Outback tripping part three: beyond the black stump, Blackall


The highway between Barcaldine and Blackall


My next journey was a round trip from Longreach to Blackall via Barcaldine. I changed vehicles to a much used and very dirty (courtesy of the locust plague) diesel 4WD. It sounded like a truck and handled like a truck. I tried cleaning the windscreen but couldn’t reach the top or middle. At least I could see where I was going. And that was much needed given it was soon dark and the kangaroos lined themselves up by the side of the road as I drove along from Barcaldine to Blackall.    

Skippy, these guys weren’t.    

Why do kangaroos insist on sitting about on the side of the road, in packs, then hop across the road just as a vehicle is coming in their direction? Why haven’t they developed the natural selection technique that has worked so well for crows who thrive on roadkill. Crows simply saunter to the side of the road, as though there is nothing to worry about, then saunter back when the interruption to their meal has passed. Unless you are driving on the other side of the road, in which case it is unlikely the crow will bother to move at all.    

I also saw a bush turkey use the crow technique on my drive the next morning. Didn’t budge. Which is just as well. It was a big brute of a bird.    

Not so the kangaroo. Well, they are big. And no doubt brutish. But oh so skittish.    

Off they would hop across the road, when prior they were happy to just mill about on the grassy roadside, along with their many buddies. I had always learnt that if it was a good season the roos were less likely to be near roads, as they found plenty of food elsewhere. Not this lot. Sure the countryside was green, but this lot must meet up each evening by the side of the road to catch up on their day – “sure was hot today”, “had a good nap under that big grey gum two paddocks over”, “have you seen the roo shooters out tonight?” – and practice playing chicken with the road trains.    

I had phoned the motel to say I would be arriving late, which was just as well. All those roos slowed the travel somewhat. When I got to Blackall, relaxing a tad from the roo onslaught, I realised I didn’t have the address for the motel. I decided that instead of looking it up, I would drive through the main street and if I didn’t see it either side of the town, then I would check. Sure enough, it was on the right on the far side of town, heading south. I drove in in my big 4WD, taking up most of the carparking space.    

May I say the hosts at the Coolibah Motel, Blackall are lovely? The gentleman saw me at reception and apologised that he had to leave to  turn the steaks. The lady then arrived, apologising for her husband, but we both agreed it was best he attended to the meals. After all, I was putting in a late meal order. I was so well looked after, even when I was a nuisance cause I couldn’t get the aircon working or work the newfangled remotes (plural) for the television. I got to help the son of the hosts with his homework (I don’t think I helped much, his mum was pretty clever though) while waiting for the meal and having a chat.    

The motel is listed as 3 star but the bed and pillows are the best and most comfortable I have come across. As in Longreach, I got to share the bed with a few hoppers (locusts and crickets), but I figure it is the bush. At least I wasn’t being eaten alive by the mosquitoes and midges of home.    

Next morning, after breakfast, I was up and ready to go early. Well, I thought I was early but found every other occupant of the motel had already left. I also picked up a free calendar put out by BP. Some great photos in that calendar. Hope you like it, Wayne.    

Have you heard the saying, ‘beyond the black stump’? I have all my life but never expected to find there actually was a black stump.    

Beyond the Black Stump


The black stump, apparently, as the story goes, was used as a surveying tool in the 1800s. Surveyors placed their theodolites on the stump for latitude and longitude observations. The stump was used rather than a set of legs because it gave more stability than the theodolites. This enabled the mapping of Queensland on a more accurate basis. It was considered at the time that country to the west of Blackall was ‘beyond the Black Stump’.    

Blackall was also the home of Jack Howe, the shearer famous for holding the record for shearing 321 sheep in 7 hours and 40 minutes, with blade shears, at Alice Downs Station in 1892. The record was only broken over half a century later using machine shears.    

I will leave it to you to find out – either by visiting Blackall or via the internet – about the original Jackie Howe singlet. Hint: it isn’t what you think.    

There is much more to see at Blackall. My overall impression was of a lovely, quiet country town, not spoilt by tourism or taken over by mining ventures. If you take the time to travel all this way, certainly stay a while and find out what you can of the area and the outback.  

Also see Outback tripping: 


2 responses to “Outback tripping part three: beyond the black stump, Blackall

  1. do you know just the other day I was at work, looking out of my window… looking outside at the overcast skies, thinking about going home and dodging the drug addicts loitering outside the market entrance when I thought… sometimes I do miss aussie.
    Until you reminded me of the mozzies and the day I came to work covered in sandfly bites looking like a proper pom and now i just think yeeah… I don’t miss it that much ;o)

  2. Shaun & Sarah's Outback Adventures

    Blackall is a beautiful town.

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