We had 6 very interesting days in Winton but it is now time to get on the road again. The road is heading north/west and the weather is warmer. Tonight I plan to stop at an old outback pub called “Blue Heeler”, another pub Banjo Patterson frequented, he certainly enjoyed outback life, his poems capture that outback spirit and the characters he met.
One more iconic place to visit is just before we reach “Blue Heeler”. 6 kilometres drive down a narrow dirt track takes us to the start of the 2 kilometre walk to the famous billabong featured in “Waltzing Matilda”. The track winds through lush stands of Mitchell grass across the braided channels of the Diamantina river. It was interesting to see the influence of the chinese again in this area where they had built stone overflows to hold back the river after heavy rain and create waterholes. These were built over 100 years ago, by hand, each stone put in place one at a time, and still working today creating waterholes for the stock.
We crossed 4 of these overflows. It was a well-defined path and approx an hours walk past the coolibah trees. There are a lot of young saplings growing, a sign that it has been a good rainfall this past season. Also the lushness of the grass. The rain mainly falls in summer, winter is a dry season,a good year can be 400ml but all in a short time so it can be flood then dry for months so these overflows are very important.
Finally we reach the billabong, Combo waterhole. This is where the swagman drowned and not be taken by the troopers and put in prison. The water is clay coloured and though this is a favourite picnic and swimming spot for local people I would not like a dip in these muddy waters. We stood and listened but the ghost didn’t talk to us!!!!!
An hours walk back to our Matilda patiently waiting in the car park and on to the “Blue Heeler”. The caravan park is behind the pub and rather dusty but the amenities are clean with good hot water. It is Sunday night, so time to have a Sunday night dinner in the pub. Amazingly the dining room is crowded. We find out why when we order the roast of the day. It is buffet style, help yourself to as much as you can eat. Truckies love this type of meal, so do we…..