Well with a mind to research, of course, and a touching of base for all the quintessential qualities of the Australian outback we had to go far west Queensland. And with only a ten day holiday to spend because of my midwifery commitments, we needed to do it fast and reflect at leisure. But we'll be back.
Absolutely loved Charleville, the country hospitality, the red rimmed roads, the drama of the Flying Doctor Service, and the delight of meeting Monique at the information centre, another writer and born and bred West Queenslander.
Quilpie I loved, such a charismatic outpost, with boulder opals and a fabulously modern museum with unique modern interpretations of the livestock that supported the nation, to original documents from the heroic settlers of the 1800's. Have loved every minute of re-listening to KINGS IN GRASS CASTLES by Mary Durack, which I bought in audio from the Quilpie Heritage Hotel - our fabulous hosts. And illustrates brilliantly why I'm so glad I didn't miss the Outback Mail Run. A modern and nostalgic trip with the mailman - eight hours of it - as this down to earth country gentleman visits ten stations in a 400km radius - through the original Thylungra holdings of the Durack family to the isolated reality of modern day station owners.
Then it was on to Windorah, a fabulous chat with Linda, the nurse there, thank you so much for your insight, and a night at the famous Western Star Hotel.
Next morning Ian could hardly drag me away from the red sand hills outside town, I think my second favourite place ever (Uluru still wins) and the reason I will head to the Simpson Desert to spend some time before I get too old and decrepit.
But we had to push on, through Jundah and a wave to Monique's old pub, Stonehenge - love your windmill, and along the broad open spaces that still surprise you even when there isn't a turn in the road. The jump-up - how amazing is that land shift in the middle of a plain, and finally Longreach - another amazing place full of history, incredible deeds and beautiful landscape, and finally the trip home on the Spirit of the Outback. But that's another story.
So many images and smiles as I think back over that action packed road trip and how I admire the settlers and their families and the people of western Queensland who hold that adventurous spirit today. Australia truly is an amazing country and I am so proud to be just a tiny part of it.