Archives

Another Top Drop

Western Queensland Road Trip Square Tops Challenge #29

It might have been quiet at Nindigully Pub, but it was the opposite the day we went to Riversands Wines.

The car park was packed, marquees filled the garden and a band was warming up on stage. We’d obviously gatecrashed a party!

It was the St George winery’s annual Easter in the Vines celebration and by the time we arrived it was completely booked out. That didn’t stop winemaker David welcoming us with a warm smile and a few samples of his award winning wines. A bottle of his delicious Stirling’s Reserve Red Liqueur Muscat was soon in my bag.

We were too late to join in the “cook your own” barbecue lunch, but David found us a table under a shady tree.

Anyway, who needs steak when there’s coffee and freshly baked scones with homemade grape jam and cream on the side?

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 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”.

Top Job

Western Queensland Road Trip Square Tops Challenge #24

Here’s a second helping of the beautiful work of St George local Steve Margaritis, whose hand carved emu eggs are world renowned.

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”.

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”.

All or Nothing

Western Queensland Road Trip #18 St George

After seeing seeing little more than puddles in several outback rivers, the broad expanse of the Balonne River at St George was an unexpected surprise. Tall river gums lined the river banks and the almost cloudless sky above was reflected in the water flowing slowly towards the weir.

With the sun nearing the horizon we set off along the Riverbank Walkway, a two kilometre track on the town side of the river. As the shadows lengthened and the tree trunks glowed in the light of early evening, a little cruise boat carrying tourists passed by.

There were plenty of locals enjoying the river too, with cyclists, walkers and even two horseback riders on the track. We mentioned our surprise at the volume of water in the river to a lady walking her dog and she explained. “The dam wall upstream needs repairs so all the water has been let out of Lake Kajarabie into the river. It’s being held back by the weir, but the situation is very worrying. This is all the water we have. If it runs out, there is no more.”

Even before the sun had set over the water the moon rose into the clear night sky. We stayed until it was almost dark, taking in the beauty of the river and the bush.

The next day we drove out to Beardmore Dam to see for ourselves. That lady was right. The dam wall, which usually holds back up to 81 000 mega-litres of water, could clearly be seen and the lake was as dry as those rivers we’d seen elsewhere.

Like the people of St George, we could only hope that rain would fall again to replenish the river and the lake.

Post Script: After recent heavy rain in the St George area, Beardmore Dam filled in less than two weeks and is now at 99.98% capacity. The Balonne River broke its banks, reaching a peak of more than 12 metres but no homes in St George were inundated.

Join Jo for more Monday Walks

Unique Eggs

Western Queensland Road Trip #17 St George

At first glance, the Balonne Sports Store on Victoria Street in St George seems like an ordinary shop. But an intriguing sign and emu footprints leading to the door encourage further investigation. Once inside, the feeling that there’s something special here is confirmed.

The store houses a collection of hand carved emu eggs, created by St George local Stavros “Steve” Margaritis over more than 60 years. Steve, a Greek immigrant who arrived in Australia in 1954, greets visitors with a cheeky smile as he says: “Entry is $5, $10 if you don’t like what you see!”

There’s no chance of anyone taking up Steve’s challenge once they’ve seen his display. A soft glow from more than 150 eggs, carved with intricate designs and illuminated from inside, fills the room at the back of the store. Artfully displayed in front of mirrors, the collection seems to multiply as the eggs are seen from all angles.

Many of the eggs commemorate special events, including World Expo 88 and the 2000 Sydney Olympics. Some represent well-known people while others are carved with beautiful geometric patterns. Over the years, Steve has gifted his carved eggs to dignitaries including Australian Governor General Quentin Bryce. One of his eggs even held pride of place at the White House during Barack Obama’s Presidency.

No two eggs in the collection are the same – be prepared to spend some time absorbing the intricacies of Steve’s beautiful work. It truly is unique.

 

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