Travelling Australia - Journal 2006
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3 September 2006 - Mt Isa to Boulia

Location map We had a very unpleasant night with loud music playing across the river from the van park until about 4 o'clock in the morning.

Mt Isa's roads were quiet on a Sunday morning as we drove to the road to Boulia 300 kilometres away. The road between Mt Isa and Boulia is the Diamantina Developmental Road; these development roads were built when the cattle industry changed from droving stock to market to carrying cattle in trucks. They are single lane with a bitumen surface and, by law, other traffic must get off the road to allow a cattle truck or road train to pass. Since they are single lane, any vehicle going in the opposite direction can only pass if one, or both, vehicles move partly off the bitumen; and cattle-trucks and road trains do not leave the bitumen. The condition of the verges is important; if the verge is dry and has been recently graded then moving the left wheels (of Territory and A'liner) off the bitumen is usually not a problem; if they have not been recently graded, or are wet, then the edge of the bitumen can present an obstacle and the roughness of the verge makes the exercise unpleasant.

Overtaking a vehicle going in the same direction on a single lane road can be difficult (and dangerous). This road had a few sections labelled as "Overtaking Opportunities" where additional bitumen had been laid making it a two-lane roadway for a few hundred metres.

The weather remained clear and bright with the temperature increasing during the day. As the day progressed fair-weather cumulus clouds (cotton wool clouds) began forming ahead of us. The thicker ones seemed to be grey underneath (due to the thickness of the cloud) but to also have a pink tinge in the base.

As we drove further south towards Boulia the land got drier and ever more barren. For much of the way there was no visible edge between the red gravel verge of the road and the red gravel of the "grassland" because there was no grass. This was considered to be pastoral country (we crossed 27 grids separating grazing properties between Mt Isa and Boulia) but there was no sign of successful pastoral activity. We passed some cattle soon after leaving Mt Isa but didn't see any once we got onto the open plains - there wasn't any grass for them to eat. These barren grasslands gave meaning to the word 'drought'.
The road from Mt Isa to Boulia.
A pastoral property homestead beside the Boulia Road.
Traffic was very light. For the first hour we saw no other vehicles; there were a few more later. Yesterday there had been 6,000 people at race day at Birdsville 520 kilometre south of Boulia and the road through Boulia was one of three routes away from Birdsville so we expected to see race traffic later today. Arriving at Boulia we went straight to the caravan park and set-up on one of the few remaining vacant powered sites - I had been warned by other travellers that there were few powered sites in the park. Late in the afternoon dusty vehicles began arriving from Birdsville and the caravan park was full by sunset.

The caravan park is on the bank of the Burke River which comprises a long, non-flowing waterhole; rivers in the Lake Eyre Basin revert to a string of waterholes in the dry season and this was no exception. The Burke River was named by Burke and Wills when they passed through this area going north (Wills River is a bit further on). The Boulia shire invites visitors to drink a toast to the explorers in "fresh river water"; given the milky coffee colour of the water the using the word "fresh" was a bit optimistic.

Insects appeared enmasse after sunset; we had a large number in the van clustered around lights. In the morning many insect bodies were spread over the sink below the main light.
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