Across the Top 2015

Monday, Apr 20, 2015 at 09:19

Member - Chucklingwater

Blue Mountains, Bourke, Cunnamulla, Yowah, Toompine, Quilpie, Coopers Creek, Windorah, Bedourie, Boulia, Mt Isa.

Leaving the Blue Mountains in our trusty Troopy with a camper trailer we headed out via the Castlereagh Hwy towards Walgett camping the first night in the back of the Troopy at a roadside rest stop. “Shine your car headlights here at night for lights” the sign said. Oh, ok, onto a mirror which reflected to another up a pole, which in turn reflected down through the clear toilet roof. Smart!

Brewarrina next, to see the Aboriginal fish traps made from stones in the river bed, reckoned to be 30 to 40,000 years old, and still in use today. They run for a couple of hundred metres down the river. And just a few hundred metres further on, ochre pits dug into the river bank, red, white, deep yellow.
Between Brewarrina and Bourke lies Mt Oxley, close to which my father had a block of land, another place that always fascinated me but I’d never been to. A place of Aboriginal significance, soaring eagles, & communication towers. On private land we were able to go quite close and take photos. Having been to Bourke several times, recently, we just camped the night out along the River Darling (off Cunnamulla Rd, past airport) at May’s Bend, no facilities, extensive site, great fishing spot.

Heading for Cunnamulla, the first 40 kms were black soil flood plains of the Darling River, amazing that it can flood out so far. Mulga country. Mulga is the grazier’s friend, with sheep, cattle and goats all eating the leaves. In times of drought when grass is in short supply Mulga is a stock saver occurring widely over the outback of NSW and Qld.

From here the road kills were prolific, 'roos were coming to the road where there was grass for there is precious little in the paddocks. We have made a habit of stopping well before dusk. Cunnamulla Queensland, a green oasis in a dry land, they’ve outdone themselves with parks, & wetland. Anything to be the opposite of the dry harsh land these outback towns are situated in.

Bulloo Development Rd. Eulo, opal country. Yawah, home of the Yawah Nut opal. These are like nuts opals in brown ironstone, nothing like ones from Lightning Ridge. They all have a brown background.
Continuing North, the Cattle stations out here are huge, in the thousands of hectares and 1,000sq klm is not unusual. These days, properties are starting to amalgamate into larger holdings to be sustainable. Feral goats are a welcome souce of income, eating scrub and not needing the care required by sheep. Some graziers have started farming them. Goats respect electric fences or other high maintenance fences only. Red soil, with Mulga trees that the stock eat, grass is scares and dry. Drought for three years they tell us.

Dowling Track. Toompine, population 2, all that’s left is the 100+ year old hotel that used to be a Cobb and co staging post. Quaint, and fully operational, everyone stops there. We enjoyed a good chat and meal of fish and chips, very reasonable too.Quilpie where the centre of the main street has a mob of steel life size cut out cattle strung out along it’s length complete with a stockman. Still opal country, and oil. We’ve been before so just popped into the bakery. Out this way too dinosaurs and fish are being excavated.

Now we struck the FLIES, oh sister, those flies! They were no respector of Aerogard Tropical, I make up a mix of 1 part Dettol, 1 part Metho, 1 part sunscreen, which was a bit better, but a fly veil was really the only way to go, and even then they were thick on all exposed parts. 4 days these blighters annoyed us and after the sun went down it was grasshoppers, but they were just a bit of a nuisance. With the temperature now 35 – 38c Alan was really feeling the heat so our first lay day was at Coopers Creek, flies or not. A lovely spot 12 km from Windorah just below where it changes it’s name to Thomsons River, actually I think there may be another fork too. Coopers Creek, flows when it can, into Lake Eyre. Normally it’s a series of waterholes like all outback rivers. There’s a lovely big one where we camped complete with pelicans, water birds, a toilet and heaps of shady camp sites under river gums and plentiful trees.

Windorah Pop. 150, has a quaint little house sitting by it’s lonesome on the main corner of town. Used to be the customs house. Windorah boasts being able to run on solar power too! Greeting you on approaching town are 4 huge solar discs and station. Holds yabby races each year leading up to the Birdsville races when the through traffic swells the crowd up to 1000.Windorah means “big fish”.

Our route is along the Diamantina Development Rd. On our left the Strzelecki and Stony Deserts. How stony the ground, now frequent bare patches, red sand ridges 2 to 4 metres high, mirages and false lakes, channels, areas where there are virtually no trees for kms except a few low bushes.. Crossed the channels of the Diamantina River.

Until now the road had been tar, not always two lane tar, which meant if meeting an oncoming car you slowed down, kept one set of wheels on the tar and the other on the gravel – watch those stones and your windscreen. However a semi with it’s 1,2, or 3 dogs (trailers) pull off the tar and stop, let him have it! If he’s carrying cattle, for him to pull off would mean cattle falling down and injuring themselves anyway. This luxury of black top came to an end for a while. Temperature 38c today.

Our 8th camp was at town meaning “dust storm” complete with those FLIES. Bedourie pop.150, is surrounded by red sandhill and has a 135 (approx.) year old mud brick hotel which is still operating, and mud hut. Sports mad at Bedourie, they must have the best equipped sports facilities around for the size of the town but then I think they cater to the surrounding town competitions. Alan felt the call of the aquatic centre, $50 deposit for the key but entry is free.

Day 9, only a short 200km run to Boulia. Passing through gibber stone plains, crossing parallel sandridges some only ¼ km apart at right angles over 9km, Mitchell Grass Plains, flood plains. Crossed the Tropic of Capricorn. Flat plains with total lack of shade trees stretching as far as the eye can see with hardly a blade of grass. Black pebbly stones en-mass covering the ground.

Boulia – checked into a caravan park for 2 nights. Alan had to be forcibly sat down with a drink, cold towel, and fan down before he fell down when he started to become confused and irrational with the heat before we set up camp a little later. Although the heat was still up at 38c the flies had diminished somewhat. He slept outside on the recliner chair for ½ the night. Home of the mysterious Min Min light, a most excellent animated show is run at the Info centre with stories, sets, and even a revolving stage and night sky, very impressive. An old stone and mud house was cool, even in the old days the mothers brought their babies to the house on the hottest days because it was the coolest house in town. Again Alan enjoyed the local pool while I was happy I’d caught photos Brolgas dancing.

Every day we wake before birdsong while it’s still dark. While you’re all snuggled up down South, we’re lucky if we’ve needed a sheet on all night. Before it gets too hot we aim to have packed up, these blue skies out here don’t hide the beating sun! Our last stretch on the Diamantina Development Rd was the 300km stretch to Mt Isa. Mostly all one lane black top. Stop, camels! A small female in calf and a big bull. He stayed put as I got out to take photos but she was skittish and took off across the paddock. As I turned back to the car he walked over the fence, ok so you are quite tame, and I was able to have a pat. Lovely animal.

Mt Isa a city of some 25,000 people based on the mining of lead, silver and copper, with beef cattle in the surrounds. 0ur 3rd day in Mt Isa, the temperature has dropped like a bomb from 38c to 24 and windy, in fact people are wearing warm tops. Today we found a church nearby. The “Isa” shuts down on Sunday. We do like the Isa’s wide streets with covered parking down the centre (which means you can turn around anywhere) as well as kerbside parking. We’re chilling out for a couple of days having done the sights in 2013 and tomorrow leaving for Gregory River and Riversleigh Fossil D site then on to Burketown on the Gulf.
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