3/4 Day trip to Lark Quarry

We had a choice to make in Winton. If we wanted to visit Lark Quarry to see the Dinosaur Stampede we would have to drive 110km south of Winton on a rough corrugated dirt road or we could leave the motorhome in Winton and take a tour. We elected to take the tour and I’m so glad we did. If we’d driven out there ourselves we wouldn’t have learnt anything about the country we were driving through and would have missed out on seeing some of the most spectacular scenery.

We parked the motorhome behind the Waltzing Matilda Centre and right on time at 8.45am the Red Dirt Tours bus pulled up out the front of the centre to collect us. I got the whole back seat to myself whilst Richard sat up front ‘shotgun’.

Our tour commenced by leaving Winton and heading south on the Jundah Road. The road crossed over the many channels of the Western River before becoming very flat again. Our tour guide Vicki gave a fabulous commentary along the way and explained that we were seeing natural grasslands all around us. The only trees that grow in that area are along the channels and rivers. The open plains are covered in grasses. It is great cattle country.

Vicki left the main road and we entered Carisbrooke Station. As we drove through the station Vicki told the story of the property and the land we were traveling on. We pulled up next to the edge of the escaparpement where Vicki produced a delicious morning tea. What spectacular views. Carisbrooke Station is huge, some ?????acres.

Following morning tea Vicki followed the tracks that took us around the edge of the escarpment. So many great vistas. Finally we arrived back on the main road and drove into Lark Quarry Conservation Area.

Once there Vicki pulled out the esky and produced a chicken or ham salad with fresh bread and butter for our lunch.

After lunch it was time to take our tour of the Lark Quarry facility. Some of us elected to get there via the lookout walking track. What a dry rocky place it is around there. I can’t imagine how hot it would get in summer.

Once inside our group gathered and our tour commenced with a short introductory film about what we were about to see inside. The film was well produced and explained what dinosaurs footprints we would see and how they came to be preserved in the rock. The film finished with a looming dinosaur opening its mouth at the screen. It looked like it was about the eat the people in the front row. That might be why the tour guide asked people with children to sit at the front. The couple of kids sitting there jumped and everyone around laughed.

Then the doors were opened and we made our way inside the huge shed that has been constructed over the dinosaur footprints to help preserve them. The tour guide used a laser to point out the various footprints and tell the story that the footprints have left behind. There was a family of sauropods probably at the edge of a lake and other smaller dinosaurs as well. Then a large predator dinosaur came through looking for a meal and the sauropods scattered. You can clearly see where the large predator went and turned quickly chasing a meal.

The tour lasts for about 45 minutes then we headed back outside where Vicki was waiting for us with some refreshing fruit salad before we boarded the bus for the trip back to Winton. This time we stayed on the main road and it was no time at all before we were arriving in Winton.

Vicki dropped us right back at our motorhome and, as Vicki told us that rain was expected overnight, we went to the Waltzing Matilda Centre to pay for a camp spot at the Showgrounds. We didn’t think it would be good to stay at Long Waterhole on the black soil if it rains. We let Farrells know that’s what we were doing and they joined us later after touring at the Australian Age of Dinosaurs.


Australian Age of Dinosaurs, Winton Qld

Before we left home I had booked online with Red Dirt Tours to do a half day tour of the Australian Age of Dinosaurs Museum. To meet the tour we had to pack up camp and drive into town, park out the back of the Waltzing Matilda Centre and be waiting out the front 15 mins before pick up time of 8.30am. The 4WD Red Dirt Tours bus arrived right on time and, after another couple of stops to collect passengers, we set off heading back towards Longreach.

The Australian Age of Dinosaurs Museum is located out of town on one of the ‘jump ups’. These tall mesa type formations are scattered around the Winton area. Australian Age of Dinosuars was incorporated as a not-for-profit organisation in 2002 and was originally based at ‘Belmont’ a sheep station owned by David and Judy Elliot. In 2006 a huge 4,000 acres of rugged mesa wilderness was donated by the Britton Family and the Museum relocated there in 2009. The museum now houses the world’s largest collection of Australian dinosaur fossils.

In 1999, while mustering sheep, David Elliot discovered the fossilised bone of what was, at the time, Australia’s largest dinosaur. The bone was identified as a femur belonging to a Cretaceous period sauropod that roamed the Winton area 95 million years ago. Following this and more discoveries the Elliots called a public meeting in Winton with a view to establishing a dinosaur museum at Winton and the rest is history.

The Red Dirt Tour bus toiled up to the top of the ‘jump up’ and our first stop was the Laboratory where we were shown the process for finding, preserving and processing of the bones that are found in the regular digs that take place in the area.

Next stop was the new Reception Centre where our tour was led into The Collection Room. The Collection Room houses the bones of Australia’s most complete sauropod Diamantinasaurus matildae (known as Matilda), sauropod Savannasaurus elliotorum, the most complete theropod dinosaur Australovenator wintonensis and pterosaur Ferrodraco lentoni. We were shown a presentation of these famous dinosaurs and what they might have looked like. This was very well done. The Reception Centre also houses a cafe and a gift shop.

Next stop on our tour was the March of the Titanosaurs exhibition. This is amazing. It is a 54m long track site that was discovered on a property near Winton and removed piece by piece and reassembled in the spectacular new building at the Museum. The track site was made when herds of sauropods roamed the area when the landscape was covered in temperate rainforest and muddy billabongs. The track site also has tracks of small mammals, turtles, lungfish, crocodiles and tiny therapods as well.

Outside are two enormous bronze sculptures of an adult and juvenile sauropod. They made for a great photo opportunity.

Also near this building is the new Gondwana Stars Observatory that was opened in May 2021. The Jump Up site has been designated as Australia’s first International Dark-Sky Sanctuary. The building has been made to look and feel like a meteorite that has landed in a simulated impact crater.

Next stop was the Dinosaur Outpost and the Dinosaur Canyon exhibiton. This fabulous outdoor experience follows an elevated concrete pathway some 300 metres above the gorge below. At various points along the walkway are recreations of dinosaur life including a billabong where a large sauropod has died and it’s bones are left scattered probably by scavengers much like they do today.

The next exhibit is a family of pterosaurs perched atop a large boulder. They had small conical teeth perfect for catching fish or other aquatic creatures.

The next exhibit is a dinosaur stampede that has 24 small dinosaurs leaping across a chasm to escape the sharp claws of a 5m long theropod dinosaur Australovenator. This large predator was 2m tall at the hip and 5-6m long and weighed 500-1,000kgs.

The last exhibit at the end of the walkway is a small group of Kunbarrasaurus ievesi. These were an armoured dinosaurs and they were plant eaters.

What struck me during the walk along this exhibiton was how stunning the scenery is at the top of the ‘jump up’. I just couldn’t stop taking photos of the spectacular views.

Future plans for the museum include a natural history museum that will be built on the edge of the jump up. That will be worth coming back to visit in the future.

One of the interesting people we met on the tour was the husband of our tour operator Vicki. Her husband Hylton is a pilot and he told us he will be taking his bright red helicopter to Birdsville for the Big Red Bash. When we explained that’s where we are going he said to make sure we do a flight with him and to mention that we know him when we book. Can’t wait for that one!

Our trusty bus took us back to Winton and dropped us back at the Waltzing Matilda Centre. Hilton has told us while on the bus that the best place for lunch was the ‘Tatts’ Hotel so we parked up and walked to the pub for a crumbed steak sandwich. It was a pleasant spot out on the footpath watching the caravans go by.

Vicki, the tour bus operator, had told us that 1-5mm of rain is forecast for tonight and not to get stuck out on the blacksoil if we can help it as it is very easy to get bogged. So where to camp for the night. After checking out the Showground camping area that we thought looked OK we had to go back to the Waltzing Matilda Centre to pay our $20 and get a permit to camp there. We got one for Kevin and Sally too as they were still out at the Australian Age of Dinosaurs.

As I wrote this we were camped at the Showground waiting for Farrells to arrive after their sightseeing day. I have a lamb roast cooking in the oven and it smells amazing!

The rest of our BRB Makin’ Memories group are all slowly making their way to Birdsville and are at various places such as at Windorah and on the Birdsville Track.

Longreach to Winton

There must have been over 200 campers at the Apex Riverside Park overnight. Many were quick to move out in the morning. The park is provided by the Longreach Council as a camping ground. There is a self registration box and it costs $5 per night per vehicle or $25 for 7 nights. I think there is a toilet block somewhere but we don’t need to use that as we have our own on board.

The park is right beside the muddy brown Thomson River. Sally and I walked up there last night and guessed that the river wasn’t very deep. Sure enough we came to a marker and the river is only 0.5m deep. No wonder it is so brown.

Apparently there is a paddle boat that does regular cruises on the river including a popular sunset cruise. This was not on our to do list as we’d just spent time on the PS Murray Princess not long ago.

We spent a few hours doing some washing (the chores still have to get done) before heading back into Longreach to top up with water. A quick stop at the IGA and the servo to buy a couple of bags of wood and we were leaving Longreach behind. The land along this stretch of the journey was not quite flat, just low rolling plains covered in tough grass and scrubby trees. The paddocks are huge and we saw mobs of Brahman cattle and freshly shorn sheep.

The only other sign of life was the magnificent Fork-tail Hawks. These huge majestic birds swoop and glide above the road searching for game and eating the odd bit of road kill. I tried so many times to catch one in a photo but they are too quick for me. We also saw a couple of pairs of Brolgas. I wonder if they are always in pairs. Maybe they mate for life like some other birds.

In the far distance was a low line of hills that shimmer blue as they break the wide horizon.

There was a lot of traffic, mostly RV’s of all descriptions and the occasional road train. Sadly we saw a caravan left on the side of the road and missing a wheel. It looked like the bearings had failed and the y needed a whole new wheel. No sign of the tow vehicle so they’ve probably gone back to Longreach to see if they can get a replacement wheel.

It’s 180km from Longreach to Winton and the countryside was pretty much the same all the way. It’s a big sky out this way. The road is long and mostly straight with the occasional floodways reminding us that we are in the Lake Eyre catchment.

The road to Winton is alongside the railway line on the right. It looks like the railway line is still in use as there were piles of old sleepers along a long stretch of line where the old sleepers had been replaced.

We came into Winton, the Dinosaur Capital of Australia around lunchtime and, after a quick drive down the Main Street to orient ourselves, we drove out to Long Waterhole, about 2km south of town, to check out whether it would make a good camp spot for the night and to have some lunch. You know how I like a water view.

Long Waterhole is clearly signposted on the Jundah Road and we turned off onto a dry dusty track that goes for 1.5km to the man-made waterhole. This is the community water hole used for swimming and even water skiing.

What a gorgeous spot. Quite a few campers were already set up around the edge of the waterhole. We enjoyed our lunch with water views and decided we’d come back and camp here for the night.

Our first stop back in town was the Waltzing Matilda Centre. We spent the afternoon there exploring this wonderful museum of all things outback and in particular the Waltzing Matilda story. The museum was burnt down in a devastating fire in 2015 and completely rebuilt. The new museum opened in 2018 and it an interesting piece of architecture with it’s earth coloured concrete and rusty steel. I really liked their rusty steel down pipes that have a chain hanging down for the water to run down into the gardens below. My dad would have liked those!

The Waltzing Matilda centre is the first museum in the world dedicated to a song and first opened in 1998. Banjo Paterson penned the ballad of Waltzing Matilda whilst staying at Dagworth Station near Winton in 1895. No one at the time could have foreseen what a special place this song has in most Australians nor how popular it would become. It has been sung by soldiers, sporting teams and their supporters and has been recorded in over 500 different versions and numerous languages.

We spent a good couple of hours exploring the museum, checked out the photography exhibit in the Art Gallery and wandered the outdoor exhibits that include a steam train, carriages and a railway station, old horse drawn vehicles, a display of medical memorabilia, a shearing shed with blacksmiths and saddlers tools, an extensive glass bottle display a complete old cottage full of items showing how people once lived, anda huge machinery shed full of more memorabilia. If visiting Winton you need to allow at least a couple of hours to see all of this.

There is a large flat paved car park behind the Waltzing Matilda Centre for RV’s and it has rubbish bins and a dump point.

We had a wander along the Main Street with its historic buildings and interesting street art in the middle island. The North Gregory Hotel is a part of Winton history as it was the very first place that a live performance of Waltzing Matilda was held in 1895. The building next to it the heritage listed Corfield & Fitzmaurice Building, a perfectly preserved old style general store. The Australian Hotel on the other side of the road has seen better days. The floor is up and down all over the place.

There are a few shops selling opals and opal jewellery and we had a bit of a browse in those.

One fascinating building is the Royal Theatre, one of only two remaining outdoor theatres in Australia. The other is in Broome. The theatre was built in 1918 and in 1938 the Evert Family purchased it. The theatre is still owned by the same family and is now run by a non-profit organisation and we met one of the family members who explained how they are really working hard to preserve the old theatre and all its memorabilia. The Vision Splendid Outback Film Festival was on while we were there and there are two feature films being shown each night as well as classic films during the day. We thought we might try and catch one while we were here.

We headed back out to Long Waterhole and set up camp. There were many more campers there since lunchtime and although we couldn’t be right on the water we still had water views. It cools down rapidly once the sun goes down and I’m glad we were able to buy a couple of bags of wood in Longreach before we left. As I wrote we were sitting around a lovely little fire waiting for the Farrells to turn up from Longreach where they’d spent the morning at the Qantas Founders Museum.

Last day in Longreach

It was Richard’s birthday on our last day in Longreach. We had a lovely dinner out the night before at Harry’s Restaurant. Richard asked around town which was the best restaurant in town and the answer was always Harry’s so he’d made a booking as he walked past. Harry’s is upstairs at the Longreach Motor Inn and it was a popular place. Most tables were full when we arrived for dinner.

We had lovely meals and Rich was very pleased to see they had a St Hugo Shiraz on the wine list. The service was very good and friendly. We enjoyed our ‘night out’.

This morning was a bit of a slow one. We slept in, had a very leisurely breakfast, sorted food supplies and made a grocery list, uploaded more photos to our motorhomemeanders.com blog, and generally tidied up the motorhome.

Our BRB Makin’ Memories Group are all on the move and it was great to see messages coming in telling us where people were on their journey to Birdsville. I’m happy to say the sun was out in full force and really helping to dry things out. I was becoming a lot more confident that we will be able to get to Birdsville after all.

During the day we had messages from Kevin & Sally to say they would make it Longreach this day so after filling up with water we headed out to the Apex Riverside Park and set up camp with plenty of room next to us for the Farrells when they arrived. We put out our awning, laid down our mat, got the chairs and table out, set up the fire pit and I even put up the fairy lights under our awning. We were all ready to celebrate Richard’s birthday AND watch the State of Origin.

In due course the Farrells arrived and parked up. We spent the rest of the evening enjoying a meal and some laughs around a lovely little fire. We can’t say the footy was great. NSW flogged Qld so it wasn’t much of a contest.

So now we are a convoy of two.

The Australian Stockman’s Hall of Fame & Outback Heritage Centre, Longreach

Luckily we had purchased tickets online before we left home for our Stockman’s Experience Tour at the Australian Stockman’s Hall of Fame & Outback Heritage Centre. When we arrived at 10.45am for our 11.00am tour people were leaving the building saying to us ‘hope you already have tickets, they are booked out’. Obviously they’d chanced rocking up and being able to get in. The car park was nearly full when we arrived however we were able to find a spot to park next to some other motorhomes. We were quite excited to be visiting one of Australia’s best known attractions.

The iconic building is one that most Australians and many overseas visitors will recognise. It was established in 1988 to celebrate and recognise the contribution that people in the bush have made to Australia. The world class museum attracts over 1,000,000 visitors every year to learn, see and listen to stories of the many tales of outback history.

The whole centre was refurbished in 2020 and the centre today is an outstanding interactive museum.

Our Stockman’s Experience Tour began with a movie in the Cinema. The movie was called The Stockman’s Tale and told the story of the development of a livestock industry in Australia and the importance of the stockman in that story.

Following the movie we moved back into the foyer area where we each received an iPod on a lanyard and a set of headphones. These were needed for the next part of the tour. We entered the main exhibit area of the museum and as you walk along and stand close to an exhibit your iPod immediately begins to tell the story of that exhibit. You can immerse yourself listening to further tales by pressing on the different icons on the iPod. As you move from exhibit to exhibit the iPod recognises where you are and begins to play the appropriate story.

I listened to many tales from Mary Durack, RM Williams, some Aboriginal drovers and stockmen, even an Aboriginal woman that became a Head Stockman. The tales are short and relate to the area of the museum you are in. I loved the tales of the ‘Afghan’ tinkers who used to ply their wares all across the outback pulling their large cart with camels. There is a fine example of a tinkers cart inside the museum.

There are exhibits on the rise and fall of the wool industry and a large wool wagon that would have been pulled by a large team of horses or bullocks or camels is on display. There are tales from shearers and of course, there is the tale of Jackie Howe, the gun shearer who is claimed to have invented the singlet.

There is a large display devoted to the Royal Flying Doctor Service and a original Beechcraft Queen Air plane hangs from the ceiling above.

A display on the second floor is all about the traveling showmen and famous boxing tents. Many of Australia’s most famous boxers talents were uncovered in those traveling tents. Lionel Rose is one I remember.

Another display upstairs is dedicated to bush poets and here you can spend time listening to some of the most famous ones.

At the exit you hand in your iPod and headphones and are given an ear tag to be used as your ticket to the live show before making your way out into the cafe. We stopped in here for a ham & cheese toastie and a coffee before making our way outside to the Billabong. The Billabong is a recreation of a billabong and is the meeting place for those waiting to attend the live stockman show in the covered arena.

Our entry ticket to the live show was the ear tag given to us earlier. The large crowd entered the covered arena and filed in an orderly fashion to sit on the grandstand. The show was a fabulous display of horsemanship and stockman’s skills by Lachie Cossor ably assisted by his lovely wife and a variety of horses, dogs, sheep, a mule and even a Brahman bull. Lachie and his animals really put on a fabulous show including some of Lachie’s original songs that he sings accompanied by his guitar.

When Lachie is not doing this show at Longreach, he and his family take it all over Australia so if you get a chance to see it I would recommend you go. It was a great show. At one point his horse was being ‘naughty’ and kept lying down on the job. There was a small child sitting not far from us and each time the horse did something ‘naughty’ this child would get the giggles. It made everyone around him get the giggles too.

The show went for an hour and a half and we were captivated throughout. It was an enthusiastic crowd that gave applause at the end of the show. Lachie and his wife lined up near the fence, he riding the Brahman bull and she on her Australian Stockhorse, so that people could give them a pat on the way out. We just had to buy one of Lachie’s CD’s to listen to later.

By the time we got back to the motorhome it was 3.30pm and time to find a camp for the night seeing as the caravan parks are booked out. We drove out to the Thomson River to see if the Apex Riverside Park had dried out enough for us but we thought it looked too muddy still and was not worth the risk of getting bogged. Maybe another sunny day would help. So back to town and we got a park in one of the dedicated caravan parking spots next to the Rotary Park and set up there. While I blogged Rich went for a walk up the town and came back all excited that he’d made a reservation at a ‘fancy’ restaurant for dinner. ‘Oh no….not Chinese’ I thought. He wouldn’t tell me anymore so I, and you, will have to wait and see.

More Longreach

Stealth camping in Longreach. That will be something to remember! We were not disturbed at a our spot in the carpark at the Qantas Founders Museum. How small does our motorhome look next to the Boeing 747?

We spent the morning checking out the Main Street until it was time to do our tour at the Longreach School of Distance Education (LSODE). Our tour was to commence at 10.30am. We were quite surprised by the number of people that were there for the tour. There are so many tourists in Longreach at the moment.

What a tour! I loved this place. We were shown a short video of how the school works and how it all started using radio. With the advances in technology the school now uses the internet and video conferencing for classes. Each class has there own teacher but sometimes the children may do lessons with a different teacher for a special skill such as maths or music. Yes they even have music lessons and dance and PE. I was amazed to learn that the school puts on an bi-annual musical production and it involves every child in the school. Due to the long distances the students are from each other they only get about 6 practices together before they come together for the final production. The standard is very high.

The video interviewed children and teachers and the children obviously love their school. On a regular basis the school holds Cluster Meetings. This is an opportunity for the students and their home tutor, sometimes a paid governess or govie but usually the mother, to get together with the teachers in a central location. This getting together face to face helps the children with socialisation and making friends and it also helps the home tutors network and discuss common issues.

We were taken on a guided tour of the well resourced school with its classrooms, conference rooms, teacher spaces and studios where the teachers conduct the online classes, and the fabulous library that not only has books but also toys and games, videos and learning support materials.

At the rear of the site is a group of buildings called The Quarters. This is where the students and their home tutor or parents could come to the school for Mini School sessions and had overnight accomodation for them with a kitchen and living space. This facility is much loved by the school community and sadly it has been shut down by some bureaucrat in the Depart of Education. Apparently the excuse is that the building has asbestos. The building is in good condition and does not need any modification so I fail to understand how having asbestos can affect the use of the building. There are probably millions of buildings that have asbestos and as long as the asbestos is not disturbed they are still perfectly OK to use. But not according to the education department AND they have no plans to replace the facility.

I was so angry when I heard this part of the tour. Does the department not realise how vital it is for these remote families to come together in an environment like this one? The P&C have commenced a fund raising drive to raise money to build a new facility however the department of education has come back and said they can raise the money but it can’t be built on department land. Are they kidding? This just does not seem at all right to us.

However we were very impressed with the school and the dedication to learning that the teachers and families showed. We thoroughly enjoyed our hour long visit and made a donation to the Beds for the Bush fundraiser to go towards a new accomodation centre.

In the grounds around the school are many sculptures. Each year the school holds a competition for the best sculpture. They are made by the kids with help from their parents. Some of them were fabulous.

We went back into the main part of town and stocked up on some groceries, wine and went to the pub for lunch. Interesting fact about Longreach…the streets are all named after birds. The north/south ones are named after land birds and east/west streets are named after water birds.

In the afternoon we checked in at the Longreach Tourist Caravan Park and I spent the afternoon doing lots of washing and cooking. Richard got his MacBook out and was glad to have some internet again. We hadn’t had any service ever since we left Charleville.

The Tourist Caravan Park in Longreach is huge. There are some 306 van sites, some with ensuite, some drive-thru but all of them just on gravel. They also have some cabins.

After the rain there was a lot of mud but I was surprised how quickly it was drying out. We did think it odd that there was no drainage for sullage at all in most of the park and you are told to just let your grey water out on the ground. I understand this if it is grass or gardens but there it was just gravel. The newer section of the park has sullage points at each site and as a result was not as muddy as the rest of the park. It costs $40 for a medium size powered site. Our site was not too muddy. The park was booked out again and they are for weeks ahead. They are raking in the money this season!

Lara Wetlands

Lara Station is a 15,000 acre cattle property located 28km south of Barcaldine and 78km north of Blackall. We arrived at the turn to Lara off the Landsborough Highway coming from Blackall. The turn off is well signposted. You follow a well graded (a bit corrugated) road made of red sandy loam for 13km to arrive at the Wetlands Campground. What an oasis in the middle of this arid landscape.

On Mondays and Wednesdays you can do a tour of the Homestead and hear the story of Lara Station, how it was started and the setting up of the wetland camping area. Luckily we were there on Tuesday and Wednesday so we were able to book for the Wednesday tour. Everyone on the tour meets in front of the office and from there you can choose how you will get to the homestead. You can ride in the back of a trailer sitting on hay bales (which we did), be driven in a car or you can take the short walk through the Gidgee scrub.

When you arrive at Lara Homestead the group is met by the current owner of Lara, a young woman named Jodie. Jodie only purchased the property in September 2020 as a home for her and her three young children. Jodie had grown up on the land and she is ably assisted on the property by her parents and her brother who also have properties in the area. The previous owners were the ones who got the Wetlands Campground up and running but tragically the husband was killed whilst flying his own helicopter. The lady ran the property on her own for many years before selling out to Jodie last year.

We learnt that Lara homestead was built in 1914 by Eric Sealy. The house is a Queenslander style built up on tall Gidgee stumps and has a verandah almost all the way around. The house itself was originally a Y shape however the tail of the Y was where the original kitchen, and servants quarters were and this has all been removed as it was falling down. Only the Gidgee stumps remain. A small kitchenette has been built in the verandah that was once the breezeway between the main house and the kitchen.

The remaining house is only one room wide and each room has a set of double doors on both sides. This, as well as the verandah and being raised up on piers, allowed cooling breezes to help beat the summer heat.

The house is constructed of timber and some of the rooms have lovely pressed metal ceilings. A couple of the bedrooms have the original Lino flooring. Sadly all the fine furniture, and even the fixtures and fittings were all sold off in a big clearing sale years ago. Eric Sealy became a very wealthy man at Lara as a wool producer in the time that ‘Australia ran off the sheep’s back’. There were old photographs on display of the homestead in its hey day with a tennis court and gardens. There was even an old photo of the verandah with tables set for a wedding reception.

Following the tour of the house the group was offered tea or coffee and scones with jam and cream on the verandah. The big wide verandah has plenty of chairs for people to sit and enjoy their Devonshire Tea.

Following morning tea Jodie led the group across the house yard and stopped in front of the original bore. She explained the importance of the Artesian water to the property and that open bore drains once led from the original bore off in all directions towards troughs, to the next door neighbours house and down to the wetlands. A new bore has been sunk and the water is now all piped to where it has to go. Jodie’s assistant Amber, one of the farmhands, turned a handle on the new bore and water started to pour out of the old bore at around 25psi and 68 degrees. It’s hot! Water is sent to a cooling dam before being used around the property.

We were then shown to an old shed that the family call ‘The Museum’ and it is really just an old corrugated shed full of old stuff. There was even an identical kerosene fridge to the ones we have up at Mikala although this one was in sad need of some TLC.

The tour ends there and people can either walk back or be driven. I elected to walk back and it’s just a short walk along a dusty red sandy track back to the oasis that is the Wetlands.

The Wetlands was originally a natural depression where water gathered after big rains. The previous owners saw potential in doing some landscaping and setting up the campground. The large roughly circular wetlands is home to many birds and other wildlife. When you arrive at Lara Wetlands you come to the office building. Here you pay your $25 per night for 2 people, the rules are explained, and you are given a map and instructions to drive around and find your spot. If you park on the waters edge you must park straight in or reverse in. Sideways is not acceptable as it limits the number of campers.

There is no power at the Campground but water is available at various taps around the place. Grey water can be let go on trees or the grass and all rubbish must be taken out with you.

There are push bikes and kayaks available from the office and there are three amenities blocks and a dump point. There is a large camp kitchen and a communal fire pit area where every Saturday night they hold 3-course camp oven dinners for $25 per person.

Next to the Camp Kitchen is the Thermal Pool and there is another cool pool not far away. The Thermal Pool is kept at 38 degrees and most campers make use of it. It is recommended not to stay in it for more than 15 minutes. A 15 minute soak in the hot artesian water eases many aches and pains.

On Tuesday nights ‘happy hour’ is held with live Country music and although we didn’t walk around to that we could clearly hear the music from across the water.

Fire drums are scattered around the campground for campers to use and you can buy a trolley load of cut Gidgee wood for $15.

Lara Wetlands is a magic place and I thoroughly recommend it to anyone passing through this area. It is popular though and we reckon there must have been over 100 camps there each night we were there.

I spent the afternoon paddling my inflatable kayak around the lagoon. It was a very relaxing afternoon. Rich was reading a book. We enjoyed a nice hot Indian Curry & Rice for dinner by the fire pit. Magic!

Lara Wetlands to Longreach

It was an interesting day the day we left Lara Wetlands and headed to Longreach. Lara is only 28km south of Barcaldine and as we got back onto the highway and went in that direction we were amazed at how many RV’s were on the road. RV’s of all descriptions. Caravans old and new, camper trailers towed by 4WD’s, whizzbangers, and motorhomes of all sizes. It seems that Australia is on the move and they are all heading to the Outback.

As we drove through Barcaldine we were astonished to see a line of about 20 RV’s waiting to fill up with fuel. Luckily we didn’t need any and drove right by. We didn’t stop in Barcy as we plan to come back that way after we’ve been north to Lawn Hill so we will check out their little town on the way back.

It was a very overcast morning when we left Lara and it started to sprinkle lightly as we drove out on the dirt. By the time we passed Barcy it really started coming down and it poured all the way to Longreach.

We had some tours booked for the next few days in Longreach so we needed to find somewhere to stay. I searched online and was only able to get a spot at the Tourist CP for one night for the next night so we thought we’d call in and check. When we turned into the street where the park is there was another line of RV’s. After waiting patiently for a turn at the counter we found that the site we had booked online was the only one they have that can fit us and it was only available for the one night. OK that was the next night sorted. Now to find somewhere for this night. And it was still raining!

We drove out to Apex Riverside Park only to find it full already and the overflow parking on the other side of the road was mud. We watched as a car and van were being towed out of being bogged and there was another 4WD bogged too. We couldn’t park there!

Back into town and both the caravan parking car parks were full of people and they all look like they were camping for the night. And it was still raining!

We spent the afternoon at the Qantas Founders Museum where we had lunch in their cafe, visited the museum and did the Airpark Tour. This tour takes you into the large covered area with a guide to show you through the four planes on display. They are a DC3, a 747, a ‘Connie’ or Super Constellation and a 707 private jet. The tour was really good and we learnt a bit about the history of Qantas and each plane then we got to go inside each one. I loved the furnishings in the private jet. Now that’s the way to fly! It even had a bedroom and flash ensuite bathroom.

Following the tour we spent more time checking out the museum until we were kicked out because they close at 4pm! And it was still raining!

We set off again to see if we could find somewhere to park for the night. I had a bright idea and we found the Showground. I called the caretaker who said to call the council. I did that only to be told that we couldn’t camp there as they have a big function there on the Saturday. Looked like we’d have to stealth camp.

We had tickets for the Luminescent Longreach show at the Qantas Founders Museum so back we went, parked in their carpark and went to the show. I recommend this audio visual show if you are in Longreach. It is world class. It only goes for 25 minutes but you are engaged from the minute it started until it finishes. Fabulous show.

We went back to the motorhome and sat around and waited until the second show finished and those people all left then we just stayed in the carpark for the night. May as well stealth camp in a tarred car park than have to find somewhere else. The rain finally stopped about 9.30pm so we hoped that would be it and the roads will have a chance to dry out.

Charleville to Tambo

I had booked online for a tagalong tour of the Secret WWII Base and we had to be out at the Airport before the tour started at 9am. We had enjoyed our first stay in a CMCA RV Park and will definitely stay in one of those again. Such a bargain…a flat spot to park, a dump point, rubbish bin, potable water and happy hour around a campfire. All for $6 per night for two. If you are not members of the CMCA is costs more so why wouldn’t you become a member? It’s only $44 per year.

So we arrived out at the WWII Secret Base and parked near the main building. Not long after a little car drove up with Secret Base signage. A young guy hopped out and he turned out to be our tour guide for the morning. The way this tour works is the guide drives his car to each of the seven locations around the huge airport site and at each one he stops to give a talk about the significance of each location. Everyone follows in their own vehicle.

The Secret Base was a United States Army/Air Force base and during the war around 3,500 US servicemen were stationed there. Why was it secret? And why was it built in Charleville?

The base was built in Charleville as the conditions were exactly right for a large airport. It was flat, it was the right distance from the coast and it was within flying distance from the theatre of war. Also it was too far for Japanese planes to fly to and attack without refuelling making unlikely that it would be attacked by the Japanese. The base was built in a very short time and became the base for the famous B17 Bomber plane as well as many others. The planes were scattered around the base hidden between the Mulga trees and camouflaged with netting and vegetation. At this base the planes would be serviced and repaired.

Now the secret is a different story. The Americans had invented a machine that was used to accurately pinpoint a target location and drop a bomb on that location. It was called the Norden Bomb Sight, named after it’s Dutch/American inventor. The Norden Bomb Sight was top secret and was one of the US military’s most closely guarded secrets during WWII. The Sights were kept locked in a bunker with an armed guard at all times and when they were taken to the planes it was with an armed guard. The Sights were kept covered so they could not be viewed from the air and once the mission had been completed the Sight was removed from the plane and taken back to the bunker to be locked up again. It was such a special invention that gave the allies an advantage in the war. It was supposedly accurate enough to hit a target in a 100 foot circle from 21,000 feet. By the end of the war over 45,000 bombardiers had been trained to use the Sight and each of them had to sign an oath of secrecy.

The tour lasts for a couple of hours and ends back in front of the WWII Secret Base museum. This is a new museum dedicated to showcasing the story of this amazing place. It cost $8 per person to visit the museum and it is well worth a visit. At the time of our visit only Stage 1 had been completed and when they get Stage 2 & 3 finished this will be a world class museum. Because the base was top secret a lot of information is only being uncovered now and more stories will be found and told.

As we thought we’d head on north we took some time to use the dump point and fill up with water at facilities at the airport. Then it was off to the local IGA for some groceries. A short drive around town followed so I could get some photos for my blog and then we headed across the Warrego River again and northwards towards Blackall.

The road was a good wide tar road with quite thick bush on either side.
I found what looked like a good spot to stop for lunch on WikiCamps and we eagerly looked for a pole on the side of the road that had tinsel wrapped around it. This was the marker for a track down to the 10 Mile Waterhole. We found the tinsel-wrapped pole, followed the track down to the river and enjoyed a nice lunch break with water views of the Warrego River. I do love a water view. I think I might have said that before!

Onwards after our lunch stop and the dense bush was home to lots of kangaroos. We had to keep a sharp eye out as they jump across the road without a care in the world. Once we saw a wild white pig eating from some road kill. I haven’t seen that before!

We did a little detour through the tiny town of Augathella to view their painted water tower and then continued on.

Later as we approached Tambo we came over a rise and there was a sign saying we were entering the Lake Eyre Basin. Fancy that! We are a long way from Lake Eyre but the water in this catchment ends up there!

We arrived in Tambo in the late afternoon and headed out along the Barcoo River to find a camp. It was around 5ish by this time and most of the good spots were already taken by campers but we found a spot right at the end and set up camp. Sadly the Barcoo River is empty so we didn’t have water views for this camp but we did enjoy a roast pork baked dinner, a lovely campfire and watched the sun go down on the low, flat horizon.

For the first time on this trip we have no mobile service at all. Our Nighthawk modem has an Aldi SIM which uses the Telstra Network…..nothing. Our mobile phones and my iPad have Optus SIMs…..again nothing. This is unusual as we usually have one or the other but in Tambo neither network has a signal. Fortunately I can continue to write this blog however it won’t upload until we have signal again.

Camped on the dry Barcoo River, Tambo Qld


We arrived in Bourke on Friday 18 June 2021. Our first stop on arriving at the outskirts of the outback town of Bourke was the Historic Cemetery. This was a fascinating place to visit. The Historic part of the cemetery is the burial site of many of the districts pioneers. You can pick up a brochure that includes a map that guides you to some of the most significant graves. The most famous person buried here is Professor Fred Hollows. Fred was an eye doctor and became famous for his treatment of cataracts mainly working with indigenous and the poorer people in communities. Fred loved Bourke and its people and it was his wish to be buried in Bourke. His family have had a huge granite rock placed over his grave with his name engraved on it. It is their wish that people touch, climb and sit on the rock.

Other interesting graves are those of the Afghan Cameleers. These Afghan Muslims came to Australia with their camels and became an integral part of their communities. Camels could carry heavy loads for long distances. The cemetery even has a tiny corrugated iron building that the Afghans once used as their mosque. The Afghans are all buried facing Mecca.

In a far corner of the historic cemetery are the graves of a couple of Chinese men. These men created a market garden and supplied the town with fresh vegetables. They even went as far as Mt Hope with their horse and cart taking much needed fresh vegetables to that community.

One grave is the burial place of Sgt John McCabe who was badly wounded in a shoot out with the infamous bush ranger Captain Starlight at Enngonia. Sgt McCabe died a lingering death.

The historic cemetery houses many small graves of young children that show how disease and accidents were once the cause of many childhood deaths.

There is a row of white headstones that are the graves of some of the Sisters of Mercy nuns that once lived in Bourke.

I spent an hour wandering around this amazing place and on the way out I met the caretaker of the cemetery, a young Aboriginal man, and when I mentioned how neat and tidy the whole cemetery was he beamed with pride. He obviously takes his caretaker role very seriously.

Our next stop was the Historic Lock & Weir. This is out of town on the western side and the road is only tar for a little way and then becomes a gravel road for the last couple of kilometres. The road was awful. It was very corrugated and we did wonder for a bit if it was worth shaking our motorhome that much. We went very slowly and finally made it to the weir. This lock and weir was the first one ever built on the Murray/Darling Rivers and was built in 1897. The lock measures 59.5 metres between the gates and is 11m wide. The lock is no longer usable but the weir still functions as it did when built. We found some old pipes that were obviously once used to pump water from the river.

Back into town and our next stop was the painted water tower. The tower shows the image of one of Bourke’s most famous residents, Percy Hobson. The park that the water tower sits beside is also named after Percy and there is a plaque in the park commemorating his achievements.

Percy Hobson was the first indigenous Australian to win a gold medal for Australia at the Commonwealth Games. He broke the games record for high jump with a jump of 6’11” or 2.11m at the games in Perth 1962 and his record stood for 8 years.

He did all this while working full time in Bourke and doing his own training with the help of a coach in Sydney via correspondence. He would often take the train to Sydney, compete the next day then take the train back to Bourke so he could go to work. Amazing what an athlete!

Leaving the water tower we drove around the little outback town and admired some of the historic buildings such as the Post Office Hotel, the Western Lands Department building and the old Court House built in 1900 at a cost of 9,500 pounds.

We parked up near the Historic Wharf precinct and went for a walk. This area was being renovated and there were barricade fences up around the work site. The area is getting all new paving, bollards and landscaping. There is a new walkway along the river bank. This project is providing employment for local youth.

In a shed near the river is the Crossley Engine built in 1923 in Manchester, England, that has been fully restored by the Bourke Shire Council. It is an amazing piece of engineering and these engines were used for such things as electricity generation, water pumping and factory machine operation. This particular engine was used in the Sydney Power House from 1923 to 1938 to generate power for Sydney. It was later used at a Butter Factory in Coffs Harbour then at a Narromine property from 1949 to 1964 to pump water for irrigation.

Part of the historic wharf has been rebuilt and restored on the river bank. It is constructed from River Red Gum and has a staircase that leads to different levels so you could access your boat no matter what the river level was. The wharf is a fraction of what it was in years gone by. At one time the wharf had three steam driven cranes that would load over 40,000 bales of wool each year onto the barges and paddle steamers to be taken down river and exported all over the world. Bourke was once a very busy river port and saw boats of all sizes

Walking back to the motorhome we came across a lovely young couple walking to their 4WD and camper trailer that was parked in front of us. We got chatting and found they are at the tail end of a six week trip and were on their honeymoon. What a fabulous way to have a honeymoon. We told them that 43 years ago we borrowed my parents caravan and had a three week trip up the NSW north coast for our own honeymoon.

Our next stop was the Back O’ Bourke Exhibiton and Visitors Centre. We took advantage of their Dump Point and emptied our cassette and grey water tank before parking the motorhome in their large paved carpark and heading inside out of the cold.

The Exhibition commences with a 20 minute film in a theatre and as it had just started we had to wait for the next one. We bought our tickets for the next one and made use of the time by having coffee and a toastie at their cafe. They were both good.

We were called over when the next tour was to start and we entered the theatre to watch a short movie based on the Dreamtime stories of the local Aboriginal people of the area and the importance of the river they know as the Baaka (Darling). Once the movie finishes you move through the next couple of buildings that house a world class audio and interactive display of the history of the area around Bourke. During your visit you can learn about the riverboat era, the development of a pastoral industry, early conflicts with bush rangers, shearers and the cameleers, poets such as Henry Lawson and Will Ogilvie, Cobb & Co, the explorers, the wool trade and so much more.

The Back O’ Bourke Exhibition is a must see on any visit to Bourke.

For a small outback town with a population of only 1,200 people Bourke certainly has a lot to offer visitors.