Monday, October 31, 2016

Longreach to the coast

Our next stop was Longreach, a town with plenty to offer visitors to the area.
"Iris" the first of 8 aircraft built in this hanger 1926 - 1929
The most notable I think is the Stockman’s Hall of Fame. Outside we were greeted by a very tame brahman bull, a species favoured in the north of Australia as they are very tolerant of the hot conditions. Several shows are put on each day where the skills of the stockman, his horse and his dog amaze the visiting “townies”. Inside the half pipe style building there are displays and information on the stockman’s life and tributes to the indigenous women who worked as stockmen,  often disguised as men. Also included is a history of the Flying Doctor Service which in many isolated areas of the outback is the only medical help for hundreds of miles. A full size twin engine plane hangs overhead in the “pipe”.

The Qantas Founders Museum tells the story of the tiny two man operation which has grown to the international airline we all know today. Some of their early planes were so unreliable they always flew within gliding distance of possible emergency landing spots. As well as the old planes on display there are two modern airliners which can be toured and this includes a walk on the wing of a 747.
Other activities include Cobb & Co coach rides, one of which is a day trip “dashing through the bush”
We noticed as we travelled through this region that the towns had themed street names, eg birds in one town, flowers in another, famous scientists etc. Some of the towns along the highway also had roadside displays of machinery – trucks, old graders, steam engines and at Ilfracome this included the first Caterpillar tractor.
Next stop was Barcaldine, then Alpha (Beta was the next rail stop up the track) then
Tree of Knowledge" at Barcaldine, The original tree was
vandalised and died but has been preserved
as part of this giant "mobile"
Joshua (constructed of barbed
wire) at the town of Jericho

 out of the flat land into the hills before Emerald. The sides of the road were golden with different varieties of wattle and this continued for much of the rest of our journey.
Steam tram at Rockhampton

Figures on the platform
at Archer Park Stn
We finally reached the coast at Rockhampton where we spent a week camped beside the Fitzroy River opposite the city. We visited an excellent historic village, rode the old steam tram through the streets, found a couple of local Mokes, and did a day trip to Yapoon which included a stop at a crocodile farm.

Friday, August 12, 2016

East across Queensland to Winton

A 1920's Whippet  traveling across the Barkly Tablelands

After Katherine we moved back down the Stuart Highway to Three Ways where we turned east across the Barkly Tablelands and I think that this is where “are we there yet?” was invented. The land is FLAT, the scrubby bushes give way to open grassland but there are no rivers to cross or anything to break up the open country. We stopped the night at Barkly Homestead, an oasis in the middle of nowhere. This landscape continues almost to the Queensland border where the country becomes interesting again with river channels to cross and some variation in the terrain.
Mokes at Lake Moondara  at Mt Isa

 Our next stop of interest was the mining town of Mt Isa. Now we were driving through rocky hills and as we approached the city from the west the town was dominated by the huge chimney at the lead mine (the tallest in the southern hemisphere) plus the red and white chimney in the copper area and the smaller chimney at the sulphur works. Lead, silver, copper and zinc is mined here with sulphur as a by- product. We spent a very enjoyable day with Moke friends who gave us a guided tour of the local sights.
The drive from Mt Isa to Cloncurry was very enjoyable winding through rocky hills with ever changing views and strange formations.
Never Never Safaris truck
A lunchtime stop at McKinlay was a must as it is the location of the Walkabout Creek Hotel made famous in Crocodile Dundee. Two of the Never Never Tours vehicles from the movie are parked out the front.

On east across to Winton in Australia’s famous dinosaur area. We were unable to visit the dinosaur stampede area where many footprints are frozen in time in the rock as recent rains had closed the road, however we did visit the Age of Dinosaurs Museum where teams of volunteers work to clean the delicate fossil material. Some huge and unique dinosaurs have been found in the area and in fact there is so much fossil material already found it will take years to clean and more is being found all the time. The museum is on top of a “jump up” a mesa type raised flat top giving magnificent views out across the black soil country that has preserved these fossils for many millions of years.
Brolgas flew in for a free feed at Kynuna

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Katherine Gorge

After spending 5 days at Kakadu we thought that this was the highlight of our trip this year but as we turned south we stopped at Katherine for a few days and did a cruise on the Katherine River visiting the amazing Katherine Gorge in the Nitmiluk National Park.

The yellow spec is a canoer

There are several options for viewing this magnificent natural formation including helicopter flights, 5 day walking trails, boat cruises or paddle your own canoe – we took the boat option.


 The river had carved its way through the plateau over millions of years taking advantage of and expanding natural faults and fractures in the extremely hard sandstone which is so old it doesn’t contain any fossils. There are 13 gorges in all, 3 are available by boat cruise.

At this time of year (the dry season) the river is low and it is not possible to navigate the whole gorge as rock barriers break it up into sections of deeper water so it is necessary to walk short distances and change to other boats on the next section of the river. Other sections are deeper with one extremely deep spot caused by a violent whirlpool which forms when the river is in flood. The hole is ground deeper each year by huge rocks grinding in the bottom of the whirlpool.

The walls of the gorge display a range of colours – red iron oxide, black stains from water flows, patches of green lichen in the shady spots and hanging gardens of delicate ferns which somehow survive the raging wet season flows. These colours all overlay the lighter sandstone walls which tower on each side.

There are freshwater crocodiles which lay their eggs on the small sandy beaches. They are not dangerous to humans as they are smaller, their jaws are not as strong as the “salties” and their teeth are quite fragile. Their normal diet is insects, small freshwater fish and crustaceans etc. Occasionally salt water crocs enter the river during the wet season but they are captured and removed.
 Awesome is a highly over-used word these days but it is hard to find a more appropriate word for the magnificent scenery in Nitmiluk National Park.

Thursday, July 28, 2016


As we traveled north we spent one night at Mataranka Bitter Springs Caravan Park. This is right next to the entry to Elsey National Park and walking distance from the warm springs and swimming spots in the creek. Most enjoyable!
We passed through Katherine and on to Kakadu National Park were we had booked 5 days stay, promising ourselves a visit to Katherine Gorge on the way south again.
As we drove into Kakadu we were surprised by the hilly country we passed through in the south of the park and the grassy, lightly treed savannah country. We expected it to be mostly wetlands as featured in all the publicity. There was quite a lot of burning off happening but this is normal at this time of year. Seasonal burning has been part of the aboriginal land management for many thousands of years. Small fires when the winds are light prevent large hot destructive fires. As the fires are small the animals can escape them and they do not destroy all the trees. The vegetation recovers quite quickly, new grass grows encouraging animals into the area.

The highlight of the Kakadu experience was a cruise at Yellow Waters on the South Alligator River where there are huge areas of floating grasses with passages through with waterlilies, thousands of birds and of course, salt water crocodiles. The water was glassy smooth and the day perfect, the bird life was amazing. In the wet season most of these trees would be under water, but as the dry season progresses the water level will drop  and dry mud banks will be exposed.



 We spent a day exploring the northern part of the park where there are ancient rock escarpments with aboriginal rock art under sheltered overhangs.