The best rooms at the pub as far as we are concerned are the front ones in the main building because first light hits them and by opening the door it is possible to watch the sunrise from in bed. The rooms would not rate highly on the hotel/motel rating scale but the rooms are clean, decorated in old world style, snug and comfortable which is all that matters. Personally I can’t see the point in paying hundreds of dollars for a room anywhere; once you shut your eyes you wouldn’t know if you were in a one dollar or a three hundred dollar a night room. Having said that, not all cheap rooms are up to scratch. In Turkey once we paid one US dollar for a room and there were bed bugs in the bed!
Over the years we have devised a rating system for pubs and the Hungerford pub on the Hillier scale rates nine out of ten, which is a rare classification these days. I formulated the ratings when we were doing Backtrack tours some years ago. The maximum rating is 10 but the establishment loses one point for each of the following: a juke box, poker machine, TV or a pool table. These nuisances detract from the natural essence of the place as far as I’m concerned. Pubs are places to have a beer and engage in social intercourse with the locals. The Hungerford pub has no nuisances, which is unusual. When I was discussing the ratings, Lord Barr said, ‘I had a bloke ring the other day and want to know if I had a five star room. I said I didn’t but I told him I could take a sheet of iron off the roof and give him a thousand stars!’
I could quite easily spend a month or two in Hungerford to get to know the locals and talk with passing travellers.
I like the detail of the window, the shadow of the lamp and the reflection across the road.
From Hungerford we crossed the Paroo River flood plain where the prolific nectar-producing eucalypt, Napunya (Euc ochrophloia) grows. Beekeepers from all over the eastern states seek out the Napunya for their bees because it flowers in the winter when nothing is happening much for bees in the east. After crossing the Paroo River we followed the dog fence for about 40 kilometres before turning north towards Thargomindah. The dog fence is the longest continuous fence in the world. It started out as a rabbit fence and was converted to a dingo fence in 1941. The aim of the fence was to keep dingoes from travelling south of the border. The fence starts near the town of Jimbour near Dalby SE Queensland and runs for 5614km to Nundroo on the Great Australian Bight WA.
Much of the dog fence follows the NSW and Queensland border and it runs along the 29th south parallel. The border starts at Point Danger at the southern tip of the Gold Coast and runs to Cameron Corner in the west where NSW, Queensland and South Australia come together. Cameron, who surveyed the border, was in the employ of the NSW Government and he started the survey on the east bank of the Warrego River near Barringun and continued to the 140th north south parallel to the point we now know as Cameron Corner. Once that point was established he returned to the number one peg (an insignificant steel pin driven into the ground) and surveyed east until he struck the Macintyre River. On the bank of the river he erected a post hewn from a Coolibah tree that he called the One Ton Post. It’s about two metres high and about 800mm square. Bev and I have visited these three historically significant points many times and we are always awestruck by the hardships endured by our early surveyors in establishing these points. Cameron, like many of our early surveyors, worked under extremely difficult conditions battling the vast waterless deserts and flooded waterways. Many of our early surveyors died young as a result of the hardships they endured; however, through their efforts, they have left a valuable legacy. Once the state boundaries were established landowners living in close proximity knew which state they lived in, which was necessary when paying taxes, and outposts sprung up along the borders (Hungerford is an example) with the sole aim of being a place where state taxes could be collected. The first medical service in the outback evolved along the border. A band of nurses called the Border Nurses patrolled parts of it on horseback tending the sick. If a backcountry worker felt crook he went to the border and sat there waiting for a nurse to pass by. Many died before the nurse arrived and as a result there are many graves along the boundary.
Mid morning we stopped in Mulga country and boiled the billy. Boiling the billy on a roadside fire and having a cuppa in the bush is not such a common activity these days but for us it’s a must as it puts us out there with nature. For example had we not stopped and boiled the billy today we would not have come across the Mulga ant nests or the Mulga sculpture.
Mulga (Acacia aneura) is a truly amazing plant because among the acacias, many of which are relatively short-lived, it lives for up to two hundred years. During its long life it provides graziers with fodder for their stock and, as an added bonus, it fixes nitrogen from the atmosphere into the soil.
Mulga ants build their nests in close proximity to mulga trees. Their nests have a distinctive circular raised up levee around the entrance and the outer batter of the levee is laid with dried mulga leaves, which reduce wave action erosion against the levee. There are a number of theories as to why the ants build a levee. It definately stops surrounding runoff gurgling down the entrance hole and as well a fungus, which the ant eats, is cultivated within the rings. I have never seen the ants dragging the leaves into position. In fact I have never seen very many Mulga ants at all. I guess this is not surprising as they are nocturnal remaining in quiet consultation in their underground home of a day. I have managed to coax the odd one out by dropping Arrowroot biscuit crumbs down their hole. I doubt if they were actually attracted to the biscuit, it was more likely they came out to see who was bombarding them with foreign objects. It never ceases to amaze me what’s going on under our feet and it’s by stopping and boiling the billy that we come to know.
WHAT IS T BEAR, our travelling companion and namesake of the blog? In 2001 our youngest son joined an expedition as cameraman to climb the Ulugh Muztagh, a 6 973m (22 877feet) high mountain in west China. On the expedition he took a small soft bear called Smash Bear which belonged to a friend’s five year old daughter who insisted our son take it along for good luck. Eventually Smash Bear came home and he brought with him a friend called T Bear. When the owner of Smash Bear saw them she insisted on knowing all about their adventures and this set me to thinking that one day I should write a children’s book about a bear’s travels and the theme would be ‘Looking for honey’. I have many images of T Bear looking for honey. Here are a few.
Green ants are one of the nasties of tropical Australia. T Bear can be forgiven for thinking the Green ant nest was a honey pot because they do provide a sweet lime-flavoured snack if you are game enough to suck their rear end.
Our camp tonight is on the property Kilcowera, (about 75 kilometres south of Thargomindah) and it adjoins the Currawinya National Park. Kilcowera is run as a farm stay by Toni and Greg and because of recent heavy rains, Cardenyabba Lagoon on their property is full.
Our camp is on the edge of the Coolibah-lined lagoon and it rates 9.5 out of 10 on the Hillier camp scale. Just before sunset we went for our first paddle, a magic moment, watching the sunset through the timbered wilderness.
A feed like this, chicken and vegies roasted in a camp oven makes camping worthwhile. If you cooked a similar meal at home it wouldn’t taste the same.
Another great day.
People travel to far-off places to watch the kind of people they ignore at home.