Interrupted Journey – North Queensland 2022 – Part 3

Heading for Dinosaur Country

Please note the video link at the foot of this post to the Carnival of Flowers.

We set off on the morning of Monday 26th September to complete our Covid interrupted tour. Instead of going back to Townsville to start where we left off, we travelled inland via Toowoomba and took the opportunity to visit the Carnival of Flowers as we passed through, spending our first night at Chinchilla.

The flowers at Toowoomba were up to the normal high standard. As our visit was late in the carnival, most of the additional activities had finished. The flowers and a few food vans parked down the back was all that remained of the festive area. But we were there to see the flowers and were well satisfied with the offerings on display. The greatest challenge was to take a photo of a flower bed without an Asian tourist in the foreground having their photo taken.

A thin sheet of water over the face of Chinchilla Weir as the water flows towards the Murray River.

We drove on to Dalby for lunch having skipped morning coffee. In planning I had identified some likely bird locations to try before reaching our overnight stop at Chinchilla. I had no luck until Chinchilla Weir where we found greatly improved camping conditions from those we remembered from our previous visit. And we found a flock of Apostle Birds. I believe these birds are so named because of their practice of flocking in groups of about a dozen. Water was cascading over the weir.

A thin sheet of water over the face of Chinchilla Weir as the water flows towards the Murray River.
Recently germinated crops line the roadside in this part of the Darling Downs.
Boonagara, reached just before Chinchilla, built a public hall to commemorate success in using a grub to defeat cactus infestation.
Gil Weir is located just west of the Leichardt Highway, south of Miles

Friday saw us headed for Morven, a very small town where the Landsborough Highway branches from the Warrego Highway. It leads to Longreach as the major town in that direction. This piece of road is also known as the Matilda Way, but that is more for promotional purposes that accurate geography.

We checked for birds at Gill Weir, south of Miles and Judd’s Lagoon, south of the highway, closer to Roma. All that we found in both places was overflowing weirs and long term bush campers, most of which were in their highly equipped caravans. Rising water levels inundate water bird feeding grounds and I imagine, causes the birds paddle harder to stay in the same place. The birds are not silly. Thy go somewhere else.

Memorial to fettlers wives near Dulacca
The informative plaque that is part of the memorial.

Roadside, just before Dulacca out towards Roma, we came upon a memorial to the railway fettlers and the women who supported them while building the western railway line from Miles to Dulacca in 1978-79. In those days families had to travel with their breadwinners if they wanted to see them. No FIFO in those days.

Australian Darter, drying off following a fishing session.

After morning coffee at Roma’s Big Rig, we had a look at Roma Bush Gardens, located just off the highway past the town centre. Walking around the lake was restricted by flooding but I did see some Mallards and an Australian Darter, drying its wings in the morning sunshine after fishing excursion.

Neil Turner Weir on the Maranoa River at Mitchell was overflowing. We have not seen this in several visits.

We took our lunch break at Neil Turner Weir, a water storage on the Maranoa River near Mitchell. Mitchell is probably best known for its therapeutic artesian spars. We have used the camping area at the weir on several occasions but had not seen the dam overflowing before. It reminded us that so much of our travel through Australia’s outback occurred during the drought years.

The Pick-a-Box Motel at Morven
A Royal Flying Doctor Promotional Van Parked Outside The Motel.

The Pick-a-Box Motel was our resting place for the night. The motel is a small group of newish iron-clad cabins near to and managed by the Morven Hotel, recently rebuilt following a fire. The only excitement in town was a Royal Flying Doctor Service caravan in the shape of an aircraft fuselage, parked in the street outside.

So, from Morven on Wednesday morning, we turned north-west on the Landsborough Highway. First stop was a call at the first town, Augathella, a distance of about 90 km. The town is quite old and has been supporting the local agricultural community since its founding in 1883. Like many outback towns, it has upgraded its visitor facilities for grey nomads. Artists have painted pictures on its water tower, art silo fashion.

The Ellangawan Hotel bears Augathella’s original name.
The list of local water birds at Tambo. Most on the list were conspicuous by their absence.

Next, about the same distance further north-west, we arrived at Tambo, another pioneering town (1868) with good visitor facilities. We paused for morning coffee beside the small dam at the entrance of the tow. By the lake there is an information sign providing details of the many water birds to be found in the area. There were very few on display for us, although small birds such as Noisy Miners were busy in the tree.

Continuing, we crossed the Barcoo River and arrived at Blackall, which was built on the banks of that stream. Major Thomas Mitchell explored this part of Australia in 1846. The town developed in the 1860s as an agricultural service centre. Again, it has good tourist facilities. It is surrounded by vast expanses of open naturally grassed pasture, as is much of this area. We had been driving through it all morning.

The Barcoo River at the Landsborough Highway crossing.
An Eastern Great Egret perched in a tree over the Barcoo River.
Blackall main street is the highway.
Part of the billabong and camping area at Lara Wetlands

The next town along this highway is Barcaldine, but about 45 km before that we turned off to the left and drove the 16 km of dirt station road to look at Lara Wetlands. This is a camping area that almost surrounds a large waterhole filled with dead trees, so is probably the result of a dam. Lara Station is an operating cattle station. They run the camping ground in conjunction with the station. There are reported to be 164 species of birds identified in the area. But there is no power and only one cabin. Interesting spot, all the same.

A Brolga by the road as we drove into Lara Wetlands.

As we drove into the Lara Station, Ruth saw a large grey bird at the edge of the trees. I stopped and got some good photos of a Brolga. It was wandering up and down and seemed quite settled but as I turned back to the car, I heard the whoomp whoomp whoomp of large wings as the Brolga took to flight. I turned just in time to snap it disappearing behind some brush. Not a very good photo, sadly.

The Brolga landing in the brush by the roadside.

We refuelled at Barcaldine, paying for the first time just over $2 per litre for unleaded petrol. At Barcaldine the highway turns left and west through Ilfracombe to Longreach. Scattered cloud meant that the western sun was not too much of a problem. We had travelled quite a distance in pursuit of the setting sun since leaving Brisbane, so the days were ending quite a bit later.

The deck at the Woolshed Restaurant at Longreach.

We were able to get a booking at the Woolshed Restaurant at Longreach Tourist Park, where we had a cabin. Last time we were here they were booked out. They were again but we had booked in time. An excellent meal even if the entertainment was a bit loud.

While at Longreach we returned to Ilfracombe and also drove south to Isisford. That drive is covered in the next blog post.

The Family Responsibilities Tour – Part 3

Note: A video covering the material in this post can be found at the foot of this blog post.

Excess water released from Hume Dam

We left Phillip Island amid showers sweeping across Westernport Bay and the adjoining coastal plains. Our route lead along the South Gippsland Highway, Monash Freeway, skirting around the city to reach the Tullamarine Freeway and finally to the Hume Highway. We were headed to Bright to see if Autumn had yet reached the area, famous for its Autumn colours.

Afternoon tea on the lawn
Bright Cenotaph
More colour in Bright
Rosella in the tree on the lawns

We only took necessary breaks, arriving in Bright in the late afternoon. Our motel backed onto lawns that run down to the path that runs along Ovens River. We look our afternoon tea to the lawn and were joined by some Parrots.

Early Autumn at Bright

The Liquid Amber trees were turning nicely but the Poplars and other deciduous trees had only just started to put on their show.

We left town next morning via Yackandandah, a nearby town also known for its colours, but it seemed to be running later than Bright.

We were bound for Hume Dam on the Murray River to see what it looked when when full. Excess water was being released to a huge roar, in sufficient quantities to fill the river down stream to the top of its banks. When we came through there on our way home from Tasmania two years ago the water level was well below the spillway and further up stream, cattle were grazing on river flats that had been exposed for years but now are inundated by the water in the dam.

Sunlit clouds over Goulburn.
Lake Hume, full to the brim

We made our way to the Hume Highway and continued on to Goulburn for the night.

Heavy rain was forecast for the recently flooded North Coast of NSW so we decided to cross the Blue Mountains and make our way home inland. But first we wanted to see the recently overflowing Warragamba Dam. Warragamba was not far off our track.

Warragamba Dam, also full to the brim
Water released into the Warragamba River.

We thought that refreshments might be available at the visitor center at the dam, but no such luck. We did our tourist thing under increasingly threatening skies. Walking back from an observation point I took a wrong turn and came upon a pair of Rosellas. Then a Wonga Pigeon landed on stairs behind me, the first of this type that I had seen.

The visitor centre overlooks the dam

Soon, after departing the dam, the sky opened and stayed that way. As we approached the Great Western Highway, traffic congestion was becoming an issue so a quick change of plans and we were on the highway heading west. With the rain still falling and a stop becoming necessary, we found a convergent McDonald’s and stopped for lunch. Back on the road the rain continued to well on the way to Mudgee, our next overnight stop.

Wonga Pigeon at Warragamba Dam

Mudgee is a week end town, thriving on visitors from the coast, so they have their weekend on Monday and Tuesday. We were there on Monday night and found most restaurants were closed. The Chinese restaurant at the Gold Club was recommended. They served excellent food in huge quantities. We only eat half the food served to us but were able to take the leftovers. They were sufficient for dinner the following night.

Silo artwork at Dunedoo in Central NSW

Next morning, we had passed through Gulgong and Dunedoo when a phone call from last night’s motel advised that I had left my binoculars behind. So, after returning the necessary 85 kilometres, we had coffee and started again. We left Mudgee, this time by the Ulan Road, then through Binnaway so saw some new country. Lunch at Coonabarabran and a stop for the last night at Moree to rest and deal with leftover Chinese food.

Vineyard near Mudgee

The plan was to do the last leg of the journey via the Gore Highway to Toowoomba and then the Warrego Highway to Brisbane but as we left Goondiwindi a roadside sign advised that the Gore Highway was closed. So on through continuing rain with a stop at Warwick and arrived home mid afternoon. 

Eighteen days and a bit over 5,000 kilometres with average weather and escalating petrol prices. But we saw all of the relatives that were planned and respects paid at two grave sites. In all a successful trip.