Since heading out from Goondiwindi on Wednesday morning, the on-the-road MDOs have headed further west into cotton country, with the first stop Thallon. This little community boasts a supersized art presence, with the grain silos dominating the horizon painted with dazzling murals. William the northern hairy nosed wombat was also popular with one MDO in particular, although she’s still looking out for the real thing…
From Thallon we spent the night in St George, a relaxed town along the mighty Balonne River. The river is running especially high at the moment but as we discovered, that was nothing compared to floods the town has suffered through in earlier years.
After a catch up with the friendly team at the Visitor Information Centre and finding out a bit more about some of the cotton growing that powers this region, we wandered to a St George icon – The Unique Egg. Run by Stavros (Steve) Margaritus and his daughter, The Unique Egg displays Stavros’ incredible emu egg carving skills, which he picked up after moving to St George from Greece in the 1950s. Now in his late 80s we enjoyed meeting the artist himself.
From St George we headed west to Cunnamulla in the Paroo Shire, home to Slim Dusty’s Cunnamulla Fella. Ewen has perfected the layering technique required to stay warm despite the sunshine, sporting the combo of beanie plus sunglasses to fulfill both warmth and glare requirements.
On our way to Cunnamulla we stopped in the small community of Bollon, where we very unexpectedly had French crepes and eclairs for lunch, made by two French chefs living in the town! We also were able to visit the Bollon Heritage Centre and discover a bit more about this beautiful part of the world, in particular the importance of bush nurses to these rural communities.
We also marvelled at the increasingly spectacular landscape, including some picture postcard-level stock mustering happening along the highway!
Once in Cunnamulla we headed to the Cunnamulla Fella Visitor Information Centre, where we met the lovely Carmel who showed us the features of their facility. The VIC also includes the town’s museum, which was a brilliant mix of thematic displays, local stories and audiovisual experiences. We loved some of the moving and quirky stories behind the collections, including the town band who came out and played at the railway station for every returning serviceperson in World War Two, and the stories of the local boxing gym and legendary coach Bill Johnstone, complete with miniature boxing ring. The museum also included an audiovisual experience exploring the artesian basin and opal mining, with associated audiovisual experiences looking at shearing and wool, and the largest cattle station in Australia – Tinnenburra. The collection of king plates from local First Nations leaders were also special to see.
Of particular interest was the original starting gate for the Cunnamulla & Eulo Festival of Opals Lizard Race, complete with winner’s sash and medal. We will return to lizard racing once we get to Eulo as Elspeth may have discovered a new curatorial passion…
We had a really great meeting with the Paroo Shire Council team, looking at ways the MDO programme might be able to assist with new heritage developments and with managing this amazing Cunnamulla collection. From there it was time for a wander around the centre of town, a couple of Cunnamulla Fella photos, and a camel burger for the road.
Next stop Eulo and on to Thargomindah – tune in next time for more giant animal sculptures, reptilian tales and why the tagline for Thargo is London, Paris, Thargomindah…