Keep following your nose!

Keep following your nose!

The Dowling Track was named after Vincent James Dowling an explorer and pastoralist who traced the sources of the Paroo and Bulloo Rivers and mapped the river and creek systems as well as the ranges and plains surrounding them.  The track stretches from Bourke NSW to Quilpie in QLD and is 567 km in length.  Along the way you’ll find the historic townships of Bourke, Fords Bridge, Yantabulla, Hungerford, Thargomindah, Toompine and Quilpie.  And of course Kilcowera – the best spot to pull up for a week or so and have a really good look around!

In 1859 Dowling also established Fort Bourke Station on the Darling River as well as Caiwaroo and Eulo Stations on the Paroo River around 1861.  He settled for a time at Thargomindah Station in 1864.

There is something for everyone along the track with historic pubs, old Cob and Co pubs, opal mining, paddle steamers and fishing in any of the four rivers that you will cross.  The bird watching in this part of the outback is fantastic as well.  There is a variety of unique accommodation to be found along the way or plenty of camping spots to choose from.

Then there are the National Parks and Station Stays like ours that offer a great insight into life on the land in this arid environment. The track is mainly dirt but there are occasional stretches of bitumen.  The local councils do a good job on the upkeep of the gravel parts but it’s wise to stay off the road for a few days after rain so as not to wreck the road and upset the locals!

The Bulloo Shire, established in 1880,  is one of the largest in Queensland covering an area of 73,807 ² Kms.  It has a  population of around 377 souls and 220 of them live and work in Thargomindah, the hub of the shire. The main industries in the shire are wool, beef, opals, oil and gas, and of course working for the local council.  In 1961 there were 772 people in the shire, back then there were many more people employed on stations and lots more shearers around than there are now.

Other towns and localities in the shire include Hungerford right on the Paroo River and famous for its old pub, bi – annual field day and for being on the NSW – QLD border.  Don’t forget to ask the publican if you can check out the monstrous big cellar underneath the pub!

Then there is Noccundra on the Wilson River, famous for its gymkhana, beautiful waterhole and its ancient pub.  And yes you can fly into Noccundra and taxi right up to the pubs back door.

There is the ghost town of Oontoo over near the SA Border, sort of famous for not being there anymore.  But lots of people try to find it and its even on google.

Cameron Corner is where 3 states meet and there you will find The Corner Store stocked up with lots of goodies for the weary traveller.  This is a great spot to celebrate New Years Eve.  Just don’t ask the bloke behind the counter what sort of pies he’s got.  He’ll tell you he’s got round ones.

The Burke and Wills dig tree is just up the road a couple of hundred kilometres, a great camping spot right on Cooper Creek, steeped in history.  You can fly into all these places and it’s a great way to get around but of course you really get the feel of the outback by driving and driving and driving!  A lot of the roads are bitumen but there is still plenty of dirt ones around too.

The channel country of Cooper Creek and the Bulloo River overflow are magical places to see in good seasons, the variety of birds, small marsupials, lizards, frogs and snakes is astounding, as well as the assortment of bushes, grasses and forbs that just appear after floods.

And lastly Thargomindah has just about everything the discerning traveller needs including a Toyota dealer ( anything else take it to Turnouts ) an RACQ service, a pub ( home of Surly Shirley ), historic buildings, a new coffee shop, caravan parks, motels, fishing in the river and a visitor info centre.

The mailman coming in our front driveway - Kilcowera Station

The mailman coming in our front driveway – Kilcowera Station

We love our volunteers!

April 15, 2015

Volunteer learning to ride motorbike.

Volunteer learning to ride motorbike.

We so appreciate the lovely, usually young people who come out to stay with us for up to 2 or 3 months at a time.  We have had French, British, Swiss, Chinese, Portuguese, American, German, Indonesian and a few more that I can’t remember exactly.  Mostly they are terrific, willing to learn new life skills and to share a few of their skills with us.  Our only problem is finding enough for them to do so they don’t get bored!

A few of our visitors have also helped us out on occasion and enabled us to get away for a bit of a break together. When you think of it – it’s quite a daunting task to take on the running of the station all on your own but they have done the job admirably.  Now where is the next one?  I would love to get away again to see my new grandson!

Our latest volunteer came to us via the website Workaway which we find to be the best one.  She was only 21, from Germany and had terrific English – always a bonus!  She had previously worked on a station in Western Australia for 6 months as a volunteer!  Alongside paid workers who were lazy and at times uncaring in their attitude to the work asked of them.  But Fran loved everything about working on the station – most of all the mustering and the yardwork with the cattle.  She has since moved on to a paid job, mustering, not too far from us.  So she might be back again one day.

Our next volunteer from Norway arrives soon; he has been working on a farm in New Zealand for the last month.  I really take my hat off to these young people who are travelling the world, having fun, contributing and helping out in so many ways.  There are many businesses in the west who could not survive without the worldly backpackers filling the positions that no one else seems to want.  They are not all volunteers of course – some get paid pretty well and have food and lodging provided so they can save for their next trip.  But ours are mostly volunteers, sometimes we have to pick them up from Cunnamulla or Bourke other times they have gotten a lift in the mail truck ( an experience!) and some have their own cars which is the best way to get to us.

Kilcowera Station - Life on an outback Queensland Cattle Station

Our local area. Our local area.

I hope that lots of our potential visitors have a look at this blog, cause it could save them a bit of grief!  See that little track that appears to come up to Kilcowera from the south? Well – I’ll let you in on a little secret – it doesnt exist anymore!  It’s actually on a neighbours place, is a private road and only leads to a windmill.  It is also literally clearly marked with signs as being a private road with no access to anybody.

So there you have it – the ONLY way into Kilcowera is the access road in from the west!

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Squash and corn relish, homemade at Kilcowera Station.

Squash and corn relish, homemade at Kilcowera Station.

Once upon a time we populated the west with Guinea Pigs!  Yes – we had 2 as pets when our girls were small.  Blackie and Blossom.  Whenever we attended any function we would take a little box with a guinea pig or two in it to give away.  The other parents tried to avoid us – but we were cunning – we made our move directly through the kids!  They were lovely little pets.

My vegetable garden is also producing very well these days. At the moment its zucchinis and button squash.  We have been giving away as many as possible but this is difficult when we don’t go anywhere much and they just keep piling up in the cold room.  I have made mention in a previous post about what to do with the zuchs now it’s the squash that are really multiplying!  And do you know – not too long ago I paid $4.99 for 4 little yellow squash at my local store!  Now I have about a hundred of them lurking in bags in the coldroom.

I also had a few ears of corn that didn’t look like it was going to be eaten any time soon so decided to make some corn relish.  Well, really, it’s squash relish with corn – my only hurdle was not enough corn to really justify using stacks of the squash.  But I managed to use about 15 of them, along with home grown capsicum, chillies and okra.  So all up, I am very pleased with the result.  Just as well that we both like hot and spicy food – cause those chillies have a bite to them!

From the bounty of my little veggie garden I now have numerous bottles of the following: Tomato Relish, bread and butter cucumbers, bread and butter zucchinis, pickled chillies, gooseberry and mulberry jam and now corn and squash relish.  Won’t be needing to buy any condiments for awhile!  🙂

The former athletic gate on Kilcowera Station

The former athletic gate on Kilcowera Station

I always have a bit of a giggle to myself when the odd visitor whinges about the gates on the drive into Kilcowera.  All three of them.  There has been many a suggestion about putting ramps or grids in to make the experience more user friendly.  Hard luck!  The middle gate on the way in was a real doozy – unless you knew just how to treat it, it would give the unwary a pretty good workout.  You bring one side to the middle, head over to the other half and by the time you have it in the middle the first half has swung open again.  We in the bush call these athletic gates. Rest easy – it is perfectly balanced now and operates in a perfectly boring and mundane manner. One chap commented it was worth the camping fee just to watch his wife doing battle with it!

Back in the eighties there were 14 gates on the road to town.  But being young and enthusiastic this didn’t deter us one iota.  After all the bloke always drove and the missus and the kids did the gates!  The only exception was if the missus was getting a bit long in the tooth or was done up in her finery and had high heels on.  But this was a rarity.  The other exception was when the missus had to both, drive home in the dark and do the gates because himself had a load on and was snoring in the seat next to her!

We had one gate not too far from the house at the back of the horse paddock, made of wire and logs.  I swear it was the heaviest and most cumbersome gate ever invented.  Only a few years ago Greg replaced it with a swinging gate so our visitors had an easier time with it.  But I know the ulterior motive was so the bloody thing would be shut properly, not in some half baked way because they couldn’t work out what to do with it!

This is something we have noticed over the years – people can undo a gate, but getting it back together the correct way is much more challenging!  I suppose we all have our fields of expertise.

Dingo Barrier Fence workers, Outback accommodation, Kilcowera Station

Dingo Barrier Fence workers, Outback accommodation, Kilcowera Station

Doing a water run on the place also entails opening and shutting lots of them – sometimes up to  twenty ! The Dingo Barrier Fence boys have perfected the art of not going through anymore gates than they have to on their inspections of the fence.  After all they don’t have to pay for the fuel and it’s not their car they are driving.  They will drive 10 times the distance to get somewhere and to get out of opening and shutting a gate.  And there are always two of them, so it’s not like it’s one bloke has to open the gate, get back in the car, drive through and shut the gate.

We just live with them, they don’t bother us too much, the gates are there, they need to be open and shut and that’s all there is to it.