|Travelling Australia - Journal 2011
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|12 May 2011 - Noccundra to Quilpie|
Another cold night, down to about 6°C outside. The morning was sunny but the sun took a while to get high enough to start the solar panels charging and by the time we left Noccundra Waterhole at 9 o'clock the panels hadn't started charging the van battery.
We drove along the dirt track to the hotel car park then headed off to the Bulloo Developmental Road twenty kilometres away where we turned left. The sun shone brightly, the sky was clear, there was hardly any wind and traffic was negligible. The road was the single lane typical of a developmental road but had a good quality surface. After seven kilometres on the Bulloo Developmental Road we came to another intersection where a road to the left continued on to Innamincka and Burke and Wills Dig Tree (a recognised tourist attraction) as well as oil and gas centres; this road is closed for now because of flooding at Cooper Creek. We had not planned to go that way so were not inconvenienced as we continued straight on along the Cooper Developmental Road towards Eromanga and Quilpie. There was a rest area on the corner with toilet and shelter shed; a standard rest area toilet looked out of place in this remote and barren place.
The land was fairly flat covered in scraggy low trees and open shrubland. At first there were no cattle near the road although this was all pastoral leases with grids frequently across the road. By the time we were passing through Kihee station, cattle were in evidence and we came upon one dead black cow on the side of the road with others gathered around looking aimless; presumably this was a very recent roadkill. There were also a number of roadkill kangaroos or wallabies on or near the road; many occupied by one or two eagles. Eagles supposedly began eating roadkill a few years ago when their more usual food stock were depleted by drought and they turned to roadkill in desperation. Whether they will abandon roadkill now the drought is over and, presumably their more usual food source has recovered, remains to be seen. Judging by the number of eagles we saw standing possessively on a roadkill kangaroo they are now habitual roadkill scavengers.
|Scrub and grass extending away from the Cooper Developmental Road between Noccundra and Quilpie.|
|The Cooper Developmental Road has mostly a good surface; driving is pleasant but beware of a roadtrain coming the other way and taking up the entire width of the bitumen.|
|Travelling Australia - Noccundra to Quilpie - page 2|
According to current maps, sections of this road are still gravel; but all marked gravel sections have now been sealed with two-lane wide bitumen making passing much easier. Most of this new bitumen is in good condition and is a pleasure to drive on but in some parts the bitumen surface shows signs of floodwater damage and the surface has begun breaking up with sections of the bitumen in the middle of the road lifting up and being carried away. These roads are made of a layer of bitumen up to three centimetres thick over a thoroughly compacted substrate. This road construction method is quite adequate for expected traffic levels but can deteriorate quickly if the bitumen surface is damaged by vehicle tyres running over wet spots. Once a small gap is made the damage can quickly spread.
About a hundred kilometres after leaving Noccundra we left Bulloo Shire and entered Quilpie Shire; ironically the road immediately reverted to the single-lane developmental road configuration but this didn't last long before we were travelling over rebuilt, two-lane roads. Shortly after entering Quilpie Shire we stopped at a roadside memorial cairn, to a person named Cooper who died in 2002 but there was no explanatory material near the cairn (at 27° 00' 12"S, 142° 56' 25"E, elevation 151 metres). We later found that he had been killed after his motorcycle collided with an emu or kangaroo.
As we moved north towards Eromanga then Quilpie the vegetation slowly changed and plant life looked less stressed than closer to Noccundra. The change may be influenced by the higher annual rainfall around Quilpie-Eromanga than around Noccundra. Gidyea (or gidgee, or gidgea; there are many pronunciations) became more common and there were several areas of open gidgea woodland with grass understory similar to those found further north around Winton; many gidgea trees were in flower and covered in yellow blossoms. After the gidyea the vegetation would revert to mulga for a while, sometimes with scattered bloodwoods; the bloodwood is a handsome eucalyptus usually towering over the mulga it grows near and standing out with greener foliage; at this time of year bloodwoods are nearly into their flowering season and covered in pale green flower buds which will form an eye-catching display of white flowers when they bloom.
Associated with the increase in trees was a change in emu population with groups of up to seven emus now common on or near the road. The only kangaroos we saw were road kill ones; there were a surprising number of them on a road which seemed to have relatively little traffic. We were later told that road trains frequently using this road are too heavy to stop in time to avoid animals on the road and, unless an animal on the road is very lucky or moves quickly, it will become roadkill.
We stopped in Eromanga for lunch in the caravan parked near Opalopolis Park remembering an earlier description of Eromanga when it was a major opal mining centre. Somebody with skill had painted a large map as a mural on the side of a building facing the park; this was full of interesting detail.
The road between Eromanga and Quilpie is mostly two lanes but with some sections still the original single lane of a developmental road. The road passes close to oil fields with one production well (Kenmore No 9) immediately beside the road. The road passes over Grey Range into the Bulloo catchment but there are no obvious hills or steep ground and this part of Grey Range would be a non-event except for the roadside sign. Traffic was a little heavier with three road trains going the other way; two were fuel tanker road trains, the third was a cattle road train.
Arriving in Quilpie we checked in for a week and were directed to a good site near the entrance. Then we went to do some shopping.