Debbie & Geoff's

Australian Safari

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Travel Blog     -     May 2019

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Wednesday 1st – Tuesday 7th May 2019

The road is open and we make our way north for our night spot at Thargomindah meaning either “cloud of dust” or “echidna” depending on the chosen Aboriginal dialect. A lot of money has been spent in this town with a concrete pathway along the Bullo River and picnic areas with BBQ’s . With only a population of 215 it makes you wonder who fought the bureaucracy to get so much funding. Lots of work was going on in the Council owned van park we stayed at and also maintenance for the old police station cells and hospital.

 Locals helping at caravan park     Bullo River running strong      Red-winged Parrot
Locals helping at caravan park           Bullo River running strong                     Red-winged Parrot

 

Next morning we headed towards Noccundra which has a pub and a grand population of 3. We camped behind the pub and Geoff went walk about looking for some birds, fly swatting and mosquito feeding. His trip was cut short with an approaching storm cell which gave him some spectacular pictures and us the experience of a true downpour in the outback. When the first cell passed we had water flooded around the van and a good thing I had my gumboots as the level of water went way past my ankles. Rain again that night with a total of 31mm had us wondering how the roads were going to be, we would soon find out. The road heading west to Cameron Corner was closed it is dirt. There was no warning for the road north to Eromanga which is where we were heading.

 Noccundra Hotel     Afternoon Storms      Afternoon Storms
Noccundra Hotel           Afternoon Storms                     Afternoon Storms

 

 Afternoon Storms     Afternoon Storm      Australasian Pipit
Afternoon Storms           Afternoon Storm                     Australasian Pipit

 

The next morning the weather had cleared a little and we headed further north. With a few creek crossings and flooded fields about 130 km from the Noccundra we ventured around a bend to be stopped by four “B-Triple” cattle trucks and one campervan halted in the middle of the road in front of us. The road ahead was flooded to about one metre of water over one of the three causeways so there was no way we were going to cross it, and the truckies said they would not cross anything over 0.3 meter. With the ground on either side of the road very soggy, there was also no way we would be able to turn around without being severely bogged. So it was a free camp for us all that evening waiting for the water to subside. Geoff put up the drone so we could see exactly the expanse of water and it just helped confirm none of us were going anywhere. We were wondering why we had no cars or trucks coming in the opposite direction, now we know.

Video Flooding             Road closed sign      Water over road
Video of the Flooding           Road closed to Cameron Corner                     Water over road

 

 Road trains     Road Train lineup      Broga enjoying the wet
Road trains                      Road Train lineup                     Broga enjoying the wet

 

 Three flooded sections     Middle flooded section      The ground is very wet
Three flooded sections                 Middle flooded section                     The ground is very wet

 

At 5am we woke to hear the trucks starting their engines but we stayed in bed as there was no reason for us to try and cross before the sun came up. We had the 2 way radio on in the van and heard the first truck report that the deepst was 0.3. Eventually at about 9am we were on the road again and the crossing had dropped down to 0.2, we headed to Eromanga which wasn’t too far from our flooded road stop and was our original destination.

 Brolga Dancing     Brolga Dancing      Brolga Dancing
Brolga Dancing on the road to Eromanga

 

This town’s claim to fame is it is the furthest town from the sea also the largest dinosaur bone was found here. On our river walk we found a sculpture called “Knot-o-saurus" which was a life sized sculpture of a Sauropod and her two babies. The giant mother stands about 3.5 metres tall and 10 metres long and was made of over a kilometre of aluminium pipe. Oh and the mums name is Charlotte and her two babies are Jasper and Cory.

 Knot-o-saurus     Eromanga Sign      Eromanga Hotel
Knot-o-saurus                                 Eromanga                     The furthest town from the sea

 

 Black-faced Woodswallow     Masked Woodswallow      White-browed Woodswallow
Black-faced Woodswallow                 Masked Woodswallow                     White-browed Woodswallow

 

 Budgie     Spotted Harrier      Banded Lapwing
Budgie                                     Spotted Harrier                               Banded Lapwing

 

Well I’ll be! Our next little town is Stonehenge but not the one famous in England, and we did a few hours’ drive to explore the region. From XXXX Hill which had a great look out to the Stonehenge Address Book which is a 1 km drive and people have taken the surrounding Gidyea stones and placed them on the ground to write their names. From here we did the 4wd self-guided tour on the John Egan Pioneer Track which took us through the different landscapes that make up the area. The drive showed us amazing rock formations that have been sculptured by nature over a million years; we also had the pleasure of Mulla Mulla in bloom which is a wildflower that we haven’t seen since Western Australia.

 XXXX Hill     Stone Address Book      Mulla Mulla
XXXX Hill                                     Stone Address Book                               Mulla Mulla

 

 Mulla Mulla     John Egan Pioneer Track      Spinifex Pigeon
Mulla Mulla                                     John Egan Pioneer Track                               Spinifex Pigeon

 

Another first was a donation from a couple of guys that were camping next to us was of the local Red Claw. This looks like a yabbie and is a fresh water crayfish. It is an introduced species and it is illegal to put it back into the river once caught. Having been given two large specimens to try we had them as an entrée. They seemed to be a bit tasteless and not really to my liking. The guys had cooked them in boiling salt water, but I think I would have liked more salt and then finish off in a little garlic butter. At least we can say we have tried them.

 Australian Bustard     John Egan Pioneer Track      Red Claw
Australian Bustard                             John Egan Pioneer Track                               Red Claw

 

 Brown Falcon     Brown Falcon      Brown Falcon
Brown Falcon

 

Wednesday 8th – Tuesday 14th May 2019

After our two nights at Stonehenge we headed to Longreach for a stay. Having been there before in 2016 it was interesting to see how the country was faring up after the rain. First thing we noticed was the flies hadn’t quite caught up to us, which was a blessing. Having done most of the touristy things when we were previously here we decided to do the river trip and dinner at Smithy’s Camp . Our afternoon started with a cruise up the Thomson River, we were told about the flora on the river banks and also had many Black Kites and Whistling Kites soaring above us. This followed a drive through the flood plain area before a dinner and show at Smithy’s Camp. It was a fabulous and interesting trip and the food and entertainment was great, we sat with another two couples who were good fun and that always makes the evening interesting.

 Geoff the provider     Briefing on board      The river boat
The provider                             Briefing on board                               The river boat

 

 Smithy's     Debbie bootscooting      Debbie meets a Brahman bull
Smithy's entertainer                       Debbie bootscooting                         Debbie meets a Brahman bull

 

The flies caught up to us again as we headed for a two night stay in Bladensburg National Park. When we were last there we had been out for a drive and came back to find our census papers left on our chairs. Camping on the edge of Surprise Creek at the Bough Shed Camp Site we were able to watch the thousands of budgerigars that were enjoying the abundance of grass seeds. The friendly flies did hamper our enjoyment a bit so we used our fly nets every time we ventured out of the van to go for a walk, even if it was only to the drop loo.

 Night under the stars     Budgie love      Aireal view Camp site
Night under the stars                       Budgie love                         Camp site

 

 Aireal view Camp sit     Bunch of Budgie      Camp site in the park
Camp site in the park                       Bunch of Budgie                         Sunset Camp site

 

After two nights hiding in the park we headed for Winton to make camp for the night so we could do a pre vote for the upcoming election. As we were not sure where we will be the following Saturday it was better to get it over with to make sure we got to have our say. During my little explorative walk down Matilda Way I took a couple of shots of the great sculptures that the council have created to match the Waltzing Matilda Song. I also looked at some lovely boulder opal pieces and sculptures. The town was even hosting a film crew that were making a TV series called Black Bitch. The show is a high stakes political drama and is starting Rachel Griffith and Deborah Mailman but we didn’t see them and we didn’t look for them either.

 Street sculptures   Street sculptures    Street sculptures     Street sculptures
Winton street sculptures

 

 Boulder opal sculptures   Boulder opal sculptures    Film team
Winton Boulder opal sculptures and film team

 

Still making our way north west we happened upon the Middleton Hotel. It was built in the Cobb & Co era and was a changing station for the tired horses. The hotel has the distinction of being one of the most isolated pubs in Queensland. We free camped across the road in a paddock, the Hilton Hotel which has the sign out the front, "No Wifi, No Phone, No Pool, No Service and No Charge."

 Beautiful outback     Beautiful outback      This is Middleton
Beautiful outback                       Beauty in the outback                         This is Middleton

 

 Cobb & Co Middleton     Debbie & Lester      Fuel bowser Middleton
Cobb & Co Middleton                       Debbie & Lester                         Fill her up Lester

 

We called into the Middleton and had the pleasure of meeting Lester who along with his wife runs the place. Now Lester is a real bushy and quite a man of few words. Ask him a question and the answers are brief and follows up with “yea-mate”. We loved it. A working cattle station attached is run by his son and family and during the evening we were lulled to sleep with the cattle lowing away around the van.

 Middleton Hilton     Aireal view Middleton      Middleton camp
Middleton Hilton                       Aireal view Middleton                         Middleton camp

 

 Muster cattle     Muster cattle      Muster cattle
Muster cattle

 

Wednesday 15th – May 2019

The scenery as we travelled was amazing and we made a detour to Lawnpore Lookout where we stood gazing out at the valley and hills that were a deep red and yellow in colour and was once an ocean many, many years ago but now part of the Diamantina catchment area.

 Aussie outback     Aussie outback      Aussie outback
Aussie outback

 

Next stop is Boulia famous for the Min Min lights. Ooh, you can’t go searching for the Min Min lights, they come searching for you. Seen in a spot not far from town where the old Min Min hotel once stood they have been known to scare a few of the locals and not so local who venture out on the roads or fields at night. The tourist information centre does a 45 minute laser light and mannequin show which we found very entertaining. Mannequins come to life to tell tales of how they spotted the lights and we walk through a maze of different scenes listening to their stories. The town is on the banks of the Bourke River another spot where you can go fishing or drop in a crab pot for some red claw.

 Boulia jumping point for the outback     Min Min Ledgend      Boulia Information Center
Boulia jumping point for the outback           Min Min Ledgend                         Boulia Information Center

 

 Boulia outback Aus.     Information Center      Hobby with lunch
Boulia outback Aus.                       Information Center                         Hobby with lunch

 

Saying goodbye to another sleepy town we head towards the big smoke, destination Mount Isa. To say we found this place incredible and each day as we explored we came across wonderful pockets of the unexpected. Even entering the city the first thing we notice is the massive mine. Our first priority was to do some food shopping as they have large supermarkets here and ample supplies.

 Sunset on Mount Isa     Mount Isa      Afternoon Mount Isa
Sunset on Mount Isa                       Mount Isa                         Afternoon at the Isa

 

Next we explored the Lake Moondarra. To say we were stunned to see this massive waterway in the outback is an understatement. Boating and fishing, parklands with BBQ’s and shaded trees were to be found here. Also peacocks and peahens strutted around, totally unperturbed by our intrusion and some even had chicks with them. Our first night in the van park we were awakened at the crack of dawn with a chorus of screams, they actually sounded like Gibbons, but we later realised it was peacocks calling out. Very creepy!

 Lake Moondarra     Lake Moondarra wall      Pea-cock chick
Lake Moondarra                       Lake Moondarra wall                         Pea-cock chick

 

That evening we went to the city lookout to watch the sunset and have a great view of the mine all lit up in the evening. It was worth the trip even though the sky was a bit overcast and the sunset was blocked out as Geoff still got some wonderful photos.
Our next big adventure was a drive to the open-cut mine and ghost town of Mary Kathleen. This was a Uranium mine located in the Cloncurry Mineral fields. The township is now a ghost town and the houses were sold off in 1983. All that is left is footprints of the buildings, sportsground and local pool. But on the plus side there were plenty of slabs for a caravan and we decided after we finished with Mount Isa we shall return for a few days free camping here.

 Mary Kathleen mine     Hats off to Mary Kathleen      Brilliant colours
Mary Kathleen mine                       Hats off to Mary Kathleen                         Brilliant colours

 

The open-cut mine itself certainly surprised us. We were not expecting the brilliant colours of the rock layers that the minerals had leached through, nor were we expecting the beautiful sapphire blue coloured water at the bottom of the mine. Though tempting I certainly would not go swimming in it as one might end up glowing when you came out.

 Little Woodswollow     Varigated Farywren      Brown Honeyeater
Little Woodswollow                       Varigated Farywren                         Brown Honeyeater

 

Our last big adventure in Mount Isa was the Outback Experience which entailed a walk through the museum and then a three hour tour into an underground mine. Kitted out in overalls, steel capped boots and hard hat with a light, I felt like and looked like a Tele Tubby, in my opinion pretty damn awful. But we had to follow the rules as we were loaded into the back of a ute and drove down into the mine. This was not and never was a working mine but a replica built by the mining company for tourism. Led by an ex-miner we followed him through a labyrinth of tunnels underground, being shown the equipment that is used in a mine. It all went over my head but Geoff understood the workings so at least one of us got something out of it. The tour was interesting but I can’t say it was my cup of tea and the guide was not the best at telling stories so it got a bit boring listening to him. One thing I have learnt on all our travels, if it comes with a good story it keeps you entertained and interested.

 A go at drilling          Not very flatering          Lookout at the Isa
A go at drilling                       Not very flatering                         Lookout at the Isa

 

 Outback at Isa    Video Sunset      Outback at Isa gardens
Outback at Isa                             Video sunset over Ias                   Outback at Isa gardens

 

Wednesday 22 – Monday 27th May 2019

After leaving Isa we headed back to Mary Kathleen for two nights free camp. The main reason is for Geoff to do a bit of bird seeking and looking for the elusive Kalkadoon Gresswren . Scouring through spinifex, climbing hills, big camera at the ready, but alas no wren was found. But on a lighter note, we had a wonderful few days, walked around the ghost town and found a camel strolling around along with a few wallabies and birds to keep us entertained.

 Mary Kathleen sign     Mary Kathleen round-about      Mary Kathleen town square
Mary Kathleen sign                       Mary Kathleen round-about                         Mary Kathleen town square

 

 9 oclock at night     9 oclock at night      9 oclock at night
9 oclock at night, camp at Mary Kathleen old town

 

 Camel on the loose     Mary Kathleen town site      Lots of slabs to camp on
Camel on the loose                       Mary Kathleen town site                         Lots of slabs to camp on

 

Next stop was a night or two in Cloncurry where we visited the local dam and lookout then enjoyed exploring the John Flynn Museum he was the person that started the Royal Flying Doctor Service.

 Chinaman Creek Dam     Black Kite having fun      Local Walaby
Chinaman Creek Dam                       Black Kite having fun                         Local Walaby

 

Still heading east we travelled to Richmond staying at the Lakeview Caravan Park which Geoff decided was the best park we have seen. This sleepy town was 2012 Tidy Towns award and it was very neat and had a great information centre. The lake where we were camped near was man made and had a lovely walkway around the perimeter. Large boulder shaped rocks were displayed along the way and we found out they were Moonrocks, though they didn’t come from the moon. It was all about the ancient inland sea in this area where the spheres were shaped from accumulation of limestone cement and most have fossils in the middle. Outside the Shire Council was a sculpture of a man and horse made of old tools and spare parts, very clever. It was dedicated to the Lord Mayer John Wharton. There was also a display hut with a stable in the rear holding a replica of the Cob & Co Coach and other interesting items.

 Reconstruction of farm building     Kronosaurus Korner      Pergola at caravan park
Reconstruction of farm building                 Kronosaurus Korner                         Pergola at caravan park

 

 Great caravan park     All aboard      Moon rock
Great caravan park                         All aboard                                 Moon rock

 

 sculpture     Stack of moon rocks      Man-made lake
Sculpture                         Stack of moon rocks                                 Man-made lake

 

We are now revisiting areas from 2016 with a stopover in Hughenden . We took a stroll around the town and checked out Hughie, the dinosaur. When I had my picture taken back in 2016 there was a beautiful old hotel standing alongside. Sadly the hotel burnt down under suspicious circumstances and still they haven’t found out how the fire started. We strolled down to the river which was dry even though they had had quite a bit of rain recently, but the sandy bottom only had a few small pools left. A park with sculptures was next on our walk that sat on the side of the riverbank.

 Hughenden bridge     Riverside park      Main street Hotel gone
Hughenden bridge                         Riverside park                                 Main street Hotel gone

 

Heading back to Porcupine Gorge with our main mission was to check out the Wedge Tailed Eagles nest that Geoff had found a few years ago. After making camp in the national park he took off and headed back in the direction of the nest. How wonderful it was that he could get so close to snap off a few pictures of her sitting on two eggs. He didn’t stay long to get his prime shots as he was careful not to spook her.

 Wedge-tailed Eagle sitting on nest     Eggs on the nest      Wedge-tailed Eagle standing on nest
Wedge-tailed Eagle sitting on nest                 Eggs on the nest                                 Wedge-tailed Eagle

 

 Wedge-tailed Eagle      Wedge-tailed Eagle      Wedge-tailed Eagle
Wedge-tailed Eagle

 

Next morning we ventured down into the gorge to see how it had changed in the few years. There was more water to be found in deep pools and also some fish swimming around. The rock colours were subtle, yellow blending into purple and I forgot how pretty it was down there. We spent time walking up the gorge this time the opposite way from when we were here previously. As the day crept towards mid-morning and the sun was getting hotter we decided we had had enough and headed back up the stairs to the camp ground.

 Pyramid in the george     Water holes      River cutting through rock
Pyramid in the george                 Water holes in the rock                                 River cutting through rock

 

 Rufous Bettong visitor     Debbie checking wildlife      Natural art
Rufous Bettong visitor                 Debbie checking wildlife                                 Natural art

 

Wednesday 30th – Friday 31st May 2019

From the gorge we headed back to town to Hughenden for a quick stay so Geoff could wash the dust off the car and also do some maintenance on the van. The bummer was that somewhere in the park we managed to pick up a splinter in the tyre, fair dinkum it was no bigger or thicker than a match, but it was enough to puncture the side wall of the tyre. Lucky for us the guys at the tyre place fixed it quick smart. We were already down one spare from when we stayed at Mount Isa, we didn’t need to be without one out here.
With the tyre fixed we headed off the next morning to Charters Towers to break up our journey as we were going to Burdekin Falls Dam. We were lucky enough to see the dam spilling over as all the rain they have had up north eventually fed into the river. The camp ground was the original town for the dam workers, with power and water and lots of slabs to put our van on. Again we had a harem of peacocks and peahens wondering around and each morning they would scout the campground for any morsel of food. It really was funny to watch and though the weather wasn’t the best with overcast skies and bits of rain, we enjoyed the stay and promised ourselves to go back again, maybe as we head south we can call in for a stop.

 Water over the dam     Burdekin Falls      Beautiful wildlife
Water over the dam                 Burdekin Falls                                 Beautiful wildlife

 

 

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