After two other trips to the heart of western Queensland at the height of one of the worst droughts ever experienced, many of the Burrumbuttock Hay Runners’ trucks could almost drive themselves to their destination on the third journey.
It was a well-oiled machine of drivers and support crew that rolled back into the central west on Friday morning, two-ways active with organisers checking details up the road, working out rest stops and time available, and keeping the giant hay delivery safe and orderly.
Oncoming roadtrains are warned by the lead vehicle, “Got about 120 trucks following mate, nothing oversize, just a lot of them” but nothing prepares them for the spectacle they are about to see as the convoy appears through the windscreen.
Prime movers have Australian flags flapping from their cabins and adorning the sides of their cargoes of hay, signs show where the generous donors have sent their hay from, and blow-up boxing kangaroos peek out from behind sleeper cabs, ready to rally at the slightest hint of an “Oi, oi, oi”.
This weekend’s mission from Darlington Point near Griffith in New South Wales to Muttaburra is the third being undertaken by Brendan Farrell and his crew, but experiencing the sheer enormity of the donation being made and the pride surrounding it never gets old.
After travelling in the convoy, passing when you can, you start to notice that most of the trucks are carrying NSW and Victorian number plates, and you get a feel for the huge donation of time their owners have made to drive 2000km or more with their loads of hay, and then return all the way back to their usual jobs.
It’s not the first time many of them have done this either – you can hear them comment on the state of the country and grass growth they’re passing, and make comparisons with previous journeys, when most of the paddocks were cracked and bare.
The admiration from the public comes in a variety of ways from the public along the way – Blackall State School children lined the front fence during their lunch hour to wave and smile on Friday, and were rewarded by plenty of blasts on the horn – and occasionally a tourist travelling the other way will call in on the two-way.
“Good on you all – it makes me proud I witnessed this today,” is the gist of many of the words across the airwaves.
The 120-strong convoy, while not the biggest the central west has seen, is being welcomed by the mayor of the community that will be the eventual destination, Muttaburra, after the only cyclone of the season so far slipped away to the west early in the week.
Restocking has only been undertaken on an ad hoc basis and very few bank accounts have been replenished.
The hay runners are spending Friday night at Ilfracombe at a private function, before the final trek through Longreach and up to Muttaburra takes place on Saturday morning, for the unloading of trucks and a party for the wider central west community that night.
Those with names in the hay ballot will be able to load up their hay on Sunday morning.