Saturday, July 30, 2011

Donahue and Plenty Highways

Camping out at the Boulia Caravan Park was great fun, all of the fellow travellers camped there were great fun and full of good info about the road ahead.  I was unsure about the Donahue Highway, in fact, I had heard some pretty ordinary stories about it.  I was told that the Plenty Highway was in good nick and in typical Queensland style, the Donahue section was a nightmare.  Deep ruts, and stony ground, I was guaranteed a flat tyre or several.  I had also heard that there was rumours that the Donahue section was graded and to be sealed so that the Road Trains could have a better run at it.

Anyway, I feared the worst.  I went out and purchased brand new boots for my little 4WD and I figured that new shoes should get me across the desert.  Sheesh, if one wheel was doomed then how could 2 spare wheels cover the remaining 3???  So I went with no puncture kit, no air compressor and just the spare.

I decided to interrogate those travellers who had successfully completed the "highway" and they talked of broken leaf-springs in their trailers and punctured tyres.  They told me that the last 200kms from Jervois to Gem Tree was a corrugated nightmare and that was the Plenty Highway!  They said enjoy the first 400kms, pull over, camp, buy expensive fuel and just rest at Jervois, because the next stretch would test me and my little 4WD.

Hey I got a little 4WD, sure its not a Hilux, a Landcruiser, a Patrol or any of those big monsters, but its got a proper low range, its a gutsy diesel and it just bombs along!  What could go wrong?

The big monsters told me that they were letting their tyre pressures down so that they could survive the corrugations!

So I didn't sleep very well.  Boulia has a problem with native Rats and they were climbing all over my tent, in between the fly and the screen.  They were pretty cute really, little black eyes, pointy little nose, soft and brown... but they were active.  I drank some whisky, I got some sleep.

The next morning, I slowly packed up my tent, had some breakfast, procrastinated a little longer and then finally sucked it in and decided to go see what this Hell of the North was like.

I left Boulia at 9:30am expecting an easy 400km run to Jervois and then a well earned rest.  Well, like I said, my little 4WD bombs along and on roads like in the picture, 100kph is money for jam.  Ripping along, I was thinking maybe the big monsters had taken a different road?

I got to the NT border, changed my clock back and thought "you beauty, and extra half hour" and continued.  It was a great road, lovely, some trees every now and then, a few emus and soon, I hit Jervois.  It was 2:00pm.  With the time difference, 4 hours and 30 minutes of motoring for 400kms.  The lady who sold me fuel at $2.15 per litre was well impressed that my little 4WD had covered the ground so quickly.  In fact, she thought it was one of the quickest runs across the highway.

So I figured, how can I rest at only 2:00pm?  So I kept going, hey lets get the horrible corrugated section out of the way.  Why rest and sleep and wait for it tomorrow?  So off I went.  Yeah well, it was corrugated, and there were some wash outs and I passed a few big monsters with punctured tyres but I didn't think it was so bad; just bounced around and got on with it.

2 and a half hours later I pulled into Gem Tree and sadly the dirt finishes there and it becomes a sealed road.  And there are no Gems hanging off the Trees.  There are gems but you got to dig for them and "fossick".  But what a beautiful campground, sleeping with Dingoes.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Winton to Boulia

What to do when in Dinosaur country?  How about go look for signs that perhaps dinosaurs once roamed this part of the planet?  At Lark Quarry around 95million years ago, a bunch of emu and chicken sized dinosaurs where drinking at the edge of what is now referred to as the Great Inland Sea.  Along came a Theropod who at 4tonnes in weight was a bit bigger then the little guys and was looking for a feed.  As he went in for the kill, the little guys all exited stage left and the good news for us, is that the mud they stampeded across has been fossilised and 3,300 dinosaur footprints have been preserved in stone for us to go back in time and check it all out.  

These dinosaur prints were discovered quite some time ago underneath one of the many Mesas that cover this amazing landscape.  This is gorgeous spinifex country and standing on top of one of the mesas, it feels like you can see forever.  It is a dramatic difference to what many would see as typical Queensland, being the beaches or rainforest, but this is spectacular country and I really enjoyed the journey.

When you do travel to Lark Quarry, allow some time to wander the 3.5km track around the park, you'll see Spinifex Pigeons and Bearded Dragons and you'll see a whole range of different rock of varying colours.  Oh yeah and there's always the Dinosaur prints in the big shed!

Yet another fantastic view in Dinosaur country!

And remember during the wet season (Dec - Mar) many of the roads in this area get flooded and even in July I came across some fairly boggy stretches of road, especially around the great Diamantina River.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Winton, on the edge of the Outback.

Recently I decided to drive around Australia.  I will exclude Tasmania and Western Australia on this journey but I will get to the rest.  There is a great deal of things I have not seen in this massive country so it was time to go and see some of them.  

My car is great, it gets me to where I want to be in comfort, yet it has never left the state.  I have also never driven a car with Qbilly plates on it outside of this, my adopted state so I had some things to do.  And seeing as I know Winton quite well, I decided day one would be to get there.  So I had a comfortable start to my adventure.

Winton is on the edge of the outback, well some say it is the outback but who am I to judge?  Out here the water is pumped up (often under natural pressure) from the great Artesian Basin and is rich in Sulphur, smells like that little creek in Madang where they filmed Robinson Crusoe.  It is tasty water, just a little stinky... give it time to settle.

Along the way, these windmills provide water for communities and livestock. This windmill was photographed at a little town called Prairie about halfway to Winton from the coast.

The land out here is flat, can often be very dry and can also get very wet.  During times of rain, the road is often underwater and can mean small towns like Prairie and Winton can be isolated for days and days, sometimes weeks and months.  But at this time of year, the roads are in fantastic condition.  It was however, impressive to see just how much water was hanging around at this time of year, it was an excellent wet season just gone and the landscape is so much greener for the better.

My journey to Winton was un-eventful, everything went according to plan and the town was abuzz with the Grey Nomads who head this way every July to see blue skies and warm sunshine.  And with the extra water and flowers in the region, there were some pretty birds around the place.  Like I have said in previous blogs, I went to PNG a bushwalker and returned a bird-nerd.

A White Plumed Honeyeater.

A Yellow Throated Miner

And a Black Faced Woodswallow.

It's time.

It's about time I blogged again.  It's about time I dropped the PNG style from my title as I now reside in Australia.  PNG was over 2 years ago, and it's time I moved on.  So from today, you will read about my travels again.  During my time in PNG, I visited all of its Provinces, something I have not yet done in my home country.  Maybe I should.

Cheers and beers,