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Longreach - Winton



22 - 23°S
143 - 144°E

168 - 279m ASL


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THE MORNING dawned cloudy as we headed out of Longreach early for a big day on the road. Initially heading back over to Thomson River, we crossed the bridge continuing along through flat farmland for a couple of hours with only seeing flat farmland, scattered trees, and the old railway line to our right. The cloud gradually thickened as we sped across the countryside along the very straight sealed road, frequently passed by road train - trucks carrying two or three large trailers. We stopped at one rest area, then shortly afterwards began seeing a distant range of hills, the first I have seen since arriving here the other day.

At some point we turned off the main road to follow a gravel road along some river flats before heading towards the side of the low range. The road wound its way up the side of the escarpment with enormous house sized rounded boulders strewn around where they have been peeling off the range. We reached the top of the range about a hundred metres above the plains. The scrub here was very scattered and windswept. They looked quite healthy due to all the recent rain, but normally when this area is very dry for up to a decade at a time, anything would struggle to survive up here.

We reached a large green shed building, the fossil preparation laboratory. Here a local guide took us inside where we passed displays and shelving containing huge dinosaur bones, with this area having been formed in the Cretaceous era with the land being largely preserved ever since then. Many dinosaurs have been dug up around this general area, and the fossils are brought here protected in huge plaster casts.

After passing the displays, we entered another part of the building where several people were extracting and preparing the fossils. This was all very painstaking work, but well worth the effort. An almost complete backbone stretched a good five metres along the largest table. The people here were working on some of the smaller specimens. It was very fascinating.

Leaving the fossil preparation laboratory, we returned to the bus and continued about another kilometre to an open air building where we gathered just before the skies opened into a thunderstorm. We sheltered here at the Dinosaur Canyon Outpost for a few minutes whilst waiting for the worst of the tempest to pass. Fortunately the stone building gave us enough shelter and we were all given large umbrellas.

From the Dinosaur Canyon Outpost we walked along a concrete path towards another large concrete building with several large dinosaur scuptures looking surprisingly realistic near the path. Rain was falling again and flashes of lightning appeared nearby, so we hurried towards the building about 250 metres away. We reached it just as the rain was starting to ease off.

We stacked out umbrellas before being led into the enormous room. A wide walkway ran around the walls of the irregular shaped building with the middle of the room one or two metres below containing all the rock removed from a stream bed not far from here along the bottom of the range. The rocks had been very carefully removed and reassembled here. This was the March of the Titanosaurs Exhibition - the world's best collection of dinosaur footprints. Here we could trace the footprints of numerous species of dinosaur, turtle, and even insects. One of the dinosaurs would have been enormous. The others were mostly small varieties. The prints were almost perfectly preserved after 90 million years. The display was a good 50 by 15 metres in size - an enormous undertaking to extract all of the rock and reassemble it perfetly up here. The large building around this rock would ensure it be sheltered from the elements for a very long time to come. If it had stayed in the creek bed, it would only last a couple of decades before being washed away as sand.

After exploring the March of the Titanosaurs, we returned towards the Dinosaur Canyon Outpost. The rain had stopped falling now, so we were able to divert to the dinosaur canyon and explore the amazing rock formations with the enormous rounded boulders peeling off the edge of the plateau to eventually roll down into the plains below.

After lunch at the Dinosaur Canyon Outpost, we returned along the road to another building - The Australian Age of Dinosaurs museum, where we passed through a gift shop to another museum exhibit of several large dinosaurs and an audiovisual display.

From here we returned to the bus and headed back down off the range back onto the main road and continued for another fifteen minutes to Winton, the first town out of Longreach (179 kilometres away). The town was surprisingly green being so far out here in the outback. We initially passed the water supply processing plant extracting 80 degree water from about a kilometre underground in the great artesian basin. Shortly afterwards we passed through the town centre - even smaller than Longreach. We stopped at the norther end of the town at a place called the Musical Fence, where a bunch of junk had been turned into percussion instruments for people to come and play at their own leisure. Apparently some movies have scored some of their music here.

From the Musical Fence, we returned through the town centre to the Willy Mar Fruit and Vegetable Market. A tin shed house set up by the Chinese man Willy Mar as the local produce market. He grew all the fruit and vegetables he sold, and he and his son traded here for many years between 1923 and the floods of 2000. The business has since closed but the building and old gardens remain preserved.

Heading back into the town centre, we stopped at Arno's Wall. A 50 metre long stone wall built by a local character who put all sorts of machinery pieces from old vehicles into the wall giving it a huge amount of character. Some nice gardens surrounded the wall adding to its appeal. After leaving the wall, we passed the Winton Club in a large house like building. This was where the very first meeting of the Qantas board was held in 1921.

Upon returning to the town centre, we headed into the Waltzing Matilda Museum, apparently the only museum in the world created around a song. The very famous Waltzing Matilda song was composed here in Winton by poet Banjo Patterson in 1895 with the first sheet music being available in 1903. One room of the museum contained what seemed to be every version of sheet music, record, cassette and CD of the song ever produced. A larger room had a lot of history of the Winton area and behind the museum building was a large collection of old vehicles and historic artefacts one could explore for hours. The museum as a whole was very impressive - they are done very well in this part of the country.

Once finished exploring the museum, I explored the main street of Winton. The town had clearly adopted the dinosaur theme with large dinosaur prints and dinosaur leg rubbish bins around the otherwise historical town. The town even has a small drive in theatre and a row of stars with the names of locals who have been in different films over the years.

After exploring the very pretty village, we started the long journey back to Longreach. The sky was thick with cloud with storms appearing to our right the whole way back. A little rain did fall, but it mostly held off creating some amazing cloud formations to greatly enhance the dead flat landscape.

The rain started falling as we were crossing the Thomson River and heading into the town. A lot of rain had fallen here today and apparently tonight's cruises on the Thomson River (for other groups as our group had been last night) were cancelled due to the road being difficult to get through. It had been a long trip today, so we had dinner at our hotel before turning in early as the rain fell.


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