Chillin’ on the Paroo at Currawinya

Magnificent tree-lined waterholes with yellow belly below and birds above.

 

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Whilst not recognised as an official unit of measure, ‘Back of Bourke’ has long been the unofficial unit of measure for remoteness. So when you are 200km further west and 175km further north than Bourke, you are fair dinkum, officially, ‘bush’… in Currawinya National Park. For us it was a great place to have a bit of red dirt R&R between Adelaide and Brisbane. And let us assure you, there is plenty of red dirt.

 

It doesn’t matter which point of the compass it is approached from, red dust is rolled gold guaranteed in this neck of the woods. From Thargomindah in the west, Eulo in the north, or Bourke or Wanaaring in the south, there is more than enough bulldust to test out every seal in the truck. And the east? Well if you make it in from the east, you have just qualified for the next Dakar Rally as there is no road… just dirt and a couple of tyre tracks.

 

Currawinya is a relatively new National Park. Formed in 1991 when two 1860s pastoral properties nestling the Paroo, Currawinya and Caiwarro were snapped up by the grey bandits. In more recent times the purchase of adjoining properties Boorara, Werewilka and Oolamon has increased the Park’s size to 344,000ha – making it one of Queensland’s largest.

 

This was a happening part of the colony as Australia started living off the sheep’s back and in 1870 the original homestead housed the Currawinya Post Office. In 1875 it was moved to Hungerford as part of the pub in the nearby border town… which (if nothing else) gave those on the land an excuse to go to the pub. As if they needed one.

 

The original buildings were of pise construction: Very thick walls made of a heavily-compacted composition of sand, clay and gravel. Despite a levy bank around the old Caiwarro Homestead, floods took a heavy toll and the buildings are but a remnant of their former glory. The historic buildings/ruins give a great insight into what life was like way out west at the turn of the century. Steel-framed skeletons of later year buildings complete with a wood-fired 44-gallon drum hot water system still stand stubbornly against the elements. The homestead was deserted in 1971 when management of both properties was consolidated at Currawinya.

 

Another ‘must see’ is the old woolshed, yards and shearers’ quarters. All the buildings are in great nick and whilst the shearers’ quarters are locked up, the woolshed is open – and once inside you can almost feel the hustle and bustle of what it was like when in full flight. The waiting pens, shearing stations, classing tables and wool presses are all looking like they’re just waiting for the sheep and shearers to turn up.

 

The Currawinya homestead is now the Ranger Station with numerous really interesting relics from the properties on display. Certainly worth the turn off from the Hungerford-Eulo road at the stone Currawinya sign.

 

Whilst there are five lakes in the Park, only two can be visited (by 4WD). Lake Numalla is fresh water and almost permanent although it has been very dry this year; and Lake Wyara is saline. At best you will see a glimmer of water from the viewing area, unless you are an avid birdwatcher and enjoy a really good bushwalk.

 

The Park is a Ramstar-listed wetlands waterbird breeding site. That is not a new ‘pay for view’ network, but recognition for the many bird species which draw many observers to the Park. One interesting fact is that of the 19,000 freckled ducks (Stictonetta naevosa) in Australia, some 10,000 are often in the Park. So if the sky starts to go dark, make sure to put your hat on… as that could be a lot of freckles pointing south dropping duck doo doo!

 

The Granites are not exactly The Olgas but they’re worth the short gallop. Certainly the kids will have a great time climbing and playing games amongst the outcrop of granite boulders from which you get an elevated view of part of the Park.

 

Bilbies have had a very special history within Currawinya, behind a 25 square kilometre fox and cat proof fence built in 2003. Unfortunately floods damaged the fence in 2011 and 2012 letting in feral cats, which decimated the 300-strong endangered marsupials. The fence has been fixed, the feral cats are being removed, and 75 Bilbies are ready to be re-introduced. The actual site cannot be visited but there is an information board and display at the woolshed.

 

We opened the roof-topper at Ourimperee Waterhole which is behind the woolshed.
This is glorious camping with excellent spots under big gums where you can throw in a line, listen to the birds and knock the top off a coldie whilst waiting for a bite. Seriously… a bloke could do this forever.

 

There is even a bush shower with plenty of cold water.
Another great thing about Currawinya is that it is stuck between two truly great Qld pubs: The Eulo Queen Hotel and the Hungerford Royal Mail Hotel. Both have fascinating histories with the Eulo famous for Isabel McIntosh, The Opal Queen who amassed her wealth in opals and was constantly a small step ahead of the local police with her sly grog and prostitutes.

 

When talking iconic pubs, The Royal Mail Hotel at Hungerford is one of our favourites.
History and myth are in mega slabs, with folklore having that it gets so hot out here that when locals die and go to hell, they send back for extra blankets. The Royal Mail is the perfect place to wash the dust down with no fancy beer on tap – just golden ‘cold as’ stubbies and plenty of them.

 

For anyone returning to the southern States or SE Qld from some fun in the red parts, take a break in Currawinya. Drop some dust, get the red particles out from everywhere and put the feet up for a coupla days before you begin the last leg of the long haul back to suburbia. You won’t regret it.

FACT FILE

Where:
The Park is nestled on the NSW/Qld border between Eulo and Hungerford.
It is reached from the north via Eulo which is 170km west of Cunnamulla, and then taking the Hungerford road 4km west of town. From the south, the Park office is 20km north of Hungerford, which is 217km north-west of Bourke. For those who have been out to the Centre, take the Hungerford road from Thargomindah.

 

Camping:

Two areas near the old Caiwarro Homestead and another behind the woolshed on Ourimperee Waterhole.
Permits are compulsory and can be booked online, at the Park office or at the self-registration hut by Caiwarro.

 

The right things to bring and do:

1. Bring plenty of water. The local water is not for drinking.
2. Carry extra food, fuel, spares and water.
3. The area is prone to flooding in wet weather so allow for an extra four or five days of rations just in case.
4. Winter temperatures can reach –5ºC, so make sure to have warm clothing and camping gear in those months.
5. Take out your rubbish. Do not bury it and NO bins are provided.
6. Bring your own mill-cut wood. Do not burn wood from within the Park.
7. Erect dunny 150m from any waterway.
8. If fishing, you can only use live bait caught adjacent to the Park.

 

SUPPLIES AND FACILITIES:

You need to be totally self-sufficient as this is a remote area. Do not take chances. Fuel and supplies are available at Cunnamulla, Eulo, Thargomindah, Hungerford and Bourke.
Domestic animals are prohibited in National Parks.

 

TRIP STANDARD:
Degree of difficulty depends largely on road and weather conditions. The Eulo/Hungerford road has large sections of bulldust and some cattle grids but it’s not difficult as long as care is taken.
4WD tracks within the Park again require due care and they have a 40km/h speed limit.
This all changes when it’s wet and you should check on local road and river conditions. The Paroo and surrounding low-lying areas are prone to flooding.

 

MAPS AND GUIDES:

A map of the Park can be downloaded from the website:
http://www.derm.qld.gov.au/parks/currawinya/index.html

 

CONTACTS AND INFORMATION:

Currawinya National Park Office
Ph 07 4655 4001
Email currawinya@epa.qld.gov.au

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