Mail run gives unique glimpse to Queensland outback
WHAT do a gas freezer, kerosene fridge and a bunch of metal barrels have in common?
It turns out they all make useful mailboxes on the isolated stations in outback Queensland.
Perched high in a cabin on the 420km Outback Mail Run looping north of Quilpie, it's easy to take in the vast red plains where sheep and cattle have been run for about 150 years.
Kangaroos, emus, brolgas, mulga parrots and black cockatoos are easy to spot, especially when they dart right in front of the truck.
But it's the unique glimpses into country living that make this day-long adventure worth the time.
Margaret Pegler, who hosts lunch at her Trinidad station homestead, has never had to head into town for her groceries.
When she first moved to the station with her late husband in 1958, a plane would deliver goods every Thursday from Charleville and now they come via the mail run truck.
Her property even has the wreck of a twin-engine 10-seater aircraft that crashed in 1984 and exploded into flames not far from the family homestead.
Savvy western Queensland tourism operator Troy Minnett - whose great, great grandfather Thomas Costello began his family's rich history with mail runs - began taking passengers along the red dirt tracks soon after taking over the Trinidad Mail Contact No.76 in the late 1990s.
"Tourists who came to the caravan park started asking if they could go on the mail run so we used to do it in this little tiny ute with one person," he said.
"Then I asked Dave, who used to work for my grandfather, would he mind taking some people on the run with him. We just had a little dual cab."
A 13-seat bus now takes people, who can even help unload goods and open gates along the bumpy route, every week during the cooler seasons.
This ride is sure to bring back childhood memories of growing up in the country or visiting country cousins, and it will offers an appreciation for the pioneering spirit of this area where the average yearly rainfall is about 35cm.
If you have time, watch the Kings in Grass Castles - a great mini-series about one of the region's key pioneers - before you go.
Most well-known for its sheep shearing, the Quilpie area also has gained a reputation as the gateway to the Channel Country and for boulder opal mining.
Troy tells the story from his younger years of chemist Des Burton often wearing a garbage bag in his store because he had been out the back cutting opals with a water and saw.
Some of Burton's work adorns the altar in St Finbarrr's Church in the town.
At the end of an outback mail run - there are two absolute musts depending on your accommodation.
A dip in the hot artesian spas at the Channel Country Tourist Park and Spas with a glass of wine or a meal in if you're staying at the Quilpie Heritage Inn.
Remember those little recipe books they once sold at school fetes with contributions from all the locals?
Troy's mum cooks two dishes from "Quilpie Cuisine" - which Mrs Pegler also raves about - on weeknights for a buffet for guests.
"It's the old food that we've grown up with all our lives but we have people staying with us who love it and then buy the cookbook. The money goes to local kindergarten," Troy says.
There's quite a few other sites around this tiny town that are worth a look - learn about the Bulloo River to nowhere with a nature walk and the Amy Johnson - the first woman to fly solo from Britain to Australia - stopover in Quilpie.
It's a few hours in each direction to discover more of outback Queensland, but please visit www.outbackqld.com.au to find out ALL the adventures you can have near Quilpie.
* This writer was a guest of Tourism and Events Queensland