On the Road: Towards the Horizon

This week’s WordPress Photo Challenge theme, Horizons, came to my attention courtesy of fellow blogger Debbie of Travel with Intent.

Go west towards the horizon.

Go west towards the horizon.

Australia’s outback spaces have such vast skies and distant horizons, how could I possibly resist the challenge. So here is my offering, taken a couple of years ago en route from Darwin to Brisbane. This image captures the road west of Wallumbilla in Queensland. The X-marks-the-spot contrails were of course just one of those serendipitous moments. I love the sight of roads disappearing into the distance, leading you towards new places and journeys.

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Q is for El Questro and Queensland

a-to-z-letters-qOnce again today’s trip takes us across the NT-WA border into the magnificent Kimberley area.

Q is for El QUESTRO

El Questro Wilderness Park lies in the north-east of the Kimberley’s 421,000 square kilometres of natural wonderland. The property is perhaps more well-known for its high-end luxury accommodation in the homestead, but that shouldn’t deter those of us with less well-lined pockets as there are other options for staying here.

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When we visited back in 2001 we chose to stay in the secluded camping spots alongside the PentecostRiver, which have no facilities, rather than the busier camp site nearer to the Station. It was blissful to be just relaxing in the midst of the bush listening to the birds, rather than other campers. It’s not as if you’re miles from anywhere as it’s a short drive, or longer walk, to the shop near the campground. Why didn’t we take a photo of our campsite I’d like to know?!

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Apart from the two camping areas, the more upmarket bungalows, and the lodge, there are also the safari-style tents at Emma Gorge, closer to the entry to the property. Even if you’re not staying there you can go into the restaurant/bar area and have a “coldie” either before or after your walk into the gorge.

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Although you may be tempted to do a lot of chilling-out (not always easy in the 30+C heat!), there are plenty of activities you can organise through the Station. We chose to do the Chamberlain Gorge boat cruise and absolutely loved it. The scenery is magnificent, once again with the landmark red cliffs and fresh water. Of course the colour of the rocks changes with the time of day and when the sun is angled on it.

Look closely and you will see the "Bradshaw" paintings of people, a hand print and a kangaroo. All on the cliff face protected by overhangs.

Look closely and you will see the “Bradshaw” paintings of people, a hand print and a kangaroo. All on the cliff face protected by overhangs.

The guide will also show you some of the ancient Aboriginal art that’s tucked away among the cliffs, overhangs and mini-caves. It is such a privilege to see this art that dates back thousands of years, perhaps as much as 20,000 years.

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The Wandjina paintings are just beautiful I think and a nice souvenir is to buy a pair of stirling silver earrings in those shapes from a jewellers in Kununura.

If you want to know more about the facilities and touring options you can check out their e-brochure, and sadly I’m not getting any kick-backs on this promo. But I am reminded that it’s far too long since we visited ourselves, though it will be tents once again for us.

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The other really important thing you need to know is there is no access during the northern Wet Season (about December-March or April), so you need to keep this in mind. Similarly what sort of vehicle you’re driving will determine how early in the open season you can drive in, as the river may still be impassable in a sedan (especially a hire car!!).

The boab is a feature of the Kimberley landscape

The boab is a feature of the Kimberley landscape

And if you want to know what it’s like staying at the homestead you can check out this post by the couple we met recently in Papua New Guinea.

Emma Gorge

Emma Gorge

Q is for QUEENSLAND

Okay I’m not going to talk about Queensland here except to say the northern half of the state sits in the same latitudes as the other places we’ve been talking about. Some of the scenery may be similar but east of the Great Dividing Range you hit the Wet Tropics. More on that anon. How could I not mention my home state under Q?

Why visitFor yet more magnificent outback scenery, to see ancient Aboriginal art and just to have fun.

FYI: Don’t forget to check out where these places are on the maps on my A to Z planning post which will help you to pinpoint where today’s tourist spots are situated.

TODAY’S AUSSIE-ISMS

 Queer as a fish: feeling sick ie crook

Quid: a pound in the old money pre–decimal currency on 14 February 1966 (a jingle that those of us who were around then remember vividly).

Quids: as above but a measure of value: you wouldn’t be dead for quids.

Quack: the doctor. Not a reflection on his medical qualifications or skills. My dad always referred to his GP as “the quack”.

Queasy: sick, especially nauseous.

Where shall we travel for R, I wonder?

L is a long reach into Queensland

RIDING RIGHT ON INTO QUEENSLAND TO…. (in the words of a Ted Egan song)

Brolgas near Avon Downs © Pauleen Cass 2011

Brolgas near Avon Downs © Pauleen Cass 2011

Just for once, today we’re going to head east from the Northern Territory, into Queensland (Qld). Our drive will take us 1000 klicks down the Stuart Highway where perhaps you overnighted at the Three Ways or the Barkly Homestead. Next morning you can take a left turn and head east across  the long open stretch of savannah grasslands that is the Barkly Tableland.

If you like bird-watching, keep an eye out for billabongs and rivers…on our last trip we saw several brolgas who honked madly (strange sound) as they flew away. You’ll be very glad to see those Qld-NT border signs and the rather quaint little town of Camooweal with its old store and the local pub with its wide-verandahs, not to mention that boring old fuel stop and facilities break.

Refueled and revitalised you can now journey on the next stage into the outback towns of Queensland but maybe you’ll want another overnighter: Mt Isa (mining) or Cloncurry? I’m always intrigued to see the similarity between some of the rock formations near Cloncurry and those around Alice Springs. I wonder what ancient geographical event produced those similarities between places so distant from each other?

Taken just south of Cloncurry, Qld this is so evocative of central Oz and the Kimberley.

Taken just south of Cloncurry, Qld this is so evocative of central Oz and the Kimberley. From a distance it can look like a pointillist painting.

Which all begs the question, where are we going and why? Why Longreach of course!

And what’s the big deal about Longreach?

 L is for LONGREACH

Longreach has several claims to fame. As a family historian it’s important to me because my Irish McSherry family lived there for a number of years and I’ve recently learned my great-grandfather was instrumental (ha ha) in establishing the Longreach Brass Band, not to mention the Hibernian Society.

Mr Cassmob has a fascination with flying boats since he flew on Catalinas ex Samarai in the 1960s.

Mr Cassmob has a fascination with flying boats since he flew on Catalinas ex Samarai in the 1960s.

Of course none of you could remotely care about that, but there are plenty of reasons for the tourist to stop for a day or two in Longreach. It’s the place where Australia’s iconic national airline, QANTAS (Queensland and Northern Territory Aerial Service) was established. There’s now a wonderful museum/centre there which if you’re an aviation fiend, you will find riveting. Judging on the queues, the possibility of touring through the on-ground Boeing 747 and 707 is a major attraction for the non-aviation-nuts.

The replica de Havilland D50...isn't she pretty? You can read more here http://www.qfom.com.au/dh50.html

The replica de Havilland D50…isn’t she pretty? You can read more here http://www.qfom.com.au/dh50.html

The other massively important place to visit is the Stockman’s Hall of Fame. If you’ve ever been intrigued by the outback and its legends, or want to learn more about the people who helped develop the outback, this is the place for you. When we first visited nearly 20 years ago we’d been listening to tapes (yes, I know!) of Ted Egan, the Territory’s balladeer as well as former Administrator (think Governor). It was sort of weird to recognise the stories of all these famous stockmen, and women, and then to hear his songs in some of the theatres. One of his great stories is about famous stockman and cattle thief, Harry Redmond aka Captain Starlight. It’s a great yarn which you can read a bit more about here if you’re so inclined.

The Stockman's Hall of Fame in Longreach, Qld

The Stockman’s Hall of Fame in Longreach, Qld

Peter McSherry BW-1And while you’re in Longreach, why not have a look at the old railway station – you might even see Peter McSherry’s ghost.

Why visit: to get a real sense of the Australian outback as you travel vast distances and then to learn how those distances were overcome by the early settlers and aviators.

 FYI: There are a couple of maps on my A to Z planning post which will help you to pinpoint where today’s tourist spots are situated, except in this case where I changed my mind about the post. Longreach is very roughly where a line drawn down from the word “Queensland” and across from “Northern Territory” would meet.

TODAY’S AUSSIE-ISMS

Lip : no, not those kissing things on your mouth! Rather someone who gives a lot of cheek or is impertinent. Eg Don’t give me any lip young man (to a small boy)

Long drink of water: again, not what you’d think….this means a tall, skinny person. He was a long drink of water.

Lucky legs: someone with legs so skinny they look like they’ll break off in which case they’re lucky….(have I mentioned how rude Aussie vernacular is?)

Long paddock: the long stretches of grasses outside the fences of properties or cattle stations, public property, used to feed cattle when on the move but especially in times of drought and a way of keep the animals alive.

Long grassers: rather a Northern Territory special this one. Long grassers are homeless people who live in the bush or parks around the place. The consistently warm weather here means they don’t need to huddle in doorways as they do in colder climates, except perhaps when it’s pouring with rain. It’s also important to know that Australia has public benefits ($, housing, health) which make it (comparatively) unnecessary for people to live this way but as with other places you will find surprising people living rough…”there but for the grace of God”.

Laid back: supposed to be the definition of an Aussie, along with their speech which is laconic. Actually Aussies are nowhere near as laid back and lackadaisical as their reputation suggests -surely all those British employers of Aussie backpackers can’t be wrong <smile>

 Larrikin: Someone who’s often up to mild mischief, fun and cheeky.

 Lead foot: Plenty of these in the Northern Territory where we used to have an open speed limit on the distance roads. Even now our speed limit there is 130kph compared with the max elsewhere of 110.

Lair: Someone who dresses to get attention,  a “flash Harry”,

Lousy: nothing to do with bugs, this is someone who is mean with money or goods. “He wouldn’t give you 20 cents he’s so lousy”.

Leak: to urinate (men), regularly heard among the blokes at the bar.

 Limp fish: weak ….he’s got a handshake like a limp fish.

I wonder where the letter M will take us on Monday?