We stayed the night at Augathella, which we had stopped in briefly on our way up about 3 1/2 weeks ago. It was the town with the giant meat ant, the great pub and the giant iron “yurt” and an artistic little community. It had a good feel to it, so we decided to come back here for the night. It also had a good free camp on the river close to town. Unfortunately there was no water in the river, which is often the case at this time of year and with a 7 yr drought. We arrived in town at lunch time and it was too hot to hang out in the caravan, so we went to the Ellengowan pub for lunch. This town was once called Ellengowan and the pub was old, so still had this name. After lunch we went to the movies that we hoped would be air conditioned. This town is famous for the “Smiley” novel written in the 1945 by the son of the schoolteacher here at that time Moore Raymond. He was from Augathella but worked as a journalist in England later. The books were about his childhood friend Smiley and the things he got up to. Smiley was a bit naughty and had a very good imagination. The book was made into a Movie(or 2)as a British-American production and was very popular at the time winning a Bafta award for best British screenplay. Smiley’s family members still live in the area. The movie was gorgeous and looks back at a nice time in Australian history. The story was seen in the USA as Australia’s “Huckleberry Finn”. We were the only one’s in the little movie theatre as we were the only travelers in town and the guy started the movie as soon as we arrived asking about it.
We were invited to a function that evening in the shire hall by the chemist. It was being put on by Care Outreach and it was called the “Christmas for the bush bash”. This group travels around the outback putting on a show for these little towns in the middle of nowhere that are drought stricken. Brendan Walmsley was singing and playing guitar and sounded fantastic. He has won 3 golden guitars at Tamworth for good reason. There was free food which we didn’t eat, as we felt it was not for us and I helped at the kids table for a while. The kids were gorgeous and did craft together without fighting like city kids do. At the end of the evening each child was given a xmas “shoe Box” full of activities that they could do at home appropriate for a boy/girl that lived out “past the black stump” without internet or possibly TV. It was a lovely evening but it made us see once again what these people are going through,out here with no water.
We headed out the next morning stopping in Tregole National Park near Morven to see endangered Ooline trees and to have lunch. The trees were conspicuous by their strange shaggy bark. Some had black orchids growing on them. These are ancient trees were here since this area was a rainforest and have learned to adapt to the dry conditions somehow. Many trees in this park had a cracked trunks and had fallen over in strong wind or maybe just the drought conditions or both.
We stopped briefly in Morven and with the museum shut for the summer season had a look at an old hut made of kerosene tins that was common out in country areas during the depression. That night we camped at the best free camp on the trip so far. It was a few kms outside of the town of Mitchell on the Maranoa River. We went into Mitchell for groceries and to get some info on Carnarvan Gorge Nat park only to find it would probably be closed for another week, due to the recent fires there. This was supposed to be our next destination, so instead we will head to the coast and the town of 1770.
The hut made of flattened kerosene tins in Morven
The most exciting thing about this beautiful free camp next to the river was Steve could get the “guppy” folding boat off the roof of the car and into the water. He went off on his own that evening while I played a bit of Ukulele. The next morning we both got in and explored either direction looking for more new birds as we went. I spotted a sea eagle high in a river red gum and Steve a Nankeen night Heron.
We stopped briefly in Roma to see a huge bottle tree before heading on to Taroom to camp the night.
Last night we stayed at another free camp Called Kens Camp on a riven just outside of Taroon. Ken has gone to a lot of trouble to make a spot that was probably never used into a camp spot for self contained caravans. It has individual fire place complete with fire wood. Cooking areas and benches and even a book locker bolted to a tree for swapping. I had a look but there wasn’t anything I could put forward for my next book club meeting in Sydney.
Thank you Ken!