Stage 6 Mount Isa.
Today we tour the Hard Times Mine situated alongside the tourist Information centre, our host Butch a stocky little fella with a big bushy beard, Butch has worked in mining most of his life. The Hard Times mine is a purpose-built tourist attraction and facilitates training for Mount Isa employees, its development sponsored by the mining industry, Federal, State and local government at a cost some 15 million dollars.
Mount Isa mine management closed its mine to tourism when a tourist who injured themselves sued the company.
The Hard Times mine is a miniature Mount Isa underground Mine with over 1200 metres of tunnels, it gives the visitor a glimpse of mine work going back to hand held drills to the modern machines used today. All equipment at the mine is in operational order and visitors see these machines in operation, there is also the opportunity to operate some equipment under Butch’s scrupulous eye. Entry to the mine is via a lift, I should say wire cage, which drops about 50 metres and gives one the experience miners have when they go down into a mine, all be it too much greater depths.
The tour was over a two-and-a-half-hour period and was well worthwhile, Butch was brilliant and witty. The following day we took the town tour, this could have been quite interesting except we had a temporary tour guide who was a New Zealander had only been living at Mount Isa for a few weeks and about to move on, believe it or not she was training up the new person. Perhaps she would be excellent in Auckland, certainly not Mount Isa. We did however get a feel for the place.
Our second tour for the day was of the Riverslea Dinosaur exhibition and laboratory, this was fascinating our guide enthusiastic and knowledgeable. Most fossils processed at this lab are bound in limestone and the process of recovering the fossils is laborious, the limestone sections are soaked in diluted hydrochloric acid which slowly breaks down the limestone exposing the fossilised bones. In some cases, the bones need to be protected as they emerge from the limestone and this is done by wrapping the bone in rice paper then coating it with a plastic material in a liquid form which sets slowly.
I was shown a sieve, which was full of material remnants taken from the bottom of a tank, what could be considered waste material, he asked me what I thought it was, I said sand and that is just what it looked like, he chuckled saying that is always the answer he gets, he then asked me to look under the microscope to see what it was, to my amazement it was teeth from various rather tiny creatures. He indicated that these were found in fossilised bat droppings, believe it or not he sorts these bones one by one under a microscope using of all things a tooth pick, what patience. Our guide informed us that he collects his own samples and has made some unique finds discovering new creatures not previously known, with others being assessed in Sydney. Such an interesting, educational and entertaining tour.
Mount Isa is a vibrant city, it seems all we hear today is what a mess the mining industry is making in Australia, well if Mount Isa is a mess I hope they make more mess. The city of Mount Isa has a population of 26000 thereabouts, to get work at the mine you must be a local, a local is a person who has resided at Mount Isa for at least 12 months. This is a thriving community with a sizable Aboriginal population many employed at the mine as well as at various other enterprises. As the mine needs a considerable amount of water they have built a massive dam just a few kilometres north of town, no shortage of water in Mount Isa this dam is similar in size to Eildon in Victoria and a play-ground for tourists and locals. As far as pollution is concerned none is evident and this is not just a mine but it also smelters its own oar.
Mount Isa produces Lead, Copper, Silver, zinc and a small amount of gold.
We are also informed that the largest rodeo in the country is held at Mount Isa, no surprise with the huge cattle stations and herds of cattle in the north. We have enjoyed our visit here.
Saturday 1st September.
After five days at Mount Isa we are on our way again yet to complete our ambition to have caravanned right around Australia and we are nearing our goal. Our next destination Cape Crawford via Camooweal and Barkley Station deciding to stop at Wonarah Bore to break the journey, this is just a large parking area on the side of the road with an old, broken down windmill once the bore. Not a bad overnight stop. On our journey and when about 25km from Mount Isa we again we saw John our French Friend who is walking around Australia pushing a pram containing all his gear. We gave him some water and wished him well as this next leg to Camooweal is a 180km distance with nothing in-between and now hot. He did mention that he was going to be interviewed by Maca on the ABC next day and suggested we listen in.
Monday 2nd September.
Being only 40km from Barkley Station we arrived at 9.30am filled with petrol had a coffee some nosh then on our way again a 375km journey to Cape Crawford. The road was terrible the majority being a single lane bitumen road in bad need of repair, the bonus an interesting scenery, for the first 200km dead flat country as far as the eye can see and dry the only thriving life hear is termites, termite mounds everywhere, then we see mountains appearing in the distance and what amazing mountains once again the rock formations quite unique this country never ceases to amaze. Just beautiful countryside. We arrived at Cape Crawford by 4.30pm our stop the only stop here the Heartbreak Hotel a very nice place to stay a while. Once checked in, caravan set up, we went for a swim then to the pub for dinner, we were the only ones in the restaurant. Great food. Cape Crawford is the gateway to the Borroloola National Park famous for what is called the lost city, this is a limestone plateau which has been shaped by the rain and wind leaving it to look like an ancient lost city. It is also an Aboriginal reserve as such one must apply for a permit to enter. It would be interesting to see but it is a good distance on unmade road and we are not geared up for that. The other avenue is by air but at $300.00. per head for a one hour round helicopter flight we felt was expensive but having said that cheaper than a trashed caravan.
Cape Crawford is also on the route to Roper River a favoured fishing destination and towards the Kakadu National Park.
Tuesday 3rd September.
Today we head to Daily Waters a 275km journey, we are hoping the road is better than yesterday. Our host at Cape Crawford advised that there are road trains on this route and that the number have increased since the opening of the new mine, this was good news as when mine traffic use the road they are usually well maintained, and it was. We arrived at Daily Waters by 2pm checked into the park and booked dinner at the hotel, their famous Barra & Beef. Camp set up our ambition now achieved we headed off to the pool to cool off. At the pool, I met a fellow who came from Corowa he was an engineer and serviced many of the wineries in the Rutherglen district, we talked for some time about the people in the area and he was able bring me up to date on many families, my past customers and friends. It’s on my bucket list to visit all my old friends at Rutherglen. Now cooled off it was time to head back to the van which is through the hotel and to our surprise as we entered the hotel reception Graeme & Tonia Vertigan were checking in to the caravan park, our paths finally link up, we have both been in the same areas but not at the same time. G&T also booked in for dinner so much catching up later. Graeme & Tonia are far more adventurous than ourselves they mainly head into the wilderness along unmade roads and to some spectacular places, places we would like to travel to but we enjoy our creature comforts too much. We had a great night catching up enjoyed the Barra & Beef and the atmosphere of the Daily Waters pub, the guest singer was very good if a little loud, the Pub has lost none of its character a tin shed with the interior decorated with memorabilia, bra’s, hats, notes of all denominations, runners, thongs, and tee shirts all deposited by travellers over many years. Daily Waters also has the reputation of being Australia’s first international airport, who would have believed that. Daily Waters is a must visit.
Thursday 4th September.
We bid our fair well to Graeme & Tonia who are now heading to Cape Crawford, we are heading further north to Mataranka, Bitter Springs an easy 161km drive.
There are two springs at Mataranka one at the homestead popular as it has a man-made pool where you can relax and enjoy the water flowing through from the nearby spring and only a short walk from the caravan park, our choice this time Bitter Springs. Although further away from the caravan park the spring is just a 20minute walk from our camp and a pleasant walk through the rain forest. Bitter Springs is a small creek, fed by many springs which seep from the ground feeding the creek, the water is warm but not hot about 28c, very pleasant. What is special about this place is that you simply get into the water hold onto or as some do ride a noodle floating along the creek as it winds in and around the rain forest it is so beautiful and restful. The parks people have installed a concrete path to the creek and have extended it to the point where you leave the creek this makes the walk back to the entry point very comfortable. Of course, once back at the entry point you jump back into the water and do it all again. We spent three relaxing days at Bitter Springs.
Friday 8th & Saturday 9th September.
Our plans to meet up with our granddaughter Jaari in Darwin have not worked out they are enjoying the west coast so much that their arrival to Darwin will not fit in with our schedule. Some rethinking, Zac & Mackenzie are sailing in a regatta at Lake Macquarie in NSW end of September as such our route will take us inland eventually getting to Lake Macquarie.
We departed the park by 8.30am on route to Mount Isa via Daily Waters, three ways, Barkley Homestead and Camooweal. Overnight stops at Attack Creek and Camooweal Billabong arriving to Mount Isa on Sunday 9th by midday. On route we again came across John the Frenchman still walking and a long way from Barkley Homestead he was distressed and one wonders if he will keep going it is now very hot. We asked how the interview with Maca went he said it did not eventuate we guess phone range problems. He told us that he did stay for a few hours rest at an aboriginals home and they gave him water but with at least five days walking to get to Barkley Homestead and temperatures near 40c he had some task ahead.
Once at the caravan park some cleaning up to be done, van and car given a good wash, Pam going through our now dwindled food stocks getting a shopping list ready for our next leg.
Time for dinner so we decided to go to the Buffs Club, we hear it is very good and it did not disappoint, food was excellent. The Buffs club is huge it caters for those who wish to dine ala carte or simply enjoy the bar restaurant, it has a gaming room, sports club with many billiard tables and a gym, all in a very modern building.
Monday 10th September.
Shopping, coffee then on our way again heading to Isisford the Oma Water Hole great fishing there. Our route Via Cloncurry, Winton, Longreach, Ilfracombe. Our first stop the Combo Water Hole about 12km off the main road. What a surprise it turned out to be.
This is the water hole made famous by Banjo Patterson in the song Waltzing Matilda we are standing in a place of Aussie history all is woven into the words of this song.
Firstly, the sheep station owned by the MacPherson family this takes centre stage to this history, BJ a journalist was in the area to report on the shearers strike he became friendly with the MacPhersons and fascinated with a tune often hummed by their daughter, it was to this tune he wrote the words to Waltzing Matilda. The MacPherson family were centre stage to the shearers strike, one shearer in anger burned down the MacPhersons shearing shed killing many sheep, later he shot himself at the water hole. Another shearer who stopped at the water hole to camp the night had stolen a sheep when he was found by the police and farm hands he rather than be captured jumped into the water hole and drowned. Now the song goes troupers 1,2,3. However it is considered that there were not three troupers but just one, who’s number was 123. It is quite amazing just how we stumbled onto this place without knowing what we would find. Another feature of this water hole is the stone work now over 100 years old, installed to dam up the river, the stones are flat wedge shaped and are interwoven to hold together when the river floods then retain water for the long dry period, no cement here. These dams are still functioning today.
It seems this place still is a place for conflict for as we arrived a lady with two dogs was in a rather audible conversation with two lady bird watchers, we watched on with amusement.
Tuesday 11th September.
Winton, the drive to Winton again interesting mostly flat very dry marginal country however as we got closer to Winton table mountains started to appear it was like a scene from a cowboy movie, once again a special sight. On our arrival to Winton and as is our custom we went straight to the information centre to learn about area. The information centre was a modern building with a great cafe not long before we were enjoying a coffee.
We were told the original centre burned down and unfortunately many artefacts were lost however we were encouraged to see through the exhibition and we were not disappointed.
Not surprising there was a section on Waltzing Matilda and Banjo Patterson, also local war hero’s, the shearer’s strike, local Aboriginals with a wonderful display of their hunting tools and farming in the area, considering so much was lost in the fire their museum was excellent.
Winton is also on the Dinosaur trail and just out of Winton is a laboratory and tourist attraction called Dinosaur Canyon, Pam and I booked a tour there for the next day.
Getting tired we headed to long water hole about 12km out of Winton, this turned out to be a very large dam and recreational area pretty place and popular, we had trouble finding a nice site for the night, eventually we did but it was a challenge to park the van. Peaceful place other than a few motor bike riders who churned up the dust for an hour or so, they didn’t impact on us.
Wednesday 12th September.
On our way by 9.15am our tour starting at 10am. We made the tour just on time. Firstly, a visit to their laboratory, very different to what we saw at Mount Isa. They had a significant number of bone samples some exposed some in the stage of being exposed and some still to be recovered. These fossils were captured in rock and to remove the fossils was extremely time consuming, gently, gently people chip away at the rock using small drills, like a dental drill eventually exposing dinosaur bones. It can take months to remove a bone or bones from one sample. This area of Australia is unique with the number and quality of the finds, the reason explained to us by our guide is that this area was once a huge rain forest with many water holes throughout the area. He explained that most of their finds are of the legs first, then the chest bones with the rest of the animal spread about most times missing. Apparently, the animal went to a water hole to drink when it got caught in the mud and was unable to free itself, the legs would lie untouched, the rest of creature would become food for smaller animals hence the scattering of the other bone parts. This is an amazing exhibition featuring some incredible finds. The tour went over a three-and-a-half-hour period where we saw some amazing exhibits.
The Dinosaur Canyon is in fact situated on top of a Table Mountain an area of some 200 acres donated by the local farmer with excellent views of the area.
On our way again heading towards Longreach, our stopover the Macsland Rest area.
Thursday 13th through to Sunday 16th September.
Up early on our way to Longreach having been there before this was a fuel stop and coffee break, Longreach is a great place to visit the nightly river trip and show great fun, the Qantas museum a must see and the outback centre not to be missed. But we had done all this last time here. We were on our way to the Oma Water hole where on our last visit I caught plenty of nice Yellow Belly. Off again through Ilfracombe and Isisford to Oma, setting up camp close to the boat ramp with a view over the river under the shade of a river gum. Next day I launched the boat prepared the rods one with the lure used here last time and off down the river, not a bite. Over the next few days I made this trip often, not a bite. A couple of chaps were on the bank fishing, so I went over to see them, they informed me they had one fish, that number did not change. Pam reminded me that we had been told fishing here was poor this year and when paying our park fee the lady at the information centre told me they only caught 36 fish at the fishing comp this year not many for all those lines her comment. I may not have got any fish but I did fix our generator found a tortoise shell the victim of a fishing line, read, wrote and relaxed. We are now ready to move south.
Monday 17th September.
On our way by 9am our route Isisford, Blackall, to Augathella. We stayed along-side the Warrego river where we had stayed previously, on our arrival I noticed that our front hatch was missing it had broken off in transit, some temporary repair needed. Off to the local general store two rolls of Gaffa tape now armed to cover the gap in the roof. We cut a section out of the annex bag a strong material I climbed onto the roof and covered over the hole, we shall see how successful this repair works when we head on our way tomorrow. That done off to the pub for dinner I had a 500gram rump steak Pam lamb chops, the steak was delicious as was the beer.
Tuesday 18th September.
Today we head to Mitchell via Morven an easy 184km journey, we camped at the Neil Turner Weir under a nice shady tree, the temporary repair to the hatch worked OK. Bit of exercise a walk around the area dinner and an early night.
Wednesday 19th September.
On the road by 9.30am heading to Nindi Gully via St George. Great run tail wind very little traffic on the road. We stopped at St George for lunch then visited the Aboriginal Art centre the young fella there was friendly and explained the stories behind many of the paintings, very interesting. They had a surf board painted with Aboriginal Art that had been donated to the centre, they were embarrassed as they did not know the artists name, it is a wonderful piece of art. When I looked at it I was surprised as I felt I knew the artist, so a few questions. He informed me that this fella does his paintings at the beach in the Gold Coast area. I said I can tell you his name as I have one of his paintings at home. I had one of his business cards in my car and the young fella showed this to an elder who looked at the card which features Deans art work, he confirmed that this was the fella. Dean Rotamah a very good Aboriginal artist who has been commissioned to do work for government and sporting events, a very relaxed and nice person. I was pleased to provide this information.
We arrived at Nindi Gully by 4pm a very small town with a very interesting pub our camp site in the pub grounds. This was the hotel used in the Aussie film Paperback Hero featuring Hugh Jackman. The pub has real character an old timber building with a wide veranda it is easy to envisage the Cob & Co coach out front after entering the pub grounds over the timber bridge now derelict. A signature dish is their road train hamburger it feeds four people and costs $60.00, we gave it a pass. Another great overnight stop.
Thursday 20th September.
Today we head to Narrabri via Thallon, Mungindi, Moree. The feature at Thallon is the painted silos, this is a brilliant painting of a lagoon, huge painting over three very tall silos, what a feat. Also, at Thallon there is a statue of Wombat (the Big Wombat) a hairy nose wombat native to this area and close to extinction. A coffee at Mungindi a very small town, then on to Moree famous for their hot springs, which now also features a water slide park. Arrived at Narrabri by 4pm and set up camp at the show grounds, huge area filled with southerners heading home.
Friday 21st September.
Our destination today is Muswellbrook via Boggabri, Gunnedah, Quirindi, Murrurundi, and Scone. At Muswellbrook I hope to get my computer operating again my first port of call Optus. We camped at the Muswellbrook show grounds large sites water and power and close to a shopping complex. Once set up we headed to the local Optus branch computer in hand, they were excellent and found that my internet connection device was not working, a new device installed, now all working again, However, my word program would still not allow me access. Unfortunately, it was too late to get to a computer technician.
Saturday 22nd September.
Up early some shopping and soon on our way to our next destination, the Lakeside Holiday Park, North Narrabeen hopefully to get there before the start of the Collingwood / West Coast final we are meeting up with Ray & Lyn avid Swans supporters and people we met when cruising last year. We arrived at R&Ls home before the game and Lyn had put some pies in the oven to give atmosphere to the game of course a beer or two. Bit of a disappointing game West Coast far to good. But it was great to catch up with our friends again.
Sunday 23rd September.
Ray & Lyn suggested we all head to Sydney take a ferry over to Doyle’s seafood restaurant and what a great day, weather perfect, food at Doyle’s as usual great and plenty of it washed down with a Tyrrells Chardonnay. Our trip back on the ferry took us under the harbour bridge with a view through the bridge towards the Opera House fantastic view. We were driven by Ray to a convenient place to park then travelled by bus to the ferry port, we were now reversing the journey. Once on the bus the girls on one seat Ray and I on a seat with no belts and no partition in front of us, we were told this was not a good seat. Sure enough some goose in a car swerved in front of the bus, the driver hit the brakes and Ray and I were thrown some three metres forward, Ray got the worst of the fall as I ended up on top of him. Fortunately, no serious injury but Ray was rather sore and needed a doctor’s visit. Back at the park we said our goodbyes and thanked Ray & Lyn for a wonderful day.
Monday 24th September.
Up early and off to a computer repair man I was on his door step before opening, I left the computer with him and as I suspected I had lost my Word program and had to buy another one and have it installed, now all working again. A lazy day at the caravan park off to Morisset tomorrow, which is not far from Lake Macquarie where Zac & Mackenzie have entered the youth sailing regatta, as have our MYC 420 sailors.
Tuesday 25th September to 1st October.
We arrived at the Morisset show grounds by midday and set up on the same site as last year, now a few days relaxation before our grandchildren arrive and with a golf course only 500 metres away, golf on the schedule.
The regatta was held at the Sunshine Sailing club and they put on a great regatta, some 350 yachts with over 400 sailors and many classes of yachts, for a small club they handled this very well. Paul, Sharon and Zac & Mackenzie all stayed with Brett and Lisa they live in a marvellous location overlooking the lake with their own jetty below the property. Lisa put on some great meals all washed down with a little alcohol of several varieties. Neither Zac or Mackenzie got on the podium but they both had a great time.
Congratulations to our MYC 420 team the Richardson girls with a commendable 4th and the team taking an 8th, 10th, and 13th in a strong fleet. Well done.
Tuesday 2nd & Wednesday 3rd October.
Mackenzie had decided to join us on the trip back to Melbourne as such we decided to take her to Canberra on our way south. This was her first time in Canberra and as such after setting up camp at the exhibition grounds which is just eight kilometres from the heart of Canberra we set off for a drive first to parliament house then to the war memorial and after to the Red Hill Lookout. As we only arrived in Canberra at 5pm this gave us the opportunity to show Mackenzie Canberra by night.
Up early and back to the war memorial to see this by day and we certainly chose the right day as there were ladies knitting poppy’s, one representing each Australian soldier who lost their life in the first world war, some 62000 of them. They had completed some 40 odd thousand and it was an amazing site to see. It also gave us the opportunity to speak to Mackenzie about the war and Australia’s proud history. We took a photo of her with Simpson and his donkey, she had not heard of him before. From here we went to see Floriade, the tulip gardens were just spectacular such a variety of colours and types well worth the visit. On our way again with the aim to get to Woodonga before dark and catch up with Neil & Sarah sailor friends who have a farm in the Indigo Valley. Pam with a little help from friends prepared dinner for us all which was again washed down with a little white and red. Very Nice. Neil and George were full up with the flue so an early night for all. Tomorrow we arrive home our adventure completed.
Where next, well we have booked to go to Tasmania over the Christmas period mainly to see our son Paul arrive after completing the Sydney to Hobart race and to support Zac and Mackenzie sailing in a regatta there. With a bit of sight seeing and fishing on the side.