Lewis' Exploring Oz

On and off the beaten track…………………….

Archive for October, 2010

Fossils, Waltzing Matilda, The Outback, Qantas and The Universe.

Posted by lewisfamilyexploringoz on October 17, 2010

Hi Everyone,


Kronosaurus Corner



Interesting fossils


Thought the title might get you in this time!  When last I blogged we were leaving Mt Isa and heading for Richmond – billed as the Fossil Capital of Australia.  Whilst this road is not the main highway it is still a major highway and it was very ordinary.  They have had lots of rain over this way and the roads are definitely the worse for it . Richmond is not a very big town (750 pop.) but it was one of the nicest, friendliest and clean  towns we have seen along the way.  We stayed at the only caravan park in town called the Lakeview Caravan Park, which overlooks Lake Fred Tritton.  We didn’t get in till 4pm so we set up camp and went down to check out the lake.  You can swim, boat, canoe and even fish down there and there are lights around the lake so you can walk around it at nighttime.  The boys found some local kids to play with down at the lake as it was school holidays in Qld.  We packed up the van the next morning but left it at the park while we visited Kronosaurus Corner.  It’s called “Australia’s most exciting fossil display” and primarily displays marine reptiles.  We went in to see what it would be like and were amazed at the number of fossils there.  You can tour the museum at your leisure and each person is given a “remote control” that you use to hear each of the exhibits.  You punch in the number of the exhibit you are in front of and you can listen to the explanation for each one.  It meant we could all move about at our own pace and the kids really enjoyed it and actually found it very interesting.  Some of the pieces are well over 100 million years old – it’s very humbling to stand there and see this stuff …….and fascinating too. We stayed for about 2 hours and usually that’s bit of an ask for the kids but they loved it.


Go Wade Go



All Aboard


We passed a lot of heritage signs on our way down the street and stopped to check out the replica of the Cambridge Store. It had some old wagons that have been beautifully restored and a horse statue stored out the back in a “barn”.  The kids enjoyed clowning around on the wagons and the horse too – no helmet required!  There is a “Dinosaur Trail” that you can follow that runs between the towns of Richmond, Hughenden and Winton.  However the roads between Richmond and Winton are predominantly gravel and were flooded so we decided to leave the fossil fossicking to next time around.  As the road from Richmond to Winton was only open to 4WD (and not caravans) we kept on the bitumen going through Hughenden (stopping only to have a photo with “Hughie” the large dinosaur and some lunch by the river) and then on to Winton.  It has to be the WORST road we have ever been on!  They are working on it, but only in patches.  Most of the road had us bouncing and boinging no matter how slow we went, so in between dodging some of the biggest potholes ever and not throwing up from the rollercoaster effect of the bitumen we finally made it to Winton.  We set up and got the kids to do some school work on the tables instead of in the car for a change.


Dinosaur rubbish bins


The water here is from an Artesian well and it has an almost diesel-like smell to it.  We decided to use the water out of the tanks and not fill up drink bottles here. Next day we visited the “Waltzing Matilda Centre” as Winton claims to be the place where Banjo Patterson first penned the lyrics for the song.


Waltzing Matilda Photo


I was amazed that the kids didn’t really know too much about the song, as it was nearly our national anthem! and we had learnt it at school from a very early age.  The centre showcases the truth, myth and legend of the song.  There is a theatrette that displays an audiovisual presentation that brings to life the story of Waltzing Matilda.  It is very good and gave me goosebumps listening to that song.  John Williamson sings the recorded song during the “show” and it’s true that when Australians hear the song, they get very nostalgic. There is a piece on one of the boards that describes how the song was played to our troops overseas and “with it came memories of home, reminders of the common bond of country and a powerful sense of belonging to a people who stood up for themselves in the face of oppression.  Matildas particular appeal for the ordinary man in uniform was that it told the tale of someone jus like him – the battler, the man at the bottom of the social order who would rather die than be bullied into submission and whose creed of a ‘fair go’ for all was what he was fighting for”. How very Australian indeed. There is also a small presentation in which holographic images of ‘Aussies’ talk about Australia and what Waltzing Matilda means to them.  It is so well done.  There are lots of interactive areas to learn about swaggies, Aussie lingo, etc. I have set the boys a project each; Wade will do a presentation on dangerous animals, reptiles and mammals of Australia and Dan will do one on Mr A B Patterson.  They seem okay with the topics so we’ll se how it all goes.  We took our photo through a photoboard, that was pretty funny. There is also a museum out the back that has all sorts of old memorabilia, an old steam train and collections of old coins, lamps, glass, cameras, etc.  We went for a walk down the main street and saw the most amazing bins there – they have fabricated a fibreglass dinosaur foot and the green wheelie bins just fit right in – nicely disguised.


Banjo Patterson and Wade.



Performing cocky


We spent almost 2 hours at the Waltzing Matilda Centre, had an early lunch then headed off for Longreach.  We booked into the Discovery Park (it’s a Top Tourist Park) and set out to the Stockman’s Hall of Fame and Qantas to find out times for tours tomorrow.


Wade and another snake


Back at the caravan park, there was a cocky show with a snake talk as well – Well Wade was beside himself so we went over for a listen.  The  cocky show was entertaining, with the sulfur crested cockies doing tricks on a tightrope.  The owner of the park has a few pet Black-headed Pythons and Olive Pythons which he brought out for his chat.  It was interesting and Wade went up for a hold and a photo with the snakes.  Dan’s not too keen on the buggers and got to admit I’m not too keen either so not quite sure where Wade gets it from. They must sense his loving nature and he keeps asking for a python to have in the caravan – yeeaaah not happening!


Stockman's Hall Of Fame


We headed to the Stockman’s Hall of Fame first thing in the morning.  It is a huge museum that showcases our outback history including Aboriginal ancestry, British settlement, exploration, grazing, agriculture, mining, forestry and farming.  Joel and I found it to be very interesting but there is so much information and most of it is written, so the kids did get bored with it after a while.  There was an R.M. Williams Outback Stockman’s Show which is well worth watching.  The main man was Luke Thomas and he was very entertaining and introduced the boys to some bush poetry, which, to my amazement, they quite liked.


Myrtleford Golden Spurs Rodeo.


It is extra to watch the show but well worth it and a good way to break up the huge amount of information in the museum. There was a section in the museum about rodeos and I found a flyer for the Myrtleford Golden Spurs Rodeo from 1958.  Myrtleford (Victoria) is my hometown and I have been to many a rodeo held every year on Boxing Day, so that was pretty cool.


Well trained horses


We headed to the Qantas Founders Museum after lunch and took a tour of a 747-200 and a 707.  They are guided tours through actual planes, with some panels, walls and ceiling sections removed so you can see what they are made of.  It was very interesting. The museum part has a lot of displays and some interactive sections which kept the kids amused while we learned about the founders of Qantas and how the empire was built.  There were also lots of display planes some in the original old hanger.  The two main guys who built Qantas were returned servicemen and found there was a need for a service to move mail and people faster than by road. Such foresight!


Inside a jet engine


While we were at the Stockman’s Hall Of Fame, we learnt of another guy who does outback shows.  He was on at the local show grounds so we thought we’d go and check it out.  Rusty Frame and Friends was a great show.  Rusty showed us how he trains his cattle dogs, even the pups and gave some demonstrations with the dogs rounding up sheep and ducks.


Boys on a cargo plane


There was also a snake handler (and I’m thinking… here we go again) but she was probably one of the most informative people we have listened to.  She is from Wangaratta (small world) and travels some months of the year with Rusty doing shows and educating people on about the snakes.  There was also a guy called Wayne Campbell who has to be the best whip cracker I have ever seen.  There were some whips and other merchandise available and Joel had bought a green leather stock ship even before the show.  Apparently he has always wanted one – who knew!  Wayne put on a deafening show but man it was good.  I’ve never seen two whips being cracked in time to music before. He brought out people from the audience and demonstrated how accurate he was.


Wade getting whipped


Wade was first out there and he showed us that once the whip has ‘cracked’ it doesn’t hurt anymore or do any damage. So he made sure the whip cracked before he wrapped it around Wade.  It was very good.  He also got a young boy to stand with a long celery stick in his mouth as he proceeded to ‘cut’ it with the whip. The evening ended with lamb sausages and some home-made damper for tea.  Wow what an “Aussie” day we have had.

Long day of driving today as we head for Charleville, which is about 520kms south and which we then re-name Shelbyville after Wade struggles to say it a few times, hee hee.  These roads in Qld have to be the worst flippin roads we have ever been on. Lumpy, bumpy, no shoulders sometimes, pot holes the size of half a tyre, bloody hell!  We have noticed that the countryside is changing though and you can really see the effect of all the rain they have had – EVERYTHING is so GREEN! It’s beautiful! We set up camp at the Bailey Bar Caravan Park.  I mainly wanted to come here to see the Cosmos Centre and Observatory. I was expecting groans from the kids and Joel as I booked 2 sessions of star viewing, one twilight and one night-time.  Well I was pleasantly surprised as they all oohed and ahhed.  Even Wade was still for the entire showing.  It was fantastic.  We all sat down in a “shed”, waiting for the show to start.  The guide pressed a button and vuola`, the domed metal roof just slid apart and the sky was just on dusk.  There was a fair bit of cloud around and as such they had not charged our cards yet,as if they couldn’t run the show then we would have got our money back.  How many places would do that!  We were very lucky that the cloud moved round a bit and we were able to see all that they were showing us.  They have 3 huge Meade telescopes, fully adjustable and GPS coordinated. I was drooling just looking at them – yeah I know, my geekiness coming out again! The guides reeled off heaps of facts about the stars and planets and we all got to see them through the telescopes.  Jupiter was probably most fascinating, even to the boys and Joel, as you could see the rings so clearly and three of the moons. We looked at binary stars, which are two stars that move in the same gravitation pattern together (see geekiness) and also the Magellan cloud which was really cool (see more geekiness:))


Jupiter and her moons


The weather wasn’t too cold but it did cool down for the later session.  We were unsure if there would be a later session as the cloud banks that rolled in were enormous and thick but just as quickly they went away so we had another great viewing.  They showed us constellations, moons on jupiter, yellow, blue and red stars and you can actually see them with your binoculars at night – you don’t need a telescope but it does make it way more pretty. This is our first taste of some cooler weather, jumpers and jeans, mmmmmm not sure I’m ready for this!  Oh and you can’t take any photos as you cannot have any external light or your eyes won’t focus for the telescopes but this picture shows a little of what we saw. Awesome!


Wildflowers galore


We headed off to Roma the next day.  Stopped at the Villa Holiday Park (Big 4 Park) and was amazed at the photos of the floods in the reception area.  The whole park was under water when SE Qld got all that rain earlier this year.  We seem to have been very lucky and stayed ahead of any great rainfalls so far – oohh better not mozz myself.  It was a really lovely park and had a milk bar/deli just over the back fence.  We went to a night-time presentation at the Big Rig and Oil and Gas Museum that explained the history of Roma and how whilst they were looking for water,  had found gas instead.  It was okay but we all agreed it was probably a night better spent doing something else and we were all a bit tired.


Changing countryside


We headed off to Dalby the next morning and stayed at the Dalby Tourist Park.  It was a lovely little park as well and the lady in reception was very nice and helpful too. Lots of washing and cleaning today!! We only stayed for one night here as well as we are heading towards Brisbane as Joel has made the decision to have the car modified for our travels.  For all who are interested I will get him to post all that he has done to it on the page about the car.  It is going to take between 5 to 7 weeks to have modified and it is a long time to be without a car, so we are hiring a car for the duration.

Off to Doonan on the Sunshine Coast today to see our friends from Karratha, the Websters. The kids are so excited and can’t wait to see them all.

Till next time



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Mataranka to Mt Isa

Posted by lewisfamilyexploringoz on October 2, 2010

Hi Everyone,

Mataranka Thermal Pool

It’s only a short drive today of 255kms from Mary River Roadhouse to Mataranka, with a short stop in Katherine to pick up some fresh supplies, stock the pantry and fuel the car.

Elsey Homestead

There are 3 caravan parks in Mataranka and we stayed at the Mataranka Homestead and Tourist Park.  There was no grassed sites and the toilet blocks were very old and in need of a lot of TLC or need to be torn down but having said that the park itself was quite nice.  At $44 a night I felt it a bit dear for the sort of amenities we had.  We settled in and went down to the Mataranka Thermal springs for a dip.  They are very similar to the Katherine Springs, similar temperature, climate, surrounding landscapes and all.  We stayed for a while then went to explore the Bitter Springs at the other end of town.

Boys out front of Homestead

The Bitter Springs are not thermal springs so they were a little cooler than the other spring, which was more of a swim than a soak. Wade and I put our snorkel and masks on and I’ve gotta say I’ve never seen so much algae on the logs and stones!  It was bright, almost fluorescent green under the water!  We met 2 couples from Melbourne and after talking with them for a little while, realised that they were at Lee Point Caravan Park in Darwin when we were there.  We stayed there for awile chatting, then headed back to camp.

Showing Off

We stopped along the way to see the old Elsey Homestead which has been relocated to the Mataranka Homestead.  It is a replica made for the film “We of the Never Never”. It was interesting to walk through the Homestead and surrounding buildings to read and see the history of Jeanie Gunn, author of the book of the same name.

Kids feeding Wallaby

When we got back to the caravan there were several peacocks and peahens roaming around the park.  There were also some Agile Wallabies and the boys raced inside to cut up some apple and sweet potato to feed them.  The peacock decided to give us a spectacular show of his feathers which was quite magnificent and went on for a good 30-40 mins.  The peahens didn’t seem to think much of it but he kept on trying to get their attention. They are just such colourful creatures, beautiful to watch and so tame.

Daly Waters Pub inside

Our first stop after leaving Mataranka was Daly Waters Pub.

We had read that the pub was a “must see” place so we stopped in here for lunch and a look around.  It certainly is an eclectic collection of stuff – there’s no other way to describe it!  The Daly Waters Pub is the oldest pub in NT.  Every bit of wall and ceiling is covered with some sort of memorabilia from either the district or a record of fellow travellers who have gone before you.  It was quite amazing some of the things that were in there.  We had burgers outside in the beer garden next to the thong tree whilst keeping the birds from trying to steal our lunch.

Daly Waters Pub Bar

We pressed on to Banka Banka Station, which is about 100kms north of Tennant Creek.  It’s a lovely oasis in the middle of nowhere!  It’s a working station that opens up for travellers.  We parked on the grassed area, set up and went over to the “Bar” for a drink and a chat to the Managers and fellow travellers. The chairs and tables were made from old gear cogs, wheel rims and benches, some made from cut up enamel baths (which were very comfortable!) and some old couches. The reception/bar area is the old original 3 room homestead and beautifully kept. We met another family who were also travelling around Oz and we swapped stories of our travels and how we lurve homeschooling – NOT!  We had an  unpowered site, soft grass underfoot, very nice water, excellent showers and toilets and all for $7 per person 12 and over.  The Managers were Fiona and Alex and they were very friendly and helpful and we would thoroughly recommend staying here overnight. It seems to be a very popular place with travellers, as the area fills up pretty quickly. Wade even got to pat the resident donkey who came down to say goodbye in the morning.

Chairs at Banka Banka

More chairs and tables

Banka Banka site

Wade and Donkey

Roast dinner

Camp at Avon Downs

Police Station at Avon Downs

We left the Stuart Highway at Three Ways and started our journey eastward towards the Qld border.  We stopped early in the afternoon at a roadside stop called Avon Downs.  It was close to the road but we parked a little way back and it wasn’t too noisy.  We had a roast to cook and after pulling up and setting up we hunted down some wood and started the fire for coals.  The rest area is opposite the Police Station. Yep, a big Police Station, in the middle of nowhere.  There is a Station (Avon Downs) some way back off the road behind the rest area but there’s nothing except this big Police Station.  We weren’t quite sure what to make of that – is it a high crime rate area????, some sort of detention centre???? or what?  We are still scratching our heads. I read that it is a quarantine area but there are no gates or booths or anything.  Getting in to these stops early lets you pick a good spot, not too close to the toilets and with some shade.  We enjoyed a yummy roast beef and vegies and some rice custard for dessert. Mmmmmm.  I even managed to get some of the blog done too.

Welcome to QLD-yeah

Dan and Wade tree climbers extraordinaire

A good night’s sleep and off to Mt Isa today.  The Qld border was only 57kms away and we stopped for another border crossing photo. We rang Annie (a friend of ours we met on our first days in Karratha who lives back in Mt Isa now) for a caravan park referral and to see when she was coming back from Townsville, which, unfortunately wouldn’t be till we were leaving:( We stayed at Coppercity Riverside Caravan Park which was great.  We had an ensuite site and the park was very clean, ensuite was beautiful and the park had lots of big climbing trees. The kids found a great tree right next to our site in the park and spent hours playing in it, using rope and wood and all sorts of stuff to build a ‘cubbyhouse’.  A couple of times I just had to look away and be content that i knew where the hospital was and any broken bones would heal in time:/ The pool was very cold (brrr) as it has a huge tree covering it with shade all day long but that didn’t stop us having a swim and it certainly was refreshing going for a dip! We met a few people who had driven up from Winton and said there had been a lot of rain and some roads were closed.  We haven’t seen any rain yet, touch wood, so we’ll wait and see.  We did find a really yummy bakery that wasn’t too far away from the park so we had lunch and finished with something sweet, as you do!

Hard Times Mine

Went to the Outback at Isa (tourist information centre) and booked an underground tour for the next day and got more info on things to see and do. It’s a huge info centre and also has an on-site fossil lab, but we were too late for the tour with the resident Palaeontologist.  That would have been very interesting, but we’ll save that for the next lap around. We stopped at the playground and let the kids run feral for a while! What a great park! It’s predominantly for the younger kids but there was enough to keep the boys happy for a while:)

Mt Isa by day

Mt Isa by night

We went to the Outback at Isa for the Hard times Outback Mine tour.  It is a ‘mine’ that was created and built with drives and declines, ‘cribroom’, machinery and everything to replicate what goes on in an underground mine.  We were kitted out with orange overalls, safety gumboots, belts, hard hats and lights and battery packs.  We had a blast stomping around in all the gear but gees it would have been hard work carrying all that gear for 12 hours straight.  (Hey Andy, those orange overalls brought back some great and funny memories of Darlot and all you guys from Peabodys!) Bill was our tour guide and what a character he was.  There were a few other kids on the tour so he made sure to include them in as many aspects of the tour as possible, which they all loved.  Bill took us through from the “cage”, which is like a cargo elevator, down to the mine underground.  He showed us how they create the tunnels and started a few of the machines up as well – thank god for ear muffs! We went to the ‘cribroom’ to get our ‘tags’ and put them on the “IN” board while we were in the mine. When we stopped for a cuppa in the ‘cribroom’ (smoko area) we put our tags over to the “OUT” board and Bill got Wade to flick the switch to set off the blast. It sounds like a real blast and they are working on the whole gammit of special effects, including the whoosh of air from the blast and lots of smoke and dust for the full effect. The tour takes about 1 and a half hours but we loved it and the time just flew by.  We learnt heaps as all the equipment is fairly old and Bill explained just how things were done in “The Olden Days” as Wade likes to call them! Although the “Olden days” to him are when Joel and i were kids, go figure!!  The only bummer was that you couldn’t take any photos down there.  We all had photos taken at the entrance to the mine and they were only $10 so we definitely got ours to keep as a souvenir of the tour.  Even though Joel and I met and worked on a Gold Mine and had been underground before we didn’t work underground. And even though the equipment is all state-of-the-art now, it’s still dangerous work and it was educational for the kids to see how our minerals are mined and how hard miners had it back in “the olden days”.

Underground Hospital beds

Entrance to U-G Hospital

Surgical Bed

After our ‘hard days work’ we had an early dinner then went to watch a movie, “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice”. It was a good film and a lot more humour in it than i thought.  We went up to the lookout on our way home to see the Mt Isa mine and town all lit up.  It is said to look a little like a cruise liner, with the smoke stacks lit up as well as the mine.  It’s very impressive and colourful too

Next day, after all the ‘housework’, we went to check out the Underground Hospital.  There was a lot of equipment and bits’n’pieces from the old hospital in the entrance area, then a quick tour in the underground hospital.  I loved it but the kids (and Joel) found it a bit boring. The underground hospital was built during WW2, after the Darwin Hospital had been bombed, so there would be a safe place to treat any injured soldiers or miners if there happened to be a direct attack on Mt Isa.  It was never used as a hospital but the nursing staff would come down to sleep as the temperature was far cooler that their quarters would have been (back in the days before air-conditioning). The Nursing staff would still run regular drills just in case.

Lake Moondarra

Picnic at Lake Moondarra

We then headed out to Lake Moondarra about 16kms out of Mt Isa and it is where Annie got married too. It’s a huge, man-made lake where you can picnic, fish, boat, swim, canoe and taking it easy.  We took a picnic lunch and spent a few hours just kicking back.

We headed out of Isa on Monday morning with a resolve to meet up with Annie and Billy along the way as they were returning from Townsville and we were headed to Richmond.  We did keep looking out for them and we eventually we saw them and as we pulled over to chat, wouldn’t ya know it, it started to rain and quite heavy too.  It was brilliant to catch up with Annie and Billy and the new addition to the family, little Luke.  Annie you look just the same, gorgeous as always, Billy has grown so much and is quite handsome and little Luke is quite the cutie.   We got inside the caravan and caught up on some lost time. We waited till the rain passed a bit then said our farewells, with promises to stop and have a better visit next year on our second lap. After we drove away I was spewing we hadn’t taken any photos:( Ah well, always next time.

We’re bound for Richmond, the dinosaur/fossil centre of Queensland next, so look out Richmond!

Catch ya later


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