Our initial plan upon returning to Queensland was to camp at the Camooweal Billabong for a night but since we arrived in Camooweal before lunch we decided to press on to Mount Isa (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mount_Isa). Driving through Camooweal one passes the sculpture of Sid Biondi who grew up in the Barkly Region. The Biondi sculpture is a tribute to all cattle droving horsemen.
There is also a Drovers Camp (http://www.droverscamp.com.au/) tourist attraction in Camooweal but we have never visited this.
Driving on toward the Isa we stopped for lunch at a roadside rest area before covering the final distance into town. The dominant feature on the landscape as you approach Mount Isa is the twin chimneys associated with the mines in the area. From the west you pass lots of mining infrastructure and the airport (with many cars parked) as you move into town.
We filled the vehicle at a local service station (fuel is relatively cheap in town, no doubt because of the mining activity) and checked into the Mount Isa Caravan Park. We had stayed at this park in 2010 and it didn’t look like too much had changed in the intervening period. The park was almost full and the vans were packed in pretty well – but it was for only one night.
Sunday morning we left Mount Isa heading for Cloncurry.
Mary Kathleen (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mary_Kathleen,_Queensland) was the site of a uranium mine for some 30 years until its closure in 1984; the site lies between Mount Isa and Cloncurry and we decided to take a look at what might remain.
We drove cautiously across the grid at the entrance and drove very gingerly along a very rapidly deteriorating once bitumen road, across a causeway (half of which has been severely flood eroded) and along to a point where we could turn around with the van before heading back to the main road. We didn’t proceed far enough into the site to see the remains of the town site or the old mine works as we thought the road was not suitable to drag a very heavily laden van across. The site is obviously a popular camping spot as we could see other vans and vehicles in the distance.
After a brief morning tea stop a few kilometres down the road from the MK turnoff, we drove on to Cloncurry (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cloncurry,_Queensland) where we are staying at the Cloncurry Oasis Caravan Park for a couple of days before heading north to Normanton. After checking in and setting up the van, we had lunch and then took a walk around the town.
The ‘Curry (http://www.queensland.com/destination%20information/cloncurry) is quite an interesting place with a reasonable complement of businesses to support the local population including a Woolworths supermarket and service station. These days, in addition to the local cattle industry (the saleyards is claimed to be one of the largest in Queensland) there is a lot of mining related activity happening in and around Cloncurry (http://www.mitez.com.au/ourregion/cloncurry/). It would be quite hot in Cloncurry during summer but is quite pleasant weather at the moment in the middle of winter.
The site of the Cloncurry Visitor Information Centre – “Cloncurry Unearthed” (http://www.cloncurry.qld.gov.au/visitor-information-centre), is also the site of the Mary Kathleen Park and a museum which includes as one of its main exhibits Burke’s (of Burke and Wills fame) water bottle. We went looking for remnants of Mary Kathleen at the site but found few although we didn’t explore the museum. There are some external exhibits that we looked at and Murray climbed the hill behind the centre to take some photos. The centre is quite substantial and a credit to the community.
The road north toward Normanton from Cloncurry starts out as quite a good wide bitumen surfaced road and remains so all the way to the Burke and Wills Roadhouse (https://www.exploroz.com/Places/102477/QLD/Burke__Wills_Roahouse.aspx).
We stopped opposite the roadhouse and had our smoko and then went into the roadhouse to see what was on offer.
Of course you can buy fuel at this point and many were doing just that. Inside the roadhouse food of all sorts can be purchased as can a variety of souvenir items. We purchased a few souvenirs then started the next stage of the journey.
As we moved further north we left the Cloncurry Shire area and entered the Carpentaria Shire (http://www.carpentaria.qld.gov.au/). Unfortunately this far north has not seen as much money spent on the road as further south and the surface and width of the road deteriorates markedly in places. Generally we didn’t strike too much oncoming traffic in these narrow sections and made it through to Normanton (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Normanton,_Queensland) without incident by early afternoon.