You sit up and take notice when, after hundreds of kilometres, the countryside changes. When the relentless flat tussock plains give way to ruddy outcrops and the ground supports trees and some greenery you can feel your spirit lift. This is how it must be in the doldrums. Nothing for days and then a puff of a breeze. Except it was a change of scene that refreshed us, we sat up with renewed interest. If we remember Mount Isa for little else, it will be for the blessed reprieve from beige and brown and fire-parched plains that felt like a marooning. Undulating alongside the highway, the Selwyn Ranges lured us further west to a city steeped in mining history dating to 1923.
Mount Isa from the lookout
I wish I had photos of the dramatic red-soiled desertscapes, but as we drove we were relishing the new vistas. How about a picture of a four-trailer road train in the centre of Mount Isa instead (pictured above)? Heavy haulage is big business and the road trains that crisscross the country can be 53 metres in length. To overtake you need at least a kilometre clearance and a heavy foot.
Mount Isa is a spring chicken in terms of age. In its 90th year it continues to grow and attract visitors as well as employs 3, 000 workers in the mining industry. The mine harnesses one of the world’s richest mineral resources. It raised itself out of the virtual desert of Queensland in 1923 when rock testing confirmed up to 78% lead-silver content. Caravan parks around the town accommodate FIFO (fly in fly out) workers in custom-built trailers. The information brochure tells of people from 50 different nationalities call Mount Isa home bringing with them diversity in culture, fashion and art.
We met a few couples camped by billabongs headed towards Mount Isa to attend the largest rodeo in the southern hemisphere. For some it was a bucket-list item, others return year after year. As it turned out we arrived the same week of the rodeo and because our two must see attractions did not include the mayhem of rodeo we were well away by the time the silliness of rodeo fever set in. As two sunsets and the Underground Hospital (post to follow) were the to do items we skirted the hustle and bustle of Rodeo fever to stay out of the way of those who came to enjoy the experience.
Peacocks @ Lake Moondarra
Rustling and swooshing their great feathered canopy at unimpressed peahens, the peacocks gayly strutted their stuff. We are intrigued how these birds make themselves at home in regions quite different to their natural home across the other side of the world. Since we left home we have become interested in the birds that inhabit the areas we pass through. While the peacocks and hens were a beautiful distraction the galahs pictured below were a reminder of the birds at home. They too were at Lake Moondarra for sunset.
Their comedic antics and parrot waddle make Galahs great entertainment
Sunset at Lake Moondarra, Mount Isa
The photos of the sunset over Mount Isa were a disappointment as I failed to get the light settings correct. The mining equipment and dunes could have made a spectacular backdrop.
The iconic smoke stacks of Mount Isa