MT MOFFAT & BLACKALL 2017

The Blackall workshops are always a lot of fun. We get to meet people from surrounding sheep and cattle stations and local Blackall residents in the first workshop then folks fly in or drive from all over the place for the second workshop.

This year we left a couple of weeks early so we could visit Mt Moffat on the way west. Mt Moffat is part of the Carnarvon National Park. It connects to the head of Carnarvon Creek at the western end of Carnarvon Gorge and extends south.

Similar eroded, pale sandstone to Carnarvon Gorge is found throughout the Mt Moffat section. Access is by 4WD – there are some deeply rutted tracks, sandy sections and steep climbs up onto the plateau.

 

There are interesting sandstone formations and many escarpments and rock faces with aboriginal art work.

 

 

Confusing sign if you don’t read English!

 

We camped at Dargonelly Rock Hole. It was the only water source in the area, so animal and birdlife was pretty spectacular particularly early morning and late afternoon.

 

On top of the plateau the view stretched out in all directions. The plateau is over 1200 meters above sea level – the highest plateau in Queensland. We drove up to the head of Carnarvon Creek, where the track winds through a forest of giant Mahogany trees.

 

Small slab hut on the road into Mt. Moffat

 

We were lucky enough to arrive in Blackall the night six musicians, all from different countries, were performing at the Living Arts Center where we were staying. It was amazing how well such a diverse group of musicians could all blend perfectly into music from any of the six countries. It was great to meet these musicians and hear their stories.

 

 

Old River Gum late afternoon – Tambo

 

We had a couple of days between the two Blackall workshops, so drove out to Yaraka – the last town on the railway line before it closed down in the 1990’s. Below is the small settlement of Emmet along the same defunct railway line.

 

Lost Chev – Yaraka

 

Sunset on Mt Slowcombe near Yaraka

 

I love visiting the Blackall wool scour. It closed down years ago but has been kept in running condition as a tourist attraction. It looks like something from a horror movie. Everything is belt driven, powered by a steam engine. Over a kilometre of leather belts keep everything moving. With all this mechanical movement there is barely a sound – it is all so well built and maintained.

 

Heading home we passed the Roma sale yards where one of the weekly cattle sales were in progress. It’s an amazing event. Road trains arrive from near and far, cattle are unloaded, auctions take place then cattle are re loaded and delivered to the successful bidders. The auctioneers speak their own language at a speed only understandable by those in colored shirts and big hats. It really is a spectacle.

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UP THE STRZELECKI

Leaving Arkaroola we headed north along the Strzelecki track. It skirts the Strzelecki, Simpson and Sturt’s Stony Deserts. Most of the track was in good condition, but very dusty, which didn’t bother us much, since there was no traffic.

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88 (1)North Mulga Station – a long way from everywhere!

103Sturt’s Stony Desert

114Santos manage to suck oil out of all this dry sand.

90 (1)In 2010 this rig and all the others in the lower Strzelecki sat in 2 meters of water for the best part of 12 months. It’s hard to imagine that volume of water spread out over this incredibly flat land.

118These cattle must live on dirt and rocks – there doesn’t seem to be anything else to eat.

 

We spent a night at Innaminka on Coopers Creek, then wound our way over a slow track full of bad corrugations, washouts and bull dust. This took us to Coongie Lakes – a strange sight after winding over desert sandhills. The lake is massive and supports all sorts of birdlife

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91Caspian Tern

101Corellas

102Pair of Grass Parrots

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Serious looking Willy Wagtail

92 (1)Dingos howled most nights but they are very cautious and hard to see. I managed to get a photo of this guy early one morning.

ARCHITECTURE

These are some of the best examples of bush architecture we encountered along the way.

77Windorah – Once the old court house, now a comfortable abode

111Dynevor Downs shearing shed – like much of western Queensland wild dogs have forced a change from sheep to cattle, so this once mighty shed is in decay.

125 Yowah Qld – Corrugated Iron Paradise

124 Beltana SA – What cant you do with corrugated iron?

123 Maree SA – simple but effective

122Warrego Hwy – This old place has been added to and extended over the years – sadly, now abandoned and slowly disintegrating.

 

 

BIRDSVILLE TO LAKE EYRE

Lake Eyre rarely contains water, so hearing of rising levels and heavy flow in from the north, we decided to drive out and have a look. We plodded our way slowly out to Birdsville then headed south along the Birdsville track

© John Lovett 2016Birdsville Track – dry and flat

© John Lovett 2016 Goanna Feasting

© John Lovett 2016Vegetation in this area is sparse but interesting. Mostly Saltbush, Mulga and Desert Oak.

© John Lovett 2016

Early settlers along the Birdsville Track lived a hard life. This is the grave of the two youngest Scobie children who died of pneumonia in the 1890’s.

© John Lovett 2016

We called in to Etadunna Station and picked up a key and directions to one of the large lakes, already full of water, to the North of lake Eyre.

© John Lovett 2016

A slow trip through the sand dunes finally brought us out at a huge lake filled with water and surrounded by a crust of white salt. A strange sight in the middle of a desert.

 

© John Lovett 2016 © John Lovett 2016

© John Lovett 2016

There are some interesting old relics scattered along the Birdsville Track. I’d love to know the stories behind them.

We continued South to Maree – a sleepy little town with a Pub, “Yacht Club” and remnants of the old Ghan Railway Line. Maree marks the southern end of the Birdsville Track and is the best access point to Lake Eyre. We obtained maps and information from the Yacht Club and headed out to see the Lake.

© John Lovett 2016 © John Lovett 2016 Old Ghan Railway Bridge

© John Lovett 2016Remnants of a railway siding and full moon.

We camped on a waterhole at Muloorina Station and drove out to Lake Eyre South, across the Goyder Channel and on to, a still dry, Lake Eyre North. It’s an amazing sight to see a brilliant white salt pan disappear over the horizon. As you walk out into the lake the sand dunes begin to disappear and all you can see is blue sky and white salt.

© John Lovett 2016 © John Lovett 2016

© John Lovett 2016

A couple of days at Muloorina waterhole gave us a chance to catch up on some washing and photograph some of the birdlife.

© John Lovett 2016 © John Lovett 2016© John Lovett 2016 © John Lovett 2016© John Lovett 2016 48 © John Lovett 2016 © John Lovett 2016

Muloorina waterhole is fed by an artesian bore. Boiling hot water bubbles up and creates a steamy mist early in the morning. By the time it reaches the waterhole it has cooled enough to support fish and yabbies.

SOUTH THROUGH LIMMEN

Following the road east from Mataranka out to Roper Bar brings you into the top of Limmen National Park. The Northern region of the park is popular with Barramundi fishermen, but heading south along a badly corrugated road towards Cape Crawford brings you to Butterfly Gorge and a number of areas dotted with strange sandstone formations.   xrNT__2951
Butterfly Gorge (minus waterfall at end of dry season)
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This little Azure Kingfisher spent a lot of time patiently watching the ever diminishing waterhole for fish.
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Pillars of sculpted rock.
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Heading south east, we camped at the Ayrshire Hills. Another spectacularly weathered landscape 70kms out of Winton.
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QLD. WORKSHOPS

 

June, July and August have been busy months with workshops in Cairns, Gladstone and Blackall.DSC08475

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DSC08493Cairns Art Escape is held annually in “The Tanks” – an amazing venue inside enormous old WW2 oil storage tanks converted to studio and performance spaces.

gladstone
July we were in Gladstone at Gallery 67 for a 5 day workshop after which we reloaded the truck and headed out to Blackall for the annual artist retreat workshop.

xNT__0374  Blackall – Artists Retreat

xNT__0359Local Blackall drover, Stu Benson, kept us entertained with stories of the area and spoiled us with tea and damper.

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Old shearing shed at Dunera Station where we were made welcome and enjoyed smoko and an interesting walk around the property.

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Louise and Lexie, who drove out from Currumbin for the workshop, took Dianne and I out to Allendale, where Louise grew up. The old homestead is now abandoned and slowly decaying, it was great to look around at some of the relics remaining from when Louise was a little kid.

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NT__0160Old Allendale Homestead

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Blackall Sunset
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Blackall Wool Scour
Machinery – Blackall wool scour

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We were lucky to be in Blackall for the Camerata of St John’s, Queensland Chamber Orchestra’s performance. It was fantastic – all young, enthusiastic and incredibly well rehearsed players touring through outback regions of Queensland to help raise money for drought relief.

CARNARVON GORGE / BLACKALL

A workshop in Blackall provided a great excuse to head off a couple of weeks early and spend some time in the Carnarvon Gorge / Salvator Rosa area of central Queensland before settling in for the workshop.

gorgeCarnarvon Gorge is a spectacular collection of sheer sandstone cliffs, narrow side gorges and pockets of rainforest.

 

BLAC2978Light spills briefly into one of the damp, narrow side gorges.

BLAC2997Palms and ferns grow in the protected pockets of the main gorge.

BLAC3004x_1Strangler figs engulf anything in their path.

BLAC3011The surrounding country side is in the grip of drought, but permanent springs keep the creeks and waterholes in the gorge full of water.

BLAC3045Strange textured fungus.

BLAC3083After a few days exploring Carnarvon Gorge we looped around to the North and came back into the western end of the Carnarvon Ranges at Salvator Rosa. The access roads quickly become impassable as soon as rain falls. With no prediction of rain we were confused heading into this looming black sky. It turned out to be a mixture of suspended dust and smoke from nearby fires. It made for an amazing orange light as the sun set.

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BLAC3126Exploring some of the tracks around Salvator Rosa was hard peddling in the sand and bulldust, but a lot of fun.

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BLAC3127The fine bulldust mixed with coarse sand make this kangaroo’s footprint so detailed you can even see the texture of the pads on his foot.

arts centerWe left Salvator Rosa and headed via Tambo to Blackall where we stayed in the Living Arts Centre for the workshop.

The Living Arts Centre was formerly a hostel for school students from the outlying stations. Students now attend boarding schools in the city, so the premises has been converted to accommodation and studios.

DSC07191The studios are spacious and filled with light. Our painting was punctuated by excursions to numerous places of interest around Blackall. We visited “Alice Downs” where Jacky Howe broke the record for blade shearing – 321 sheep in 7 hours and 20 minutes back in 1892. The record still stands today. We enjoyed great meals supplied by the “Marmaladies” from Blackall and also dined at a number of restaurants around the town, including a memorable feast, slow cooked in a wood stove at the wool scour.

BLAC3201Another local hero was Roy Dunne, who jumped his goat, Nugget, over a 3’6″ bar in 1905 – another world record feat.

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BLAC3194Mustering cattle for the Thursday cattle sale in Blackall.

 

BLAC3185Long neglected fuel pump.

BLAC3296xStu Benson first drove cattle at the age of 12 and has been a proud Blackall resident all his life. His stories of the town and knowledge of the area are captivating.

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BLAC3407xHypnotic local goats.

BLAC3453Blackall wool scour – amazing steam driven chaos brought back to life.
Many thanks to Sally Campbell and her enthusiastic helpers for a fantastic workshop in Blackall.

 

BACK FROM TASMANIA

Our last week in Tasmania was spent along the north coast. We camped on the beach a few kilometres east of Stanley. What an amazing sight early in the morning as the sun came up.

stanly

We met Gus in Bothwell. He is from Bend in Oregon where we have conducted a couple of workshops with Art in The Mountains.

Gus came to Australia, got himself a 1956 Landrover and is in the process of taking it to all the extremities of the country. Cape Byron, Mt Kosciusko and the Southern tip of Tasmania have been ticked off the list so far. When he leaves Tassie, he’s off to Cape York via Shark Bay, WA. Good luck Gus!guss

This outdoor kitchen seems to have escaped all the workplace health and safety restrictions. They did save a lot of space by installing it the electricity metre box.

kitchen

Oatlands cricket nets

nets

Sunrise Reeds

reeds

 

Tasmanian Lawnmower

mower

 

 

Camped by the river in Rossross

No matter how hard we looked, we couldn’t find a Thylacine, but we did stumble across these little critters in our search.

wombatsheep

goats

budgie

horses wet horses

 

Shooting things is popular in some areas of Tasmania – maybe thats why we had such trouble finding a thylacine.

hunter

 

Back across Bass Straight, we spent a few days in Melbourne before heading home via the Hay Plains, One Tree Hotel and Bourke.

one tree

 

The weather turned foul north of One Tree. Pulling off the road quickly bogged us down to the axle. A shovel, frantic digging and a lot of encouragement and advice from the passenger window, soon saw us on our way

bog

The further east we travelled the more saturated the country became. From Brewarrina home all unsealed roads were closed so it was a quick trip back along the bitumen.

floods