Alan and Louise Travers have turned parts of their cattle and sheep station into a nature-lover’s paradise.
Story By Graham Simmon
Dozens of bird species – pelicans, galahs, and Major Mitchell cockatoos among them – circle the grass-lined waterhole, while brolgas step lightly through the dense scrub, and native water-lilies bloom in wild profusion on an ornamental pond.
Sound like a tropical wildlife reserve? In fact, the location is Aldville Station, between Quilpie and Cunnamulla, in south-west Queensland. Alan and Louise Travers welcome guests at their farm home-stay, in lush grounds surrounded by date palms and frangipani trees.
Alan Travers shows guests around the station, pointing out some of the many secrets of the bush. In the south-east of the property, an ancient Aboriginal well still provides water for livestock. This is just one of many wells sunk by the Kunja and Mardgany peoples of the district, and which were highly valued by station owners before artesian drilling came into vogue.
A real highlight of Aldville Station is Beal Bluff, rising out of the savannah like an Australian version of a New Mexican mesa. The bluff, some seven kilometres long, is a riotously striated series of red-shale rock folds studded with caves, secret passages and sheer cliffs that drop steeply down to the plains below – in short, an explorer’s and rock-climber’s paradise.
“You see that nest up on the cliff there?” Alan says, pointing to what looks strangely like a discarded snake-skin resting in a bower in a rock-fissure. “It’s the remains of a greater stick-nest rat,” he says. The stick-nest rat is now extinct on mainland Australia – there’s a small colony on the Franklin Islands off Cairns – but this particular nest looks as though it has only just been vacated.
Beal Bluff is also said to be home to the endangered big-eared kultarr (also known as the jerboa pouched mouse or pitchi-pitchi). The Queensland Government has recently imposed controls on clearing fallen logs in an attempt to improve wildlife habitat and such steps may well lead to a recovery of kultarr numbers.
Alan has been visiting Beal Bluff for more than 30 years and still sees something new on every visit. “This beehive wasn’t here last time,” he says, looking up at a cliff-face hive overflowing with wild bees. “They must fly up here after feeding on the yapunyah flowers down on the plain.”
The yapunyah, a species of eucalypt, is one of the stars of the outback. The coppery sheen of its trunk attracts immediate attention. When it flowers, bees are drawn from far and wide. Other striking trees of the area include the leopardwood, with mottled bark like that of a leopard’s skin, the bloodwood, which has a creamy-skinned fruit tasting a bit like coconut, and the shimmering, silver-foliaged brigalow.
This story excerpt is from Issue #66
Outback Magazine: Aug/Sep 2009