Before leaving Boulia we spent some time at the Stone House Museum, which houses, amongst other exhibits, an excellent display of Marine Fossils of 100 million years ago. Set in the grounds of the museum is an extensive vertebrae and invertebrate fossil display which originates from the Boulia area. A new discovery of an adult Icthyosaur skull found to the south of Boulia now takes pride of place in the museum’s display. The fossil displays are very good. Local amateur paleontologist, Dick Suter+, and his mates have been digging up these fossils over the past 50 years. Dick has been painstakingly removing the rock away from fossilised bones in his unconventional way, which does not always meet with approval with the specialists from the Queensland Museum in Brisbane, or so he relates his tale.
Pliosaur kronosaurus queenslandicus. From the late Jurassic to the late Cretaceous these animals roamed the earth.
Leaving Boulia we made our way along the Springvale Road towards Diamantina Lakes National Park on the Monday with the view of taking it easy as the road was supposed to be closed until the Wednesday. Near Warra Station turn off I found a road works quarry and we stayed there for the night. Three vehicles passed on the road before sundown but out of sight , and then all was quiet. It was a cool evening as we sat around the campfire before tucker time talk about the Min Min light and our journey through the National Park. I had wanted to drive the Diamantina River Road for a while now but our furry mate, Jeddah, the Blue Heeler X, who travels with us and is not allowed in some National Parks. I had seen on my mapping however, prior to setting off along this route, that a 2km wide Stock Route exclusion zone is set aside for the major roads and that the National Park is cut up into three sections. This must have been done so that surrounding stations have easy access to markets through the National Park. So I felt assured that we would be right in doing our trip.It turned out that the Stock Route was indeed valid and so we did not enter into the National Park at any stage
What happened next I state below as a honest and truthful report:
“I came out of the van after tea at around 8.30pm and said to Jude. Look! there is your Min Min Light. The light was glowing quite brightly behind a clump of trees about 200 metres away. I walked over to the front of the 4by and the light seemed to follow me to its left so that it was exposed out across the plain and still about the same distance away from me. Then it went back to its original spot and rose up a few degrees above the trees and then lowered again to its original position. We then went into the van to have some after dinner snack and about ten minutes later looked out again and the light was gone”.
We shook our heads and wondered if it wasn’t perhaps the Evening Star Venus shimmering in the haze and mirage of the evening atmospherics.
“At around 3am I awoke with a start to see a bright light shining outside my window. It seemed to hover there for a few seconds and then drifted away to its left.
I got out of bed, peeped through the window at first and then went outside. Only a clear starry night was there to greet me. Being a logical and practical person I figured that I must have dreamt the whole thing. Or did I? Reading the story of the Min Min light throws up too many variables and leaves a doubt in one’s mind.”
Our nightly visitor was absent in the early morning light as we made our way to the east stopping off an Elizabeth Springs, which in the past had run strong as artesian mound springs, feeding a watercourse up to eighty kilometres in length. But successive droughts and the drilling of artesian bores in the past has lowered the water table and all but dried the springs.
Later in the morning we came across two 4×4’s towing Bushtracker Offroad Caravans. They reported a lot of mud around the National Park Headquarters and that some skill was necessary to get through. I told them of one water puddle we had passed through which would pose no obstacle as long as they stuck to the middle of the road. We drove the Diamantina Channels which were wet with tepid green slimy water and came to where the Headquarters of the National Park was.
From a short distance away it looked more like a jumble of old vehicles and demountable buildings. At the Windorah-Winton Road intersection we encountered a road works camp and the start of a newly graded road towards Winton. We took that road, drove up and over a low range and found the graders on the plain below.
There was no mud to be seen anywhere but I suspect that the mud may have been on the Windorah side ot the Park HQ. Having passed the graders with a friendly wave and a G’day on Channel 40 we came across a long patch of ponded water. I saw that other vehicles had gone around this section over dry country and decided to do that ad well. Normally I would stick to the middle of the road as it is the hardest surface and the least chance of getting bogged but this time I was lucky that the surrounding soil was dry and we made it through without sinking in.
That was the last water obstacle. On the edge of the National Park are the ruins of the Mayne Hotel which did business there some years before when the stock route was in full operation. Once exiting the National Park area we came on to Brighton Downs Station pastoral lease.
This station is one of the AACO properties and1 million acres in size. The scenery abruptly changes from open plains to mesa topped and conical hills and then back to low lying country again. We had a look at Billyer Lake which was full of water and a kilometre or two in length. Close by were mobs of Brahman Cross cattle and our dog Jeddah had a lot to tell them about what we do not know. I called Brighton Downs Station up on the UHF and asked after a bloke I knew who was working there. He was way out in the bush repairing a dam however and I had arranged to meet him in Winton later in the week anyway. About 16km north of the station homestead we found a good road works quarry and pulled up for the night. There was enough dead wood around for a sociable fire but we had to drag most of it a fair way. A most colourful sunset greeted us that evening
We skirted the Diamantina River over mainly plains country having to cross some rivulets along the way. The graders were busy on this section of the road as well. At Old Cork Station we missed the turnoff and had to back track to have a look at the ruins. A crude sign on corrugated iron pointed out to the Old Cork Waterhole and decided to have a look anyway. There were some campers leaving that instant and told us about there being plenty of ‘Yellabelly’ in the billabong. Not being one of the passionate fishing brigade we accepted their knowledge with a smile. There is enough space on the eastern bank of the billabong for 8 camps giving some privacy from one another. We drove down to the end of the road to have a look at the 24 bladed windmill.
Right beside the windmill was a camp and the occupants were having breakfast and greeted us. I walked over for a natter and thought that the bloke looked somewhat familiar but then again, there are many people who look like someone else. As I was about to leave the conversation the bloke called me by name as a question. He turned out to be an old mate from Darwin by the name of Fred, whom we had not seen for a long time. So we camped next to them for the day and spent hours talking travels and talking tales about his Landrover. His travelling partner was quite amazed at this turn of events. They came over in the evening for drinkies and a campfire chat. We all had gone and collected some firewood and Fred had come up with a dead Strangler Vine, which I put on the fire at a later stage. The fire flared up like a Roman Candle and I had to used my emergency spray bottle to kill off a creeping grass fire. That kind of killed the conversation for the evening and we all turned in shortly after. We said our goodbyes in the morning and exchanged addresses promising to keep in touch and we headed for Winton while Fred and his friend drove south.
Once at Winton we shook the dust and mud off and did the usual shopping for supplies and then made for Long Waterhole on the Western River two kilometres south of Winton for a camp. We stayed there 3 nights and at any given time there were up to 20 caravans and RV’s parked on or near the water hole. Getting fire wood meant going for a drive on the Town Common to search for wood.
We like the town of Winton, with its wide streets, casual atmosphere and friendly locals. And there is plenty to do whilst visiting. We caught up with our friends from Brighton Downs Station, visited the Age of Dinosaurs Research Centre and went on a tour of it, visited the Musical Fence, QANTAS Aerodrome, Truck Museum and the Lark Quarry Dinosaur display in the heritage listed Corfield and Fitzmaurice Building. On a previous occasion we had visited the Waltzing Matilda Centre so we only went there for coffees and information.