The beauty of getting on the road early when you’re on a trip into the Outback is the beautiful morning light. Not only is the temperature more reasonable, but the animal and insect life are out and about.
From birds to cicadas, it was a cacophony as I headed back whence I’d come the day before along the Matilda Way. To get to my destination I had to backtrack some 100 kms east of Longreach to the town of Barcaldine.
Barcaldine is famous in Australian folklore, which I find particularly interesting given the location and the distance from what we regard as civilization.
It is home to the “Tree of Knowledge” which is situated in front of the railway station and under which the 1891 Shearers strike met. In 1892 it was the under the same Ghost Gum that the reading of the Labour Party manifesto took place which led to the formation of the Australian Labour Party
Who would have guessed that this outback backwater would have been the birthplace of one of Australia’s most powerful political parties?
After refuelling I stopped off to get some breakfast at the Satisfaction Bakery in Barcaldine. Such a surprising and tasty sojourn – so yummy!
My drive took me through the town of Blackall, which is home to Queensland’s Black Stump, Tambo and then Augathella before Charleville and my final destination for the day.
Heading south toward Blackall saw the county change little with beautiful grasslands as far as the eye could see.
It’s important to keep your wits about you on this segment of the road as this is open grazing land with few fences to be found…
This area is home to wild horses, kangaroos and feral camels which, on occasion can be seen from the road. Beware if you see them as they may stray onto the road.
This segment of road also saw several large road trains. These three trailer semis can often get up to 50 or 60 tons in weight when fully loaded, and therefore are unable to stop or pull over to let you pass.
It’s important that you give them lots of leeway both when following but also paying close attention to what’s ahead of you if they’re coming the other way.
I found myself pulling almost off the road completely to let them pass me as they came toward me – better safe than sorry.
And to make the drive a little more tricky the road wasn’t in the best shape, although sealed it was heavily corrugated in spots as had lots of dips and poor edges likely given the volume of heavy vehicles.
All these things made me slow down and pay much more attention to my drive to ensure I arrived in one piece. An important lesson for any outback travel.
My first destination of the day was Blackall, and home to the Black Stump.
Between Blackall and Charleville are only a couple of small towns – Tambo (pop 367), and Augathella (pop 449) in the unending plains and grasslands of western Queensland.
From time to time I’d stop and get out to stretch my legs and look up at the endless clear blue skies. If isolation is what you want, then this is a great spot…
Beyond Blackall and the Black Stump stretches the rugged and beautiful Australian Outback. Dad was right, it is magical…
I arrived at Charleville in the early afternoon and was struck by how green and pretty the town was, but also by how many people were out and about.
Charleville has been high on my “must see” list since I was kid when my dad used to tell me stories about his time working on remote cattle stations and cane farms in Northern and Western Queensland during the 1950’s.
Firstly, Charleville is regarded as the Bilby capital of Australia. Lol!
However, its main claim to fame is the Cosmos center. Unfortunately, it was closed during my visit, however I did spend a couple of hours stargazing nearby that night.
Even without the powerful Meade telescope the Milky Way Galaxy and stars were on full display and rather awe inspiring.
Out here there is no light pollution like you might get in towns or cities, in fact it’s so dark that it’s difficult to see you hand in front of your face at night.
Hence why the night sky is so brilliant!
Another interesting fact is that during WWII Charleville was home to over 3,500 US serviceman attached to the 63d Bombardment Squadron (Heavy), 43d Bombardment Group (Heavy) which flew B-17 bombing missions against targets in New Guinea and the Solomon Islands.
Soon after war broke out the US army air force redeveloped the civilian airfield at Charleville, which is now home the Royal Flying Doctor Service that provides medical support for communities and remote stations across western Queensland.
That night, before heading out to spend time under the stars I had dinner at the Charleville RSL (Returned Services League), it was awesome!
I also stayed at the Rocks Motel in Charleville, which was a modern take on the old-fashioned motel concept. The rooms were both spacious and comfortable and would recommend staying there on your visit to Charleville.
My visit to this vibrant little town was worth the drive!
Join me next week on my drive across Queensland back home.