Catching up with old friends.
21.10.2016 - 25.01.2017
The narrow piece of bitumen leaving Boulia is about as narrow as you could get and still have four wheels on the tar! To be exact it's about the axle width of a road train so if you meet one coming towards you it's time to get off the road entirely. The phenomena on this trip was that the verges of the road are covered with knee high grass so you can't see what the topography is like - every time you met an oncoming truck you have to pull off the road and 'park' until it goes past. This isn't a usual problem in this country but with the winter rain everything is so green and lush. The road gradually widens after you pass what's left of the old Hamilton Hotel. That'd be the chimney only! Almost two thirds of the way to Winton and we came across the the Middleton Hotel. This one is still there! In fact it looks almost identical to the way it did 30+ years ago when I was last here. I was working on Woodstock Station and this was the watering hole when we got a break from mustering. As fate would have it, when we called in for a drink on this occasion the current manager of Woodstock also dropped by. Time to swap a few stories of characters from around these parts and some of the adventures we got up to back then. Sadly this includes finding out which ones have died since our last visit to Winton four years ago. Two of whom were people I worked closely with in my time on Cork Station. Great characters both of them. RIP Billy Duggan and Gary Coleman (Coley) 😕 The family managed to drag me away from the pub and we were on the road to Winton again. Four years ago when we passed through Winton I made contact with an old boss, Bruce, I worked for to the North West of town. He wasn't on the property anymore but his oldest daughter, Katrina, was with her husband, John, and four kids. Bruce had taken us out to the property and Katrina and John invited us to set up our camp there for a few days. Two of the kids, Lydia and Sam were there ( The older two off at boarding school as is the way with remote Australia), and they made us so very welcome. It was one of the most memorable parts of our last trip for both Megan and Rory. They even got a day mustering and working in the cattle yards. This visit we caught up with Bruce and Helen in town for and afternoon tea before heading out to the property. Only Katrina and John there this time with three kids away at school and their eldest, Ella, off working on a cattle station further west near Boulia. We set up camp about the same spot as last time - near the old quarters that were home to me when I worked here. It was probably the hottest day we'd encountered since leaving the Kimberley. There was even a bit of humidity signalling the prospect of some rain. It did rain overnight and into the morning. A great experience for visitors to see what black soil does when it gets wet. It sticks to everything. A short walk and you've got platform shoes on. 24 hours later and it's just dry dirt again! Bruce and Helen came out for a visit so it was a great social occasion. We had a drive around the property the next morning - some beautiful fat cattle. It is great to see this country in such wonderful condition. That afternoon we got to see what else was appreciating the good season - snakes! Within a couple of hours we spotted three snakes. Two around our camp and one up at the main homestead. King Browns or Mulga snakes - They were in great condition and big. The first about 1.5 metres the second 2 and the third even bigger and fatter. Snakes are reasonably common in this country but the good season has brought out unprecedented numbers. Just as well the tent is well sealed. We gave Buddy a night sleeping in the back on a ute just in case 😊 On our last day with John and Katrina, John,Megan Rory and I went to check the waters at their other property north west of Winton. Out towards Kynuna, not far from Dagworth Station, just a lazy 160 k down the road from home. It's quite different country to the black soil country of the main property but everything was pretty green just the same. Sue and Katrina stayed back home for the day. A big thank you to John and Katrina for their wonderful hospitality and generosity in sharing stories and information about their lives here on their station. We enjoyed sharing meals at the dining table, and soaking up the atmosphere. Even learning about counting scales diagonally to confirm a type of snake (thanks Katrina)!! Finally time to leave and move eastward. More exploration on the horizon - travels through outback townships - Barcaldine, Blackall, Charleville to name a few.