Day 65 Saturday Aug 9th 2014 Winton
Winton has a population of about 1000. The main street has replica heritage streetlamps and a centre strip of lawns and trees, even a water feature depicting the original town site of Pelican Waterhole. The town is busy and colourful which gives it a good feel. From what we see it appears that the people of this town aren’t afraid to have a go. This is the birthplace of Qantas. The grandest hotel in town is the North Gregory Hotel. After having been demolished and rebuilt with a second storey it was twice burnt to the ground. After the last fire the townsfolk banded together to ensure that they got their pub back and so the council rebuilt it at tremendous expense in art deco style. It wasn’t because there was only one pub in town. They do have four. But the North Gregory Hotel was the hotel where Waltzing Matilda was first publicly performed. It is grand enough to host any occasion. In fact, the later to become US president, Lyndon Johnson stayed there in 1942 after his air force plane crashed on a nearby station.
Our home is the Pelican Van Park which is basic but clean. Green matting helps to make us feel like there is grass about, but hey this is the outback and there is dust and lots of it.
This area is rich in boulder opals and a retired local opal miner by the name of Arno has built a wall around his house. It is a large house block and the wall is made from rock and salvaged junk from the opal fields. There is a stove, a sink, even a motor bike cemented into the wall. Arno’s wall is a treat.
The dinosaur stampede site out at the Lark Quarry would be great to see but the road ‘does us in’. With bone shaking (no pun intended) corrugations we give up and go to the Australian Age of Dinosaurs (AAOD) instead. At least the dirt road here is well maintained. The centre is situated on top of a high mesa or ‘jump up’ as they call them here (a much more apt description).
A farmer by the name of David Elliott found a large (of course it would be large) dinosaur thigh bone on his property back in 1999. He quickly despatched it to the museum folk in Brisbane and a dig was organised on his property. Teams painstakingly marked out dig areas and set to work with shovels and toothbrushes. In the meantime, David brought in a front-end loader and scraped away the layer of topsoil exposing more bones.
This is the method now employed and David has set up a ‘not for profit’ charitable organisation with a team of scientists and paying volunteers. AAOD has a record sized collection of dinosaur bones and the tourism that it generates has caused an annual increase of 5% to Winton’s population. There’s that ‘have a go’ mentality again. The tour of the facility is excellent and I was able to watch the team painstakingly grinding the rock away from the bones. Even though they collect enough bones each year to provide them with another four years work of restoration, they continue to run the annual dig as this provides the facility with valuable funds.
One could say that Winton is a place of dead things, really old dead things.
We enjoy a meal at the North Gregory Hotel in the grand dining room. It is such a relief to have a hotel meal that isn’t deep fried as is the norm in pubs in these parts. We chat to the people at the next table and find that they were the folks all zipped up behind their annexe beside us in Mt Isa and we thought that they just wanted some privacy. Such a shame we didn’t get to know them earlier.
Towing Kms: 0