The Matilda Way- Charleville to Longreach and everything in between.
We finally left Charleville after 6 jam packed days, with our first stop being Augathella. We don’t travel huge distances in a day and we try to stop regularly, usually just to see a town we are passing through or for lunch, or sometimes even just on the side of the road so everyone can have a walk around and stretch their legs. This works well for us. So our first quick stop after leaving Charleville was not that far out at Augathella. We went for a drive through the very small town, saw our second painted silo (It could possibly have been a water tank, I’m not exactly sure) and stopped to read all about the Kenniff Tree, a tree made famous by the bushranger brothers, Pat and Jimmy Kenniff. Apparently they would tether their horses to this particular tree so that when they got themselves in trouble when visiting Augathella it was an easy getaway on horseback. It also happens to be a coolibah tree (you know the poem ‘Once a jolly swagman camped by a billabong, under the shade of a coolibah tree’) First time for us seeing one, theres lots of first’s for us on this journey! It was a quick stop but sometimes those quick ones are the ones that make a big day in the car seem small.
Second stop was a little place I had never even heard of but is apparently known to everyone else including the royal family. Its called Tambo and is located on the Matilda Way about half way between Charleville and Longreach. Its the home of the Tambo Teddies. These Teddies are hand made from Australian wool and each bear is named after a local station around Tambo. Some local ladies came up with the idea to raise some much needed funds for the farmers that were doing it tough, basically to get the small town through the drought. They are the softest, most adorable teddies I have ever laid eyes on and I can see why people fall in love with them. Archie and Ashton were lucky enough to be asked to pick a teddy and help name them. So Mt Playfair Archie and Forrest Hill Ashton were born. Only problem was that the boys fell in love with their teddies and didn’t want to leave them behind. Ashton considered using his savings to purchase his but soon realised just how much of his savings that was and decided to cry and make me feel like the worst mum ever instead! Needless to say those 2 beautiful teddies are still sitting on the shelf at the Tambo Teddies store in Tambo. Although even a couple of weeks later writing this I have to admit the thought is crossing my mind to call the store and have them posted to us for the kids birthdays at the end of the year. Joel thinks I’m crazy and he had forgotten about it the moment we left the store, the difference between mums and dads I guess! Haha. Anyway at 8 and 10 I’m thinking the boys are a little too old for me to be buying them teddies for their birthdays! It was a great stop though, and lunch and teddy naming added another story to our journey.
We decided to stay at a low cost camp in Blackall for the night, Wikicamps told us there was a bit to see around the area and we had heard great things about the free tour that happens every morning at 10am at the local museum. Blackall is the birthplace of the Jackie Howe, a blue singlet worn by shearers back in the day and apparently invented by a bloke named Jackie Howe who also happens to hold the world record for shearing the most amount of sheep in a day, a whopping 321 in 7 hours and 40 minutes, while he was shearing in Blackall. There is a statue in his honour that we managed to see, along with the black stump. There is a saying ‘beyond the black stump’ which basically means in the middle of nowhere. Blackall originally has a black stump that was used to survey the area, and used in the mapping of inland Australia, it became famous as anywhere beyond the black stump was soon known as no mans land or the middle of nowhere to Aussies. The 10am tour at the museum actually ended up being a highlight though. A old ringer and shearer by the name of Stewart has been the beating heart of the history here, he says he can’t read or write but he tells a damn good yarn. He took us through all the old buildings and the old water pumps, saddles and cars. Theres hundreds of pieces of memorabilia here and he has managed to make most of them work again. The kids were asked to demonstrate everything and were even allowed in the locked part of the museum where the old cars and trains are parked to get their photo taken inside them. At the very end he let them walk the horses around just like they did in the old days when they used to have to pump water. He was so great with the kids and we think they got more out of their time with Stewart in Blackall then they could’ve in a whole term at school, honestly the things they learnt and heard in this couple of hours was so mind blowing.
From Blackall we went to a station called Lara Wetlands. This magic place is part of a station just south of Barcaldine, and has the most amazing natural wetlands and a hot natural bore to swim in. They supply canoes so you can paddle around the wetlands and try to spot the hundreds of birdlife that call it home. There was also live music on the afternoon we were there, open for everyone to go. You are able to park the entire way around the wetlands, so you can be as secluded or as near to other people as you like. We only stayed one night here as we were needing to get to somewhere that had good internet service to knuckle in and catch up on work and the kids had school work that needed to be done as well, we were so behind, but if we could’ve we certainly would have stayed longer, it was a magic spot!
After our beautiful night at Lara Wetlands we stopped in briefly at Barcaldine, which isn’t too far from Lara. Barcaldine is the home of the tree of knowledge, which happens to have played a huge part in the forming of the Australian Labour Party back in the 1800’s. Regardless of what side of the political fence you stand on, this town played a huge part in the making of Australian Political History. I actually had no idea that the shearer’s went on strike because they wanted better pay and better working conditions, and that when the owners of the sheep and land just brought in others that were happy to work for nothing the whole thing turned into a major fight. Apparently this included guns and burning shearing sheds down, among other things. Anyway what they called the Tree of Knowledge is where the shearer’s met for their first meetings, and this is apparently how the Labour Party came to be. I was just super impressed with the building around the tree. The tree itself is pretty underwhelming, it’s also been dead a long time and I think what is there now is actually a replica of the original tree, but the wooden blocks hanging from the roof over it almost make a giant wind chime. It was without a doubt my favourite piece of Architecture in Australia so far. So much so that I took more photos of it than I did of the actual tree itself!
I think what we’ve noticed is that it’s these little stops seeing things of interest along the way are what makes this trip so good. The fact that there is time to stop and look at the small things and not just drive by because you’re on a time frame and have to be somewhere, so you can get back home within the week or fortnight. We’ve found it’s the places you just stay for a night here or there that are more memorable then we ever thought they would be. And sometimes it’s the places you never knew about that you stop at on a whim that turn out to be the best places! We did make it to Longreach no problems at all and we had a good time getting there, but I’ll save the Longreach goodness for another post!