Natural beauty – people and places

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From Morven we headed north to Augathella. Kirstine still had the lyrics from Cunnamulla Fella in her head, so finally having been to Augathella means the song is no longer on constant replay in her head. We’d had a recommendation that the butcher in Augathella is fabulous, so Kirstine popped in to grab some fresh meat. Turns out the butcher is a volunteer in the Fire & Rescue service in Augathella, and he had a couple of stories to tell about call outs, including a couple that were too confronting to put in the blog here where younger readers may find it. Kirstine will try and remember the stories for when the time comes to write the book about our journey!

We arrived in Tambo, having heard great things about this friendly little town. We were not disappointed! The lady currently running the caravan park was nothing short of an angel. Narelle told us that when she turned 40, she took five years off work to travel and reconnect as a family. They didn’t want to own anything, or owe anything. The peace in her demeanour was infectious, and she refused to charge us for staying overnight (or longer if we wanted) at the park. She put us alongside her house so we had power and water, and told us to use the pool and make ourselves at home. Narelle believes in doing good for people and putting kindness out into the world. We were incredibly touched.  A dip in the gorgeous salt water pool was truly refreshing!

Paul returned a missed call on his mobile, and it was to an indigenous radio station in Charleville. Their boss had just returned from leave and passed on our media release, and they were disappointed to have missed us. They recorded an interview with Paul, to be played the next day. Hopefully we can track down the audio to eventually link here.

Tambo was a lovely little town to walk around, and the kids just about had kittens when they had a look in the famous Tambo Teddies shop, and saw the Teddies Crossing sign out the front. Overhearing an older female traveller staying in Tambo complain about “there’s nothing to do here, two pubs, and nowhere to get my hair done!” was disappointing. She was from a metropolitan area in the south of the country, and we had to wonder why she would go to the Queensland outback, if access to entertainment and services was so important to her??? We’re thrilled if we find a supermarket!

We bid farewell to Narelle the next morning, and popped around the corner to Tambo State School, where Kirstine had arranged for Paul to present to the kids about Assistance Dogs. Paul engaged really well with the kids, and they had some very intelligent questions to ask. Proving the point about Luna being “on duty” when she’s wearing her vest, Paul removed it, and Luna proceeded to run full pelt around the seated children, prompting gales of laughter. When Paul called her back, Luna sat to have her vest clipped on, and then dropped at his feet “on duty” again.

Our travels took us north a bit more after Tambo, and we decided to stop at a camp site located on a cattle station just south of Barcaldine, known as the Lara Wetlands. It was about 20km into the station, and we were quite amazed at the number of caravans there. A huge shallow body of water, which is over 100 years old and heritage listed, the station owners are not allowed to let it dry out, as it is a huge ecosystem. They even have a large allocation of water from the Great Artesian Basin to ensure it remains full of water, though only ankle deep.

We actually watched people taking photos of the Legend as we drove past in search of a spot for the night. The couples on either side of us later commented on how quickly we set up camp, and how all the kids helped. One gentleman we had spoken to earlier, was quite candid in telling us that he also suffers from PTSD, after being sexually abused as a child. His story was included in the Royal Commission, and he told us he still struggles sometimes. He also has a mate who had been a Police officer for years, and became suicidal. Thankfully these two talk to each other, and support each other in their tough times.

The kids had a lovely afternoon walking out into the wetlands, testing their senses as they walked further out, expecting the water to get deeper, only to find the ankle depth remained constant. The sunset was superb, and Paul has some wonderful photos to upload when he has had the time to edit them. He even got to fly the drone, after some initial hitches with what he believes was a mobile phone signal extender causing interference.

For the first time, we left the windows open on the camper all night, and woke up to the view over the wetlands. Of course, the peace of the night was disturbed initially as someone a few caravans over decided to play their television very loudly. We’re always amazed that some people visit the most splendid places in nature, but can’t do without their television at night. The outback skies must be seen to be believed, and there is such peace to be found in just sitting, watching the stars.

The next morning we drove through Barcaldine (Bark-olden in pronunciation), and had to stop and see the Tree of Knowledge, which played a role in the Shearer’s Strike that led to the formation of the Australian Labor Party. The original Coolibah tree itself was poisoned and died, and they have retained the stump and roots, erecting a MASSIVE sculpture to represent the canopy. It was a serene place to visit, with the inner “branches” being individually suspended on wires, and moving with the breeze much the same way a tree in nature does. The sounds of the branches bumping together echoed serenely in the space underneath. The kids were fascinated.

We didn’t linger long there, or in Longreach as we headed west. Not to say that these towns don’t have anything to offer, but they were busy with tourists and caravans, and we really do enjoy the smaller town experience.

Topped up on groceries from Longreach, we drove to Winton and south into the Bladensburg National Park. 20km off the main road on dirt tracks, Paul had read a review stating that it was recommended only for 4WD and off-road camper trailers. Challenge set! Had it been a wet winter, anyone attempting to enter the park with a 2WD and/or caravan would have been in trouble, but in dry weather, it wasn’t as much of a challenge as we’d hoped! Once we made camp, Paul had to walk around trying to get a text message out to the kids’ other parents, so that we could reschedule the communications we had planned for that evening. We found that we had no phone or internet once we got to a kilometre or so from the camp site.

Having been invited to meet and speak with the Rotary Club in Mount Isa, we are reworking our itinerary again. We love speaking at schools and watching the kids reactions to Paul & Luna, but it is really exciting to have a booking to speak with a community group next week.

Paul was able to fly the DJI Mavic Pro up and down the dry Bough Creek bed for one kilometre in each direction, and was actually able to pinpoint where water lay in a billabong. The life-saving possibilities of being able to use a drone are really thought provoking.

We even watched a Cub Campers Brumby arrive at the campsite .. yes, we find them everywhere!

We had a lovely chat with a couple travelling for 6 months with their 4 year old and 5 month old. Our eldest daughter went into “mum mode” and cuddled the baby, and later after dark went and sat by their camp fire while Paul worked on his night time photography. It is phenomenal to see that what the human eye perceives of the Milky Way as blue/black and grey in the sky, actually has other colours in it too. I’ll let Paul hand pick his favourite pictures to show later.

Some nights since we’ve been in Queensland, we’ve wished we had a skylight in the roof of the Cub camper, so we could lie in bed and watch the stars. Perhaps that’s a design suggestion we can make!

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