Flying kites in Charleville
I liked Charleville: its wide, unbusy avenues that I could step back on to in search of the right angle without fear of being mown down; its smart historic buildings, dilapidated houses, deserted station, unfamiliar shop contents, garish commercial buildings, lazy river, and its park.
But most of all, I loved the hundreds and hundreds of silently circling Black Kites. For a large part of the day they were a sight to behold. Back east, you just don't see huge flocks of birds. I understand there used to be – the Rainbow Lorikeets of Currumbin on the Gold Coast, for instance – but no more. We had spotted the kites during the last couple of hundred kilometres yesterday, but in Charleville their numbers were staggering. It was almost eerie, but also magnificent. Little did we know at this stage of our journey that these whirling birds are an Outback hallmark.
Charleville is the main town of Murweh Shire: it sits on the Warrego River at the end of the Warrego Highway. It grew up around a watering hole and a crossing on a stock route. The town's wide streets were designed by an Irish surveyor, William Tully, to accommodate turning bullock teams and their wagons. He probably named the town after Charleville in Co Cork.
Following our long drive, we idled away a day in Charleville, wandering and observing whatever caught our eye. I'll let the pictures tell the story.
The Graham Andrews Parklands are worth a visit. Here you'll find the Vortex Rainmaking Guns that were used in 1902 in an attempt to alleviate a long-running drought. Invented in the 1880s by an Austrian, Albert Steiger, the 4-metre high steel cannons had been used in Europe to disperse hail clouds. Thirteen were made in Queensland and used in Roma and Harrisville as well as Charleville (6). Gunpowder was ignited and the explosion forced gas up through the funnel creating a pressure wave. As a result, differential pressure in the cloud above was supposed to stimulate rainfall. Unfortunately, it did not, but rain fell of its own accord a couple of months later.
The Park also includes an Outback Native Timber Walk. I am hopeless at identifying Australian trees and have vowed to learn how. This was the start of my education: Koolibah (above right), Red River Gum (below left) and Mulga.
There were extremely noisy Galahs in the park, even louder geese, busy Apostlebirds and many more, much quieter Black Kites.
I can't believe it's taken me three and a half years to stay in a motel or eat in a pub bearing the name of Australia's most famous anthem! Our hosts Stuart and Therese at the Waltzing Matilda Motor Inn were warm and welcoming and tried hard to make our stay relaxing as well as successful.
Therese scanned the afternoon sky trying to spirit the cloud away ready for our Cosmic experience. But it was not to be, again. This time I received the cancellation call while I was learning all about bilbies.
If you're in Charleville between April and October you can observe small, nocturnal, desert-dwelling marsupials known as bilbies, an Aboriginal word meaning long-nosed rat. Bilbies are essentially bandicoots that burrow. They are endangered as a result of habitat loss and the threat from feral animals, particularly cats. Conservation measures focus on breeding programmes and the reintroduction of bilbies to areas they once inhabited. A fenced enclosure was built and cleared of ferals in 2006 in Currawinya National Park about 350 km southwest of Charleville, which has a captive breeding programme. We observed mothers and babies. They were all much smaller than I had imagined and the babies were tiny yet capable of scampering quickly.
The disappointment of not being able to stargaze was mitigated slightly by little furry animals.
Back for pizza and beer in the cabin and packing ready for an early start down this road.