The car is packed with the essentials for a day trip. We have fruits and nuts to graze on as we drive from suburban Brisbane into the countryside. The road eventually turns into what is like an endless river of tarmac shimmering under a relentless Queensland summer sun. Rustic farmhouses dot the brown grassy hills as trees stand up like spectators near the zigzagging fences bordering the roadside. The speckle of black and white cows breaks up the sea of brown and green fields. Many of the cattle lay lazily under a tree to escape the heat radiating from the sun which hangs high in the never-ending blue clouded sky.
We drive with no specific address in mind. All we know is that we should eventually find a trail of blooming sunflowers on several Queensland farms alongside the roads in the Southern Downs Region. Well that is what we thought. We drive for miles along the Sunflower Route which takes us to the historic township of Allora. We stop on the side of the road to find our bearings and quench our thirst from the hot summer sun. Interesting enough, the name Allora derives from an Aboriginal word, meaning waterhole or swamp. We eventually stumble across the author P.L. Travers of Mary Poppins’ childhood house. You can book a tour of her home which is the former Australian Joint Stock Bank, now referred to as Mary Poppins house. The tours are not operating on our arrival, but the unplanned and unknown town of Allora comes alive to us, albeit the mysterious sunflower fields still evade us.
The fertile soils of Allora and surrounding towns on the Sunflower Trail also known as Tourist Route 11 span 26 kilometres or 50 kilometres round trip from Warwick. This is some of Queenslands most fertile soil and throughout the year farmers tend to wheat, corn, sorghum and oat crops. However, the summer months of December through to the end of February the fields yield a golden crop of brightly yellow coloured sunflowers.
After driving around for what seems like hours, we start to lose hope on finding these sunflower fields forever. We end up in Warwick where we stop to have lunch. Eventually we find the location of a sunflower farm on Willowvale road, thanks to the directions from the police officer who fines us for unknowingly taking a right-hand turn where it is not permitted. We still can’t believe we would break the law, so we drive back to the location the police officer explains the incident took place. To our surprise, there is a little sign close to the concrete divider on the road with a left-hand turn symbol with the word only. This costly incident does however lead us to a sunflower field.
While you can put your detective hats on and try and find the sunflower fields on your own, you can ring ahead to the Warwick Visitors Information Centre to find the exact locations each year. This information is complimentary from our roadside police officer. Otherwise, you can do what we do and have a friendly police officer kindly advise you of the address. Warning, apparently Warwick is a training ground for new police recruits. Whilst they are eager to serve and give directions, it can come at a cost.
The best time to see the sunflowers in bloom is an hour up until sunset. Keeping in mind the farms are private property, we pull up safely on the side of the road to get some photos. Note, the long grass on the side of the road is a great place for snakes. The sunflower fields also harbour mice who look for seeds to feed on and in turn the snakes feast on the mice.
It is windy when I step outside the car and a pesky swarm of flies buzz around my face as my hair masks my visibility whilst trying to find a safe area to take some photos. My seven-year-old daughter is insistent she join me and screams as the flies swarm around her face. This is not the idyllic time to approach the nearby farmer to have a chat about his crop and farm. It will require a return trip to meet the amazing farmer who aids the sunflowers from seed germination to full bloom.
I stand facing the vibrant burst of towering golden hues which adorn the landscape. Suddenly, I have this overwhelming impulsive desire to run through the field and frolic amongst the sea of brightly yellow colour of happiness. But it’s private property, so I’ll have to wait to become friends with a farmer for this to happen.
The trip to the sunflower field remind me of the humble tiny beginning of a sunflower seed which turns into the awe-inspiring flower of sunshine. The life-cycle of seedling, shoot, bud, bloom and regrowth reminds me of the hope within all of God’s creation. Like sunflower seeds, we are bursting with expectation and growth. The sunflower produces beautiful flowers, edible seeds and oil. Likewise, our lives are a testament to the power of creation and the beauty that is within all of us. Maybe that is why Van Gogh painted his sunflower paintings, to capture his emotions and mood of happiness and express his humanity.
“A sunflower field is like a sky with a thousand suns.”