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The very long and treacherous Jerry Jerroo crossing.  There were some deep holes in there!

This year is speeding by so fast I can’t believe it.  So much has been happening around our area, I’ll start with our road, The Dowling Track.  The Bulloo Shire received lots of government money to fix flood damaged roads and ours was one of them.  Contractors have been working on it for about 9 months now.  The bit we were all busting to see fixed was the Jerry Jerroo creek crossing.  Well fair dinkum those blokes would get just so much done on the job and then go off for two weeks break. They would park all their machinery up on the side of the road for two weeks and one time I made a big sign and stuck it to the front of one of the graders, it said “ For Sale!!”  It would rain again and fill the road and crossing up with water, mud and silt once more so they couldn’t work on it.

Stock trucks, council vehicles, tourists and locals were ploughing their way through it making the holes deeper and deeper. The contractors bogged graders, front end loaders, excavators and their own trucks trying to get the water off the road.  The council would close the road but that makes no difference really, cause they don’t tell us, they just trot out and put a sign up near town saying road closed.  All it does is stop tourists and gives the mail person the perfect excuse not to deliver our mail.  They had the road ready 3 times to lay the bitumen, but they went away for their break instead of doing the job and it rained and stuffed the job up again.  BUT third time lucky – the crossing is at last finished – beautiful bitumen laid right across the 2 channels of the creek!  Hope it doesn’t wash away next time the creek runs!

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The newly completed crossing.  It was a difficult job right to the end as the truck delivering the screenings broke down and it was also found that even though the prepared road surface looked fine there was still one very wet patch fair in the middle of the road..

Benanga Creek flowing into Lake Wyara , March 2012 at Kilcowera Station.

Benanga Creek flowing into Lake Wyara , March 2012 at Kilcowera Station.

Driving home yesterday the radio presenter was telling her audience that she had had a bad week, a week not to be repeated.  She asked if her listeners would like to call in and share the good or bad stories of their last week.  So I got too thinking about my week and realised that I had had a rather interesting one.  So I will inflict it upon you too!!

I’ll start with Monday.

 It is still very wet around here and Greg has not been able to check on the agistment cattle in the Lake Paddock as he can’t drive out to the east.  Couldn’t even ride a bike out there. The airstrip had dried out sufficiently for me to take off, so I happily went to check things out in the little Skyfox.  Saw lots of cows, 4 bulls fighting and hanging around a trough which had no water in it.  Surely the idiots will poke off and find a drink somewhere!  There is water everywhere but in that trough!  The creeks out there all ran very big and the fences have been washed down again.  But the cows have not gone out that far –  yet, so hopefully they will stay on Kilcowera and not wander onto the National Park or the neighbours place.  Greg will get out there as soon as he can to fix the fences. I could not see any cattle tracks on the wrong side of the fence or cattle for that matter.

 What I did see however was thousands of pelicans on the islands on Lake Wyara, so they are back again, for the third year in a row.  Oh thank God that rotten, horrible drought is over!  I changed the oil in the plane when I landed and helped to feed the mickey bulls who are waiting to be put on a truck for the saleyards.

Tuesday saw me tootling up the road to do my weekly cleaning job for the elderly couple at Wathopa, an 80 kilometre round trip.   I swear I do a better job on cleaning house there than I do here!  That afternoon I was cleaning the quarters trying to get things ready for our visitors.  And repainting signs.

Wednesday – Greg drove me into town over the flooded and washed out Gerrygheroo Creek crossing and I caught a commercial flight to Toowoomba to pick up my abandoned mini bus.  But it wasn’t all smooth sailing as there was a storm over the TWBA airport so we had to land at the Oakey Military Base and be bussed to TWBA.

  Thursday – the fun part, shopping all day!  Buying such things as a new TV as the one that we had can’t go digital.  Oil filters, batteries, groceries, beer, wine, and a haircut were all on the agenda.  And then there is the packing of the bus, after all if you just keep throwing the stuff in you won’t get as much in, as you would if you are meticulous about it.  So I am.  I also went to a tyre place just to check that I had the correct amount of air in the tyres as I have a big load in  the poor little thing.

Friday –   I took the bus to a radio place and had a UHF radio installed in it.  Greg has been going to put one in ever since we have had it (a few years now), I buy the radios off ebay but they seem to get put into some other vehicle or bike.  So it’s done now!

More shopping, then drive to Dalby.  Friday arvo I am buying fruit and veg, and meat (yummy things like pork and chicken and fish and lamb – we get sick of beef!)  Just on dark and I have nearly finished packing the bus up, cold stuff in, with lots of ice blocks and the eskies taped up ready for the drive home tomorrow.   Keep checking the weather, the monsoon trough is heading further south every day and more cloud is coming in from the west, will I make it home before it rains again???

Saturday – Leave Dalby at 5am and drive straight through to St George, a quick stop for breakfast (a pie!) and to deliver our new  brochures to the Visitor information Centre.  More deliveries are made at Bollon, Cunnamulla and Eulo, some rain on the way but no worries and no water over the road to speak of.  The last 100 kilometers on our dirt road was a breeze even though I was seriously tired.  The contractors are back on the job at Gerrygheroo,  I hope they get it fixed this time, they have been working on it for months and then it rains and washes the crossing away again and they go away for two weeks and then it rains again….and the bloody road is closed once more – we don’t get any mail, visitors can’t get here, we can’t truck our cattle and so it goes on……………………..and on.

But all up a good week!

We call this the Red Hole and have a nice drive for visitors to get to it.

Emu chicks with dad at Kilcowera Station, Outback Australia.
Emu chicks with dad at Kilcowera Station, Outback Australia.

Well here we are, the day after my B’day and the day before Chrissy and it has been a wonderful year that has gone far too fast!!  Why do they go faster the older I get?  Can someone please tell me?  I remember when a year seemed an interminable time (at school in particular) and when I was 10 or 11, I couldn’t believe that I would ever get to the lofty heights of teenagedom.  Well that was a while ago!! 

I took myself off for a little fly on my birthday as I always do, just to remind myself that flying is fun and fantastic and a privilege and something that I am good at.  It was a beautiful day and an enjoyable little job checking out some of the new cows, making sure they were not hanging in corners of their new paddocks.
We went into town (Thargomindah) after that for supplies, had to get the flood truck over the Bulloo River.  There has been a lot of water under and over that bridge this year. 

We have had just over 20 inches here at Kilcowera this year, Thargomindah has had about 32 I think, what a difference a hundred kilometers can make.  There were dribs and drabs of rainfall through November but nothing major and nothing all this month despite having some promising changes go right past us.  The weather man is up to his old tricks again promising rain that doesn’t happen. Half of Queensland and New South Wales is awash, but it’s fine here! 

A few of weeks ago we were supposed to get a couple of inches of rain so we thought we would grade the air strips to get some of the vegetation off them.  Greg just finished the job, the strips looked great and we got an almighty wind storm go straight past the house and roar down the airstrips taking half the dirt with it …………and not a drop of rain.  So now they are half corrugated and bumpy and with a lot less dirt on them. 

We have been very spoilt throughout the year with the rain, I have not had to water lawns, gardens and trees nearly as much as usual, but crunch time is here.  The trees outside my garden need a drink, the sheepyard trees and chook yard trees are thirsty and the lawn at the quarters is parched.  

Most of the surface water on both Kilcowera and Zenonie has evaporated so the water run needs to be done every second day again.  

So far we have had 3 fatalities (that we know of) with the new cows.  And we have also discovered that these Brahman cross cattle are queer mothers.  They will abandon their calves as quick as a brown snake if we disturb them.  Not at all like the Hereford cows we have always had, they were excellent mothers. 

Angela, our youngest, spent Christmas with her boyfriend and his family at their farm near Laidley and our oldest, Katherine is steadfastly staying in the west for the foreseeable future. Here’s our little Christmas tree……….

Christmas Tree at Kilcowera.

Flinders Ranges trip 2010.

December 4, 2010

Camping amongst the sand dunes near Merty Merty.
Camping amongst the sand dunes near Merty Merty.

In late July Greg and I were able to get away for 10 days and headed for the Flinders, supposedly on a fact finding tour about other station stays.  SA has got quite a few that have been operational for many years and a stack of new ones have also started up recently. 

Ralph and Barbara (Sydneysiders) had stayed at Kilcowera as guests and offered to caretake the place for us so we could have a little break away.  They arrived here quite late after a trying day driving through rain and wet roads from Tibooburra.  Rain on the roof at 4 am got us out of bed fairly quickly and on our way as early as possible (when Ralph eventually surfaced!).  There has been so much rain this year that it doesn’t take much to put the roads out and being so early in the morning we had no way of knowing how much rain had been in the district.  So we decided to play it safe and went the long way around to Cunnamulla, Bourke, Cobar, Broken Hill and Peterborough.  Three hundred extra kilometers right at the start and we only had nine days! 

Once we got to Hawker we started ringing various stations to see about staying but could not contact anyone.  So we carried on up to Wilpena Pound and used their VIC and coffee shop as our office, once again trying to book in to one of the many stations on the list we had downloaded from SA tourism.  Most didn’t answer their phone, some didn’t even have messagebank or an answering machine and the two who did answer wanted in excess of $200 for us to stay in their Shearers Quarters for one night!  They explained that was the base fee for the use of their facility, there was a price per person but the minimum fee was $200.  So in desperation we rang Rawnsley Park and booked in there.  It’s very much a tourist operation, with a caravan park, eco cabins, units and a restaurant.  We were thankful to have somewhere nice to stay but it was not the type of place we had wanted to stay in.  Rawnsley Park is not comparable to our operation as it is more of an Outback resort.

On top of Mt Caernarvon, Willow Springs Station during the Skytrek drive.

We cruised all around that area of the Flinders for the next few days enjoying the spectacular scenery, some early wild flowers and the formidable Skytrek drive.  Then it was time to start heading home.  Once again we tried to book into a couple of stations with out success, so our next night was at the Blinman Hotel.  They seem to think tourists are there to be fleeced and fleeced we were, as we found this to be a most expensive place to stay at given the quality of the establishment and the service.  The meals were very good though.  And that Coopers beer was delicious

From there it was all about getting home and the rains had started to come in again from the west and roads were closing or in danger of being closed in front of us.  We had wanted to head north to Moolawatana which we did on the Mt Hopeless road (don’t you love the name?), but about 20 k’s past there we were confronted with a very large, very wet, very silty creek which we reluctantly decided we weren’t going to pull on.  So had to back track past Moolawatana and on to a little used side road heading west that eventually linked up with the Strzelecki.  Well the first forty six kilometers of that road would have to be one of the worst tracks we have ever been on.  But it was very interesting and beautiful country to drive through and we found this most magical place called Terrapinina Springs where we stopped and had lunch.  It was so peaceful; I was imagining dingoes and aboriginals peering at us from the cliff faces.  I would have loved to camp there for the night but by this time Greg had the wind up about getting home and we soldiered on, the track got much better when we went past the Mt Fitton mine.  Not long past there we passed a station with a sign out the front encouraging people to come in and stay but it was to early in the day so we whizzed by (bugger!!!) and camped somewhere along the track that night.  Went home via Merty Merty, Bollards, Cameron’s Corner, Tibooburra, Wanaaring, Hamilton Gate and home.  We were following rain all the way and the roads were mostly open and in pretty good order.  The Bulloo River overflow was magnificent and would have been another great place to camp at, but alas no time as we had to be back home for a plane load of visitors the next day. 

In hindsight we should have been ringing those stations before we left home and sounding them out as not everything you get from the internet is 100% correct.  We could not really book ahead as we did not know when we were going to be anywhere.  We had our camping gear with us so we were ok for a bed but we wanted to stay on places offering similar options to our place.  It seems that they do things very differently in SA for instance if you stay on a place and there is a drive on the property you pay extra for that – it is not included in the accommodation price, as ours is.  Also it would appear that many of the Station Stays down there do not want passing trade only bookings in advance by large groups.  We also reckon that the tourism business throughout the Flinders is very focused on the almighty dollar to the detriment of the personal needs and wants of the visitor.  Basically you’re just another punter walking through the door. 

These are our personal observations, I don’t want to upset anybody with regard to the Flinders area (it’s very beautiful), but this is how we found the places to be.  We were very disappointed at not staying on any stations in that area, perhaps another time.

Terrapinina Srings

Terrapinina Springs, just gorgeous!

Driving along the Dingo Barrier Fence our western boundary.
Driving along the Dingo Barrier Fence our western boundary.

As our tourist season draws to its conclusion for 2010 (and I don’t know why as the season and the weather is wonderful), it’s interesting to look back on who and what type of people have been here.  We have a few small tour groups that come every year, Bill, Pamela and Adrian from Outback Bush Adventures based in Adelaide have been visiting for about 6 years now.  Bill has been great, sticking by us through the very dry years we have experienced and has now seen the place looking the way we like to see it – green! 

Then there is the delightful and super organised Maureen, a tour leader with Young at Heart.  They fly into Thargomindah and we pick the group up and bring them out to Kilcowera for the night.  This year they have been flying over the flooded Outback enjoying the spectacle of Lake Eyre, Coongee Lakes and the Bulloo River Overflow as well as Lake Wyara.  There are usually about 12 in the party and we provide meals and tours and Outback hospitality for them.

Young at Heart travellers about to get on their plane after visiting Kilcowera Station.

John Tuckerman who runs Insights Tours also flies out, but lands at Kilcowera as his plane is usually a 6 seater and is not too heavy for our strips.  These passengers get a more in depth tour as we have more time to devote to them.  John usually manages to sneak in a family member on his trips.  He is wonderful to his passengers and is a meticulous pilot – he gets 5 stars from us!  John is third from the left in the photo below.  And that’s us in the big hats.

John Tuckerman from Insights Tours and his passengers about to depart Kilcowera Station.

Birding Services Brisbane has also been coming to Kilcowera for a number of years.  Roy Sonnenberg is the tour leader and owner of this company and does he know his birds!  Every evening at Kilcowera, he and his clients sit around the dining room table and go through all the birds they have seen that day, tick them off on a list and do a running tally on the number of different species seen on the trip.  He gets people from all around the world.  One year he had a Japanese girl who badly wanted to see Budgies in the wild as she had a little caged bird as a pet and loved it dearly.  Not long before his last visit we had put a new road in to a gorge that had been inassessable previously. 

I said to Roy:  “Roy we have a new spot for you to check out, it’s really beautiful and different to anything else on the property!” 

His reply:  “ Toni, we’re not here to look at the scenery, are there any birds there?”  Bird people can be a bit one eyed!

Some birds don't bother too much about making a nest but rely on camouflage.

Carol Proberts  from the Capertee Valley in the Blue Mountains also brings birding groups to Kilcowera for the best of Outback birdwatching.  Her group usually spends 3 or 4 days here, we provide some meals for them and local Knowledge about where bird hot spots might be.  Greg and I both like to tag along with some of the birders some of the time to learn more about our birds.  There are quite a few little brown or grey birds that we haven’t got a clue about, but the birders soon set us straight! 

We also have a couple of tour groups that travel in the 16 or 18 seat four wheel drive buses – Outback Track Tours and It’s Easy Tours.  We love these ones as it usually means a full Shearers Quarters and we do all the meals.  They do the full day tour of Kilcowera in their own vehicle and one of us goes with them for the day to provide commentary and to answer the many questions.

Light planes on the airstrip at Kilcowera Station Outback Queensland.

Margaret Scells, lady pilot extraordinaire, from the MacIntyre Aero Club also brings visitors here by private charter.  She seems to like coming here and we are very fond of her. Margs’ visitors are always nice people.  She has her own plane and her brother Paul flies a helicopter, they also have a farm not too far from Goondiwindi. 

The Variety Club was going to come here this year on one of their smaller bashes but it was too wet and they had to cancel.  I think they are coming next year, weather permitting.  They were here a few years ago and we’ve also had Rotary Clubs, Four Wheel Drive Clubs, Flying Clubs and Camper Trailer clubs.

Members of a car rally arriving at Kilcowera Station, Outback Queensland.

This year we have had a lot more people camping than staying in the Quarters, more families, more birdos, photographers and caravanners.  Also quite a few visitors making a repeat visit to see Kilcowera after the fantastic rain we have had.  An unfortunate side effect of the rain was roads being closed both locally and on the station and cancellations as visitors were not able to drive to Kilcowera.  And yes we did have a few people bogged on one of our roads early in the year (that would be Ivan and Sandra in particular!) and so we now close our roads if there is any doubt about them. 

Members of the Royal Geographic Society of Queensland looking around Kilcowera Station.

The Royal Geographic Society of Queensland visited for 2 nights recently and we took them all on a tour of Kilcowera in our little bus and station wagon.  We also cooked a camp oven tea for the four wheel drivers amongst them.  Angela (our youngest daughter) and Glen came down from Quilpie to lend much needed assistance. The campground and quarters were pretty much full up and we even had campers at the lagoon too.

We have also had the RACQ down here twice – one lady locked her keys in the boot and another couples’ Nissan would not start.  A film crew from Sydney was here to get footage of the pelican rookery, they had to leave in a hurry due to wet weather.  They even left a car behind in their haste.  We had a famous Australian author and his lovely wife visiting, but he shall remain nameless as he didn’t sign our visitors book.  All the other guests enjoyed your company Tom – said you were very entertaining.  We also had 2 back packers here for a month helping out, they were a nice young couple, she was French and he was Australian.  Then there was the journo from the Courier Mail and the Entomologist from the Queensland Museum and their photographer.  Their visit culminated in a feature story published in Qweekend about the transformation of the Outback after the wonderful rains and our frog being the cover person.  It was a hoot watching those 3 grown men out on the flat trying to muster that little frog into a good position to have his photo taken.  They were out there for hours.

Our famous little Crucifix Frog - Notaden bennettii  at Kilcowera Station, Outback Queensland.

Lots of our visitors have been coming to us from the local VIC and others just dropping in, having seen our signs on the main road, some are using the Camps Australia Wide book which lists stacks of reasonably priced camping spots and some find us through word of mouth.  However they find us, we thank them all for visiting us and hope they enjoy their experience at Kilcowera and come back another time and tell all their friends about us.  And get on the internet and write about us on forums and trip reviews, post their photos, tell about their outback trip on blogs and facebook…………………..

Lucy, stopping briefly to smell the flowers.