Monday, 25 June 2018

Once a Jolly Swagman.....

Winton likes to take credit for the site of the inspiration for Waltzing Matilda. However, the Combo Waterhole, some 132km northwest of Winton is believed to be the original site of the swagman jumping into the billabong to avoid being arrested by the troopers.
In Sept 1894 on Dagworth Station, some striking shearers set fire to the wool shed and the owner and three police officers gave chase to a shearer, Samuel Hoffmeister, who was believed to be involved. Rather than be captured he shot himself and fell into the Combo Waterhole.
The waterhole is actually a series of waterholes connected by flagstone overshots that were built by Chinese labour to help the Cobb & Co coaches cross. They also act as dam walls to retain the water.
The waterhole is located about 5km off the Landsborough Highway (Matilda Way) on a dirt road. One wouldn't do it in the wet.
The parking area has information boards and toilets. The first of the waterholes is a short distance away, with a round trip of 2.6km to visit all of the waterholes. 
To see, and walk on the flagstone overshots, and to think they have lasted all these years, is amazing. This was where we first used our fly hats. 😊
We continued onto Julia Creek – our next camp.

Sunday, 24 June 2018

Dinosaur Capital of Australia/Home of Waltzing Matilda.

From Longreach we travelled 175km to the outback town of Winton. Our plan was to stay behind the historic North Gregory Hotel – but it was already full at midday, so we parked the van and had a walk around town and the new Waltzing Matilda Centre. In 2015 the Matilda Centre burnt down. I remember feeling sad as it was one of the few museums that we went to that we really liked. The new centre looks strange, and is very modern inside. It is meant to depict fitting in with the landscape and the outside mostly looks like a big rock, with heavy metal chains. Inside is a cafe, and Peter said the coffee was good. The info desk is small and most of the touring pamphlets are located around the corner. It still houses the museum, and it was pleasing to see some of the out buildings still remained after the fire.
Winton is famous as being situated close to gem fields and is a stopping centre for fossickers. It is also where Banjo Patterson wrote Waltzing Matilda, and where the music was first played – at the North Gregory Hotel, and thirdly and more recently, Winton is known as the dinosaur capital of Australia. Winton has its origins in 1875 when a man named Robert Allen camped on the banks of Pelican Waterhole. A year later Pelican Waterhole was flooded and Robert Allen moved his dwellings of a hotel/store to the site of today's Winton. It was then that Allen, as the postmaster, changed the name to Winton, to make it easier to write on postage stamps. The name comes from a suburb of Bournemouth in England. The town was gazetted in July 1879.
We walked around the main street past the North Gregory Hotel, the scene of the first performance of Waltzing Matilda in 1895, and next door the old open air theatre. If we had stayed behind the North Gregory Hotel we would have gone to one of the screenings. The theatre was built in 1918, and is one of only two open air theatres left. The town is getting ready for the Vision Splendid Outback Film Festival at the end of June. This festival is 9 days and about 30 films screened each day in the Civic Centre and each night in the open air theatre.
After walking around we got back into the car and went up to the Musical Fence, located up where the old airfield use to be. QANTAS was formed in Winton in 1920. There is memorial to QANTAS at the Musical Fence. The Musical Fence is a fun area to make music using strange objects. Created in July 2003, it was the first musical fence in the world.
After buying a few items for dinner - salmon rissoles - we headed out of town to the free camp Long Waterhole, for the night. It seems all the places we planned to go, and some we didn't plan are full of happy campers – REALLY FULL! Not that we are complaining, it is good to have so many other like minded travelers with us. Long Waterhole is an area put aside for self contained vans. It is located about 4 km out of town and is a made made waterhole that was the centrepiece of a bike track around the waterhole. We met up with some people we met at Longreach - so happy hour was good.
We stayed one night, it was a little cool overnight, but it is getting warmer. We had planned a few days in Winton, but with the North Gregory being full we decided to keep going. Before leaving Winton we went up to Arno's Wall behind the North Gregory Hotel. The wall is constructed out of concrete and rock and 'stuff' – most from Arno's opal mine at Opalton. An interesting wall that stands a couple of metres high and has at least three sewing machines that I saw.
After a quick stop at the bakery for bread rolls and Peter's coffee we were off again heading north and the warmer nights.

Saturday, 23 June 2018

The Heart of the Outback

After a little grocery shopping in Barcaldine, we continued to Longreach, some 115km north west. The first indication that one is close to Longreach is the sight, in the distance, of the tail of a QANTAS jet.
We stopped in town to get some milk – Barcaldine didn't have any milk left – and went to the Apex Riverside camp, about 4km north of town. Everyone was there!! We ended up at the top of the area looking down at the rows of vans.
The area is a dust bowl that would become very muddy if it rained, with that said, it is a great site and close to Longreach. There are toilets at the river end and at present a new very large covered area is being built. It costs $3 a night or $15 a week. A fruit and vege van comes a few times a week. The sunsets are spectacular over the Thompson River. We watched emus and brolgas walk around the camp site and there were two roosters that 'owned the place'. I liked how the early morning they would play 'Marco Polo' – can't complain about ROOSTERS crowing :)
Longreach is in the heart of the Queensland Outback and has many historic sites to see. Last time we did the QANTAS Founders Museum, well worth a visit. We spent the good part of a day there. Also the Australian Stockman's Hall of Fame – a day is not enough. One of the highlights last trip was the Longreach School of the Air, a very informative tour. This trip Longreach is a wonderful stop along the way. We walked up and down the main street, stopped in Kinnon & Co to look at 'outback' goods and heaps of artefacts – and it is the local quilt shop! This is also where a lot of the tours leave from. We do want to do a Thompson River Sunset Cruise, but the nights are so cold we are going to leave it until another time and when the nights are warmer. So much more to see in Longreach. A new installation in Longreach is the Longreach Botanic Walkway. We discovered it by accident when we stopped in a back street to see the QANTAS plane on the way into Longreach. This a 2.5km flora walk between the town centre and the Stockman's Hall of Fame. Along the way are stones with plaques of pioneers. A great new tourist attraction.
Some years ago on one of our trips we signed up for Outback Mates. We don't use it a lot, but it has paid for itself over and over. We went into the Merino Bakery and Peter got his coffee fix and I got a free hot chocolate. We also bought some bread rolls for lunch. We stayed two days, but probably should have stayed a little longer. Next time......