|Travelling Australia - Journal 2013
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6 August 2013
Barcoo River to Morven
We left the Barcoo River rest area on the road south with Tambo as the next residential area. Air temperature of 13°C at 9 o'clock indicated a cool morning. Quality of the road remained variable, mostly with a poor surface but with several stretches being rebuilt; many older sections had been extensively patched but the main purpose of the patches was to warn of bits of the road to be avoided if possible. Passing through the roadworks was slow, each one had traffic lights or lollipop sign (Stop/Slow) operators to control traffic on the single lane past the lane being worked on. Speed limit was 40 kph through roadwork sites.
The first step in replacing a section of road is to dump large (4 metres high, 10 metres wide and 50 or 60 metres long) piles of gravel near the section. Judging by the very large piles of gravel already stockpiled along sections of road needing replacement work on this highway will be going on for several more months.
Traffic was light to moderate, clustered by the need to wait to pass roadwork sites. Caravans and cattle road-trains were about equal in numbers, many were full of cattle going south with at least the same number of empty ones going north to pick-up more cattle.
We passed three herds of cattle walking south away from the drought area. One herd was well away from the bitumen against the boundary fence, one herd was walking along the bitumen and road side reservations; neither of these herds was being given time to eat and were being pushed along by drovers on horses at the rear of the herd. The third herd was also along the road but was being allowed to slow down to eat and had mainly moved off the bitumen onto such grass as there was on the roadside reservation.
Driving through a herd of several hundred cattle going in the same direction took a while. As they became aware of the Pathfinder immediately behind them the cattle slowly moved aside leaving a path more or less wide enough for the caravan, although care had to be taken that all cattle near the Pathfinder and caravan were moving away. Moving at a brisk walk their hooves made a surprising amount of noise on the bitumen and gravel verge; but there were no other noises from them.
Shortly after passing through the third cattle herd (near Augathella) we passed the turn-off to Charleville; we continued on to Morven although most traffic going our way turned towards Charleville.
The road to Morven from Augathella was remarkably good; long straight sections, a good and wide surface, with gentle slopes. Unlike the road before Augathella this road ran through thick woodland.
After several kilometres on the Morven road we became aware we had left the drought-stricken parts we had been driving through for many days. It took us a while to work out what had changed since the grass remained dry and brown and mulga leaves are an unappealing blue-grey-green colour at the best of times. We had entered a different bioregion where cypress often grew among eucalyptus and the bimble box was common, this eucalyptus has dark green, shining, leaves; these species made the treescape greener regardless of any other changes. But now there were yellow and blue wildflowers growing along the road in large numbers and the verges were green with grass; as well, waterholes and creeks had water in them instead of dust. The biggest single change was that shrubs scattered among the trees looked bright green instead of the sickly browny-green colour of drought-stricken shrubs.
When we stopped for a closer look at the vegetation the healthier condition of the leaves was obvious. Many shrubs in this part of Queensland (the Eremophilia and Wilga) have long and narrow leaves hanging vertically; in drought areas the margins curled so the leaf was close to a sickly yellow-green tube. But here leaves were flat and the usual bright green.
We still had reminders of the drought in cattle road trains passing us. Those full of cattle were heading south, with empty ones heading north to pick up more cattle
In Morven we went to the recreation ground which the council has established as a free-camping area. The day had been bright and sunny but not hot, only warm, even in the direct sunlight.