Outback MagazineOutback Magazine


World's longest mail run
Letters are left in their mailbox, which stands near a cairn marking the spot where Burke and Wills lost their camels...

Story: John Dunn
Photos: Trevor Fox and John Dunn

ImageJody Rollings is not your regular postie. Sure he's got his letters and his parcels and his canvas bags. And a neat uniform too.

But there's no motor cycle. Nor does he walk. And his round is somewhat longer than usual - 2600 km, in fact, which takes him two days to complete.

Jody Rollings is a pilot, and along with his colleagues at Airlines of South Australia, he operates what is described as the "World's Longest Mail Run". It is a claim which does not seem to be disputed, no doubt for good reason, because this is a postal service that stretches all the way from the southern waterside centre of Port Augusta in South Australia to the tiny land-locked town of Boulia, far away to the north and deep in the heart of the Queensland outback.

It is a journey of some 1300 km each way and one that includes about 25 stops at small inland towns and remote cattle and sheep properties scattered throughout an area that borders and covers some of the most famous places in Australia's inland history.

ImageThe mail run skirts the Flinders Ranges and flies, for a while, above the Birdsville Track and Sturt's Stony Desert. Just to the west is Lake Eyre and the mighty Simpson desert. It follows the tortuous exploration route taken by Burke and Wills, and crosses the vital inland waterways of the Cooper, Diamantina and the Georgina.

It is a significant lifeline for the people of the outback. It's a service they rely upon, not only for their mail, but for supplies of all sorts. And for some conversation and social contact, too, fleeting though it may be during quick, 15-minute touchdowns, but important nonetheless.

It all begins every Saturday morning just after dawn, when Jody, Geoff Cobden or Luke Shields start stacking the twin-engined, white-painted Aero Commander Alpha Charlie Zulu, with its distinctive gold and black strip, parked on the Port Augusta tarmac where Spencer Gulf peters out and the endless flat lands start their long sweep to the northern horizon and beyond. Story end

Full story: Issue 2, December 1998- January 1999

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