Mt Isa to Toowoomba and home – in 68 days!! (Not 100 days as we first thought).

(Pics to come later – when we get coverage again)
Mt Isa brought back memories for me. Back in 1978, I joined a band in Mt Isa for six weeks. Only a month before I flew to Mt Isa, I had met Julz in Townsville (Julz was holidaying) whilst performing bass in a band. I was touring with a band from Hobart (who broke up in Townsville). The band I went to join in Mt Isa, had a residency at the local Mt Isa Hotel four nights a week. The guitarist, Greg Shaw, I had met briefly in Townsville, where he managed a local group, Skintite. Greg and the other two members were more interested in water skiing on the Mt. Isa lake, Lake Moondarra than writing songs or learning new ones.

Also, Mt Isa is a mining town, established in 1923, known for zinc, silver, copper and lead now with a population of around 22,000. I remember the bad treatment of local indigenous people in 1978 and the effect that alcohol was having on them with their own drinking house, called “The Snake Pit”.  

I left the band after six weeks and returned to Brisbane and wooed Julz to come and live in Hobart, Tasmania (Julz and I were both 19 at the time – and yes, 38 years on, we are still going strong).

Greg Shaw and I reconnected ten years later, as he was running a music agency/management company that went on to assist in establishing Keith Urban into Nashville USA. When I think of Mt Isa, I think of Greg Shaw and also wanting to leave the band to connect with Julz in Brisbane.

We stayed one night in Mt Isa, and early morning we picked up fresh fruit and veggies and were off on the road again. All I can say is that this part of “The Outback” in central western is dry and lifeless. We saw very little in wildlife, cattle or sheep. We noticed the landscape was now a yellowy gold grass. It is obvious that the long drought is really affecting these regional areas of Australia. We drove 478 kms and arrived mid afternoon in Winton – Australia’s capital of Dinosaurs. There is a triad of regions, Hughenden, Richmond and Winton that have an abundance of dinosaur fossils and footprints in stones etc.

The whole central western part of Queensland has been suffering from extreme drought and as we left Winton it started to rain, in fact, it poured down for two days. The area of Longreach got a good soaking too, so much of our driving was in the drizzle.

We passed through Barcaldine, which was the birth place of the Australian Labor Party, and viewed the tree of knowledge, which remembers the struggle of the first shearers strike back in the late  1800’s.

We stopped three more sleep stops along the way home. First was the tiny little ‘cutey’ town of Tambo. Looks like the Teddy Bears have invaded the town, and maybe this is a way for them to recover from a devastating experience with wild dogs who have obliterated (we were informed by a local) the sheep industry in the area. Apparently it has had such an impact that they have started making Teddy Bears in the Main Street to balance the future of this town – scary!

Second stop over was the Chinchilla Tourist Park. We decided, for fun, to get a courtesy bus to the local Chinchilla RSL for dinner. The amount of small demountable homes at the Tourist Park (easily 100) and another area with a few hectares of sheds was amazing, therefore, we asked the bus driver why so many? She advised that Chinchilla is a coal seam gas area. Fracking? Yes, loads. She said that the upside for the agricultural area was that more water is available, through better irrigation for crops to grow. Only going on what I have been told, CSG can have devastating effects on the land, over the longer term. Anyway, not to get into a heated discussion, we went to the RSL, and experienced some local activity before the first State of Origin game. Which we have zero interest in, so we caught the courtesy bus and went back to camp.

Third and final last stop was in Toowoomba. Julz mum, Bet, has two brothers living at Highfields and Meringadan, on the outskirts of Toowoomba. One of Julz uncles, Lex, is battling with cancer, and it was great to spend some quality time with him. Her other uncle Jim and Aunty Marge are the parents of Jamie, who we stayed with at Carmel, Perth. It was great to have a big family catch up with Julz relations, as our final night away. Julz and I stayed with her Uncle Jim, whilst Bet and Ron stayed at Lex’s property with the caravan and Gypsy, the dog.

We arrived home around midday on Friday 3rd of June after 68 days around Australia on our adventure. We have so many great memories that we have made along the way, and have a real respect for our beautiful country. For Julz and I, we really do now love the coastlines of South Australia, Western Australia and the ancient and modern, natural world of the Northern Territory. We have a real appreciation, and better understanding, of the First Nation People of this land and their ongoing issues with the land rights.

We have about four weeks before we depart on our overseas four month adventure, so we have decided to put a mattress in the back of our Hyundai iload van and head away up to the sun and beaches of the central eastern coast of Australia. (Maybe one blog about this in two weeks time).

This traveling adventure, for us, is still underway – life is great, and we are so grateful for this wonderful opportunity to explore our country and then abroad. Thanks for reading our journal and giving us such lovely positive feedback, we really appreciate it! 

We also thank “the outlaws”, Ron and Bet, for joining us (or allowing us to join them) on this safe trip (no one got eaten by Orcas (killer whales), Crocodiles or wild Dingoes – and we also survived each other….. Um, almost….. Hooray!!) 😜✌️


Kununurra to Katherine

Kununurra is the gateway to the eastern end of the Kimberley’s and a host of national parks, rivers and dams. We camp beside the Kununurra lake, which is part of the Ord river system. The land is lush and fertile. Many farms grow paw paws, bananas, sandalwood and loads of other fruit and veg. The town only became Kununurra in around 1960, before they had a vision for creating a huge hydro dam and flooding the area and giving life to Lake Argyle. It is an amazing place that we visited and we’re all impressed with the lake and the rivers that run into it. 
The assortment of termite mounds continue to entertain us along the roads, some short and stumpy and new varieties that are slim, not unlike obelisks, or cathedrals.

We take a day of rest at Kununurra, to sit, swim and sunbake in the 34° heat.

The next day we leave to drive 509kms to Katherine in the Northern Territory and say our goodbyes to Western Australia. We all take turns in driving, except Bet, who is quite happy reading books on her iPad or doing her crosswords. From time to time we listen to audio books which provides us all with some entertainment. We have enjoyed “Danny Dunn” by Bryce Courtney, another about a Jillaroo, and from time to time Elton or the Bee Gees have kept us company – with Bet screaming out, “turn it down”. 😜

The mountains and landscape heading towards Katherine is breath taking and beautiful. The scenery continues to change dramatically and the red and orange cliffs start to appear on both sides. Katherine is a city of 11,000 and many indigenous people (First Nation) are living within the city confines. The caravan park sits five minutes from a natural hot spring, so we explore the crystal clear waters after setting up camp. We realise that to see Kakadu National Park, which is 300 kms further up near Darwin, it may have to be on our next road trip in 2017! Having Gypsy, the dog, travelling with us has limited our ability to visit many National parks. We have not minded, as Julz and I have decided to come back to the Kimberley’s, Kakadu and Arnhem Land next year for a month or two.
We book in to do a visit and boat cruise around the Nitmiluk National Park, or Katherine Gorge, as it use to be named. We board a small flat bottomed boat with about 30 others and get a guided tour deep into the gorges of the Nitmiluk river. Our guide is a local indigenous man from the local Jawoyn mob. He gives us an extensive history into the land rights struggles, and successes, for the tribes around the Northern Territory and beyond. The history, stories and botanical knowledge he shares is inspiring and enlightening, for many, the truth about the colonialists and pastoral past, which is a constant reminder about our future role as Australians for ongoing reconciliation with our First Nation people’s, who have lived here for over 60,00 years, maintaining this beautiful country. 

There is a great spirit felt in this part of the land. We have so much respect for the traditional owners and custodians of the land. We have learnt so much about the horrific way they have been treated by the explorers, pastoralists and colonialists. This history is being shared openly now, as part of the reconciliation process, and in our limited experience we see a healing taking place, slowly, with our First Nation indigenous people of Australia. 

From Katherine to Mt Isa – two days, 1300kms

.Packing up and leaving Katherine at 6.45am early Saturday morning was quite a feat, but we did it, as expert caravaners we are now. 😜 We knew that the next leg of our journey was to be a long one. We had not planned where our next destination was going to be that evening, however, we got underway at sunrise and headed south towards Tennant’s Creek on the highway that runs from Darwin via Alice Springs to Adelaide. We thought with the three of us driving, we could accomplish about 150 kms each, which may not sound a lot, however, towing a heavy caravan, and driving between 80-100kms in a 130kms speed highway, (yes, Northern Territory has an open highway speed of 130kms – the huge road trains must love it!) and stopping to see only two things along the way. 

The first deviation off the main highway was to see the memorial cemetery of the author, of (book and movie fame) “We of the Never Never”. It was 9 kms off the main road and was the first time on our entire trip that we saw an abundance of kangaroos and wallabies. Many were standing on the side of the road and bouncing back into the bush as we drove past. The other deviation was to a little town named Daly Waters. It was an old novelty township, featuring a small outback pub space covered in remnants from the past including oodles of ladies bras, thongs, and car number plates, hanging from the ceiling and walls. There was a lack of good scenery, a few million ant/termite mounds and some dead trees, and we noted that nearly every car that passed us had a caravan in tow. Apart from the odd, three or four carriage, road train, caravans, hire camper vans, we passed very few sedan cars. Don’t ask us how we ended up driving well over 780kms on our first day, this beating our record which we set driving across the Nullarbor Plains, some six weeks ago of 700kms in just one day.

We pulled into one caravan park to do a one night “drive through”, however, the cost was quite astronomical, compared to what we have been paying. So, we moved onward further and ended up camping at Banka Banka Station for one night. This long drive was 520kms and this made our total two days, 1300 kilometres. 

We have found these stretches of road to be the longest, and dare I say it, “the most boring”. We hold good memories of our journey so far, and we are all looking forward to heading home. We turn left at the “Three Ways” and head towards Barkly Homestead and Mt Isa. I had not visited Mt Isa since 1978 (will tell that story next article) and Julz had flown in for work a few years back. Maybe one night in Mt Isa will do us, then through “The Outback” of central western Queensland and on or way home. Yay!!