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  • Day24

    St George to Longreach 29/05 to 06/06

    June 12, 2018 in Australia ⋅ ⛅ 28 °C

    While in St George we visited a little shop called the Unique Egg which had a display of carved emu eggs. A Greek man named Stavros has been carving and displaying his works of art in illuminated cabinets for over 50 years and they are definitely unique and beautiful. The town of St George is in the middle of the cotton growing area and has recently built a new cotton gin for processing.
    We continued north to Roma and camped at a caravan park beside the gun and clay shooting club on the edge of town. We watched from their clubhouse as some of the members practiced their clay target shooting. Our next morning was an early (and cold) start to be at the cattle saleyards for a tour which was very interesting and informative. The huge saleyards are the biggest in Australia and the day we were there was the auction of the prime (fattened) cattle which go to the abattoirs. Roma has big wide streets and the main street is planted with bottle trees which are native to the area and each tree has a plaque in memory of a fallen soldier from WW1. We also saw the largest bottle tree with an impressive girth of 9.5 metres. So far the weather has been mild and sunny during the days but nights get down under 5 degrees.
    From Roma we set off on the Warrego Hwy towards Morven, stopping at a tiny town called Muckadilla with only a couple of houses and an old pub displaying more country humour. We then continued through Mitchell and on to Morven where we stopped for the night in a campsite near a recreation ground on the edge of town. Everywhere the countryside is very dry and most campsites are very dusty, this one no exception but well patronized with some powered sites with water and amenities for only $10 per night.
    We continued north-west stopping at the small town of Augathella for lunch in the pub. Many towns have murals painted on the side of buildings which adds to the interest. This town also boasts the “giant meat ant” sculpture in a pretty park beside the Warrego River. Further up the Highway we stopped at the town of Tambo for the night. The caravan park put on a happy hour around the fire where we met more great fellow travelers. Tambo main street has some lovely old heritage buildings and a famous teddy bear shop where they hand make the bears from Australian sheepskins and stuff them with wool and a couple of local ladies sit in the shop making them while the customers brouse.
    The next stop along the road was Blackall where we camped in an area at the back of a pub in the main street which had been recommended by fellow travelers. The countryside along the way changed from crop pasture to scrub and cattle farmland and still very dry everywhere. Blackall is a neat town with big wide streets and some old restored shops and buildings. While there we went to see the historic Blackall Woolscour plant which operated from 1908 to 1978 when sheep farming was in its prime. Woolscouring is a process where wool is washed and combed to remove excess oil and dirt etc. before it is dried and baled. The steam driven woolscour still operates and is the only one left in Australia. Blackall is also the site of the famous “Black Stump” which was originally a surveyors point for the town but became legend with the saying “beyond the black stump”. Most of the towns in this part of Australia use bore water from the great artesian basin as the town water supply. This town has permanently hot water on tap so locals have to cool the water for drinking. Unfortunately the water has a strong smell of hydrogen sulfide gas which dissipates if left to stand or boiled but when having a shower the smell is pretty bad!
    Off we went beyond the black stump, heading for Barcaldine through more dry, scrubby countryside and camped at a van park at the back of a service station. This was another camping ground recommended to us by fellow travelers and where the owners put on a happy hour complete with freshly cooked damper, billy tea and a couple of singers to entertain us. There’s no doubt that the van parks that put on a happy hour like this are rewarded because of the word-of-mouth recommendations. Barcaldine’s history includes the great shearers strike, the workers union and the start of the Labor movement. During our stay we visited the Australian Workers Heritage Centre with displays and information on many aspects of life in the 1800s and early 1900s.
    Our next destination up the Matilda Hwy. was Ilfracombe, a small town only a 20 min drive east of Longreach and another recommended camp ground with nightly happy hour and entertainment. We plan to stay for four nights and go to the attractions in Longreach. Ilfracombe has a pub, a general store, a railway station and a few houses and an impressive “machinery mile” adjacent to the highway with all sorts of restored old tractors and steam engines etc.

    The Caravan Park at Roma was unique as it was in the bitumen carpark of the Gun club. They put on a BBQ on Thursday nights and you could shoot 8 shots for $10.
    The tour through the Cattle saleyards was informative as the tour guides were retired cattle producers and Station owners. After the tour we spoke with a bloke who explained the history of the area and after asking where we were heading he casually mentioned that he used to own a lot of the land around. He gave us some information as to what to see and where to go including a shop in Tambo where they make the Tambo Teddies.
    We have met a different type of caravanner on this trip and as a consequence we are staying at more alternative styles of parks and recreation grounds. These people are happy to spend days and weeks at places where there is very little and some of the descriptions of the stopovers are at best over stated such as “ the toilets are old but clean and showers are hot.” In fact there was 1 toilet and 1 shower in a tin shed, but they were hot and clean.
    The roads up this way are getting narrower and more undulating and bumpy. The roadtrains are becoming more frequent with some of them having 3 trailers. The speed limits on most of the highways are 110km/hr despite their width or lack of it.
    The woolscour at Blackall was very interesting as I never knew these plants existed and apart from the plant itself there were a lot of interesting old farm equipment lying around in the paddock.
    We are currently at a caravan park in Ilfracombe and opposite is a town attraction called the “the machinery mile” which as the name suggests is a mile of old machines. We arrived in middle of “the Van Park Olympics” so the first half hour or so of Happy Hour was taken up announcing winners and distributing winners medals.
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