The Snail Trail

Travelling with my home on my back and in no hurry to get anywhere


Getting Involved in Mt Isa

Did I have a choice to get involved? I don’t think so! The people I met picked me up and carried me along to all the places they volunteer. And it was the best thing I could have done.

I have now been house-sitting for about 7 weeks and my time in Mt Isa is drawing to a close. Paul and Shirley, who I have been house-sitting sit for, arrived home yesterday and it is time for me to plan my route back to the Gold Coast. I will be leaving Mt Isa much richer for the experiences I have enjoyed here thanks to Shirley’s wonderful friends Joy and Bev and the people they have introduced me to. Before I share some of my trips with you though, I must share some photos of the house I have been looking after, it’s garden and visitors.

Shirley has some beautiful fragrant roses out the front that have been in bloom.

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In the big bush at the front gate there is a family of Western Bowerbirds. Until I looked them up I thought someone had daubed them with bright pink paint. They are like massive overgrown sparrows in colour except for this clump of bright pink feathers behind their head.

IMG_0418And there are regularly fork-tailed (black) kites circling the back yard, eyeing off next doors chickens I think.

Black kite

To start at the beginning you might remember that I didn’t see much of Cloncurry on my way here so Joy and Bev took me back there and showed me some of their sights along the way.

Mt Frosty is an old limestone mine and I would never have seen it without local knowledge. Some of the remains of the old mine reminded me of scenes out of Mad Max

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Mt Frosty

We then went to the water tower which had great views over Cloncurry and across the countryside



Once in Cloncurry we visited the John Flynn Museum. The Rev John Flynn was the founder of the Royal Flying Doctor Service, which was established in 1928.

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I loved the carpet which had been specially made to represent the landscape from the air, but honestly, you can look at the hills sometimes and they look exactly the same as the pattern on the carpet.

We also visited the Cloncurry Cemetry which had many historical graves, including that of Dame Mary Gilmore who features on our $10 note.  Click here to find out more about Dame Mary Gilmore and her contribution to Australian Literature and History. There was also a separate section in the cemetery for Afghans, who made up a large part of the early settlers in the area.


Before we left Cloncurry we had to go out to the airport where the original QANTAS hangar is situated.


On the way back to Mt Isa we stopped at the Chinaman Creek Dam which provides the water supply for Cloncurry


We also had a detour into the abandoned township of Mary Kathleen, once a thriving community established to mine uranium, which as a matter of interest was found by my house-sit’s Uncle,  Norm Mc Conachy and named after his wife.

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Happy Campers

The old township of Mary K is a fantastic free camp site with room for hundreds of vans and is well signed and easily accessible off the Barkly Highway. There are established trees, roadways and if you want a level surface there are still concrete house pads there to park on. You would need to be self contained as there are no facilities. Sure beats the heck out of staying roadside at Fountain Springs though, which is only a few km’s closer to Cloncurry and is very busy, but does have toilets and shady tables to sit at. We stopped for a picnic at Fountain Springs on our way to Cloncurry and this is a photo of Bev and Joy, the two wonderful ladies who ‘adopted’ me in Mt Isa.

Bev & Joy

I wrote a poem about Bev, who is a real character, and read it at the Bush Poet’s Breakfast held by the Zonta club as part of the Mt Isa Rodeo week festivities. For my efforts I was presented with a lovely little clock. Here’s my poem, called The Sheila from Mt Isa. I must say there were a few gasps of recognition from the audience, but Bev was with me and it’s got her tick of approval so that’s ok!

The Sheila from Mt Isa

I met a bloke the other day, this Isa sheila, Bev

She swaggered like a fella her bush hat upon her head

Her jeans hung low upon her hips beneath her ample girth

You’d find no-one else more dinkum if you travelled all the earth.

Her nickname is the Brolga and it’s on her number plate

She’s nobody’s companion, but she’s everybody’s mate.

She volunteers at cub scouts and she works at Isa mine.

 She’s in the stores she tells me and she reckons it’s all fine.

She takes no cheek from anyone but is quick to give some lip,

And if she’s walking through the Isa I’m giving you the tip.

Sing out g’day and give a wave and say, “Is your name Bev?”

You’ll recognise her straight away from the bush hat on her head.

And the way her jeans are slung low down and her swaggering fella walk

She’ll give you the time of day, OK, and stop and have a talk.

When you travel round this country, no matter how you go,

You’ll get to meet some characters and some you’ll get to know

But you’ll seldom meet a character as dinky-di as Bev

The sheila from Mt Isa, her bush hat upon her head.


On the Last Leg – Cloncurry


I had a pretty early start from Julia Creek and with only about 135kms to Cloncurry arrived in plenty of time to do some shopping. While I was at the supermarket, Shirley, whose house I was going to look after in Mt Isa rang me, and when she heard where I was suggested I go to the bakery down the road for good coffee and great pies. She wasn’t wrong!

At the bakery I was sitting down enjoying my pie – you know how it is – hot pie running out all over your hands, burning your fingers off, you can’t lick them because you’re not sure when you last washed them, looking like a picture of elegance – have you got the picture? I was in a mess! A face appeared in front of me and said, “Rosemary?” It was Lorraine and Rod, caravanners heading to Darwin who I had met at Bedford Weir and last seen at Emerald. What a lovely surprise!

We sat down and had a coffee together and caught up on each other’s adventures. They had travelled here via Longreach and Winton, the way I will go when I leave Mt Isa. I was telling them about Julia Creek and how much I enjoyed it so they back-tracked and spent a few days there, which they thoroughly enjoyed. I am so glad – you know what it’s like when you recommend something – it can be disastrous.

Thank goodness it wasn’t this hot while I was here!


Hottest temperature recorded in Australia


Cloncurry Parrot

The Cloncurry parrot is only found in the Cloncurry area in North West Queensland and is a member of the ringneck family of parrots.

Cloncurry is locally called ‘The Curry’ and here’s some information I found out about it.

Cloncurry breathes cattle and has copper and gold in it’s veins. in 1867 Ernest Henry and Roger Sheaffe started a joint pastoral-mining venture on the banks of Cloncurry River, named by the ill-fated explorer Robert O’Hara Burke in 1861. The town was proclaimed in 1884 and boomed into the 20th century with merchants, carriers, miners, builders, bakers and battlers. Cloncurry was the biggest, boisterous town in the outback Queensland between 1880s and 1960s. During WW1 Cloncurry was the main source of Australian copper, with 7000 people working many mines and four smelters.

Cloncurry is a lively, multi-racial town. Aboriginal people have intermarried with European, Chinese and Afghan newcomers for the past 120 years. In 1900 Cloncurry was a Ghantown with 200 Afghans working over 2000 camels. Chinese market gardens also bloomed along Coppermine creek.

Cloncurry has the original hanger with Queensland and Northern Territory Aerial Service (Qantas) still on the front. There is a monument to commemorate Qantas, which flew its first passenger (Alexander Kennedy) from Longreach to Cloncurry on November 3rd 1922 at a cost of 11 pounds 2 shillings.


The original Qantas hangar at Cloncurry airport

In 1928 the Royal Flying Doctor Service was established in Cloncurry by Rev John Flynn , choosing this town as his base because of its proximity to the mining camps and scattered pastoralists. At that time there were just 2 doctors providing the only medical care for an area of almost two million square kilometres. The RFDS now has 13 flying doctor bases around Australia and services about 6.9 million square kilometres, or 80% of the Australian continent. This is the most comprehensive aeromedical emergency and health care service in the world. You’ll recognise his face on our $20 note. Flynn was a Presbyterian minister and this picture has some great information about the images surrounding Flynn on the $20 note.


I’d forgotten to empty my porta-loo in Julia Creek so headed to the information centre to find out where the dump point was. This was not a good experience. Two very snooty ladies were manning the desk, and when they finally bothered to speak to me they informed me that I would have to book into the caravan park if I wanted to empty my toilet. They didn’t offer me any other information about the town, didn’t encourage me to look at any of their displays and I felt like it was a real effort for them to even acknowledge my presence. Needless to say I didn’t hang around there for long and decided to head to Corella Dam where I would spend the next 3 days before I arrived in Mt Isa.

Good choice Rosemary!