Tag Archive | Travel Photography

River Walk

Western Queensland Road Trip #11 Cunnamulla

For much of the day, the harsh light of the outback is almost blinding, bleaching the landscape of its colour. A few hours later, in the softer light of late afternoon, nature’s hues become richer and more mellow.

When we first see the Warrego River at Cunnamulla late in the day, we can’t help noting the contrast with the Maranoa River in Mitchell. After recent heavy rainfall further north, the river flows deep and full. It’s the perfect time to enjoy Riverwalk, a 1.6 km track beside the Warrego.

Surprisingly, the path leads at first away from the river to the flood plains beyond its banks. Floodwater still pools in some gullies, but where it has evaporated thick dark mud is all that remains.

Baked hard by the relentless heat of the sun, the mud shrinks as it dries leaving deep crazy-paved cracks overlaid with the tracks left by passing animals. Tiny specks of green remind us that water is all that is needed for life to regenerate.

In the quiet of this afternoon, there’s not a lot of wildlife around. A long-necked turtle, secure inside his shell, refuses to greet us and even the meat ants are nowhere to be seen around their huge mounded nest. If we banged hard enough they would rush out in defence of the nest, but that would be asking for trouble so we leave them in peace.

In this flat landscape even the slightest elevation gives a sense of distance. From a raised viewing platform, it’s easy to see where the flood plain gives way to the mulga scrub native to this part of western Queensland.

Eventually we arrive at the river bank. With the sun behind us and much lower in the sky, the shadows of the majestic red river gums along the bank stretch out over the water.

A lone pelican drifts lazily with the current while a large egret stands motionless, probably on the lookout for his dinner. A whistling kite soars gracefully overhead and, although we can hear the raucous calls of cockatoos settling in the trees, we see only a feather fallen to the ground.

We reach the end of the path as the sun sets. The sky begins to fade from blue to gold, before turning that fiery red typical of the end of day in the outback.

The sun drops below the horizon in minutes, but its glow remains for a time. The last rays of light burnish the river gums and light our way back across the bridge into town.

The river puts on one last display, creating a mirror image of the sky above before all the colour of the outback is lost in complete darkness.

Join Jo for Monday Walks

 

Larger Than Life

Western Queensland Road Trip #10

Australia’s rural landscape is dotted with silos used for storing grain and silage, while water towers dominate the skyline of many country towns. Most are simply utilitarian structures, not given a second glance. But it’s becoming more common to see both silos and water towers being used as giant canvases.

The first painted silo appeared in Northam in Western Australia in 2015. Now, right across the country, there are 35 silos and 40 water towers decorated with scenes and characters typical of each region. This constantly growing collection is known as the Australian Silo Art Movement.

We came across two rural masterpieces on our road trip. The first was in Cunnamulla and was still being completed. The artist, Guido van Helten, was working high above the street on a blank section of the water tower.

The painting features young football players and celebrates an annual competition between teams from Cunnamulla and Charleville.

Our first glimpse of the silos at Thallon came as we drove along the highway. Even from this distance, across the bare drought-browned paddocks, the vivid colours in the paintings glowed .

The artwork titled “The Watering Hole” highlights a brilliant sunset over the Moonie River. Two pale-headed rosellas perch in a gum tree on the bank of the river. A mob of sheep in a dusty paddock represent the agricultural industries of the local area and a scarred tree acknowledges the traditional owners of the land.

The entire collection of painted silos and water towers can be viewed on the Australian Silo Art Trail website. If, like us, you’re planning a road trip in Australia make sure you download the map. You won’t want to miss any of these amazing works of art.

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 Roads

Western Queensland Road Trip #8

Covering vast distances, Australian country roads are wide, flat and often without a bend in sight.

The journey east starts here on the Warrego Highway, connecting Charleville to Brisbane 721 km away.

Once off the main roads, bitumen is replaced by dirt and the windows stay closed to keep the red bulldust out.

In tiny outback towns like Wyandra, the roads are wider than the house blocks.

Outback roads – often unnamed, not on any maps and going nowhere in particular.

 

Joining in with Becky’s October Lines and Squares

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

Staring Into Space

Western Queensland Road Trip #6 Charleville

Have you ever stared into the night sky and wondered what’s out there, or imagined what life would be like as an astronaut? You’ll find the answers to these questions and more at the Charleville Cosmos Centre and Observatory.

Charleville is more than 750 km from the coast and, with a population of less than 3,500 and very little light pollution, it’s the perfect site for a space observatory. Appropriately located on Milky Way Road, the Cosmos Centre comprises an indoor exhibition and café and an outdoor observatory, where telescopes operate during the day and at night.

Enter the Cosmos shuttle and you are instantly transported to the world of an astronaut, where eating, drinking and even using the bathroom are challenges in a weightless environment. Videos show footage of astronauts working in space, from the first moon landing to recent residents of the International Space Station.

During an astronomy talk, a Cosmos guide passes round pieces of a billion year old meteorite and explains how space junk falls back to Earth after passing through its atmosphere.

Quirky facts make the idea of living in outer space seem very attractive.

At the outdoor observatory a daytime visit starts with a talk about the sun, detailing fascinating facts about its small stature compared with more distant stars, its composition and life span.

The sliding roof of the observatory is pushed back just enough to give the solar telescope a clear view of the sun. It appears in the telescope’s eyepiece as a huge red ball, and what look like fine red hairs sticking out from the edge are massive solar flares. A tiny black dot in the middle is a sunspot ten times larger than Earth.

For more amazing celestial views, return to the Cosmos Centre after dark for an evening presentation. Guides with a passion for astronomy lead you on a journey through the Milky Way and beyond, using large Meade telescopes to see distant diamond star clusters and planets. Any constellations visible above the horizon are identified and described.

While the thought of stars being many light years distant is hard to comprehend, our nearest neighbour the Moon seems relatively close. Viewed through one of the powerful telescopes, the detail on the Moon’s surface is so clear you can almost imagine yourself as one of those astronauts you’ve learned about earlier in the day.

After spending a few hours at the Cosmos Centre, a visit to the International Space Station might well be added to your bucket list.

 

Back From The Brink

Western Queensland Road Trip #5 Charleville

Everyone is familiar with Australia’s native animals the koala and the kangaroo. But you may not have heard of another of our favourites, the bilby.

Bilbies are desert-dwelling nocturnal marsupials. Once their habitat covered more than 70% of Australia but with the importation of foxes, rabbits and cats their numbers have declined to the point where they have been declared a vulnerable species. In western Queensland, there are fewer than 600 bilbies living in the wild.

In an effort to prevent the extinction of bilbies, the Save the Bilby Fund was established in 1999. The fund’s ongoing vision is to preserve and protect bilbies by developing a captive breeding program and creating a predator free zone within Currawinya National Park where mature bilbies can be released and monitored.

The fund’s home base is the Charleville Bilby Experience at the historic Charleville Railway Station.

Displays explain the bilbies’ life cycle, behaviour and diet. They are excellent diggers and construct several long burrows close to each other. Like many Australian native animals they are marsupials; their young live in a pouch. Similar to wombats, a bilby’s pouch opens at the back. This prevents dirt from going in when the bilby is digging.

A full size model depicts the predator proof fence constructed at Currawinya.

The main attraction at the centre is the nocturnal house, where bilbies can be seen in an enclosure replicating their natural desert environment. Only a couple of these swift moving animals are on show at any time. Their appearance is distinctive, with silky fur, large ears and a long white tipped tail. As they dart around logs in the darkened enclosure, they’re little more than a blur – it’s difficult to capture a clear image.

With the help of the Save the Bilby Fund, these endearing creatures should be able to stay one step ahead of extinction.