|Travelling Australia - Journal 2009|
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|5 July 2009 - Avon Downs to Mt Isa|
During the night high cloud extended from the south-west to form a thin layer overhead before sunrise but it burnt off quickly after the sun came up leaving blue sky. Although we were parked quite close to the Barkly Highway and heard occasional heavy trucks during the night they were infrequent and the noise was not intrusive.
Avon Downs rest area is surrounded by trees and undergrowth around the James River (a tributary of the Georgina River) but soon after leaving the rest area we re-entered the Downs extending beyond the Queensland border. After so many days of driving through undergrowth or fairly thick medium height trees it was different to drive through grassland reaching as far as the eye could see in all directions.
We left the grassland just before Camooweal where we refuelled. During the past four or five years the road between Camooweal and Mt Isa has been renewed and is now quite good. This area was badly flooded earlier in the year and when this trip was being planned early in 2009 the Barkly Highway between Camooweal and Mt Isa was closed to traffic while repairs were completed. The repairs are complete and there are only a few signs of floodwater. One is that normally dry and dusty creeks still hold water; no longer flowing but in waterholes and to see water at all in an outback creek at this time of year is unusual as far as we are concerned. The other, more widespread, effect was the health of the vegetation - numerous shades of green were the colours of the day.
Vegetation was varied. Sometimes scrub with flat-top acacias in vigorous golden bloom, at other times woodland with grass understory, other times tussock grass, yet other part had trees with luxuriant spinifex covering the ground. The road climbs gently from Camooweal reaching about 416 metres elevation just north of Mt Isa where it passes through valleys between bare rocky outcrops. The ridges here had a thin covering of scattered gum trees, the last time we saw similar ridges near Alice Springs they had cypress pines on the higher parts although the rock was of a similar colour.
After the road left the last rocky outcrop north of Mt Isa we could see the mine chimney from 20 kilometres away but seeing the chimneys slowly getting closer just made the time drag until we reached Mt Isa.
Mt Isa was very quiet on a Sunday as we drove to the caravan park and set up on a comfortably large site. We had taken a few days more than expected to drive 1165 kilometres from Alice Springs to Mt Isa but we don't have a timetable so a day or two extra makes no difference to us.