Travelling Australia - Journal 2013
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13 May 2013

Charleville to Douglas Ponds (nr Blackall)
location map
This morning was cloudy and cool, but with no wind, as we completed preparations to move on. Our goal today was to cover several hundred kilometres towards Winton and select a place to stay sometimes in the afternoon. Leaving Charleville we travelled north along the Mitchell Highway towards Augethalla on the Landsborough Highway. The land was nearly flat with different parts covered in either mulga or mixed eucalyptus/cypress woodland. Emus were fairly common and even a few kangaroos were seen crossing the road. The land was grazing land with sheep and cattle seen.

Traffic was very light comprising two or three caravans and two or three sedans. The road was of variable quality, but rarely suitable for 90 kph. Several sections of the road were being rebuilt in what appears to be a substantial programme to improve the worst roads in Queensland south-west, but there are many kilometres of poor quality roads being continually degraded by traffic including heavy trucks so it will be interesting to see whether there will be a long term overall improvement.

Near Augethalla we joined the Landsborough Highway. The road remained generally in long straight sections undulating a little over low hills. Traffic was light although the number of heavy trucks increased; many were sheep and cattle road trains which we understand were moving stock off properties expecting to run out of feed unless rain comes soon. The other type of heavy transport often seen was the road train designed to carry minerals between mines and processing plants. Road surface remained variable and speed had to be adjusted to suit each stretch of road.

Vegetation remained mainly mulga until, about 50 kilometres before Tambo, the trees thinned out to grassy plains with dispersed shrubs about one metre high. Trees were scattered across the plain with patches of trees along watercourses. Subsequently patches of trees and shrubs returned, although these patches were thick they were also localised, and did not hide the change to a grassland system.

The Landsborough Highway around Tambo was particularly poor quality with a surface composed mainly of dips and bumps; maximum comfortable speed was about 50 kph with serious risk of breakage at higher speed. Fortunately, major road works were in progress and, while bouncing slowly along the old road, we could see the new road under construction alongside. We refuelled in Tambo, then stopped shortly afterwards in a rest area for lunch.

Roadkill numbers had been quite high all day, with the now routine ravens and whistling kites feeding on them. As far as we could identify these usually mangled carcasses, kangaroos and wallabies predominated but we also recognised five pigs. Recent articles in the rural press have commented that the number of feral pigs in Australia is thought to be higher than previously thought because they leave few signs of their presence; many farmers are understood to only get some idea of how many pigs are on their properties at harvest time when machinery frightens them into the open.

From about Tambo steady, light rain had been falling; not yet enough to make much of a difference to pasture but enough to gather in the ruts and corrugations in the road surface showing up just how rough it was at that point. Past Blackall we turned off the highway into Douglas Ponds rest area which is a large area set back from the road on a single lane bitumen access road. There is no toilet and signs say that only self-contained vehicles are allowed to stay there.

We selected a flat area off the bitumen loop road to stop for the night. The rain had just about stopped but restarted soon after; not heavy but very persistent, the term 'soaking' comes to mind. The ground looked as if it would turn into glue if the rain continued very long so I moved the caravan to a pebble covered surface which was not as flat but less likely to trap us in mud. The rain continued for several hours and was still falling when we went to bed.
Charleville to Douglas Ponds - page 2
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