On the road less travelled » KathSwinbourne

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Sep 01 2011

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On the road less travelled

We’ve had what might be one of my favourite days of the trip so far.

Dinosaur stampede

Yesterday morning we left Winton early to get to the 10am dinosaur stampede tour. And yes – it’s a real dinosaur stampede. At least, the fossil remains of one, and the only site of it’s kind in the world.

This site – Lark Quarry – is 110km out of Winton heading south. Our original plan was to head towards Longreach, but as we have to get home soon we decided to keep heading south across country rather than come back up to Longreach.

And it turned out to be the right decision.

Driving to Lark Quarry you go through jump up country. We have a friend who keeps referring to jump-ups, and we’ve never had any idea what he was talking about. Now we know.

Jump-up country

Jump-up is the local (Central Queensland) term for escarpment, or small, flat-topped hills.

And it was beautiful country. Spinifex, scrubby, ironstone country.

The dinosaur stampede was, as you would expect, suitably awe inspiring. Footprint evidence of a dinosaur stampede. One big Aussie t-rex stalking hundreds of smaller dinosaurs 95 million years ago. Panicked footprints preserved in time, discovered by accident by the property owner while he was fossicking for opals.

We left there around noon, and kept driving south. Gradually the scrubby bushland gave way to country so flat it looked like it never ended. Miles and miles of flat, grassy country, with not a tree to be seen as far as the eye could see.

Lunch under the only tree for miles

We stopped for lunch under the only tree for miles, next to a windmill that was pumping up water for a dam for the cattle.

It was quiet and very peaceful, and we were eating in a comfortable silence when Doc whispered “Shh. Turn your head very slowly. Don’t make any sudden moves.”Lunch with kangaroos

So I did, and there two 2 kangaroos hopping slowly over to the water trough right next to where we were eating. They’d take a couple of hops closer to the trough, then stop and look at us. When they were satisfied we weren’t doing anything they’d hop a bit closer again until they got right to the trough and started drinking.

And they drank, and drank. It was as if they were camels filling them humps. Every now and then one of them would look up to check us out again before continuing to drink.

Lunch with kangaroo and joey

When they’d had their fill they hopped away from the trough and started eating the grass. It was then we noticed that one had a joey in her pouch. As she bend over to eat the joey also popped its head out and started eating.

Wildflowers and the Australian bush

It wasn’t until a gust of wind came up behind us that they must have got our scent, because that’s when they startled and hopped away very fast.

What a magical lunch spot!

After we left there the countryside changed again.

Wildflowers were growing beside the road in front of magnificent ghost gums and flowering trees. I’ve often heard people say that Australian wildflowers are boring. They might not be as flashy as some, but the subtlety of the colours suits the Australian bush perfectly.

I love the colours of the Australian bush. The silver greens, olive greens and almost brown greens of the leaves, the red of the dirt, and the white of the ghost gums contrasting with the cloudless blue sky never bores me. I could sit and look at it for hours.

Late afternoon, after driving through Jundah, we came to the Barcoo River and decided to camp for the night. We pulled up off the road and went down to look at the river. And this has turned out to be perhaps the best camping spot we’ve had.

Barcoo River campsite

The birdlife is amazing. Ducks, shags, cockatoos, kookaburras and birds I don’t recognise (I’ll really have to buy a bird book). They are everywhere and in huge numbers.

Doc decided to have a go at catching a fish for his dinner. He was sitting quietly casting his line when a family of feral pigs came down to the opposite bank. A sow and nine babies. No wonder feral pigs are in such huge numbers out here!

The sounds of all the birds flying overhead, coming in to settle for the night in the trees or river banks was ferocious – screeching like you’d get at a Justin Bieber concert!

Barcoo River early morning

And now, early the next morning,  shags are diving for fish in the river (more successfully than Doc, I can see the fish in their mouths when they surface) then climbing out on the bank and spreading their wings to warm themselves in the morning sun. Kookaburras are laughing high up in the gum trees,  white cockatoos are sitting in the trees occasionally flying out on a recce before coming back to settle with the mob, and other birds are singing.

Who’d choose the Stockman’s Hall of Fame or Qantas museum over this???

PS : As we were driving away from this campsite we spied a large emu drinking from the billabong. Then six more wending their way through the scrub.

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