2014.2 Central West Qld Travel Blog

Wednesday, May 14, 2014 at 17:45

Member - Ossiejs (Qld)

Longreach, Winton, Hughenden, Richmond, Julia Creek

Well, I'm off again. Travelling solo, I had mapped out a trek to explore a number of Towns in SW Queensland before I would meet up with Marie in a week's time in Winton for a further stint working at the Australian Age of Dinosaurs (AAOD) Laboratory. My plans were to travel via St George, Cunnamulla, Thargomindah, and to Noccundra and Eromanga. Next was to be Jundah, Stonehenge and Longreach. Marie would be travelling separately with friends by vehicle. I planned to arrive in Winton in time to meet up with the ladies upon their arrival. After our AAOD work, Marie and her friends would drive back to Brisbane, leaving me free to undertake some volunteer work in Longreach at (a) the Australian Stockman's Hall of Fame (ASHOF), followed by (b) a week at the Qantas Founders Outback Museum (QFOM).
I had no definite plans afterwards other than to enjoy some "me" time while making my way back to Brisbane.
Having closely followed the state of the roads and rivers along my planned route, I reluctantly changed my intended trek to avoid being stranded in the Channel Country down to the NSW border. So, from St George, I chose to head North to Roma, where I could do some clothes shopping at a favourite Outback store - Golders. I might have mentioned that during my trek out here last year, my favourite Akubra was lost - blame the road works as when stopped, I had windows down, and apparently, I was too slow to raise them as I moved on again. I hope it found a good head. The rest of the trek is recorded below.

~ Day 1 (Mon 31 March 2014)
Travel: Brisbane to St George
Distance: 513km
Route: Brisbane to Dalby via Toowoomba via Warrego Highway
Toowoomba to St. George via Moonie Highway
Campsite: Pelican Rest Caravan Park (Top Tourist)
Address: St George
Facilities: Very good
Comment: Diesel $1.629 at Caltex, St George

~ Day 2 (Tue 1 Apr 2014)
Travel: St George to Augathella via Roma
Distance: 390km
Route: St George to Roma via Carnarvon Highway
Roma to Morven via Warrego Highway
Morgen to Augathella via Landsborough Highway
Campsite: Augathella Caravan Park
Cost: $30 for powered site for 1-2 persons.
Address: Landsborough Highway, Augathella
Facilities: Below average considering monopoly CP has on accommodation, fuel and location.
Comment: Diesel $170.9c/L at BP Roadhouse, Augathella

~ Days 3 to 5 (Wed 2 Apr to Fri 4 Apr 2014)
Travel: Augathella to Oma Waterhole, Isisford
Distance: 340km
Route: Augathella to Blackall via Landsborough Highway
Blackall to Isisford via Isisford Blackall Road
Isisford to Oma Waterhole (Isisford)
Campsite: Oma Waterhole
GPS: Long 144.3196 Lat -24.2339
Cost: $2:00 per vehicle per night ($10:00 per week) payable at Isisford Shire Office.
Facilities: M/F clean flushing toilets, well stocked. M/F hot and cold showers.
Directions: At Isisford, turn W into St Helens Rd (towards Cemetery) and drive W along Ruthven Rd for 16k. Arriving at the familiar signpost, the track across the Barcoo looked too boggy while towing the Van, so I returned to Isisford, and ventured along the route I took last year via Mons and Oma Stations. A bit of exploring the following days revealed there is a second identical signpost about 1.2km further W along Ruthglen Road, which has a small weir and concrete floodway over the Barcoo.
Comment: Collect timber for campfires en route left on side of road into campground. Head NE 1.5k which will bring you to Amenities Block and two large tin roofed sheds - 1 being camp kitchen area.
This is still one of my favourite campsites in the Central West.

~ Days 6 and 7 (Sat 5 Apr to Sun 6 Apr 2014)
Travel: Oma Waterhole, Isisford to Ilfracombe
Distance: 90km
Route: Oma Waterhole, Isisford to Ilfracombe via (you guessed it) Isisford Ilfracombe Road
Campsite: Ilfracombe Caravan Park
Location: Cnr Landsborough Highway and Main Ave, Ilfracombe
Cost: Powered site $27.00 per night.
Facilities: clean and stocked Unisex showers and toilets. Good value for money.
Activity: Saturday - Visited relatives at Beaconsfield Station, and fresh fruit and veggie shopping in Longreach (27km W), and Sunday explored the Town's tourist attractions, which were few.
Comment: Don't forget to enquire of CP management if they still offer a voucher for 4c/l discount at the Shell servo, Longreach. That's the way to attract travellers.

~ Day 8 (Mon 7 Apr 2014)
Travel: Ilfracombe to Winton (AAOD)
Distance: 206km
Route: Landsborough Highway
Campsite: Maloney Lodge, Australian Age of Dinosaurs Laboratory, Vindex Range (the AAOD Jump-Up).
Comment: Marie and her three lady companions were due to arrive late this afternoon, so I took the chance to meet with the caretakers and some staff, settle into our accommodation, food was unpacked, and waited for their arrival. The Van was unhitched and parked nearby.

~ Days 9 to 12 (Tue 8 Apr to Fri 11 Apr 2014)
Australian Age of Dinosaurs Laboratory, Winton
We set to the task of carefully removing very old rock from fossilised dinosaur bones some 98 million years old. It never ceases to amaze me that we are the first people to be seeing fossilised animals, and plants, which existed in our prehistoric past. While palaeontologists continue to search for why the reason or reasons why dinosaurs became extinct, I can certainly appreciate that if they hadn't, mankind, emerging from some primordial soup many eons later, would not have stood a chance of survival.
It wasn't all work. After a hard day's work, we took time to view the spectacular scenery on the Jump-Up, and spend a little free time in Winton.

~ Day 13 (Sat 12 Apr 2014)
Travel: Winton to Bladensburg NP
Distance: 16km
Campsite: Bough Shed Hole campsite
GPS: Long 142.961151 Lat -22.560034
Activity: After seeing the girls off on their road trip back to Brisbane, I set about a final tidy-up of our accommodation. After repacking the Van, I bade farewell to the AAOD Laboratory until our return planned about the same time in 2015.
On leaving the Jump-Up, I had a look at the Long Waterhole 2km from Winton on Winton Jundah Rd. Very little shade that wasn't already taken by a couple of campers, so I decided to stick with original plan and drove the further 16km to Bladensburg NP. I camped there last year, so I planned to give it another go. En route, I called in for look-see at Bladensburg Homestead/Ranger HQ. Finding no sign of life, and a pretty ordinary display, I headed for Bough Shed Hole camping area. Seemed smaller than visit last year, with a number of campsites bollarded off for no apparent reason. There were a good half a dozen shady campsites on the edge of Surprise Creek in the NP. Single drop toilet near entrance to campground, but no other facilities.
Enjoying the solitude in the mid-afternoon heat, I heard a loud and unusual sound close by. In my travels over many years, I had seen, from a distance, many willy-willys or dust devils on the outback plains. This one was less than ten metres from where I was sitting, and moving in my direction. Having witnessed the power of water spouts in my deep sea fishing days, I was cautious. The high pitched, gushing noise of the vortex, as it danced around a large gum sapling was a natural wonder, and made me alert for projectiles. Moving away after some amazing entertainment for five or so minutes, the phenomena was over.
Hot night, but no mozzies. Flies just as thick as at AAOD. Late afternoon campers were arriving, and the available campsites were soon full. A number had to find somewhere else to camp.

~ Day 14 (Sun 13 Apr 2014)
Travel: Bladensburg NP, Winton to Longreach
Distance: 180km
Route: Bladensburg NP to Landsborough Highway
To Longreach on Landsborough Hwy.
Campsite: Longreach Tourist Park.
Activity: Topped up with a few essentials in Longreach, and then to Longreach Tourist Park. Had booked a powered site with ensuite seeing I would be here three weeks - a few creature comforts are justified.
What I did not feel was justified, was the apparent price gouging at the CP, and prices for fuel in Longreach. The CP had new owners, and new management. The CP had increased its prices, and removed its previous (but still advertised!) Top Tourist member discount - stay for 7, pay for 6. The CP seemed slightly under maintained since my last visit, and little had been done to improve the grounds. But, it was home for the next few weeks.Home? The ensuite had a fair amount of frog poo and dirt on the floor and around the sink. And the external tap leaked. I'll seriously consider staying elsewhere next trip out this way.

~ Days 15 to 33 (Mon 14 Apr to 2 May 2014)
These three weeks passed fairly quickly. I had arranged to donate two full weeks to the Australian Stockman's Hall of Fame (ASHOF), Longreach, to continue work assisting the Curator in cataloguing the many thousands of photographs it held. Again, I found the work historically interesting and challenging. I am getting to know many (from photographs) of the outback pioneers, stockmen and women, since photographic records started.
Public Holidays have little meaning, so I worked with the ASHOF Curator weekdays, and left visits, shops and exploration for the weekends.
On a drive to visit cousins just West of Longreach, I passed a sign to Starlight's Lookout, known on maps as Cassidy's Knob. I reckoned I would just have enough time to check out the Lookout before coming back to meet the folk. Just enough! Not the best outback road I'd driven on and then about 45km from Longreach, I was at the turnoff to the Lookout. The Lookout, a small jump-up in otherwise flat terrain of the Thomson River floodplain, already had its share of visitors, including a small chopper. Conscious of the time, I circumnavigated the base of the Lookout in very rough 4WD-only track. At the risk of being late to see my cousins, I headed back, remembering to take it easy on those tricky stretches. Next trip, I'll include a proper visit in my plans.

The third and final week, I donated my time to the Qantas Founders and Outback Museum (QFOM), Longreach. The Curator also has a vast library of analogue photographs to be scanned and catalogued. But, one of my first duties was to water the flying kangaroo on display. This is a QANTAS Boeing 707 dwarfed next to the QANTAS 747 sitting on display next to it. The 707 was fitted out by the Saudi Arabian authorities with teak and walnut timber, and leather furnishings. These fittings are unsuited to the hot, dry conditions of the Australian Outback. QFOM's answer is simple, in theory: there are many and numerous containers of varying sizes through the aircraft which must be filled with water, in an attempt to raise the humidity inside to preserve the furnishings. Water is carried by bucket, filled outside the aircraft, up the stairs, and each cup, ice cream container, and a large variety of assorted water containers must be filled. I lost count after about three hours of how many buckets I carried up those stairs. However, the 707 should retain some humidity in the cabin area for a little while to come. Then, having passed my initiation, the Curator let me loose on his photographic collection. I made a good start. With more people volunteering to give up their time, and with some up-to-date archiving software, QFOM should have the capacity to digitalise and catalogue its photographic holdings.
After a final luncheon meeting with both Curators, I bade farewell to both, and set about getting ready to leave Longreach. I will be back, but not necessarily staying at that CP.

~ Days 34 and 35 (Sat 3 May and Sun 4 May 2014)
Travel: Longreach to Hughenden (via Winton)
Distance: 392km
Route: Longreach to Winton via Landsborough
Winton to Hughenden via Kennedy Developmental Road
Campsite : Hughenden Caravan Park: 2 Resolution Street, Hughenden
Activities: Having changed my travel plans slightly towards the end of my stay in Longreach, I had decided to have a look at the other two Towns on the "Dinosaur Trail" - Hughenden and Richmond. So, after leaving Longreach with Van in tow, I made the trek to Hughenden.
While not too happy with the arrogant attitude of the male manger, his wife was pleasant to deal with so I opted for two nights at the CP. I would leave exploring the Flinders Discovery & Information Centre, and the rather iconic Porcupine Gorge National Park on my second day in
Day two; it was off explore Hughenden and the Flinders Discovery Centre, Hughenden. Lots of history and artefacts in the Town, and I was particularly impressed with the displays at the Flinders Discovery Centre: Dinosaur Display and Museum. This is well worth the $5:00 entry fee to see more dinosaur fossils, assorted marine fossils, as well as history of the area. The reconstructed Muttaburrasaurus on display is most impressive. If you are into marine fossils, theories about what made the dinosaurs extinct (thankfully) and some interesting some history, spend a little time here.
So, now it was off the 60km to Porcupine Gorge NP, leaving over the Ernest Henry Bridge which crosses N over the Flinders River - touted as the longest River in Queensland. Impressive, but almost dry when I was there. I took time to stop at some signposted landmarks en route. Then, on to the Porcupine Gorge Lookout, which as the literature claims, is stunning given it is a vast chasm in the middle of nowhere.
A further 11km on is the Porcupine NP Pyramid Lookout next to the NP's campground, offering spectacular views, and access to the steep and unstable track leading to Porcupine Creek in the Gorge. Travelling solo, I did not attempt the walk - this time. After checking out the NP's camping area (8 numbered Van sites), it was time to return to Hughenden.

~ Day 36 (Mon 5 May 2014)
Travel: Hughenden to Julia Creek (via Richmond)
Distance: 260km
Route: Flinders Highway
Campsite : RV site 1.3km E of Julia Creek (Free)
GPS: Long 141.753036. Lat -20.659801
Activities: On the Highway West from Hughenden, I called in for diesel at the Lights on the Hill Servo. This looked like a truckies' stop, and unbelievably, the fuel was priced at $1.599c/l, with a good variety of hot and cold food. It reinforced my view of the price gouging by many servos out here who charge what they like, because they can! My view is that the real villains in this industry the ACCC should focus on are not Coles and Woolies, who make life a bit easier for travellers, but the fuel suppliers.
Refuelled, and refreshed, my first stop was Richmond, taking a moment or three to check out an RV Parking Area not far from the unique mad-made Lake Fred Tritton, and a life-size replica of "Mutt" - the Muttaburrasaurus whose fossilised skeleton is in the Flinders Discovery Centre, Hughenden. The imaginative skin colour is striking. So enticed, it was off to Kronosaurus Korner at the Richmond Visitor Information Centre. The $20:00 entry fee to the marine fossil display is a small investment considering the quality of fossilised displays inside. The Kronosaurus fossil indicates what a marine predator this animal would have been in the seas, and would chew up and spit out our notorious saltwater crocs and white pointer sharks. Without a doubt, the Richmond Museum holds the best range and description of fossilised remains from the dinosaur era.
Attached to the Museum is a working laboratory (closed when I was there as Curator was on a fossil dig) with a modicum more sophistication than that at AAOD, Winton. And, the processes used are explained for the general public. I expect that it all comes down to funding.
After leaving my details for the Curator, I enjoyed a sumptuous meal at the Moonrock Cafe next to the Information Centre. With its own bakery, it offers meals one would not expect in the Outback.
Time to move on to Julia Creek to set up camp. After first checking with staff at the Information Centre, I was advised that a Camp Host was in situ at the Julia Creek RV campsite. So, I found a comfortable site next to Julia Creek. Rubbish Bins, and water taps are on both sides of the Creek with a number of shady spots right on the edge of the water. A fellow camper told me there were yabbies in the Creek.
That's when it all happened! On putting up my pop-top, one of the springs in the telescopic struts gave way, and collapsed. You don't want the full story, but again frustrated by my Jayco, I tried without success to find anyone from Mt Isa to Townsville who could fix the Van's problem. Earliest was in under six weeks, and then for a typical Outback price gouge. I had planned on a much longer trip to Karumba, the Isa, down to Bedourie and then home. With an unsafe Van, I decided to head home.
With the kind help of a retired truckie at the RV campsite, we managed a temporary fix (with an old broom stick) so I could camp overnight before heading off early the next morning to start towards home. Using Google, I calculated the trip to be about 1,628km.

~ Day 37 (Tue 6 May 2014)
Travel: Julia Creek to Augathella (via Kynuna, Winton, Longreach)
Distance: 883km
Camp: Augathella CP (only because I knew it and it was late)

~ Day 38 (Wed 7 May 2014)
Travel: Augathella to Brisbane (via Roma, Toowoomba)
Distance: 745km

PS: The Van is now booked in to fix the problem strut, at a fraction of prices I was quoted out West. It won't be fixed any sooner, but I should be happy that it wasn't something more serious requiring transport on a tilt-tray!
To forget one's ancestors is to be a brook without a source, a tree without a root -- Chinese Proverb
John & Marie
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