Day 26 – 10,733 KM. Town 53. After stopping the night in Barrabri, I continued my journey north to Emmaville. Unfortunately the bad weather deteriorated further and when news bulletins started to announce details of towns being evacuated due to flooding (the worst since 1990) I soon realised the weather was not the usual autumn weather enjoyed in Queensland.

Fortunately my route steered me clear of Charlieville and Roma, both of which had apparently suffered the brunt of the weather with serious flooding. It did not however steer me clear of ‘Panther Country”. Now Australia has a huge quantity of marvellous native creatures such as Emus, kangaroos, koalas and the like but panthers are not on that list. Of course, people in the Emmaville area have added panthers as apparently they have been spotted for a number of years.

The first recording of a wild panther was noted in the Inverell Times in 1902. A Harry Leader and his brother were camped on Horse Stealers Gully a few miles east of Keera when they heard a blood curdling roar and for a brief moment they saw an animal in the fire light. One of the brothers managed to shot the creature and then promptly sent the slain animal to Sydney for tanning. The tanner informed them that it was a panther.

Over 50 years later and sightings of panthers began again. There were sightings in 1958 with further sightings throughout the 1960’s when it was also reported that as many as 40 sheep were killed over one weekend with claw marks found on what remained of the carcasses.

But back to Emmaville. Emmaville started life as an agricultural station (Strathbogie Station) when in 1872 Tin was discovered in the area and and the settlement become known as Vegetable Creek after the Chinese market gardens which developed to service the mining population. There were some 2,000 chinese from a total population of around 7,000 in 1900.

It was renamed in 1882 after the wife of the then state Governor Lord Augustus Loftus, Emma, but the name Vegetable Creek continues to be used for the name of the local hospital.