The red dinosaur distracted us and redirected us. Australian Age of Dinosaurs is a fantastic Natural History Museum just a few kilometres off the Landsborough Highway, staffed by an amazing group of scientist, volunteers and dedicated workers. The human interaction with nature was one where the prehistoric was far more conducive to positive feelings than the overwhelming, worrisome, irritating, exasperating, infuriating flies! But, we had been warned, there was a sign!
Winton is the Dinosaur Capital of Australia, home of Waltzing Matilda and Queensland’s Boulder Opal. More importantly, it is where my grandfather, Jim Tully was born in 1900, my great grandmother Martha Haynes/Tully/Smith was married and her mother, Mary Luxon/Haynes/Speechly/Llewellyn was married for the second time. Martha would have been just a teenager when her mother Mary might have been among the spectators celebrating the opening of the Hughenden-Winton railway with the first performance of Banjo Paterson’s Waltzing Matilda at the North Gregory Hotel.
We decided to stay at this iconic outback pub. While it was established in 1879 it has burnt down three times and most recently reopened in 1955. It was old and while the communal areas were charming, we were surprised at the austere nature of the rooms. You do get used to having just a bit more than a bed and a collapsing cupboard in the room- a bench, a table, a shelf, even a chair would have added a touch of luxury. The saving grace was the shared balcony and the delightful company of Richard, a man with wonderful stories to share and a heart of gold. Well actually he was part of the team called Heart of Australia, a clinic on wheels, providing specialist medical services to rural and remote areas.
I did try to find out about my ancestors but the museum was not what I expected – when it said it was the Waltzing Matilda Museum it really was about the song and Banjo Paterson and there seemed to be no mention of my relatives and I drew a dead end at the cemetery. (Sorry..I really didn’t mean that!) I do regret not seeing it before it burnt down in 2015, as it had an incredible collection of artefacts that had been donated by the community. Actually, while I was at the cemetery, I saw a road train and thought I would take a photo not initially realising that I had given a show pony an opportunity to star! Seriously….country people…always up for a laugh!
The drive from Winton to Hughenden was only a couple of hours and it was deserted. It was ‘lumpy’, that is the most accurate description I can think of. It would have been a very brave grey nomad to tow a van along this road.
I was disappointed and a bit surprised that there was no accommodation available in Hughenden where my mother spent her childhood and related wonderful stories of playing in the riverbed of the Flinders River, a terrifying ride in a rowboat over the swollen river to get to school, avoiding stampeding horses by hiding in the rubber vines – all great adventures with her brother, Jim and sister, Suzie- the Three Musketeers. I will have to return another day.
Next stop Charters Towers- otherwise know as ‘The World’!