This afternoon I got back from my annual visit to Simon, Nicole and their blue cattle dog Pepper. The timing of the return flight was ideal, as it enabled me to buy essential food items, including vegetables for tonight’s supper. I always love being in Longreach and staying with Simon and Nicole in their spacious, comfortable home. They are busy at work and continue to flourish. They have already had their first covid jab. Pepper, who has the silkiest coat, licked me to death whenever I allowed her to. Because of Longreach’s remoteness, all eligible adults who wanted the vaccine were given it. 

Whether seen from the air or the ground, the country looks green, but much of the tall vegetation is weed and not grass. Still, there was unusually little roadkill on the road to Ilfracombe and from Ilfracombe to the 12 Mile Stone Pitching, a noteworthy hydrological construction which we visited.

The bird life in town during my stay was plentiful, with flocks of kites, little corellas and galahs filling the sky. Regulars at the feeder and bath in the backyard included sparrows, apostle birds, yellow-throated miners and peaceful, diamond and crested doves. Unlike last time, there were no brolgas walking the streets.

It is now a tradition that on each visit, we find a place to marvel at the night sky. On one occasion a full moon flooded the view. This time we benefited from a crescent moon, and although there were some wispy clouds towards the horizon, overhead, the atmosphere was clear, revealing the unfathomably immense abundance of the stars. As on my stay last October, we pulled into a lay-by between Ilfracombe and Longreach, after dining at the Wellshot Hotel. Once again, I was fascinated by how long it took speeding vehicles travelling to Longreach to pass us, after we first saw their headlights in the distance.

Simon booked me an Airpark Tour at the Qantas Founders Museum on the 16th which I thoroughly enjoyed. The DC 3, Boeing 747, Boeing 707 and Super Constellation are all covered by the immense new 8,072 m2 roof. The tour gives access to the fuselage of each plane. Yesterday afternoon we  visited the Stockman’s Hall of Fame. The just completed upgrade, has transformed the museum from its, for me, rather gloomy original incarnation to a place of light and vitality, which allowed me to make sense of the exhibits.

On the 17th we drove to the aforementioned 12 Mile Stone Pitching. It dates from the 1890s and is cited as the drystone wall equivalent of lining a creek bank and dam to regulate water retention and onward flow. The thousands of stones had to be brought some distance to the site, were carefully selected for shape and size and driven lengthwise into the soil, fitting so tightly that they proved immovable. The result is a remarkable and stable structure which is deceptively level underfoot. The dam was strategically located as a water supply station for the Cobb & Co coach service between Ilfracombe and Isisford. A lone patch of yellow daisies was growing near the structure.