A little later than planned, I left Brisbane at 11 am, with the car loaded and ready, topped up with fuel before ‘hitting’ the highway, and making good progress all the way to Toowoomba, though I made a brief stop at The Big Orange, where I bought some fresh fruit. A brief visit to the modern Information Centre in Toowoomba, and I promise to self
that I must return and spend more time exploring this great place. It must be 10 years since I was there – certainly the city has changed in that time – much more ‘sophisticated’ than I recall.
Beyond Toowoomba there were road works in many places along the road to Miles, and the roadblocks were an irritation, slowing me down somewhat. Stop-Go men and women would hold up the traffic for quite long periods, compared to the length of time we would be held up in the burbs, but not a big problem. I remember how dry it had been around Brisbane until a week ago when we had a series of storms and good rains, which resulted in a dramatic change of colour of grass, lawns etc. The change from dry brown to lush green was almost overnight around Brisbane and there was much evidence of the recent rains in some areas, but I was interested to see some places were extremely dry.
Between Toowoomba and Dalby I passed the New Acland Coal Mine – and stopped to take photos. There were huge road trains waiting to be loaded and lines of loaded coal trains ready to be transported to the Port of Brisbane for export. My next stop was Dalby, where I visited an amazing historical museum. Those who know me are aware that I have an interest in our history, and seeing the things that have been saved of the local history is always fascinating. Did you know that Diprotodon bones were found in this area? . Did you know that large freshwater crocodiles were found in the Condamine River? Scary thought, but in the Dalby museum there is a collection of bones, croc skins and other items that will create lots of discussion. The Museum has a huge collection, but time did not permit me to see it all. Does that mean I have to return, sometime?
A local resident, a volunteer, showed me around some of the exhibits and was keen to talk. His great concern is about Coal Seam Gas, and the methods used to extricate the gas from the underground, and the many stories of the resultant ‘poisoning’ of the water as a result of this work. He told me that cattle refuse to drink local water around areas where gas has been extracted, and that tests have shown it to be polluted with chemicals which result from the extraction. It is a story that was to be repeated over and over again; it seems that the folk out here have genuine concerns and that the politicians state and federal are not listening!
The roads were fairly busy, surprisingly, for a Sunday. Many huge road trains or huge trucks with massive wide loads of enormous digging machines destined for the mines. This whole area is being mined, not only for coal, but other minerals and of course there is the Coal Seam Gas industry.
To see the huge road trains – massive trucks with two, three or four huge loads plying the roads is quite a sight. There is certainly a lot of grain being transported, and corn, and no doubt other materials, but they are well covered and swiftly make their way along the roads. I suspect that much of the road works along the way is to repair roads damaged by these huge heavy vehicles.
I could see where fires have been, though some time ago, as it has encouraged healthy growth of new grasses, often in great contrast to the dry unburned grass on the opposite side of the road. So far no wildlife to speak of, though crows on the side of the road, no doubt digging around for the remains of road kill on the side of the road.
My journey was uneventful, save the frequent stops at road works and I arrived at Possum Park around 4.30 pm and went straight to the office. Possum Park is owned and run by David and Julie Hinds, they are very hospitable and invited me in for a cup of tea.
The brochure for Possum Park says “During World War 2, RAAF Kowguran Sub depot to No. 3 Central Reserve Explosive Store was located 20 kms north of Miles on the Leichhardt Highway (350kms west of Brisbane). It comprised 20 concrete underground bunkers and 25 timber accommodation and administration buildings. RAAF Kowguran was the main explosive store on the Brisbane line, holding at times 2500 tons of bombs and ammunition.” Julie and David Hinds purchased the property in 1985 and some of the bunkers have been converted to motel units.
I am staying in Bunker 17, which is quite a comfortable unit, completely self-contained with television, air conditioning (which I have not needed – it is quite cool underground), and everything one would want. The décor is fascinating – perhaps 1950’s – with a variety of framed prints of old Australian landscapes, plastic flowers and fruit and other items.
Near the door is a warning to keep the door shut to keep wildlife out – though I have not seen anything other than the frogs. There is one huge green frog that appears from time to time in the toilet bowl on flushing!!! I’m yet to get photographic evidence as it is very camera shy! And another frog appears in the hand basin, and when it sees me, gently squeezes its way down through the plug hole!
I have had a quick drive around to the caravan park area of the property which is 360 acres and includes train carriages at the Kowguran platform and today will see the small museum of war items from the property and surrounds.
It is just 20 kms north of Miles and a pleasant drive into the town of some 1600 residents, though that number is increasing rapidly with new housing estates to cope with the extra staff that is required for the growing mine industries in the area.
Tourists are well catered for in the area – with Dogwood Crossing@Miles, the Miles Historical Village, and a host of brochures with many other ideas to explore the region.
Go beyond the Great Dividing Range for a weekend of exploration in the Darling
The bustling town of Miles is on the Dogwood Creek which was named by explorer Ludwig Leichhardt in 1844, after the native tree Dogwood (Jacksonia Scopara) which grows in the area. The streets of Miles are very wide, as the town started out as a teamsters camp and the bullock wagons needed that space to turn around.
In the town itself is Dogwood Crossing@Miles is an arts and cultural facility with library, art gallery, internet centre and much about the history of the area in film and displays.
The Information Centre is at the Historical Village, which is worth a day long visit (can be done in two or more days if you request a pass out ticket), and a great place to show children or grandchildren about living in Australia in the early history of the country. You can step back into history and wander in the 30 or so buildings, within the ‘turn-of-the-century village, a hospital, café, bank, post office and butcher shop. There are a myriad of other displays and well worth a day or two to see it all.
Around the town are other historic places to see – including the original cemetery, with headstones of very young children which is an indication of how difficult life was in these vast outback area. Ask at the Information centre for information on places to visit in the area.
There are many places to stay including motels and caravan parks, but the most fascinating of all would be Possum Park. There are some 20 bunkers ‘hidden’ in the hills and only a few have been in for ‘motel’ accommodation and funciton rooms, and some you can visit just to see inside.
I met a number of people staying there, but mostly kept to my self and caught up on sleep in this very peaceful place. I understand it is busy ‘during the season’ with much in the way of social activities near the trains and cabins.