DAY 5. Town 9: Today I moved on from Cunnamulla aiming for Augathella, some 284 KM away. En-route I stopped at Wyandra (winner of Tidy Village 2002), for a coffee at the village Post Office and Stores. I mean, with a sign outside declaring “Friendly Service” who would not stop there?
The “Friendly Service” sign is indeed quite appropriate as Kim and her husband gave me a warm welcome and a great pot of coffee. The duo apparently moved to Wyandra in around 2007 at a time when the place looked like a lunar landscape. Today, it was quite green, not through lots of rain, but a number of consistent small downpours. For water, a bore sunk into the Great Artesian Basin in 1910 to a depth of 2km provides the the stores with a regular supply already heated to 45 degrees. This supplies all water and heating for the house.
I had a shower at Cunnamulla this morning using the same Artesian water where you can not help but notice the sulphur smell that comes with it. Indeed, I did wonder if I would smell better or worse following the shower! The water is however very soft with the smallest amount of soap creating a great lather.
After buying a couple of souvenir Wyandra mugs I had to move on but if you are ever in the area I would recommend popping in to Wyandra Post Office for some genuine friendly service.
After Wyandra I stopped briefly at Charlieville. Charlieville has a Cosmos Centre which means it is perhaps best visited at night. I called by to use the toilet where to my surprise a frog sat in the bowl looking up at me before it quickly dived round the U-bend to go back from where it had came. I mentioned this phenomena to the assistant who looked at me as though I was probably rarer than some of the meteors they house in their collection!
When stopping, perhaps to take a photo, along some of these long outback roads you can not help but notice the stench coming from some dead and decaying animal, most likely a Kangaroo. I was therefore a bit surprised that I encountered this same stench when walking up the hardware isle in the Chalieville IGA supermarket. I can not be specific about where it came from, but can only assume there was a rotting Kangaroo on one of the shelves (either that or perhaps a workman or removes such things had recently been shopping?). It did not appear to put any other shoppers off as the IGA appeared to be the hub of activity in this otherwise sleepy town.
I finally managed to reach my goal of Augathella at about 1pm. Now, with it being a Saturday afternoon and a rural country town the place was closed and so quiet it almost resembled a ghost town. The town (or maybe village) looks very pretty with the shops well spaced out and all painted in a tidy manner. The residents certainly appear to take pride in the location. It is just a shame I cold not meet any of them so decided to move on to Blackall, via Tambo, where I would stay the night.
Blackall is a moderate size town with a population of 1,160, roughly the same as Cunnamulla but how different a town it is. Even though everywhere was closed the town centre looks prosperous and well cared for.
Now Blackall has several claims to fame. Firstly, a legendary shearer by the name of Jack Howe sheared a total of 321 sheep in 7 hours and 40 minutes, a record for hand shears that still stands, and was only broken by electric shears in 1950 with their introduction. The town also lays claim to being the holder of one of the ‘Black Stumps‘ which after passing means you are in the outback. However, a number of other towns also claim to have the ‘original’ black stump so who knows!
Also, just outside of Blackall lies part of the Dog Fence. Today, the wild dog barrier fence is administered by the Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries. It is about 2500 km long and protects 26.5 million ha of sheep and cattle grazing country. Originally built in the 1950’s this is a lot shorter than its original 5,600 KM length.