Spring is here. Callistemon-Bottlebrush


Tuesday, September 18, 2018

DINOSAUR STAMPEDE AT LARK QUARRY

On the last day of our outback tour we were driven 110 km south west of Winton to Lark Quarry Conservation Park. 
 On the way we stopped on top of a 'jump up' (mesa) to look over Carisbrooke Station, which has an interesting history. Charlie the 80 year old owner of the station was unable to keep up his payments to the bank during the drought. The bank took his farm off him but the outcry of neighbouring farmers and city radio stations made the bank reverse their decision and the farm is back in family hands. However, the fight took a long time and by then Charlie had lost his will to run the station so his son has taken over.
At morning tea time the coach pulled into a disused opal mine. While the guides boiled the billy and made morning tea we were encouraged to go looking for opals. We weren't successful but one of our tour group found quite a few pieces in small rocks.

 We continued on towards Lark Quarry but stopped at the Three Sisters Lookout. It was cool but very sunny and bright. Not good for photography but the ancient landscape was awesome.


 Soon we arrived at the place where the Stampede tracks were discovered back in the 60's even though the farmer who found them contacted the museum and they confirmed they were dinosaur tracks nothing was done until the 70's.  This building was erected in 2002 to protect the tracks of a dinosaur stampede. It is the world's only known fossilised stampede site.
 Inside the building we were given information about the tracks including a video of what is thought to have happened here 95 million years ago. A herd of at least 150 small two legged dinosaurs including carnivorous coelurosaurs about the size of chickens and slightly larger plant eating ornithopods, came to drink at the edge of the lake. What happened next has been frozen in time across the rock face. A huge meat eating theropod approached the lake began to stalk and then charged. There are over 3000 footprints.
 Thousands of chicken like footprints in the rock.

 The spot lights are on the huge footprints. You can see that layers of rock have been removed to expose the footprints. It is believed there are many more under the remaining rock but scientists want it left like that for future generations when techniques will have improved to excavate further.

 It was very difficult to photograph in the dim light. But these are some big prints among the little ones. I was happy to be able to see this site which had been on my bucket list for years. 

We had lunch and hiked the 'Spinifex Walk' before returning to Winton that night.

 The next morning we went back to Longreach and boarded the "Spirit of the Outback" train for the two day trip back to Brisbane. Bill and Rob in the lounge of the train. We weren't impressed with the sleeper cabins but the food was good.

 The parched outback from the train window.

 The train winding its way through the ranges on the way to the coast.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

WHERE DINOSAURS ROAMED

After watching a doco on dinosaur fossil finds in Winton, I have always wanted to visit the sites and museums there. So last month we did. After touring around the towns of Longreach and Winton we were finally on our way to the dinosaur laboratory. Unfortunately, I didn't feel 100%, (due to dehydration-not drinking enough water in the hot dry climate even though it was winter) so I didn't take many photos.
 The Age of Australian Dinosaurs Museum is a not for profit organisation and they get little help from governments so they divised a way to get labour. Many would be archaeologists love to go on a dig or help clean the fossils and put the massive jigsaw of bones together. So the Museum offered the public the opportunity to do this but they have to pay to be trained and then to work there. This way they get the work done without hiring labour and make money to keep the museum going. This volunteer is cleaning some bones found in a previous dig. When the bones are first found they are wrapped in foil and then plaster of paris to preserve them. Their place of find and date is written on the plaster. Then when volunteers come to the lab they open up the parcels and get to work.
 Then we were driven to another part of the museum located on top of a mesa (called a 'jump up' in Queensland). A Dinosaur Canyon and outdoor galleries have been created to replicate the 'Age of the Australian Dinosaurs'.
 As we walked through the canyon on a walkway we could see replicas of bones and dinosaurs.
 Many of the dinosaurs that lived in this area were small ones not much bigger than chickens. But bigger ones chased them and ate them.
 The replicas were so life like and I felt like I had been transported back 95 million years and was watching this spectacle.


 The bigger ones on the rampage.
 The museum people are planting prehistoric cycad plants in the canyon to make it even more realistic.

 Then we went inside a lovely building where the bones of some dinosaurs have been put together. Guides gave us an informative talk after which we went outside on the deck overlooking the amazing outback scenery and sunset while we were served dinner.

Sunday, September 9, 2018

THE OUTBACK TOWN OF WINTON

Oh boy! I have been busy with U3A and my blogging has been neglected. I was writing about our trip to Longreach and Winton in far west Queensland. Our tour bus drove us from Longreach to Winton where our guides dropped us off near Arno's Wall and they told us to follow the wall and we would come to the hotel where we could walk through to the main street.  Arno migrated from Germany back in the 60's he was an opal cutter at Opalton but he is most famous for his art installation, his Wall. The wall is 2 metres high and 70 metres long. It is made of concrete and rocks that he brought into town from the opal mine. In the wall he has concreted in every kind of house hold items and more: lawn mowers, boat propellors, type writers, sewing machines and motor bikes.

 A very small part of Arno's Wall.

We came through the hotel to the main street in Winton. I have recently discovered that this hotel was the first one built in Winton back in the mid 1880's but obviously has been updated over the years. Of course we had to stop in the coffee shop on the next corner for 'you know who'. 

 While drinking our coffee I saw a sign pointing to the back of the shop saying 'Thru to the historic open air theatre'. It was just as it was in the old days, the projection room too. It was a fun museum.

 We continued down the street to a lovely little opal shop. I resisted buying any. Too expensive.

Bill with Banjo Paterson, a famous Australian poet, who wrote "Waltzing Matilda"
 (you may recall that our grandson has the same name)
 Then we had to meet the rest of our group and guides at the brand new 'Matilda Centre', which is a museum dedicated to our informal national song,  'Waltzing Matilda' including the times and lives of the local people. The Winton people are very proud that our famous song was written in the Winton District. Their museum was burnt down a few years ago and they have just opened this new one. It is a shame that they lost many of the artefacts.
 However, they have done a great job with the new one with what they have and supplemented with many digital displays.
We learnt about the history of the song, the writer, Banjo Paterson, the wool industry, transport and life style of the times. The next day we were off to see the dinosaurs....the reason I came on this trip.

Saturday, August 25, 2018

ROLLING DOWN THE RIVER

After visiting the Qantas Founders Museum we were taken for a sunset cruise on the Thomson River. The river flows by Longreach, a small town in Western Queensland. Even though it is a very dry part of the country the river always has water flowing from the wetter northern parts of Queensland.

We were going to have a BBQ dinner at an open air campsite on the banks of the river. So we rugged up well because it gets very cold at night. It was a relaxing cruise down the river and we had a commentary  telling us about the wildlife and birds in the area.

Before we went on the cruise we had lunch at another lovely old homestead called Rosebank. It was owned by the tour company's owner, Alan Smith. In its heyday it was owned by a grazier who entertained locals and dignitaries including royalty.
 Alan's wife made lunch for all of us in the ballroom. Alan told us the history of the place.

After a short rest in our motel we were off again to the Thomson River.




 Dinner at Smithy's campsite on the river with country music entertainment.
 It was a nice evening but a bit cold. There were fires to keep us warm but "smoke got in our eyes."

The next morning we were off to Winton to see the dinosaurs, Bill tells me they are dead. It was a two hour drive to Winton.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

COME FLY WITH ME

During our six day tour of outback Queensland, we visited the Qantas Founders Museum at Longreach. Now you may be wondering why a Qantas museum is way out in Western Queensland. Well Qantas, our national airline, was started by two friends, Hudson Fysh and Paul McGinness, who were veterans of the First World War and members of the Australian Flying Corp. After the war in 1919 they wanted to compete in the England to Australia air race but they couldn't raise the money after the millionaire grazier who was going to finance them died. However, they accepted an assignment to survey the air race route from Longreach in QLD to Katherine in NT. It took them 51 days to travel the 2179k over the harsh outback country where cars had never been before. It was during this trip that the young men realised how beneficial it would be for mail, goods and passengers to travel by air in these sparsely populated and roadless areas.

So Fysh and McGinness sought financial backing for an air service. Graziers were sympathetic knowing how hard it was to travel in the outback with no roads, no bridges and thick cloying mud when it rained.

In 1920 Fergus McMaster, a wealthy grazier, invested in them. With their former flight sergeant, Arthur Baird, as their mechanic they bought a plane and started the Queensland and Northern Territory Aerial Services, which was quickly abbreviated to QANTAS. At first their office was in Winton but moved to Longreach, which was more central to the route from Charleville to Cloncurry. They built a hangar and their own planes.

The Qantas Founders Museum is a wonderful example of a community getting together to honour the achievements of a group of remarkable people who established the iconic airline Qantas in Outback Queensland. It is a not for profit organisation and mostly run by volunteers. It gets funding from the Government and Qantas but it is not owned by Qantas.
 There are three areas in the museum. The outside where old historic planes are on display and where you can go on a guided tour through the planes. Then there is the main building with interactive displays and other historic artefacts and there is also the heritage listed original hanger.
 The tour is very informative. This 747 had flown for 92,125 hours, carried 5.4 million passengers and flown 82.54 million kms. It was donated to The Founders Museum by QANTAS. However, there was a problem landing it in the tiny country town of Longreach. The airstrip is only for small airplanes. Volunteers cleared trees to make way for the wings and extended the runway as much as possible. But it was still a risky business to get the jumbo to land. The Museum people didn't think they would get anyone to volunteer to fly the 747 to Longreach. However, they put an add in the paper and they had many, many offers to do the job. In the end they had to have a ballot. There is a video clip on You Tube showing the landing. 

 The plane on the left is a 707. It was the first jet ever bought by Qantas. A group of volunteer engineers    hunted for this plane to put into the museum. It had been sold by Qantas when it got too old for their fleet. They finally found it in an airplane graveyard in the UK. It was in a bad way but these volunteers flew to the UK and  managed to find parts or make parts.  After many months they had rebuilt the plane and got it flying again and they flew it back from the UK to Longreach.

The plane in the background is a constellation. It was brought here in pieces on trucks and then put back together again. The Museum board are about to start construction of a 7 million dollar roof to cover all their planes to protect them from the scorching, outback sun.

 A DC3 which used to be an American airforce plane and then bought by Qantas. It also spent time in Papua New Guinea.

 The Catalina flying boat used to fly from Australia to UK landing in Ceylon on the way.

The original hanger is nearly 100 years old. It houses many of the very first planes Qantas flew.

Then we went into the main building where there was much to see and do.

Monday, August 20, 2018

SUNSET IN THE OUTBACK

After our tour of the Australian Stockman's Hall of Fame we had a short rest and then we were off to Camden Park Station (ranch). The station has been in the Walker family for generations. Two sons and their families have taken over running the station now and they have made a big effort to keep the place viable during the seven year drought by diversifying. Whereas, the station was running cattle and sheep for wool, it now does something different.
 The homestead, which was where many social functions were held during the good times. Royalty has also stayed.
photo borrowed from the www
Now one of the paddocks is the home of 55,000 solar panels. Although the panels have to be washed it is still less work than looking after cows and just as profitable.

 The boys have swapped wool sheep for meat sheep. The restaurants in the big cities are demanding more lamb for their patrons. These sheep from South Africa can tolerate the hot dry weather and less labour intensive than sheep that need shearing.

 Tourism is also another form of income for the drought stricken farms. We were taken on a tour of the 100 year old shearing shed and told all about how it used to work.

 It was like a museum of past days of sheep farming. When it rains and feed grows they will start again.

In the shed there was a new born goat who had fallen asleep but awoke with a fright when we arrived. Our guides caught it and returned it to its mother who had also run away in fright with a second kid.

 Mother nanny goat was way up in the top of the paddock.(Out of sight)

 We were driven up to the top of the hill???? what hill?? It was called Two Tree Hill. Mother goat was found and we were given wine and snacks while we watched the amazing sunset.



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