Flight from Ethabuka

Wednesday 21 September, 2005

Bush Heritage supporter Jane Lennon recounts her journey from Ethabuka after the rain.

Friday 10 June had been hot and windy when we drove into Ethabuka via the beautiful Montara dune. We were anticipating our next four days exploring this new Bush Heritage reserve.

Searching for the pot of gold. Photo Julian Fennessy.Searching for the pot of gold. Photo Julian Fennessy.

A little rain overnight delighted everyone by settling the dust. The rain was a harbinger of things to come but did not interrupt our explorations to the south the next day to explore the rocky mesas and to look at Pulchera Waterhole, birdwatch and identify plants.

Our Sunday excursion was engulfed in a heavy storm adorned by fabulous rainbows. By next morning the campers among us had become ‘boat people’ in a sea of red mud. Over the next few days the rainfall total climbed over 120 mm, neighbouring properties recorded good rains, roads were declared impassable and we were marooned.

People busied themselves with management jobs around the homestead and, with 17 to feed, we did a food stocktake. The sun shone on Wednesday, our ‘lake’ at the front gate receded a little and a green tinge on the mud announced the sprouting of dormant seeds.

Thursday’s satellite photo brought bad news. An enormous rain front was moving towards us from the West Australian coast. We were either here for a long haul or it was time to make a break for it. A small convoy of nine of us left in a northerly direction on Saturday 18. Within ten minutes we were bogged for the first of many times on this epic journey.

Bogged again. Photo Katrina Blake.Searching for the pot of gold. Photo Julian Fennessy.

After four hours our three vehicles had travelled 103 kilometres and crossed 73 sand dunes. On the flatter country we abandoned the road and followed two stockmen on motorbikes who guided us through the ‘spew country’ where stopping meant bogging. The black clouds were ever on our heels and finally caught us as we hit the bitumen near Boulia, nine and a half hours after our journey had begun 178 kilometres to the south.

As I write this, four couples are still marooned at Ethabuka, sustained by a food drop from the Queensland Special Emergency Service. Who says the pioneering spirit is dead? It lives on in the caretakers at Ethabuka.

The four remaining couples are now safely home. Our special thanks to all who were at Ethabuka during this eventful downpour. Your enthusiasm and flexible attitudes to the extreme set of circumstances we faced has been praised by all the Bush Heritage staff. Thank-you for making the experience such a rewarding one.

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