Apparently we can say we’re in the outback now, we’re in a place called Ilfracombe (named after the English seaside town when it was founded in 1890), which is about 25km east of Longreach, the birthplace of QANTAS (Queensland And Northern Territory Air Service). We were told anything west of Emerald, near where Jackie was sapphire hunting, is classed as outback and it definitely feels like it.
It’s pretty flat country and, although there’s a few rivers close by, it’s fairly dry, relatively unfertile land with straw looking Mitchell Grass, a few eucalyptus and other trees and we get the feeling a living is hard won in these parts. It really feels like the wild west with wide open spaces and small dusty towns, where everyone is friendly and has time to talk (even the guy on traffic duty with a stop-go board at a roadworks came over to us for a chat). Ilfracombe is no exception, it’s a town of less than 400 people, founded in 1890 on the Wellshot Station when the railway was first built out here.
|The Machinery Mile|
It became very prosperous in the years that followed, water was supplied from a 1km deep borehole to a huge underground water supply and over 400,000 sheep were kept here. Over the years it was broken up into smaller areas until it became uneconomic and the land is riddled with abandoned houses from people who gave up and went home.
|Hey, look! Of no interest to anyone outside my old company of Andantex, this is an old Dean, Smith and Grace lathe. DSG are still going as a company and they are/were a customer of Andantex|
|A 53m long Road Train. I paced the length of this one - 32.5 double paces, I do 63 double paces to 100m|
|This is what they look like in the rear view mirror|
|An interesting overtaking maneuver|
It’s now a great little town and they are very proud of it, making the most of what they have. The main east-west road has Road Trains thundering by (the Road Trains out here are even bigger and can have 4 trailers up to 53m long! It makes overtaking very interesting and, if you meet one coming towards you on a single track road you are obliged to get off the road, they have right of way) and the railway still runs regular mainly freight trains,
|The Langenbaker old settlers house|
but there’s an old settlers house left in its original condition with all original furniture and belongings open to the public, thermal baths fed by the artesian well, a pub/hotel, a mile of old restored machinery along the roadside, a General Store with petrol pump on the roadside, a visitor centre with history video show of the town, a bottle museum run by an old chap who collects and shows all sorts of things and a campsite owned by the very entertaining Jesse and Kathryn, the perfect hosts.
|One of the rooms|
|Jackie playing Disc Bowls at the Sapphire camp|
We were recommended to go there by Kevin and Fay, an old couple from Victoria we met at the Sapphire campsite, so we thought we’d give it a go. Fay, incidentally was my partner in the disc bowls competition we entered into at the Sapphire camp, we lost 2 games to 1, but we played well (Jackie was partnered with Jock another good player, but she has no idea whether she won or not!). We’re here for two nights, last night and tonight and were very well entertained by Jesse last night in their ‘Happy Hour Shed’.
|The Happy Hour Shed at Ilfracombe campsite|
|Cooking on the wood fired BBQ!|
They have owned the place for 10 years and people keep coming back. Nibbles were supplied at 5:30pm and Jessie, a typical Aussie guy came on and told stories and jokes for over an hour and was absolutely hilarious. He told them exactly as you would expect an Aussie guy to and it was down-to-earth stuff that everyone could relate to and find highly amusing. Tonight there’s more entertainment and we’ve heard (and seen) a guy practising on bagpipes (not what you expect in the outback!).
|The camp entrance/exit|
|The returning stagecoach at Kinnon & Co.|
We dropped into Longreach this morning and considered visiting the Stockman Hall of Fame ($30 each entrance plus $20 extra for a live show) and the Qantas museum ($21 per person, plus a lot more to tour the 747 and 707 they have on display, walk on the wings and go in the flight simulator), so in the end we did neither. We’re sure they would be great value, but we decided they were not for us. We walked round the town and saw the stagecoach and horse tours run by Kinnon & Co, and even visited their shop and museum, but most of our time was spent in good old Ilfracombe.
|John sent us this picture of his drive|
|The same driveway when we were there, taken from the road side. That's Tiffany on the gate, sadly she got run over while we were with John in Napier in March|