Last but Not Least
03.23.2017 - 03.26.2017
After leaving Alice Springs, we got on the Barkly Highway to head to Queensland. This was our last state in AU to visit; we would be spending about 11/2 months here. It was about this time that we started hearing about a cyclone forming off the coast of Queensland, so a lot of this part of our trip was figuring out where to go and when. Our ultimate goal was to reach Cairns, and then the Great Barrier Reef.
The Barkly Tableland is made up of rolling plains covered with Mitchell grass. It runs from the eastern part of the NT into western Queensland. It is one cattle station after the next and supposedly, has some of the best cattle grazing country in AU. The Barkly Homestead is the only stop between the Stuart Highway and the border of Queensland. It was probably one of our favorite roadhouses of the trip.
We will remember this small Queensland town, which is located on the banks of the Flinders River, for two thing: dinosaurs and windmills. Hughenton and the town we stayed the previous night (Richmond) are part of what they call the Outback Dinosaur Trail. Outback Queensland was once part of an ancient inland sea, and because the area is so barren now, the dinosaur bones are easier to find. Several small towns in this area have been able to capitalize from these discoveries; each town has their own unique attraction. In Hughenton, the star is "Mutt" the Muttaburrasaurus, which was found near here.
It is here that we also learned about the Great Artesian Basin; it provides the only source of fresh water through much of inland AU. The majority of the basin is in QLD, but there are also much smaller areas located in NSW, SA, and NT. With the discovery of the basin came the drilling of bores and the need for windmills. The most common kind you see is a Comet; a local man installed 700 of the windmills in the outback over a 40 year period. Today some are still used for grazing areas, but most stations etc. use solar power.
Porcupine Gorge National Park
The first national park in Queensland that we visited was Porcupine Gorge NP. They call it AU's Little Grand Canyon"...perhaps that might be a bit of a stretch, but it was really nice. Here, it was the Porcupine Creek (instead of the Colorado) carving a chasm through layers of multi-colored sandstone, and leaving a pyramid shaped monolith rising from the gorge floor. There is an 8 K race through the gorge every June.
Charters Towers is about 83 miles inland from the coast of QLD. On our first visit we were trying to beat Cyclone Debbie to the coast, and then head in the opposite direction. On our second visit, we were avoiding the damage/ongoing flooding along the coast caused by Cyclone Debbie.
Charters Towers is one of the most beautiful smaller cities that we have visited in Australia. What makes it so pretty is all the preserved Victorian buildings. When gold was discovered here in 1871, it quickly became QLD's second largest city at around 30,000. I guess it's no surprise that there were several bank buildings built, and even a regional stock exchange. Charters Towers was even called "The World" by the locals. They felt that everything one might desire was there, so why travel.
Today it is considerably smaller ( about 8,200 ) than in gold rush days. Gold mining was revived outside of the town in the 1980's but education is the largest employer. There are numerous state and private schools here. It is a popular place for boarding school students who do not want to move to bigger cities.
We went up to the Towers Hill Lookout, which sits at 1,500 ft above sea level. In addition to providing a panoramic view of Charters Towers and the surrounding area, a lot of important things happened on this hill.
🔹Local folklore has it that an Aboriginal boy named Jupiter, first discovered gold at the foot of Towers Hill, in 1871.
🔹It was predominately a mining site with at least 30 vertical shafts and tunnels through the hill.
🔹The Pyrites Works site was important in the evolution of gold extraction techniques in QLD.
🔹The first reservoir was located here, and has helped supply water to the town since 1880.
🔹The "Magnetic Hut" was built here in the 1980's to measure the earth's magnetic field.
🔹Since 1962, Towers Hill has been part of a worldwide network of seismic stations to detect the earths motions.