A journey along the Tropic of Capricorn – Part 2

Photo courtesy Garry Greenwood.

This is the second installment in a three-part series by Garry Greenwood as he travels the path along the Tropic of Capricorn.

As the days roll by the sun continues to approach its zenith above the Tropic of Capricorn. I’m losing my shadow by the day and the temperature continues to rise. It’s been an unusually wet season far out on these usually dry plains, and the further west I journey along the Tropic of Capricorn the greener it becomes.

It’s been an unusually wet season far out on these usually-dry plains. Photo courtesy Garry Greenwood.
It’s been an unusually wet season far out on these usually-dry plains. Photo courtesy Garry Greenwood.

All the rivers, creeks and dams are full to overflowing with water still laying close to the road in many places. Tall green grasses now grow right up to the edge of the road threatening to encroach upon it, and I haven’t seen a single cloud in the cobalt sky since commencing my journey.

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The enormous coal trains have long disappeared only to be replaced with numerous 55m-long road-trains, fully laden with beef cattle on their fateful journeys eastward, to the Lakes Creek abattoirs in Rockhampton, where I began my journey of a different kind.

My next pitstop is the township of Alpha, an hour drive west of the Anakie Gemfields. Here, for a short distance, the Capricorn Highway shares the same name with Shakespeare Street — the main street in town. Aroused by the sense of local culture I then notice Milton, Dryden, Byron, Kendal — all the streets here are named after poets.

Alpha also is the home of over 20 beautiful street murals depicting everyday life in the region. The locals are proud to have their town known as ‘the Town of Murals’.

I asked some locals where the town got its name and it was explained to me how Major Mitchell, an early explorer, spent much time in the area and was so impressed with the lush vegetation (it must have been an exceptionally good season also) that he thought he had found his utopia. Having a superstitious streak, he credited his good fortune or find, to the Alpha Centauri star constellation — the closest star group to us — a mere 4.4 light years away, and thus named the region Alpha, or so the locals say.

A mere 50km of verdant plains to the west stands Jericho. Here the Capricorn Highway momentarily morphs into Darwin Street which is intersected by Edison and Faraday Streets. I then realise all the streets here are named after eminent scientists. Juxtaposed with Darwin, Pasteur and his eminencies is the Crystal Trumpeters structure in the main street — Darwin Street. This interesting structure, complete with Egyptian motifs carved in rock, depicts the biblical story of how Israeli trumpeters caused the walls of Jericho to collapse after making such a terrible din for several days. You can read all about the biblical version in the Old Testament’s Book of Joshua.

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This interesting structure, complete with Egyptian motifs carved in rock, depicts the biblical story of how Israeli trumpeters caused the walls of Jericho to collapse. Photo courtesy Garry Greenwood.
This interesting structure, complete with Egyptian motifs carved in rock, depicts the biblical story of how Israeli trumpeters caused the walls of Jericho to collapse. Photo courtesy Garry Greenwood.

Our Tropic of Capricorn’s Jericho is located on the banks of the River Jordan not far from our very own sea (lake if you must) of Galilee.

By now I am becoming ever more intrigued by the origins of the names of some of the small towns and villages blistering under the eternal Capricorn sun. For example, commencing from the eastern end of the Tropic lazes Dingo, noted for its annual International Dingo Trap Throwing Competition; then there’s Bluff gazing out over the magnificent bluffs and escarpments of the nearby Blackdown Tablelands; Comet, since it was where early settlers saw a comet streak across the sky; Anakie for reasons I have already covered in Part 1 — a place where men and women appear to answer to little or no authority as they dig for Gemstones. Meanwhile adjacent to the Tropic of Capricorn and further to the east is the township of Banana surrounded by orange orchards.

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Photo courtesy Garry Greenwood.
Photo courtesy Garry Greenwood.

The rail-line still runs next to the highway, although both are becoming extremely lonely. The sun’s intensity constantly reminds me the Tropic of Capricorn somehow still hovers above. Finally the tall green grasses appear to be making great gains in the eternal war against the forces of their arboreal competitors.

The road straightens further as it streaks off to my horizon.

Where have you been where the origin of the place name has had you intrigued? What are some of the more unusual place names you’ve visited?

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