This leg of our trip sees us trek further north to Barcaldine, and from there west to Longreach and Winton.  The road in between Barcaldine and Longreach was closed the day before we came through due to rising floodwaters, but lucky for us on the day we drove through it was open with “caution”.  As it turns out, we only had really one decent water crossing – here’s a tip…make sure you don’t leave your window down when Grant drives through water! 🙂

We were now driving in the “real outback” passing many road trains loaded with stock heading south to the saleyards.  These vehicles can be up to 50m in length and it’s a credit to the drivers as they manoeuvre their massive loads.

Arriving in Longreach (the largest town in the Queensland outback), we enjoyed a few nights here to explore the area. Two items high on our tourist agenda were to visit the QANTAS Founders Museum and the Stockman’s Hall of Fame. The museum was brillliant! We availed ourselves of all the tours which included touring a 707, touring a 747, and topping it off with a 747 “Wing Walk”. The tour of the 747 enabled us to climb up to the engine intake and take a tour of  the plane itself, learning a bundle of interesting facts as we went. We were also able to take a seat in the cockpit, tour the cargo area, and then topped it off with a walk out on to the wing which was a real buzz!

The tour of the 707 was also fantastic, as its history indicates that it was almost ready for the scrap heap in England before being purchased by some Aussies; restored in England, and flown home to Australia, with its resting place in Longreach.  The plane had been refurbished by its previous owner (a Saudi prince) and was kitted out with bedroom/bathroom/lounge….quite swish for its era!  This 707 is also special, as there are only a couple of these left in the world, but moreso as it is the first one ever made when only 13 were made in total, and John Travolta has the 13th!  It was a really great day.

That night we had a massive thunderstorm and two inches of rain.  Looking around the park in the morning (which has little grass anyway), it was full of puddles and walking outside was like ice skating…the dirt and had turned to a nice orange/brown slippery mud.  The park’s locals (kangaroos) seemed to enjoy the wet weather and continued to laze around.

Later that day we visited the Stockman’s Hall of Fame which was like a gigantic museum.  It was a really informative day covering early Australian exploration, the difficulties and successes for early pioneers, and Aboriginal history.   So between the QANTAS museum and the Stockman’s Hall of Fame, we had a great time in Longreach, but it was time we needed to move on to Winton.

Winton was to be the most western area visited on this leg of our journey before Christmas and so it was going to be our turnaround point.  Initially famous for the Banjo Patterson song, Waltzing Matilda, Winton has more recently put itself on the tourism map due to the discovery of dinosaur fossils.  To celebrate all things Australian, we visited the Waltzing Matilda Centre which we thought was terrific, as it explained the history of swagmen, the history of Winton, it had a great museum, and we learnt all about the truth and the myth behind the writing of the song.  Our stay also included a visit to the machinery museum to view restored trucks, and next door to the museum, Grant was able to show his musical prowess?? at the “Musical Fence” (a wire fence that can be played as a musical instrument).   Strange but true!  Unfortunately due to road closures, we were unable to go out to the dinosaur digs – hopefully we’ll be able to make it next trip…

With a heavy heart, it was time to say goodbye to the outback and drive east, heading back through Longreach to Ilfracombe, where we “tested out the beer” at the famous Wellshot Hotel.  A unique country pub with old hats and $5 notes pinned all around the ceiling, it was a refreshing stop.  Continuing on to Barcaldine, we called in to see the “Tree of Knowledge” (a special tree linked to the 1890’s shearer’s strike), and finally stopping for the night at a great little place called Jericho.  Here we free camped on the Jordan Creek (which was more like a river given all the rain) which was fantastic!  We were lucky enough to have a “Mr Percival” stay with us for the duration of our visit, he/she (not sure which) was the biggest pelican we’d ever seen.  Quite comfortable with our presence, we were entertained with its preening, sleeping, and swimming for our entire stay.  This place was a great find (as was the local bakery)!

Only an overnight stay, we continued our journey east and crossed the Great Dividing Range on our way to Emerald.  You guessed it, the rain had returned.  The drive was still nice, as the scenery was now changing from what we had experienced in the “western outback” which had vast open plains, to more taller trees, still a lot of greenery, and many kinds of wildflowers.  On numerous occasions, I would ask Grant to stop the car so I could get the camera out and take some photos, not knowing what the wildflowers were, but they just looked so pretty!

Well, that’s it for this post – our next one sees us arriving in Emerald and experiencing the wettest night ever that blocks us in as roads become impassable in all directions!

Catch you next time….
Kms Travelled Total   4,965