The afternoon’s travelling from Ilfracombe rolled on through the wide spaces of outback properties along the narrow road where for the most part we were the only inhabitants.
We passed no more than 4 cars and a truck the whole way giving a sense of the isolation of existence out here.
Late in the afternoon we came upon the first indication that we had arrived at the tiny town of Isisford. It was a sign which read “Welcome to Isisford – YELLOWBELLY COUNTRY”.
We’d heard about a free camping area here near the Barcoo River which runs beside the town and we were intending to stay a night maybe two.
What we found was an absolutely beautiful spot right on the river amidst magnificent Gum Trees and an abundance of wildlife.
Only one other mobile home was set up in the whole area.
It was completely free of the dust of Longreach and was cool and breezy without the harsh winds we had experienced in the last few days.
We picked a site that had us facing a little further south than we’d have liked – we try and face east west so the sun doesn’t blast fully on the side of the van. Facing south means the sun is on the non annexe side and not only heats the van up in the afternoon but puts a full frontal heat attack on the fridge. Also, facing east gets the sun on the Solar panels early if there are no trees.
We soon discovered that this site has more than just natural beauty it has good toilets, a dump spot and fresh water.
This means we only need to empty our toilet every 3 days or so and we can top up with water as required. It takes about 3 – 4 days, with both of us enjoying a good hot daily shower, to use our water.
There’s also free use of hot showers just a short walk to the Council building in town, further stretching our water supply if we choose to use them.
To top it off we have a full 5 bars, (full), Internet service and TV reception.
The peace and tranquillity and the adequate resources lead us to decide to stay a week or so here to get some work done.
After setting up and soaking in the pleasantness of the spot we walked up to the little town only, 5 minutes away, to find the locals friendly and helpful.
We were told that Clancy’s Hotel serves a mean steak meal so we decided to eat there on Tuesday night. True to the reports it was a delicious steak.
Many of the small towns we have encountered on our travels give the appearance of a place in its death throws.
Usually this is due to a general lack of basic maintenance of the buildings and a lack of attention to gardens and yards. Nothing makes a town look unprosperous and uninviting as the majority of properties looking neglected.
Isisford is NOT one of these towns.
The majority of residents still appear to take pride in their gardens and yards and even at the tail end of the dry season many of the lawns are watered and well kept. Some fine houses in great condition still grace the towns few streets and many residents have greatb vege gardens and fruit trees.
Most of the remaining old shops, although most are disused, are kept in good repair and a few are opened daily to the public with the interiors unchanged since they ceased to operate.
One such shop is the Bakery, still much the same as when they made fresh bread here daily, and the Café almost exactly as it was when its doors closed for the final time in 1982.
Like many small towns around Western Queensland Isisford is just a shadow of its former self.
It shows a glimpse, for anyone caring to look, into a time when Australia was much more reliant on its rural production for its prosperity.
That rural production was much more labour intensive than it is today requiring larger groups of people to live closer to where they were needed.
The tyranny of distance helped protect these towns from mass migration to the cities since it took so long to travel, especially with loads of produce, to the large centres of Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne.
When high quality highways were built and road transport became efficient and reliable, the writing was on the wall for the future of theses towns.
They started to die.
The imagination and the old black and white photographs dotted around the town are now the only way to see the bustling and busy thoroughfares that the now mostly deserted streets once were.
The old Picture Theatre is rarely opened now but it once held up to 275 joyous souls per sitting and as the evenings entertainment ended the crowds would move to the Café for ice cream, milk shakes and other refreshments requiring up to 6 staff members serving at the counter till after 10:00pm at night.
The towns four pubs were all busy and the Bakery made 100’s of loaves each day.
One shop owner had 700 fruit trees and vines growing fruit to sell to the townspeople.
This is all gone now.
If you happen to be a bit of an old romantic, like me, it’s hard not to feel a sense of sadness for the passing of the town as it once was. There is a desire to have a brief glimpse of that past again but it can never be.
I hope that the proud and committed people that have worked hard to keep this little part of our heritage alive continue to do so for many years to come.
The main life blood of the town is the Grey Nomad.
Perhaps it’s us that will enable these towns to cling to survival.
Up to 70 caravans can be parked here in our spot during the winter, mostly Victorians and Tasmanians, and the local Barcoo fishing competition in July attracts 700 people from all over Australia each year.
We are so taken by this lovely spot that we’ve decided to stay for a week or so using the peace and quiet to get a large volume of work done while enjoying each minute of the day.