Inexorably east towards Queensland we drove. With mind numbing scenery for the next several hundred kilometres, and only the odd road train to keep the adrenalin going, we started making up games between chapters of Harry Potter, such as ‘how many kilometres to the Queensland border?’ James didn’t want to play. The answer was 362 km from the last camp. (K – the only other thing to break up the landscape are the occasional termite people – mounds that people even more bored than us have dressed up in clothes! J – my faves are the ones in full Hi Viz and safety hard hats)
After a brief stop to buy lunch at Barkley homestead, and a quiet guffaw from me at the elevated fuel price, we moved on without topping up towards Camooweal, where we stopped for lunch.
Camooweal is just past what has to be the most boring border crossing on our trip thus far. Endless flat plains of sun-bleached drought-ridden grass plains. However, coming into Mt Isa I got to change gears for the first time in about 400 km as the landscape transitioned into lovely rolling hills! This really is a very pretty part of the country and the colours just on dusk were especially enchanting. Feeling a little stingy, I calculated the fuel burn not quite to the last litre, getting into Mt Isa with vapours in both tanks (it was OK, the jerry on the roof is always chockas, and gives a further 100km range). The wait was worth it, saving over $40. Petty perhaps, but I need something to occupy me on the long drives apart from times tables practice with the kids!
We had already decided to push through Mt Isa and head towards Mary Kathleen, a now deserted uranium mining town in the Selwyn Range. Whilst its free camp status is common knowledge, it’s actually on private property. According to an old survey map, we stayed on 22nd Street, complete with perfectly level concrete slab for the van, a remnant of the town, which was abandoned in 1984. Apparently the old pub is the site to look for, you get chequered tiles to camp on! Apart from the carport slabs, nothing else remains.
Our camp under the very bright full moon, note the stars and interior car light!
Next morning we packed up, left the van and drove out to the old workings, including the uraninite pit. The pit is several hundred metres across and the mining benches remain, descending into a probably very toxic cobalt blue lake.
This was quite surreal, and I wondered idly what the background RAD count was. James picked up a rock with some suspicious orange colouring, so thinking about possible Roentgen exposure, we returned to camp, hitched up and made the short drive to Cloncurry.