However, it was time to see a bit more of Queensland. We had visited galleries, eateries and posh shopping streets and health food joints in Brisbane and we needed to see what it was like ‘out of town’, over the other side of the dividing range.
Out there in the bush, they were desparate for rain which has been falling only on the Coastal side of the great divide, not far from Brisbane.
We were lucky enough to have another cousin within striking distance who farmed and lived in a small country town, near Toowoomba. We had heard they were still waiting for rain. They were offering a bed and a BBQ. This was an offer we could not refuse. We hired a car and went to meet them.
Their house on a wide dusty street in the tiny settlement of Allora, was everything you could have hoped for, complete with wooden slats, a veranda and a front and rear porch and a chocolate Labrador. The small house was surrounded by an incredibly neat but sun bleached garden, desparate for water.
John and Kim outside their home in Allora
We were treated to a whistle stop tour of Allora, including the pretty childhood home of Mary Poppins, and Johns’ small cattle farm, which had been leased to a neighbour as they battled with the drought conditions.
As we drove to the farm we passed a field of 22 camels. This is not the Silk Road here, but we were told about an Afghan farmer, exporting Australian camels to Morocco and possibly breeding them for camel meat.
Make of that what you will. In the meantime they seemed pretty much at home in the drought conditions!
Johns’ fields and paddocks had eucalyptus trees for shade, many of which were bearing dead branches. The grass was brown and beneath the trees were many fallen boughs which had crashed down to the ground and were now eirly marking the spot.
I was told stories of neighbours whose lives had been lost under falling branches and was warned not to camp under these ‘widow makers’ which shed not only their bark but whole boughs.
Nostalgically, we were shown the cows now sold to a younger neighbour, and their favorite family picnic spot with abandonned bench seats marking the spot. Fires and picnics were now forbidden in the scorching conditions. A drought whose end could not be forecast.
The hilltop position of the pastures afforded stonking views over the parched countryside below and as we peered into the distance, a small group of kangaroos appeared as if by magic, and hopped along the field boundary fence whilst we were warned to watch our feet in case of deadly brown snakes in the grass!
The government had issued farmers with Environmental ‘to do’ lists and in the case of this farm it included the irradiation of cactii which were in danger of taking a hold on the dry grassy slopes.
We heard tales of escaping Aberdeen Angus bulls which had ‘got at’ his pale brown Drought Master cows and the fields were now dotted with dark browny black calves!
Much to our delight, we were shown a neighbouring herd of pure Charollais cows. We recognised their muscularity from our home in Charolles.
That evening we were served huge T bone steaks on an outdoor BBQ and told that it was Charollais beef. Amazing. As our host cooked, he wandered around the garden clutching a cold beer.
With an upward inflection which is so Australian, he smiled broadly “Cant do a barbie without a beer in my hand?”
And I kid you not, but when John answered his phone he said “ Gooday Bruce. How’s it going?”
Our bedroom opened out onto a verandah. Happiness was a cool breeze which swept over us in the darkness.
We had one brief midnight incursion from the friendly chocolate Labrador. In the morning Kim handed me a rather scruffy bundle of scrunched up cloth which looked only slighty like my posh frock. She explained that it had come to her in the night courtesy of her Labrador!
For breakfast we were introduced to special deep purple health giving hybrid Queen Garnet plums which are selling like hotcakes. Apparently good for weight loss and other health claims. I am a real sucker for that kind of thing and they are now on my shopping list.
The next day we headed back towards Brisbane via Toowoomba, a pretty bush town with an elevated position in the hilly range with some 19th century buildings and a fab park with a cannon made in Woolwich Arsenal and a memorial to Emma Miller an early campaigner for womens equality and improvements in labour conditions for the poor.
We hope to hear more of John and Kim when they next visit London.