Saturday 23 July and we have been camped at Mataranka for three nights so far, having arrived here on Wednesday after two long distance drives during the previous two days. We had made the decision to head for here, partly due the fact we enjoyed it so much last year and partly to get some warm weather. We have not been disappointed on either account.
To bring you up to date, we left Boulia on Sunday and drove to Mt Isa for two nights, then some 640 km to the Three Ways Roadhouse and from there a further 580 km to Mataranka.
Boulia Camel Races
As previously mentioned, one of the highlights of this year’s trip was the camel racing at Boulia.
The event started on Friday evening with a session with the trainers talking about what they do (we didn’t attend – too busy making dinner), the carnival rides (which we didn’t participate – mainly for kids) and in live music until midnight (we went to bed well before then, but managed to get to sleep.
The qualifying 400m and 1000m races were run on Saturday, so we headed to the track an hour early to successfully get a good spot at the barrier and to watch the marshalling for the first race. There is no doubt that camel racing is nothing but full of surprises – camels sitting down, refusing to go any further, camels taking off in the wrong direction and camels stopping before the end of the race.
After lunch we moved to a better vantage point for the 1000m heats where we watched and photographed about two of the four heats. We also watched a bizarre ‘game’ called camel tagging. Members of the audience were able to volunteer to go the ring with a camel, tag it and then recover the tag – the winner was whoever did it in the shortest time. In case you have not witnessed camels much, they kick, forward, backwards and sideways. So, one would need to be really stupid, brave or expert to participate. In any event it was quite entertaining.
The evening was taken up by live music from a country band – really good, but they went on very loudly until just after midnight – sleep was hard to come by! Immediately preceding the band coming on, there was a spectacular fireworks display. Fireworks displays need to work hard at impressing me, but this one certainly did the job.
Then finals were held on Sunday. Getting to the track early we stopped to watch the Crack up Sisters – a pair of comedians who put on a great show for kids, young and old.
Having decided to leave before the final, we had packed up and were ready to leave and head for Mt Isa before everyone else decided to go their separate ways. Now, Mt Isa was not my favourite town during our last trip, but practicality had to take priority over my prejudice – an essential visit to the bank!
Arriving at Mt Isa from the south, the first thing that is obvious in this is an industrial town, but after a visit to the information centre, we discovered that there is much more to the town than we first appreciated.
In the evening we went to the lookout to see the night view across the town to the mines (see banner photo).
Monday’s main task was visiting the bank to sort out the card issue. This had arisen due to the fraudulent transactions in the US which resulted in our cards being blocked, preventing us from accessing our travel funds. To cut a long story short, we were in the bank for 2.5 hours, at the end of this we had new cards and access to our funds. Thanks to the great bank branch staff who were just as frustrated by their head office as we had been.
With the morning gone, we were limited in what we could do that afternoon, however, we decided to go to the Mary Kathleen mine site. This is located about 50km east of Mt Isa and down a very rough 7km track. But it was worth it. The colours in the old uranium mine were just short of amazing.
The mine started production in 1954 with a contract to supply 40 million pounds (sterling) of uranium to the UK. This signalled the construction of a new town, at a rate of one house per day, about 5 km from the mine to accommodate the mine workers. The first phase closed the mine in 1964, but with the new contracts it started production again in 1974 until its final closure in 1982. The town buildings were auctioned off, leaving only the foundations to mark the existence on what was once a thriving, desirable community.
By the time we returned to the caravan park, it was dinner time and time to start preparing for a very early departure the next day.
Three Ways Roadhouse
The least said about this overnight stay the better. Let me just say that our neighbour was a chain smoking moronic TV show addict!
Anyway, we were packed up and on the road by 8 o’clock the following morning.
We decided to stop at the renowned Daly Waters Pub for lunch. However, as we pulled up, a passer-by drew our attention to a strange noise coming from one of the trailer wheels. Concerned about this and the wait time for lunch we carried on up the road. I decided to take the wheel off to take a look when we arrived at the campground. On the way, I checked with the local mechanic that, if necessary, they would have the time to assist (which they could).
On taking off the wheel, the noise was the inner cap to the wheel bearing that had become detached. I reckoned it would need re-greasing, so have arranged for the mechanic to sort it on Tuesday morning when we leave here.
I will describe our stay here in the next post, but suffice to say, it is very relaxing and at long last, very warm (except the nights)