I’ve mentioned a few times that I was in the Queensland outback in 1971. Here are a couple of pages from a booklet I published four years ago about that journey. My 1971 slides were in a bad state but we were able to clean up most of them.
The booklet is available in eBook form at http://www.blurb.com/ebooks/181803-outback-queensland-by-mgtf
My first husband and I took three weeks’ leave from our respective workplaces (I had to beg and plead for mine as someone else from the chemical pathology laboratory had already ‘booked’ that time), loaded up Geoff’s 1952 partly-restored but mechanically very sound MGTF, and set off from Sydney. It had taken several months’ hard work each evening in my parents’ garage to take the car to pieces and reassemble, including a complete engine overhaul.
After welding a custom-designed rear rack for the MGTF on a friend’s property in Armidale (the same property Dave and I visited 45 years later and a few blogs back) Geoff and I headed up the east coast as far as Cooktown, then with youthful fingers crossed set off for the outback proper.
It was in April, just after the Wet had finished, and many rivers were still running. It was my job to wade across first, checking for hidden potholes and braving possible crocodiles and snakes (fortunately we didn’t see any).
This is the (old) Angellala bridge near Augathella, on the then highway (true!) between Blackall and Roma. Too late I realised Dave and I had just passed it. No way to stop and turn around on what is now a major highway with a big caravan in tow. Doubly regretful as in Longreach we learned that not so many years ago a much more recent bridge in the same place had blown up and is now a tourist attraction!
This was a typical road at the time. Actually they are still like this but with a nice tarred and reasonably smooth surface, with wide red shoulders.
It has been awesome retracing that journey, albeit in reverse. The most noticeable differences between then and now are the roads and the vehicles on them. Thousands of caravans and huge road trains now thunder along at 110 kph on what were narrow and often unsurfaced roads. Small outback towns which once sported a single petrol pump, e.g. Boulia, are now producing glossy tourist brochures enticing visitors to stay at the multitude of motels and B&Bs which now line both sides of the highways. Local waterholes and other beauty spots have been prettied up and supplied with rubbish bins and toilets.
in 1971 we drove pretty slowly; a broken axle meant the end of the trip and probably the end of the car as well. We had one small tent, a single primus stove and a basin for washing both dishes and ourselves. I don’t recall just what sort of road traffic we encountered but definitely there were very few caravans. Needless to say we were viewed with utter disbelief. “How did you get here in THAT?” was the usual comment.
Oh but it was fun!