The Road Ahead : August September 2007
AUG/SEP 07 43 from Queensland Museum as par ticipants on the dig and we provide meals and accommodation in the shearing quar ters." The Elliots are also raising money to open an Age of Dinosaurs Museum in Winton. Driving back to town from Belmont was an outback fantasy come true: the setting sun provided a spectacular backdrop, the Flinders grass turned bright pink, roos hopped through the paddocks and the emus raced us along the dir t road. We stopped a couple of times to let passing cattle investigate our car and flocks of galahs were screeching a twilight song. After a day immersed in histor y, it's time to wash it all down with a brew and a great steak at one of Winton's famous pubs. We chose the Nor th Gregor y which, apar t from a good-sized beer garden to enjoy the cool autumn air, was the site of the first public reading of Waltzing Matilda. Earlier in the day we'd discovered the Waltzing Matilda Centre, attached to the tourist information centre. It's a moving tribute to the legendar y poem, as well as a museum and ar t galler y -- a must-see. The cafe has great coffee and snacks. A big, comfy bed at the Boulder Opal Motor Inn, positioned at the 'quiet end' of town, was a welcome sight after a full day. Earlier in the afternoon we'd discovered the 'Hollywood' swimming pool -- encrusted with chips of real opal. But tonight the gem was a nice cuppa and a big sleep. The next day we were off to Lark Quarr y, one of Australia's most famous dinosaur sites. Lark Quarr y is 110 km from Winton, mostly via dir t roads. Check with locals about conditions. Apar t from eating the dust of a road train, we found the journey easy and stopped at some spectacular 'lookouts' along the way. Lark Quarr y's Dinosaur Trackways centre is hidden in the bush of the Lark Quarr y Conser vation Park. Inside the interpretive centre, there's a 'hands-on' exhibition narrated by one of the knowledgeable guides, who will explain the amazing scene you are about to witness -- more than 3300 fossilised dinosaur footprints, from three different species, and their panicked frenzy during a stampede for sur vival. This moment, preser ved as an ancient snapshot, tells the stor y of hundreds of coelurosaurs and ornithopods fleeing along a muddy shore to escape the jaws of a huge carnosaur. It's better than watching Jurassic Park. It is incredible, because in the mid 1970s, a farmer had the presence of mind and courage to invite scientists to his proper ty after finding evidence of footprints. When they began to excavate, the enormity of what was being unear thed began to sink in. After a time, when it became obvious that the elements and tourists were star ting to see an erosion of the fossils, the rammed ear th building which is now the interpretive centre was erected to conser ve the treasure. A whole section of footprints remains purposefully encased in rock to ensure an untouched specimen remains intact. Back in the 'big smoke' of Longreach, there are the classics to discover: the Stockman's Hall of Fame, where our bush pioneers are immor talised in a five-galler y museum; and the Qantas Founders Museum, with its latest attraction, a 'wing walk' to experience the sheer enormity of a 747 and see behind the scenes of an aircraft. There's also a fabulous tour which takes visitors around town in a Cobb & Co coach. If we'd had time, we would have taken advantage of the overnight option, where the coach takes visitors to the banks of the Thompson River for an outback campfire dinner and a night sleeping in a swag under the stars. Given that we were on an early flight out, however, we opted to go for the comfy beds of the Longreach Motor Inn, in Galah Street (all of Longreach's streets are named after birds). It has all the necessar y mod cons, including airconditioning, basic mini-bar, room ser vice breakfast and a good restaurant. It is also a pick-up spot for the MV Explorer -- a river cat tour of the mighty Thompson and a wonder ful night's enter tainment, with some unexpected outback gems, such as discovering a tur tle rooker y at Cooper Creek, a breeding ground for snapping tur tles. We puttered up the Thompson River feeling content. A red outback sun star ted its way to the horizon and, on the opposite bank, the big sky countr y began its light show, as a flock of birds made their way past a riverside windmill. A couple of days in the outback -- a world of good for the soul. GET OUT TO THE OUTBACK Plan your driving holiday route and accommodation online with the RACQ trip planner at racq.com. The Longreach Motor Inn is rated 3½ stars by RACQ. ABOVE: Cruising the Thompson River. Check out the aviation histor y at the Qantas Founders Museum. FACING PAGE: Lark Quarr y. INSET: Fossils from David and Judy Elliot's proper ty.
June July 2007
October November 2007