Today we’re heading to Winton – Waltzing Matilda country.
The previous day had been very hot, and that night the wind had blown very hard, we had to get up in the middle of the night and rearrange the tent so we didn’t get blown away.
The sky looked different today, more overcast and the wind was really quite strong. I stopped at a service station to fill up with fuel before driving the 175 Kilometres to Winton. The guy pumping the gas told us there was a storm coming through and that they thought it could produce up to 10 inches of rain. The storm would not arrive until later in the afternoon or in the evening. We thought about going back to the tent to shut the windows and decided that we wouldn’t bother, as the tent got so hot, and we’ll be back before the storm breaks.
As we drove west to Winton – and there’s absolutely nothing between Longreach and Winton – the clouds looked more and more menacing. It didn’t help that there were flood markers every few kilometres and we do know that storms in the outback can very quickly flood roads. And we’re smack in the middle of the wet season. Anyway we kept going to Winton. We arrived in Winton around 11 O’clock and went into the Winton Waltzing Matilda Museum. This is another very well constructed exhibition that focuses around the lives of Swaggie’s, (swagmen or tramps), and of course the song “Waltzing Matilda”. Winton is the town that inspired “Banjo” Patterson, the man who wrote “Waltzing Matilda”.
It also highlights another attraction of the Winton district, the Dinosaurs, or more specifically, their footprints. This is the site of the only known set of Dinosaur footprints that made in a stampede. The Waltzing Matilda Museum also features the history of Winton and the surrounding districts.
We did not give this museum a very good go unfortunately as, when we were walking between buildings, it became obvious that the weather was taking a turn for the worse and we knew we had left a tent window open 175 Kilometres to the East. We also didn’t fancy being separated from our belongings because of flooding. We left for Longreach just after midday and were no sooner on the road than the rains started to come. It was very heavy rain that turned the roads into rivers very quickly. We could not travel at the same rate as we had come in and had to slow down a great deal.
We passed a number of road trains going in the opposite direction and they were potentially very dangerous. These trucks with three or four trailers pump a huge wall of water off the road, and will completely obscure your vision during the process of passing their massive length. The wind from these monster trucks passing you at over 110 kilometres an hour (they don’t slow down for much), would force a vehicle even as big as our Nissan Patrol to veer wildly from the road. With this exceptionally heavy rain you couldn’t see more than a few metres anyway, and when you add the great muddy waterfall pumped by the road train and the very strong side draught they created, you have a dangerous situation. Alison handled this very well (as she drove the journey back to Longreach), and would slow down almost to a stop when a road train approached, to wait for its wake of wind and water to subside before continuing at normal speed.
By the time we got to within 40 kilometres of Longreach the storm had abated and the roads had dried up. The wind was still blowing hard back at the tent, and there was a little water inside from the rain, so we were quite lucky, but I think we still got back in time.
We rearranged the tent, cleaned up the water, and sat and played cards for a couple of hours as the rain arrived again, and turned the ground around the tent into a reddish-brown slush.
By 4pm the rain had given over, the wind had dropped and we were able to sit outside again. It was New Years Eve and hardly a soul in the campground. We decided to sit at our tent and have our own New Years Eve. We were tired anyway, we’d opened the bottle of champagne early, had it finished just after nine. We declared it New Year’s Day somewhere, quite probably in New Zealand and promptly went to bed.