Changing scenery along the Matilda Hwy – McKinlay to Cloncurry (109/3398k)

(written by Nancy)

Weird at the Walkabout Creek Hotel – lots of truck noise from the highway that was not too far from the campsite. There was also a rather unpleasant smell – a bit like gas or overflowing septic tank. Dave joked that was why the grassy area right behind us was so green – which I did not think was very funny at the time (or at 3am when the smell was quite strong and Dave was snoring away). We paid $10 for the campsite the night before in Kynuna and had to pay $26 for last night – not very good value for money.

Dave was asleep by 8pm last night so was up at 6, even though it was still very dark. He ignored my queries as to why he was getting up so early when it was dark and by the time he started packing my sleeping bag I figured I better get up. The sun was coming up by then so we packed up and made oatmeal and coffee, which we ate sitting on our stools near the green grassy area, trying not to think about why it was so green. I think we hit the road before 8:30, so I still maintain that there really was no need to get up in the dark.

The first part of the ride this morning we had terrain much like the last couple of days – wide open spaces with lots of low grass and few trees. We started to see more vegetation, with lots of scrub trees and flowering plants (I think wattle/acacia again). Funny enough, we also started to smell that same gassy/sewer smell as we rode along out in the middle of nowhere – so perhaps it wasn’t really a problem with the hotel we camped at last night. It warmed up quickly today as well. By the time we stopped for morning tea we were looking for shade. We quickly ate a couple of apples and a muesli bar (dang, no more lamingtons…) and checked the phone for signal. Got 1-2 bars on the phone so could at least pick up a couple of emails and feel like we were back in the world a bit.

Morning view - plains continue

There were lots of termite mounds starting to appear, in all various shapes and sizes. We thought we could pick out a few familiar shapes – the Taj Mahal, the famous church spire in St Petersburg, and Pokemon – obviously some well-travelled termites around here. The change in the terrain from the last couple of days was quite distinct. Very few open fields and really all you could see was trees and more trees – very short scrubby ones, but still something to look at other than fields. The grasses were a lot longer too. There must be a bit more water in the ground out here – though there wasn’t much in any of the creeks we passed.

Termite mounds


Nancy and friend (Pokemon, don't you think?)

At about the 80k mark we found a shady spot to pull over and have lunch. We are getting a bit low on food so were down to having tuna on rice crackers. It was tasty, but not quite as satisfying as a PB&J sandwich. Dave spread out his excess QLD map for our picnic blanket and we ate as much as we could – including some old fruit cookies I found in our food bag.

Lunch stop - note blanket


Roadside scene - a hill!

We had a few road trains today but traffic was pretty light so they didn’t bother us too much. We had to get off the road once when we had road trains coming both directions – always a bit exciting. We joined up with the Flinders Highway and finally rode into Cloncurry about 2:00 and stopped at the information centre to see about shops and caravan parks. Cloncurry seems to be a bit of a mining town, with a population of about 3000 so we weren’t sure what kind of accommodation we would find. We passed a ‘Top Tourist’ caravan park on the way in and went on to Woolies to pick up some things for dinner. We had heard from some folks in Longreach that the caravan park in Cloncurry was a bit ‘iffy’ but it looks like there are two caravan parks and the second one we passed didn’t look too inviting.

At Woolies we ran into Larry and Hannah again – they had stayed at the top tourist park and said it was pretty good with a good camp kitchen so after chatting with them a bit we headed back out to check it out. It is a nice park and we have a nice spot – the only downside is the park is a bit close to the highway. It seems like all parks are these days. I think we will sleep well tonight – the sun really seems to take it out of us even if we don’t have a really long day.

Larry told me the smell is actually from a plant in this area (he couldn’t quite remember the name) and it is supposed to get stronger at night – which it did last night. So I take back what I said about the Walkabout Hotel – at least in relation to the smell.

Tomorrow we have a relatively long day (120k) into Mt Isa and I think it may be a bit hilly. We will try to get an early start so that we can get in to town at a reasonably time. Mt Isa is a relatively large town (25,000 or so) so we will take a couple of days off there to plan the journey into the Northern Territory and do some maintenance on the bikes. Hopefully we can find a nice spot to hang out for a bit.

Camp kitchen in Cloncurry

Right now we are sitting in the camp kitchen and Dave is cooking up some gnocchi for dinner so it’s time to sign off and eat before my dinner gets cold!

Outback vista


8 responses to “Changing scenery along the Matilda Hwy – McKinlay to Cloncurry (109/3398k)

  1. Great to hear from you again! I’ve been busy with the end of school, so I wasn’t going through withdrawals or anything….yet Just wondering what you were up to out there in the Outback.

  2. Hey guys,

    I think there is an Outback Steakhouse in Mt Isa. Grab a blooming onion or two. There are a lot of great route tracking bike apps for the iPhone these days. Check out the link below. They do suck battery and require a reasonable GPS signal quality. Is it feasible/worthwhile for you to use one on your journey?


    • Hi Steve – we will be eating a lot the next couple of days for sure! I think we will be in Darwin before we get much choice in supermarkets or restaurants again (not that there is a ton here…). Don’t think we can use the app for the phone as we need to conserve the battery for calls/internet tethering – I suspect we will run out of places to charge it soon anyway!

  3. I haven’t smelt the smell you encountered personally, believe an acacia called gidgee/ gidyea is likely the culprit.


    • Thanks for the info Rose. It isn’t too bad a smell when you are riding along with the wind but it wasn’t too pleasant drifting into the tent. Funnily enough we spotted a Gidgee Motel when we were in Cloncurry.

  4. Terrific pics. Very happy to get some new updates!

  5. Great pics of termite “art”. I was not too surprised that you were out of range of wifi for a few days but good to hear from you! The road continues to look a little desolate, but the blue of the sky and the sunset/sunrises are gorgeous. It is 80 today with the Starlight Parade tonight! We worked outside til 1 PM but now inside sort of working! I will not complain about heat after LONG cold wet winter. Stay safe! Love, Mom

    • Those termite mounds are funny. We can’t really see any holes in them so they must come up from the inside. They are everywhere! I think from Mt Isa we will get into some really desolate country so should be interesting! Can’t imagine how hot it must get here in the summer – it’s winter now and it is pretty warm in the afternoons. Glad you are getting some sunshine too!

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