After a short drive from Adels Grove, we arrived at Lawn Hill National Park, where we hired a canoe for a couple of hours and paddled up the gorge. The scenery was the most spectacular we have seen to date, giant livingstonia palms towering above, buttressed ficus trees with green fruit clung to small, vigorous waterfalls. After lunch we had a swim then a walk to Aboriginal rock art caves.
Living the dream.
We travelled over 90 kilometres, much of it red dust with four-truck mine vehicles coming towards us. Through the rear-vision mirror, Dave noticed a stream of water behind the van, so we pulled into a side track to check out where it was coming from. Oh no! The tap had been knocked off our water tank and our precious commodity was turning the dust to mud. Bush mechanics to the rescue. With the help of a stick and duct tape we were on our way again, Dave with red mud all over his hands.
It was worth it. Adels Grove is a paradise with beautiful birds (rainbow bee-eaters for starters), lilies in the river and giant melaleucas shading the campsites.
What a relief! Thanks Craig for suggesting this destination – the effort to get here has paid off and we’ve just taken a plunge in the river.
We are camped by the Gregory River in far north-western Queensland, Australia, out of Internet range, so I will publish when we return to civilisation. It is paradise.
There are about 20 other caravans, but we were lucky to get a riverside stand. The reason it’s vacant is because guys from work gangs fill their water tanks right near this spot at 6am each morning and use the water to spray on the gravel road to suppress the dust. There are big spotlights on a stand nearby which they apparently light up. Oh we’ll, this should get us up early.
The Milky Way galaxy is clearly visible and the Gregory River is talking to us. This afternoon we shot the rapids in bathers to cool off. Whistling kites were circling overhead, then settled for the night on the giant melaleuca trees. A wallaby and her joey came quietly down to drink.
Today we visited Combo Waterhole, north of Winton. This is apparently the waterhole that poet A B (Banjo Patterson visited during the shearers’ strike of 1898 and heard the story of a swagman who evaded arrest by jumping into a billabong and drowning. This choice of death over incarceration, inspired the poet to pen the words for the song Waltzing Maltilda that is sung by Australians worldwide.
David is growing a beard and I couldn’t resist snapping him beside the billabong – he made a pretty good jolly swagman.
The next photo is of Walkabout Creek Hotel at McKindlay (pop 20). This was where the movie Crocodile Dundee was filmed. There are photos in the bar of Paul Hogan in character.
Finally, a beautiful evening at the lookout overlooking Cloncurry, and some agile wallabies grazing in the town cemetery.
Today we drove over 110km of dirt road to the Lark Quarry Conservation Park to see evidence of a dinosaur stampede 95 million years ago. Apparently, small dinosaurs were drinking at a lake when they were chased by a large, carnivorous dinosaur. The resulting 3300 footprints have been excavated and are conserved in an award-winning, ecologically sustainable complex, set in spectacular countryside.
A jump up is the local name for a flat hill or mesa. Those around here are of red earth with the sides dotted with spinifex clumps. Much of the surrounding flat land is iron rich stony plains known as gibber.
We are still in channel country and there are also flood plains of fine silt which turns into spectacular dust when disturbed by vehicles.
Finally, I’ve included a photo of the dry river beds, where eucalypts and acacias grow.
On our way to Winton in Central Queensland, we detoured 12 km from the Matilda Highway to the Australian Age of Dinosaurs Museum for a fantastic glimpse into the world of palaeontology. The visit included a half hour tour of the laboratory where the bones are painstakingly extracted from the rock using drills. We then progressed down a short path back to the award-winning reception building for an interpretive talk on the bones themselves and the giant critters who owned them.
We pulled into Winton – the town where the famous Australian song Waltzing Maltilda is said to have been written by poet Banjo Patterson.
They both have old Qantas 707 planes. Longreach’s 707 is at the Qantas Founders Museum. John Tavolta is a flight enthusiast and Qantas ambassador. We learnt this piece of trivia when we spent most of today at the Museum. They had a much larger 747 that we were shown in detail.
Before going to the Museum, we visited the Longreach School of Distance Education, where we saw a class in action. The school has 147 students scattered over a classroom that is larger than the state of Victoria.