Saturday, June 23, 2012

Winton and surrounding areas

Tuesday 19 June – Thursday 21 June

The drive from Cloncurry to Winton was fairly unremarkable  - about 350 kilometres with only two small villages in between. They consisted of pubs and little else. The first was Mackinlay which is home to Walkabout Creek Hotel which featured in the Crocodile Dundee movies. The second, Kynuna, is home to the Blue Heeler pub, which may mean something to Queenslanders, but was lost on me. It has a neon blue heeler sign on top. Interestingly, out the back near the toilets is a surfboat from Coolum Beach, with the Blue Heeler logo, which was a fundraiser for the Flying Doctor Service.

Walkabout Creek Hotel, Mackinlay
Blue Heeler Hotel, Kynuna

Surfboat at Kynuna

Our third stop was to visit Combo Waterhole which was the inspiration for the song Waltzing Matilda. It was a 2.6 kilometre round trip to walk the waterhole, which is now in a conservation area. To reach the waterhole you have to cross several creeks which have had “overshoots” built across them. They are essentially stone weirs with sloping faces which enable water to shoot over the top in times of heavy flow. When the flow decreases or stops a waterhole remains upstream  which supplies water for stock. These overshoots were built in the 1890s and still function as originally intended .
An overshoot on the Combo Waterhole walk
Combo Waterhole, the inspiration for Waltzing Matilda

Near Winton, arising out of a semi-arid landscape are a series of mesas, flat topped eroded plateaux, which was quite a surprising sight.
Above and below, mesas near Winton

In Winton we had heard that there is free camping behind the North Gregory Hotel. Everyone else had heard too. So the next port of call was a free camp 4 kilometres outside Winton. All those who missed out on the North Gregory set off there with a vengeance. There must have been at least 50 caravans cheek by jowl along the waterhole. Fortunately very few had thought to cross the levee bank to the other side where there was abundant space, right on the water with bird life for company.  We could still hear the bagpiper practising Amazing Grace for a couple of nights though.
Our billabong at dusk
Blogging by the billabong
Spoonbills feeding in the billabong before dawn

Winton is Waltzing Matilda country, as well as staking a claim to Qantas and is also part of the Dinosaur triangle of towns. The Waltzing Matilda Centre claims to be the only museum in the world devoted to a song. It has excellent displays relating to the song, created by AB Paterson, with the music arranged by Christina MacPherson. You can hear multiple performances of it recorded in many circumstances over the last 100 years. The Centre also has a variety of other displays including an Art Exhibition, Legends Gallery, a Qantas display and a local history section. For those who are more into machinery and artifacts there is plenty to keep them happy for ages. There is a steam engine, old rail carriages, tools, farm machinery, old vehicles and much else besides. We left with a severe dose of information overload.
The Waltzing Matilda Centre, Winton
Old spirit duplicator, smelly purple stencils

A lamp for Tilly?
As well as the Waltzing Matilda Centre there are other places of interest in the town, such as the old Corfield and Fitzmaurice emporium, with its antiquated ordering system on a system of pulleys. Winton also has an operating outdoor picture theatre, complete with deckchairs and a roller skating rink. It is home to the Largest Deckchair in the World.

As a centre for dinosaurs Winton has become renowned. There is a display in the old emporium, but the major destinations are Lark Quarry and the Australian Age of Dinosaurs Centre. Lark Quarry is 110 kilometres south of Winton, and is the site of the world’s only recorded dinosaur stampede. There are thousands of fossilised footprints on a large slab of rock, protected by a climate controlled building. There are three types of dinosaurs represented in the slab, but one is of a giant predatory dinosaur. It’s large footprints show purpose, while the smaller dinosaurs’ prints  indicate chaotic disarray.
A stampede in stone

The Australian Age of Dinosaurs Centre is located about 10 kilometres east of Winton and it is a purpose built laboratory and display centre. Its prize exhibits are a carnivorous dinosaur nicknamed Banjo with wicked teeth and claws, and a large plant eating dinosaur nicknamed Matilda, equal in weight to about five elephants. On a world scale these are significant finds. Before visiting Winton I was under the impression that most Australian dinosaurs were small, but these have dispelled that misconception.  
A re-creation of Banjo outside the cntre building. Check out the wicked claws

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