We started day two with breakfast at Macca’s – raisin toast and a flat white, hoping to get onto the internet. No such luck. Wifi worked, but not internet access, so I guess their ISP had a problem. Bugger. So we were reduced to printed maps. How last century. We decided we’d stop at Longreach before we headed off to see the dinosaur stampede outside Winton. That way, we could do it all comfortably.
Australia, guys, is a biiiig country, with not much in it. You don’t really realise how big until you do the drive. I’ve included a few photos. Outside Emerald we didn’t encounter much traffic – but plenty of road kill. Roos, mostly but also some pigs and smaller, unrecognisable squashed bodies. The vegetation was very dry – much of Queensland has been declared in drought which is remarkable after the last few years of floods. But that’s Australia.
The country broods under a brilliant blue sky in muted shades of grey, eucalyptus green, silver, palest gold. Dried grass shimmers in the breeze and raptors circle in the updraughts. I’ve never seen so many birds of prey, and not just in ones and twos. They’re in flocks, wheeling around above the towns, gathering around the fresh road kill. Life’s not hard for the meat eaters out here.
We stopped for lunch at Barcaldine on the way to Longreach. It’s pronounced bar-CALL- din. Its claim to fame is that it’s the birthplace of the Australian Labor Party, ostensibly created by a bunch of blokes gathered under a tree now known as the tree of knowledge. Some low-life poisoned the ghost gum a few years ago, but the town worthies have attempted to preserve the legend by creating a monument around its dead remains. This is a dead tree surrounded by a wooden box affair which is supposed to represent the canopy that no longer exists. You don’t want to know what that bit of madness cost – especially when they’re closing hospitals. I thought the whole thing was downright creepy. A bit like a mummy, but without the class.
Lunch (a salad sandwich and a pot of tea) took about 25 minutes to arrive. Ho hum. They only had white bread but the salad was fresh.
And then we arrived at Longreach, home to the Stockman’s Hall of Fame and the Qantas museum, complete with Boeing 747. We’d been to both of those on a previous visit. Longreach this time was just a port of call. Except it wasn’t. The town was fully booked. Honest. Not a vacancy to be had. It seemed Longreach was hosting a Government Conference, and somebody of consequence had died and the town was packed out for the funeral. So we looked at each other, shrugged our shoulders, and headed for Winton, about 175 km up the road.
I’m typing this up in a little motel right next door to the RSL, where we’ll have dinner and a drink. Tomorrow we’ll visit the dinosaur stampede, something which will be a highlight for me. And you never know, sometime I might be able to post this.
Oh. Update. The RSL was closed!!! Up for sale. Places like that are the life blood of tiny country towns. But we got a great steak at a local pub. Winton actually has a few things to brag about. I’ll write about that this evening. Dinosaurs first!