5/06/2015 I retract my previous statement about the driest country we’d so far seen being between Barcaldine and Longreach. The stretch from Winton to Boulia looked to be much drier, with sections where not a blade of grass could be seen from the road, just red stony earth and sparse stands of gidgee and mulga. Dead cattle and sheep were commonplace in the flat barren paddocks. We noticed, too, that the roadkill carcases were now less than we’d seen to the east, perhaps the wildlife was also suffering badly from the drought conditions.
Poddy Creek Rest Area was a stopover to have a leg stretch and morning smoko, and we stayed the night. Behind the rest area, a large cleared area in the scrub showed signs of many camp fires, so we headed in away from the road about two hundred metres and camped at the end of a spur overlooking a wonderful Spinifex covered landscape. The rest of the day was spent unsuccessfully fossicking for boulder opal down from the camp, exploring the nearby scrub and brushing bush flies away from our faces. They got so annoying that we dug out the fly head nets to get some relief.
The colours of the sunset and sunrise from our camp were really something.
I commented to Di that the stony ground reminded me of a landscape I’d seen before; then recalled the photos sent back from the Martian Rover – the same except Mars has a slightly higher moisture content than where we were.
We drove further on through the arid landscape to the tiny community of Middleton, population three, and currently the setting for filming of a new movie, Goldstone. Pretty much all that’s there is the historic Middleton Hotel, an old corrugated iron dance hall and a bush shelter for travellers. I was hoping to refuel but the bowsers at the old pub were out of action, along with the coach horses by the look of it.
As we continued to travel through the amazing landscape, the flat Mitchell Grass and Spinifex plains were interrupted by mesa-type formations with flat tops, vertical sides and scree slopes. These rocky outcrops were extraordinarily beautiful and very reminiscent of Hollywood westerns. You’d almost expect John Wayne to come riding out of the hills. We stopped at the Cawnpore Lookout to take in the stark flat-topped beauty of the Lilleyvale Hills. These hill formations occur in only two places in the world – Australia and South America.
The Kennedy Development Road from Winton was fully sealed and comfortable, mostly single lane bitumen with occasional wider overtaking sections. What little oncoming traffic we encountered generally complied with the outback rule – get off the bitumen and give it up to the larger vehicle.
In Boulia, we visited the interesting Stone House Museum complex featuring the stone cottage built in 1888, and a fascinating display of marine reptile fossils sourced from the local area. The nearby Min Min Encounter provided an interesting and humorous insight into the mysterious Min Min Lights through a 45-minute show presented by animatronic characters who claim to have seen the lights.
We’re now 211kms from the Northern Territory border and had intended to go across from here to Alice Springs via the Plenty Highway. It’s still very cold at night, though, so instead we’ll head north to Mt Isa, Gregory River, Burketown and then via the Savanna Way to Borroloola in the Territory.
“Once the travel bug bites there is no known antidote, and I know that I shall be happily infected until the end of my life” ― Michael Palin