6 am Wednesday 3 July, saw us on the Ipswich Toll Road heading west, with our good friends and neighbours, Reg and Laurel. We had been invited to join them visiting an Aunt at Kulpi on the Darling Downs and to revisit places of childhood and career.
It was a wonderful 2 days - glorious winter sunshine, country air, rolling panoramas, picturesque lagoons and dams, quaint churches, tiny towns, farms, old dilapidated buildings, rusty tanks, grazing cattle, and the rekindling of my memories of living in the country and on a farm. There was much laughter as we each related episodes in our past, that came to mind because of where we were travelling.
The route for Day 1 - blue
7am - Lockyer Valley, Brisbane's vegetable basket.
Our 1st view of 'The Range' - 700m or 2300ft. Part of the Great Dividing Range, which runs the length of the east coast of Australia. [Average height is 4000ft, but mostly that high in the southern states.]
2nd shot is looking back down the valley as we neared the top of The Range at 7.30 am.
Immediately we ascended 'The Range' we were in the City of Toowoomba - 'Garden City' of our state. A wonderful town to visit in Spring. Today I was delighted to find the main street still in its autumn colours.
By 9 am we had partaken of breakfast and collected Reg's sister for the visit to their relatives and were again heading west, across the vast, mostly flat Downs.
In the past 10 or so years, regional Australia has had to attract the tourist dollar to compensate for the down turn in the agricultural dollar, so our small rural towns have worked hard to make them attractive to visit.
Soon after Goombungee, we pulled off the road at a rest area and enjoyed the "country views".
When we arrived in Peranga we really felt time had stood still with these horses tied to the fence of the General Store and Post Office.
Stepping inside the Post Office confirmed that feeling.
A lovingly kept 'Queenslander' style home was next door. I'm sure their washing machine would be more up to date than this one, which I can clearly remember my Mum using after she was able to upgrade from the copper boiling pot.
Opposite the Post Office was one other cottage, with this stunning native bottle brush tree, growing in its garden.
It was only a short drive from here to Reg's Aunt, just before the slightly larger town of Kulpi. Again I felt strongly that time had stood still. Everything around me reawakened my childhood memories. It was a wonderful visit for everyone.
Frank and I gave the family some time to share memories and photos and took a walk in the paddocks.
Such a beautiful day for it!
It was only a matter of miles [in the old days] down the road from Kulpi to Acland, where Reg spent his childhood. His Father had been a miner in the underground coal mine. This has now been converted to open cut mining and the town of Acland itself, all but totally removed to allow the mine to encroach. It was sad to drive the empty streets and listen to Pam and Reg relate where they had had their home and which friend lived where. For some reason the school still stands, along with the community hall and the home of Glen Beutel who has refused to sell or move.
"Glen Beutel has just been awarded the ACF Peter Rawlinson Award 2013. In 2008 Glen watched as New Hope Coal acquired all 56 of his neighbours' properties and more than 60 local farms. Glen made the decision to remain in his family home in Acland, on the Darling Downs and take a stance against the mining giant. His quiet, unrelenting fight to maintain and protect the heritage values of the town have led him to compile an astonishing social history of the struggle of farming versus mining. He has written hundreds of letters and submissions in long hand arguing for Acland's protection. Glen has also created an archive of an entire ecosystem under threat, from the smallest endangered insect and flower to the koalas and the large bottle trees that Acland is known for."
The Downs continued to show how vast it is as we drove to Oakey and its iconic Australian pub, Post Office and War Memorial. Each was replicated in the larger towns we visited the following day!
It was about a half hour drive to Toowoomba, to complete our circuit for the day. There was still time to have coffee at scenic Picnic Point, before refreshing ourselves for our 'Christmas in July' smorgasbord dinner at the renowned Wises Restaurant. A very satisfying and relaxed conclusion to such a memorable day.
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