I don’t feel like I’m in the outback until after St George (about 500 km west of Brisbane). That’s where red sand country begins, there are rangelands instead of farms and long stretches between towns. Our guests, both keen bird photgraphers, agreed it was worth the drive.
Stopping many times to let red kangaroos and emus cross the road, watching brolgas, major mitchell cockatoos and blue bonnet parrots, and soaking in warm mud that left our skins feeling wonderful left us with no doubt that we were having a true outback experience
Currawinya National Park was our main destination, famous as an internationally-important Ramsar-listed waterbird breeding site and as the place where captive-bred bilbies were released into an extensive (and secret) area surrounded by cat/fox/rabbit proof fencing. Uniofrtunately the large saltwater lake was almost dry, and although the freshwater lake was full, there had not been enough time for the small invertebrates to build up to a point where many waterbirds could make extensive use of it, so there were not as many of these as we had hoped. Still, the landbirds around some of the waterholes and the whole experience of being in wide expanses of semi-arid vegetation kept the excitement levels high, and it was a delight to see wild brolgas up close..
We used a mixture of a high-quality motel, a cattle station and a small outback pub for accommodation, and next time may also camp within the national park near a spot where we saw many birds in the trees near the Paroo River. Meals ranged from picnics to outback pub fare (surprisingly good) to an award-winning restaurant (a bit of luxury for our first and last evenings in the Riverland Motel at St George).
We rose at or before dawn most mornings to maximize our viewing of birdlife, relaxing in the warmer part of the day as most animals very sensibly do (do you recall the song ‘Mad Dogs and Englishmen’?), ready for dusk when wildlife again became active.
A new experience for all of us was the mudbath at the Eulo Date Farm. I tried it myself mainly for the novelty, but was so impressed I’ve decided to treat myself to one each time we pass through Eulo (the last town before reaching Currawinya). For $60.00 (not currently included in the tour price) you relax for half an hour in warm mud that is packed with nutrients that have accumulated for mellenia, while enjoying a plate of dried fruit and nuts and cold water and a choice of tea, coffe or wine as the nutrients soak into your skin. This mud is then washed off, you dry yourself and apply a cleansing mud all over your body, let it thoroughly dry and wash that off as well, before rubbing in a moisturiser. I can’t remember my skin feeling so good, and the effect lasted not for hours but for days.
Another new experience for me was a detour we made to the town of Thargomindah, the third town in the wolrd (after London and Paris) to have electric street lights using hydro-electric power. The electricity was generated from high-pressure hot water from an artesian bore, and there are demonstrations each afternoon (which this time we arrived at the worng time for), lighting up one of the original lamps. The bridge into the town was flooded due to heavy rain to the north, just enough for us to splash the red dust from Currawinya off our vehicle as we drove through.
Our next outback tour will be in late May which, if there is sufficient interest, could be extended for two or three days to include the Channel country to the west, where there is currently a profusion of birdlife due to the flooding of waterways. In September we are planning to etend the tour for a couple of days to enjoy the celebrations of National Bilby Day at Charleville. The final outback tour for the year will probably be in the first week of October, and should be great for reptile activity as well as nesting land-birds.