|Travelling Australia - Journal 2013
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2 August 2013
Campaspe River to Winton
Another cold night and morning (another 7°C morning) as we prepared to leave the rest area on a sunny day. Traffic was light, mostly road trains with some caravans and a handful of other traffic. Roadkill was as obvious today as it had been yesterday, mainly kangaroos but pigs were not uncommon, nor was the occasional bird (including an emu). We had been hearing from other travellers that cats were often seen among roadkill but could not confirm that; of course, a carcasse that has been feasted on by birds for a couple of days and run over frequently by passing vehicles is just about impossible to identify from a passing vehicle.
The road continued crossing the Dividing Range with numerous hills and curves, none of which presented any difficulty. The Townsville - Mt Isa railway line remained near the road, occasionally passing under the road, probably to maintain the gentler gradients trains demand although the way road and rail stayed together would indicate they were following the best route through the hilly terrain.
White Mountains National Park marked the western edge of the Dividing Range. The road left the park at an elevation of 568 metres and descending sharply about 100 metres passing a sign confirming we were now in the Lake Eyre Basin Catchment. After the descent the road straightened to travel in almost a straight line to Hughenden. This long, almost straight, road descended gently from 477 metres at the village of Torrens Creek (20 kilometres from White Mountains) to be 330 metres at Hughenden. As with many of these large scale elevation changes, the variation was best detected by watching GPS elevation read-out although an easing of fuel consumption was a good indication of a downward slope.
|Torrens Creek pub is the largest building in the village.|
For many kilometres eucalyptus woodland continued to line the road, sometimes with cattle grazing among the trees. As we drew closer to Hughenden the woodland thinned and had gone by the time we reached the town; this was now Mitchell Grass Plains with so few trees that birds built their nests on top of the poles carrying high voltage electrical power alongside the road.
For the last fifteen or twenty kilometres before Hughenden the Flinders Highway runs across the floodplain of the Flinders River and the surface deteriorated noticeably to become bumpy with uncomfortable bouncing induced in the caravan.
In Hughenden we called at a bakery in a side-street for lunch before leaving on the Kennedy Developmental Road bound for Winton 212 kilometres away. This is the same Kennedy Developmental Road we had used from Atherton to the The Lynd a few days ago when we had turned off near The Lynd onto the Gregory Developmental Road to go to Hughended via Charters Towers on a better road. Although the Kennedy road from The Lynd to Hughenden is much shorter (by about 250 kilometres) I was uncertain of the state of that road - I learnt next day, from somebody who had travelled along it the day before, that road is in poor condition.
The Kennedy Developmental Road from Hughenden to Winton was remarkably inconsistent over 212 kilometres. Developmental roads are traditionally a single lane of bitumen and users take their chances with the state of the verges when passing an oncoming vehicle. Normal progress and tourism pressure are leading to conversion into two-lane bitumen roads because tourists simply do not like single-lane roads. On this road the transition into a two-lane road was uneven. The ten kilometres closest to Winton was a bit over one and a half lanes wide, and uncomfortably bumpy; wide enough for oncoming vehicles to stay on the bitumen when passing but prudence often required moving onto the verges. On the other hand, the ten kilometres closest to Hughenden was two lanes wide and fairly new but rippled badly and we slowed to 60 kph to minimise bouncing.
The Kennedy Developmental Road between Wilton and Hughenden runs across the Mitchell Grass Plains. Built directly on the ground without cuttings or embankments the road follows the contours of the ground very closely as it gently rises and falls across the plain. Nearer Hughenden, drains crossing under the road have been installed and the bitumen surface has not been properly graded at the approaches to these drains; these fairly sharp increases, then decreases, in the road surface cause most of the bumping and bouncing for this stretch of road.
The remainder of the road shows every standard between new, two-lane, highway grade road to old and deteriorated (but still two bitumen lanes) road. No logic could be detected in these changes which meant speed had to change unpredictably to avoid damaging the towing gear; the common factor along the road was that reconstruction is taking place in several places along the road and the reconstructed sections are of good quality.
Driving on this nearly flat road in long and straight lengths across the wide open Mitchell Grass Plains was not hard driving, especially as there was hardly any other traffic. Our main activity became seeing who could sight the next emu, kangaroo, or bustard. Emus were fairly common along the road, sometimes alone, sometimes in groups of up to five; most were safely well back from the road. Kangaroos were well back from the road resting in the shade of the few trees and put their heads up to investigate us as we approached; we assume they had heard the kangaroo whistle. The bustard had crossed the road was heading towards the grass tussocks as we passed.
Some cattle were seen; we could see for ten or fifteen kilometres from the road without difficulty and expected to see more cattle. But the land was very dry (much of central/western Queensland is formally drought declared) and many cattle have been trucked elsewhere. We passed a few goats and several horses.
At Winton we turned into the selected caravan park and set up for three nights.