Heading west from Jericho, the landscape dried out very quickly. We are now in drought country, all seven years of it apparently. We had heard fellow travelers talking about the road kill out here being thick on the ground and they were not exaggerating. Roo after roo littered the road edge all in varying states of decay, interspersed with the odd feral pig, emu and sheep. Luckily we had Harry Potter to distract us from the carnage outside (For the record we are now half way through Half Blood Prince. I wonder where we’ll be when we finish the lot?).
First stop was Barcaldine to visit the Tree of Knowledge and maybe treat ourselves to morning tea at a bakery. Luckily for us Barcaldine was hosting a gardening expo to celebrate the opening of their new Info Centre. There was music by the school band and a variety of stalls which meant not only a morning coffee but home made carrot cake, jam and relish to boot. As well as a collection of locally made glass creations which were too cute to pass up. With all that retail therapy under our belts we walked up to the Tree of Knowledge monument.
This unassuming tree out the front of Barcaldine Railway station is said to be where disgruntled shearers first got together to form a union that lead to the formation of the Labour Party in 1891. Unfortunately someone poisoned the original tree in 2006 but the town managed to retain it and build a massive sculpture around it. It really is huge and amazingly impressive and must have cost a fortune to build (I’m assuming the labour party funded it!).
The sculpture was made from suspended wooden sleepers cut at angles to mimic the original tree canopy as well as old fashioned shearing blades.
Further west we made an unplanned stop at Ilfracombe after spotting a collection of old machinery lining the main drag. Machinery was not the only thing collected in this tiny town. There were collections of over 16,000 bottles, 41,000 buttons, rifles, hub caps, scissors, power line insulators, beer cans and even a Nazi flag to name a few – from left field there was a complete Ichthyosaur skull as well. It’s amazing what you find in these old towns.
Longreach was only another 30kms up the road, where the first thing spotted is the disproportionately large Qantas 747 tail fin. We decided to call in on our way to camp to book into tomorrow’s tour and see how long we might need there. An hour and a half later we dragged the boys away with promises we would be returning tomorrow. It must have been the guides quiet words “just inside on the left is our flight simulator”.
The boys were entranced by this life-sized flight simulator. In Flanders fields.
We enjoyed a somewhat peaceful night out at Longreach’s Apex River Park on the banks of the Thompson River. Pity about the crowd of eight or so roosters hanging around, all of whom welcomed in the new day from 3am onwards. One cranky old nomad declared the afternoon before that he had already taken one out with his slingshot!
We were up away in time to fit in a trip to the bakery “Yeast 2 West” (how could we resist with such a cool name) for some croissants and sourdough before our 9:30am Jet Tour at the Qantas Founders Museum. The tour took us through a retired 747-200 and a restored 707 (the first jet engine plane to be bought into Australia by Qantas).
We’ll drive anywhere for a bit of shade.