23rd May 2015 – 23rd Jun 2015
What was potentially a convoy of 3 was reduced to a convoy of just 1 (us). This setback had a positive side…..we were able to change our itinerary from 3 weeks to 4 weeks and extend our trip further north to include the Undara Lava Tubes and then return via Carnarvon Gorge.
The countryside was wet and green until halfway between Nyngan and Bourke when the extent of the current drought started to show. Almost until the furthest northerly point of our trip, the landscape can only be described as brown, dry and desolate.
Staying at Kidmans Camp at Bourke for 2 nights gave us time to do the Back O’ Bourke Exhibition, a river cruise on the PV Jandra paddleboat, drive out to Mays Bend, and an evening of “Poetry on a Plate”.
We then had overnight stops at Charleville and Isisford before 2 nights at Longreach where we did the Stockman’s Hall of Fame, Stockman’s Outback show and the Qantas Founders Museum.
Finally we reached Winton, the start of the Dinosaur Trail. Camped at Long Waterhole for 3 days allowed us to see the Waltzing Matilda Centre, Arno’s Wall, the Musical Fence and the Age of Dinosaurs Museum. It was also very interesting watching the deft touch and patience required to separate bone from rock. A bit of disappointment happened when we found that the Lark Quarry Dinosaur Stampede was closed due to unforseen repairs following routine maintenance….a good excuse for a return visit some time.
Just 2 weeks after leaving Winton, we hear the news that the Waltzing Matilda Centre has just been burnt down. This will have a major impact on tourism in Winton.
While some museums will recreate a dinosaur skeleton in full, even if only a few bones are actually found, Kronosaurus Corner at Richmond only displayed the actual bones recovered, although quite often this entailed almost the entire creature…quite enlightening.
We had intended to camp at Porcupine Gorge just outside Hughenden, but it was fully booked out so we had to do it as day trip instead, including a very scenic walk down into the gorge. On our way back into town, a quick stop to relocate a Black Headed Python from the middle of the road…hopefully he wasn’t silly enough to go back.
For anyone visiting North Queensland, we found a great free camp at Fletcher Creek, 40km north of Charters Towers. This place was huge….dozens and dozens of campers could be accommodated quite easily and there would still be plenty of room to swing a cat. After 2 nights here, it was on to Undara Lava Tubes…..an amazing creation of nature. These tubes were originally 160km long but only a very tiny portion is available to the public…..it’s hard to grasp the size of these until you are deep inside.
Deciding to visit the gemfields around Sapphire, the back road from Clermont to Rubyvale had some fantastic scenery….long rolling plains interspersed by the remnants of ancient volcanoes.
Our visit to Carnarvon Gorge didn’t quite eventuate. With the dirt road in already quite muddy from overnight rain, the campground very soggy underfoot, and a forecast of 2-3 days of showers/rain, we decided that bushwalking in those conditions would not have been the happiest experience….another location to come back to again some time.
Our flexible itinerary allowed us to spend 3 nights camped on the banks of the Maranoa River at Fisherman’s Rest near Mitchell. First night was very pleasant, the second night was constant rain (61mm – Qld drought breaker) and the third night was the State of Origin.
Our homeward journey continued through Roma, St George and Mungindi with the temperatures progressively getting colder and colder. A must see in St George is The Unique Egg where you will find hand-carved emu eggs.
At Narrabri, we visited the Australia Telescope Compact Array and found another nice campsite at Yarrie Lake…the recent rains were the first time that the lake had had any water in the last 6 months.
Overall, a very pleasant trip…we ticked a few more of our “must see” places and found some great campsites.
Several of our bush camps were interrupted by the inconsiderate use of generators by some people. Running one from 8am, or still running after 9:30pm is just not on. The odd occasion to recharge batteries on cloudy days can be accepted, but, we visit the outback for the “sounds of solitude” and the “noise of nature”. If you can’t exist without 240v power, please stay at home or in a caravan park.
Gary & Wendy Williams