Travelling around Australia in a motorhome. A story of our travels starting from NSW then through Queensland, across to Northern Territory and Western Australia, then to South Australia, Victoria and finally across the seas to Tasmania. We have enjoyed everywhere we have visited and look forward to setting off again in our motorhome.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Julia Creek 27 – 30 July 2014

Drove onto Julia Creek to catch up with our friends Tony and Ali, who were hosting the free camp at Julie Creek. They had to organise each campsite and Julie Creek is a small village of about 500 people, who are making a big effort to attract the grey nomads to stay for a few days. The campsite is situated around a bore feed lagoon and it is very pleasant if you can get a camp on the water. We had a great happy hour with a sing-a-long and then the next night went into town for a dinner organised by the locals. For a small town, the locals have made it very attractive to attract travellers. Had a few drinks and an enjoyable dinner in the local pubs and talked to the local Blaze-Aid coordinator. Blaze-Aid allocates volunteers to farmers who are struggling with the 2 year drought and gives them a helping hand. The up-shot was that we volunteered to help out on a property!! Fingers crossed it will work out.

Quamby 25 – 26 July 2014

After getting some work done on the Longreach, we left Mt Isa and headed for Quamby. Quamby is only a locality (2 people) but the local farmers organise their own rodeo each year. We had intended to stay near the pub but found that there had been a 100% fall in population, when the 2 people who looked after the pub abandoned it for the bright lights of Cloncurry, so we drove on to the rodeo site to camp. Although it is only a small community, they put on a great show with bronco, bull and steer riding, calf roping, buck jumping and breakaway roping. It was a lot of fun and we felt it was an authentic experience organised by the locals. Although there were a few women and Aboriginal competitors, it was a very ‘blokey’ affair – the men are tough and rough out here and even when they fell off their horse or got kicked by a cow, they shook it off and hobbled off. It must be tough for the women out here – it is hot, dry and dusty.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Mt Isa 22 – 24 July 2014

Left Corella Dam after 2 relaxing days and drove to Mount Isa. The scenery has changed again and consists of rugged, rocky hillocks dotted with stunted ghost gums. There was no free camping allowed in Mt Isa and we were forced into a small site at an overpriced caravan park dominated by mining accommodation – the joys of owning a monopoly business. This is one of the iconic must-see towns when travelling around Oz and we were keen to explore it, however for a town of over 20,000, there didn’t seem to be much to discover. The mine dominates the town with 2 enormous smoke stacks and large mineral ore heaps and the shopping centre seems tired and worn out. Talking to locals it seems the mine dominates the town with a lot of itinerate workers. One of the issues is the sense of isolation that most people feel. It is 1600km from Darwin and 1800km from Brisbane – as it is the largest town in the entire north west of Queensland you have to be self-sufficient – there is nowhere else to get supplies. Just heard on the radio that the latest research has confirmed the dangers of lead dust in Mount Isa, especially for children. Peter couldn’t but ponder on the time that his father had worked in the lead mines.

Corella Dam 20 – 21 July 2014

Corella Dam 20 – 21 July 2014 Had a brief stop at Cloncurry (which reminded us of the mining towns out west) and decided to head onto Mt Isa. There is a nice little museum there but everywhere there are NO CAMPING signs. The shopping centre seems rather strung out and small for a town of 3,500 but maybe everyone shops at Mt Isa. The countryside has changed again with rugged undulating red hills, covered in small white gums and grey spinifex and red termite mounds. On a whim we decided to have a look at Corella Dam. After a dramatic turn and entry through a locked gate, we followed a rough dirt track to the dam site. Even though the dam level is quite low after 3 years of dry weather, it was a very pretty site, with plentiful bird life, so we decided to stay a few days. Watched another brilliant sunset and then tried our hand at star gazing – fantastic clear night. The next day we went up the abandoned Mary Kathleen Mine that operated for 30 years from 1955. It is quite eerie to drive around the kerb and guttered streets with trees growing where houses and shops once stood. It must be quite sad to see it now if you lived there as a miner. What it used to look like.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Cloncurry 19 July 2014

We had another look around Winton in the morning before heading off about 300km to Cloncurry. The distances between towns are immense in western Queensland and you could imagine the excitement of the pioneers when the railway came to town. Winton is only a small town of about 1200 people and except for the tourists coming to see the dinosaur fossils, would be hard pressed to survive. The North Gregory (one of the 4 pubs in town) is an interesting hotel and reputed to be the pub where Waltzing Matilda was first performed. It has been rebuilt at least 5 times, the last reincarnation in an attractive art deco style. Went through a hamlet called Kynuna whose only claim to fame is a pub called the Blue Heeler and stopped for lunch beside some amazing rock formations. They were small plateaus or mesas that had a hard ironstone top and clay sides that were slowly eroding. The further north we drove, we noticed the black soil and Mitchell Grass slowly giving way to bare dusty paddocks with occasional mobs of Brahman cattle – reminded us of NT. We drove onto McKinlay, another small village that had a pub called Walkabout Creek – I don’t think it was the one used in the Crocodile Dundee movie. We camped about 60km south of Cloncurry, the landscape changed again and we saw red soil, with white gum trees emerging out of the yellow Spinifex Grass – beautiful colours at sunset!

Winton 17 – 18 July 2014

Got up early to visit the School of the Air, the long distance school for children living in the outback away from schools - sorry kids: there is no escaping school! The children are taught by a mixture of parent and volunteer tutoring, teaching via Skype, school camps and graded lessons by correspondence. There is tremendous effort by teachers, parents and volunteers to make sure that the kids are not significantly educationally disadvantaged by their isolation and by all accounts they do a great job. We then drove across the road to visit the home of the QANTAS Founders Outback Museum, as Longreach was also the original depot for QANTAS and includes amongst its displays a decommissioned QANTAS 747 that dominates the highway coming into town. This was another interesting museum that chartered the beginnings of QANTAS in Western Queensland. Early settlers (such as Peters grandparents) suffered the effects of enormous isolation, especially when there was a serious accident or illness and the advent of air transport, with the Fly Doctor Service, helped reduce the sense of isolation. They also had a 727 and a DC3 (the workhorse of WW2) on display and some replicas of early QANTAS planes housed in the original QANTAS hanger. We were glad to have visited Longreach and see all the attractions, but felt the venues and activities were developed to attract tourists with limited time to get a feel for the outback. With the loss of government jobs in Longreach, they have managed to retain people and jobs through growing tourism activities and should be congratulated for that. Set off for Winton in the late in the afternoon (no kangaroos) and camped off the road amidst the tuffs of dry Mitchell Grass. The countryside is getting drier, dotted with small spindly shrubs and trees and the 3 year old drought shows no sign of breaking. The next morning, we set off for the Australian Age of Dinosaurs Museum, which is situated about 15km up a dirt road on a high plateau. The museum has only been built a few years and is an outstanding building with an amazing setting with 360o views. We were very impressed by the enthusiasm and energy of the palaeontologists and volunteers. This has the largest collections of Australian dinosaur fossils in the world and started by a local farmer who found bones sticking up out of the black soil. We had a tour of the lab and saw the fossilised bones from two new species – Banjo and Matilda, named after the other claim to fame in Winton – Banjo Patterson was meant to have penned and performed his immortal Australian song – Waltzing Matilda, one that many people (including ourselves) think should be our National Anthem. What’s not to like about this song – it has drama, pathos, is anti-establishment and honours our early pioneers! Camped at Long Water Billabong, just out of Winton and enjoyed a spectacular sunset and bright crisp stars.