Travelling Australia - Journal 2009
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13 July 2009 - Boulia to Winton
Good weather began the day although a very noisy gust of wind shaking the trees in the caravan park at about 7 o'clock caused some concern, but it was a passing squall and the wind remained a gentle breeze more seen than felt. I had connected van and Pathfinder last night so we were away without delay.

The Boulia-Winton road is called the Kennedy Development Road, also the Min Min Byway. Like many development roads it's mainly single lane bitumen of variable quality. Driving 360 kilometres to Winton I expected to use at least one spare 20 litre drum of diesel but intended to maintain 70 to 75 kph to keep fuel consumption down. In practice, the road was so bumpy for many long stretches that 72 kph was selected for comfort. A bit of a tail wind in the morning helped and we got to Winton without using any spare fuel and with the fuel computer reporting fuel left for 60 kilometres more towing.

Traffic was very light. In five hours of driving we were passed by three or four vehicles. Traffic in the opposite direction, towards Boulia, was a little heavier with two or three vehicles an hour passing. These were mainly caravans, presumably going to Boulia for the camel races. Pulling off the bitumen to pass oncoming vehicles was not a problem since all vehicles could be seen coming for a long way on the long straight sections of road and there was plenty of time to slow and move onto the recently graded edges.

Weather remained good for travelling. A light tail wind in the morning became strong and gusty at Cawnpore Lookout, halfway to Winton, then faded as the day progressed. Temperature in the afternoon was 32 degrees according to the Pathfinder gauge but we didn't notice heat inside the vehicle.

The terrain and vegetation went through three distinct phases on the trip. Starting at Boulia we crossed Mitchell Grass Plain usually stretching to the horizon; minor streams were marked by scattered coolibah trees in meandering rows and dams scooped out of the clay here and there were lined with Mimosa wattle. There were a few bahunias and emu bushes, mainly associated with coolibahs, but the region was dominated by tussock grass plains.

While still crossing the plains we reached the Hamilton River which is a braided stream. The road crossed numerous river channels on individual causeways or bridges joined by short sections of flood damaged road over the higher ground between channels. The effect is similar to a small scale roller-coaster and 50 kph was a barely comfortable speed.
Cawnpore From Cawnpore lookout, our van in the foreground. Behind the van is a typical mesa formation with a hard rock upper layer and sloping sides of softer material.

About 100 kilometres from Boulia the road entered more broken country characterised by mesa formations, some were extensive plateaux, others were no more than pinnacle residues after erosion. The best place to see these formations was at Cawnpore Lookout.

The lookout shelter looks towards a valley in the Lilleyvale Hills and along the road in both directions. A narrow track behind the lookout goes up onto a nearby mesa where climbing up onto the mesa top is not difficult; from on top, far better views all round are available. The lookout was fairly busy with at least one other vehicle there while we stopped.

Ninety kilometres before Winton (270 km from Boulia) the road leaves the broken country and enters tussock grass plains again; the difference to plains around Boulia is that mulga or gidgee is the common tree now, sometimes along the road and sometimes scattered over the plains. Mimosa bush is common usually as a large, straggly bush; this is an acacia which was introduced to Australia very early in white settlement; it has some pastoral uses but if not controlled becomes a weed. The plant is very common in Outback Queensland readily seen from the road growing on grazing land as scattered individuals or taking over whole paddocks.

Shortly after entering the plains we crossed the Diamantina River; this was another braided stream which the road crossed via causeways over each channel linked by flood-damaged sections of road; as with the Hamilton River earlier, the whole lot resembled a roller-coaster. At least one of the channels retained some water in waterholes but most were dry dust.
Kennedy Developmental Road The Kennedy Developmental Road between Boulia and Winton is mostly single lane with a fairly rough surface. This section is passing through broken country between the Hamilton and Diamantina rivers.

The Boulia-Winton road joins the Landsborough Highway just outside Winton so we entered the town on a good bitumen road and made our way to the caravan park where I had booked for four nights. We were led to a site and directed to back in, then unhooked.

We were now in the main stream of seasonal caravans between Mt Isa and Longreach. The caravan park was overflowing with vans squeezed into any possible spot and twenty or thirty being turned away each night.
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