Mount Isa’s low peaks are still visible behind us as we turn our 4WD south and head down the single lane highway towards Boulia. We’re on our way to Cravens Peak Reserve in far western Queensland for a feature story on reserve manager Jane Blackwood to be published in the Courier Mail’s Saturday magazine Qweekend.
I’ve been in contact with News Corp journalist Elissa Lawrence about it for months now, and after much planning and logistical wrangling, and with Bush Heritage’s Communications Officer Amelia Caddy and News Corp photographer Lachie Millard in tow, we're finally heading south in a car full of dictaphones, cameras and what seems like a million different camera lenses. We’re all keen to get to the reserve, meet Jane and start to capture the beauty and remoteness of this very special piece of the bush.
Media trips like this give us a valuable chance to showcase Bush Heritage’s important conservation work to a wider audience – Qweekend’s print edition alone has a readership of about 350,000 – and it also gives Amelia and me the opportunity to say goodbye to chilly Melbourne for a few days and head out to a reserve to do our own content gathering for Bush Heritage’s media channels!
Six hours of driving and a cracked windscreen later we arrive at the Cravens Peak gate to the sight of Jane and her trusty ute. She passes us a UHF radio and we’re off, driving the 70km on an unsealed road through Glen Ormiston cattle station to get to the Cravens Peak homestead. As we approach the Cravens Peak boundary, Jane rattles off information about the trees and birds outside the car window including a big flock of Brolgas, and lots of magnificent Coolabahs.
We dump our bags, make our acquaintances with Jane’s dogs Gwini and Paanja and head straight back out again for sunset on the sand dunes where Jane has her first photo shoot with Lachie and his outdoor softbox (a special light modifier for cameras).
The next two days pass in a bit of a blur as we explore as much of Cravens as time allows. We bump along sand dune tracks, eat lunch beside empty creek beds with a hot billy in hand and camp out under the stars at the Number 3 Bore campsite.
On one early morning expedition to the dunes we’re amazed at the number of animal tracks that cover the sand and listen intently as Jane describes the owner of each print.
We try our hand at pulling out invasive weeds (it’s harder than it looks!), check out 500-year-old fossils at Painted Gorge, enjoy the colourful sight of wildflowers peeping through spinifex grass and watch as Jane and Bush Heritage volunteer Paul Bateman masterfully change a flat tyre in less than five minutes. I even have my first ever manual driving lesson in a trusty Toyota Landcruiser under Paul’s watchful eye!
It’s been an incredible trip so we’re all sad to wake up on the last day to the thought of the drive back to Mt Isa. Luckily, we got to relive the experience when the story was published in Qweekend this past weekend (Saturday, September 15). Read the full story (if you have a digital subscription): Is this Queensland's Loneliest Job?