026. 17th May 2007. Barcaldine here we come…
It threw a spanner in the works.
So to speak.
I chose to go ahead with the trip anyway. Barcy, as it is affectionately known is about 900 Klms from home, sort of as the crow flies. It meant for a long drive on day one as I had previously agreed to meet up with fellow Sugarloafers, Syd Bonehill and Reg & Marge Frost on R&M’s sapphire mining lease, at, of all places, Sapphire. This was a trip well in excess of 400 Klms which I sort of considered the halfway mark and another day of similar travel would see me in Barcy. Part of the reason for getting to Barcy on Friday was to take part in the longest line of motorhomes. We were trying to beat a world record. We wanted around 700 motorhomes in a line on the road rolling along at 10Klms per hour to break the record set by an Italian motorhome club. Easy we said!
I arrived at Sapphire about 5pm, after a long day of driving. Syd came down to meet me and to guide me back to R&M’s lease. I would never have found it by myself. So we had a happy hour followed by dinner in the basic shed made out of rough logs, iron roof – complete with holes – iron wall on one side and hessian sacking on another side and the other two sides open. Old benches were along the two walled sides and hessian sacks and a bit of carpet made up the flooring in what otherwise was a dirt floor. Cooking was done here and their motorhome was for sleeping. A pit toilet and tool shed was a dozen metres away. The mine shaft was covered with sheets of iron while R&M were away. Batteries and a generator supplied power. In these conditions R&M toiled day in and day out looking for “colour”. I am sure they welcomed the trip to Barcy as a bit of a holiday.
Next day we headed west on what I thought would be another long day and in my mind an expectation of a late arrival in Barcy. We left early and the morning flew by. It was not long before I reached Drummond Range and a nice lookout where about 20 motorhomes had camped during the night. From there I was in Alpha in time for a cup of coffee and toasted sandwich for morning tea.
Then on to the quaint town of Jericho where I stopped to look at a small drive-in movie theatre right on the
road and depiction of the Biblical story of the escape from Egypt across the road.
Imagine this! Jericho is on the banks of the Jordan Creek!
The drive-in was quite interesting having only 30 sound boxes and movies once a month. The projection room had a viewing area to each side called the chicken coops. Canvas deck chairs were the front row, stalls, deluxe lounge and peanut gallery. The locals told me they walk to the movies and it is always crowded.
Next stop Barcy and it was just a little past lunchtime so I had a quick look at the Tree of Knowledge.
Bought a sandwich and decided to head towards Aramac where Syd had arranged overnight camping in the Police paddocks. On the Aramac Road where on the next day, 700 rigs would line up, I noticed a sign to ask motorhomes to line up. There were already about 50 motorhomes in a line so I did a U-turn, parked behind the last motorhome and joined in the spreading spirit of expectation.
I walked to the front of the line saying hello as I went. I then walked to the end of the line counting as I went. The line by now was considerably longer and well past my rig. A spirit of camaraderie prevailed with lots of visiting and being visited.
It was a strange feeling being camped in a long line of motorhomes on the black soil plains. Considering the number of people out here it was so quiet. I ate dinner outside and just watched as the sky grew darker. I even had mobile reception with our new LG TU 500 mobile phone and Telestra Next G service. One of the topics of conversation was we were all parked on the side of the road on black soil. The slightest rain and it turns to a sticky mess and motorhome bogging quagmire. We all cast a serious eye on the clouds building up in the distance. We need not have been concerned it did not rain in Barcy for another year and then they got flooded. Good thing they are on bore water.
By 8.30 pm there were few lights on along the line. By 9.30, motorhome midnight, I stepped out onto the road – which had not had a vehicle go past since about 7pm – and looked in both directions along the line. No lights anywhere except my motorhome and the loom of light cast by Barcy about 11 Klms in the distance.
I had no TV reception – I did not know it at the time but there was a loose wire in my booster and would not receive TV for a long time to come – so I read for a long time until drowsiness overcame me and I drifted in and out of sleep in anticipation of the morning.
All the people in the line I spoke to mentioned they could smell a sewerage type aroma. We all thought one or more people had a problem with holding tanks. I got an explanation almost a week later when I went to the ancient movie theatre in Barcy. Seems those funny trees out on the plains are Gidyea Trees. When they blossom and there is any moisture in the air, the blossoms give off the aroma of a leaking toilet! Wish I had known earlier. I emptied my toilet cassette every day until I found the truth. Sheesh!
Next morning I woke to motorhomes travelling past looking for the end of the line.
Some hours later and behind schedule we heard the words over the UHF. “Ladies & Gentlemen, start your engines.” Of course it was several hours later before the people at the end of the line actually rolled past the official counter.
I was already parked up inside the showgrounds by 10am and at 2pm I was still watching as motorhomes rolled into town. Disappointingly we were 39 motorhomes short of a record!
Bugga Bugga Bugga.
Still it was fun and I would do it again.
After a week at Barcy Showgrounds it was all over.
Six months later there would be another rally somewhere else. In my time there I developed affection for the town and enjoyed walking the streets and looking at the old historical buildings.
The old theatre was an eye opener. It was a huge barn like building with free standing screens along both sides to help make the place look smaller. The chairs were canvas deck chairs if that was a bit uncomfortable there were cushions available. At the end of each row of deck chairs was a waste paper basket. Tea coffee and biscuits were available as a bottomless cup. All this for a fixed price for everybody of $7.00.
It was quite the experience.
Some of the old pubs were worth a visit and for the same low price of $7.00 I was able to have a large meal two
nights in a row. Although I never ventured inside, the hospital was quite large and modern and just across the street from the showgrounds were the rally was held.
I took a couple of days to head out to Lloyd Jones Weir
which although seriously low on water was an attractive oasis in the midst of some very dry country. Although only a short drive out of town I was appalled at the amount of road kill on a short section of road. The variety of dead animals was a surprise as well. Not just the usual kangaroo but emu, wild pig, an eagle, even a large feral cat. Driving back through Barcy two days later I was surprised to see perhaps a hundred motorhomes around town.
As readers will no doubt know by now, I enjoy a good hot meat pie and a cold beer. Heck I can even enjoy a hot meat pie without the beer. Does that make me multi talented? So it was I visited the bakery in Barcy. (not all country towns have a bakery these days – mores the pity) The pie was OK but although fresh out of the pie warmer it was not hot and a bit on the dry side. Still it was the only pie in town. Although there are several pubs in town none served a pie with peas chips and gravy for lunch. Shame on them! How do I know? Because I walked to all of them and asked. Even had dinner at three of them.
On the return journey I took a little more time to look at my surroundings, realising this whole area was known as Major Mitchell country. Mitchell Grass. Major Mitchell Cockatoo and who knows what other Mitchell names.
My arrival in Alpha coincided with midday so I parked at the railway station and walked across to the bakery. Pie time! I bought two different varieties and sat in the bus with a quiet beer and sampled the offering. Geez! It must have been the same recipe they used in Barcy! They were Ok but I have had more exciting frozen pies.
Nearing the gem fields again the highway passes a railway town called Bogantungan which has no shops or fuel. However the countryside looked interesting and worthy of a bit of exploration one day.
What my trip gave to me was a desire to see more of this country, not just the coastal fringe which I love so much.
Next time I will take a bit more notice not only of the destination but what is on the way to the destination.
I also appreciated the words in this song.
Lyrics: Greyhound, Harry Chapin
It’s got to be the going not the
getting there that’s good
That’s a thought for keeping if I could.
It’s got to be the going not the
getting there that’s good.