Trip Start Dec 03, 2008
Trip End Oct 14, 2009

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Flag of Australia  , Queensland,
Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Our first stop out into the Outback was Mt. Isa. It was an overnight bus ride, but how many of those have we done before? Besides my feet swelling up, it was a pretty good ride.

The point of taking the bus and not a flight was simply to SEE the Outback. We made the right decision, but also overestimated the amount of interesting stuff to see. The landscape stayed pretty much the exact same from the east coast all the way into the middle. If I haven't already said it already, I'll say it now, Australia is expensive! We had to skip Alice Springs, one of the things we really wanted to do, because lack of time and it just cost too much. We'll just save that one for later.

Oz does remind us of the USA in a lot of ways, mainly the size and distance between places. The strange thing is how much it reminds me of Argentina. I know that sounds crazy but the small towns along the way bring back memories.

But the first town we visited, Mount Isa has the largest mine in all of Australia and one of the biggest in the world. It has lead, silver, copper and zinc. It goes 1,900 meters underground and has 21 levels all with sub-levels in between! They used to do tours of the mine but someone got hurt so now they have a separate area that the tourist can go (I hate calling us that) that isn't part of the working mine. However, you would ever know this once underground. It is set up completely like the big one. Our tour guide was a retired miner and had worked there for over 30 years. He told us everything we would want to know about mining. They had a lot of the equipment underground that still was in working order and even let us drill a little into the earth. Pretty cool to see how all the stuff worked. He told us that they have trucks and machines so big in there that they have to take them apart and put them back together underground. It is so expensive to do that, that when the machine is no longer needed, they just drive it off a cliff inside the mine and bury it! One area where they mine iron has been underway for over 50 years! Just one area- it is 4.5 kms long and 1 km thick. Some areas are so far underwater that to get to their spots, some miners have to walk in waist deep water to reach it. Can you imagine working like that? He told us how really dangerous a mining job is and how it used to be years and years ago. I can't believe anyone would even show up to work. Luckily, it is much more under control these days and they hadn't had a fatality for over 10 years, until 3 weeks before we arrived. One of the miners was driving a machine and didn't know that the tunnel he was in dropped off into a huge pit - and he drove it right over the edge. Scary stuff. We should all have a lot of respect for miners!

Mount Isa was basically a really really hot and dry town. The river is almost all but dried up and not too many people hang around outside. We did enjoy it though and had fun exploring. They have a great lookout over the city so one night we got champagne (they have good cheap bubbly here) and hiked to the top of the lookout. We also got to experience some fun at the local Buffs Club - which is a members only bar. When did get a day pass though and got to have a few Happy Hour beers and had some chats with the locals - great people.
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