Monday 15 August: Lake Dunn – Longreach
We head back south to Barcaldine to pick up our route to go west. We gave the coffee in town a miss this time but spent a bit of time getting to know the importance of this town. It’s a pretty town, and a significant place of the big Shearer’s Strike of 1891; a huge historical event that 1) triggered shearers strikes around the nation and 2) would eventually lead to the formation of the Australian Labour Party in order for workers to have better protection and representation.
A eucalypt, which has been named ‘the tree of knowledge‘ was the site of the strikers’ gatherings. It was preserved and looked after until it was poisoned in 2006 by person(s) unknown. A new memorial was designed and now sits in its original place.
We stopped at a ‘recreation park‘ just outside town, after reading various positive comments on the FaceBook groups, and sure enough, it was really a good spot. Quiet, large deck with huge picnic tables overlooking a large body of water for all kinds of water sports. Clean and modern toilets and hot showers available if we’d wanted to spend the day there after a swim (it’s not really THAT warm here)… Had a nice lunch and carried on our way west onm the Capricorn Way and passed through the cute town of Ilfracombe just before our final destination of Longreach. Ilfracombe (population 350) has a ‘machinery mile’ walkway between the main road and the railway, with old large equipment painted in great colours and bougainvillea growing on either side of the pathway. It’s a pretty place, with lots of green, and from what it seems, also with an artesian spa.
We reach Longreach not long after, and have booked into a caravan park for its opening day, on the Thomson River, about 5km north of the town. Amenities and facilities are brand new, as are the sites. Not all have grass yet (this is REALLY outback Queensland) with red soil and a gazillion flies (thank goodness we have our flynets to protect our heads; bought in Ularu some 18 years ago). Got a load of washing in the brand spanking new Miele machine, out to quickly dry in a breezy 23 degrees. Our site unfortunately was absolutely covered with ‘bindi eyes‘, and despite our nice thick rubber mat, they came through, or blew over – a concern as these suckers can puncture a bike tyre (as well as rubber footwear), so had to ask if we could change to another site, or we’d have to move tomorrow across the river to the free huge ‘Apex’ campground…. And believe it or not, they are fully booked (second day of trading which just goes to show the loads of caravans on the move)..! Anyway, suggestion is that some gravel will be dumped if that suits us. It does, as we enjoy being here and we’ll throw our mat overtop of that. For the non-Australian readers, bindiis, aka doublegees are really nasty burs once they’ve bloomed and turn brown and dry. But this town is great for cycling, so we absolutely don’t want to be having flat tyres.
We booked into the Birdcage hotel for a bite at night which was nice, with pickup and drop off by their complimentary shuttle. Lovely ribs once again. We also booked 2 of the town’s main attractions, for Wednesday and Thursday. Tomorrow another load of laundry and bike ride for Jen, and Arno’s hoping for a round of golf just up the road.
Tuesday 16 August
Arno managed to get his game of golf in Longreach; below his report.
The first real outback golf experience which, by all accounts, is something different. Well, the experience was, let’s say, unusual. Not only are there a gazillion flies, but the “greens” haven’t been green ever. To tee off you are in an elevated sandbox, oh and did I mention the gazillion flies? When you come to the “box” you will find that the hole is not green but it is sand. It looks like the sand is mixed with oil to keep from drying out. But as you can imagine a golf ball moves very different on this kind of sand 🙂
But it was fun, and another tick in the box: Arno now played in the outback!
Jen decided on the lovely 5-6km bikeride to town. Crossed the Thomson River, the little bridge only being open for pedestrian and push bike traffic, and not 50metres further was seriously attacked by a magpie. Realised helmet in the car (phoned Arno on his way to golf, to come back with it) and knew it would need the tie-wraps mentioned before in Roma, when a Maggie also had a (much less severe) go .So now very prepared: anything shiny removed including earrings and little side mirror on handle bar. Set out with sunglasses on, cap with fly-net over, helmet with tie-wrap antennas sticking out, looking like an alien but pretty determined. And at the same frigging place, the same very protective magpie is waiting… and not only nips a little, it hits my back and the helmet, making such a racket that I end up on the other side of the road, stopping, getting off the bike while STILL being attacked! Bike ride aborted. Decided on a quiet siesta in the van instead; a much more relaxed alternatIve. Anyone think this is made-up, think again….
The sunset never ceases to enchant with its amazing orange/red hues, but we are indoors. The flies are an absolute nightmare, and mostly we’ve been wearing our head/face nets outside, though we have some respite in the evening.
Wednesday 17 August
Headed out together on our bikes and the magpie that attacked Jen so viciously yesterday was again waiting and watching, defending and protecting its territory, and despite the tiewraps on the helmet still had a go at both of us.
Once we passed his/her territory and tree, we had some peace, and rode the 5km walk/bike (converted old highway) single lane road to town and discovered that there it changed into the ‘Botanic Walkway’ along the main road all the way to the other side of town as far as the Qantas Founders Museum, where we had a tour booked.
We spent a great morning there, watching a short video first, exploring the museum, followed by a 1.5hr tour with non-stop information. Fascinating tale of how the airline got its start; through extreme expertise, dedication, perseverance, and faith by a few ex-service guys who came back from WW1, and managed to hook up with a smart businessman. The Queensland And Northern Territory Airline System Ltd was formed in 1921. We thought the presentations were really well done, the interactive museum as well as being allowed into or view from open door 4 different types (and original) aircraft: Superconstellation, which carried the Olympic flame from Athena to Melbourne in 1956 for the summer Olympics; a 1979 Boeing 747 that carried a 6,5tonne spare engine (in case it needed to bring one for another 747 somewhere with engine trouble!); DC3 which was one of the first, which seemed to have been mostly used for war supplies; Boeing 707 which had a very interesting history, but its last few decades it had been converted and used as a luxury jet, and was used by the likes of The Jackson 5, and the hope was it could be sold to some Sheik or other rich Arab, but as the leather upholstery was all pigskin, this did not appeal to them. Anyway, it was interesting all very interesting.
We have a lovely lunch in town afterwards in a garden area, but again are so happy to have fly nets… even the local staff are envious; the flies seem to be way too early this year; normally they bother them 6 months of the year, and the winter (ie now) normally gives them a 6 month break, but not this year after the huge rainfalls in April. We also take a nice drive out to the ‘lily lagoon’ which nobody knows about and is a bit off the beaten track and so we enjoy another half hour of tranquility there.
Thursday 18 august: Longreach – Winton
Having packed everything up last night night, we are ready for an early start, as our last Longreach attraction starts at 9am-the Australian Stockmans Hall of Fame. Another value for money show.
We saw a short movie giving us a history of how Ozzie stockmen (or ‘country boys’) came to be and their lonely and rough life.
Then there was again a very well put together museum of life as a stockman- whether shearer, drover, ringer, drover’s wife, living quarters, any kind of profession in that era etc, it was exhibited and described in detail. Again fascinating information. Following this was an hour show by a single stockman who showed what it’s like and what is involved in doing his job. He is talented, funny and good with horses, sheep and working dogs. Again, a show really not to be skipped.
After this we set off to Winton, where we arrive around 3pm and setup quickly to then visit the town’s attractions making the most of the remainder of the day.
We visit Arno’s Wall, and the impressive and historic North Gregory Hotel, where Banjo Paterson first performed his ‘waltzing Matilda’. We watched a live show of Banjo Paterson’s life and some of his poems in the beer garden, and again were so impressed by the professional performance and technical displays.
Had a really good meal at the Tattersall Hotel and headed back to the campsite’s communal fire in time to still enjoy the bright orange and red of sunset… note: still 25 degrees here at 6.30pm, tomorrow 29!
We have mentioned the road trains before; in Queensland they can be up the 53.5 metres long. If we come across them on the (very narrow) roads, our car and caravan shake in the wind they create. These huge road trains travel at 110 km//h and transport cotton, animals, grain and other supplies across Australia, so we give them all the space and respect they deserve, as they are doing a pretty amazing job.
The Great Artesian Basin
We have also mentioned artesian baths, spas, pools, lakes in our posts, so a bit more information is probably appropriate, and coincidentally very timely as ABC just published an interesting article on the Great Artesian Basin, the source of all this water. In summary, it is basin, with around 130,000 times the water volume of the Sydney Harbour. Two thirds of it lie in Queensland, the rest in South Australia and New South Wales. About 150 years ago it was discovered, as the water naturally comes to the surface as permeable ground materials (rocks etc) hold the water and the pressure around and on top pushes the water up. So random wells and bore drilling started in order to supply towns, dams etc, which over the years, dropped the water pressure and loss of supply. About 5 decades ago, new regulations were passed, and many wells were capped, and piped, and today evidence of new water springs surfacing again, and therefore new (and even unknown) fauna in areas where there wasn’t any before.