Date Tags 2002au

A long 4WD touring day... about 500 kilometers long, through the little visited Mt Moffat section of Carnarvon National Park in western Queensland. We saw a bit of wildlife, and one of the caves with Aboriginal art, but were disappointed that the largest cave was closed a month ago, and the second largest was a bit damaged. It was a long day, with a bit of interesting things thrown in, but in the end just tiring.

We didn't sleep well. There was thunder and lightning all night, and the rain pounded on the metal roof of the motel off and on. Just before daylight, I woke--and found that there was no power. With all the rain pouring down, we were a bit hesitant to head out and drive down 200km of unsealed (or unpaved) road without checking first. My thoughts were that Roma is quite a ways distant from the park, about 150km, so maybe the park didn't get as much rain. Chris wasn't so sure. I stopped at a payphone, got the real phone number for the ranger (our 1992 handout had an old seven digit phone number)... but with the power out, only free calls like directory assistance was working. So we drove around Roma looking for the police station, and asked there. The cop who answered said "oh, that wasn't much rain last night, should be all right, why don't you check 80km up the road in Injune?" OK... sure... so we drove the hour north.

In Injune, the visitor center was closed, and there was a little clump of folks from NSW and Victoria just chatting out front. And the police station was closed, too--it's only open Mondays, Wednesday, Friday from 8:30 to midday. Grrr. So we found the road out of town, said 'what the hell', and drove.

To our surprise, the road was paved almost all the way to the junction of the road to Mitchell--it's been upgraded. The country was moderately interesting, with tall trees and a vista here and there... it's not at all the low desert scrub we're expecting. Despite the trees, we're are finally starting to think we're in the Outback. Maybe. Where does the Outback start, anyway?

Once the pavement stopped, it got more interesting. The rain had slackened just a bit, but the road was still quite slippery, with the Landcruiser fishtailing here and there around corners. That unsettled me. Still, the country was interesting, like someone had taken very broad brushstrokes of plants to it... we'd pass by dense clumps of cypress pines (Callitris columnellaris), and be surprised to see conifers and not eucalypts... then a few more minutes we'd pass through a woodland of handsome salmon-barked Angophora costata, or smooth-barked apple. As we got closer to the park, large patches of the strange looking silver-leafed ironbarks (Eucalyptus melanophloia) appeared. These 10m tall skinny trees have large silver leaves dangling from black branches and trunks. They just don't look right, even for eucalypts, which are fairly strange looking to begin with.

After 80km on the road, we hit the park boundary, and drove in the misty rain to the information hut. There, we poked around the exhibits for a bit, then the ranger's wife came out to tell us that the upper part of the park was closed. Drat. We're just wondering what all we could see at that point. She did say that The Tombs cave wasn't exactly closed, it just had its boardwalk burned in the last bushfire, and told us where to find it... and mentioned that Kookaburra cave was interesting too.

We stopped at the campsite for a quick bite (no picnic tables, I guess they were burned in one of the many bushfires too)... then headed over to Kookaburra. It's just a simple overhang, with some hand stencils. The people making the hand stencils would put some red ochre and water in their mouth, hold their hand to the wall, then spit the solution over their hand. Pretty simple, really. There were also some etchings into the sandstone, but those erode quicker, and it was a bit hard to tell which were real and which were later graffiti imitations.

Driving on, we stopped at Marlong Arch, a delicate arch maybe some 15m tall that looks like it's going to fall any minute. After that, both Chris and I were feeling tired... so we made a bee line for Mitchell, where we found a motel and wondered how a town of 1000 can support seven hotels. Mitchell is sadly, slowly, dying, many of its most recent buildings are from the 1950's, and there are many street front shops that are empty. We got a bite to eat at the Mitchell Cafe and headed to bed early.


May 25 2002, 16:58:54

You know, most Queenslanders like the sound of rain on a tin roof. They say it helps them get to sleep.

Personally, I agree. It's like listening to white noise.

May 26 2002, 00:08:14

I'm enjoying these travelogues, Dan. Thanks.
[returns to lurk mode]