Mt Isa and Cloncurry

Trip Start May 01, 2010
Trip End Oct 03, 2010

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Gilbert Park Tourist Village

Flag of Australia  , Queensland,
Friday, June 4, 2010

Before arriving at Cloncurry for the weekend, we stopped at Mt Isa.

 As expected considering its name of Mt Isa, we drove through hilly countryside as we entered the town. It is surrounded by strange little hills with trees dotted all over them. There is copper, silver, zinc and lead in them hills! And right in the middle of town are a couple of high chimney stacks with smoke rising out of one, which we were told is a working lead mine.

 We stopped for a while at Mt Isa, the birthplace of Greg Norman (golfer), Pat Rafters (tennis player) and a few other well known sports people. The information centre is very well set out and we sat and watched a video about mining in the area. We refuelled our vehicle with cheaper diesel than in the Northern Territory and bought some T-bone steaks for the weekend after seeing all the healthy cattle along the way.

The 120km drive between Mt Isa and Cloncurry is pleasant with hills the whole way, reminding us of Swaziland without the goats and people along the road. Quite a change after all the flat we had been through in Central Australia. We crossed many creeks, some had water in them, with names like Bull Creek, Happy Creek, Cattle Creek, Avon Creek and Western Creek. It was also strange seeing  electricity poles and overhead wires again so presumably they do not need to rely on generators around here. It must have been tough for the explorers Wills and Burke to find, after climbing each hill, that there were more and more in front of them. For us however on the sealed road in our comfortable vehicle it was a lovely drive. We were too busy enjoying the scenery that we drove through to take a photo of the landscape which made us think of “Cattle on a thousand hills”! The temperature climbed steadily with the elevation - we are definitely in the tropics now. There is also more traffic on this road with quite a few road trains over 53 metres long going back and forth.

Our caravan park is on the outskirts of this small country town surrounded by hills and we were soon settled into our new home under a leafy Neem  which looks like a Syringa tree. We were close  to the camp kitchen, where the resident country singer gave a concert every evening as the sun went down.  So five weeks after leaving home, over 7,000 kms on the speedo, crossing Western Australia, through the top end of South Australia and Central Northern Territory, we reached Queensland where we plan to spend some time. 

The WA long weekend (Foundation weekend) was an interesting time for us in Cloncurry.
If one of us was going to get sick, this was the best place to do it! The hospital is within walking distance of the caravan park on the outskirts of town surrounded by beautiful bush.


In the afternoon after arriving here, Margaret went to bed not feeling well while Mike sat and enjoyed the music and singing of the  country singer who spends an hour and a half every night at Happy Hour entertaining the residents of the park.

 An hour after the concert was over gurgling noises and the odd whimper made Mike realise he needed to get his patient to the hospital unless he wanted to spend the night sleepless. By then it was dark and with street map in hand but no glasses, he headed into town and after asking a couple of people where the hospital was, ended up back just around the corner from the caravan park! Apparently a few people had already been admitted with Gastro problems, including others from the caravan park, in the last week or two. After a short time in the emergency room Margaret was admitted as a guest of Queensland Health, put on an IV drip, and moved to a large private room.

Mike was relieved to  drive home on his own and to get a good night's sleep, knowing his dear wife was in good hands. The next day turned out to be a day of many walks, backwards and forwards to the hospital to satisfy Margaret's many needs to make her comfortable! We were very impressed with the kind, friendly staff and the lovely big private room with an outside door onto a balcony. On Saturday morning the Doctor decided another fluid bag was needed but by the evening with all the tubes disconnected Margaret enjoyed a relaxing evening reading her book. Mike said she will do anything for a couple of nights in a big comfortable room instead of the caravan!! The next day it was good to be out together in the lovely sunshine and in the afternoon we went for a short but enjoyable drive to Chinamen's Creek Dam.

 This dam is used for the town water supply and also as a recreational lake for boating and fishing. Monday came and there was work to be done....laundry, washing car and caravan etc. The resident singer is also a hairdresser so after a haircut and being rehydrated, Margaret felt like a new person! In the evening we sat around the campfire with all the other grey nomads listening to Judy sing our era style songs. This is a lovely relaxing caravan park and as they have a bore, Mike enjoyed being able to wash the car and caravan with a hose and do some gardening by moving the sprinklers around the grassed area before the park filled up again for the evening. This is definitely not a tourist area so there were no campervans with European tourists, only travelling workers and grey nomads. A couple we spoke to travel around for a while and then stop to work whenever they need to and find a job they enjoy. They had already been here six months and plan to stay another three. The hairdresser/singer is here also from May through to September. We went into town to restock on fresh produce and were pleased to find Australian kiwi fruit for $2.98 a kilo, less than half the price of New Zealand imports, so they must be grown somewhere here in Queensland.

Cloncurry is a mining town and due to Prime Ministers Rudd’s plan for a new tax on mining, many of the locals are likely to lose their jobs. Another claim to fame is that this is the destination of the first Qantas (Queensland and Northern Territory Air Service) flight that originated in the town of Winton, a few hundred kilometres down the track. The Royal Flying Doctor service formed by the Rev Flynn also started from here, so despite its rather dubious mining future now, it has had its moments in history. We didn’t seem to stop finding out about things for which this little town is known - Australia’s hottest day on record was right here in Cloncurry on 16 January 1889 when the temperature reached 53.1C! Thankfully while we were there, the weather was lovely and sunny and only in the mid 20s! This area was also once the largest copper producer in the British Empire during the 19th century! - not the Copperbelt in central Africa! With all this legacy in the past, it is still a very pleasant rural town made up of a couple of wide, clean streets and pavements with parking in the middle of the streets like in Bulawayo.

 There the streets were wide enough to turn an ox wagon and here probably to turn a camel train. With a population of just 2384, the surrounding cattle stations for which it mainly exists, keeps it vibrant. We leave this place ever grateful for the care given by the hospital and the opportunity to have a bit of a break to recharge our batteries ready for the next phase of our trip to the town of Karumba situated on the south east corner of the gulf of Carpentaria, via the town of Normanton another 430 km into the outback.
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