Just ducking to the shops.

Host: Mudgeacca Station
Written by Claire Britton, Station Manager

Most people think ducking to the shops would involve jumping in the car to drive 5 minutes down the road to get a bottle of milk and loaf of bread. My ducking to the shops involves at least two weeks planning to book appointments for; the doctor, dentist, massage, bank, optometrist, accountant, hair dresser, mechanic, and whatever else needs attending to. Phone calls and emails to businesses to order parts, tools, filters and specific orders to make sure they will be there on that ONE day you are in town and can pick it all up. There is a lot of planning to do, shopping list to collaborate, going over the pantry, storeroom and cold room to see what needs replacing, topping up and reordered completely.

All roads lead out of Boulia, take your pick.

I always let the folks and co-workers know when I’m going to ‘the big smoke’, Mount Isa as it is to me, it’s just an unwritten rule. We all know how few and far between the trips are, and obviously what goes around comes around. Some get annoyed when a last minute ‘thing’ is to be picked up for someone else but it is no trouble for me. You’re there already and may as well make the most of it. Gone are the days where you went to town with the one list and it didn’t change, now with mobiles and correspondence at our fingertips you can’t escape the ‘just one more thing please’ phone call.

Road train country, and single lane bitumen is a ‘luxury’. 300km worth to the big smoke.

A day of ducking to the shops usually means a 3am start, three and half hour drive to get there, dodging kangaroos and other wandering livestock in the dark, getting to Mount Isa before the shops even open and having 20 minutes to enjoy a specialty breakfast and ‘town’ coffee before the chaos begins.

After breakfast it’s just go, go, go. I generally take a double sided A4 page as my list and it’s the 3rd and final draft. Listing things under shop or business names, in order from first to last, shops that are close together, appointment times, addresses or phone numbers. There’s also the order of things to get paced in the vehicle, largest objects first, cold goods in last. It gets quite technical but pays to be organised otherwise you just end up running around like a headless chook craving caffeine. I think it’s a good day when you have done EVERYTHING on your list, or you manage to squeeze in a decent lunch or catch up with a friend in amongst it all. As the day wears on, things on the list might get shuffled down to less priority and you get into giving up mode, get necessities and head off. Things then get on the ‘next time I’m in town’ list.

Mount Isa at dusk from the lookout – quite literally ‘the big smoke’.

The general aim is to leave Isa by 3pm, allowing a 6-6.30pm arrival back to home, but that doesn’t always happen. Keeping in mind the dogs are given a 10-minute run before we leave, chooks are thrown some grain, poddys are given breakfast with a quick scratch and cats have biscuits topped up to get them all through the day. I guess it’s like when mustering is on, but it’s also always nice to be home at a decent hour, as then there is the unpacking to do!

Taking a ‘ute’ to town is sometimes a necessary other than a wagon as you can load a lot more bulky goods on.

Sometimes if vehicles are booked in for extended periods to get parts or serviced, it restricts the ability to get around to do other jobs. In this case it’s ideal to have another vehicle driven up, if you have the driver numbers! Otherwise a night stop over is the easiest option. Everything possible is done in the one day and just cold goods and last-minute things are gathered together the next morning and you’re out of there like a rat up a drain pipe. When a night stop over is in order, traditional Chinese and guava cruisers while sprawled star fish on the motel bed watching the latest reality TV show is on the cards! After all, it’s the trivial things in life.

The drive to Mount Isa is quite a nice one when we are lucky enough to be going in daylight hours.

A good town trip is always strategically planned after a pay day or before an upcoming event so you can get your hair done, eyebrows harvested and actually feel female for half a day. If you’re going in, you’re going all in, and come home with a tired soul and exhausted credit card. A girl’s got to do what a girl’s got to do, even if the biggest expense that day was the hair dressers. So yes, my ducking to the shops is all about leaving in the dark and getting home in the dark, just to be travel hungover the next day and have a heap of goodies to unpack to make it feel like Christmas every couple of months.

Half way mark, Dajarra. Stopping for a pit stop on the way home, loaded up to the hills, one can never shy away from a good bargain on Buy, Swap, Sell.

One day I had the Landcruiser loaded to the hills with shopping, I also had 8, day-old chickens from the produce shop in a cat cage and a fighting fish in a small container in the front of the ute. I was obviously a bit flushed in the face from the day running around and was ready to launch home. One person noted I was loaded up and a bit worked up and asked how often I came to town, I politely answered about every 4-6 weeks, if we’re lucky. Their reply was oh well, you’ll just have to come to town more often then to save the stress. Oh, if only it was that easy! I guess we are just pretty good at not taking things for granted, we know how important ‘town’ days are and utilise them to the max. If we run out of something we make do with what we have, and if it’s an emergency for machinery or something we call on others who may be going up to collect or couriers that are coming past.

An example of some of the different passengers I have for the trek home, ranging from guinea fowl chicks, chickens and fighting fish. Sometimes on rare occasions I have an actual human passenger.

We are very lucky to have our local grocery shop, hardware and all round one-stop-shop in town, which is quite literally only 23km down the road, and there isn’t much they can’t help you out with along with tyre service and gas bottle refills. We do support them first as without this shop in town the whole town would feel it.

Boulia town and all it’s facts.

A truck comes direct from Brisbane every Friday with stores, perishables, milk and in the cooler months fresh flower bouquets! Oh, what a treat. Bob, who owns the shop with his wife Val, also does a weekly lap to Mount Isa for goods and freight.

Boulia provides some great services and towns people and all surrounding properties are grateful to have them at hand.

Town has a mail service twice weekly, and our mail lady delivers and collects outgoing property mail twice a week also, and she covers the whole shire of properties. Boulia has a Health Centre with a full-time nurse, and the RFDS provide a GP service every Thursday, along with other specialty services such as optometrist, mental health care nurses and paediatricians. RFDS is always our lifeline for emergencies and we also have a 4WD ambulance in town which is run purely by volunteers and our on-call health nurse. But I guess we are versatile, patient and a little bit more grateful for things from living where we do, and I’m sure that goes for anyone who lives rurally right across Australia.