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Mungallala, here we come!

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sunny 40 °C

After selling our home at Dicky Beach. and unable to move into our new home until February, Chas and I planned to 'couch surf' with the rellies for a few weeks visiting my four siblings (three sisters and one brother). This was fine as three of them lived in South East Queensland, relatively close to each other. It was wonderful to just hang out together for a week or so. This is not something we do enough as adults. We get engrossed in life, catch up for lunch, special occasions etc, but I've found it a different experience to spend extended time together without any fuss or fanfare. So that's what we did.

However, my eldest sister misses out on many of our catch-ups as she lives in a very small town in Western Queensland ..... Mungallala. They are suffering many hardships with the drought as they have a cattle and sheep property and are currently hand feeding 2500 sheep, and I don't know how many cattle. So Chas and I decided to take this opportunity to drop in for a visit. My sister's first words when we told her of our plan was "Why would you want to do that?" ... referring to the drought, and the 40Cdeg temperatures. Our response "To see you of course".

So, that's what we did.

Mungallala is a small town in Western Queensland between Mitchell and Charleville. There are only about 35 people in the township itself, with more from surrounding properties. The main industry, and employer, is the sawmill which processes cypress pine from state forests north of Mungallala. However, the focus of the town is the Club Hotel, known by the locals as 'the pub'. My sister and her husband are the licencees of this fine establishment. It has a long history being built around 100 years ago after a fire demolished the original building in 1918, and is the meeting place, and the hub of this little town.

Life is hard for this community which has been gripped by drought for years. The 2016 Census identified Mungallala as 'the poorest town in Australia' ... Poorest town in Australia .... but the locals say what they lack in money, they make up for in community spirit. And this is what we found.

Starting at Toowoomba we headed west, pretty much in a straight line .. Dalby, Chinchilla, Miles, Roma, Mitchell, Mungallala .. 480km along the Warrego Way, through the Western Downs to the Outback. Whenever travelling in the Australian bush I cannot help but reflect on Dorothea Mackellar's 'My Country' .. the size, the contrasts, the openness, the mountains, the struggles. Magnificent.

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The Western Downs area is home to prime farming land, and agriculture is a major industry in the area renowned for grain and cotton growing, and cattle and sheep (wool) production.

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Fluffs of cotton lay everywhere along the side of the road.

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The iconic symbols of the outback .... roadkill. In some sections there were dead roos every metre or so on both sides of the road. Even in daylight hours one has to be aware when travelling on these roads.

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Overtaking a 3-trailer Road Train .... Road trains are the means of transport in the outback. You get out of their way very quickly ....

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Dogwood Creek, just outside Miles .. almost as 'dry as a bone'.

When heading west along the Warrego Way, Roma could be termed the start of the 'outback', and is the administrative hub for the Maranoa Region
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A proud feature of the region is these beautiful trees, commonly known as the Queensland bottle tree. This one is Roma's largest with a girth of 5.61m (it requires six average sized men to reach around it), a height of 6m and a crown of 20m. The swelling is due to the water held within its fibrous trunk. This one is over 100 years, but they can live for over 200 years, in fact very large trees which were described by Major Mitchell when he first explored the area in 1846 are still growing.

The area is also known for its oil, and coal seam gas (GSC) exploration. The 'Big Rig' in Roma commemorates those who developed the industry. It is considered to be the birth place of the oil and gas industry in Australia, with natural gas used as lighting in Roma as early as 1906.
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Mining is a major industry with reports showing 5,127 CSG production wells in operation in mid-2016 (I expect more since then), and despite the call to keep fossil fuels in the ground, coal mining continues with 290 mining proposals approved in the decade prior to 2017. National mapping reveals that 37.3% of Australia is covered by coal and gas licences and applications.

This is a contentious issue with differing perspectives on its value depending on which side of the fence one sits. I was unable to download a map showing the extent of the gas operations, but with tens of thousands of wells and associated infrastructure, they are having a devastating effect with encroachment on good farming land, disruption of other land uses and industries, clearing of bushland, air pollution, contamination or depletion of ground or surface water, pollution of waterways, health impacts on workers and nearby residents, and damage to biodiversity. Needless to say .. I am not a fan.

Nor am I a very good photographer. We past this coal train on our way home but in my rush to capture it I took a burst of photos ... 180 in all (yes, that's correct) .. instead of using the video function. So you will have to imagine the length of this train starting with the 2 engines and finishing with the last wagon .. with 41 wagons in between, each with the capacity to carry 100 tonnes of coal per wagon. (I looked this up )

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It's been quite a while since I visited the west .. probably mid to late 80s ... so I was very much looking forward to returning, and spending time with my sister. On our way ....

Posted by patsaunder 01:12 Archived in Australia

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