HOT DRY WESTERN QUEENSLAND
Trip Start Oct 05, 2009
322Trip End Oct 31, 2013
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JOURNEY: Longreach to Winton 220 kms
Winton to Cloncurry 350 kms
Cloncurry to Fountain Springs 60 kms
Fountain Springs to Mount Isa 60 kms
WEATHER: Hot, sunny, dry low 30's
Cool and clear at night
Our plan was to drive north west to Mount Isa and then turn back east on the Flinders Highway to Townsville. It was getting pretty hot to be travelling out here already and we noticed big mobs of caravans, camper trailers and motorhomes were heading south; this is typical that grey nomads and other frequent travellers go up north for winter and return south in the summer.
The very hot dry conditions in this part of Queensland are not for the faint hearted.
We left Longreach at 9am on Friday August 31st and drove through the wide flat plains of cattle and sheep properties. The highway was busy with road trains that often passed us at 110 kms per hour and we were pleased to get to Winton early afternoon.
Winton is a typical country town with wide streets ....once home to 1.5 million sheep, now moving more into beef production and boulder opal is mined nearby. Considered the home of the iconic Australian song "Waltzing Mathilda" because Banjo Patterson supposedly wrote the verses when he lived on the nearby Dagworth station.
Legend has it that it was first performed in 1895 at the North Gregory Hotel in the main street and they are tributes throughout Winton.
Winton's other big attraction is the fossilised dinasour print discovered in 1961 on a property, and later in 1999 another stampede of 3,300 prints were found. We didn't feel inclined to take the tour out to view the prints so we dawdled around the information centre and the town instead.
We found the free camp at North Gregory Hotel fabulous- showers and toilets in the pub and a nice flat surface to park. We met a few interesting characters here as the free camp filled up. The Arno's wall adjacent to the camp was an interesting masterpiece put together by Arno from rock waste from boulder opal and dotted with everything including the kitchen sink.
A splendid full moon and a pastel night sky was a gorgeous sight.
Saturday, first day of spring and in this dry dusty place it felt like summer as the day warmed up.
We left around 9am and sadly, 10kms out of Winton we came upon an overturned car that we heard later was a single driver fatality- 67 year old Doomajie man fell asleep. We wondered whether he was just 10 kms from his destination when it happened.
According to a radio police report there were 3 deaths on the road in the area that weekend. The roads are long straight and tedious and at speeds of 110 kpm a moment of distraction and your'e gone.
The lanscape is golden yellow and mobs of cattle dot the wide open spaces; we were lucky to catch sight of a group of brolgas elegantly prancing along the grasslands.
At the tiny town of Kynuna we met a lady working at the Blue Heeler pub who was just 2 months into her stint in this remote place- she had left her husband in Melbourne to take up the challenge of life in the outback! She was happy in this town of less than 10 folks!
A lunch stop at McKinlay, where the local pub was filmed in the movie "Crocodile Dundee" and then into more scenic landscape as we reached Cloncurry.
Cloncurry is another small outback town with mining connections- copper I think- and in the 1950s, uranium was produced at Mary Kathleen Mine which brought wealth to the area. Today about 2,500 people live in the area.
We paid $22 to stay at the Oasis Caravan Park and enjoyed cooking up a storm in their modern camp kitchen; we noticed quite a number of permanent residents, mostly men and all working in the nearby area. It was good to have a hot shower and get some laundry done!
We were joined for dinner by a young German hitchhiker on his way to Townsville and loved the story of his German mother backpacking through NZ 20 years ago, meeting a NZ guy and staying put to have a son -him! The marriage didn't last and he went back to Germany with his mum and was making connections with his dad in NZ. We chatted until the kitchen closed.
Sunday morning we decided to spend the day at the Fountain Springs Free Camp 60 kms west and it was spacious with clean toilets and some generous shelters- by late afternoon the place was packed with travelers. We caught up on some reading, internet stuff and just chilled out.
Early evening we noticed smoke and a bright glow not too far away- a quick check of the Rural Fires website indicated that it was a hazard reduction burn under the control of the Mount Isa firies! These sometimes get out of control so best to stay alert.
By early morning the fire was close by and we were surrounded by the firies who were taking a break at the rest stop. The smoke had become an irritant, so like our co-campers we packed and headed out at 8am.
We were in Mount Isa by 9am and we had 2 disappointments- the first no one in in this big town/city could attend to our non functioning TV connection- there were no caravan repair places at all in town because according to one local "you guys only come through for 3 months of the year" and there was not even one seller of caravans, motorhomes etc!!! oh well, that was that.
Disappointment two was- what do you do in Mount Isa as a tourist- well not much after the information centre and the lookout. I guess Kath's giddy impression of the city goes back to the wild days of the 1960's when the town was really bopping and today it is just a mine and pretends to be nothing else.
So we just turned around and returned to Cloncurry where a guy at Access Electronics actually came out of the shop to check our TV connection and found that a red band that ensured close connection of the cord had come loose! So the TV has power but as I write we still have not gained any reception or TV programs.
We spent another night at the Oasis and enjoyed a conversation this time with a British guy who is camped there and working for 4 months as a carpenter; of course he is finding it boring and lonely but is keen to save money.He has just a tiny tent and his car!
Now it was time for us to seriously head east and to the coast!