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1 The journey begins

Departure

8th May
Departed Brisbane at 0725 and headed for Toowoomba, and then on through Dalby and Roma for Mitchell. The climb up the Great Dividing Range is a bit of a challenge, however, the car and van managed everything beautifully. Met up with our friends Brian & Maureen at the top of the Range and we moved on.
We stopped for a lunch break at a very small village (Warra) in pleasant and tidy surroundings.
From Toowoomba to Mitchell the roads were either good, or had lengthy portions that were very undulating and not in good repair. We were reminded of the cowboys on Professional Bull Riding show as we were never sure what to expect next. Perhaps it was more akin to moderate air turbulence in an aircraft! Following one van for some distance, between Dalby and Roma, we could observe the ‘dancing devil’ as they swerved and swayed along the highway.
After a second fuel top-up at Roma we headed into the setting sun towards Mitchell. The combination of sun in front, variable road surface, and a real concern for kangaroo’s negligently crossing the road in front of us we were not able to maintain a very fast road speed. Especially difficult were the portions of road that became increasingly shaded in deep shadow.
One brief bright spot was when we sighted a wedge tail eagle enjoying his dinner close to the roadside. About 300m down the road I was confronted by his mate enjoying her dinner – right in the middle of our lane. A quick blast on the horn encouraged it to take off, albeit rather slowly, as it made its fortunate escape!
However, we made the Major Mitchell Caravan Park on the banks of the famous Maranoa River and checked in just as the sun was setting, so a quick job of unhitching the car and laying on the electricity and water supply soon saw us settled in. We soon found that the inconsistent road surface had, just like the aircraft arrivals announcement, “be careful when opening the overhead lockers as some items may have moved”, was true for us also!
The park staff were very helpful and friendly, and invited us to the ‘bush poet’ evening that had just commenced on a site close to ours. Sadly, we had too much setting up to get finished in time to enjoy.
A chat with Brian and Maureen, and then to bed as it was getting cold quite quickly.
Slept well until 0630!
Distance travelled 559 Km.

9th May
Awoken to a cold morning with a need to visit the toilet facilities, with the sound of roosters crowing in the distance. Rapidly realised that it is was cold! On checking the thermometer I read 4C.
Rushed back to bed for a longer sleep, but was woken at 0800 by Mary’s mobile ringing with Mothers’ Day greetings from John.
As we had agreed to attend a Mothers’ Day breakfast at the famous Artesian Spa Pool we made our way over the walk bridge to be very pleasantly surprised by the excellent paintings of local scenes and events on the road bridge pillars. We noted with surprise the large logs lodged just under the roadway, part of the debris from the recent floods. The flood height was over 7m – about the same height as the bridge!
The breakfast was a fundraiser for a local church and a large crowd of locals and tourists attended. We were pleased to be entertained by Garry Lowe, a Bush Poet, who, coincidently, was parked on the van site adjacent to us! We all enjoyed it, however a group of locals talked and laughed among their group the whole time of the presentation. On concluding the poet made a point of commenting pointedly to them about their lack of courtesy!
Then a stroll around Mitchell to enjoy the beautiful morning sun and some interesting shops, which were mercifully closed, much to Mary’s chagrin. An interesting local point of interest was the cultural walkway adjacent to the local Council offices, depicting an interesting and vibrant community. Well worth a look.
A lazy afternoon doing not very much we decided to stay an extra night to get a decent break after the tiring long journey from Brisbane.
At 1600 a Country Music session on the nearby grass went for two hours, interspersed with numerous poems by Garry Lowe. What a pleasant way to watch the setting sun and then head off for dinner.

Monday 10th
Breakfasted and then cleaned up the front of the caravan of all the expired insects that had attached themselves there on the long drive up. Mary did some clothes washing while David managed a few other chores, then Brian and Maureen joined us for the pleasant stroll over the pedestrian bridge across the Maranoa River to the Great Artesian Spa Pool for a very pleasant session in the spa water. Garry Lowe was also there and has us all entertained with another string of his poems, to our enthusiastic support. Mary bought some bread and meat for future use and then time for lunch. We then had a planning meeting with Brian and Maureen for the next stages of the journey to Barcaldine and Winton.
A quiet evening before departure, except for the total power failure for the whole region so it meant an early bedtime.

Tuesday 11th
We departed Mitchell for Barcaldine in beautiful weather.
The road was rather better than the previous few hundred kilometres, however, considering the serious flooding of only a few weeks prior, and the incredible cost per ratepayer, the roads are still in very good condition.
We took advantage of the reasonable roads and light traffic to experience her first time of driving a car with a caravan attached. She managed pretty well for the 80 or so kilometres that she drove.
Stopped for petrol at Morven and had a break further up the road. Considering that we had to find a safe parking spot on the open highway for two cars and caravans, we managed well. We had a picnic lunch at Tambo by a very well maintained picnic spot on the outer town limits, complete with very fat ducks! Mary & Maureen made a quick visit to the Tambo Teddies shop. Apparently the teddies were rather expensive so no sale.
We ran into (literally) several swarms of locusts as later afternoon approached prior to arrival at Barcaldine. The made something of a mess of the front of both car and van so that had to be cleaned off before they became permanent fixtures.
We arrived at Barcaldine just on sunset and quickly set up camp. Mary then announced that we had no power from the van battery system. That meant that, although we had half a lighting system on the 240 power supply from the camp, the other half of lighting etc was now non-existent. Made a call to RACQ for help! The chap came round and after some scary oohing and aahing, managed to find that the fault was simply the mains cut-off switch had been bumped somehow and he reset that and everything was fine. We then all walked the one kilometre to the junction of the Matilda and Capricorn Highway in the balmy evening air. We did not sleep well that night.

Wednesday 12th May
Slightly later departure from Barcaldine to Winton than planned but all went well with all the preparations so off we headed for Longreach for a bit of shopping for supplies and a very nice coffee and cake treat.
The road was good, if rather tedious with many very long straights followed by yet many more! Saw four emus watching us watching them. The usual kangaroo/wallaby road kill was observed. Not a bad drive however on the long trip. Very few trees and therefore the horizon seemed forever far away. Which it was!
Had lunch stop about 40 Km from Winton, and then caught up with Brian and Maureen at the next one having theirs. Must have been a bit of a communications breakdown I think. We all travelled on to Winton, and checked in the afternoon hot sun and set up in time for a quiet dinner. Except that the many galahs had other ideas. I couldn’t count how many that called the Matilda Country Tourist Park home, but they certainly greatly outnumbered the campers in number and in noise!!
We went to the historic open air cinema (built about 1918) which specialises in very old films and advertisements that we enjoyed immensely. This a must for any visitor to Winton, however, the films are usually only on a Wednesday evening. Don’t miss it!

Posted by psstevo 23:01 Archived in Australia

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