Posts Tagged With: outback

River gum drive

Gum tree at Surprise creek

This area of the outback is steeped in history. The river gum drive takes you on a 50 kilometre round journey back through time and across different landscapes as it takes you through Bladensberg National Park. It is via a dirt track which in the wet would be impassable for Matilda, but it has been dry for 6 weeks now and recently been graded and the road was good.

Just before the park entry is an old dam with collapsed walls, this was where chinese gardeners grew fruit and vegetables for the district. Looking at the hard unforgiving soil and the dry climate it is hard to believe that any thing could grow here. The chinese in early pioneering days were immigrants that kept to themselves. Used to hard work they quietly got on with creating their gardens.

Memorial cairn to the striking shearers 1894

In the 1800’s this was sheep grazing country and wool was king. The shearing gangs would move from shed to shed working in appalling conditions for very low pay. In the mid 1890’s they decided to strike for better pay and conditions. The area around Winton was one of the main strike districts. A number of shearing sheds were set on fire and troopers were sent in to maintain martial law. The shearers moved out-of-town and 500 of them set up camp in the area around this cairn. It is bleak and desolate country, I can only imagine the hardships that must’ve been suffered. This was the start of the labour movement and I read an information board in a pub that eventually the shearers and squatters (landowners) decided that they didn’t want to start a civil war and shoot fellow country men, so they got together over a drink in the pub and sorted out their differences. Eventually conditions did improve.

Spinifex country

Another 10 kilometres along the track and the landscape changes dramatically. Gone is the Mitchell grass plains and the ground becomes hard and stony, and is covered in the tough, spiky spinifex grass.

This is the site of another very sad part of Australian history. An aboriginal man murdered a teamster. The police, with the help of black trackers, followed the man through this area. Eventually they followed him to Skull Hole. They then ordered the black trackers to massacre the tribe, men, women and children. This is not the only massacre of whole tribes in the early days of European settlement, but until recently it was a part of history that had been covered up and denied.

Skull Hole Bladensberg National Park

Among these rocks are caves and the aboriginals would’ve been hunted down and shot like animals as they cowered in these caves. The aboriginal people had been in Australia for over 40,000 years, they lived with the land and with-out their help the explorers could never survive in this harsh and unforgiving country, but seldom was reference made to the help they received from the native people. The settlers and pioneers also relied on them for labour and their knowledge of the land.

Ghost gum on the banks of Surprise Creek

Finally we stopped on the banks of Surprise Creek, under a beautiful ghost gum, at a popular place for swimming and picnics and had a sandwich and cuppa and reflected on a very interesting drive.

Categories: aboriginal history, australian travel, Bladensberg NP, National Parks, out back, travel | Tags: , , , | 4 Comments

Waltzing Matilda

Matilda Highway

We are travelling on the Matilda Highway, through Matilda County,in Matilda, our old van. This outback highway is a well maintained bitumen ribbon stretching endlessly to the horizon through the vast plains of silver-gold Mitchell grass. Cattle are dotted across the plains with the occasional stunted gum tree. The sun beats down from a cloudless blue sky and road-trains pulling 3-4 trailers filled with cattle for the market, roar by in both directions. These are the drovers of the present day. The aroma of their cargo envelopes us as they zoom past, splattering Matilda as we chug along in their wake.

The modern-day explorer in 4 WD pulling a caravan also passes us, they fuel the income of the new trade in the outback of tourism.

Tourism in this area is based on a song: “Waltzing Matilda”.

I wonder how many of my blogging friends and readers have heard of this song. It is known world wide as the unofficial anthem of Australia.

It is the story of the swagman who drowned in the bill-a-bong when confronted by the troopers. Banjoe Patterson, the prolific poet and lawyer composed it in 1895 when he was staying at Winton. He based it on the shearers strike and stories he had heard in the district. Winton now has the “Matilda Centre“, the only museum in the world devoted to a song, it also tells and shows pictures of lives of the pioneers and settlers of that time. It is an interesting museum with interactive displays and dioramas showing the Billabong with the swagman and troopers creating the atmosphere around the waterhole.

The song was first performed at the North Gregory Hotel in 1895. The hotel has been rebuilt over the years due to fire, but is still a thriving old pub. We went for an evening’s entertainment to hear and join in with Helen in a sing-a-long of favourite old tunes from the 1950’s and 60’s. Then she told us the story of Waltzing Matilda and sang the original version followed by the modern more up-beat version. For a gold coin donation it was a good night out. Then of course we finished the night off with a roast dinner in the Hotel dining room. The dining room was full with most of the patrons being grey nomads….

North Gregory Hotel

Sing-a-long with Helen

Roast lamb dinner, $10 special at the North Gregory Hotel.

Categories: australian travel, out back, photos, Pubs, travel, Waltzing Matilda, Winton | Tags: , , , , , | 10 Comments

Travel Theme: Tradition…

Heading for the final straight

I’m so pleased that Ailsa of “Where is my backpack” chose tradition for the theme of this week as it slots in nicely with what we are doing at the moment…

We arrived in Winton a small outback town of approx 1000 people 6 days ago, in our faithful old pop-top van, Matilda, on the Matilda Highway, in Matilda country, and birthplace of that iconic Aussie anthem “Waltzing Matilda”. But more of that later.

We stayed 6 days to coincide with the traditional Winton camel races which were held today. Camel racing is a great tradition in the Aussie outback. These amazing ships of the desert have been instrumental in the exploring, opening up and settling of the great Australian desert areas since they were brought over here by the Afghan traders in the 1800’s. In the past they escaped into the desert and are now numbered in the thousands and are regularly rounded up and sold back to the middle eastern countries.

It was a typical winter outback day. The sky was a clear azure blue (check it out in the photos) with not a cloud in sight. Way over on the horizon rose a thick column of black smoke, a bushfire burning in the spinifex country. The wind had a sharp edge to it. The crowd of race-goers were the typical Aussie outback types, Akubra hats,grubby jeans and R.M. Williams boots, driving large Utes or 4WD’s, many of them parked alongside the dusty track. Noisy kids and dogs mingling with the crowd. The atmosphere was cheerful. The beer tent was doing good business.

I was amazed to notice that the small jockeys, perched on the back of the hump, had no means of steering but just hung on yelling and whipping their mounts to go faster. It was all very exciting. A couple of the camels decided they were not going to take part and went in the opposite direction to the others. Only one jockey fell off…

We loved it, the atmosphere, the excitement, the people watching, the hot chips. It was a great day…

Go girl..

The crowd cheers them on

Categories: australian travel, camel races, out back, outback, photos, travel, travel theme | Tags: , , , , | 18 Comments

The soft colours of the outback

The mitchel grass plains stretch forever

I can never get enough of the outback scenery. The colours are all shades of soft, misty green. nothing vibrant and demanding. It soothes and calms you as you cruise through a never-ending landscape. This ancient land is flat and this year hides its harsh unforgiving nature under a mantle of golden Mitchel grass. If it was, as now, a time of plenty in the 1800’s when the pioneers arrived, how they must’ve dreamed of a future of milk and honey. But the land was only lulling them into a false dream of riches and security before the drought of the late 1800’s sucked this country dry.

The Landsborough Highway between Longreach and Winton is a pleasure to drive along. Almost empty of all human habitation, just an occasional station homestead in the distance and names of the stations hanging on posts at the side of the road with dirt drives winding into the distance. Pot-holes are easily avoided as not much traffic allows you to swerve from side to side to avoid them.

At convenient intervals rest areas have been created with toilet blocks and picnic tables. Signs urge you to rest, revive and survive. Travellers congregate to share a few minutes of camaraderie and their lunch and cuppa before moving on.

Soft shades of the acacia bush

The few lonely trees

Categories: australian travel, outback, photos, travel | Tags: , , | 6 Comments

Longreach outback town…

The pub is the centre of out back towns

Heritage buildings

After a day exploring the town and having lunch at the local RSL club we walked back to the Longreach Caravan Park which was only 4 blocks from the main street. It is a small, shady, friendly camp ground and they have a “happy hour” at 10am and 4pm every day when you can have a cuppa or “whatever” and meet and greet and swap stories with the other travellers. We arrived back at 4pm and had “whatever”…..

Shady Longreach Caravan Park

Matilda at rest

Smoko time get together for the campers

We spent 3 days in Longreach. Now we turn north-west and head toward Winton. The town famous for the song “Waltzing Matilda” that Banjo Patterson wrote.

Categories: australian travel, caravan park, outback, photos, Pubs, travel | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Into the Outback

Longreach is on the Capricorn Highway and is the gateway into the fabled outback of Australian history. In the 1800’s strong,determined men and women opened up this country, creating huge station properties and battling nature as it threw all the elements of floods,fire, flies,famine drought and disease. Not to mention loneliness, as they established a great pastoral industry in this vast area. Cattle and sheep were the back-bone of this land and the drovers created a legend. That legend is told in the “Stockman’s Hall of Fame”.

Stockman’s Hall of Fame

The eight foot bronze statue of the drover appears to dwarf the building from this view, but the building is a beautifully designed work of art with 3 floors and interesting displays interspersed with videos and artifacts of life on the land. Around the walls story boards told the life stories of people from all walks of life. Some sad, all inspirational. We spent 5 hours looking around. It is a tribute to the original group of people that had the vision splendid to create this national museum to store old artifacts of Australian history and bush heritage.

Aboriginal drover, part of large mural on one wall

Poem dedicated to the stockman

I hope this is clear enough to read, it is a beautiful, moving tribute to the stockman and drover.

Categories: australian travel, outback, photos, travel | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

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