After several nights bush camping, it was time to find some hot showers and a washing machine, so into the big smoke - Blackall - it was. We discovered that all this time we had been 'beyond the Black Stump' and that now we were returning to civilisation. The original Black Stump, as the locals tell it, is here in Blackall and was a real stump that the early surveyors of the region used to rest their theodolite rather than their heavy tripod. Anything west of this marker was then Beyond the Black Stump. A big monument is set up around it with suitable signage and a story painted on a big board. Trouble is, the original black stump burned to the ground some years ago and so now there is a nifty piece of petrified wood taking its place - can't burn that one down…
The caravan park where we decided to spend the night was less than ideal. After we arrived and set up, the shiny four-wheel drives (those that have never been off-road) towing their enormous caravans started to flow in. We were packed in like sardines!! But a hot shower, albeit of smelly, sulphurous artesian water, can soothe one considerably, as can a washing line full of clean clothes. That night we had an extra treat. Here, in yet another country caravan park, was yet another country singer to entertain us. Graham Rodger, who, we were assured has won swags of Golden Guitar awards at Tamworth, played and sang for an hour. And how thegrey-haired audience loved to sing along - they knew every word…
After the entertainment, we dined on a camp oven dinner provided by the management (at a cost of course) - roast beef and vegies. The cook looked horrified when I refused some pumpkin - and doubly horrified when Russ also refused it. Guess this is Queensland and pumpkin is revered - Russ and I just dislike it… a lot. The meal was OK - we didn't have to cook which was a bonus - but the freshly cooked damper with Cocky's Joy afterward was a treat.
Blackall is like most country towns we have been to. It is slowly dying and there is plenty of evidence of this in the closed shops on the main street. Tourism seems to be all that is keeping many of them going and so, of course, they love the grey nomads who spend money in town. Locals admit that the travellers are keeping them going. A couple of kilometres outside the township is the Blackall Wool Scour. This incredible piece of history is Blackall's tourist big thing. It is the only steam-driven wool scour left in the country and in its day employed over 100 people to wash and bale the clean wool which was much more valuable to sell than the untreated fleeces. A dedicated group of people have restored the old buildings, completely rebuilt the old steam engines and other machinery and it is all in working order and operating for anyone to see. Also attached is a 20-stand shearing shed with old shearing equipment. Stock yards, hand-built of gidgee timber, still stand after all these years and a rail line still has the dolly used to bring the timber in to feed the boilers. Water from an artesian bore still flows to supply the boiler with the added benefit of arriving at the surface a hot 55°C. We arrived for the first tour at 9am and were the only ones there so our tour became a private one and our guide was full of interesting information and stories.
But Blackall was not big enough to hold us for much longer and we took to the blacktop once again to the little town of Tambo down the road. Tambo's biggest attraction appears to be a little shop called Tambo's Teddies and every traveller was being offered free raffle tickets to win a teddy… we have 4 tickets… But the little main street has some lovely old buildings and the former post office and telegraph office have been converted to little local history museums - it appears that these little local history societies are doing a great job preserving the past in these little outback towns.
But we did not fancy another night in an overcrowded caravan park so it was off into the bush again.