TUESDAY 14 MAY CHARLEVILLE TO DUCK CREEK 270kms
Our original broad plan had been to move on from Leopardwood to Duck Creek diggings, but that was before the solar woes intervened. But today, we were heading for Duck Creek, at last, having taken rather the long way round!
Refuelled Truck in Charleville – at the Independent depot – 84cpl.
From Charleville, we headed west on the Quilpie road – sealed but narrow. After much map study, John thought there was a back road from Cheepie that headed roughly south, through several stations, to the Duck Creek area.
Cheepie – a dot on our map – was even smaller than we’d envisaged. A gravel road took us away from the main road, across the railway line we’d been beside for much of the way from Charleville. There was one small siding building – didn’t think any trains stopped here these days. We found a small house that was signed as the Post Office, with a telephone box outside. And that was about the extent of the settlement!
We went into the Post Office to ask about the road/track south from here to Duck Creek, expecting that postal staff would know about such things. We walked into something out of a Stephen King novel! An elderly lady and her adult son, who seemed somewhat backward and definitely sinister. They were no help at all, just telling us that we were bound to get lost!
I was pleased to escape back outside.
My road atlas map – not very detailed at all – showed the road we wanted as heading south from Cheepie, on the western side of a stream channel, and eventually coming to a T intersection. So we took a road that seemed to fit this description – dirt, but not too bad. Just out of the village, we stopped for a little time, while John fiddled about with the GPS, entering in waypoints that he’d worked out from the map, last night.
Near where we stopped was a post with a number of old, almost illegible direction signs on it; most of these were not to be found on my map, however a couple were – over Toompine way. It was not much help at all!
We continued on and came to a T intersection – so far, so good. However, there were no signposts here. We turned east, looking for another T intersection with a road coming from the south, maybe about 18kms on. Found what could have been the right road – again, no signs – so took that in a roughly south direction.
Not long after our last turn, we encountered a tractor coming towards us. John slowed right down, so as not to cover him with dust, and he signaled for us to stop. “Lost, are youse?” he said. “No” said the driver, confidently. Farmer was silent. Clearly, anyone towing a caravan out there, had to be lost! We continued on and left him scratching his head. It was a rather amusing episode.
We continued on this track, ignoring assorted others that crossed or deviated from it, that did not look quite so much used. From the direction shown on the GPS, we were heading in roughly the right direction.
Stopped beside the track, briefly, to eat our lunch.
Them, after about 70kms, came to a fence and tall gate which had a sign on indicating that we were entering the Duck Creek and Sheep Station Creek mining areas. Somewhat to our surprise, I may add. For most of the way I really had little idea if we were on the right track – though I was more prepared to admit doubts than the driver was! The GPS actually worked.
Once through the gate we had no trouble finding Mike’s place, even though we were coming from the other direction to that which we’d come last year, when we visited from Yowah. Mike had put signs to his place all over! As there was quite a maze of tracks in the mining area, he needed to.
Mike welcomed us and said we could set up our camp anywhere we wanted to, on the big gravelled area in front of his house. There was no charge for this, though he indicated he would like some company in the evenings, to watch videos with. As these were of the “action” variety, I delegated that task to John! We were able to use the outdoor toilet he’d set up.
We were the only campers at Mike’s place, for most of our time there.
Mike was one of only three people who stay on these fields year round. He had been here for about twenty five years. By the standards of many opal fields that we had seen, his diggings-style home was fairly comfortable.
We chose to set up in a corner of Mike’s “campground” where we were unlikely to acquire close neighbours. Behind our rig was a little wooded dry creek gully that promised some bird life. It was a bit of a hike from here to Mike’s toilet, though. This was of the long-drop variety. He told us it used to be a mine shaft! Guess that’s one use for a worked-out shaft. I did find myself hoping, though, that it was all securely shored up and there were not likely to be any unexpected cave-ins!
We set up our camp for an extended stay and generally made ourselves comfortable. Then, relaxed for the rest of the day. This is the type of environment I really like camping in, so I was expecting to thoroughly enjoy the time here.
Mike had said that he would show John some diggings tomorrow.
We felt nice and private here. We were not too far from the road/track that goes past Mike’s place and on to Sheep Station Creek diggings, and, eventually Yowah. However, passing traffic was rare. When there was any, Mike was usually out of his house quickly, to see who it might be. He seems to have appointed himself a caretaker of the diggings, on behalf of the part-time and absentee miners.
We were also close by the dry bed of Duck Creek.
Just on dusk, Mike appeared at our camp and told us to come with him. He took us up a low hill at the back of his house. He had some seats up there. He said he often comes up here at nights to watch for satellites passing over and we should keep our eyes peeled for same. There must be some sort of schedule, because we did, in fact, see one moving steadily across. After that highlight, we were allowed to go back down to camp and our dinner preparations.
It was a chilly night – due to those clear, starry, outback skies! It was also beautifully quiet.