Well, beach time is over, and I’m back on the road on my way to Birdsville.
After Cape tribulation and Mission beach I finished my beach bum days at Airlie Beach in the Whitsundays with a 3 day yacht trip and more lazing around. Not surprisingly Airlie has changed a lot since I was there last, it’s much more upmarket nowadays compared to the 90’s when it was “backpacker central”. There are still plenty of backpackers around, but more yuppies too. The old cheap cafes have turned into boutique restaurants, even the Airlie Beach hotel has gone upmarket !
Nowadays the weird and wacky entertainment is at Magnums …think goldfish or seahorse racing ! and of course the usual wet t-shirt competitions. The yacht trip was a bit of a let down, we spent more time motoring than sailing because of lack of wind, and did n’t make it out to Whitehaven beach.
From Airlie I headed south to Rockhampton, inland and west towards Charleville before veering north again to Blackall, home of the legendary “Black Stump”. Long, long ago when surveyors were mapping Queensland they used a tree stump at Blackall to mount their instruments on, and as Blackall was the furthest west accurately surveyed anything past there was “beyond the black stump” …well, that’s how the story goes !
I had planned on stopping in Blackall, I rather fancied a counter meal and a couple of beers at one of the old pubs, but one caravan park was full and the other only had powered sites for caravans. I noticed a motel advertising 3-star budget rooms so I went in and asked the price …$110 ! A hundred and ten dollars for a no frills budget room right on the highway…. no thanks, mate ! So I kept driving and had to make do with a thousand star view from my swag again. Luckily I found a campsite before dusk, because there was an awful lot of roadkill along the road around Blackall. There was one stretch just out of town with dead animals scattered over the road every 15 metres or so ! Even dead, a roo corpse could make a mess of your car so it was a matter of swerving around the bigger piles of roadkill. There was also a lot of emus around the area, I probably saw more that day than I’ve ever seen before. Some flocks were of 50 or 60 birds, its unusual to see that many in one flock.
Next day it was on to Barcaldine, home of the “Tree of Knowledge”. During one of the big shearers’ strikes the strikers would sit around this tree and talk, these meetings eventually led to the formation of the Australian Labor Party so the tree has always been a big part of union folk-lore. That did not stop somebody from poisoning it a few years ago though ! Nowadays the preserved tree is sheltered under a giant wind chime (well that’s what it looks like to me).
According to the signs on the heritage walking trail there were 13 pubs along the main street, there are still 5 within a 100 metres of the tree, so I could n’t help wondering if the pubs were part of the reason for holding their meetings under the tree ?
Next stop Longreach …….