Just before the Plenty Highway ends and becomes the Donohue Highway past the Queensland border, we turned left, at Tobermory. For the next 70km or so of unsealed dirt there were regular signs promoting the Urandangi pub. Not that we needed to be tempted but the only pub between Alice Springs and Mt Isa was an offer too good to refuse. Still the humorous signs kept coming at regular intervals with things like “Hot Dusty Road, Ice Cold Beer”, and “Skippy’s Retirement Home”, many on recycled car bonnets. As we approached the town of Urandangie, the car bonnets announced the river crossings and features of the area, “Sally’s Crossing”. “Wallace Rockhole”, “Bill’s Crossing”, “Dinner Camp”, and many more.
At the end of the hot day we pulled up at the pub. To my delight there was a tap of Guinness, but this was just another cruel joke because in a town where the population is 7 adults the demand is obviously not sufficient to justify keg beer. As we quaffed our drinks the publican brought out two loaves of bread for the kids to feed the horses. When they returned she led us all out through the pub, through her lounge and into the backyard where a mob of baby joeys pottered around. One particularly friendly one, Chat, who loved a scratch and a cuddle came up to the kids and grabbed them in a tight hold, awaiting a scratch under the neck. He became quite interested in my beard, grabbing it in both paws before landing a kiss on my lips before I could escape.
The town was established in 1885 and became a popular stop for drovers on the Georgina Stock route between Camooweal and Dajarra. Even Chinese migrants en route for goldfields stayed and worked here. The publican, Pam, provided us with an interesting summary of the history which provides a good read around the campfire.
We were then directed back down to the campsites near the river and established ourselves at Wallace Rockhole, where the pools of water looked promising to catch dinner. Unfortunately the only yabby we caught was returned unharmed as it would have only provided a snack for one!
The kids did find an inland python sitting on the rocks below the camp. Another beautiful starry night around the campfire was followed by a morning threatening rain. Dark clouds gathered from the West and a rainbow appeared nearby, but as we headed north towards Mt Isa we left it behind. A cattle muster crossing the road provided a temporary diversion from the unsealed monotony of driving.
We were greeted by a huge power plant at Mt Isa, and knowing the Queensland National Parks have online bookings we thought it prudent to book a place at Boodjamulla National Park (Lawn Hill). After a lengthy process, more painful than pulling a tooth we found there was only one site we could book for three consecutive nights. Simon booked three different tent sites and we agreed to sort it out on arrival. Funnily enough we never seem to stop long in the big towns to explore and as soon as we have refuelled, restocked supplies we tend to head out as quickly as we can.
With the park 390km away we found a beautiful free camp by the O’Shaughnessy river on the way, arrived late in the afternoon for a quick refreshing dip, another campfire and marshmallows for the kids and the melodic bubbling of the river the next to the camp very quickly helped everyone fall asleep very quickly after another long day’s driving.