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BOURKE to NORMANTON


1.5.10 We left our campsite at 8.am and arrived in Bourke before 9 am, goingstraight to the Information Centre which is housed in the old railway station. Seems most of the railways have disappeared and goods are transported by trucks. Booked into the Mitchell Tourist Park for a couple of nights and went down to the historic wharf on the Darling River which is an exact replica of the original one built in 1898. Quite impressive. There is also a fully restored 1923 Crossley Twin Cylinder Engine there. The guy at the info said they would start it up at noon so we stood around waiting with other people for this to happen, but nobody turned up to kick the engine over. Then somebody told us that this only happens Monday to Friday and we and everyone else was given the wrong information. Oh well on to the Back O'Bourke Exhibition Centre, paid our money and got herded into a small room, everything went dark and we waited and waited and waited for something to happen - supposed to be a exciting laser introductory to the history of Bourke but it had broken down and they tried to fix it but alas unsuccessful. We went out the door into the bright sunlight and next display was something about the astromony I think, nothing to tell us what it was, maybe the explanation was given in the previous introduction that we missed. Next we were herded into another display room which was very good but lots and lots of reading about history. Would take you all day to read everything. Then went to the next room - more intensive reading, but way too much stuff and we gave up because we had booked a trip on the PV Jandra paddle boat and didn't want to miss that. Found we couldn't get out of the place without walking through their coffee shop, things like this annoy me! Found our way out to the Paddle Boat, only had to ask for directions once, even though we had a map. We were told the boat leaves at 2.30pm and then found it was 3.00pm, we could have stayed a little longer at the Exhibition Centre if we'd been given the right mail. There was still hard smelly mud caked onto the picnic tables and seats beside the Darling River, the evidence of floods was everywhere. The ride down the river was absolutely great, very informative and interesting commentary. Lots of huge Coolibah and Red River Gums. We travelled down and under the Historic Old Bridge which used to open up to let the large boats up the river. Was sorry to see the end of the trip and on the way back to town stopped at the Back O'Bourke Hotel and chatted to the locals who were very accommodating. They told us about the Memorabilia Room out the side of the hotel which was great, and we would never have seen it unless they directed

2.5.10 Drove out to the Weir on the Darling River. When we left we decided to investigate the other view of the weir where there were lots of Coolamon and Canoe trees. The official printed "mud map" directions given to us by the guy at the Info Centre told us to turn off the road at the canoe tree. I have no idea what a Canoe Tree is, and by now, we were already getting our backs up about the lack of signage. Decided on taking another mud map tour out of town to Fort Bourke Stockade. Another guessing game as to whether we were on the right track and eventually we did find it, beside a very, very pretty place called Eight Mile Lagoon, we only know that cause the GPS told us, no signs, nothing on Bourke maps. In 1835, Sir Thomas Mitchell constructed this fort, he had bad relations with the local Aborigines and he felt a fort was suitable protection against their attacks. The current fort is a replica of the original. We had passed another sidetrack to a designated picnic spot beside the lagoon, another very pretty spot. Grabbed the cameras, I even brought the tripod down through the saplings to the lagoon edge, whilst Lesley was looking for snakes the whole time.
(Lesley's description of events) Laurie set the gear up and started taping, next thing I hear an almighty yell, many expletives, and Lauries dancing around swearing in the middle of the bush. I thought for sure a snake had latched on to him. Made mental note in future to take first aid kit from the van and into car. Found Laurie running, hopping towards the car with his gear. He had set up his gear on an ants nest, they were the hugest ants I have ever seen in my entire life, wasn't even game to photograph them cause they were literally everywhere and very angry and had bitten Laurie through his socks.
I was watching the viewfinder, and suddenly felt what seemed to be about 5-6 red hot needles being stuck into my feet. I have to say I wasn't impressed. A look at the video which I hadn't turned off had us in stitches later. (The Ant Ordeal Video) Next we visited the cemetery to see Fred Hollows grave and while there noticed a galah come down onto the ground wildly flapping its wings. Watched it for a minute before realising something was not quite right with it. Went over and picked it up and I remembered that I had seen a vet somewhere so we wrapped it in my jumper and Lesley nursed the poor thing back to town. By that time it had absolutely stopped moving and no vet could help it so we took it back out of town and left it in the bush. After lunch we decided to walk onto the old historic bridge at North Bourke, and wait for the paddleboat 'Jandra' to come down the river so we could get some overhead photos of it. As we walked out onto the bridge, we heard the boat whistle and waited and waited and waited and realised we had missed the boat. Apparently it leaves half an hour earlier on Sundays.
(Lesley's Turn) We tried to follow the mud map out to Maritime Park, it was so ambiguous that I was getting testy by this time. Lucky Mr Cool could find it and we found a nice little track by the river which had signs pointing out historic spots. Lots of noisy cockatoos. Found the relics of the old paddleboat steamer PS Wave which was just a bit of scrap metal. Felt a bit let down so we decided to follow the map to May's bend where Robbery Under Arms was filmed with Peter Finch. Stupid mud maps and no signs and we were confused at whether we had found the turn off or not, by this time I was absolutely over the lack of signage and exact directions. Two caravans parked up the road and a lady walked back to us asking if this was the turnoff, so we weren't the only ones complexed. Laurie noticed a man with an old Panther Motor bike and a side car in the shape of a silver bullet with his young son sitting in it looked a bit stranded. He spoke to them and the man thought his motor had seized. Turns out they were in some sort of 8 day bike rally from Sydney to Perth to raise money for prostrate cancer. It is Sunday and this is Bourke, so the NRMA was uncontactable. Only thing left to do was tow them back to town. and this is Bourke, so the NRMA was uncontactable. Only thing left to do was tow them back to town. Young Tobias came in the car with us and they hooked the bike up to the back of the car. Laurie towed him as slowly as he could but the guy started freaking out that he was going too fast. Ended up dropping them at the Back O'Bourke Hotel on the north side of town. Tried to find the hotel where Henry Lawson drank but was so pissed off by lack of signage and directions by this time we decided to go back to van and have a drink.

Bourke Photos

3.5.10 (Lesley's Diary) Left Mitchell Caravan Park at Bourke, at 8.50am and found the fuel depot that the man at the Information Centre told us about. Laurie chatted to a young bloke at the bowsers and found out that you can't get up to Thargominda through Hungerford because of flooding. Went back to the Old Bridge behind the Back O'Bourke Hotel and this time were able to photograph the 'Jandra' coming down the Darling River. Happy that we finally got that footage, we left town and made our way to Enngonia where we sat outside the Oasis Hotel until it opened. We ate a pie and chatted to the owners who told us a little about the town. The wife had worked with the aborigines previously and he had been a roustabout. Anyway they were quite interesting and told us two of the pubs in Charleville (one was the Charleville Hotel) had only just reopened after the floods. After leaving there we drove through Barringun, didn't stop and on to Cunnamulla. Lovely long yellow grass along the way, it was really beautiful. Cunnamulla has changed since I was last there, they have a very nice statue of the Cunnamulla Fella in town. Topped up with diesel again, and drove to Paddabilla Bore just outside Eulo where we camped for the night. Supposed to be able to see certain birds here but all we saw were squarky galahs.

4.5.10 (Lesley's Diary) Left Paddabilla bore at 8.30am - was a great place to camp and arrived in Eulo at 8.45am. Eulo has a General Store which has absolutely, I mean absolutely everything in it. Things happen slowly and in their own, the proprietor asked me if I was okay and I told him I wanted milk and a few things and then I had to wait about half an hour for him to come in and serve me. Then the policeman's wife came over from across the road and served me. Got milk, a packet of green tea and a small bunch of grapes, nearly $20 geez !! A lady across the road told us that the approaches of a bridge at Thargominda had washed away and there was a very long detour, and also about a lagoon just out of town so we went out and found that. Turns out there is a dirt road to access the place with a lot of bull dust. We had dust flying everywhere, just about choking on the stuff. (LK - Amazed that this dust could form so quickly after being under water for weeks) We got in there and took some photos of birds that were on the far side of the lagoon. The road became a track on further, before we realised we had to turn the van around and go back, that was fun. Back to the main road, another dose of bull dust on the way, we found some Mud Springs which are release valves for the Artesian Basin. Apparently they make quite a loud bang that can be heard for kilometres if they burst. Quite interesting except we didn't photograph the large piles of dirt and after we left we realised they were the actual valves, we think. We stopped at Carpet Springs for emus, we have actually seen emus every day we've been on the road since St George. Also at Carpet Springs, we photographed a fence which we thought might be the dingo fence, found out later it is probably not a dingo fence. Mulga trees have started to appear in their thousands. Found the Yowie turnoff and had lunch, wondered about the opals and decided to move on. We have seen enough Opal Mines and soldiered on towards Toompine and boy was that an experience!! It's a little pub and not much else, fairly unique inside as most of those outback pubs are. The young lady who appeared at the bar was a young backpacker from the Netherlands. We talked to the manager and decided we did not want to free camp there, although we were told we could at the hall up the road. Next thing as we were leaving a herd of goats and a camel wandered up to the pub and surrounded the caravan and she put them in a paddock out the back. She told us there were some llamas out in the bush as well, so she starts yelling dog language at the dog (who was old and a bit deaf) so he would round the llamas up. Boy did she have a voice on her !!! It seems the animals wander off each morning to feed, and come home each night. There was a little pony there too. Left at 2.30pm and we were about 7ks out of Quilpie when we saw a sign to Baldy Top Lookout so we turned in there. If we thought we were in bad bull dust this morning, we were wrong, the bull dust on this road was ten times worse. Dust everywhere and we made out way to the Baldy Hill carpar where we stopped, and scrambled up the loose stones to the top of the hill to took some photos and video. We could actually see Quilpie from up there, it was a great view of miles and miles of mulga with a little town settled in the midst of it. There was a road going on further towards another hill that we could see so we thought we would investigate that. The road got very narrow and lots of washouts, in the end we thought we had taken on more than we could handle, as we were towing a 30ft van. So again for the second time that day, Laurie hands me the two way and I have to get out and direct him back and forwards on a skinny track in the bush without hitting any trees. We managed it and got out of there and stopped at a rest stop just short of Quilpie at 4.40pm.

5.5.10 (Lesley's Diary) We spent the morning catching up with video and photo editing, before finally leaving the rest spot at 11.30am. Drove into Quilpie and had lunch at the Imperial Hotel Motel, impressive new building with photos of the equally impressive original Imperial Hotel on the wall. Apparently it burned down in the 1990's. Quilpie is a neat little town, very clean and tidy. The information centre has a museum attached which is free and I would say it is as good or even better than the Back O'Bourke Exhibition Centre. Reminds me of the Surat Cobb & Co Changing Station Museum which was also excellent and free. There was also an art gallery at the information centre which is built like an elongated train carriage. Part of the stony tiles represent the river running through the complex. Laurie spent time on the computer which had a presentation showing the history of the town and interviews with locals. Out the side are murals that depict the history of the town. The friendly lady at the centre tried to talk us into staying for the races on the weekend. Boulder Opal is found at Quilpie. Topped up with diesel. Followed the town map to have a look at the town, and ended up down the back of the race course which clearly shows as a road on the map, and is clearly not a road when you get down there. Anyway dragged the van through a washed out bush track, through some mud and water and back to civilization. Made our way to Lake Houdraman which is just outside Quilpie, very nice spot, lots of campers there, and of course you can see the bird life over the far side of the lake, though Laurie managed to capture an hawk swooping for fish in the water. Decided not to stay and made our way to Cheepie, population of two. Once a Cobb & Co /Change Station, now nothing there. We walked into the old railway station to take some pics and I heard something rush past me, also saw a largish reptile out of the corner of my eye. Finished taking my photo and turned around, expecting to see it, but it had gone or was hidden in the long grass. Decided it was feet rushing past me and not a slithering sound, so must have been a goanna. Made it back onto the Warrego Highway and ran over a snake on the road. It was the first of three that we saw, the others being much smaller. Surprised to see them around as the nights are starting to cool down. Maybe the floods have flushed them out. Looking for somewhere to camp and found a big microwave tower on top of a hill, drove in the track and found stacks of room to camp.

6.5.10 (Lesley's Diary) Moved from our camp at 9.30am and passed some incredible damage to the railway line. Decided there was no way this rail could be fixed, it would cost too much. Called in at The Fox Trap at Cooladdi and spoke to Laurel who came from Moura originally. She has been at The Trap for three years and loves it. Laurel told us that the rail would be fixed in four months in time for the first beef She showed us photos of a smashed up semi trailer which rolled up the road on Anzac Day and then photos of the flood which powered through at night time and did lots of damage. Hence there was no carpet on the floor and all the memorabilia had been taken down in preparation to paint the walls. In spite of adversity she still had a huge smile on her face and ready for a joke with strangers. She also does a mail run to surrounding areas twice a week. On arrival at Charleville I saw lots of changes, mainly to the Ward River bridge area, and the Warrego Bridge area, they have even changed the position of arrival into town (from the west). (note: Lesley lived in Charleville for 6 years some 25 years ago) Next major thing I noticed was a levy bank which I found out later was built after the 1990 floods and in the 2010 flood actually kept the water in rather than out. This has something to do with the gully which runs through the middle of town which filled up and couldn't get out. We pulled in at the Cobb & Co Caravan Park. This place has the gully running right through it and suffered in the flood. No insurance available against flooding in this town. They are still cleaning up, and it is costing them heaps, $50,000 so far and still counting. Most of the houses look tidy here. Alady told me that most people cleaned up their places after the 1990s flood. She also told me although people have cleaned up after the 2010 flood a lot of them are still devastated in the interior, waiting for new floorboards, carpet etc etc. We then went down and looked at the old Corones Hotel which still looks great with the huge staircase in the dining area. They have lots of photos on the walls and was very interesting to look at. The water had been in there up to the mirror above the fireplace. Wow. Went to grocery store to restock the cupboards. While in there we heard the news that the Back O'Bourke Hotel burnt down last night. Gee what a shame, all those photos they had in the back room gone forever. There are no suspicious circumstances. Was lovely to have a bore water shower, didn't realise how much I enjoyed that.

7.5.10 (Lesley's Diary) Had a lazy day, we both felt a little jaded. Well not really. Laurie hosed and scrubbed the bull dust off the van and car. I did the laundry. Only other exciting thing to happen was a huge bus pulled in here towing a huge trailer. Both the bus and the trailer had six wheels. Trailer carries a little car. Just one couple live in this huge complex, don't seem to be any kids running around. Another great shower in the bore water, love it !

8.5.10 (Lesley's Diary) Today we drove out to the Information centre. We wanted to take a 96k self drive tour out up the Ward and Warrego Rivers but the lady told us the roads are closed because of extreme damage from floods. I remembered about the remnants of a plane crash I had seen here all those years ago but couldn't remember where it was except I thought it was near the airport. She directed us to a spot along the Morven Road, which didn't look familiar to me at all, and even with a sign pointing in off the road, and directions to drive in 400 metres and look for an old bath tub under a tree we still could not find it. Reminds me of Bourke !! This does not look like the same area where the crash is that I remember, I wonder if there were two plane crashes. We also followed a mud map around the tracks at the airport complex which showed remains of the buildings for the US troops who were here in their thousands during the second world war. Bloody mud maps - it was hard to follow and we didn't find everything. Most interesting of all that was the Norden Bomb Sight Vault which was a top secret operation. They even cut down trees to create a false runway and dummy aircraft were placed on the runway. We then took a run out to the old rock pool which I remembered - it is still as beautiful today as it was back when.

9.5.10 Today we went back to the information centre to try and find out where exactly the plane crash was. We even took the photo I had of the crash with us but sadly nobody could help us. They didn't even recognise the crash in the photo. They suggested we take the photo to the Historical House tomorrow and speak to George Balsilli who was probably the only person who could help us. Can't believe that they have the Boomerang Crash listed on their list of things to do and see and nobody can tell us exactly where the plane is - if it is still there - if it is the same crash as in my photo. Frustrating! We drove out to the Ward River and checked that out. Then we had a Bilby Experience which was totally fascinating, interesting and informative. Was rapt with that.

10.5.10 Didn't do much except to visit Historical House where we spoke to George Balsillie about the elusive plane crash. He couldn't help us much but we chatted on and on about plane crashes and the old days of playing squash at Charleville. Went down to the Flying Doctor and looked around, left a donation. Laurie had some signs painted on his car and a sign for his van done by a local bloke.

11.5.10 (Lesley's Diary) Left Cobb & Co Caravan Park at 10.30am and suddenly realised we had been in Charleville for about 5 days and hadn't finished the photographs we wanted to take. We have been very lazy here really. Laurie went down to top up with fuel, Took a couple of photos around town and headed towards Morven. Only about an hour later we pulled over cause we realised it was lunch time and we hadn't eaten ! Further down we found the Angellala Rail Bridge which is extremely long and I thought it was supposed to be the longest railway bridge in Queensland but Google tells me I am mistaken, and that it is the sixth longest. In stead of running on a built up bank, the line is elevated for some distance on wooden pylons. Funny thing happened while we were there, a vehicle that is used for road and rail crossed over the bridge while we stood there and tooted at us. Arrived in Morven, lots of cyclists there doing a fundraising run from Brisbane to Longreach for the Flying Doctor. Missed the museum it was closed but had a great chat with the Post Office lady who had come from the Northern Territory. Then chatted to a CWA lady who had been cooking for the cyclists, apparently they said it was the best meal they had had. Moved along from there towards Augathella at 2.05pm, the grass is long and golden and looks beautiful. We also saw some beautiful sunrays. We arrived in Augathella where we saw a tree that the Kenniff bros tied their horses up to when they came to town. It was close to the pub and would afford a quick getaway. Those brothers keep cropping up and they were just a pair of crooks. Drove around Augathella, and moved on to North Augathella, 42ks away and parked in a rest stop with a few others for the night. A few noisy minors (birds) there. Wonderful sunset.

Charleville Photos

12.5.10 (Lesley's Diary) Laurie woke up early and took photos of the sunrise while I slept on unaware. He got some good photos too. Left North Augathella at 8.45am and headed towards Longreach. Wasn't long before we saw a sign informing us we were entering the Lake Eyre Basin area, Coopers Creek Catchment. Made it to Tambo, headed to the information centre where we met a German lady Inge who married a local guy. She was a breath of fresh air. Tambo is hosting a black & white photograph gallery to open on Friday, she begged us to stay for it. These country people all like you to stay in their town !! Anyway Inge has a huge interest in photography so we swapped lots of information including email addresses and vowed to keep in touch. She also gave me a CD with some of her photos of the Tambo area on it, which I will view as soon as possible. Then went down the road to Fanny Mae's for chicko roll lunch. Decided to move on and found ourselves at Macfarlane Downs stretching our legs and just after that we sighted these beautiful big birds right beside the road. By the time we had turned the van around and goneback they had started to walk off. After looking up the bird book we identified them as brolgas rather than cranes. The cutest thing about it all, was the way the larger brolgas walked ahead then turned and looked for the smaller one lagging behind, then waited for it to catch up. I was so excited after seeing these birds in their natural habitat. Just up the road from the brolgas I asked at Laurie to stop again, having spotted six large eagles on the ground -they were huge birds. We turned around and went back, and of course they all flew away when we pulled up. They were feeding off something dead in the paddock. One bird actually flew off with a large piece of meat in its claws. Laurie managed to get a shot with my camera from the car. Next we arrived in Blackall, and the town had vastly improved from my memories of it. We found the black stump and photographed the rig this side of the black stump and beyond the black stump. Topped up with fuel, Walked around town, decided not to stay and to move on to Isisford rather than Barcaldine. Not far out of town, we found a small incline overlooking the downs, opposite Malvern Hills Station near Valentine Creek and thought it would be a great place to camp. Captured a great sunset from there.

13.5.10 (Lesley's Diary) Today has been a great day, we left our little pozzie at Malvern Hills at 9.30am. We only just got down the road when saw some brolgas in the trees. Laurie turned the van around and we went back, tried to take photos from the road but they were headed inland but toward a creek we had not long crossed, which was dry at the crossing but I had noticed water upstream. We decided the birds were headed for water so we drove back to the creek, grabbed the tripods and trekked up the dry bed till we reached the water then onto the bank where we could catch a glimpse of the birds through the trees over the other side. They seemed to know we were around and wandered off back onto the plain. A little further on Laurie spotted some more brolgas or cranes near a water hole and again we pulled up, this time I walked through the grass to get a closer look and managed to get a couple of pics from a distance. There was an emu there too but it took off. A little further up the road I spotted a head with a beak peeking up from the grass under a tree, I knew what it was because we had seen one on the way back from the Carnarvons - a bustard. Laurie turned the van around on the narrow road and we headed back but couldn't see it, he thought I had mistaken a stump for a bird but I was pretty sure of what I had seen. All of a sudden we spotted this beak looking up out of the grass, and yes there was a bustard which saw us and stood up and walked off. I got a close view of it from the road and all of a sudden another one popped up and they just as quickly flew off, so it was over all too quickly. I just don't have the equipment to capture birds from afar and probably not the patience either. Next we saw an eagle in a tree and got a shot at that from afar. We had only travelled 14ks and it had taken us over an hour already. Saw some more emus and kangaroos which we didn't bother about and we arrived in Isisford for lunch. Very small town which is practically deserted. Such a pity. The shops are mostly abandoned and empty. A few of the shops are done up like museums, like the old bakery and you can walk through and look at the old equipment. Also the old grocery shop, walking in there is like walking back in time. The main attraction around town is the crocodile fossils that were discovered here in the 1990's. They are 98 million years old. They have converted the old theatre into an exhibition centre to explain about the importance of this find. The building cost 1.4 million dollars but they used local architects etc to do it. It was very good. Then over to the Clancy of the Overflow pub where we chatted to the bar maid. We discussed whether to check out nearby towns of Emmet and Yaraka and nearby National Park. In the end we decided to carry on north towards Ilfracombe. Quite a few kangaroos along this stretch and an old gruff looking billy goat came up to the side of the road. Was the most unkempt goat I have ever seen. We are now camped 48 kms from Ilfracombe.

14.5.10 (Lesley) Left our free camp at 10.40am and found 12 Mile Hotel, a place that no longer exists. This used to be the rest place for the Cobb & Co coaches on their trip from Isisford to Ilfracombe. We did find something very interesting there, the 12 Mile Dam. This dam was made from pitching stones to stop the flow of water, some of the workers who accomplished this were Chinese. It was thought to be built in the 1890's. We then made it to Ilfracombe, a nice little place. It has this thing called Machinery Mile, all this old machinery right by the main road. We looked at Romani Hall, a tribute to Australia's Lighthorsemen. Was a very good display for a small town. Also looked in a house preserved as it was in the old days which was one of the best I have seen and I have seen a few lately. We checked out the Wellshot Hotel which had a heap of memoribilia, was a great little pub. A white dog there with a black patch over his eye kept bringing a stick to throw. Made the big mistake of playing the game a while, Then the dog then presented a small pebble to throw. All other shops were closed due to Longreach show. We did photograph a really old house called Langenbaker House, over 100 years old and looked it, supposedly one of the first homes in Ilfracombe. Then we found our way to Hilton's bottle museum what a chermozzle ! Supposed to be the largest collection of bottles in Australia. He literally had thousands of bottles in there plus a hub cap collection, a button collection (14,000 odd), scissors collection and of course the obligatory avon collection - all covered in an inch of dust. Looked around town and found the Wayne Taylor Oval and in the middle are about 20 large birds, all facing the same way - so weird. Of course when they saw us they flew off, some of them sitting on the goal cross posts, still facing the same way. They were hawks. We left town and made it to Discovery Caravan Park in Longreach. End of Week 5

15.5.10 (Lesley) Laurie went off to see if he could find someone to service the car, came back to say it is booked in for Monday. He found some 4wd self drive tours you can take in the surrounding area of Longreach in a tourist booklet. It referred us to the map on page 4, but that told us nothing.. So off to the information centre to find out it was closed. It appears that tourists don't need it's services after midday on Weekends. So we took ourselves out of town and found a maze of tracks out by the Thomson River. Out there we also found a free camping spot that we had heard about - there were heaps of vehicles out there. We took some photos around the river, going up this track and down that one. Was fun. One thing we did find was another weir which was made from pitching stones similar to the one we saw yesterday. Weird way of building dams. In fact, the Thomson River would be dry if wasn't for the fact that it has a weir built at each end of the town. Actually Longreach is a dust bowl they could really do with some rain. We went down to the Qantas museum and as it was late we knew we wouldn't have time to go in there today. Will come back to this. We took photos of the huge planes from the fence. Then we took a ride out to the showgrounds, the show has been on for the past two days, hence everything is closed. Practically deserted, but the showjumpers still there, so we sat and watched them for a while.

Charleville - Longreach Photos

16.5.10 (Lesley) Today was such a fun day. First up we left at 9.30am and went to the Information Centre to get maps where these 4WD tracks actually are, and guess what. The lady there didn't know, she couldn't find the mudmaps. On the bright side she could tell us where Lily Lagoon was (we couldn't find the sign anywhere so didn't see it) and Starlights Lookout which we did find. We headed out the Winton Road to the turnoff to Muttaburra, where we found a lady on a horse and a guy on a motorbike droving about 200 cattle alongside the road. Our day was off to good start with more to follow.
(Laurie) Once we turned off the bitumen, Lesley was excited to see her first bustards, and then a couple of groups of brolgas, kangaroos/wallabies and also some emus. She reckoned it was a photographers paradise. We arrived at Starlights Lookout which we found is actually called Cassidy's Knob. Apparently this is where bushranger Starlight kept a lookout and you can see how and why. The land is flat and you can see for miles and miles out onto the horizon and here is a small rocky knob, with boulders on top, quite high, sticking out in the middle of nowhere. We drove all the way around it, weird trees at the back. and then decided to climb it, only got half way up before we decided it was foolish folly. Very steep, lots of loose rocks and stones, carrying cameras, tripod, spare lens, we could see we were an accident waiting to happen. Bushranger Starlight was in fact a guy called Harry Redford, who stole a heap of cattle including a white bull, and then with a couple of associates droved them down the Streszlacki Track to Adelaide. I checked out the maps on the laptop and found that this dusty bush road actually ended up in Muttaburra, so that is where we headed next. (Lesley) We spotted a lagoon running parallel to the road so pulled over and walked in, hoping to find some birdlife. None but what we did find was swarms of locusts. Lots and lots of spiders in there with webs strung up between the trees and lots of locusts caught up in the webs. No wonder the spiders are so big and fat, they are gourmandising on the locusts. This turned out to be Byrne's Lagoon. We made it to Muttaburra, a small diminishing town lost in time. There are signs up and down the streets telling you what used to be in that spot in days gone by, and it appears it once was a thriving little spot. Not so these days. We photographed some very old signs on an equally old shop, and around the corner we passed a lady caught in a 50's time warp with her hair rolled up in curlers ! There is a large hospital there which is now a museum, closed today, our usual luck! Some old machinery right out the front. We did find a newer small hospital in town. Seems as everyone in town was at the pub as that was the only place we saw some life. Found another road back to Longreach, this one was bitumened for much of the way. Didn't see much except for a pack of about 50 kangaroos grazing in one spot, and a herd of wild goats. We passed by a child's grave, an 11 year old girl who died in the 1880's from burns received at a camp fire. . Looked at the maps and realised Tropic of Capricorn must be somewhere around close by, but it appears, typically, that the signage indicating such was non existent.

17.5.10 (Lesley) Laurie had car serviced this morning. Went to Stockman's Hall of Fame - we had heard from other travellers that the place had detiorated and not good. We went anyway and found it to be excellent, ten times better than the Centre in Bourke. The only complaint I would have is that some of the exhibits aren't lit well enough. Went and picked up some groceries to restock pantry and found the day was almost gone. Lots of Apostle Birds around the park. Noticed a small globe at the corner of the shire building which is actually the Tropic of Capricorn - lucky find.

18.5.10 (Laurie) I went to Qantas Founders Museum, taking the tour that took in the Boeing 747 and 707 planes. The 707 is the very first 707 purchased by Qantas, and is the plane the Beatles flew to Australia on, and was used to ferry servicemen to and from Vietnam during that infamous conflict. It is also identical to the 707 owned by John Travolta. The plane has had a few owners since Qantas originally sold it, and thus has asome pretty interesting stories to tell. We left Qantas at 4.45pm and drove up the highway to Macsland Rest Stop, found a nice little spot and set up for the night. There was a Mulga Walk nearby and a sign identifying all the weeds in the area.

Longreach Photos

19.5.10 (Lesley) Left our free camp at Macsland at 10.35am and headed up the Landsborough Highway towards Winton. The drive was uneventful, plenty of grasslands and a few sheep. We stopped at Crawford Creek for some lunch, no water in the creek though. Passed a sign telling us we are entering the Lake Eyre Basin Georgina/Diamentina Catchment. Lots of army trucks going by. Just south of Winton we saw a sign for the Australian Age of Dinosaurs so we drove the 10ks down the dirt road to an area where we had to leave the van before driving up on to a jump-up which is a local name for a mesa or plateau. The view from up there was spectacular. It overlooks a vast flat plain where dinosaurs used to roam. We went for a walk around the rim of the plateau and saw a goanna sunning himself. Then we went on the tour which as where they process the fossils before they are sent to a museum. They are asking for volunteers to assist them as they have found an abundance of dinosaur bones. You could watch the people working on the bones. Looks time consuming to me but they enjoy it and say it is interesting. We found the whole thing very intriguing and thoroughly enjoyed it. We drove down the jump-up, picked up the van and camped on the plain below. The bonus was that we saw the most spectacular sunset we have seen so far.

20.5.10 (Lesley) Left our little camping spot on the plain under the jump up at 10.05 and drove into Winton. Walked around town, went to the info centre, the girl there was totally disinterested in any of our questions about driving to Bladensburg National Park. Laurie spent some time looking for a new inverter for the car, no luck but he did manage to find Graham in the Opal Shop who could tell him about the road conditions at the NP. Saw a shop with painted dunny doors, that was good. There is a dunny on the roof of the opal shop, I think this town could be obsessed with dunnies. Had lunch in the van in the main street. Lots more to see in Winton but we will do it when we get back. Left town just after 3.00pm and headed for the National Park and for a change, everything was signed and easy to find. Excellent. Checked out absolutely everything marked on the map. Is a very flat National Park, a lot of claypans, and I image a lot of water when it rains. One interesting spot was Skull Hole which is the site of a massacre of aborigines in retaliation for the murder of a teamster. Lots of wallabies and kangaroos around. Surprise Creek was dry at the crossing and all hard rock surface, we managed to get the van across okay and through the narrow grid immediately afterwards. We camped on the southern end of Bladensburg NP.

21.5.10 (Lesley) Left our camp spot at Bladensburg NP at 9.00am and headed south. saw some beautiful country in the morning, lots of spinifex and kangaroos, really does look like a desert out here. Laurie is as happy as a pig in mud, loves this sort of bush track. Before we arrived at Opalton we found this historic site where there was a bronco branding panel last used 1938 & post for sliprails gateway. After leaving there we started to see a few mullock heaps before arriving at the Outpost in Opalton. Laurie went and chatted to the locals and I looked around for a few photographs and found some Spinifex Pigeons hopping around the place. They have very high crests on their heads. They had a public toilet there out in the open, with hessian arranged around it and a water tank with a hand basin attached nearby. Was an elaborate affair. Came across the grave of Roy Pahr who perished near here. Timely advice written on his plaque was 'always carry water and matches and don't leave vehicle'. Laurie spotted a Bearded Dragon on the road. I didn't see it, and when I ran up to it I thought it was dead. Laurie was positive it had it's head raised when he spotted it. I threw some pepples on it but it didn't respond, then poked it with a stick, still no movement. Laurie suggested I flip him over with the stick but I didn't like to do that so he did and wow the lizard stood on all fours and frilled his neck right up and kinda turned his body slightly sideways to make himself look larger. We thanked him for the photo opportunity and left him there. Arrived at a gate and immediately on the other side was a sign to Mayneside which showed as ruins on the map. Didn't know if we could turn the van around at the end of the track, we chose to walk down to Mayneside. Found a grave of an 11 year old girl, and some old posts in the ground and chicken wire from old fences. There was a lagoon down there which was very pretty, it was marked on the map as Hyde Park Creek. Got back to the van and wondered why there was no longer a station there and concluded that flooding may have had something to do with it - what would we know ??!!' Off again, the country side changed frequently and we crossed a lot of dry creeks, some ok and some mighty rough. Lorry spotted a goanna this time but when I got out of the car it took off very very fast it was, into the bush. Didn't know they could move so fast and we both missed photos of it. Finally made it to Lark Quarry turnoff at 3pm where we set up camp. There is evidence of a dinosaur stampede here and the next tour is 10.00 am tomorrow.

22.5.10 (Lesley) Left our spot at Lark Quarry turnoff and headed towards the Conservation Park, and weren't we in for a treat, the jump-ups were spectacular. The tour started at 10am . The stampede was very, very interesting and the walk around the hills in the conservation park was awesome. Really enjoyed it . On the way back we saw a sign to Nareen Jump-up so drove up the track, came to Nareen station and all of a sudden found we were on the edge and the road just slipped down and down and down from then on. We pulled up and took some photos and turned around and went back to the main road and next stop was on the Allen Range for some more photos. Back to Winton where we went to the Matilda Centre which was predominantly about the Waltzing Matilda song which they claim was written there. There was also an art gallery, more museum stuff, very interesting. Went out to Long Water Hole just out side town and camped the night.

23.5.10 (Lesley) Left Long Water Hole about 10.55 am and headed into Winton. Laurie filled the van with water and went into the Deck Chair Open Air Theatre for a look around, which still runs every Wednesday night as a nostalgia night. It was also used as a skating rink. We took a few photos around the town which we meant to do days earlier including some of old holden cars, and then filled up with fuel Laurie had a quick look through the Truck Museum and then we checked out the musical fence which was right next door. Finally left Winton at 2.35pm and not long after found a sign pointing towards Conn Hole so went down the track to see what it was about. Passed lots of broglas, three different groups, Laurie taped them flapping their wings and skipping, or dancing along. Was great. Made it to the waterhole where there were some men fishing, it was pretty but teeming with flies. Turned the van around without landing it in the drink and made our way back. Must have clipped a tree in there because we found the skylight over the shower broken. The country is very nice and

Winton Photos

24.5.10 (Lesley) Left our camp site on the road in front of Mt Booka Booka at 8.30am and headed across the Diamantina Causeway which is a lot of river channels. Wasn't long before we saw brolgas and bustards. The road came to some of the most beautiful scenery I have ever seen, lots of red stoney mountains cropping up out of the dead flat plains, was simply beautiful and surreal. We stopped in front of Woodstock Station, it isn't often you seen stations so close to the road. Next stop was Middleton at 10.45am, we parked in front of the Hilton and walked over to the Middleton Hotel. Besides an old dance hall, that's all there is. At the pub we enjoyed the hospitality of Lester & Val Cain, who were true bushies and very very interesting to chat to. Val cooked us a pie and chips which she smothered in gravy, delicious ! She told us about a camel ride she did in 2001 and Laurie ended up buying a book about it along with a bush pub book. Other travellers dropped in, and it very quickly became a social event. We related to Lester how we enjoyed the scenery on the trip in and he told us the best was yet to come. Reluctantly we had to leave, and when we reached Cawnpore Lookout we found Lester was dead right about the views. There was a steep track up to the lookout which we walked up. Moved on and found a place to camp off the road just 7ks short of Boulia.

25.5.10 (Lesley) Today, at 9.35am we left what Laurie called Black Hill Camp Site - actually we pulled off the road near a heap of bitumen. It wasn't as bad as it sounds, we could see forever in four directions, and had a fantastic light show last night that went on and on for hours. Must have had a decent storm somewhere to the south east. Arrived at Boulia about 20mins later and had a bit of a look around, it didn't take long. Boulia has it's answer to Blackall's Black Stump, with it's RED STUMP in the main street. Beyond the Red Stump is the Simpson Desert it tells us. Filled up with fuel, and found a place to fill up with drinking water. Talked to the information girl, decided not to see their Min Min light show or their stone house museum, unfortunately for them we are museumed out. Went to the supermarket, which is an everything shop, everyone very friendly and turned north towards Djarra. The drive to Djarra was a non event, except we stopped for lunch at Peak Creek Rest Stop where the acacias were in bloom, some sort of wattle I think, very pretty. Laurie chatted to three blokes on bikes. The next rest stop was at Sulieman Creek where we decided to follow the track in and have a look around. To our amazement, the road went straight down to the original crossing which was badly broken away in quite a large piece and if you drove down there in the night you could easily end up in the drink. They should have a sign up. We decided to take another track leading up the side of the creek and it was very nice and a good place to camp. We saw some small size birds there chasing a hawk away, was very funny. Made it to Djarra, went to the police station cause we wanted advice about the road from Dajarra to Duchess to Mt Isa but she wasn't there. Asked at the pub and they said we should get through, asked at the shop and they said there's been no rain we should get through. So we headed towards Duchess along a bumpy partly corrugated gravel road. Very pretty. Obviously they have had rain, lots of mud, bits of water. Found a place to camp at Butru at 4.30pm Screw lid worked its way off a bottle of chutney in the fridge, off course it was on the top shelf, where else would it be! Spilt down every shelf underneath it. ! Then found screws lying on the caravan floor, traced these to be the screws holding the fridge in place. Checked and found many loose fridge screws, we were pretty lucky the fridge didn't come off its mountings.

26.5.10 (Lesley) Left our comfy spot at Butru at 8.40am - hoping the road would not be so rough and the temporary fix to the fridge would hold until Mt Isa. Arrived in Duchess at 9.20am. There is basically only a pub there and a railway siding. Apparently a much larger population used to live here, approx 7,000 persons. The old school is broken and forgotton. The police station was burned to the ground, the stumps are still there and the watchhouse still stands behind and a grim reminder. Back down to the Mt Isa turnoff and was pleased to find the road has been graded. We crossed Wills Creek (named after Burke & Wills) a couple of times, and it was dry as a bone. It is very wide in places, and I imagine lots of water runs through here in wet season. Lots of river gums standing in the middle of the creek. We stopped and walked down to the creek but found nothing of interest. Lots of horses and a donkey at Rifle Creek Station. We lunched in front of The Three Sisters and then drove into Mt Isa. Walked around town looking for a 150w Pure Sine Wave inverter, Laurie finally ordered one which they say will arrive tomorrow, here's hoping! Brought some groceries. Drove out of town and found a truck stop where we camped for the night.

Winton To Boulia Pics

27.5.10 (Lesley) Left our camp spot in the hills about 9.15am and drove into town. First up the information centre. Then walked up the hill to the lookout over the town. Quite a view seeing the mine overlooking the centre of town. We got the Anderson Plug fixed, at an exhorbitant cost. Picked up the inverter which Laurie ordered yesterday, received good service there. Filled up with fuel, refilled the Gas cylinder, and filled up with water at the Information Centre. Left Mt Isa at 2.55pm and drove though some magnificient hills/mountains towards Cloncurry. Too bad there was no spot to pull over and take photos. Arrived at the Corella Dam gate at 4pm saw the gate was chained and thinking there was no entry turned the van around and parked for the night. Closer inspection revealed that you could enter the gate but we were already settled so did not move again.

Boulia To Mt isa Pics

28.5.10 (Lesley) Left our spot by the gate at 9.05am, and unchained the gates and drove in. We had spoken to a few people who were leaving the dam earlier and was told it was worth the drive in. Came to a fork in the track and threw a leftie which went over a couple of rather rugged hills, the track is not well maintained but looks well used. Arrived at a camping spot, Clem Walton Park, right by the creek and spoke to a man and woman camped down there. Asked about the track which continued on further and we were told it went down to the dam wall and there was plenty of room to turn a van around down there. So off we went, along a track which was getting narrower and narrower and arrived at a gate which said in huge red letters DANGER do not continue any further. Ho hum there is a small turn around suitable for a car with a rock cutting on one side and a drop down to the river, the edges of which look very unstable on the other. With great difficulty Laurie turned the van around, the car and van were in a jack knife position, and the wheels of the van were forced around on the one spot. We went back over the hills to the fork in the track and turned down to the boat ramp section. Welcome sight down there was a couple who we had met at the Middleton Hotel east of Boulia. We had a great time chatting and Len helped Laurie fix a gas leak problem which we had. They wanted us to stay the night but we chose to move on to Cloncurry. Ohhh and the Corella Dam was quite pretty. So we left, stopping by the Burke & Wills Monument on the Corella River for lunch. Arrived at Cloncurry, and had the usual walk around. Grabbed a few groceries, filled up with fuel, purchased more gas, (which was lost due to a leak) and drove out to the Chinaman Creek Dam which had a lovely small mountain overlooking it and saw our first beware of crocodiles sign - although they were freshies. Found a park in a truckstop about 15ks north of Cloncurry.

Mt Isa to Cloncurry Pics

29.5.10 (Lesley) Big day today, left our camp at 9.35am and drive fairly uneventful. Millions of flowering acacias along the way, these disappeared after we drove though a gap in the hills. Arrived at Burke and Wills at 11.50am and it was like attending a caravan convention. After lunch we moved on, the road to Gregory Downs was very narrow in places, although it was all bitumen. Very muddy on the verges in a lot of places and we hoped we didn't have to move off the bitumen for a road train, they don't stop for anyone. Lot of flat plains covered in Mitchell grass and again an uneventful drive. Finally arrived at Gregory Downs. Went into the pub where we were served by an impatient weird lady caught in a 60's time warp. She has a sign up not to ask for most things because this is a pub. Funny place ! Met a nice couple who arrived with three small boys, their vehicle covered in mud, they had taken the short cut from Karumba and it was so wet and muddy that they thought seriously about turning around and coming in the long way. We are camped on side of road just north of Gregory Downs.

30.5.10 Today I do my own dirty work, and write my own thoughts on the day. We got away from our overnight camp about 8.45am, and hadn't done more than a few kms before we started finding groups of Brolgas wandering around near the road. Many stops for photos and video slowed our progress, but we still managed to reach Burketown by mid morning. The town is very tidy, and the locals seemed quite friendly. Frank at the Information Centre was full of knowledge, and extremely helpful. In return for him being the towns voluntary Info guru, the council allow him to exercise his love of woodworking on the premises, some of which is on display and available for purchase. Frank directed us to a fresh water tap, so that we could top up our tanks. Having completed that task, we took a run out to the town jetty, and then to the old boiling plant. These remains have been there since the late 1800s. This is also the site of the Landsborough Tree, where supplies were buried for the Burke & Wills expedition (which never made it). Unfortunately, some idiot with an axe to grind burned the tree to the ground some years ago. We left the town after having a quick look at the pub, and headed towards Normanton. Again, groups of Brolgas hindered our progress, as did a mob of a few hundred cattle being mustered within a 100m of the road. We just had to record the occasions. The Leichhardt Falls were our next stop, before we crossed the river, continuing our journey towards Normanton. At 4.45pm, we found a great spot on top of a hill to stop for the night.

31.5.10 I had mixed feelings this morning. I felt we should get to Normanton to ensure that we got a spot on the Gulflander Train on Wednesday, but I also thought that I would like to watch the Coca Cola 600 Nascar Race on Foxtel (satellite dishes are great - great TV reception wherever you are). So we left our campsite after the race (12.30pm), and had a delightul drive in beautiful weather into Normanton. We only had about 110kms to do, and so we spent a fair bit of time taking photos, and a bit of filming before arriving at the Railway Station about 3pm, and booked on the train. We also arrived just in time to see the old 1931 train arrive from a short tourist trip. From here, we had a quick look around town, before taking a quiet cruise out the Karumba Rd to find a camp spot for the night. We love it when we can find a camp spot that is in Broadband range, and yep, tonight, we have range.

Cloncurry To Normanton Pics

 

 

QUEENSLAND TRIP VIDEOS 2010

Simpson Desert In Bloom Posted 17/9/10
Waterfalls - North Queensland
Old Telegraph Track - Qld
Gillies Hwy - Qld

Cattle Muster Qld
Gulflander - Normanton - Qld

Sheepyard War Memorial - NSW
Back O Bourke Hotel - before the fire
The Ant Ordeal - Bourke

Mt Moffat - Top Shelter Shed - Carnarvon NP

If you would like to contact me or email your thoughts or comments, please feel free to do so. I would love to hear from you

For more photos, visit Lesley's site. Queensland, Australia

Lesley Bray Photography

 

 

 

Updated 28-12-2010

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