16 August: Across an ancient sea into dinosaur country

Author: Mrs A

Location: from Boulia to Winton, Queensland

It was a long day of driving the 361km from Boulia to Winton. We left around 10.30am after chatting to several of our neighbours in the caravan park. As the last signs of human habitation disappeared in our rear view camera we lost phone signal, once again isolated on a long stretch of road.

This time, however, the road was a single lane of sealed surface, and oncoming traffic either pulled off onto the gravel hard shoulder to let us pass, or we both straddled the tarmac to allow each to have a partially smooth ride.

The scenery was quite surreal. Earlier this year this area completely flooded for several weeks, and you could see the markers indicating how deep the water got. The orange and ochre soils stretched out as far as the eye could see, allowing the curvature of the earth to be observed.

After an hour or so, the flat plains gave way to bizarre looking hills and knolls. Around 110 million years ago, this whole area was under water as part of the Euromanga Sea. As that drained, it left rivers, which carved out the hills which are left today. They’re capped with erosion-resistant rocks, which stand out like flat plateaus.The occasional roadkill of kangaroos, wild boars and cattle brought back plenty of raptors, with the giant wedge-tailed eagles always the last to leave their meal as we drove by. Flocks of button quail, green budgerigars and tiny firetails and zebra finches accompanied us for a few seconds at a time, before swiftly changing direction and disappearing off over the plain.By 1pm we had reached the Middleton Hotel. Back in its heyday it was a major stopping point on the Cobb & Co route between Boulia and Winton, where tired horses were exchanged for fresh horses, with accomodation provided. Apparently the settlement of Middleton was once home to 26 permanent residents, but now it is just the rather surly and unfriendly publicans. We decided against stopping for lunch there after an unwelcoming response to our greeting.We continued our journey, reaching Winton shortly after 5pm. We decided to set up camp at the Tattershall Hotel, and fortunately had booked ahead last night. As we reached the pub bar, a couple ahead of us took the final free spot on the campground.

Back online again, we checked our emails and were pleased to see we had a personal response from the acting CEO of Bank West – we are applying for a credit card to use when we head to the USA in a few weeks’ time, and had some trouble with the process. It seems many staff expect people to be online or at least with phone signal 24/7 – I don’t think they have travelled to remote Australia! Anyhow, once Pieter Vorster stepped in everything was quickly sorted, and we can save some money on exchange rate fees. Phew!

By 6.30pm we were back in the pub for dinner. Today’s our 16th wedding anniversary, so we treated ourselves to seafood platters (oysters, prawns, calamari and Balmain bugs – delicious). Winton feels like such a lovely friendly town. The pub has a decent(ish) choice of wine and food beyond the usual pub fare and there’s a high street full of independent businesses. We’re looking forward to exploring tomorrow, and of course seeing some of the dinosaur fossils the area is famous for. Watch this space!

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