Here we are in Boulia, some 300 kilometres south of Mount Isa. We arrived here yesterday and will depart tomorrow to continue Murray & Margaret’s excellent adventure in April/May 2014.
We left Alice Springs on Easter Saturday and drove north towards Tennant Creek. Drive, drive, drive – the main challenge in driving the Stuart Highway is staying alert and on the road. Our first stop was at Ti Tree for morning tea and to purchase a small amount of fuel as insurance that we would reach our ultimate destination. The price of diesel in Ti Tree was the highest we had encountered on our journey at $2.15 per litre.
Ti Tree is the home to the Central Desert Shire and the municipal offices were located opposite the recently constructed truck stop where we parked for our break. Next we encountered the small settlement of Barrow Creek; we didn’t stop but drove through the settlement.
Wycliffe Well Caravan Park
It was in the location of Barrow Creek that Peter Falconio (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_Falconio) disappeared in July 2001 and his companion Joanne Lees was held captive for a time before managing to escape. Bradley Murdoch (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bradley_John_Murdoch) was found guilty of the murder of Falconio and is currently imprisoned in the Northern Territory.
We drove on to Wycliffe Well where we stopped to eat the sandwiches Margaret had prepared for our lunch. There is a Big 4 Caravan Park here and it appears to be quite a pleasant location.
Driving north we arrived at Tennant Creek and filled the vehicle with fuel and ourselves with iced coffee then proceeded north to the Three Ways where we would head east toward Mount Isa. As we were approaching the turnoff a police woman directed us to the roadside and proceeded to conduct a random breath test to ensure I was driving sober.
After blowing through the breathalyser and handing over my driver’s license to another police woman, we were allowed to proceed (I guess I wasn’t inebriated and not wanted in the NT) and drove on to our overnight stop at 41 Mile Bore a roadside rest area along the Barkly Highway. At the campsite we spoke to a gentleman from New South Wales who was travelling with his wife to Kununurra where their son manages a sandalwood plantation. The gent was a retired grader driver from Carrathool Shire Council and did some part time work for the son and for the Council from time to time.
Next morning we headed east stopping first at Barkly Homestead to purchase another small amount of insurance diesel. Barkly Homestead has a reputation as being highly priced but was cheaper than Ti Tree with the fuel prices.
Onwards to Wonarah Bore for morning tea. Along this stretch of the Barkly Highway we encountered strong head winds and cross winds that shook the van and made driving a not so comfortable experience. We approached the Queensland / Northern Territory border and as we crossed back into Queensland we lost 30 minutes of our day as we moved into the Eastern Time zone.
Shortly after the border crossing we reached Camooweal for our lunch stop; topped up with fuel and drove east to our overnight stop – a rest area at the WWII Memorial about 50 kms north-west of Mount Isa (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mount_Isa).
The Camps 6 book lists this roadside rest area as the site of a World War II airstrip but we could find nothing on the site to confirm this. There was a lot of information on the site about the construction of the Barkly Highway which was, up until the Second World War, just a track to Camooweal. The advent of the war necessitated the upgrading of the road to assist the movement of troops and equipment west and north. It was a very quiet spot and where we were located we were on our own with only a motor home located elsewhere in the rest area.
Next morning we headed into Mt Isa in search of groceries and fuel – fuel was no problem but groceries were another matter entirely. There are both a Woolworths and a Coles supermarket in Mt Isa and being used to seven day trading at the Sunshine Coast we expected these stores would be open; however, we are in the west and it was Easter Monday so nothing was open. Eventually we found a Spar supermarket and managed to buy supplies to see us through.
Leaving Mount Isa we headed south toward Boulia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boulia,_Queensland). There is a sealed road all the way to Boulia but it is actually a narrow strip of bitumen wide enough for one vehicle – if another vehicle approaches or wishes to pass it is a matter of both vehicles moving off the respective edges of the road to complete the manoeuvre.
We noticed quite a lot of traffic heading toward Mt Isa but were passed by only two vehicles heading south – when we arrived at Boulia we learned there had been races and a campdraft at Boulia during Easter. We stopped for lunch in Dajarra and arrived in Boulia around 3:00pm. A site in the local caravan park has accommodated us for the past couple of days and the air conditioner has been combating the hot weather still prevalent here in the west.
Our spot in the Caravan Park is quite pleasant being adjacent to a billabong in the Burke River; the town is located on the opposite bank. For a small far western town there are quite a lot of facilities available for locals with sporting and aquatic facilities well catered for. There are quite a few tourist sites in Boulia not the least of which is the Visitor Information Centre which includes the Min Min Encounter (http://www.boulia.qld.gov.au/min-min-encounter-show). We watched this show and it was quite interesting and explored lots of the stories, myths and facts about the mysterious Min Min Lights that are encountered in the area.
Earlier this morning we gave the laundry a good workout filling all three available machines. There is no need for clothes dryers and all our washing has dried nicely in the warm breeze blowing across the caravan park. We have explored the town and taken lots of photos to record our visit. The Stonehouse Museum (http://www.boulia.qld.gov.au/stonehouse-museum) entertained us for an hour or so this morning after we sampled the cappuccino at the local coffee shop. The local store was also an interesting experience.
Tomorrow we will move to the next location to continue our ongoing adventure this trip.