We’re back home after our outback adventure and getting used to living in a house again. It’s amazing how we happily lived in a pop-up camper with basic cooking and sleeping facilities for ten weeks. We set out from the Southern Highlands in early May and headed north west through Forbes and Bourke into Queensland, where our first stop was Charlotte Plains Station.
After a few days experiencing station life, hot spring tubs and sitting around the campfire each night, we continued north on the Matilda way through Charleville, which has an observatory and is a great place for stargazing. Next stop was the historic town of Barcaldine, home of the Australian Workers Museum and some beautiful old pubs. Our stay in Longreach coincided with the Longreach Show, and we also visited the Qantas Founders Museum and the Stockman’s Hall of Fame, which were amazing. Possibly the best museum we visited on the trip was the Australian Age of Dinosaurs Museum at Winton, which included a tour of the dinosaur laboratory and the trackways dinosaur footprints.
In Mt Isa, we visited Outback Isa and watched the sunset over Moondarra Dam. I donated copies of Flying through Clouds to the School of the Air and the Mount Isa Public Library, and Luke donated Goodbye Frankie album CDs to the local ABC and Indigenous radio stations. After crossing the border into the Northern Territory, we stayed a couple of nights at Barkly Homestead, where Luke played a gig to a very appreciative audience. He performed there again a few weeks later on our way back along the Barkly Highway to Queensland.
The highlights of our trip up the Stuart Highway to Katherine included the awe-inspiring Karlu Karlu (Devil’s Marbles), Daly Waters Pub (very quirky), Mataranka / Bitter Springs (beautiful hot springs where you can float downstream or relax in a pool) and the Nitmiluk National Park, where we hiked, boated through three gorges and swam in one of the gorges and at Leliyn (Edith Falls). While in Katherine, I also donated copies of Flying through Clouds to the School of the Air and the Katherine Public Library, and Luke donated a Goodbye Frankie album CD to the local ABC radio station. The Indigenous cultural centres at Katherine and Borrooloola (a town rich in indigenous culture and 50kms from the Gulf of Carpentaria) were awe-inspiring.
We drove on several single-lane development roads to get to the Queensland side of the Gulf of Carpentaria. Karumba is a beautiful town teeming with birdlife, barramundi, prawns and crocodiles in its tropical waters. It’s also famous for its Barra Centre where barramundi are bred to be released in rivers and waterways in Queensland. An hour south is historic Normanton and home of the old Gulflander train, which we boarded for a short trip to Critters Camp.
We had another train ride at Mt Surprise, this time on the Savannahlander train to Einasleigh and Copperfield gorge. We also walked around the extinct Kalkani Crater in Undara Volcanic National Park and had a tour of a few of the amazing lava tube caves. We had a relaxing time in Charters Towers, mooching around the heritage buildings, including the beautiful Stock Exchange arcade and World Theatre. We camped for a few days at Lake Maraboon (near Emerald) and visited the fossicking villages of Sapphire and Rubyvale before heading to Roma, famous for its many bottle trees. Our day trip to Walleroo Station in the Carnarvon Ranges was a highlight, particularly the stencilled indigenous rock art.
Crossing the border back into NSW we stayed in the quirky opal mining town of Lightning Ridge, and had a wonderful time on our self-drive coloured car door tours, stopping at bottle houses, castles, a cactus nursery, opal mines, an underground sculpture museum, public artesian baths and the John Murray Art gallery as well as many other interesting sites. Our final stay was at Western Plains Zoo, where we indulged in a well-earned glamping experience, staying in a safari tent, riding bicycles around the zoo, seeing the animals up close and being treated to gourmet food and wine. It was a wonderful end to our unforgettable outback adventure.