Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Barcaldine and Freecamping

Intrepid campers that we are, we had yet to spend a night in a ‘freecamp’ but after our ho hum sojourn in Emerald, felt that the time was right; especially since we had spent quite a bit of money at Repco and BCF to name but a few stores whilst staying at the Capital of the Central Highlands.

Free camping at Lloyd Jones  Weir.

We left Emerald, and travelled along the Capricorn Highway to Barcaldine passing through some beautiful cattle country, a kangaroo somewhere in the decomposition process at least every 100 metres (I’m not joking) and up and over the Great Dividing Range. We stopped at a deserted Drummond’s Lookout for lunch then pressed on to our free camp, Lloyd Jones’ Weir, which our Camps7 book gave directions to. Not very well I might add as we went a few kms in the wrong direction before realising we had missed the turn off. Anyway, we got there to find a lovely spot with lots of shade, kangaroos (of the living sort) and a large creek. There were already two other caravans there, so it felt good to know we weren’t having to pay anything  but also that other people were around. Fiela was feeling very good about all the dead wood on the side of the road and the six fireplaces to choose from in the camp. Even the toilets, which I expected to be foul at best, were excellent, complete with a fake indoor plant and potpourri. I was thinking we could stay a second night, and after Fiela sniffed out the guys fishing at the bottom of the weir, it was a finality. The only down side was the flies, which while annoying, weren’t bad enough to wear fly nets on our hats.
Locals fishing. Apparently it's the only spot for miles where they can "get our fix".

We set up, had a bit of dinner, put the kids to bed and sat outside to marvel at the stars. With no light around, the Milky Way was very clear and we watched as the Southern Cross made its way across the sky, solving the world’s major philosophical problems as it went.

The next morning revealed that the flies were still there, along with quite a few locals pulling in sizeable yellow belly fish from the weir. Barcaldine is around the top end of the Eyre Basin, and these fish can be found in waterholes all the way down to South Australia.

We went into Barcaldine to have a look at the place where it all started for the Australian Labour Party. After a dispute between pastoralists and shearers over wages in the late 1800s, the main showdown  occurred in Barcaldine and the ‘Tree of Knowledge’ became know as the birth place of the unionist movement and later, the Labour Party. ‘Tree of Knowledge’ seems a bit rich given the last few years of governmental ineffiency, but it’s a nice monument all the same. Had lunch at one of the pubs (average at best) the kids had a play in the park and after getting a few supplies we headed back out to Lloyd Jones Weir.

The Tree of Knowledge.

Inside the Tree of Knowledge.

Barcaldine Main Street.

Fiela caught a yellow belly in the creek then made a fire and cooked it so he was pretty much in heaven. Perhaps the most pleasant part of this stay were the people who camped there as well. Finally we met some fellow travellers who were interested in what we were doing and could give us some tips on where they’d been and how they were doing it. Prior to this most people simply kept to themselves (or were put off by the crying coming from our children) and we hadn’t felt the camaraderie supposedly felt by people ‘doing a lap’. We met Leon and Linda who were taking freecamping to a new level, even boiling their water over a woodfire to save gas. They doted on the kids, even providing a sprinkler for them to play under (with the camp’s water of course). And then there was Joe, a guy from Benowa on the Gold Coast, who was travelling alone, but had two campchairs set up “just in case” his late wife decided to turn up. Here was a guy running away from his sadness but at the same time inviting it back to sit companionably with him in the middle of nowhere.

Sprinkler + dirt = mudbath.

Fiela, "...doing what I'm born to do." 

Toasting marshmallows!

Attempt at photographing Caesar after marshmallows.

We left the next day, keen for Longreach and all its tourist attractions, the very opposite of where we’d just been, but not before stopping at the Barcaldine Bakery for the best Hot Cross Buns (yes, my embargo against everything commercially Easter-related has been lifted) ever. Stop here if you come this way- this bakery is awesome!

Lots of beautiful parrots around our camp. Do you know what this is?


  1. Looks amazing you guys!! Just trying to get in touch with le Roux, lost my old mobile, (rich wilson) new one is 0431554054, got a proposal for maybe working for you, gold coast way, if we move to Byron.

  2. Loving your commentary Linda...of the wilderness times and the stars and free living how it is meant to be. Islax