Never big on planning we decided about a week before Christmas this year that we would spend a few days heading west from our home in QLD. We had to return by the 3rd Jan to pick up people from Brisbane Airport.
The Internet our source for suitable places to visit and things to do on the way, as we drove west towards the Warrego Highway and then to Roma and eventually on to Longreach or Winton depending on the time.
We left home at 9 am and headed west through the Blackall Ranges to Dalby. The countryside around here is unusually green and there were plenty of signs that a solid storm had been through the area with a lot of obvious damage, mainly around Woodford. Many gum trees along the road had lost huge limbs, sometimes it looked as if half the tree was strewn across the road.
The clean up guys were out with their large mulching machines, behind their trucks. It must have been some storm; probably, Christmas Eve when we had an electrical storm ourselves with some very heavy rain.
Dalby is the main town in the wheat belt of the Darling Downs. This area has been in severe drought; the worst since records began. They had a significant downfall prior to us coming through; I’m sure the Rain-Gods see us leaving the house. Paddocks were knee-deep in water; water holes were full and very large ponds had formed along the roadside. It was clear we were not seeing any sign of the drought yet.
Between Roma and Dalby, which are 270 kilometres apart, there are only two other towns with more than 100 people living in them. The wheat belt gives way to dry scrub land. There are still signs of big a storm prior to our passing even this far west.
The prickly pear grows so big it forms large trees, and it grows in large numbers out here. This is a pest cactus which the authorities have possibly had some small success in eradicating, although hard to believe here. The problem with it is that
as a piece drops to the ground, it develops roots and forms a new plant.
The land is flat for hundreds of kilometres around with mirages on the horizons, trees rise up out of their false water edges. We arrived in Roma, 7000 people living in an old country town with almost no redeeming features. They cling to the oil exploration as a hook to gather in the tourist dollar.
The caravan park we stayed at is next to the information centre and tourist exhibit that celebrates the oil industry in Roma. We saw that there was an outdoor multi-media show during the evening, so we quickly downed our dinners and made our way over there. It was a very good presentation, with a great film and sound-track, and an animated film happening down below the screen level, which changed often throughout the story. The show was really worthwhile and interesting; but we were the only ones at it. I asked the guy running it why, as the campground wasn’t exactly empty. He said that it gets busy in the winter months, but the summer is not the popular tourist season. He said some nights he turns up and nobody shows, so he packs up and goes home