Travelling Australia - Journal 2009
10 July 2009 - Mt Isa to Boulia
Mt Isa streets were fairly quiet before 9 o'clock as we made our way through the town and out on the road to Boulia. The Mt Isa-Boulia road is a Development road which was sealed as a single lane road to encourage the use of trucks and road trains to move cattle around instead of droving them. The road is now a single lane of fairly good bitumen with a growing number of "Overtaking Opportunities" where the bitumen has been widened to two lanes to allow overtaking without going onto the side gravel. Cattle transports and other road trains have priority on development roads; trucks, caravans and motorhomes have next priority while other vehicles are expected to leave the single bitumen lane and move onto the gravel strip at the side. The condition of the side gravel is crucial when pulling off; a recently graded side strip is level with the bitumen but weathered side gravel can be lower than the bitumen and dangerous to pull onto at speed.

Traffic was very light; about 20 vehicles passed us going the other way, including two caravans and one camper trailer. We were passed by one motorcycle and three 4WDs towing trailers going towards Boulia in the four and a half hours we were on the road, light traffic indeed. I usually pulled over to allow overtaking traffic to pass easily but one 4WD towing a trailer wasn't prepared to wait and passed on the narrow bitumen, cut in front of us too early, and kicked up a stone which chipped the Pathfinder windscreen.

After leaving Mt Isa the road initially winds through steep and rocky outcrops before entering flat and open plains covered in tussock grassstretching to Boulia.

We stopped a couple of times for a break and for lunch. For much of the 303 kilometres between Mt Isa and Boulia there is nothing to stop a vehicle pulling off the bitumen onto adjacent grassland. The only safety consideration was to ensure the hot exhaust was not going to set fire to long grass under the Pathfinder when we stopped.
Mt Isa-Boulia Road The road between Mt Isa and Boulia is mostly a single lane of bitumen like this; surface quality varies from fairly good to rough.

Grassland Grassland beside the Mt Isa to Boulia road.

The road is unfenced while crossing much of the grassland and cattle were fairly common, sometimes wandering across the road, sometimes grazing near the bitumen. We travelled at 75 kph to ensure we were not too fast to move off the bitumen when we met oncoming traffic. Caravans theoretically have right of way over sedans and can remain on the bitumen but I didn't want to push the point and pulled over for all oncoming vehicles; a surprising number of them pulled off the bitumen completely and slowed or stopped giving us right of way which I rarely used, pulling half-way off the bitumen.

I had fitted heavy duty rock/mud flaps at the back of the Pathfinder to protect the caravan from stone chips and these stopped stones thrown up by the Pathfinder rear wheels hitting the van.

The weather was reasonable for travelling; bright and sunny but with an easterly wind.

On arrival at Boulia made our way to the caravan park where we were allocated probably the last vacant powered site. On our previous visit here (at about the same time of the year) there were about five powered sites; now there were 24. On that occasion the park had been nearly empty when we arrived, now it was at least half full before mid-afternoon and nearly all powered sites were in use. The caretaker said the park was nearly full most nights and he expected it would be full later in the week with the camel races at the weekend.

I reversed into a grassed site and put out the awning; then we sat under the awning with a glass of wine watching activity.
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