels, who were everywhere!

The Best Food

20 flavours of hot chocolate, enormous ice cream sundaes, chocolate pizza! Even the ceiling was all about chocolate at Chocolato, Montréal QC

The Best Garden

Jardins Gamelin, Place Émilie-Gamelin, Montréal QC

a free community garden with a cafe, space for games, music and family activities

and several themed gardens, educational for both adults and children

The Best Adventures

For me, a birthday trip to Niagara Falls

For Glen, EdgeWalk – 356 metres above the ground at CN Tower, Toronto ON

So many wonderful experiences in a truly amazing country. Canada, we’ll be back!

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.

 

Let’s Go Shopping!

Canada #39 Montréal

With fresh produce of all sorts in bountiful supply in Canada, it’s no surprise to find wonderful markets everywhere. While St Lawrence Market in Toronto has been declared the world’s best food market, Jean-Talon Market in Montréal lays claim to being one of North America’s largest open air food markets.

Located since 1933 in the Little Italy district of Montréal, this market is open all year round. In summer the stalls are filled to capacity by more than 300 vendors. Fresh seasonal produce sold by local farmers is complemented by delicious treats from bakers, butchers and fishmongers and stallholders selling cheeses, spices and international foods.

With such a wide selection shoppers take their time, sometimes seeming almost perplexed by the choices on offer.

There is even a book shop dedicated to recipe books; when the decisions are finally made, there’s a good chance of enjoying a delicious meal later in the day.

Competition can be fierce among the vendors and samples of food are on offer at most stalls. Visitors can easily eat their way around the market, tasting everything from freshly harvested berries to aged salami.

At one stall, the farmer is happy to discuss the difference in sweetness in his two varieties of corn and shares a piece of each, hot and steaming straight from the pot.

Along with all the food sellers there are stalls packed with cut flowers and potted plants.

Flowers of all varieties are ready to take home to decorate the table or the garden, while other plants offer more edible options.

Some even boast of their ability to repel unwanted visitors. Mosquitos, squirrels and cats beware!

With an abundance of wonderful food at Jean-Talon Market, there’s no need to leave hungry.

 

Join Jo for Monday Walks

Behind the Walls

Canada #38 Montréal

What was behind those high white walls on Rue Saint-Catherine? With no signs to indicate what was inside and more people entering than leaving, we were curious to find out what the walls were hiding.

A few steps inside revealed a diverse display of art works in a unique minimalist setting. Galerie Blanc is an outdoor exhibition space, free and accessible all year round and open both day and night. The exhibition we saw included traditional paintings and sculpture, pop art and intriguing digital designs.

By day, the collection was wonderful. When we returned after dark the illuminated artwork glowed with an added vibrancy.

The characters in the old masters looked ready to walk out of their settings and the modern geometric patterns had an almost kaleidoscopic feel.

The detail in some works demanded close attention while others were better viewed from a distance.

On a warm summer evening and with the gallery open to the night sky we lingered inside the walls. Like the other visitors, we wanted to take our time at this wonderful exhibition.