The road trip: nothing to see on the road to Alice

Over the years when we’ve talked about traveling through the Outback, Dave has told me that there is absolutely nothing out there on the road to Alice. Nothing.

What do you mean by nothing, I’d ask. There must be something.

No, nothing there, he’d say. Nothing as far as the eye can see. Nothing. And yet he has always insisted that he would take me out there. To see nothing.

Well guess what, I found there is actually so much to see out there, though it is mostly mulga, saltbush and red soil.

 

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Add to that road kill (mostly roos) and smashed up cars by the roadside as well as the occasional grey nomads making their way with their caravans and campers around our vast land.

And trucks, you wouldn’t believe!

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At up to 53 meters long and 2.5 meters wide, passing and overtaking these big fellas would cause my heart to race and I’d hold my breath until we reached the other end of the rig.

Our own Beast was around 2 meters wide so you can imagine that there was not a lot of wriggle room on the bitumen, especially in the wet. My horror was real, I don’t mind telling you.

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On the road from Roma to Longreach there’s the opportunity to call in to Barcaldine.

“Barky” played a significant role in the Australian Labor movement and the birth of the Australian Labour Party.

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During the 1891 shearers’ strike, union members would gather around the “tree of knowledge” which became a famous landmark for so many years until around 2006, when the tree was poisoned and the site left with nothing but a dead shell.

Since then a beautiful monument has been built commemorating the famous events and the Tree of Knowledge.

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If you find yourself in the area, it’s worth a look especially if you’re interested in Australian social history.

With a couple of day’s stopover in Longreach, we naturally took the time to visit those well-known attractions, the Stockman’s Hall of Fame and the Qantas Founders Museum.

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I’m going to step right out on a limb here and declare that Dave and I were a bit underwhelmed by the Hall of Fame. Don’t get me wrong, the place is really well curated and is chock-a-block full of interesting historical stockman stuff, but we just didn’t feel the wow factor.

I know people actually make the trip specifically to visit this place and I’m sorry to say it just didn’t hit the spot for us. Maybe we had unrealistic expectations.

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We did, however, really enjoy the Qantas museum. There’s an amazing collection of interactive exhibits and replica aircraft, enough to keep us entertained for a couple of hours.

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Dave patiently waited for the kids to finish their rides on the flight simulator and had his turn, not crashing once. He loved it.

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You can also pay extra to go out onto the wings of a 747 but it was raining on the day of our visit so we chickened out and opted for drier options. From memory, I think John Travolta flew this Qantas plane to Longreach for its placement in the museum. Great publicity.

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What really struck us at the Qantas museum was an exhibition by the National Archive titled “A Place to Call Home”.

The exhibition is a traveling collection of memories from the post World War 2 days of immigration to Australia, and looked into the lives of people in the migrant hostels.

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It was a fascinating insight into the social aspects of being “new Australians” and how the government and communities actually encouraged and nurtured the families arriving in this strange new land.

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We realised that we could have stayed just one night in Longreach and then maybe stay a night at Winton, just an hour down the road. Winton is home to dinosaur tracks and ancient fossils, and we didn’t really have time to check that out. What we did find in Winton when we stopped in the main street for coffee were some really interesting characters.

This is my Facebook post from that Winton morning:

IMG_0406Early start leaving Longreach, with a coffee break in Winton, which turned out to be such a treat. We were sitting at a café when this guy asked if they could share our table and of course we said yes please join us.

So lovely to spend some time chatting with Stan and Val and their little dog Reggie. They’ve been on the road with their caravan this time for 5 months.

Stan is in his 80’s and Val’s “not far off 80”. They’ve been together for 13 years. 5 years ago they sold everything and took to being gypsies and have been on just about every Australian road. Last year they bought a cottage in Kingaroy that they could lock up and have as a place to call home from time to time. I told Val I write a blog, and she said what is a blog? We liked them a lot and wished them all well.”

Another interesting character in Winton was Andrew. Here is my Instagram post following that encounter:

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Andrew and his gorgeous companion Bella are on a mission to walk from Brisbane to Broome, to raise awareness about depression for the Black Dog Institute.

We met them in Winton and we’re really impressed with the setup. With his custom-made cart weighing around 400kg they manage around 20 kilometres a day. Head on over to Andrew’s Facebook page: www.facebook.com/brisbanetobroome, it really is an inspiring story.

And so onward we continued to drive along that long, seemingly never ending highway. Our journey from Brisbane to Alice Springs took us 5 days and around 3200 kilometers.

The longest day of driving was 1200klm from Mt Isa to Alice, around 10 hours, and that really stretched us. We launched out of the Isa pre dawn, knowing that it is not the safest time to be on the road, because that’s when the roos and the cattle are most likely to wander onto the roads.

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As we drove away from town we passed hundreds of tradies in their vehicles, heading in towards town and their work in the mines.

The good part was that as soon as we crossed the border from Queensland to the Northern Territory the speed limit increased to 130kph and then we really powered along.

The next couple of weeks would see us taking in the unique culture of Alice Springs, the remarkable majesty of Uluru, the mystery of Kata Tjuta, the wilds of Kings Canyon, and then the unique experience of sleeping underground in a former opal mine in Coober Pedy.

Thanks for following along with us on our brilliant road trip adventure to the Red Centre, please feel welcome to leave a comment, or visit our Facebook and Instagram pages where all the fun happens every day:

www.facebook.com/whereverarewe

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