With the weather now well and truly glorious, Ewen and I departed Thargomindah for Quilpie, a two hour drive through scenic country, unusually green after so much rain. I was unreasonably excited by many emu sightings including a family group poking about by the side of the road – simple joys for this city slicker.
For our first night in Quilpie we stayed at the Shearer’s Quarters at The Lake, a cattle and goat property. The owners recognised the need to diversify during long-running droughts and set up some truly lovely accommodation, including a top-notch MDO office on the verandah. A little bit chilly in the early mornings but the view was well worth it.
Louise, the owner of the property, and James her son kindly allowed us to feed the orphaned kids and lamb, much to the embarrassing excitement of the aforementioned city MDO. Marilyn the pig was the grateful recipient of our apple and pear cores.
From The Lake we headed into Quilpie proper, where we met with Karen and Jess at the Quilpie Visitor Information Centre. The Quilpie Council manages a number of sites around the Quilpie Shire, including the Railway Museum and Quilpie Museum in town, and the Adavale heritage precinct. They also assist with the Eromanga Living History Museum which we will get to later! Ewen was blown away by the work Jess had done in the Quilpie Museum after he and Mel visited a number of years ago. The space is now arranged by theme, with amazing photographs framed in a way that allows easy changeover, and objects which help to share the local stories from the Shire. While on site we worked with Karen and Jess to move the Railway Museum’s original station bell and lantern into a display case and talked through some options for other projects in the area.
The next day we headed an hour up the road to Adavale. Once a bustling regional town, the extension of the railway to Quilpie rather than Adavale meant the population drastically reduced. On the drive we were treated to sensational views, with deep blue skies making an impressive contrast against the red roads.
Along the way Quilpie Council had developed a star gazing platform with an amazing view – sadly too much sun around to make the best use of it!
In Adavale we explored the Shire Hall and the information panels about the town, and assessed the old police cell with the view to providing some recommendations for preservation and interpretation to Quilpie Shire Council. There are extensive records of the police service in Adavale available with some great quirky stories, as well as some more modern tales as well – Adavale still has its own police officer.
We also assessed the meat safe, the only remaining structure where Adavale town used to stand. The building was likely a part of the Green Gates Hotel which stood next door. Quilpie Council plan to stabilise the building and tell some more stories about both the meat safe specifically, as well as about Adavale’s history more generally, a project I’ll be looking forward to assisting with! We also suggested that the two flood boats displayed outside the meat safe were moved back to shelter at the Shire Hall for their long-term protection. Small plaques illustrate where the town buildings used to stand, including banks, pubs and general stores.
Rather unexpectedly, Adavale is home to a patisserie, the Elegant Emu (does anyone sense a theme?). We enjoyed a very luxurious morning tea on the verandah.
After a restful night in Quilpie, we headed off to Eromanga, home of Australia’s largest recorded dinosaur – Cooper, Australotitan cooperensis, thought to have been 30 metres long! The Eromanga Natural History Museum has been a project a long time in the making, since 14 year old Sandy Mackenzie discovered an unusual rock just outside the town of Eromanga in 2004. The ‘rock’ turned out to be part of a fossilised dinosaur, and since then the team have unearthed many internationally significant dinosaur remains, as well as creating a stunning museum experience for visitors and an incredible laboratory set up for fossil preparation and research work. We were very lucky to hear about the museum’s journey of development from Robyn, Corey and Jo, and loved meeting more of the team as part of the guided tour.
Unfortunately due to ongoing flooding in the Diamantina Shire, our planned visit out to Birdsville wasn’t possible so we’ll have to come back when the waters recede! This did give us an extra day to enjoy the beautiful landscapes around Eromanga, as well as a good look at the Eromanga Living History Centre.
Situated on the main street, the centre explores some of the stories and objects relating to Eromanga’s social history. The object theatre display was a quirky look into some of the stories of people who call this place home, from Indigenous communities to opal miners to pastoralists and more.
Next we will head to Windorah and Charleville – the final leg of this western trip is rapidly approaching! Unfortunately for Ewen my delight at emus appears not to be approaching any sort of finality.