Mission Beach

Another gorgeous location to base ourselves and explore the wider region.  Mission Beach is Cassowary country and despite signs everywhere, we didn’t spot one.  It’s a pretty place.  The beach was just across the road from where we stayed with a clear view of Dunk Island.  Mothers Day dinner was an indulgent affair at Miller’s restaurant right next door.  The food was amazing and probably on par with some of the best restaurants I’ve been to.  Treated myself with a Mother’s Day gift by sipping on a Cheeky Coconut cocktail or two, while watching the sun set.

We planned to see many sights in the surrounding Atherton region and started with a visit to Paronella Park.  At first glance it doesn’t look like much but the story tells of a grand vision realised by a crazy Spaniard.  Anyone know of any other crazy Spaniards?  No?  He must have been one of a kind then.

There is a lot to the story but essentially, Jose Paronella comes to Australia to make his fortune before going back to marry his fiancé in Spain.  It took about 12 years of working on cane farms, saving his money, purchasing land, improving it and continuing this pattern until he becomes quite wealthy.  He purchases his ideal piece of land complete with waterfall and is ready to go back to Spain to bring his bride back to Australia.
In these 12 years he never writes a letter to his family or his fiancé and on arrival discovers that his fiancé, believing he must be dead, has married and has a son!  Never mind, her sister Margarita, at this point Xavier chimes in with “just like the pizza”, is single, so he marries her and brings her to Australia instead.  He builds his first set of castles, a family home and a ballroom.  He constructs it out of concrete and steel, and to save money collects many of the materials locally.

Sounds like someone I know and all of a sudden I feel like calling my dad.  Anyhow, on with the story, he has worked out how to generate electricity using the power from the waterfall and is one of the very first homes in the area to have electricity and running water in the home.  His wife Margarita can make and sell ice cream at the ballroom, which you can imagine, cold ice cream is a real treat in North Queensland when refrigeration is scarce.  On with more construction, he creates a tunnel of love, another castle which overlooks tennis courts, bocce courts, and a water feature.  Most places have a view through to his beloved waterfall.  He worked bloody hard his whole life to realise his dream and create a good life for his family.  Well worth the visit.

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Paronella 08Mamu Tropical Skywalk is a nice way to see the rainforest from a different perspective.  This place also offers headsets to guests for self guided information along the walk.  We only took two sets so to keep Craig informed, I performed interpretive charades.  He got some of the housekeeping stuff, like ‘there are no toilets on the track’ but couldn’t quite understand much else.  Amelie changed her mind and wanted to listen too, so now the kids both have headsets and Craig and I had one of the most peaceful walks in a long time!  The information/story boards were interesting.  I didn’t know that Ma:my indigenous clan used totems.  When a person is born they are given an animal totem and they aren’t allowed to hunt or eat their totem.  If that particular animal was low in numbers or hadn’t been seen for a while, then the ban would extend to the whole clan.  Pretty smart conservationists!


Herberton 02Herberton was just up the road and we had to visit! One of our friends held the title of “Tin Queen of Herberton” and we needed to see the road where the parade would have taken place.  It was beautiful country and I can see how she has so many fond memories from days ‘on the farm’.

The day is getting away from us and we decide to do a speed tour of Millaa Millaa, Zillie, and Ellinjaa falls. We’d race down to the falls, take a quick pick and race back to the car with “last one in the car is a rotten egg”.  Fun!  I think we all got a turn at being rotten.

The van park we stayed at was at Wongalin Beach.  Mission Beach was about 6kms to the north and South Mission Beach was obviously, to the south.  One morning we jumped on our bikes and cycled up to Mission Beach for breakfast.  No cars, no bitumen, means no helmets.  Woo hoo!  Craig got to test the ‘fat boy’ for its intended purpose and apparently it was a joy to ride along the sand.  Must do more beach rides when we get back home.

A lot of people sky dive here and we saw a few people float down to land at Mission Beach.  This peaked Xavier’s interest who is keen to jump but has to wait until he is 16yrs old to do so… and has to save up for it!  We loved this place and would happily return.

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Let’s spend the night together, at Rollingstone

Rollingstone Caravan Park
Rollingstone Caravan Park

This place couldn’t be more on the beach if you tried! Van and campsites literally sit at the top of the small dune. Palm trees and green grass mark the point where van park begins while rocks and sand slightly slope away to meet the tide. We were advised not to swim in the ocean as a resident salt water crocodile lived nearby in one of the creeks and would occasionally swim up along the beach. The kids, and Craig affectionately named the croc Mister Snappy. I would unaffectionately call it ‘a bloody croc!’

Rstone camp 01We chose a site slightly back from the beach edge as Craig was hoping to escape the worst of any bad weather, while I was ‘not so secretly’ happy to be well over 15m away from any croc activity. This fear could be a hangover from the croc tours and stories told by fishing mates while living in Darwin or I could just be getting soft, either way I’m super wary of them!

After setting up, we decided to hang out at the pool. It was refreshing, had a waterfall and was beautifully landscaped. Soon enough we were joined by an ex-army guy. He seemed a bit loose with whatever he went through in his time, but was friendly enough. We talked a bit and I was in fits of laughter over a few of his stories. One in particular involved taking some US soldiers through what was included in the Australian ration packs. Now I may not do the story justice if I tried to tell it again as he did, suffice to say it involved; Vegemite being described as ‘hoop snake’ and ‘drop bear’ repellant, the explanation of what hoop snakes and drop bears were, disbelief from a US soldier that this was the truth and it was perhaps a type of food because it was in a ration pack, screaming about insubordination to a superior rank and confirming that toilet paper and matches which are also in ration packs are not food, ordering the US soldier to eat the Vegemite, reluctance to eat the Vegemite by the soldier, strong emphasis that it was a direct order, eating and then spitting out of the foul tasting Vegemite and the ‘dabbing of Vegemite behind the ears technique’ used by the US soldiers. Still makes me laugh. Maybe you had to be there!

Rollingstone was our base and we took day trips out to visit the local sights. Crystal Creek Falls was very picturesque. A beautiful stone bridge covered a cascade of falls down to a larger pool. A leech tried to befriended me as apparently I have juicy blood. Just ask the mozzies. The kids were fascinated and simultaneously grossed out, as I picked up the leech on a large tropical nut and it did it’s fastest leech lap around and around the nut in an attempt to get a hold of my skin. The kids overcame their fear of those slimy little suckers and discovered the joy that is nature’s slippery slide, the waterfalls.

Paluma Dam was a quick stop with an impromptu family game of tiggy. This is not my favourite game. I’m not a fan of running very much and Craig is impossible to catch. He will keep up a slow jog just out of my reach for ages! Insert expletive here. It also doesn’t help when you have to run in thongs. Inevitably I end up targeting the children as I can outrun them for now. Only just!

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We stopped for lunch at a cafe up the top where a ‘Bird Life of Paluma’ DVD was playing. While spotting wildlife is great, we do kind of pull the mickey out of the serious bird watcher. I’ve got to say though, the DVD had us all fascinated at the amazing variety of bird life found in just this one place. They even had a humpy pigeon. That’s not its real name but the name we gave to a crazy pigeon in Coolum who took a fascination to humans during its mating period and had me running and ducking for cover and my sister trapped in her car!

We had one of our first rainy days so what better to do than go to Wallaman Falls, which is the largest single drop waterfall in Australia. It was a 2km slippery yet very pretty walk down to the falls. We were lucky enough to see a rainbow through the mist and the rain. There is a barricade a fair distance from the pool at the bottom of the falls and this disappointed Xavier greatly. He was pretty keen on hitting the water. I wonder what it would be like under the fall? Probably pretty full on and probably wouldn’t get back up from under it!

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Rstone Wallaman Falls 06
Face of pain

On our way back up, for what must come down 2kms must go back up, a couple of young guys alerted us to the fact that they thought they saw a red-bellied black snake on the track. I swapped places with Xavier to take the lead just in case it was still on the track. With the pressure of the lead I set a steady pace but one that slightly pushed my comfort level. I could hear Xavier behind me puffing and panting but with little to no encouragement he stuck with me. The pace was starting to take its toll, my breathing was becoming more laboured and I was sweating from everywhere. I swear there was sweat coming out of my eyeballs! With Xav up my butt, I couldn’t stop. My pride was on the line! Where ever my fitness went, I still don’t know, but it up and bloody well deserted me! By the end, my son was giving me encouragement and I was holding him back. I could see it in his eyes, the moment he realised what was once my strength, is now his. He is the strong one, the fit one. It’s going to be hard to keep up with them now.

Mother’s Day morning was spent having cuddles with my munchkins, breakfast made for me and flowers stolen from the campground gardens. A perfect end to our stay at Rollingstone.Rstone Mothers Day 01 Rstone Mothers Day 02

Towers and the Ville

CTowers vanparkCHARTERS TOWERS

This caravan park felt like a resort! With tropical landscaped pools, potted plants in the amenities and great facilities. We met a family who were camped near us straight away. Truth be told, the guy was admiring Craig’s fat boy bike prior to saving us from backing the van into a pole. Surprise, surprise our saviour does triathlons and was a little happy about having a test ride on the Fat Boy. You triathletes are fricken everywhere!

They are a nice family from Townsville with a son around Xavier’s age. They came to Charters Towers to have a weekend away and go to the drive in. Yep, a Drive In! We couldn’t miss the opportunity to give the kids a taste of our childhood so we tagged along. The kids were stoked they could rug up in the back seat ‘without wearing seat belts!’ Xav particularly thought it was ‘old school cool’.  An outdoor cinema listening through the speakers. Amelie also liked having the option of going to sleep if she wanted to. Not that either of them did fall asleep! Which meant we couldn’t hang out for the second movie which wasn’t PG. No doubt you’re itching to know what we saw. Superman Vs Batman. It was better than the reviews led us to believe. Probably didn’t matter what was playing the novelty of the drive in outweighed any acting deficits.

Our full day here was a Sunday. Not so great for touring the town as many things were closed. I loved that the library was once an old pub, and many of the buildings were quite architecturally pretty. So back to camp where the kids had a great time riding bikes, playing on the walking talkies and mucking around in the pool. We planned an antipasto dinner together up on Towers Hill Lookout, watched a beautiful sunset and listened to an old timers stories and video about the Ghosts of Gold, the history of Charters Towers.

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There is plenty to see and do here in Charters Towers, and while we didn’t do too much, it was nice to meet a great family. Both our families were heading to Townsville and we planned to catch up in their home town.

TOWNSVILLE

TvilleWe arrive in Townsville and I’ve made plans to catch up with an ex military friend, while Craig and the kids cycle around the Strand with our new found friends. I really enjoyed my catch up and four hours chatting at Longboards just flew by. There is just something about old military friends that’s easy. It might be that we all lived and breathed the same supportive environment and you relate to each other no matter how long it’s been.

Meanwhile Craig and the kids went for bike ride with the Father and son we met in Charters Towers to tour the sights along The Strand and surrounds. We spent a bit of time here taking advantage of the urban setting and picking up some items to complete our camp set up.

A trip to Magnetic Island was a must.  We hired a retro, yellow, mini moke. The kids loved it and so did we.  I kind of imagined how much fun this Island would be if you were a young backpacker who’s sole agenda was to have as much fun as possible.  Xavier seriously loved it, he was working out how he could actually buy one when he gets his licence.  The sad thing is that it’s getting harder to source parts to repair the Mokes when needed and there are only a handful left on the island.

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We decided to do the Fort walk first up to beat the heat as it was turning into a hot and muggy day.  You’ve got to admire the diggers of old, who would have busted their butts to get all of the concrete, water and building supplies up that hill.  The conditions would have been crappy at times, but I’d bet they had the best fun!

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We visited all the bays, made our own swings, followed the red-tailed black cockatoos and had lunch in the pub. Yay!

Our new friends invited us to their house for our last night in town.  Indian food, a few drinks, great conversation while the kids got a Minecraft fix was a great way to end our stay here in Townsville.

I can’t end this post, without mentioning the caravan park we stayed at.  The thing that was unique about this place was the country music that was piped through the amenities block 24hrs a day!  The lyrics were hilarious!  The last memorable one was  “money can’t buy you happiness, but it can buy you a boat.”  I know a few people who would agree with that!  My version of happiness, is this trip with the ones I love most.  Even with all the fights and farts!  Wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.

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Dinosaur Trail Part 3 – Richmond

The road from Hughenden to Richmond is a bit of a shocker when towing. It’s like driving over wavey bumps. If you didn’t spot them in time to slow down, it was quite a bouncy ride. Having a tail wind was a bonus though and bought the average fuel consumption for this stretch down to around 12ltrs per 100km.

Grocery shopping had been limited in the last couple of towns. So with little food in the fridge, I suggested going to the pub for dinner. Amelie pipes up with “Yay! I love going to the pub!” Xavier shouts “Me too!” I chimed in with “Me too!” Craig however could only groan and shake his head.  With all his efforts and lectures on healthy food and looking after your body, this trip may turn our kids into bar hopping booze hounds!  I’m kinda sick of being the parent the kids get all their bad habits from, so I’m going to point the finger elsewhere, I’m blaming genes from the grandparents!

Rich Lake Fred Triton
Lake Fred Triton, Richmond QLD

The Richmond Caravan park is probably one of the nicest we’ve been to so far out here in Central Queensland.  Well organised, clean facilities, well maintained grounds and right next to Lake Fred Tritton. For a very small town they do tourism well. They seem to have events and activities organised every week and visitors were kept up to date. We were lucky enough to have arrived in town just as the Richmond festival was happening. We would be in town for the main fossil events and rodeo.

The Kronosaurus Korner Museum was fantastic! It had a really good display of primarily marine fossils, as the area was 60m under water millions of years ago. When you enter the museum you are given a hand held phone info thingy (technical term). Punch in the number on the display hold the thingy to your ear and hear all of the relevant info. There is also an amazing the plesiosaur which was the most complete prehistoric marine reptile ever found. It’s not yet typed but is possibly a type of elasmosaur. Also a dinosaur which has been called Mimni but is going to be renamed to a name that includes the local aboriginal word for shield. This dinosaur was pretty amazing as you could even see its skin texture. They think what happened was it became mummified on land and then got washed into the sea where it became fossilised.

I’m going to call it and say this was our favourite dinosaur place. Not necessarily because it had better fossils, but because it was so experiential! We went out to a dig site and searched for fossils with the resident palentologist, Patrick. The good thing about searching with someone in the know was learning which areas to sift through and what to look for. Poor guy had his named called every minute “Patrick! Is this anything?”, “Patrick, can you have a look at this?” “Patrick, what’s this?” He had the patience of a Saint and our family were probably the worst! Okay maybe Xavier was, but let’s just say he had exuberant enthusasium for  the task. A 7yr old girl found a vertebrae of a Kronosaur and the Palentologist at the time said “sure you can keep it, we have heaps of those.” She kept digging and found the skull and half of the body! She wasn’t able to take it home anymore. I think the pressure was on and Xavier was desperate to make an amazing find.

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Even though we’d been through the museum already, we went back for a guided tour with Patrick. It was the third day in a row that we had hung out with him and we were starting to feel like science nerd groupies or weird stalkers. Same thing I guess. Anyhow, it was even more interesting than going through with the ‘hand held phone info thingies’. We got to tour the lab for the second time and the kids even got to get on the tools and help prep a fossil! How good is that!

Apart from fossils the other discovery we made were the ‘Goat’s Head’ prickles.  Craig was amazed!  He’d never seen anything like them!  He was racing the kids around the lake on their bikes and tried to overtake Xav by going slightly off track.  Twelve punctures later in the ‘Fat Boy’, we were back at camp and searching the town for green slime!  All four bikes ended up having punctures.  Craig was carrying out repairs over two days!

Probably the only thing the town is lacking is a really good place to eat. The museum cafe was very popular and we also tried lunch at Treats for your Table and of course dinner at the pub with our pub loving kids. The meats were cooked well but the veggies and salads were pretty sparse. It does highlight the conveniences we have back home compared to these towns that are so remote from other towns. Fish is delivered to the town once a week. Bread is stored in the freezer at the grocery stores as they don’t get it delivered daily.  Seeing as water is such a problem it doesn’t  look like the type of place where fresh fruit and veg would grow let alone survive easily. If you come this way prepare in advance for your fruit, veg, eggs, bread and fish. Don’t worry about your meat, they have a great butcher in town.

We headed out to the Rodeo on our last night. None of us had ever been to one before. I was a little reluctant to go as I’d heard some negative things about how the animals are treated.  We decided to see for ourselves and took a spot on the hill. The girls were already in full swing with the barrel racing. Their skill with the horses was seriously impressive!  A display of fearless, competent, strong women and girls. I really liked that.

The bull riding was almost the polar opposite! It didn’t look like there was much skill involved trying to hang onto a riled up bull.  Looked like a bunch of Cowboys wearing their ‘fancy’ pants, strutting around with their chests puffed out. Guys were coming off pretty fast and usually nursing a suspected injury to a shoulder, elbow, wrist or leg joint. Seemed pretty stupid really. The rodeo clowns were impressive!  They were lightening quick and kept the bulls well away from the downed riders. I kind of liked it when the cranky bulls wouldn’t participate in going back to their stalls quietly.  It was like an “up you” to the riders and clowns. Streams of snot hanging from their nose, pawing at the ground and charging at anything moving.  I can see how a rodeo is a way of showcasing skill and a traditional form of outback entertainment, but I think they could do without the bull riding.  The animals seemed to be in good health with the only the cocky riders sustaining injuries!

That brings us to the end of the dinosaur trail and I’m really glad we got to see it all. If you decide to head out this way and see it all, I recommend the family ticket for all four sites, it’s the best value for money.  We will start making our way out of the dry and back to the East Coast now.

Dinosaur Trail Part 2 – Hughenden

Winton to Hughenden
Winton to Hughenden

Craig did quite a bit of research into what vehicle and van would work best for our needs on this trip. Gotta say, he did a great job. He loved the car from the get go, and towing the van has been pretty easy. Typically we average between 14-15ltrs of diesel fuel per 100km. Towing the van with a roaring headwind all the way from Winton to Hughenden wasn’t fun and our average fuel consumption blew out to 20ltrs per 100km.

Hughenden Anderson
Oh where, oh where has my Anderson plug gone? Oh, where oh where can it be?

On arriving we discovered our first problem. The Anderson plug to the van has been wired to top up the battery in the van as we drive. It however, was missing in action. All that was left of it were some sheared off cables with the copper hanging out! I can only imagine the journey it would have had. Holding on and slowly but surely losing it’s grip on the connector to bounce and drag along the harsh bitumen of the Kennedy Development Rd. Made me think of watching Westerns with my dad, where some villian or poor hero has his hands tied and is dragged along behind a horse, loosing bits of flesh along the way. Luckily, we were camped right next to a helpful retired auto mechanic. He gave Craig some good advice and now we have a shopping list to repair it.

The second thing we lost on this leg of the journey was a tightening screw off the caravan awning. We lost one previously and they are expensive (for what they are) and tricky to replace. You also have to buy them in pairs! So we had a single spare handy for the one we lost this time. I usually put the awning away… soooo it’s probably my fault. No more spares! Must remember to tighten these screws properly!

Hughenden is 300m above sea level. That’s like living above Mt Coolum. The days were a little cooler reaching a maximum of 32 degrees during the day and we had one morning were it was a crisp 16degrees.  It was a bit of a novelty to reach for a jumper or extra blanket. In a rare show of solidarity, the children snuggled together to keep warm.

The whole reason we came here was to continue the dinosaur trail so I’d better get back to gas-bagging about fossils. The Flinder’s Discovery Centre has a life size replica of Hughie the Muttaburrasaurus. The original bones were found in Muttaburra and another skull, a few teeth and some additional bones were found in Hughenden. The Centre has a vast array of fossils and gemstones, a good video explaining the formation of Porcupine Gorge, a sheep industry display and a collection of items from years gone by. While this Centre has a lot of stuff, it lacked explanation of what was there and hence, my attention span was pretty limited. I wasn’t the only one! A few groups of people came and went in the time we were inside and I imagine the average length of visit would fall short of the one hour mark.

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The town has many dinosaur related installations throughout.  It also has locusts!  Winton has flies, Hughenden locusts, I can’t wait to see how big the pests get at our next stop!  Oh, also be careful of the Hughenden cows.  They eat cars apparently.

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Flinders River runs through town and at 1004kms, is Queensland’s longest river. It was almost bone dry. A small puddle under the bridge and a muddy section near the bank was all that was left of it in Hughenden. It was kind of surreal to see bike tracks along the riverbed and is yet another reminder of how desperately these towns need a decent drop of rain.

Flinders River 01
Flinders River

A walking trail winds its way along the bank of the river, includes an eco walk and, according to Craig, one of the best public fitness trails he has seen. That being said, he did think it was lacking lower body exercises… for his liking. Never skip leg day! There were also quite a few windmills, and windmill memorials around town. Thanks to Krissy, we now strain our eyeballs to see if they are Southern Cross windmills.

Heading to the local Chinese restaurant was a novelty and we figured the kids could practice their language skills. They only really said ‘hello’ and ‘thank you’, which is not nearly enough to warrant calling it a Chinese class. Amelie was fascinated with all of the Chinese decorations and told us the story of why the Chinese like the colour red. Well, she tried to. She gets a bit muddled with the details (as do I frequently enough), so Xavier corrected the story (as Craig is often left to do) and Craig and I learned a little something from the kids.Another interesting place to visit was the FJ Holden cafe. It is owned by Frankie J Holden and his wife and was a real step back in time. Juke boxes, Elvis memorabilia, Coca Cola collections and of course an extensive collection of all things Holden. The burgers were good too!

Porcupine Gorge 05.jpgThe absolute best thing about Hughenden, (in my humble opinion) was heading out to Porcupine Gorge.  This is where a pyramid section of rock is exposed and reveals the layers of earth as it formed.  It was a pretty hot day when we ventured there and I was looking forward to cooling off once we hit the water at the bottom.

It’s spectacularly beautiful in the gorge with caves of all sizes carved out of the softer sandstone and while their was water in various pools, it wasn’t flowing.  The stagnant water had a lot of ‘stuff’ growing in it.  You know, the plants and algaes that make swimming unappealing.  That stuff.  Most of the remaining pools were in the deepest parts of the river bed and the sides of the rocks were mostly vertical.  This made it difficult to even sit on the edge and dangle our feet in the water.

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Porcupine Gorge 10A steep walk into the gorge meant a steep climb out!  It took a lot of sweat with a few complaints after seeing false summits but we made it back and treated ourselves to cold fruit and yoghurt.  Hooray for a car fridge!  I also had to explain what these dragonflies were doing.

So, that pretty much sums up Hughenden.  Wait!  Just in case anyone was waiting with baited breath to hear if the pool tour continues… yes, for the record, Craig and Amelie swam in the Hughenden pool.  Now, we head towards our final destination on the Dinosaur trail, Richmond.

 

Dinosaur Trail Part 1 – Winton

Winton flies1
The main reason we headed out this way was to explore the dinosaur trail. First stop, Winton. This small country town mostly known for it’s dinosaurs, also has links to Waltzing Matilda, the Great Shearer’s Strike, Qantas and copious numbers of flies!

Going back a couple of days in Longreach, I spied an elderly, yet spritely couple sporting wide brimmed hats with head nets and a camouflaged neck flap. My thoughts went something like this, “Geeze Louise! They are taking adventuring to a whole other level! I mean, we are in the Main Street of Longreach, not the inner jungle of the Amazon! They look like right dorks!’ Judging others without really knowing anything about them is something I hate to admit doing.  I try not to and writing it down makes me feel spiteful. My only saving grace is that I did not voice this judgement to anyone else at the time.

Winton flies2Fast forward two days when we are encamped at Winton. Without trying, I’ve swallowed one fly and snorted two up my nose. Amelie also swallowed one and snorted one. Amazingly, the boys got off fly ingestion free. Craig has an old growth forest of nasal hairs protecting his airway but I’ve no idea how Xavier got away without the pleasure of eating flies. This situation had me slightly torn. Do I lose any sense of dignity and invest in a fly net or continue to eat flies? The realisation that I’m neither stylish nor dignified, promptly had me hunting for nets. Museums were sold out and the shops were shut. Karma for judging the smarter oldies I guess!

The locals told us they were having an unusually hot week with temps in the low to mid 30’s and the flies had made a resurgence. The best thing for us to do was continue the tour of public pools. Our timing is excellent, the pool is closing just after we leave town. Apparently a company my crazy Uncle Michael worked for, built this pool. It might have been before his time with the company, but Craig liked to point out it was only 24m in length and slightly crooked. Despite the shoddy construction, it was very refreshing (Disclaimer: there is nothing wrong with the construction of the pool, we just like to give my Uncle a hard time.)

This tidbit is for the families that mentioned Winton is on their bucket list of destinations – bring drinking water! The caravan park is managed by the Tattersall Hotel located across the road. It has grassy sites, free use of the washing machines and did I mention it’s across the road from the pub? Cold drinks and pub meals within walking distance is a bonus! The water however is bore water, complete with strong sulphur smell. Drinking it ‘as is’ was a challenge. Boiling it first made it a little more palatable but still, it wasn’t awesome. The kids made a big song and dance about the ‘stinky’ water and we had to explain the town was lucky to have any water at all.

Winton’s Musical Fence is out the back of town and sits amongst industrial sheds and vintage car wrecks. First impressions are that it’s not much of an attraction, however we had great fun there. The hollow plastic tubes from the drum filled with ‘found things’ were the best at making big sounds! It was a percussionists dream bashing all the old bits of metal objects and twanging the wire fence. You could even have a go at playing Waltzing Matilda. The drum kit was everyone’s favourite. It was loud fun! Probably the reason why it’s located at the back of town away from the houses. We’re claiming that experience as an on the road music lesson.

One of the nice things about travelling is meeting new people, hearing their stories and learning from them. There was a really nice family from the Sunshine Coast staying at the van park with children the same age as ours. It was great getting to know them. The kids all loved having bike races around the park together. Fearless warrior Amelie took the corners on the gravel at high speed and certainly held her own against the older kids. Even Craig had to warm up with a few laps to try and catch her. He gave them some tips on bike cornering so we’ll call that a HPE class.

Their son had an avid interest in girls, which Xavier couldn’t understand and at the same time found hilarious. One of his sage words of advice to Xavier was ” if you like someone you have to ‘plug into them’ and if they decide to ‘turn on the switch’, then that’s when you have a love connection.” On a more serious note, I scored their home made midge/mozzie recipe, which is sure to come in handy when we head north.

Winton Age of Dinos1
Australian Age of Dinosaurs – Winton

The Australian Age of Dinosaurs Museum is just out of town and where all the fly eating and snorting took place. Firstly they take you on a tour of the facility where volunteer technicians and palaeontologists are actually working away on fossils. We found out that people can volunteer to go out on digs there when you are 18+ years old. What most excited Xavier was that you can volunteer as a technician to help prepare the fossils when you turn 12. He’s counting down the days!

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Back in the museum we saw the fossils from three dinosaurs, Elliott, Banjo and Matilda and a video presentation. Elliott was named after David Elliot, the farmer who stumbled upon a strange rock which turned out to be part of a giant Cretaceous period Sauropod, Elliot. This farmer was super lucky! Years later, a meteorite crashed to earth in the area and those who saw it believed it landed on David Elliott’s property. So David visited all the people who saw it, took bearings of where they thought it went down using a ‘wooden hinged stick contraption thing’ (that is it’s technical name) and estimated it did indeed land somewhere on his property. He gave up searching after two weeks, and around two years later found it!

Millions of years ago the Winton was a swampland forest on the edge of the inland lake. Hence, a great place to find dinosaur fossils. Banjo is the most complete carnivorous dinosaur (Theropod) found in the Southern Hemisphere and Matilda was another Sauropod.  These two dinosaurs were found together and there are a number of theories about how that came to be.  It’s just as exciting as the theories about future Game of Thrones episodes.

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Lark Quarry landscape

It’s a bit of a drive to get out to Lark Quarry to see the dinosaur stampede. A 110kms drive on sealed and unsealed road took us about 1hr 25mins. The sealed sections are interspersed with the unsealed sections, giving you and the car a bit of a break from the corrugations. The landscape around the site is quite harsh yet spectacular. It’s an arid landscape with sparse, gnarly vegetation. Driving up the ‘jump up’ to the museum opens up the vista and I can only imagine how beautiful the land would look under the light of a full moon.

Winton Lark Quarry 02.jpgThere are a few fossils on display and to see the stampede you pay for a guided tour. As we finished our tour a retired couple who’d just arrived, got in their car and left because they didn’t want to pay for the tour. So that’s a 220km round trip to refuse to pay $22 see the stampede. Really? The girl who conducted the tour is stationed out there for 5 days on her own, does up to 5 or 6 tours a day and has other duties such as watering gardens, cleaning etc. How can they run the place if there is no fee?

Different people have reviewed the attraction varyingly. Some say ‘it was the best thing ever’ to the other end where people thought it was ‘crappy to go all the way there to see some muddy footprints’. Personally, our family really liked it. I’m in awe that something from 95million years ago survived to tell us a story today. It is also the only one of its kind in the world. A stampede of three kinds of dinosaurs. Two smaller dinosaur types (Coelurosaurs and Wintonopus) are minding their business probably just having a drink and a bit of a gossip at the waters edge, when this big, trouble making, meat eater (Theropod) comes in and says “I think I’ll have some of that!”

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The site is now protected and we were inventing ways tourists could have a closer view of the prints. Craig suggested snow shoe like apparatus with sponge soles. I went down a more mission impossible route with getting strapped into a trapeze system that’s suspended from the roof so you could travel the path of the larger sauropod or for the thrill seekers, get thrashed around following the flight of a scared chicken type dinosaur. Tip: take food and drinks. Previously they had nothing available and now have a small section of long shelf life foods, such as bags of chips, lollies, ice creams and soft drinks.

We took a look around Bladensberg National Park on the way home. Dry creek beds, dusty roads and twisted trees formed much of the landscape.  We stopped at Scrammy’s Gorge for a bit, but stayed away from the crumbling edge with no hope of getting to the bottom in search of a bit of water. Scrammy Jack was a hermit who came out to this place, built a small shack and pen for his horse, and died out here. He was called Scrammy because he lost his hand (I’m assuming his right) when a wagon rolled over it and an old English term for left handers is ‘Scrammy’.

Winton Anzac DayANZAC day arrived, so a Winton dawn service it is.  They did a good job and had a RAAF representative from Townsville do the ceremonial address. The MC for the service was funny as he kept mumbling “bloody terrible” in the background whenever a small glitch occurred.

After the ceremony a couple approached me and I recognised them as past employers of mine. One of the first jobs I had when I left the RAAF was working for their advertising company on the Sunshine Coast, and here we are years later at the same dawn service in Winton. Australia is a large country and at the same time a small place!

Off we go to destination two on the dinosaur trail, Hughenden.