Tuesday, 14th of May 2013
The Dowling Track is a dirt road linking Bourke in New South Wales with Quilpie in South Western Queensland. It is a track in name only – it is a maintained road, although it is quite rough in places. I understand this is similar to the Birdsville Track which is a maintained road as well. Total distance along the track is 567km, without any deviations.
(cropped from Lesley’s photo)
The Tourist Office Brochure about the Dowling Track has the following introduction:
Travel in the footsteps of Vincent James Dowling and other early pioneers who over 100 years ago discovered this area, known as the “Plains of Promise” – people travelled the track looking for a new life and new opportunities.
Dowling established stations ‘Fort Bourke’ on the Darling, Caiwaroo & Eulo Station on the Paroo River as well as settled Thargominah Station. He traced the source of the Paroo and Bulloo Rivers. It is fitting that this track was named after him.
For us it is more a coincidence that we travelled along this track. On our way to Winton north west of Longreach I wanted to visit the lakes in Currawinya National Park and we were also attracted to the Kilcowera Station stay. Thargomindah, Toompine and Quilpie are natural extensions of our way North.
We managed to set off fairly early. The road was bitumen for a short stretch before turning into gravel alternating with sand. In parts the road is very corrugated and I was glad that we had reduced tyre pressure. This gives way to sandy stretches that I wouldn’t have liked to travel on in a conventional vehicle. But the majority of the road was good dirt road allowing to travel around 60km/h most of the time.
We arrived at Fords Bridge and stopped in front of the pub, not for a beer, too early for that. The pub was built in 1913 from mud bricks and is meant to be the only pub in Australia still standing that was built with mud bricks. As Lesley left the car she shouted ‘The caravan door is open!’. Indeed the outer door to the caravan was wide open only the fly screen was still shut. Fortunately no damage – it probably just didn’t shut properly due to a bit of foam we inserted between the two doors to keep the dust out. Of course that piece of foam was lost, easily replaced by a spare one we carry.
Some 60km later we reached Yantabulla, a ghost town with nobody living in the town anymore. It once had 9 houses, a pub, school, a police station as well as a cordial factory. Today there is a phone booth and that’s about it.
It looks like the town was deserted in a hurry – old cars,
Apparently it is part of a protective fence keeping dingoes from entering NSW from Qld.
There was an old fashioned bell we rang to get attention. After a few minutes we were welcomed at the Pub and served two Cascade Premium Lights, a beer we have been re-introduced to and that we quite enjoy. We talked with the lady for some time. When was the Pub built? “It is very old”, she said. According to the brochure it was built in 1873. Apparently the Pub owner also has the mail run and, from what I gather, this is what keeps it going. Not much support from the farmers in the area, farming isn’t very profitable these days. The farmers even are herding wild goats to make ends meet. “And what is it with the money stuck to the ceiling?” Lesley asks. Apparently it is money raised for the Royal Flying Doctor Service, a very worthwhile cause. You wrap a note with a thumbnail and two 20cent pieces and heave the parcel towards the ceiling and if luck has it, the thumbnail will nail the note to the ceiling and the coins will drop down. Lesley gave it a couple of tries without any success. A much easier option is to donate the money straight into a collection tin, shaped like a cow. The last contribution to the RFDS raised in the Pub was more than $16000. Not bad for such a small place.
We started to set up camp when the ranger arrived and collected the fees for the two nights we intended to stay. In a nice way she pointed out that most people stay down at the river. She could have said ‘what a stupid place to stay when there is a beautiful river close by’ but she was quite diplomatic about it. We went for a walk and soon found a spot to set up camp, close to the river.
Once we were set up, we didn’t do much. Just enjoyed the quiet of the place only interrupted by birdsong. Dinner was a ready made meal just needing heating. After the long day of travelling that was an easy alternative to cooking anything. Surprisingly it was quite good – meatballs in tomato sauce.
Surprisingly this site is not mentioned in the CAW6 book. It certainly is an alternative to the caravan park in Hungerford if you like free camping. ($5.35 pp/night)
At dusk we notice a fast moving animal on the other side of the river. What can move so fast? A fox? It didn’t look like a fox. A kangaroo? It was not hopping. We still don’t know. All we know is what it isn’t. It certainly wasn’t a goat either, although we saw plenty of them. The kids are quite cute.