AUSSIEPICS

The Gympie Run, 2011.


I've found that I don't really need to explain the Gympie Music Muster to most Australians. For those that don't already know this, the Gypmie Music Muster is an annual pilgrimage of country music people to a patch of state forest near Amamoor. The closest major population center is the city of Gympie. All this is only a couple of hundred kilometers up the freeway from Brisbane. Alternatively it's approximately 2520 km's from home via the back roads. Most of what I'm about to include is from the five thousand kilometer round trip there and back. Maybe a few snaps from the Muster will sneak their way in but they do request that photo's are taken "for personal use only". I'm non-commercial but these pages do tend to get a wide audience (approx 2000 unique ip's access the site each month) so I'll keep my end of that bargain.

For more on the Muster .. check things out here Gympie Muster Website

For our story and some of what we saw on the road, just scroll down and see what turns up.



A farmer's shed among fields of canola.

A farmer's shed among fields of canola.








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An Echidna starting to dig in beside the road after having been disturbed.

An Echidna starting to dig in beside the road after having been disturbed.

The reason he was 'disturbed' is that I not only punted him off the road with my boot but because I then proceeded to poke various cameras in his direction. I got an exclamation of dismay the first time I wrote that, but roads aren't naturally tenable places for slow moving echidnas and there was additionally, a truck bearing down that had the potential to make a bit of a mess. There is really quite a lot of roadside carnage on outback roads in Australia, there are few places in the world where I've seen this mentioned or recorded to the extent you can see here. I couldn't tell you how many kangaroos, wallabies, pigs, goats, sheep, cows, snakes, emus, and even birds we saw on the way. You've either seen it before and come to terms with it already, or you've got a big shock coming the first time you do any long distance outback driving in Australia. Back to Echidnas however, this is what they do when you start being a nuisance. Once it's dug in an inch or two it's pretty much impregnable to anything that feels pain. The quills are quite sharp and even being careful I managed to stick one through the elastic sides of my boots, something I can assure you I will be a little more careful of in the future.








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Echidna from rear showing the spiky balls of its tail.
Echidna from rear showing the spiky balls of its tail(s?).
Detail where the Echidna's spines interweave along its spine.
Detail where the Echidna's spines interweave along its spine.

I thought I'd add these couple of shots in as the mental image most people probably have of an echidna is a sort of flat ball of spikes with a nose at one end and feet out the corners. I can't show you the nose-at-one-end bit because by the time I'd shooshed him (her?) off the road with my boot and the truck had roared past the digging had commenced and that particular feature was staying well out of the danger zone.








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Road signs on the Kidman highway inlude the run to Euabalong.

Road signs on the Kidman highway inlude the run to Euabalong.

Did you ever listen to the Aussie folk song (here's the words) about the Euabalong ball, and not knowing any better assume it was some derivative of "you-belong"? ..'cause I did. (Although in the soundbite on this page I notice it is pronounced more clearly than in the version my iTunes has. In fact, now I look, the Finch/Leonard version I have is even spelt incorrectly so I feel a bit justified in getting things wrong now. The 77km's to Euabalong pointed to by this sign is the dodgiest of at least four ways to get there however as it runs along the Lachlan river, I think on some more leisurly trip this is the one I will take, and I will see if there still is a Euabalong hall where a Euabalong ball may have been held, and if there is I'll post a pic here for all of us.








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Something odd in Cobar

Something odd in Cobar.

I have no idea what this was built for, the small green sign implies they dump oil in there now. We only went and had a look because I refused to believe that a large outback town could have been taken over by a single (admittedly oversized) dalek without someone picking this up for the mainstream news. Possibly I'd missed the news, I often do, or possibly the lads in Cobar had captured one (you don't mess with outback boys even if you are supposed to be a 'master race') and it was just sitting around going rusty. I kind of imagine if a dalek was to try its luck in the outback, someone would not only kick its ass, but then turn it into something useful around the farm.








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Redback bootprint in red outback dust

Redback bootprint in red outback dust

Excuse me while I have a bit of a Neil Armstrong moment. Neil? .. This NASA site and This other NASA site show the same image, albiet reversed on one of the sites (for some reason?.. conspiracy theorists might find that intriguing), but don't attibute it to anyone in particular. The second of the two linked sites attributes the photography to Edwin (Buzz) Aldwin, so he may have taken a photo of his own footprint. Still the footprint looks as if it was taken from behind, and it's generally reported and accepted that Neil was first, Buzz would more probably have taken a photo of the footprint in front of him rather than double back on himself to take a shot of his own. No proof of anything there at all really.

Either way, my footprint would have well and truly blown away by now unlike the one on the moon, unless lift-off blew it away, the moon one it will remain until someone goes back and disturbs it. I do like the colour in my version however. The moon is definately not as red as Gunderbooka National Park.








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Looking out along the galactic plane, or straight up, depending on your point of view.

Looking out along the galactic plane, or straight up, depending on your point of view.

Still in a vaguely astronical frame of mind (see previous pic) this is something you don't see in the city. Not that it's exactly what you see in the outback either. This has been 'pushed' a little to bring out the contrast. Black images with white dots are all very well but all these stars really do come across as having different colours and just a little push gives such a striking image.








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Goats on the road out of Gunderbooka National Park.

Goats on the road out of Gunderbooka National Park.

Bloody Goats, I think there's another push to have a huge culling run. Like Kangaroo's the only real likelyhood of getting these under control for the long term is commercialisation, but unlike Kangaroo, goat products stink and taste awful so it's going to be a long way off. The road looks flat and soft but in contrast to last time I was on there, it's covered in fine corrugations and water lines and I ended up letting the tyres down to travel on it. Another chap with a caravan made it down about 3 k's before turning around and heading out. Don't let that put you off though, this sort of road is always pretty variable and it could be even worse, or it could be heaps better each time you go there. It is a reminder though, if you're going outback with highway pressure tyres, be prepared to let them down a bit, and probably carry a small compressor so you can put them back when you hit the bitumen (a thousand k's on under inflated tyres will probably blow your casings and leave you in --a spot of bother-- on the side of the road)








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Carp in the Bogan River

Carp in the Bogan River

Here's one I don't normally get to present; Fish, and in this case another introduced pest. Carp. No idea what these are good for, and not sure that anyone else has figured it out yet either. This is the Bogan river by the way, so think Moccies, beanies, blueys, flannies, and double-denim, which is embarrasingly close to a description of my wardrobe. Luckily I have redeeming qualities.








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A pair of Brolgas

A pair of Brolgas

There you go, I've never shot a brolga before, and I spent quite a bit of time in a couple of locations trying to get it right. This shot as it happens is one of the early ones. A couple I stalked for a while (I'm using the word 'stalk' rather loosely here) ended up flying off and H got rather a nice shot of the pair in flight. Here is some Brolga information to follow that up with. The pair in my photo would be slightly over six foot (182cm) tall and that seems pretty normal.








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H, Stalking

H, Stalking

I believe I just mentioned "H" and stalking, above. She is better than I am at this sort of thing.








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Openbah Rd. - Whyenbah Rd. intersection.

Openbah Rd. - Whyenbah Rd. intersection.

Not showing you this would be a hell of an omission. If the penny hasn't dropped yet, read that sign aloud, but I think you get it. We're a long way up this road following a less than poetic nights camping at a crowded bit of flat stuff at Dirranbandi and we've decided to go dirt rather than follow the bitumen up to St. George. This road isn't named on the map, we just came up to it unexpectedly and started laughing. We did actually get to Whyenbah, but I still maintain that turning left would have been more rewarding.








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Scrub in a lake
Scrub in a lake

Still either on the Whyenbah road, or near it. We weren't particularly concerned and the map book at this level is more overview than reality. There's a bunch of very large (small towns take up less space) paddocks, all laser-levelled up and ready for cotton. There's also a suspiciously uniform lake in the Balonne river. I would take a guess it's not entirely natural but it is very pretty and peaceful.








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Horse in the mist pre-dawn
Horse in the mist, pre-dawn
Magpie on a fence pre-dawn
Magpie on a fence, pre-dawn
Roo in the scrub pre-dawn
Roo in the scrub, pre-dawn



Some Kangaroos having a spot of breakfast just after sunrise.
Some Kangaroos having a spot of breakfast just after sunrise.

We were about to go further west to Charleville before dropping down to Cunnamulla but we found H's parents (also addicted to road-tripping) were down in St. George and we turned left and rode through this hundred-mile thunderstorm (which may be a slight exageration but it provided some wonderful lighting and lightning, and a cool face in the clouds) Getting up in the morning at St. George I wasn't alone, I got half of this with a toothbrush stuck out the side of my face. We still went over to Cunnamulla, we just didn't see Charleville this trip. Cunnamulla is either a mistake or an opportunity, if you want to make time, the fastest way south is back east, we went south on the Cobb, a fairly large percentage of this "highway" has never seen anything more complicated than a grader and where there is some bitumen it is pretty basic one lane stuff.

The Cobb Hwy by the way is "The Long Paddock" , our friends came up this way and followed the trail of history which is laid out all along it. I wish I had of stopped for a fist sized squishy-cow but I guess it gives me another reason to go back eh.








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Storm shots from the Carnavon Highway
Storm shots from the Carnavon Highway
Storm shots from the Carnavon Highway

Storm shots from the Carnavon Highway. Pulling over in the red dust was interesting. Real 'red dust' is very fine (I have a couple of hundred grams of it that I saved, it's in the shed) and when it gets wet, it starts off being treacherous, until it gets too wet and you can't get enough traction to do anything more exciting than dig holes in the road. This was the only (real) rain we came across, and I'm glad we had a bitumen strip to drive on. (ha ha.. yes, ok, not counting the very very real rain that we stood, sat, and danced in while actually at the Muster.)








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Abandoned stock gate

Abandoned stock gate

At the Muster, John Williamson was describing some parts of South Australia as pretty "marginal". We went through some pretty marginal territory ourselves just north of the dog fence. Some of the traces are still lying around but as more of us get easier access to these places we noticed a tendancy for tourists to move things around and take souveniers away. So far this old cockie's-gate is still lying in the dust being a reminder of what once was. No doubt someone will pick it up one day, frame it and sell it to a foreign corporate to mount on their boardroom wall so that they can impress visitors with their 'Australianism'. Can you tell I'm not a fan of that, but on the other hand it's not doing anything where it is so I'm sure the alternative argument seems just as logical to someone.

Anyway.. shout-out to the Hungerford pub while we're (in-page) passing. Great place you've got running there.








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Wilcannia sidewalk

Wilcannia sidewalk

We covered a lot of ground in one hit between St. George and Wilcannia, via Cunnamulla, the dog fence at Hungerford, Wanaaring, and a night run into White Cliffs where we stopped the night. The direct road to Wilcannia was washed out but it was worth the detour. When we hit Wilcannia first thing the next morning the first thing to mention is don't stop at the united, it was 12 cents a litre more expensive than the BP which is only one block off the main drag. Wilcannia seems to be a town that's rebuilding itself. There are a lot of beautiful sandstone buildings in extremely good repair and poking a lens through a broken window gives shots of rebuilding works underway. Stop in at Miss Barrett's bits-and-bobs for the local handmade newspaper and get the full story, it's worth it and the coffee was good too. The Paroo - Darling National Park is just north and at the time of evening we went through there (don't actually know but it had been dark for a fair couple of hours) we noted at least four grey feral cats (so returning to the subject from earlier on introduced pests, and those who know me know that I have a cat of my own and love them all, but bloody hell, get the things neutered will you!)








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Queens Head hotel, Wilcannia, Showing imminent signs of restoration.

Queens Head hotel, Wilcannia, Showing imminent signs of restoration.

More evidence of a rebirth in Wilcannia. The newspaper I was referring to earlier mentions this place and it is listed on the national register so in theory it's protected and will retain its character while it gets cleaned up. Whether it opens as pub again.. well, we'll have to go back and find out one day.








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Pelicans in Wilcannia

Pelicans in Wilcannia

I bet you probably think of pelicans as sea birds too yes? .. Actually all our major inland waterways seem to have a pelican population, and Wilcannia sits on the Darling which is one of the biggies. I still looked up and managed to be totally suprised to see four pelicans in formation. It didn't help to see an entire flock of them 30 seconds later as I followed the first four. They do look pretty good wheeling around like giant seagulls and somehow they've got flying down to an art rather than the frantic flapping a seagull will get involved in, pelicans just revolve around the sky with tiny flicks of their wingtips, a bit like eagles I suppose.








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Dawn light on mist alongside the Murrumbidgee

Dawn light on mist alongside the Murrumbidgee

Sorry, but to compeletely change the mood of the page for a moment, does this (where we woke up on the final morning) remind anyone else of the swamp that Luke dunked the x-wing into when he went to visit Yoda? I've got a couple of other shots that have ducks basking in the golden glow but this one is most evokative of that scene from Star wars.








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And, a whole bunch of snaps from the dashboard camera (mostly). I edited one of them a bit, you might be able to work out which one.












Long Paddock Cow on Tec



..thanks.






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