There’s something magical about the red dirt that stretches for miles along outback roads. It gets into the car, beeswax sandwich wraps, my boots, it simply gets everywhere.
The afternoon I rolled into Blackall in early September the sky was clear, a blue backdrop to this dusty outback town. I grabbed a few groceries at the only food store and chatted to the local policeman who looked at the sky and said, “It’s going to rain.” I looked at the sky. It remained a steady clear blue spotted with fluffy cumulus clouds. He told me he was heading over to the free camping reserve to let visitors know they could get bogged in. Meanwhile I wandered back down the street with my bag of supplies. A couple walked with me and said they were camped at the free reserve and were going to see if the caravan park had room for them. Seems they were also told of the impending thunder and brimstone. I unpacked and went for a drive.
Blackall is a tidy town proud of its heritage and naturally, the Black Stump. My first stop was at the monument to gawk at the fossilised wood and information board. Then beadled off in the Jeep to do a bit of geocaching. Once thing you can say about Central Queensland is even when it’s not raining, the landscape is awash with geocaches waiting to be found. There’s also a sculpture trail around the town and outskirts ‘tho you’ll have to find them for yourself. I posed for a selfie at the giant metal tumbleweed just north on the highway to Barcaldine.
Abbey slipped her leash and ran off to explore a bush garden at the closed community centre next door. She was followed by me and a cabin-dwelling occupant who put down his beer and tried to help herd her back to the caravan. He slipped on a log and went splat in the bushes. Aaargh! Meanwhile, as his beer warmed up in the sun, Abbey sauntered back to home base and went inside for a catnap. We had a quiet night and I made plans to explore the district. Sometime around 3am the Gods went crazy and it bucketed down outside. The hard-packed dirt and clay turned to bright red mud. The kind of mud that sticks and doesn’t let go.
Still motivated to get into the caching mood, I scooted out to the car in the morning and drove around town but missed the entrance to the showgrounds where I wanted to log a couple of caches. I made a wide U-turn and the front wheels sank into the mud. Yeah, that mud. Unperturbed I tried to drive out and the wheels churned it into slush that stuck to the windscreen in chunks. Big red chunks. The workmen across the road decided to take a break and came to the fence to watch my 4WD sliding around on the verge across the road. Some revving the car back and forth and turned the steering hard to the right, and the wheels broke free. The car bumped onto solid ground and I drove off slowly. Hoping nobody was watching. But a glance in the side mirror told me they were.
Back at base and the caravan park owner said I could use one of the town’s bores to rinse off my car. There was a bore down the road and it even had a hose handy. But the mud was stuck like glue and I had to scrape off wads with my hands. Big fat handfuls of mud that oozed between my fingers. And it smeared all over the car’s panels. I did get the windscreen fairly clean with the hose. Even if the bore water left dirty streaks all over the paintwork. There went my easy day of geocaching. You know what though? Yeah, the car was a mess and so was I by the time I’d finished at the bore pump. But I had fun, and mud wrestling is one mistake I won’t make again.
The next day I hit up the Jericho-Blackall powertrail and had a blast blazing along the dirt side trails, logging caches and discovering local history. The tiny Blackall cemetery is an interesting spot. My top suggestion is to carry your portable compressor in the back as you may need to let air out of the tyres on some of the sandy side roads. ‘tho I carry it with me anyway. Just. In. Case.
Blackall is beaut!