Longreach (Qld): 11th to 13th July.
Emerald, Alpha, Barcaldlne (Capricorn Highway) 418 kms
Our morning started earlier than normal, with a walk down to the lake and a view of the sunrise. The bird life was plentiful and the morning sounds alone were worth recording. The pack up was smooth and we were on the road by 8:50, with Sue having her first spell behind the wheel for the trip.
Morning tea was taken on the summit of the Drummond Range at the site of the official opening of the sealed road surface over the ranges. This was as recent as 1984 and was performed by Sir Joh himself, more than amply assisted by the Minister for Everything, Russ Hinze.
Following another roadside lunch, this time just outside Barcaldine, we traveled the short distance into the town and photographed the Tree of Knowledge, famous for it's role as the rallying point for the shearers involved in the Shearer's Strike of 1891. It was this meeting which was responsible for the formation of the Australian Labor Party. The tree has seen better days, and was recently attended to by a tree surgeon. Radical surgery was necessary to save the tree and parts of it were encased in wire and cement to strengthen and support it.
The other point of interest was the Workers Heritage Centre, which was opened in 1991 and contained displays and tributes to unions and working men and women over the last century. There is a railway display which includes a rail carriage and station, with voice descriptions and recreations of past days. Other displays have been mounted by the Police and Education Departments and various unions. A highlight is the theatre used for the travelling Australian Bicentennial Exhibition in 1988. The large tent structure was purchased for $45 000 by the group running the Heritage Centre and has become a permanent fixture on the grounds. It shows a variety of slide presentations, including "Celebration of Australia" - a combination of slide and video footage which drew on the people and places which give Australia its unique nature. The tent - or marquee - has a square rigged girder standing vertically in its centre. This supports the weight of the polyplastic roof and walls and they are pulled into position by a motor at the base of the central column. Three pantechnicon bodies provide the operating rooms for the theatre. The original anchors for the central column were the prime movers, but these have been replaced by permanent cement anchors.
Having visited the Bicentennial Exhibition when it was in Armidale, it brought back warm memories of what was on show and the way it stirred my patriotism.
The last building we visited was formerly the Barcaldine Primary School - an elevated weatherboard
building so typical of the schools in Queensland. This now houses a tribute to various unions and both State and Federal Labor parties, but as time was running short, we were not able to fully utilise these excellent displays to enhance our knowledge beyond cursory glances.
The final 100 or so kilometres to Longreach passed uneventfully and we arrived to the confusion that is the Gundaroo Caravan Park. Our first encounter was trying to sort out the sites we had rung ahead to confirm from Barcaldine an hour earlier. This was one of the only parks which had not responded to my enquiries - on two separate occasions - as to bookings etc, so it came as no surprise they would have forgotten us in the space of one hour!
After some discussion, the space cadet who doubles as the male owner deferred to Mrs Cadet and two sites were found. Ours was right behind the office residence and closely resembled their backyard. The sites were so small, I inadvertently assembled the tent across two of them - not hard to do as the second of the two sites was not marked! It further transpired they had booked a site for us in response to my mail booking request six month earlier and we were now double booked. The owner assured me they seldom reply to booking requests. It was easier, he said, to book the sites and wait for people to turn up. Of course, when I had rung from Barcaldine, this system didn't allow him to recognise he had a booking!
An ongoing element of discussion during our stay was to be the lack of hot water and many were the
conversations ranging from laughter to anger that were to be had with park patrons on the subject. We ultimately eliminated the problem by preparing solar showers each day and hanging them in the shower stalls in the place of the conventional supply.
We were in the back blocks now!