The drive went fine today. It was about 180 miles from St. George to Cunnamulla, straight west. In that distance, I went through one very small town, Bollon, which had the only gas pump in the whole 180 miles. I think there was a small café there, too. I would say that I met about 10 or 12 cars an hour, coming east. At least the road was paved, and wide enough to pass the oncoming traffic without going off on to the shoulder. The signs warned you to watch for road trains (trucks pulling 2 or 3 trailers) up to 50 meters in length. That is more than 150 feet. It is hard to imagine a truck that is 150 feet long, until one comes roaring at you down the narrow road, both of you going 60 miles per hour. Yesterday I saw a couple of trucks stopped by the road, checking their load, which was sheep. Each truck had two long trailers, and each trailer was four levels of sheep high. There must have been well over 100 sheep in each trailer.
I am really glad I took my original car back and got one with cruise control. My right heel has been hurting, and driving is very hard on it. Cruise control allows me to rest it in various positions, with the limitation of the small space where my feet go. For most of today, I could set it at the speed limit, 100 Kilometers per hour, which is about 60 mph, and then just let it go. The road was pretty rough much of the way – not bumpy, usually, but the car kept rocking back and forth, as the road wasn’t very flat. So, I had to hold on to the wheel lightly and pay attention, which was probably just as well anyway, because I sure didn’t want to doze off.
Anyway, the drive went fine, and I arrived in Cunnamulla about 1 PM. I went to the post office (see picture, when it gets posted – a classic old government building) and my lens was there, halleluiah. I found the local “supermarket”, which was much smaller than I expected, and laid in some provisions. I have dinner provided for me here, but I needed stuff for brekkie and lunch. Now I am all set for the next three days, for meals.
Bowra is about 6 miles up a one-lane paved road, then about 3 miles down a dirt road, which is basically their driveway. About 20 minutes out of town. The dirt road had obviously been very wet a few days ago, and there is no way I could have gotten here at that time. As it was, I had to move back and forth over the width of the road, finding the best path through the deep ruts made when it was wet. It wasn’t really a problem, other than one or two tricky areas, but again, I had to pay attention.
Oh yes, I forgot to mention one of the thrills of the drive today. I was just wondering when I would see an emu, when I suddenly came on four of them near the road. They ran off a bit when I stopped, but then stopped, and I think I got some pictures of a couple of them. I don’t know why I was so excited by it, because I will see a lot of them, but it was quite a thrill to see my first ones of the trip.
So, I got here to Bowra about 2:30 and met the owners, Ian and Julie. I got myself moved into my cottage next. It is an old, fairly primitive house, probably where the station manager (foreman?) lived with his family. I have a queen size bed, I guess, but it is hard as a rock. To my surprise, there are a couple of wall air conditioners, but I don’t know if either of them actually works. No need for them today, it has been really pleasant since I got here, in the low 70’s, probably. But, it is supposed to heat up to the low 90’s by the time I leave on Saturday. Each day is supposed to be warmer. I suspect it will get cold tonight, into the high 40’s probably. Each night is supposed to be warmer, though, as the week goes on and things heat up. I was expecting hot temperatures here (high 80’s and low 90’s), so even this first day of great temperatures is a bonus, and tomorrow is only supposed to be 81, I think. I’ll post pictures of my cottage, inside and out, when I can.
There are three or four other groups here, either staying in RV’s or trailers (caravans, to the Aussies), and one or two parties are maybe staying in the old shearers’ quarters, which has bunk rooms, I guess, a common bathroom, and a common kitchen. Everyone who comes here is interested in the birds, I understand.
And, the birds are amazing! It is one of the “birdiest” places I have ever visited. After I got settled in, I wandered around only a couple of small parts of the homestead area, and I saw 26 species in about two hours. Of those 26, 12 were new ones for my trip list, and 3 were lifers. The three lifers were Spotted Bowerbird, Chestnut-crowned Babbler, and Crimson Chat. It is open enough country that my spotting scope was very handy. I think I am going to be able to drive to various parts of the station and bird an area without a lot of walking, which is my kind of birding. I took some pictures of the station terrain and of some birds today, and tomorrow I would like to try my tele-extender lens on some bird pictures.
The rain in the last week is extremely unusual for this time of year, I was assured. Some of the station tracks are still a bit wet, with standing water making mudholes to get through. Ian was going to drive around this afternoon in his 4WD truck and see which ones are ok, but he was sure that I would be fine in my little Suburu Forester. I have the feeling that Ian is a typical optimistic Aussie bloke who would always think everything was just fine. “No worries, mate, she’ll be right.”
I talked for a few minutes with a woman who has been staying here for over three months now, and she had been out on some of the tracks today. Her report was a little less optimistic, but she did tell me a couple of places that are no problem, and I believe her estimation of the conditions. Each day that passes, they will dry out more, too, so by Friday I might be able to go to places that would have been difficult today. I am optimistic about it, anyway.
Julie is bringing my dinner over about 6:30 or 7, and she will presumably be able to tell me what Ian thought about the tracks when he went around this afternoon. I have a map of the station tracks, with notes on it about which species might be found in each area. Tomorrow I will venture out, and we’ll see if I come to places where I am afraid to go through. I guess there are “detours” around some of the worst places, and I can just follow the tracks of other vehicles when I come to those places. Theoretically. And, I can always stop and back up until I come to a place to turn around, if I have to. It should be a great adventure. I would much rather have someone with me on an adventure like this, but I’ll see what I can do alone.
So, there is an initial installment on my first impressions of Bowra. I’ll add to it, I hope, and eventually it will get posted to the website, according to plan.
After dinner on Wednesday
Julie brought me my dinner, as arranged, and it was excellent. Roast lamb (lots of it), green beans, potatoes, sweet potatoes, and onions, with nice gravy to slather all over everything. The gravy had a hint of ginger in it, which was interesting. For dessert, there was some kind of moist cake thing that looked like gingerbread but didn’t taste like it, with what appeared to be home-made butterscotch sauce to pour over it. Excellent! I had plenty to eat, and it was a healthier meal than many of my traveling dinners that I fix for myself.
I asked what Ian had found when he went out to check the tracks this afternoon, and she said it seemed to have rained more “out there” than here at the homestead (“homestead” is the term they use to denote the main house on the station, and the area around it). I take that to mean that the tracks were worse than Ian had expected. He is supposed to come over in the morning and mark up a map for me, showing the places to avoid and/or where to be careful. That should be interesting. The property extends maybe 10 or 12 miles to the west and maybe 3 or 4 miles to the north, and maybe the same to the south. So, it is a biggish piece of land, to my mind, although probably small by Aussie outback station standards. I’ll try not to get “bogged” somewhere out there, in the mud.
Maybe I will add more to this in the morning. It is 8:30 now, and I only have to stay awake for another hour, and I can go to bed. I hope I can sleep on the rock-hard bed.
Barry downunder, now in the outback for real
I slept fairly well last night, on the hard bed. It got cold, and I was cold part of the time. It was 50 in the house this morning when I got up about 6:30, and it is only up to 52 by now, at 8. It is supposed to heat up now, though, including warmer nights.
I’m waiting for Ian to show up, tell me about the conditions of the tracks, and what to avoid. I have had my brekkie and made a sandwich for my lunch, to take with me. I’m ready for a day of adventure out on the station tracks! Except, before I go I will take off the extra shirt I am wearing and put on my shorts, instead of my jeans.