The next instalment of Keith Skinner’s trip in Outback Queensland, leads quick decisions on route changes, two stops with free damper and some top ‘must-dos’ along the way!
Yowah to Noccundra
by Keith Skinner
Next day found me on the road again (as the song goes) and I was heading for the Noccundra Hotel and the free camp at Wilson River, just a short dirt track down from the pub (Camps 10, site 984). But I was met with clouds of Bull Dust around the river bank. Camper trailers and a van or two that were there were all covered in a fine cream dust spread by the wind, vehicles and motorbikes looking for campsites. I quickly went back to the pub for a drink and a rethink of my plan. Another concern was the quality of the road to Innamincka, after talking to some returning travellers in the pub.
This was where the plan went out the window, and flexibility came into it. At this time in 2019, we were in one of the country’s worst droughts; river water was stagnant, dams empty and roads were in terrible condition. I also learnt that water is used by the road grading teams to smooth and cement the surface after grading. No water meant no road works.
Not wanting to scramble my eggs in the caravan fridge over the damaged roads, I set a new plan to continue north on the Cooper Development Road and continue around what is known as the Natural Sciences Loop. This drive runs in a circle shape from Cunnamulla, past Eulo, Thargomindah, Eromanga, Quilpie, to Charleville and back to Cunnamulla.
So out the window went the Burke and Wills Dig Tree, and in the window came the Natural Sciences Loop. As the camp at Wilson River was unsuitable, I would need to drive on that day and with no plan for my next stop. It would be a matter of just finding a suitable campsite when I found one. Next stop was Quilpie, via Eromanga. I had heard about a farm stay/caravan park on a working sheep property near Quilpie that had campfires every night with free damper. This sounded good to me.
I headed for The Lake (Wanco Station, Camps 10, site 807) for two nights. It’s about 2 km east of Quilpie. The owners have developed a caravan park-like area with full amenities for around $20 per night (give or take $2) or you can camp by the lake bed with no amenities for less. It’s a working sheep farm, and after I set up my camp, I was offered to take a drive around the station to visit the shearing shed and see the farm working. This was free, and very interesting.
The Lake manager also said I should take a drive to the nearby town of Adavale, just a short drive up the nearby dirt road. I found out that his short drive was in fact 314 kms away!
But I enjoyed the country drive and seeing Adavale. There is a pub, which only opens in the afternoons, an old hall that’s been refurbished and turned into an information centre; also closed during my visit. But there were a number of storyboards, an old jail and old town photos worth a look. There was also a low-cost camp area (Camps 10, site 804) in the town. I’m not sure who you pay. I never saw anyone, not even a dog in the town.
Following on with the theme of campfires every night with free damper, the next day I took off for the Charleville Evening Star Caravan Park (Camps 10, site 795) 211 kms east and about 2 hours 15 minutes away. I’ve stayed at Evening Star before and it’s a great caravan park, with very friendly staff that make you feel at home.
There is a camp kitchen, and a bar with entertainment every night, along with both savoury and sweet damper running free around a large fire pit. I stayed here two nights and could have stayed more.
I also purchased more top-quality local steaks from the local butcher shop and enjoyed both the WWII Secure American Air Force Base tour and a visit to the Charleville Cosmos Centre. The Cosmos Centre has night sky viewing that was very informative and fun. But watch out for the drive back to the park as late-night driving in this area is like playing dodgem cars with the local Kangaroos.