The Snail Trail

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


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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

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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.

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

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

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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.


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In the Nick at Avon Downs Police Station

No – I didn’t spend the night in jail, but I did spend the night at the Avon Downs Police Station. (More about being in the nick later). I went to Avon Downs with some volunteers who fund raise for the Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS), and we were cooking and manning the bar for the crowd that had gathered for the annual cricket match between the Queensland and Northern Territory Police. Avon Downs is about 300kms from Mt Isa and about 75kms over the border in the Northern Territory – my first time in the NT!

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Entering the Northern Territory

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Northern Territory border

The border is not far from Camooweal and the drive is through the Barkly Tablelands – grasslands.

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Barkly Tablelands

Camooweal has the longest main street in the world – about 200kms – and it goes from Mt Isa to Camooweal. Apart from that the roadhouse there makes a decent coffee, which was very welcome after our 6am start.

The Avon Downs police host the annual cricket match between the Territory and Queensland and there were players from Cloncurry, Mt Isa, Camooweal, Tennant Creek and Avon Downs. A lot of the local ringers, girls and guys, from stations in the area also came along for the day – and night.

We opened the bar about midday and provided much needed refreshments for the cricket teams on this hot day. Part of the fun was the dress-ups – the NT cops really got into it while the Qld team had their maroon jerseys on.

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At the Trough

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The’male’ bag

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Spiderman?

It got pretty hot out on the pitch so a couple of the guys stripped down to these wonderful duct tape g-strings – well, they thought it was a good idea until they had to rip it off!

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Duct tape g-string – painful

It was thirsty work and the beer and bundy flowed until late into the night. We packed up at the ‘cricket ground’ and went over to the Police Station where we set up the bar again and started to cook a barbeque dinner. Everyone was having a great time. A charity auction was held and the bidders were really generous as so many of them had used the services of the RFDS. The crowd was fined throughout the day, too. Fined if they didn’t have an Avon Downs stubby cooler, fined if they hit the cricket ball, fined if they didn’t – they just kept throwing money into the kitty every time they walked past knowing they were going to be fined for something.

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The crowd at the cricket

Between midday on Saturday when we opened the bar and 10am Sunday after we’d served breakfast, and including the result of the auction, about $5000 was raised – a fantastic effort! And a lot of fun…

In the nick! Well, not me, but I didn’t close the bar until this game was over. It was a game of strip volleyball and it was over when all the players, guys and girls, were naked. By this time no-one was feeling any pain and certainly not the chilly night air. I was exhausted, as were the other 3 volunteers I was with and we knew we had to up to cook breakfast the next day. A few sore heads but a happy crowd and our time at Avon Downs Police Station was over.

Travellers – there is a free camp opposite the Avon Downs Police Station but if you are looking for a little luxury for the night you can stay at the Police Station accommodation – like a motel suite – for $15 a night for the room. There is a fully equipped kitchen, good hot showers and a washing machine.

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We’re going home!

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Kerry, Joy and Dave – fellow volunteers

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It must have been this cuddle that did it – Dave has asked me to help out at a car rally in a couple of weeks – catering for about 300 people. I should have recovered from Avon Downs by then!