Tonight we are staying in Winton, Queensland, where Banjo Paterson’s “Waltzing Matilda” was first performed in 1895, and one of the founding towns of Qantas Airlines. We’ve had a very interesting couple of days!
In the last 2 days we’ve driven down from our stay in the Far North – in Mossman, where we had a wonderful visit, a concert and a class. We also got caught up with friends who now live there, and we got to see the tourist boats coming in from the Great Barrier Reef (while drinking champagne on the foreshore), see sugar cane being harvested, visit the local Saturday markets where EVERYONE goes, and eat prawns freshly caught that day. It was warm enough to put our shorts on, but it was by no means hot. Everyone is complaining about how cold it is, and they are hoping that this blast of frigid air passes soon. I can only compare it to the two weeks of -40C temperatures we used to get in Calgary once every year. It’s not quite the same…..
We stopped overnight in Charters Towers, and did a little exploration the next morning. There’s a lookout over the town and the farmland surrounding it, and we were alerted to the presence of Allied Rock Wallabies. I think the ones we saw as we drove down the hill were too large for rock wallabies, but it was nonetheless very exciting to see three (2 adults and a baby) cross the road in front of us!
Charters Towers is a fascinating town with lots of Victorian and Art Deco buildings. I loved the quilting patterns on the tile floors.
We organized a class in Hughenden Queensland at the Townsville SCQuilters’ retreat a week ago, and we were able to fit it into our southward drive. Susan set it up, and I taught at “The Poppy” arts, crafts and resource group building in town. Hughenden is almost a 3 hour drive west of Charters Towers, along the Flinders Highway. It is famous for dinosaur bones found in the area, and is surrounded by pastoral (farm) lands. The town has embraced its dinosaur past.
The local dinosaur fad has also infiltrated the garbage cans!
We spent the night with Marg and Herb, and started the class early (8:30am) so that we could drive a couple of hours afterwards. We need to be in Gatton to sing on Thursday night. It had started raining when we arrived in town – a significant deluge – and it rained all night. I didn’t think anything of it. In the morning, the woman who had taught a leatherwork class the day before had to drive to Townsville to catch her plane home to Brisbane. The word was that the Flinders highway was closed at Shovel Creek – a half a metre flowing over the roadway, after the rain the day before. Nobody was getting through.
We started the class, but it was interrupted many times, the tutor returned, there were many phone calls to the local police for highway information, to the airport, to the car rental company. Somebody’s son was driving his 4WD vehicle and she could follow him. Someone else suggested she ship her supplies via the bus from town so she wouldn’t have to deal with it in Townsville. Then, when it was clear that the highway wouldn’t be opening soon, another batch of calls to sort out her driving south to Brisbane instead of flying from Townsville.
We were also planning to drive out that afternoon, so some of those phone calls were to find us hotel rooms along the way, and see how the roads south were.
It was amazing, to see what significant resources come to play in a small town. Everyone pitched in, everyone contributed. If we couldn’t find a hotel room in Winton, where we decided we could get to (that road was open, but with lots of construction), we were to knock on Sue’s sister’s door in Winton, just behind the Post Office. The ripples went on and on. It was so impressive. I’ve known about this sort of network in small towns before, but I’ve never seen it at work so beautifully and efficiently.
We did get the class done, and there were some beautiful pieces. We also did the drive to Winton. The road was a bit dicey through the road construction. Slippery and muddy. I can understand why people are so concerned about a little bit of rain. In Canada, the equivalent would be touring in winter. You’re a kilometer away from town, your hotel, your gig. And there’s a 4 foot snowbank across the entire road. You’re not going ANYWHERE!
And that’s where the next part of the interesting day began!
There were no rooms available in the two first hotels in Winton we stopped at. We finally have secured a single room (single bed with a trundle bed) in the downtown hotel which was the only thing we could find. Why?
There’s a movie being shot in town! We have no idea which movie, but Hugo Weaving is in it, and they have taken almost every spare bed for the last month. The movie is supposed to be in a dry area, with lots of dust. Too bad for them, just now. There are lots of caravanners (grey nomads) around, as well as some who are like us, trying to make it through the flooded roads. The local hoteliers are flat-out busy, and actually seem quite happy to see any NON-movie people. We’ve been very well treated, and I have a warm feeling about the place.
Hey: we have a bed, had a good meal, a fridge and internet. We made it through the muddy Outback road without getting bogged down or damaging the car. It’s all good.
Hopefully the roads tomorrow will be open. We’re on our way to sing in Gatton, and to premiere the song I’ve just finished about the World’s Biggest Hexagon quilt. We can’t miss that!
I’ll leave you with this: How do you know you’re in the Outback of Australia?
There are trucks with three trailers behind (“road trains”)
The bird watching is mostly done at the kangaroo carcasses on the side of the road.
There are more caravans than cars.
Driveways can be 20 miles apart.
One finger salutes (index fingers lifted from the steering wheels as you pass another car).
Big skies. Big hearts.