Rather than leaving at our usual 9am departure time from Julia Creek we decided to hang around until mid morning so that we could go to the visitor centre and see the fat-tailed dunnart be fed. Entry was $5 and it was well worth it to see the adorable little marsupial munch into some mealworms as well as learn some more about the dunnarts of Australia.
We hit the road and headed to our first stop on the Dinosaur trail at Richmond, Kronosaurus Korner. Because we’d made quite good time getting into Queensland we were actually a day ahead of ourselves and booked into visit the museum the next day so we occupied ourselves exploring the very pleasant town. I don’t know if it was the isolation of the Northern Territory or not but our appreciation of small towns has increased exponentially and Richmond was particularly nice with long wide streets lined with bougainvillea. The main highlight of the town for us was a large man-made lake right next door to the caravan park we were staying at. It was very warm again so we paddled around in the water until it was late enough to walk into town and have dinner in the pub. That night we had the worst sleep we have had on the road so far, it was oppressively hot and we had the most inconsiderate family park next to us. Not only did they pull up ridiculously close considering the amount of space available but their children were an absolute nightmare. When they weren’t getting into our campsite and going through our stuff, they were screaming and running around until well after midnight. At 1am after getting completely fed up of having the little turds shining torches directly into our van Matt yelled at them to shut up.
Despite the lack of sleep we woke up determined to enjoy the dinosaurs and walked into town to the museum. Matt jumped into the mouth of the kronosaurus for a cheeky photo and we had a second coffee in the cafe to ensure we were properly awake and ready to take everything in. Richmond is a hot spot for marine fossils so the museum was filled with the bones of huge carnivorus ocean reptiles down to perfectly preserved shells. It wasn’t a huge display with two main rooms but there were that many things crammed in we managed to spend over an hour wandering around and then watching the short documentary in the attached theater. Afterwards we strolled back to the caravan park and had a walk around the lake so I could take some bird photos before we had yet another dip, cooked dinner, and turned in early for what turned out to be a wonderful noise free sleep sans horrible kids.
The next morning I woke up early and went down to the lake to watch the sun rise, the water was so still and the only sounds were of the birds flying from their roosts and out to the bush for breakfast. We made our way to Winton through the disturbingly flat and dry farmlands reaching the town in time to grab some rolls from the bakery and make lunch in a park next to the local pool. We walked up and down the main street enjoying the art deco architecture and looking in a couple of opal shops that were more than a bit of a rip off ($10 for a piece of potch what a joke). We decided not to fork out $32pp for the Waltzing Matilda Centre but did go in to use the amazing toilets and visit an exhibition at the gallery attached to the museum. I really liked the art despite it’s weirdness, it was a series of portraits of boss drovers by Robert MacPherson who drew them while taking on the persona of a year 4 student of St Joseph’s Convent, Nambour, Queensland named Robert Pene. They were drawn on kids sketch book paper, signed like a child, and then had “great work” and “you’re a star” stamps put all over each piece. There was also an interactive area where you were able to make your own poem using language from Banjo Paterson’s poetry which Matt and I enjoyed. That night we camped at a local waterhole and were kept company by a bunch of friendly cattle and emus.
The drive to the Australian Age of Dinosaurs museum took about 20 minutes from our camp and even though we left quite early by the time we reached the Jump Up (a sort of mountain think above the flat farmlands) it was already pushing 35 degrees. I was feeling very glad that I’d booked one of the first available tours at 9am. Our first stop was the dinosaur laboratory where we saw the volunteers preparing numerous bones found on digs throughout the local area. We also met Kim, a fellow delica owner who contacted me through instagram and asked us to make sure we said hello. He was working on the sacrum of a sauropod dinosaur and explained what he was doing inbetween chatting about our vans, great guy! Our next tour was in the main museum area and was more like a lecture in that we sat in a theatre area and were shown a documentary about the area and how the fossils were found. After the video one of the guides explained each of the fossils that were particularly special such as Matilda (Diamantinasaurus ) and Australias most complete carnivorous dinosaur (my favourite) Banjo (Australovenator wintonensis). The final tour was of the dinosaur foot prints housed within a specially designed shed at the top of the museum site. We learnt how the slab of prints were moved from their original location when they were deemed at risk of deterioration and how they were put back together. After the talk we were set free to wander the area and enjoy the dinosuar sculptures.
It was early afternoon by the time we’d finished but we decided to make our way towards the Dinosaur Stampede at Lark Quary because our tour the next day was booked for 9am and it was a 110km drive. About 80km in I realised that I’d made a significant mistake believing that we’d be able to spend the night in Opalton before driving across to see the footprints. It turned out that there were two roads, completely seperated, one went to Opalton and the other went to Lark Quarry, they were 40km apart as the crow flies, 130km away by road. Bugger. We decided to go to the conservation area anyway and ask the tour guide if there were any campsites near by. Our misfortune was quickly turned around when he gave us directions to a spectacular spot overlooking the valley below. The following morning we were able to get ready at a leasurely pace and cruise the 500m down to the stampede, we were confused when we arrived as there was no one around and nothing was open. After sitting under the shelter feeling puzzled for 15 minutes I realised that both of our phones had changed over to daylight saving time and we had arrived 90 minutes early instead of 30 minutes early. We occupied ourselves by going on a bush walk until we were forced back to the centre by the unbelivable heat, it hit 35 degrees at 8.30am again! The tour of the stampede was nothing short of outstanding from the enthusiasm of the guide to the shear spectical of the hundreds of footprints, we both agreed that the 220km round trip was 100% worth it to see the only record of a dinosaur stampede on the planet. Amazing.
The rest of the day was boring, we drove back into Winton and then on to Longreach stopping for the night in a hot and dusty free camp on the side of a river. We set up our laptop and watched the Paris Roubaix cycing race into the early hours of the morning.
Lakeview Caravan Park – You know it is a good caravan park if we fork out for a two night stay and still enjoy ourselves with a sleepless night. Perfect location, lovely shower block, and really well priced. $20pn – 8/10.
Long Waterhole – Dusty site under the trees next to a waterhole. Aparently the locals swim there but after watching a seemingly endless herd of cattle wade in and do their buisness in the water you couldn’t pay me to go for a dip. Nice spot though and we enjoyed the friendly cows walking through our camp in the afternoon. $Free – 6/10.
Jump Up Lookout – I actually had the pleasure of popping this site on WikiCamps which is a first for our trip. It had clearly been used before with a couple of sites and a fire pit already there. Amazing view down off the Jump Up and the perfect spot to visit the footprints. $Free – 8/10
Apex Riverside Park – Grim, just so grim, but there were limited options in Longreach and we wanted somewhere cheap for the night. On the bright side it was quiet and the toilets were clean. $5pn – 5/10.