Friday, 1 August 2014

Quilpie Outback Mail Run - 31 July 2014

We had heard many good reports of the Quilpie Outback Mail Run, so took the opportunity of booking on it while in town. It goes on Tuesdays and Thursdays. There are 8 mail runs that leave from Quilpie but there is only one that takes passengers. The contractor for this mail run is the same guy who owns the caravan park and also the Hotel Quilpie (or Quilpie Heritage Inn as it is now known). He is a descendant of one of the original settlers in this area. There were the Durack's, the Costello's (Patsy Durack married John Costello's sister) and the Tully's (Sarah Durack, Patsy Durack's sister, married a Tully). At one stage, John Costello owned 1/10th of Queensland. They all settled here around the same time, the Tully's a little bit after the others. The guy with the caravan park, etc, is a Tully. The property settled by the Tully's, Ray Station, has not changed hands since it was first settled. I think it was in the 1860's.
This mail run delivers mail to 10 properties and covers 400 kms in the day. We followed the old Cobb and Co route for part of the day, and at one stage, followed the route Patsy Durack took when he took a few thousand head of cattle to the Kimberley's and opened up that area for settlers. For most of the properties, it is left in the mail box out on the road. Sometimes the mail box is an old tin on a post, other times it could be an old refrigerator. We called in to about 5 properties during the course of the day.
During the day we saw some brolgas, emus and many hundreds of kangaroos. We lost count. They were everywhere. It must be so depressing for the farmers. The professional shooters from Quilpie don't come out this far as there are enough nearer town. The further they travel, then they don't cover their costs. They stations are very much in the grip of the drought. The cows are eating the mulga trees, which they do in times of drought. You could see where the lower branches have been eaten off. 2.5 kangaroos eat the same amount as 1 cow. At the moment they have 1 cow on 200 acres.
In the Quilpie Shire, the bounty for dingoes used to be $100. Elsewhere it was $50. They ended up dropping it to $50 in Quilpie Shire as well. They found that dingoes were being shot elsewhere and brought into Quilpie to claim the $100!
Our first stop was at Alaric Station. There is an old homestead on the property that was set up after World War I as a Veteran's Retreat by a Tully, who could see need for somewhere peaceful and serene for war veterans to go. It fell into disrepair over the years and there was a new owner about 15 years ago. He was going to demolish the house, but a veteran's group on the Sunshine Coast heard about it. They asked if they could take it over and make it habitable. It has been running for the past 10 years and is open to any veteran and/or their families. It is well used and last week, it was full. It can take 17 people in the house. It costs them $40/night for full board. Caravanners can also stay there, powered ($20/night) or unpowered.
Apparently, there is an 89 year old veteran who has been there 15 times and he said he will be back next year. The veterans can stay as long as they like and as often as they like. Some stay weeks and some stay months. There is a camp fire which goes 24 hours a day. They grow their own vegies.
Morning tea was supplied for us at Alaric and we were free to have a walk around the grounds and through the house.
At the properties we drove into, when something stops working and can't be repaired, it is left there. They then use them for spare parts, etc.
The furthest station we went to was Budgerygar Station. The mail is only delivered there once a week, on the Thursday. They have a helicopter there, as well as about 4 bikes.
Our lunch stop was on Trinidad Station. Margaret Peglar moved to this property in 1958 when she married. She is now 78 and a widow. Her daughter and son-in-law now run the property, but she still lives in her own house on the Station. Her daughter, Wendy, has young children who learn through distance education, and she has a governess to help her. They are one of the few families in the area that have sheep. They graze alpacas with the sheep which protect the sheep from the dingoes. They do also have cattle.
On our way to the house, Dave, the mail man, took us to the wreckage of a 10 seater plane that crashed in 1984. The pilot was the only one killed, although when you saw the wreck, it made you wonder how they all weren't killed. It was spread over quite a distance. Margaret watched it happen from her kitchen window.
She has a lovely garden and has featured in gardening magazines over the years. We were able to have a wander through the garden and I tried a tangello from the tree. I had never had one before and it was lovely and juicy.
Margaret Peglar was a lovely lady and enjoys the contact with those who come out on the mail run. She can no longer drive since she had a stroke. I loved a sign she had in her house.
Last summer it was 49 degrees in the shade on her daughter's verandah!
The final Station we called into, and it was only to the old shearing shed, was Thylungra Station. Thylungra Station was the first Station in the area and was settled by Patsy Durack. Patsy Durack also owned quite a bit of Brisbane in his heyday. Thylungra used to be 2,500 square miles and was the biggest Station in the world. It is now 700,000 acres. Patsy Durack lost everything due to mismanagement when he was in the Kimberleys, and the property was split into 30,000 acre blocks. This size block was nowhere near big enough to support a family and families walked away.
At its peak, Thylungra employed 80 people and there were quite a number of cottages clustered round the main house. There used to be a polocrosse field, as well as a racecourse.
There is a large shearing shed on the property, which was last used in 2008. They no longer farm sheep.

Inside the shearing shed is an old falcon 500 which does still work, although it was covered in dust. I don't know how long it had been there.
After leaving Thylungra, we stopped at Kyabra Creek, which flows to Cooper Creek, for afternoon tea. We had cheese and bikkies, with wine, beer or soft drink.
We then headed back to Quilpie, about 125 kms away. We really enjoyed the day, in particular talking to the people who live there and have a glimpse of their day to day life. They suffer incredible hardships and are amazing people. To go for days and weeks with no outside contact must be very hard.
We had left this morning at 6.45 and got back at 4.45, so decided to have dinner at the Quilpie Heritage Inn, which we had had a look through the other day. We had a lovely meal, enjoying the company of a couple who were on the mail run today. Graham and Marjorie had caught the train out from Brisbane yesterday to do the mail run today. They were catching the train back to Brisbane tomorrow, after doing a morning tour to Eromanga. That's what I call a flying visit. 
When we got back to the van, Bruce checked his emails. There was one from our pest guy to let us know he had found Bruce's caravan keys on the ground where the van is kept. At least Bruce knows where they are now.

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