This Adventurous Age

Adventures travelling and working around Australia.

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2002 Travels May 28


It was a fine day and not really hot.

After a leisurely start to the day – a rather early one, due to the fee collecting caretaker – we set off to do the Nature Drive.

The 12 km of the Nature Drive was on a dirt track, but was well signed. But given that most of it was over the Cooper floodplains and channel areas, definitely a drive for when it is dry!

There were a couple of historic aspects highlighted, like the old telephone line and site of the original road over Cooper Creek, but mostly it featured the varied plant communities and their key species. The latter were signed and named.

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We found it really interesting. It was a great example of a little town making a feature out of what it had around – in this case, basically bush!

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Dead Finish – so named because it is the last thing starving stock will eat

The drive ended up at Cooper Creek, downstream from the road bridge.

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Good camp sites are up along the Creek banks

The Thompson River, which passes near Longreach, joins with the Barcoo River which comes from the NE, just to the north of Windorah. Both of these rivers have formed multiple channels before they reach each other, so after the junction there is a real tangle of intertwining creeks. This system is one of those that is responsible for the floods that sometimes inundate the Channel Country. The shallow channels fill up, the waters spread out and flood widely. If the flow is big enough, the waters will flow into Lake Eyre, eventually.

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Cooper Creek was quite low level, in the prevailing drought

The periodic inundation can be a major inconvenience to settlers and travellers, but the great benefit is wonderful pasture growth after floods – the Channel Country has long been known as great cattle fattening country in the right seasons.

One of the postcards I bought featured Windorah surrounded by floodwaters.

There were quite a number of campsites evident along both sides of the creek, and both up and downstream of the bridge. There were quite a number of campers in same. If we come this way again, I think we’d find it very pleasant to camp out here.

The Creek was quite low, but there were pelicans on it and other bird life around. We saw a big Brahminy kite there.

It would be interesting to come out here not long after a big flood, when the creek was almost full – though I guess a lot of the camp sites would then be under water!

Back to town for a late lunch.

Then went for a walk. I took the book – duly read – back to the library and retrieved my $20. Posted the cards. Called in at the store.

Back at camp. John drove off to fill with diesel. We’d heard that there was a rally coming through, in the late afternoon, and wanted to be sure to get fuel ahead of them. In the event it did not seem to be a large group. Only a few of them arrived in the caravan park, though it was possible there were lots of others staying out at the Creek.

John reported back that the man at the servo was blind – but managed perfectly well! The fuel was $1.00 a litre. He filled the remaining two empty jerry cans – the ones that live on the back of the van. That effectively gave us 60 litres extra fuel – almost an extra tankful.

Dinner was a chicken stir fry with hokkien noodles.

It was a clear and cool night – very pleasant.

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2002 Travels May 23


We paid $10 each, and got a mud map to drive ourselves out to the caravan park’s own opal mine – “Deuces Wild” – on the Pinkilla field, to the NW.

Refuelled Truck – 89cpl.

Took a packed lunch and drove out the Windorah road. This took us across more drainage channels – yes, getting into Channel Country. This is so called because it is a huge area of south western Qld (and bits of adjoining states) that is a flat, arid, flood plain, cut by a great number of interlocking drainage channels, which can flood after good rains in their catchments to the north and east.

There were so many of these drainage lines – of varying sizes – that the road sign read
“Road subject to flooding next 30kms”, instead of warning of individual floodways that we crossed.

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One sign fits all

We passed some jump ups, too, so it was an interesting drive.

The turn off we wanted was 62kms out of town. Then we followed minor tracks for some way. We passed a little oil pumping rig, but there was no one around. We wondered if it was still functional? It looked like some pre-historic creature, out in the bush.

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Oil pumping rig by the track to Deuces Wild

Found the mining area with no wrong turns. It looked like there had been open cuts, since filled in. So, fossicking was through the mullock and surface spoil, for anything that may have been missed.

The opal out here occurs in boulders, so one really needed to wash the rock pieces to check them. It was hard work, and neither of us could get very enthusiastic.

There were other mines around. One had a shack on it. Another seemed to have had quite a substantial set up – a big shack,  a big aerial and a generator. But there was no sign of any opal mine machinery – or of people, that we could see from a distance. There were some water-filled holes/ cuts, and some big mullock heaps.

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Deuces Wild in the Pinkilla fields

It was hard to tell claim boundaries, so we really did not know where the Deuces Wild claim ended, so we were a bit hesitant about wandering about.

We did find a few chips in runnels on a mullock heap. I decided that the opal mining here, now, was more like that at Opalton – harder for the amateur. We did see some evidence of a pinky coloured sandstone layer, in places, though, but no discernable opal colour, or the boulders.

We did more wandering around than fossicking. Ate our lunch out there – it was pleasant just being out in the bush.

On the drive back, observed some surface blows in places where the surface was the sort of ironstone pebbly cover that meant ground bare of vegetation. There were also sudden outcrops of shincracker rocks. We wondered of this was an opal area where there were more opal occurrences to be found? We wondered about the history of the area. Was it a place of old diggings where the modern machinery came in after and dug cuts where there were lots of old shafts? If so, there could well be more opal to be found – if Stephen Aracic (writer of books about finding opals) is right that many of the modern miners do not know the “signs” in areas that have never been dug.

There had been a few drops of rain as we drove out to the mine area, and through the day there was a build up of grey cloud, but no rain of any note.

Back at Quilpie, we drove out to Lake Houdraman, to the NE of town. I was surprised how big this was. It was a lovely spot, with lots of trees surrounding the lake – would be a great bush camping place. There was lots of bird life to watch – including brolgas, pelicans, grebes, ducks and the like. I would like to go back out there for a longer time – it was late in the day when we got there today – and suggested we bring a picnic lunch out here, tomorrow.

On the way back to town, saw a family of five bustards – or plains turkeys – wandering in the grass and scrub – lovely!

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Bustard, aka Plains Turkey, aka Plains Wanderer

We bought some wine casks, to top up the supply. It could be a while before we get the chance again. They were $16 each for mediocre quality ones, but that was all that was available.

John tried to phone the lease holder of the property the Seven Wonders mine claim was on, to the NW of here. Whoever answered the phone said the boss was away on holiday. We had hoped to be able to camp and fossick out there, but the young couple who had set up a camping/mining operation out there, had split up, so the venture had closed. John has long been fascinated by the name and hoped that the lease holder might give us special permission to go out there – but not to be.

Tea was John’s choice – macaroni cheese with added tuna.

John played computer games till the early hours of the morning.