THE NEW BLACK STUMP – OR IS IT GOLDEN?
Here be Dragons
Cartographers of old would often place warnings on their maps stating “Here be Dragons” to caution their readers of the dangers of travelling beyond the known boundaries of the maps. Naturally, there was also the ever present danger of falling off the edge of the Earth.
It would seem that this practice wandered into more land-based travels and the verbal exchanges from those who issued a similar caution to travellers with the knowing toss of the head over their shoulder to indicate that the unknown lies beyond and danger waits.
The Black Stump
I’m sure that, if you’ve spent any time in Australia, you’ve heard of the ‘Black Stump’.
This somewhat vague reference to a burnt out tree is said to be the determinant point beyond which you’re wandering into unexplored regions and need to have your wits about you – otherwise often referred to as the ‘outback’.
Hence we know say – “Beyond the Black Stump”.
Will the real ‘Black Stump’ please step forward
There are many black stumps in Australia and each has its attributed place in history as ‘The’ black stump.
Rather than solving the vexing issue of where these stumps are and the legitimacy of each, I have taken it upon myself to try and come up with a more relatable indicator and one that we can all readily identify and maybe even share the exact address of.
I looked at pubs, but these abodes for the purveyance of fine liquors pop up everywhere. Besides, it’s more the behaviours of the characters who frequent these pubs that indicate the outback nature of their location.
I also looked at bakeries who sold vanilla slices, but these too have encroached into much of what could otherwise be considered Outback Australia.
On my recent trip out west from Brisbane to Bollon, Eulo, Thargomindah, Noccundra Hotel, Jundah, Stonehenge, Blackall and Mitchell, I had a fair few hours to contemplate this matter quite a lot.
Then, on my return trip home and pulling into Roma (some 500kms west of Brisbane) it hit me with a huge thud…. Roma has a McDonalds restaurant!!
Here was a town that was considerable in size (6,848 people in 2016 – Australian Bureau of Statistics ABS), had businesses that supported much of the farming community around it and sat on the cross roads of two major arteries (the east-west Warrego Highway and the north-south Carnarvon Highway).
My last sighting of a town that had attracted the building of a McDonalds was Goondiwindi (some 350kms to the south-east and notably with a similar population of 6,355 (2016, ABS)). Interestingly too, to me after several days on the road by myself, Roma had a different feel to its western neighbouring towns that I had just visited – and had fallen in love with.
Perhaps Today’s Black Stump is in Fact Golden
Had I found the new Black Stump?
On my return home, I plotted the locations of Australia’s more inland towns with a McDonalds restaurant to see if there was any correlation that could be interpreted or implied as to where the outback may start. I then drew a radius of approximately 100km to encompass the area that could be considered to be serviced by these restaurants (within say an hour’s drive), and found a boundary that could prompt discussion around what may be the doorstep to our Australian Outback.
This ‘line in the sand’ leaves Cape York, much of western Queensland and New South Wales (excluding areas around Mt Isa and Broken Hill respectively), significant parts of South Australia (north of Port Augusta), Western Australia and the Northern Territory (outside Darwin, Katherine and Alice Springs) and all but the western coast of Tasmania as being capable of being considered as remote.
I’m more than happy to hear others’ thoughts, but these towns aren’t chosen by such businesses for no reason. They are the result of significant statistical considerations and projections – including us travellers and campers. They are not chosen by contemplating some old charred tree trunk (be it real, long forgotten or never existed), nor by a vague nod of the head to some inland point.
So, I’m happy to open the debate and point to these new “Golden Stumps” (albeit ‘arches’) as an indicator of where our new Outback starts – you can even find them on the McDonalds GPS app and pinpoint their location.
So, and enjoy a burger and fries for me and maybe see you one day at w3w.co/dating.withdrew.hippy