Tom & Matt’s Four-State Road Trip
Day 2 — Thursday, 28th July, 2011 — Moree, NSW, to Charleville, Qld

 

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Into Queensland

Our journey today is of a similar length to Day 1 but a very different journey in lots of ways. We travel from Moree in north-western New South Wales into Queensland, crossing the border at Mungindi. Then on to St George, north to Mitchell and then west to Charleville. No city driving, no expressway (motorway) driving and a great deal of country with not many people in it.

Unlike Day 1, we began at a respectable hour, packing the car about 8:30am, filling the petrol tank about 9:00am and beginning the journey about 9:10am. A little over an hour took us to the tiny town of Mungindi and across the Barwon River, the north bank of which forms the State border at this point. Mungindi boasts that it is the only community in Australia that exists in two different States and has the same name in each State. Not sure how much of a distinction that is!

Virtually from the word go, a great deal of today’s journey was through cotton country. It is the wrong time of the year to see the cotton growing, but little tufts of cotton (looking like stray bits of cotton wool, which I guess it is in a way) decorate both sides of the road where it has blown off trucks (lorries) transporting it from the paddocks (fields) to the cottom gins. There were many lrge semi-trailers on the road, most of them towing a second trailer of similar length to their own rear section, though almost all of them seemed to be empty and waiting to take on the large bails of cotton that we could see stored in various places, ready for collection.

But the cotton country petered out somewhere between St George and Mitchell and we were suddenly aware that there was no more cottom wool to be seen. From there on the main industry seemed to be cattle with a little bit of sheep thrown in.

 

The road goes on for ever 

 

I snapped this view through the front windscreen, looking at a road that seemed to go on for ever. You can see the little bits of cotton wool on the side of the road. The four-wheel drive vehicle approaching us is typical of a great many vehicles in this area. Although this photo was taken in New South Wales, the vehicle has a Queensland registration plate.

 

Mulga scrubland 

 

 

I then turned my camera to look out the side window as we sped along. Most roads have a 100kph speed limit (60mph) but we had a few stretches in Queensland (and, indeed, in New South Wales yesterday) that allow up to 110kph (roughly 70mph). At that speed, it is not surprising that the foreground is blurred.

The “trees” are mostly low eucalyptus shrubs known widely as mallee, though that label has been applied to at least 25 different varieties of euchalyptus. This type of vegetation has no value for milling but offers a little bit of subsistence fodder for stock and serves well at preventing wind and water erosion. But it could not be called beautiful.

 

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Another snap from a moving vehicle, but this time out the driver’s side window. This is a cotton paddock (field) lying in fallow after harvest. Cotton is an important crop in Australia’s economy but does tend to divide people because of its high use of water in a continent that is the driest on earth (apart from Antartica). Many people, particularly those who live a long way further down the Murray-Darling basin, are angry that the cotton industry extracts so much water from the system before it reaches them.

 

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Our Morning Tea break was at a little town called Thallon, about which I know practically nothing. No photos, sorry.

Lunchtime found us on a long, lonely stretch of road between St George and Mitchell. When we turned off the Balonne Highway, just west of St George, the road sign told us it was 202 km (ie., about 120 miles) from there to Mitchell. We already knew from the map that there were absolutely no towns or villages between the two and also that there were no roadside picnic areas. We were not prepared to subject our vehicle to the uncertainties of the off-road areas with unknown rocks and logs in the long grass, so we simply parked on the side of the road. In any case, only about seven vehicles went past during our break so we were in little danger from traffic.

It was a great lunch! I know it was only ham, cheese and tomato sandwiches (like yesterday) but we had acquired some pepper and salt in the meantime and it made the world of difference! You can see Matt’s little gas cooker sitting on the table. It has served us well and the coffee is about to be poured.

 

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Matt wanted to snap me (as I had him), so here I am looking somewhat posed, having just enjoyed my lunch.

As a result of our experiences on Day 1, we spent a great deal more care in packing the car for today. Our lunch stop yesterday was punctuated by our asking each other “Have you seen where the coffee is?” “Can you lift that box so I can get into the frig?” and “Where on earth did we put the kitchen knife?” Today it all went very smoothly as the lunch material was all near the rear door of the car and we could open the car frig easily. Our water tank was also readily accessible and we spent only 40 minutes having lunch instead of the 70 minutes yesterday.

No doubt as our journey continues we will develop further efficiencies!
wink

 

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One disturbing feature of today’s journey was the huge quantities of roadkill we saw. At one stage Matt commented “There can’t be any kangaroos left alive in the whole world!” We didn’t count the carcasses but we must have seen hundreds of them. In some places there was a carcass every hundred metres or so. And, of course, those eternal scavengers, the crows, were everywhere. You can see one in this photo on the right-hand edge of the road.

Just in passing, note how narrow the road is — barely more than one vehicle wide. And sometimes the vehicle coming the other way was a huge semi-trailer.

 

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Several times we saw emus on the side of the road, sometimes nonchalantly ignoring us, even though we passed by not 10 metres from them. But the moment we stopped and grabbed the camera, they quickly disappeared. Then, as we drove off, we glimpsed them in amongst the trees, giving us the emu equivalent of a one-finger salute!

It wasn’t until later in the afternoon that we began to see live kangaroos and this one even agreed to stand still until we too his photo. But I noticed that all the live roos we saw were about the size of this one — only a bit over a metre high — whereas many of the roadkill carcasses appeared to be much larger animals. Maybe the bigger ones come out after dark? In any case, we have no desire to be driving these roads at night.

 

No photos of the Swagman’s Rest Motel in Charleville, but it is clean and pleasant, if small. They do have a dining room but the chap who served us in the office dropped a huge hint that we really should go down to the shopping centre for our dinner. We went to one of his recommendations, a Chinese cafe, and enjoyed barbequed pork in plum sauce, braised beef and vegetables and steamed rice, together with a nice dry white wine.

Tomorrow we push on to Longreach (a shorter journey than the last two) where we plan to spend two nights, giving us our first rest day.

Matt’s Video for Day 2

 

 

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