Thursday, 20 July 2017

Quilpie to Charleville

We had an overnight stop at Quilpie on our way to Charleville. Quilpie is a nice, neat little town and the caravan park was spacious and had very good facilities – this includes an artesian bore which provided a very welcome hot outdoor spa for travellers – especially me! Nicely refreshed later that evening we walked out – with Charley – to the local pub for our evening meal which had an outdoor area for eating. It didn’t mind a well behaved dog waiting patiently for any little treats which might accidently fall from the table.

Next morning it was only a few hours’ drive to Charleville – a town we have visited before and like very much. It has quite a range of interesting sights – these range from a wonderful observatory (the night sky in this outback area is quite brilliant), a Bilby Experience (a small, cute but endangered Australian mammal), a drive through of a once secret WW2 American Airforce Base and a wonderful, huge old hotel built in the 1930s by a Greek immigrant Harry Corones. Before all that it was an important stop in droving days when the cattle were walked hundreds of miles to the railhead here to be loaded on trains for the Brisbane market.

All during the past few weeks while travelling through the Channel Country and further north into Queensland, I have been reading ‘Kidman – the Forgotten King’ (J Bowen, 1987) a biography of Sir Sidney Kidman who, in the late 1890s and the first half of the 1900s, built up an extensive empire by cattle dealing, droving and buying properties throughout this area. He ended up either owning or leasing more land than anyone else in the British Commonwealth and his cattle sales were legendary. It’s an incredible story and it is so interesting to think that he knew this land that we are travelling through very well and, in fact, owned so much of it.

The park we stay at is one of the friendliest camp and several times a week the proprietors offer a campfire dinner – You pay $19 each, byo chairs, plates, cutlery and drinks, and share in a delicious slow cooked dinner of beef stew and vegetables followed by Apple Sponge and billy tea. A delicious meal and nice to sit and talk to other campers by a lovely warm campfire.

Curious kangaroos near the old airbase.
We renewed our memory of past visits to Charleville by touring around the town and calling in at various places – the observatory, the Royal Flying Doctor base, Bilby Centre and the quite lovely old Railway Station. During the war over three and a half thousand soldiers/airmen manned a secret American Air Base here - and it was huge - and very top secret. It was based here because it was too far for enemy fighters to reach, but could safely maintain planes to despatch to northern bases. Over two hundred and fifty bombers left Charleville (refuelling at Charters Towers) enroute to the Battle of the Coral Sea. Only about 210 made it back.

Original decor of the very big public bar.

Lounge area (with open fire) of the old hotel.
After some housekeeping – the eternal washing and grocery shopping, then a lunch at the re-opened Corones Hotel, we were on our way again this time to Blackall on our way to another favourite place – Longreach.

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