Hi to readers of my blog, I need your help!  My old, not so faithful computer died 2 days ago and I am trying to get some of my contacts back through whatever means I can.  So please, if you are a past or future visitor or simply interested in receiving our chatty and informative newsletter all about Kilcowera please send  a quick email to gtsherwin@bigpond.com to register your interest.  Cheers Toni

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.

Daisies around Lake Wyara, the eastern boundary of Kilcowera Station.
Daisies around Lake Wyara, the eastern boundary of Kilcowera Station.

We are expecting the Royal Geographic Society here tomorrow,  they have not had the best of trips as it rained all over the places they wanted to get to –   Haddon’s Corner, Innamincka and Birdsville in particular but the rain has held off here this time and so they are spending 2 nights instead of the one they had originally booked in for.  

They started with about twenty  4WD vehicles and a 40 seat bus, can you imagine that poor bus driver trying to get that big heavy bus around on the wet dirt roads out there?  A nightmare!  

Well, I’m hoping the visitors will be happy with our campground as it is looking terrific now, with the grass greening up as we speak.

Frog numbers have exploded at Kilcowera Station.

There are a few frogs about at the moment.

Pigface growing around the salt lake on the eastern side of Kilcowera Station.

The pigface above grows in the sandy soils around the salt lake on our eastern boundary.

Tiny daisies growing nearby the shearers quarters at Kilcowera.

This pretty little daisy is growing in large areas, forming a living carpet under Coolabah trees  near the Shearers Quarters.

Swainsona microphylla

Swainsonna microphylla  or Poison Pea, is very common at the moment, growing in the table drains of all our roads.

Fungii growing in my garden at Kilcowera.

More fungii in my garden.

Fungii in my garden at Kilcowera.

These wild little mushrooms were nestling under a pepperina tree in the garden, I reckon they are quite beautiful.

Hardenbergia violacea at Rustlers Roost, Kilcowera Station.

I first found this plant growing at Kilcowera about 15 years ago, but have not seen it flower yet.  I am 90 percent sure it is Hardenbergia violacea.  I am going to have a look at it again soon and am hoping it is flowering so I can be sure.  I belive it is way out of it’s range here. It lives in a relatively  deep, dark gorge we call Rustlers Roost along with some other unusual plants for Kilcowera including, Sheoak and Weeooka.  However I have found it in another place as well.   The joys of discovery – I’m more of a plant person, Greg is better at the birds.  But I did manage to flush out this nice Chestnut Breasted Quail Thrush for Dorothy and Bev.  Thank you Dorothy for the image and I hope the weather is nice on the east coast!

Chestnut Breasted Quail Thrush at Kilcowera Station, Outback Queensland.

Eremophilla mitchellii
Eremophilla sturtii flowering at Kilcowera Station, Outback Queensland

The fantastically wet year we have been enjoying has set spring up to be a truly beautiful wildflower event through out our little corner of the Outback.  It is amazing to see what comes up, and when, given the rain at different times over the years.  We had good precipitation for the first 3 months of the year and then nothing much for the next 3 months (I was getting a bit nervous, thinking of the last 9 years of drought), but in the last 2 months we have had  some good falls again.  So much in fact that most of our station roads and airstrips have been waterlogged on and off during the last few months. Most of the insignificant little bushes have erupted into flower and look stupendous and then there are all the little wildflowers that just seem to come out of nowhere.  The one below is Eremophila bowmanii ( Silver Tukey Bush) and the one after is gilesii or Green Tukey Bush.

Eremophila bowmanii Var. latifolia

Eremophila gilesii

This post I am just going to show as many Eremophila bushes as I have photographed.  Some of these plants are pests but you can nearly forgive them when they flower, they are so gorgeous.

Eremophila alternifolia in Lake Paddock

I think the one above is alternifolia and it is quite a long way out of it’s range, I found it growing on a high rocky escarpment.  It grows on one long skinny stork of a branch right up through the middle of larger Acacia bushes, maybe for protection from being eaten by stock?  All the ones I have seen are growing  like that – through another bush.

Eremophila duttonii  or Halequin Fuscia Bush

Eremophila duttonii or Harlequin Fuscia Bush, these have been flowering for months now, the birds love them.

Eremophila latrobei red form

The one above is latrobeii and is a really neat little bush, would look great in the garden and comes in all shades of red, crimson and tangerine colours.  Below is the  rarer yellow flowering bush.

Eremophila latrobeii yellow form

Below is longifolia or Emu Bush and yes they do really love them and so do the birds especially the Mallee Ringnecks.  The flowers range from a pinky peach colour right through to a brownish peach.

Eremophila longifolia

And lastly another sturtii or False Sandalwood.   Their colours range from nearly white, light pink, dark pink and lilacs and while they are becoming a major woody weed problem in many areas they are very showy when flowering.

Eremophilla mitchelli 2

There are a few more Eremophilas on the place that I don’t have good images of yet including a newly discovered one called oppositifolia  or Weeooka , glabra or Tar Bush, maculata – Spotted Emu Bush and polyclada  or Lignum.  The lignum bushes that survived the drought are now standing in water at the top end of Cardenyabba Lagoon, so I expect they will be flowering soon.  Better go and mow the lawn now as more rain is predicted for tomorrow and if I don’t do it now it’ll be another week before it dries out again!  Well at least we got a mail today – it has been at it’s unreliable best this year.