The next major stop is The Undara Lava Tubes which is a three day trek. First stop is Hughenden to take advantage of a caravan wash at the caravan park, then two free camps at Fletcher Creek and Undara Junction.
Winton’s final attraction is the Dinosaur Stampede, also known as Lark Quarry, after one of the volunteers that helped excavate the original site. The site is considered to be the site of the world’s only known record of a dinosaur stampede with fossilised footprints are interpreted as a predator dinosaur stalking and causing a stampede of around 150 two-legged dinosaurs. The Lark Quarry site is about 110 km (68 miles) south west of Winton.
Winton has another claim to fame – The Australian Age Of Dinosaurs Museum. This has to be our more favourite attractions as we have traveled the country.
The Australian Age of Dinosaurs is a museum focused on Australia’s evolutionary history, in particular the discovery, conservation, and research of Australia’s dinosaurs. It is a working museum – an education resource, research facility and tourist attraction. It features:• World’s largest collection of Australian dinosaur fossils• Most productive fossil preparation laboratory in the Southern Hemisphere• Work on real, 95 million-year-old dinosaur bone fossils found in the Winton area• Spectacular views from the top of a giant mesa with striking rocky outcrops and canyons; walking trails; animal and bird life; it’s a photographer’s paradise!
(I stole the above description from Tripadvisor but it covers it beautifully !)
“Waltzing Matilda” is Australia’s best-known bush ballad and has been described as the country’s “unofficial national anthem”. The title was Australian slang for travelling on foot (waltzing) with one’s belongings in a “matilda” (swag) slung over one’s back. The song narrates the story of an itinerant worker (swagman), making a drink of billy tea at a bush camp and capturing a stray jumbuck (sheep) to eat. When the jumbuck’s owner, a squatter (wealthy landowner) and three mounted policemen pursue the swagman for theft, he declares “You’ll never take me alive!” and commits suicide by drowning himself in a nearby billabong (watering hole), after which his ghost haunts the site.
The original lyrics were written in 1895 by Australian poet Banjo Patterson and were first published as sheet music in 1903. Extensive folklore surrounds the song and the process of its creation, to the extent that it has its own museum, the Waltzing Matilda Centre in Winton, where Paterson wrote the lyrics.
Banjo Patterson is also an award winning poet having penned such classics as The Man From Snowy River, Clancy Of The Overflow, A Bush Christening, plus many more.
The North Gregory Hotel holds an enactment of the first rendition of Waltzing Matilda plus readings of some of Banjo Patterson’s poems each evening at 5:30.
We camp behind the North Gregory Hotel in Winton for three nights to check out the dinosaur capital of Australia, so called because of the abundance of dinosaur fossils that have been found in the surrounding area – more of that later.
The Hotel only charges $10 per night with access to loos and showers but no electricity, which we do not require thanks to our solar panels.
Note from the photos that there is a slight fly issue here. Also, all the litter bins are shaped like dinosaur feet. Emus are quite a common sight around Winton.
Winton has one quirky attraction – Arno’s Wall. A modern wonder of art and architecture, Arno Grotjahn’s wall contains almost every household item you can imagine and more. The walls reach two metres high and extend for at least 70 metres. They are constructed of concrete and rock brought from Arno’s opal mine at Opalton and studded with rusted lawnmower parts, boat propellers, vintage typewriters and sewing machines and even a couple of complete motorbikes.
Arno was born in 1930 and spent his youth as a merchant seaman travelling the world. He immigrated to Australia from Germany some 30 years ago and spends his time in and around Winton opal mining.
A brolga stopped by to say hello at our free camp by the Thomson River at Longreach. The brolga is a large grey Australian crane which has an elaborate courtship display that involves leaping, wing-flapping, and trumpeting.
Longreach is a town in Central West Queensland named after the “long reach” of the Thomson River on which it is situated. The town is on the Tropic of Capricorn. A number of Queensland towns have their streets named to a theme. In Longreach, the streets are named after species of birds, with the streets running east-west named after water birds and those running north-south after land birds.
Longreach is the home of the Australian Stockman’s Hall Of Fame which was officially opened in 1988 by Queen Elizabeth II. The purpose of the centre is to showcase the history and the culture of life in rural Australia. Since its opening, over 1 million people have passed through its doors.
Longreach was one of the founding centres for Australia’s airline Qantas. One of the airline’s original hangars remains in use at the airport. The town is now the home of the Qantas Founders Outback Museum, which includes amongst its displays a decommissioned Qantas Boeing 747-200 and Qantas’s first jet aircraft, a Boeing 707. In recognition of the town’s place in company history, as well as a play on the airliner’s extended range, all of Qantas’s Boeing 747-400’s have “Longreach” printed on both sides of the first jetway entry/exit doors.
A couple of highlights from our visit to the Qantas museum – standing in a Boeing 747 engine and walking on the wing of the same jumbo jet.
After Emerald, next major stop will be Longreach. One overnight free camp at Jericho plus a quick stop on the way in Barcaldine.
Barcaldine played a significant role in the Australian labour movement and the birth of the Australian Labour Party. In 1891, it was one of the focal points of the sheep shearers’ strike, with the Eureka Flag flying over the strike camp. The landmark Tree Of Knowledge under which the strikers met, stood outside the railway station. (In 2006, persons unknown poisoned the tree with a herbicide, which led to its demise.) Today there is a replacement monument to the tree.
The caravan park in Emerald where we are staying has come up with a great option for free-camping travelers – ie us. They have a large field at the rear of the camp which they let free campers use. Water can be topped up on the way in and all the other facilities of the van park are also available, loos, showers, camp kitchen, etc). But instead of paying $35 + for the van park we are only charged $12 per night. Full marks to them.
We take advantage of a country singer around the campfire and cannot go past the local Irish Pub for a pint of Guinness. And we finish off our visit back to Emerald with a round of golf.