Travelling Australia - Journal 2013
27 May 2013

Cloncurry to Inca Creek - Barkly Highway
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Another bright and sunny day with noticeable, but not too strong, easterly wind greeted us as we completed packing up and left Cloncurry bound for the Northern Territory (eventually). We had a few possible night stops worked out and would select one during the afternoon.

Traffic was light on the Barkly Highway out of Cloncurry towards Mt Isa. The road climbs over a ridge and is usually either going around a bend or negotiating a hill, or both. The surface is good bitumen, comfortably wide, and with carefully planned overtaking lanes. Although we were cruising at about 85 to 90 kph, after catching up to a motorhome and caravan, we were not overtaken by any traffic confirming to us how little traffic there is. There were a few more vehicles going in the opposite direction; a mixture of road-trains, caravans and sedans. About half way to Mt Isa the road climbs to an elevation of 452 metres then steadily descends into Mt Isa.

Road kill was conspicuously absent between Cloncurry and Mt Isa; this may possibly because the rough, rocky and hilly terrain does not attract the type of kangaroos and wallabies which stray onto the road. The land not covered in rock and boulder outcrops was covered in eucalyptus trees to three or four metres high with a mainly acacia understory. Red termite nests were scattered around in large numbers; most were conical to less than a metre high.

Approaching Mt Isa the gleaming white radome of the weather radar on top of an equally white tower high on a red mountain range was obvious. Then we were bought down to earth by a police roadblock for a breath check.

We made our way through Mt Isa, stopping only to refuel, continued on the Barkly Highway which leaves Mt Isa heading north then turns gradually to run north-west with the wind behind us. The road remained good to excellent with a good surface and wide lanes. For a while the road negotiated curves and hills passing through a mountain range north west of Mt Isa but then straight sections became more common and the ground slowly flattened.

Much of the Barkly Highway was built during the Second World War to wartime emergency standards and was not replaced with a modern road until after 1990. At a rest area north-west of Mt Isa building of the road during the war is described near a section of the original road running beside the new road for comparison.

As the road cleared the hills and entered long, flat, straight sections the amount of roadkill increased and sighting of half a dozen ravens and kites clustered on a carcasse became common. We also passed wedge-tailed eagles on road-kill. The first was standing possessively on a carcasse in the middle of the left lane, very unwilling to leave the carcasse and trying to stare down the approaching caravan and tow vehicle (us). There was no traffic on the opposite direction so I moved over into the opposite lane to pass the reluctant eagle which, finally, hopped off the road onto the verge as we drew level. A heavier vehicle unable to stop and not free to use the other side of the road would have hit the eagle. Shortly after we passed another wedge-tailed eagle which had made the same mistake and was now roadkill itself.

vegetation Vegetation around Inca Creek rest area, recovering from a low-intensity fire, is dominated by Snappy Gums (on the right) with an understory of grasses and low shrubs.

Cloncurry to Inca Creek rest area - page 2

We stopped for the night at Inca Creek rest area, on the corner of the Barkly Highway and one of the roads into Lawn Hill National Park. This was also the road to a mine and we had road trains loaded with ore slowing down going down a slope as they passed us to turn onto the Barkly Highway. Fortunately they don't operate at night so noise was not a problem. Vegetation since leaving the hills around Mt Isa had been predominantly low eucalyptus trees with white bark. Snappy Gums were prominent along the road and in the Inca Creek rest area; the name comes from the fact that small branches snap easily when bent. A lower level of plants was often dominated by spreading acacias.

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