No matter how many times I experience it I’m continually amazed at the absolute stillness and calm of the country mornings!
I love to stand in the silence in the period Just before the birds wake. There is no breeze at all and the leaves on the surrounding Gum trees are so still they could be frozen. The trees are clearly visible even though the dawn hasn’t yet broken because a large orange moon gives sufficient light to see almost everything.
I think the moon is orange because of the strong winds of the last couple of days and nights. There seems to be a light cloud of red dust high in the air through which the moon is shining giving it this colouring.
One by one the bird species stir, often the Kookaburras first. Their laughing breaks the silence but is strangely in concert with the atmosphere.
As the waking bird life adds more sound to the scene the first rays of the sun appear as a red glow through the Gum trees the reflections on the still water begin to appear.
A large White Egret glides ever so gracefully along the river just as the sun blazes red through the trees.
It is still calm but now all the colours appear; the contrasting of a hundred different greens of leaves and grasses, the whites with
streaks of deep brown on the trunks of the Ghost Gums, the red dirt and the blue sky.
Even some of the man made features such as the broken down old fence in the distance have a place in this picture that no artist can quite capture perfectly. Even the camera cannot fully reveal what only the senses can feel.
Last night it wasn’t quite so idyllic.
The peace of an almost perfect evening was shattered by the next door neighbour firing up his generator!
He had it running full throttle till 9:00pm proving that no matter where you are or how ideal the surroundings there’s always someone or something to make it less perfect.
And now just as we were enjoying our last morning in this pretty place the neighbour fires up the genny again!
They are such lovely people you don’t want to shatter their enjoyment by doing something like chopping their power cord; even though you feel like it.
We packed up amid the noise and then went over to bid the neighbours farewell. The conversation turned to generators and solar power. I think he knew that the generator was a pain but since he had built his great little unit himself he did not include solar or anything much in the way of batteries for power storage. This meant he had no choice but to run his generator long and often.
I was able to explain to him the benefits of solar power.
After leaving the weir we drove the last couple of hours to the goal of this trip – Longreach.
The harshness of the outback properties gave us a respect for those rugged souls who have made a living from this unforgiving landscape.
We were elated to have made it and since neither of us had been to Longreach before we quite excited.
Unfortunately the weather was set to make it a less than perfect stay.
It was blowing a gale and it was hot!
It was 36 degrees and the wind seemed to make it hotter.
The dry dusty surrounds and the wind coated everything with dust and we could even taste it with every breath.
We made it to the free camping area by the Thompson River amid the swirling dust, flies and heat.
After setting up we decided to relax for the rest of the afternoon and this went ok until the Bain of country living – DIRT BIKES – rudely and abruptly put and end to any hope of a peaceful afternoon.
As the dropkicks rode up and down past the camping area they intently watched for the expected hero worshipping reaction from all of us parked there, honestly believing the mosquito like sound abomination was the coolest thing a man could do. The presence of a couple of young ladies close by only made their delusions of coolness greater and we were treated to the most absurdly moronic performance of buzz bike cretinism for the afternoon.
The evening finally bought blessed relief from the noise but it stayed at 34 degrees till after midnight when the wind picked up to a howling dust spitting roar, rattling the Aussie Wide, filling it with dust and making sleep almost impossible.
The early morning was strangely very cold after such a searing hot day. The air was still thick with dust, so much so that the morning sky was completely hidden.
We decided that we would pack up, go to the Stockman’s Hall of Fame then head off.
After filling up with diesel we parked at the Stockman’s Hall and went in as soon as it opened at 9:00am.
We spent 3 hours there and it was a wonderful experience.
Although Longreach wasn’t particularly our sort of place we have nothing but the utmost respect for the people who settled out here and not only survived but prospered.
The outback legend of toughness, innovation and sheer guts is alive and well out here.
The Hall of Fame had thousands of stories – too many for one visit – of heroes, (both famous and unsung), villains and just ordinary people who had a dream and were prepared to give their lives for it.
I personally find stories of people who persisted with their dream no matter what the cost uplifting and motivating and the people out here, both past and present, certainly fill that bill and some.
We learned of Stockmen who drove cattle and sheep over some of the harshest country on earth, sometimes a hundred miles between water holes, and of property owners who laid everything on the line for an impossible dream to finish up owning million hectare holdings. Miners who staked everything on a gut feeling, hawkers who travelled for months between towns and isolated
stations selling their wares, merchants who set up shop in the harshest of environments and tradesmen such as blacksmiths, wagon makers and saddlers who started from nothing and made it.
The history, the stories, the artefacts – all made the whole visit to Longreach absolutely worth it.
We headed back east along the Matilda Highway and stopped at the little town of Ilfracombe.
This tiny town of only 350 or so people is a snapshot of Queensland’s outback history.
Before the integration of the Ilfracombe Shire into the Longreach Shire a few years ago it covered 6500 square Kilometres.
It is set amidst massive cattle and sheep stations.
These stations where once home to up to a hundred people.
They sometimes had their own school and church and Ilfracombe was a vital social and life support for these stations as well as
providing a centre of transportation from where wool and cattle where shipped to the world.
The largest of these stations was Wellshot.
Wellshot station was once the largest sheep station in the world supporting over 450,000 sheep.
It was so big the town of Ilfracombe was often called Wellshot.
We saw the homestead of this massive station a little later in the day.
There are many historical milestones in this area but for me the fascination was to look into a snapshot of a bygone era in the hundreds of pieces of machinery and other items collected from the district.
This snapshot was of an era before health and safety laws governed invention and innovation, before political correctness got in the way of free speech and before government intervention devised laws dictating how almost every step a person takes can be trod.
Machines of every sort are lined up long the road and in those machines you can see the innovation and inventiveness of the past.
Like this harvester that the owner drove over a rock and wrecked the wheel so he cast a new wheel out of concrete and it is still as good as the original wheel 100 years later.
Graders and furrows, pumps and fire tenders, water bores and saws, dam clearers and a huge assortment of machines that helped carve prosperity out of a place that is deadly to those that lack adaptability.
There is even a World War 2 Stuart tank that has had the gun turret and machine guns removed and a blade attached to the front to make a bulldozer.
This was a common practice after the war and there was even a company formed by an inventive soul who bought surplus tanks from the army and rebuilt and sold them as farm machinery.
There is an old house which has a room full of what must be a sample of every glass bottle ever bought into Queensland and another room full of almost every firearm from the two World Wars.
We left Ilfracombe and turned off the Matilda Highway onto the very narrow but excellently maintained Ilfracombe to Isisford Road.
It was on this road that we passed the Wellshot Homestead.
The vastness of the landscape sweeping for miles in every direction was awesome especially when dark storm clouds started brewing in the distance back over Longreach way turning the view into starkly contrasting colours.
We eventually pulled into the small town of Isisford and as we found the free camp site we had heard about beside the Barcoo river we realised we had stumbled upon a real gem in midst of the vastness of the outback.