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Mt Isa & the Outback

Author: Carl from Pahrump
Email: carlball@yahoo.com (More Trip Reviews by Carl from Pahrump)
Date of Trip: October 2006

We picnicked at the rest area near the Queensland Border. Afterwards, we went birding at the nearby James River. There was water in the river so there were lots of birds including a Yellow-billed Spoonbill. We got to the Queensland border at 12:30pm. They say 1000 Australians a week move to Queensland, after all -- "It's Beautiful one day and Perfect the next".

At 2:07pm a westbound truck threw-up a small rock that cracked our windshield. This is the first time I have ever had any damage to a rental car.

We arrived at Mt Isa at 3:15pm -- pretty fast driving for us.

We drove to Lake Moordarra in the late afternoon. We saw 29 birds including the most beautiful Glossy Ibis in brilliant magenta breeding colors we have ever seen.

We ate dinner at the hotel. My wife had pumpkin soup. I had mushroom soup, and an Australian Ribeye (a thick filet steak on the bone) with shrimp in a chili sauce accompanied with mashed potatoes & garlic bread. Afterwards, we talked to the owners. They said it hadn't rained in Mt Isa since April. The humidity was running around 4%. The really low humidity explains why our clothes dry so fast on the clothesline.

On Oct 22 we were off at 5am for the long drive to Charters Towers. Initially the road was hilly and curvy. Eventually it became straight and narrow, but hummocky in places. We drove 50 to 70 mph depending on road conditions.

In the dawn light I spotted a Kangaroo waiting for us beside the road. I slowed way down, and sure enough, as soon as we were close he hopped out in front of us and bounced up a rock embankment without breaking stride. The locals have heavy duty "Bull Bars" and "Kangaroo Catchers" on their vehicles so they can run them down. I guess that is why we see so many raptors all over the Outback.

red wing parrotThe first 150 miles was a bird rich environment. We saw Wedge-tailed Eagles several times, heaps of Kites, dozens of Red-wing Parrots, 50 Little Black Cormorants out for their morning fly-about, hundreds of Galahs, flocks of small Budgerigar Parrots, stacks of Crows, and of course, Zebra Finches beyond counting. We have never driven anywhere with this amount of bird life along the road.

Our new bird of the day was the Singing Bushlark (a.k.a. Australasian Bushlark). We found it on a fence at a rest area, singing of course!

We saw a large Goanna (lizard) in the road. Goanna's like to eat Cane Toads, which has greatly reduced the number of Goannas around.

We arrived at the Julia Creek Roadhouse for our second Br at 9am, having gone 254 Km. There was hardly any room in the Roadhouse since the local Cowboy Club, and their Cowgirl friends, had just returned from Bush Camping. The car park was full of farm trucks with tents, camping gear, horse trailers, and dogs. They thought we looked odd in our long sleeved shirts and birding pants. We got our new favorite Br (Maxibond Ice Cream Sandwiches, milk and coffee) and left; but not before my wife smiled at a young guy who was checking out our attire and grinning from ear to ear.

East of Julia Creek the road, the electric poles and horizon seemed to get swallowed up in a mirage -- it looked like everything was under water ahead. This is the really Hot part of Australia. The Australian all-time record high temperature is from this area at 127.5 degrees F. The bird life is greatly reduced in this area.

We had lunch in Hughenden (pronounced U-in-din) at the best, and only Cafe, open today. My wife had crumbed Barra and chips. I had a steak sandwich with the works, potato wedges and a Sassaparilla drink (my first and last). -- my wife got my beetroot drink (like root beer).

About an hour east of Hughenden we begin to get tall Eucalyptus trees. Later we came to the White Mountains NP on the Great Dividing Range with lots of trees growing on a scenic rocky landscape.

My wife was napping this afternoon and I was getting tired, so we put on some fast tempo music to keep us awake. That worked OK until 3:25pm when a Blue-winged Kookaburra flew out of a tree hit the side of our car. There was no damage to the car and we couldn't find a dead bird on the road, although we were both sure we saw some feathers flying behind the car.

We arrived at Charter Towers at 5pm having driven 481 miles, dead knacked. We had peanut butter sandwiches for dinner and got ready for bed.

On Oct 23 we headed out at 6am. We drove the Flinders Highway to Townville and then went north on the Bruce Highway to Cairns (pronounced Cans).

We stopped on the outskirts of Townville and saw several Helmeted & Noisy Friarbirds in a roadside park.

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