The journey home was 4100 kms and the aim was to see a few interesting things along the way, but to keep moving. That plan took us 11 days; it felt like a lot of driving and was mostly ‘one night stands’. After leaving Bitter Springs we headed south down the Sturt Highway, named after an early explorer, John McDougall Sturt. Stopped to see the historic Daly Waters Pub, established in 1930. It was interesting and quirky but also crowded so we had our lunch down the road at the Sturt Tree, where Sturt carved his initial ‘S’ into the tree in 1862. Camped at Banka Banka outstation and then did a full day of driving to a free camp alongside a billabong at Camooweal. Beginning to get cold in the night as we are moving south, so a good time for the heater to stop working! Started the day with a lovely visit from a brolga before we drove to Mt Isa and visited the Riversleigh Fossil Center Museum and Woolworths for groceries. Funny being in a town with a mine in the middle, and three smokestacks the most prominent feature on the skyline.
Had the next two nights at Winton so we could visit the Dinosaur Stampede National Monument, which was quite amazing as the dinosaur trackways and footprints we saw were formed 95 million years ago. On the tour they showed excellant videos that told the story of the discovery of the footprints, as well as what it was like there 95 million years ago, including the three kinds of dinosaurs who left those footprints (a large theropod, a small coelurosaur and a small ornithopod) who together left 3300 footprints in the only known dinosaur stampede in the world. Apparently the small dinosaurs were drinking and then were frightened by the large theropod. After our tour we had lunch and a van comparison chat with Jude & Pete from Thirroul who have a similar vehicle. It was a hot sunny day so Dick and I did a 4 km walk around the area, which included a very steep climb down the cliff (no choice as it was way past the half way mark!). Winton was a fun town and during our stay we enjoyed: 1)the chicken races and listening to the Banjo Patterson story and poems by the bush poet, Gregory North in the North Gregory Hotel, 2)listening to Sax and the Single Girl who played her sax for 2 hours in the Tatts Hotel where we had dinner, 3)visiting Arno’s wall (a 70 meter long fence constructed from concrete and rock and studded with tons of old stuff like hub caps, vintage typewriters and cash registers, motorbikes and car parts and a kitchen sink ) 4)playing ‘The Musical Fence’ (a wire fence that can be played as a musical instrument – the first permanent musical fence in the world) and 5)photographing the Jolly Swagman statute, sculptured by Daphne Mayo in 1959 to commemorate “Waltzing Matilda” and dedicated to Banjo Patterson and the many swagmen who lie in unmarked graves around the country. Banjo Patterson wrote ‘Waltzing Matilda’ near Winton so its a key focus for the town. We missed a lot of the other attractions there but it was interesting to see how this little town really catered to travellers and made it a fun place to stay.
Next stop was Longreach to see the Australian Stockman’s Hall of Fame, which we visited from 2-5pm and could have stayed longer. It was well done, telling the story of outback Australia through 6 major galleries featuring artefacts, electronic displays, photographs, films and a video in an impressive building. Dick was particularly interested in the old stock routes for droving cattle, as they are now 4 WD tracks. We went all out and also did the Outback Stockman’s show & Spit Roast dinner package. The show was entertaining, dinner was surprisingly good and we sat with another couple (from Pt Lincoln who know someone I know) so had a social evening. The other attraction of interest to us was the Qantas Founders Museum, where we did the 747 & 707 Tour and visited the museum. That all turned out to be more interesting that I had expected. We spent over 2 hours in the museum and 1.5 hours on the tour. Lots of info about the two older planes and how they fly (maybe more than I wanted to know), but the most interesting was the Qantas founders story. They had a real battle to succeed and the museum is a tribute to the foresight and tenacity of a number of people. They moved the initial Qantas business to Longreach from Winton as the railhead was there and the original Qantas hanger is part of the museum and houses replica models of their early planes. This was also really well done and one could easily spend a full day at each place.
Charleville was our next destination, via an overnight stop at Lara Wetlands where we managed a quick dip in the thermal artesian mineral hot pool before dark. The Charleville Cosmos Center & Observatory was the attraction so we could do a Sun Viewing Tour. We learned about the life story of our Sun (which is a star) and the relative small size of our sun compared to the big stars in the sky. Then we looked at the surface of the sun through a solar telescope where we saw solar flares (hot ionized gas swirling off the surface). Dick knows a bit about this and had hoped for a closer, more detailed view but he still saw more than he had seen before and was happy we went. On the other hand, my preferred attraction was The Bilby Experience, but we couldn’t wait 4 hours for a tour so we missed seeing a live bilby.
Crossed into NSW on another long driving day and saw lots of animals on the drive; more dead kangaroos than live ones and more live emus than dead ones. The large number of animals requires constant surveillance/animal watching all the time. Spent the night in Barringun which has a hundred year old pub, one cafe/CP and a population less than 10; but lots of sheep, cattle, goats, pigs and emus. More driving got us to Trangie via a coffee stop in Bourke and a photo stop in Nyngen. Thanks Paul and Margaret for recommending Trangie CP, where the owner supplied dinner for all around the campfire as it was ‘hot potato’ night. In keeping with the way we started our trip, visiting friends along the way, we spent our last night away with Kevin and Jen at their large bush property in the foothills of the Barrington Tops. Enjoyed a lovely meal celebrating Jen’s birthday. A very pleasant transition to being back in Sydney.
Home safe and sound after 90 days on the road, 17,000 kms behind the wheel of the Lestervan (which looked after us well), and an even greater appreciation of this magnificent country. In addition to the three highlights of Cape York, Savannah Way and Kakadu we saw so many amazing places, learned more about the history and aboriginal culture, enjoyed lots of challenging walks and managed to catch up with lots of old friends along the way. For any intrepid travellers who are interested in trip statistics Dick did a couple of summary charts on the expense breakdown and types of camps as follows at the end of the photos.
Thank you all for joining us on our travels vicariously and for your comments along the way. Its been fun sharing our adventure and keeping in touch.
Sending best wishes and love to all,
Pat and Dick