Tom & Matt’s Four-State Road Trip
Day 5 — Sunday, 31st July, 2011 — Longreach, Qld, to Mount Isa, Qld

 

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Now we are in the outback

There is some debate in Australia as to just when you get into the area known as the outback. Some of the media are inclined to describe anything west of the Blue Mountains in New South Wales as “the outback” but most intelligent people agree that it is a long way further west than that. Today Matt saw some camels wandering in the scrub (I missed them because I was driving and we were past them before I could turn my head) and we both saw many termite nests. We now feel that we have reached the outback.

Today we drove some 670 km from Longreach to Mount Isa. We are now very much in the west of the State of Queensland and, in fact, are further west than any part of New South Wales. The Northern Territory is less than a day’s drive away.

 

Endless road 

 

This is the road shortly after we left Longreach. It just goes and goes and goes but, at least at this point, there is reasonably-sized trees on the sides of the road.

This shot is unusual too in that the vehicle in front of us is a small sedan. There are so very few of them in this part of the world. Most people seem to prefer big testosterone-fueled four-wheel-drive vehicles or even larger trucks (lorries or HGVs) and semi-trailers. Sometimes we feel quite intimidated in our little Mercedes A-class.

 

Endless road 

 

Before very long, this is what the endless road looked like. It appears that there is a rise in the distance and a crest, beyond which there might be a valley of some sort. Sadly, no. When you get to the apparent crest, the road just goes on beyond it and, if there is a bit of a dip, it is very gentle and may well be followed by another long rise.

The trees have disappeared and there is just the occasional wizened shrub.

We also noticed that the roadkill has decreased markedly. It is still there, but is far less frequent. On the other hand, the kangaroos that make up the bulk of the roadkill are much bigger in size and would probably have stood (when they were alive) up to two metres tall.

 

Winton picnic area 

 

We stopped for morning tea in the town of Winton. Almost immediately we found this picnic area, complete with an old horse-drawn wagon and a quite boring (no pun intended) information sign about the first artesian bore to have been sunk in Winton.

Winton actually has a firm place in Australia’s cultural history as the iconic song, “Waltzing Matilda” was written on a nearby station property called Dagworth and first performed in the North Gregory Hotel in Winton, which we saw as we drove past today.

 

Army convoy 

 

While we stood around and drank our coffee, about 6-7 Australian Army vehicles drove past us in convoy. Shortly afterwards, another instalment of the convoy (4-5 vehicles) pulled into a service station (petrol station) across the road from us. So I snapped them.

We later overtook the first instalment on the road and discovered that there were at least two more instalments to be overtaken ahead of us. We have no idea where the Army was moving from or to or what they were carrying (there seemed to be only two people in each vehicle), but it was a big operation involving at least 20-25 vehicles.

Our taxpayer’s money at work, no doubt. huh?

 

Winton street 

 

Winton is a medium-sized country town with the wide streets that we have come to associate with this part of Australia. That is not the famed North Gregory Hotel on the right. That one is called (with great originality) the Australia Hotel.

I probably need to explain to UK readers that a hotel in Australia is more like an English pub than an English hotel. They do provide accommodation but their primary purpose is to provide a place to buy and consume alcohol. Physically, they tend to be much larger than an English pub and you can see that this one has a balcony upstairs.

 

We stopped for lunch at a wayside picnic area (and found another instalment of the Army convoy about to leave) that seemed to be miles from anywhere. There was barely a tree to be seen in any direction (a few tiny specimens on the horizon) and the terrain was flat and almost featureless.

After lunch I stood near the fence and took a series of photographs as I turned through about 200 degrees, showing one of the picnic shelters (with the toilet block beyond) at one end and another (with our car parked beside it) at the other. Then, using the magic of Phoptoshop®, I stitched them together to make this panorama. If you click on it, a larger version should open up that you can scroll through to give you an idea of the desolate landscape. Depending on your browser, you may need to click on the larger version to see it at full size. Click you Back button in your browser to return to this page.
 

Panorama

 

After Lunch we headed on towards Cloncurry, a township of about 2,500–3,000 people. We stopped there for our afternoon break but, to be honest, had difficulty in finding the rest area, despite signposts.

 

Cloncurry street 

 

 

This is not the main street of Cloncurry (at least we don’t think so) but a street that runs parallel to the main street. It is where we found the rest area, next door to the Police Station. That is the Police Station on the extreme right of the picture. I know traffic is quieter on a Sunday, but this was like a weird movie where the entire population had been abducted!

 

Army convoy 

 

This is the instalment of the Army convoy that was leaving when we arrived for lunch. We caught up to them some time after we left Cloncurry. You can see two vehicles immediately in front of us and a third disappearing over the horizon. I think there were five vehicles in all in this instalment.

By this stage the country was not quite as flat and we were beginning to see slightly larger shrubbery.

 

Endless road 

 

 

 

 

 

But the road still seemed endless.

 

Lonely homestead 

 

At one stage we noticed this isolated homestead about a kilometre (say 2/3 of a mile) from the highway. We couldn’t help wondering what a lonely existence it would be living there.

 

Rocky outcrop 

 

 

As we got closer to Mount Isa, the countryside became more hilly. Matt snapped this rocky outcrop as we drove past. Sorry about the reflections on the car window (in the sky). Indeed, the last 45 minutes approaching Mount Isa were quite hilly with the highway often offering overtaking lanes on the steeper hills.

 

We are staying in the Bourke & Wills Motel (Australians will understand the significance of the name — here is a link for others to learn about the Bourke & Wills Expedition) and, although the rooms are very comfortable and well fitted out, it is by far the most expensive booking for our whole trip at $A160 a night (a bit over £100 stirling). But then, everything else in Mount Isa seems to be expensive too — petrol, groceries, a pub meal, you name it.

Matt hasn’t given me any video for yesterday or today yet so you may have to wait a while for them. I will let you know when they are available. Tomorrow we head for the Northern Territory and one of our longest days —almost 800 km (nearly 500 miles). The event was past before we noticed it, but my little car today turned over 50,000 km since new. It will have a few thousand more before we get home.

Matt’s Video for Day 5

 

 

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