We leave Cameron Corner to roam Queensland, still gobsmacked that there was no-one checking the border, and it’s off for Noccundra. The road is the worst yet, corrugations galore, multiple dips and breaks in the road, but it’s fascinating for its aridity – still in the Strezlecki Desert, named after the Polish explorer, Paweł Edmund Strzelecki. One extra-large bump and the drawers fly out of the cupboards, and one of the fridges collapses. Tiny screws litter the floor of the van. There are a lot of words from Ted Nobbs that it’s better not to repeat here. He ties our van together with Velcro and we’re off again.
Birds are prolific though, specially tiny vivid pale green Inland Budgerigars which fly in great waves. Unfortunately one flock flies directly into our windscreen, I feel the bump, know there’s a dead budgerigar back there somewhere. The emus are strikingly coloured loping up the road beside us. We’re passing giant stations – stop when we see a car, and have a chat – turns out to be the owners of Epsilon Station – only 200,000 hectares of a station – they’re out taking bird photographs with a serious looking camera.
After many hours of driving I am alarmed by what I see ahead.
‘Ted, there’s something black up there… or is it just a mirage?… Could it be dangerous?’
‘What? Where?’ He’s not watching, sending messages to our Sprinter manufacturer, asking why the refrigerator screws all over the floor of the Sprinter are so small.
It turns out to be bitumen, we’re back into 100km territory and here’s Noccundra – well it’s just the hotel really – and enjoy a great meal beside the pot-bellied stove in the middle of the half-outdoor dining room.
Soon we’re in Thargominda, meaning Echidna, and one of the many Australian homes of the marsupial the Diprotodon, ancestor of the wombat and koala and supposed to be the legendary bunyip. It went extinct about 44,000 years ago, but it still treasured in this area.
We’ve been used to seeing country towns a little neglected, with shops closed, a shadow of their former selves or merely a nostalgic memory of what they were like. The amazing thing about Thargomindah, population 270, centre of the Bullo Shire, is the staggering amount of money recently spent on new buildings and monuments, and general street beautification. See below, and ‘Eat your heart out’, Dungog!
Next it’s Quilpie or Cunnanulla, Quilpie or Cunnanulla – but we’re reached Eulo on the Paroo River (on the way to Cunnunulla) and may never move again.
But the road on the way here – ah what a revelation. It starts with vast areas of knee-high wheat-coloured grasses flooded through all the sparse trees, glowing in the morning sun. Then we are in red gibber plains, then white gibber – back to the cockleshell look. The scene keeps changing, green to yellow to red to dead from drought. The land is flatish, with perhaps 5 metres undulation, but enough so that we pass through thousands of waterholes, each side of the track, where the recent rains mean the bushes and trees and grasses are flourishing greenly. Lots of birdlife. Then we rise, just that five metres and, while the recent rains means that the grass is green, the trees are spiky dead ghosts, obviously killed by years of grim drought.
But here we are, by the Paroo. While they are threatening to close the border between Queensland and NSW again, maybe we’ll stay in Queensland as long as we can.
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