We might have found a shorter, quicker way home from Hughenden, even via Barcaldine, but neither of us had ever been to Charleville or the towns along the way so it seemed an obvious inclusion in the itinerary. Staying there resulted in a relatively short day of driving today and a longer one tomorrow.
As usual we were up around sunrise, ate breakfast, and were ready to go before 8:00 am. Majella drove us out of Barcaldine and south. Some distance out of town we thought we smelled gas. Majella stopped and I checked the gas bottle which was off because we had eaten out last night and had power to make coffee this morning. We decided the smell must have been something in the local environment and drove on.
The countryside through most of the day was grassy plains with just a few minor rises here and there. The trees varied from place to place with some areas of reasonably tall trees, some of low shrubs, and some of near bare earth. No creeks were flowing but we saw occasional holes with water. Mostly the country looked dry but otherwise in fair shape with small mobs of cattle visible here and there.
Along the way to Blackall Majella spotted a bird that she had not seen before and at first thought was a brolga. I got a glimpse before we were past and decided it might be a bustard. When we had connectivity and checked it seemed that might be correct. We also spotted a pair of brolgas where we were able to stop safely and I managed to get a couple of photos.
As we approached Blackall a trivia question asked about what building operated in Blackall between two dates. We guessed railway station but the hint mentioned it was run by steam. It was the woolscour, which is now open as a tourist attraction.
We arrived at Blackall a couple of minutes before 9:00 am. Majella headed straight to the police station to ask about any record of her paternal grandfather. The woman there did not have a list of past personnel but offered to look through some old notebooks and give Majella a call in an hour. That committed us to staying around Blackall for at least that long.
When we checked the woolscour we found it did not open until 10:00 am so we headed back into town and found the site of the first artesian bore where there was an old drilling rig on display. There was a bore nearby pouring water into a drain so we were able to test the temperature and odour. It was warm and smelly.
On the way back into town we spotted the old Masonic Lodge. It is a two storey building, clad in metal sheet with an earth floor verandah that was added some years after initial construction. Majella’s eye was caught by the large bougainvilleas that filled the gardens around it. There was a sign advertising ‘men in aprons’ tours and we thought it was a museum. It is actually a gallery of sorts selling a variety of original artwork and a coffee shop. As usual Majella was reluctant to have coffee if it was going to come in disposable cups (more frequent in COVID times) but I managed to twist her arm. As we sat down she noticed that somebody else had coffee in a real cup and relaxed a moment. When our coffees arrived they appeared to be in disposable cups, upright with no handles. It was not until we picked them up that we found they were actually crockery. Majella was ecstatic.
There was still time to wait so we drove back into town and explored the shops. Majella found a pullover to buy and had a call from the woman at the police station to say that the records she had went back only as far as 1954 so no help to Majella.
In the meantime Colleen Dingle had seen the photo I posted from the Lodge and replied with the address at which she had lived in Blackall. We visited there and posted a photo of the house as it is today. Then it was off to Tambo.
We arrived at Tambo around midday so found a parking spot by a park and ate sandwiches for lunch. Majella had bought fresh bread in Blackall. After lunch we walked around the corner where we found Tambo Teddies, which we had been planning to visit. We exited with a teddy. On the way out of Tambo we drove around a few streets to see the school where our friend Dorothy had been a teacher for a few years, and other points of interest.
Our next stop was Augathella, but after the evident charms of Blackall and Tambo, Augathella seemed a bit down at heel. There were a lot of caravans pulled up along the Warrego River but the place seemed otherwise very quiet despite having a larger population than Tambo in the 2016 census. We saw a sign to the Kenniff Tree and eventually found it with its sign about the Kenniff brothers who were reputedly the last bushrangers and also engaged in cattle duffing. Our other stop was at Meat Ant Park for the benefit of my mother who tells tales of how, when she was a young girl, she and her friends used compete for who could sit longest on a meat ant nest.
We arrived in Charleville soon after 3:00 pm and checked into the Cobb & Co caravan park. Then we drove downtown and walked around the main street for a while. The museum in a charming old house was past its closing hour so we missed that. We followed a sign that pointed to a river walk but got to the river without seeing any further indication of where the walk might be.
We walked back to the van and drove a little way down the south road to fill up with fuel. That took us close to the Cosmos Centre so we checked it out. It was closed and bookings were required. The next session was advertised for 9:00 pm but, even if they had space, Majella declared that would be too cold. We had no more luck at the Flying Doctor Visitor Centre nearby. It was closed too.
As I drove back toward the van park I succumbed to the temptation to drive in the direction of the river walk. This time we found it, a bridge past where we had walked to earlier. We walked about 1.5 km along the bank and back. The river there is a long thin waterhole bordered by some large trees. On the out of town side where we were walking there was a flat covered by grass and scattered trees. It was a pleasant walk and we enjoyed looking at the reflections in the water.
We had thought about eating dinner in town but Majella decided to cook the bacon and eggs we still had. In the end she made ‘sort of’ carbonara using bacon, eggs and milk with some pasta we had and topped with lettuce. That was delicious and nicely filled out the gaps left by our afternoon drinks and nibbles.