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 this time to spend because of my midwifery commitments, we needed to do it fast and reflect at leisure. But the main thing we did learn - we'll be back again.
Absolutely enjoyed 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.
The Durack Story 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. Awesome food and hospitality.
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; then through 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, (also mentioned in the book) 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 one grain of red sand in the majesty of our great nation.
This from a blog last year at cathrynhein.com - about our trip from Longreach To Brisbane on the way home.
Not known for my culinary skills but I do like eating so thought I’d share a food journey with a difference.
Fancy a Trip on the Spirit Of the Outback? Longreach to Brisbane. Ever wondered about the cost, the time it takes, the sleepers and the meals?
You have to love being a writer because research trips are definitely perks of the trade. Not often I can drag my husband on trips so we went the whole hog. I thought it was worth saving up for, sleeper class, which included all meals in the Tuckerbox Dining car, and we put the car on the train (ours was the only one on there – it looked so cute) and it meant I could be back at work a day earlier if we drove home from Brisbane – so more time out west. Vote one. Queensland Rail. Seriously. They do it right.
This was the final stage of our recent ten day trip around the amazing red earth of western Queensland, an absolute joy, and more of that coming on my new webpage soon, and a whole lot more in my next book, but I know Cathryn loves to hear about something in the food department.
The good thing is you can’t talk about the Spirit Of The Outback without talking about the meals. A skillful chef, a huge kitchen and a unique and fabulous setting makes the cuisine as tasty and elegant as any restaurant. But in the beginning…
Longreach at sunrise is a little chilly in June while the excitement of looking for your carriage makes up for it. When you leave Longreach, you’ve got half an hour to settle in and admire the glorious colours of those firstgolden rays on the plains and the contents of your little hessian comfort bags – sigh for the days airlines used to give you half what was in these little packs – with eye masks, washers, organic lip balm, plus the usual’s. I love stuff like this as my friends will laughingly tell you. Sniff. Anyway, the views are magic as you peer out the windows, and wave at the traffic when we run alongside the road.
Then your delightful hostess, in our case, Raylene of the endless goodwill – will encourage you to make your way to the dining car and take a seat at the beautifully set alcoves complete with white linen tablecloths, wildflowers and silverware, and best of all, lovely big windows that showcase the reds, browns and orange of outback Queensland. Truly we are blessed by our beautiful country. Especially arid and sparse it takes my breath away.
But back to food. Breakfast was all hubby could wish for, (because I had fruit and water – NOT!) crisp bacon, soft eggs, buttery mushrooms and sausage, grilled tomato, fresh juice and hot, freshly brewed coffee. Groan. And no gym to work it off, still, probably wouldn’t have used it if they had one. But leisurely, and fun.
Then it’s back to your private cabin or into the spacious lounge car. Next time, I’d spend more time in the lounge car because a carriage full of windows give the best view of the surrounding countryside and it’s too easy to stay comfortably antisocial in your own little lounge cabin although the windows are lovely there too.
Rattle, rattle, rattle for a couple of hours and then a leisurely meander off at Barcaldine to admire the cleverly created replacement Tree of Knowledge, didn’t notice Kevin or Julia poking around up there just outside the station, and a walk along the platform and cheeky peer in the window by my DH. Then back on board where we took the chance for us to go through the hundreds of photos we’d taken over the last week and a half, a joke about the fact that I’d been keen to visit the Qantas Museum in Longreach when hubby decided I’d seen more planes than he’d had breakfasts, and a few more notes on my computer.
Before we knew it lunch was on, must admit I had a wee glass of Sav Blanc to go with my Barramundi Fillet with citrus butter and garden salad. Divine. Ian had Backstrap Lamb and we both daintily nibbled at the Pavlova. Actually not dainty at all. There was also Haloumi salad and Chicken terrine so lots of choices.
It was nice to go for a wander when we paused at Emerald, one of my boys had spent a bit of time working at the feed lot up here for Australian Ag, and I’d heard a lot about Emerald and wanted to see it. Looks like a great town. Love the way the station steps are in the middle of town. Couldn’t believe the agricultural equipment for sale. Must have been millions of dollars worth which illustrates the amount of food produced in this area.
Back for a quick freshen as the afternoon sun was casting long shadows away to the mountains and then I was sipping bubbles in the lounge car chatting to fellow travellers. It wasn’t quite as formal as the Orient Express, God Bless Australia, but we’d all spruced up and the sun was casting golden halo around Blackwater. We flew through Comet, but I hear (from that son) it had a good pub, but I digress.
Sunset out of Blackwater (apparently the creek ran black – from the tree roots but now it’s coal miners heaven – and as evening and dark arrived we went through to dinner to find tender grain fed pepper steak and sticky date pudding. Amongst others, and seriously I think I’ve eaten enough.
When we came back, after a desultory discussion with our fellow travellers, our lounge had been made into two surprisingly wide and comfortable bunk beds with crisp white sheets and bottled water. Did they know about that second glass of bubbles? After the early start (my car climbed on the train earlier than we did) we were well ready for bed. Loved snuggling down to the peaceful rattle of the rails – apparently it’s better to get a middle cabin as it’s quieter not perched above the wheels but - zzzzzzzzzz.
And in the morning, (sounds like one of my books) by the time we’d washed and changed (and yes there is a shower with wonderful hot water), captured a great pic of one of the ?Glasshouse Mountains, and it was time to disembark in Brisbane.
To retrieve our own car we simply walked to the end of the train, were escorted to a driveway, and within twenty minutes it appeared beside us. A little meander through only a couple of Brisbane streets and we popped out on the freeway to Gold Coast. Easy Peasy for this country bumpkin. So twenty four hours flew and I adored it all.
Have you any train stories? Been on any scenic train journeys? I’d love to hear because I fear I am now addicted. Xx Fi
Spirit of The Outback leaves Longreach 0715 Monday (and Thursday) Arrives Brisbane 0710 Tuesday (or Friday) So 1325 kms in 24 hours.
Cost from Longreach:
Economy non-sleeper between $152-235 depending when you buy the ticket – purchase food from the snack bar
Economy with sleeper – $244-315 depending when you buy the ticket – purchase food from snack bar
First class with sleeper-$427-529 depending when you buy your ticket – all meals but purchase wine and beer
Car -$299 and unaccompanied $499.
There are good discounts for seniors and concession and unlike lots of other telephone booking services Queensland rail sales people are awesome.
Ph 1800 872 467 And no, I didn’t get this journey compliments of QRS.
So there we have it. A little back story. A snippet from the outback Queensland journey. And a book.
Three strong and very different sisters, caring for women, dealing with life, and birth, and drama, as they learn to care for each other under the harsh outback sun.
Red Sand Sunrise by Fiona McArthur
June 26 2014 Penguin Australia.
Another huge thank you to my fabulous Penguin editor, Sarah Fairhall, who flew (very bumpily) up from Melbourne for the event and spoke so beautifully to launch my book and then took me out for tea. Feeling very spoiled and humble.
The staff from Kempsey Hospital, and Peter Garty who drove the Garty bus 90 mins north, along the worst road in the world mostly in the dark, but it will get better. You carried such solid supporters safely to and from - thank you - and most of you directly after work. I do appreciate you all so much. Mwah!
To Carolyn M who took up the challenge of pouring drinks, and keeping the thirsty quenched, Bianca who took photographs, Maryanne, Jan and Carolyn D, who stayed over for a girls night out after. I'm impressed. To everyone who came, I'm so appreciative of the effort to get there to share the night with me. I've named you in the photos!
I feel my book is launched. Thank you :)
To buy the real book, the Penguin site is a definite but it will be republished in the B Format and out in August and will in the usual places like Angus and Robertsons, Target, Big W, fabulous bookstores like the Book Warehouse Toormina - which has closed. I'm so sad to see another amazing book store go. If they haven't got it, please ask them to order it in ;) .
to buy the e- book