Come back with me to last Monday. We have recovered from the trauma of almost running out of petrol. We are now in Queensland, our home state, and heading for the coast. One last 300 kilometre day to Cloncurry then it will be short hops, stopping at small interesting towns along the Flinders Highway.
Cloncurry is at the junction of the Matilda Highway, heading south, and the way we came 2 months ago when we were heading north, and the Flinders Highway. This time we follow the Flinders Highway east, into country we have not seen before.
Some towns have character that you feel as soon as you arrive; some good, some bad, some nondescript. 150 kilometres along the road from Cloncurry we arrived at Julia Creek. This town was definitely in the good category . It was friendly with a vibrant community spirit. A new, award-winning, information centre caught our eye, it was a pleasure to browse around. So we decided to book in at the caravan Park and stay a night. As it was still early we drove around and explored the surrounding area. At the lake and picnic ground just out-of-town we parked to have a cuppa.
Then it happened….
Matilda could not go backwards, reverse gear had died…
Going forward was not a problem, thank goodness. We went round town to the mechanics, then we found that both mechanics could not help us for over a week, they were fully booked. I rang ahead. The mechanic in the next town was on holiday, the next town mechanic was also fully booked. Finally we managed to find a mechanic in Charters Towers, 500 kilometres east of Julia Creek, who would look at it for us. This will be a 2 day journey being very careful to always leave room to go forward…
So, on on….
Julia to Hughenden is 250 kilometres and Hughenden is the dinosaur capital of Australia. More bones and fossils have been found here than anywhere else in Australia. In the “Discovery Centre” they have a full-sized reconstruction of a Muttaburrasaurus and a number of other dinosaur sculptures around town.
The Flinders River runs through town and this is the longest river in Queensland. We walk to the bridge and look at it. It is a wide expanse of sand with a trickle of water winding through a channel in the centre. When the wet season starts this will become a raging torrent.
After all the walking and exploring we go in this old style café for an ice-cream.
We stay the night at the caravan park…
Next morning it is up and away by 7-30. 50 kilometres along the road we pause for a photo session at a small town called Prairie with a population of 50. It has a very interesting hotel. Approximately every 40 to 50 kilometres we pass these small towns. In the gold era of the early 1900’s they were all thriving communities.
The scenery changes, the flat, wide open, black soil plains of Mitchel and Flinders grass give way to undulating country, the road dipping and curving like a switch back and the railway lines running parallel. The bush grows thick across the hills. We are now in another bio-region.
Matilda is going well…
At Balfe’s Creek we stop under a tree behind the pub and have a cuppa. Jack strikes up a conversation with a local, he is knowledgeable about the area and in particular about mechanics. The advice he gives us, if we need major work done to go to a specialist. He gives us the names of two transmission experts in Townsville he has used.
Finally we arrive at Charters Towers. It was the site of a massive gold rush in the late 19th century. Now it is a bustling rural centre. The main street has many beautifully restored heritage buildings. In its hey-day it was the second largest town in Queensland after Brisbane.
We deliver Matilda to the mechanic then walk along the main street to choose a pleasant café, in one of the heritage buildings, to have lunch and wait for the diagnosis.
An hour later we are told Matilda needs a new gear box. They can do it for $4000. !!!!#*@#!!
I had already rung the transmission expert in Townsville and discussed our problem and booked in with him for Monday.
So here we are at Bivouac Junction. It is within 120 kilometres of Townsville, so if we need towing our RACQ road assist insurance will cover it. Till then we will relax.