There are some places on the way to and from Queensland that have become almost places of pilgrimage, or at least waystations: places we go out of our way to visit, monitoring changes and seasons, and delighting in familiarity and the overlay of memories of past visits. Last time we visited Cunningham’s Weir, we ate our boiled eggs with cumin and boiled the billy battered by the thunderous roar of the Dumaresq River (pronounced Doomarrick, stress on the middle syllable, I believe) in flood.
This visit it was a lot quieter, and the food was vegan – J’s hummus and biscuits. We sat on our camp chairs in the sun amongst the grasses above the weir. It’s a timber crib dam, built in 1954 and has survived a number of heavy floodings without major damage: in 1956 it went under 8 metres of river flow. A few big trees have been chopped down since our last visit, and maybe some stones have been added at its edges. The current swirled into photographically irresistible white patterns, and the water was flowing enough to make walking across an impossibility.
The weir is named for Allan Cunningham, botanist and explorer, who passed this way in 1827. His name and that of his brother, also a botanist, live on in a the names of a number of species: Araucaria cunninghamii (hoop pine), Archontophoenix cunninghamiana (Bangalow palm), Casuarina cunninghamiana (river sheoak), Diplogottis cunninghamii (native tamarind now D. australis), Ficus cunninghamii (white fig, now F. infectoria), Medicosma cunninghamii (bone wood), Nothofagus cunninghamii (myrtle tree, Tasmania), and Pennantia cunninghamii (brown beech)
Looking for this very familiar weir we had one of those memory occasions. We turned off our main road, following a sign that said “weir” and were instantly puzzled. Half the scene was familiar, but … The far bank wasn’t steep. The prospect up river wasn’t treed. The dam didn’t look the same. It took far too long to realise we’d stumbled across another dam.