For the ten years prior to 2010, Queensland had experienced a severe drought. In the last 7 days of 2009, heavy rain began and this continued on and off until the second half of March 2010. In between whiles Cyclone Olga struck the far north of the state and its effects were also felt, to some extent, in the south. In late February a massive low came in from South Australia and dumped huge amounts of rain on an already sodden Queensland. With the land completey saturated, there was simply nowhere for a water to go, and severe flooding occurred throughout much of the state. In fact, this was the most widespread heavy rainfall event ever recorded in Australia. At one time 1.9% of the total area of the country was under water.
Once the floods had subsided, we decided to explore the areas that had been affected, not so much out of a ghoulish wish to ogle, but mainly because we’d heard reports that the normally dry interior would be a picture to see, with green grass where none usually grew and plenty of wild flowers. It sounded like a sight worth seeing.
Our first stopover, Warwick, is on the Condamine River, which had come down in flood and cut off the town for a time. It was founded in 1849 on land that belonged to the Leslie brothers, the first Europeans to buy and farm land in the area. It’s an area that boasts beautiful pasture land and is famous for its horse and cattle studs.
There are plenty of places of interest in the town and in the outlying areas. Some that come to mind are the Pringle Cottage, the Warwick Regional Art Gallery, Leslie Dam, and the Main Range National Park.
One of the big advantages of having a dog is that it ensures forced walks for the owner. I’m not sure if everyone would agree, but we see it as a plus. And the fact that we were travelling didn’t change that routine. Before we packed up and left the campground at the Darling Downs Hotel outside Warwick, we took a walk along Sandy Creek Road and admired the various farm houses and crops we saw along the way.
As I’ve mentioned before, dogs were not Gemma’s favourite form of life, and, as luck would have it, we encountered a three-legged hound enthusiastically hopping along the road. Whether the poor thing had lost its brains along with its limb I’m not sure, but it didn’t seem to pick up on the fact that Gemma’s snapping and snarling was not a friendly overture. Maybe it just didn’t care. It followed us for ages and we let out a sigh of relief when we finally reached our caravan and the tripod dog decided to befriend the more suitable amiable horse instead.
Once we’d hitched up the van we continued with our adventure. Our route took us via Goondiwindi, a town we’d last visited ten years before. On that trip we’d arrived in the town just as the sun was setting, a brilliant blaze of fiery gold lighting up the west. As luck would have it, the town was full of cotton gritters (people who used to weed the cotton plants by hand) and it was almost impossible to find accommodation. All the campgrounds, caravan parks, hotels and motels were full. Eventually we managed to get a cabin in a caravan park – at an exorbitant price. No doubt the park manager was cashing in on the scarcity of accommodation and no self-respecting cotton gritter was going to pay his high prices.
The cabin was fine, but the campground was full to the brim with people, caravans and tents in every conceivable place. Sometime during a night of heavy drinking, a fight broke out and loud voices and yelling continued for over an hour. We were a bit concerned our vehicle would be damaged, as the fight appeared to be close to where it was parked, but in time the noise subsided and the campground fell into a deep and snoring slumber.
Needless to say, at first light we left.
We had no intention of staying in Goondiwindi this time around, not because of our previous experience – we knew that was likely a one-off, unlikely to be repeated – but because it was still early in the day and we wanted to get to St George.
Goodiwindi is situated on the MacIntyre River and it had also been affected by the floods. It’s an interesting town and well worth a visit. The area was explored by Allan Cunningham in 1827 (the Cunningham Highway is named after him) and was eventually settled by sheep and cattle farmers in the 1830s. The name Goondiwindi comes from the Aboriginal word gonnawinna, which means ‘resting place of the birds’. It has a historic pub, the Victoria Hotel; and a cotton gin, (not surprising in a region famous for its cotton) amongst other attractions. If you’re going to spend some time in the area you could visit the Southwood National Park or the 25-ha Botanic Gardens of the Western Woodlands.
The countryside is flat and trees line the road, so it’s not really easy to see what agricultural activities take place. In spite of that we did see plenty of fields of bright white ripe cotton, swarms of heavy machinery working away, and stacks of blue-tarp covered baled cotton.
After our short stopover and a coffee in Goondiwindi, we headed off towards St George.