Friday 19 August: Winton – start of Dinosaur trail
Early start to get to the Australian Age of Dinosaurs Museum around 25km out of town beautifully built on top of the ‘Jump up’ .
Our visit consisted of 3 separate tours; we started with a walk to the Fossil Preparation Laboratory where we learned about the type of dinosaurs that were found in the region and how their fossils were cleaned and processed- and with new discoveries still occurring, the processing queue changes regularly depending on the importance of a find. We could ask questions of the people who worked there, and a lady was happy to explain to us the complex and detailed process of finding and matching the pieces together after, and while they’re being cleaned. What in first instance seemed to be a pretty boring task of removing soil grain by grain, turned out to be the dismantling and re-assembling of a huge puzzle.
Our second tour was an indoor display in the Colection room of what the processed fossils look like and what they are, to which dinosaur they belong. The different sizes were fascinating. All the found animals have been named, eg Judy, Banjo, Matilda etc.
We then got on a shuttle that took us to a base, where we saw a new Observatory set inside a roofless ‘meteor’, which though already used for twice weekly shows, is still awaiting a big telescope, in transit somewhere overseas.
We subsequently went to the ‘March of the Titanosaurus’ which is a fossilised trail of various animals, including dinosaurs. The trail had been discovered after the flood of 2000 that had broken the banks of the nearby Serpent River which subsequently created a new flow, leaving the old area exposed. A farmer who saw the prints and thought they were significant couldn’t get any interest, and it wasn’t until 2016 that the founder of this museum heard about it and realised its importance; experts were brought in and it was determined that the best preservation solution was to move the 50-15m track to its current beautiful home. The prints were explained to us, outlining the various types of animals and their activity. There is also fossilised flora. Amazing to think of the smallest vein’s imprint in a leaf surviving millions of years.
We explored the ‘dinosaur canyon’, a lovely boardwalk with on either side single or grouped bronze dinosaurs statues by various artists.
Arno then checked out the town to take a few more pictures while Jen covered the super modern and high teach Waltzing Matilda Museum, which is dedicated to the song, its history, success and longevity. Not really much to photograph, though.
Evening sunset was once again en enjoyable time around the big fire, and Jack, one of our hosts, made a perfect profile picture….
Saturday 29 August: Winton – Hughenden
Hughenden is about 225km north of Winton and aside from more dinosaur information is also reasonably close to a beautiful national park, Porcupine Gorge, which we intend to visit, too.
Arrived at Hughenden just after midday after a pretty ordinary drive; the bumpy road was definitely hell for people who get car-sick, and even somewhat for those who don’t. Anyway, the town is quite small, and we obtained some info from the information centre to find out what, how and where in Hughenden and surrounds. We drove around town and then out to Mt Walker around 6km drive outside of town; a tabletop mountain with around 5 different lookouts in various directions, including over Hughenden and another called the ‘sunset’ which obviously points west.
There were also a few silos that have been painted by artists, beautiful art, once again.
The town has a new man-made recreation lake with a walk/cycle path around it, which also extends into the town, which seems safe as the roads are wide, and we’ve counted about 4 cars in the time we drove around and stopped to take pictures. It is hot here, around 29-30 degrees and the beautiful pool next to the caravan park is closed for the winter season (opens sometime in September); seems they wait till it’s 38 before they find it hot enough to swim.
There are hardly any flies here!!! And it’s not windy at all, so we anticipate a few really lovely days before we move on to our next Dinosaur expedition stop.
Tonight the sunset is as beautiful as every other day, but we now have the silhouette of caravans and a few trees in front, as opposed to the vast empty land views of Longreach and Winton.
We checked out the museum here in Hughenden and found that it was more about the fossils and the changes of soil over time, (which is especially clear in the Porcupine Gorge) than Dinosaurs, other than what we’ve already seen in detail on the Winton tours. There is however a real size of the Muttburrasaurus, many bones of which were found in Muttaburra about 250km from here. So a replica was cast of lighter materials, and it’s huge.
After seeing a short movie of how the Porcupine Gorge Layers came about over the past 600 million years, we packed a lunch and set off for the hike down to see for ourselves.
It’s around a 45min drive north and we stop at a lookout over the gorge first, and are impressed by the depth, and carry on to the start of the trail down to the bottom. We pack our swimmers just in case and are assured by other returning hikers that there are plenty of deep enough waterholes to have a dip. We set off on a pretty steep, just over 1km well-laid rock trail down, and come to an amazing layer of almost white stone within all different colours, and softly shaped holes and ponds, that runs along side the creek towards a huge rock formation called the pyramid for obvious reasons. We walk along to find a nice spot to have a swim and our lunch. The water is clear, with fish and quite deep as well. It’s really refreshing after we’ve been a little sweaty from the walk – estimate around 18, maybe 19 degrees. After lunch we hike on further along the creek over boulders and rocks just to come to more amazing cliff faces displaying yet other coloured layers and trees sprouting out of cracks.
The hike back is obviously a bit more taxing as we make our way out of the gorge, but we loved it, and thought the drive and the physical effort were absolutely worth it all.
We treated ourselves to a beer at the local pub though the locals were not all that interested in guests, and there were no others there….!
Monday 22 August: Hughenden – Richmond
Not a long drive today, but at least it’s a 2 lane road without the dips and humps that defined the Winton to Hughenden route.
Richmond is another nice town with a lovely recreational lake like Hughenden, where we’ve booked a non-powered site on the lakeside, and as we were in early, we got the pick of the spots. A nice path again has been laid all around and we’re just in front of a little beach and a pontoon. Good place to launch the SUP tomorrow. We take the bikes into town and do a bit of a ride along the main road, and end up at the local pub for lunch (and take home the leftovers for dinner). We do the Kronosaurus Korner museum which was a pleasant surprise after Hughenden’s. Many finds have been recorded here and actually one of the most complete ‘rus’ in the world has actually been found here, so very long ago. Also, some amazing recent finds, which must be so thrilling if you’re working in that field. Here, like in Hughenden, there are public sites where people can go fossicking, and many family tourists spend time doing this. As recent as 2014, a boy found something that looked like a hockey puck and encouraged his dad to help clean it… it turned out to be part of a whole heap of bones of some sort an undiscovered creature, now affectionately known as ‘Wilson’ after the boy’s family, and on display at the museum too.
Washing day and campsite day, with not a breeze, the lake is especially ready for Jen to finally get her SUP board out! Probably not likely to make any use of it any longer as it’s turned colder and will be even more so as we’ll be heading soon south again.
Only one more stop tomorrow then we’re making our way home, with mostly places we haven’t stopped at on the way up here.
But our plans changed; as we’re pumping up the SUP board, we get a call with the unbelievable news that Arno’s active and fit sister in the Netherlands has suddenly passed away.
So at this point, we just stop and process this terrible blow.
Later that day we decide on some of the practical things, we will both be flying home for the funeral.
We spend a bit of time working out where/when and for how long to store our van. It’s good that Arno has excellent reception here and we don’t have to be anywhere.
We decide to still do our last stop which is only around 150km further and it is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, then drive to Townsville which is the closest largest airport with multiple daily flights to Sydney, so fly home to collect passports, etc and make our way to the Netherlands from Sydney.
We spend a lot of time on the internet trying to organise things obviously.
Wednesday 26 August: Richmond- Julia Creek
Today it absolutely blew a gale, but luckily enough, we were driving with it, a huge difference in the fuel consumption.
We arrived in Julia Creek to a place in (to our minds) complete chaos. Telstra (the main internet provider in Australia) decided to work on an upgrade for 7 days with no service during business hours (presumably while the work was being performed). ‘cash only’ was accepted at the places that were open, and only the post office seemed to have a working ATM- pity the local businesses when the post office runs out of cash.. anyway we have booked and prepaid our site and much anticipated Artesian sunset bath, but picked up a bit of cash for incidentals.
The visitor’s information centre was closed so even the feeding of the ‘durrants’ (unique little marsupial of this area) which is done there, did not happen (or if it did, we missed it as we didn’t know: the office was closed, so no info)!
It was incredibly windy here too, but our sunset Artisian bath was in a cute round barn (a bit like a small rainwater tank) with sliding doors on the front to enjoy the evening colours.
We brought a cold bottle of bubbly, a lantern with candle for Annette, and we drank to her life, while soaking up the artesian water minerals and the beautiful view. We are sure she would have liked to have read about this adventure in the blog, with surely some interesting comments or questions about it.
Thursday 26 August: Julia Creek – Prairie
We headed back east via Richmond and Hughenden on our way to Townsville, where we stopped for the night at a tiny place with a very interesting camping place called the Prairie Pub. It’s one of those really old outback pubs, with lots of space in the back for us nomads to camp for the night, and get a nice meal. There was also a friendly water buffalo…
The pub was adorned with all the fun memorabilia, and the dinner was a communal table (some 25 of us) where you get what the kitchen makes for $30 per person. We had a lovely fish, salad and chips, and nice companions to chat with. It kept our minds a bit occupied and I think especially for Arno, this was a nice stop.
Friday 27 August: Prairie – Townsville (Kelso)
The drive from Pairie was quite pretty, and became more hilly and green the further east we drove. We stopped for lunch at Charters Towers, a nice town, where we had expected to start south towards home; this will now come after we return from the Netherlands. For now, we stretch our legs here, and have a bite, get fuel, and make for the coastal town of Townsville. Here we make our way to a lovely couple’s home on a large property and who have offered a safe (and free) space for our caravan alongside theirs while they even allowed us to plug into their power, so our fridge and freezer remained cold. We are grateful for this generous gesture, as the short notice flights and all related extra costs are running quite high of course. It also gives us peace of mind on this front. We arrived quite late in the day, and slept there, as we had a very early flight out of Townsville to Sydney. We left early in the morning, and parked the car at the airport, and started the journey to the Netherlands to say our goodbyes to Annette. We know that she would have loved this post in particular, as she was intrigued by the dinosaur trail that Arno so wanted to do. She also would have very much wanted to see the map of this route, so it will not be missing!