A four day birthday weekend, 2,500 km road trip, to a little Queensland country town, 'Yaraka' population 12, to do some 'recon' as to where a dismantled rail bridge had been, that we seemed to had pretty much bought most of, 14 years ago, to help build our house.
A trip that opened our minds and hearts to the great Aussie Outback.
Okay, so a little explanation might be required. In 2006, we started a very long and tedious project, of building our own house in the beautiful Gold Coast Hinterland. We only had a handful of workers, and ourselves building this dream, and after 7 years of what we call in Australia 'Shed Dwelling', we moved from the tiny shed we shared with our two kids, into our 'nowhere yet finished' home.
We used a lot of recycled timber in it, the main feature were many, many ex rail bridge pylons and supports - beautiful Australian hardwood, over a century old, 300 x 300mm square and octagonal beams that make up a lot of structural and feature use, and we love them.
So, all we knew when we bought them, was that they were from an old rail bridge, from Yaraka, near the Blackall Range, in Central Western Queensland.
Well, one fine day a few months ago, we decided that we'd get away for a long weekend, to celebrate my birthday in the slightly cooler month of April...
and drive to the Outback, to find this little town.
And find it we did. That, and so much more.
We found a town that the outside world has near forgot. A once thriving rural community that helped supply Australia, and the world,
with sheep and wool -
"Australia rode off the sheep's back from the 1860's to the 1960's".
And Yaraka was a large part of that, with graziers enjoying the best pastoral land in miles, when not crippled by drought.
Now, only a few old buildings remain, namely the original train station, which, happily, has been turned into a tiny museum, with many old photos of the golden days, lining the walls.
It's always open, (actually, there's no need to lock anything around here, even our rooms at the Hotel didn't have a key), and you are free to wander though, take photos, sign the visitor's book, and imagine the days of old.
And of course,
The Hotel/Pub. Aint no town without one!
The original hotel burnt down in 1930, and the current one has been there since 1932.
I think in 13 years we definitely should head out there for their 100 year celebrations!
It has a warm and cosy restaurant, with wonderful memorabilia and souvenirs as well as a fireplace, a welcoming well stocked bar, and 4 rooms to rent out the back at
only $60 p/n. (2019).
There are also 3 x powered caravan sites, you can hire for only $3 a night. Comes with a pool too! All one's needs - oh, and an outside dunny/thunderbox... plus a graffiti wall where you can sign your name...even a former Prime Minister has signed it!
Home cooked food was great too!
Aptly named, 'Cyclone Trevor'... had come through the outback in the weeks leading up to our visit, so much so that the roads only opened up literally just days before we attempted to
drive through them.
Thanks Trev, you cast many shades of green over what is usually red/brown dust, and we were treated to the rare spectacle, of the desert land springing to life after many years of drought. (Feed for the wildlife had been that scarce, that kangaroos where found coming up to the houses and eating the straw from the brooms. Heartbreaking.)
But now, the locals were rejoicing!
It was glorious.
The sun was starting to set lower in the sky, so we headed for the standout feature of the area, Mt Slowcombe.
It's a table top styled hill, standing alone, with a good, yet winding sealed road up to the top, and once there, you have a picnic area, gas BBQ, and toilets. When we arrived, we were all on our own, which was awesome. Actually, the 2 hour drive each way from Blackall to Yaraka saw no one on the road bar us, and some cows. We love that.
But, before we got to drive up there, we cruised through the empty streets of Yaraka, and spotted the group of 5 emus that wander the town, and often they come to some folks if they whistle. The Yaraka Hotel has a bucket of water out the front always, so they can quench their thirst.
Story has it, when a local paddock was cleared of scrub,
they found a clutch of abandoned eggs. Some locals wrapped them up, took them in, and before too long, they heard a tap, tap, tap, and...like a scene from Jurassic Park, they pecked their way out of their shells, and imprinted on their caretakers!
They tell me that the emus are about 18 months old now, and apparently they are all males, so I'm assuming it won't be long before they venture out into the wilderness to look for mates. That won't be a problem, I hope, as we certainly passed plenty of wild emus on our drive to Yaraka.
I was so thrilled to get this emu experience, as I had been 'camera ready' the whole drive from Blackall. I had been aching for an emu photo, but just as they seemed to appear from nowhere, you are travelling at speed and you tend to miss the opportunity. I once got Trev, reluctantly I might add, to turn around and go back as the emu was fairly close to the road. Well, when I got out of the car, that was it... - he was 'off like a rocket'. So, to find them wandering around our destination, all friendly and happy for a selfie, was an absolute gift!
Bidding farewell to our feather duster friends, we headed up to Mt Slowcombe, this time dodging a few kangaroos along the way.
They have a war memorial and a couple of Aussie flags up there, and it certainly is a beautiful spot where people come from all over the outback for the dawn Anzac Day service.
360 degree views, of all green now, and the Yang Yang range in the distance, with little Yaraka sitting down there somewhere, all on it's lonesome. It was a beautiful place to crack open a couple of coldies from the esky, sit on the tailgate of the ute, and just listen to the silence. Oh, but the flies!
OMG, don't yawn, you'll inhale about 10. Good thing we went to the local store and bought a couple of fly nets to cover our heads, they ended up being a godsend, particularly the fact they had no repellent in stock!
Back to town via a beautiful drive down the mountain,
(I've added the video to my wall), and a few more sunset shots whilst we can.
We seem to have almost forgotten why we had come... It's so much more now, than just about where our timber came from. That now, is a bonus. We simply love being out here, with it's isolation, it's history, and the friendly people who call it home. Time for afternoon drinks, then a birthday dinner!
With a few locals turning up, it was great to shout the bar a round of drinks to kick things off.
We had a fabulous evening, enjoying some delicious food... I was joking around and asked that our homemade pizza be served in a box, so that ended up doubling as my card. Excellent!
They even had a cake for me, and the numbers 52 had been kindly turned around to make 25!
Although, thanks to a few too many celebratory drinks, I felt every bit of 52 the next day...!
Never miss a moment, and what a unique place, with good honest folk, to spend another birthday.
Thank you to all at the Yaraka Hotel.
A few last photos around the town the next morning, and our long journey home had to begin. That's OK, we love road trips, and equipped with plenty of tunes, off we headed, with the idea of stopping at anything that caught our eye. Never knew when or if we'd return, although, one day, we'd love to.
Also, it was time to find where our rail bridge timber had come from.
I used to think it was cliché when in Aussie movies, they often would film some sort of wildlife looking at you, or crossing the road. Yup, it's pretty much the case.
See how his neck is hanging down? It's a sign of anger... He was cranky at me for getting close, so, knowing the strength of those claws...
I didn't dare test my luck.
Driving back through Blackall, we stopped at the famous Australian legend,
'The Black Stump'.
Have a read of the sign, it explains it all.
Finding where this elusive bridge of ours had been, proved to be impossible. There are no huge gullies around these plains, just suggestions of elevated areas of where the track had gone over low lying ground, so that's where we believe our timber originated.
We did, however, a bit further down the line, find some old timber bridges that were still operational, so we photographed these, as an example of how our timber had been used originally. We just love the photos we took, and they will end up as black and whites, gracing a wall in our home, along with some of the old original Yaraka train photos, as well as some old rail tacks that we had picked up that we'll make into coat hooks.
A homage to the history of where it all began.
Mission accomplished - sort of.
We were happy to see what it would have looked like.
Onwards towards home, with a couple of further photo stops...
Had to get Trev to hug Roma's largest Bottle Tree, sorry Trev, as well as my obligatory windmill shot, (one day I'll get it at sunset...) and a lovely field of cotton growing.
I had never seen a cotton field before!
So, that's it!
A four day trip, that seemed like a week. New friends made, again, as well as our first honest experience with the
Aussie Outback. I can't really describe how wonderfully different it was to be out there. No traffic.
Like Antarctica, haha, but hot, dry, and colourful.
Emus, not penguins.
Another inspiring and memorable journey. We will return.