Rather than return to Cairns the way we came, we are following a variation of the North West Loop suggested by the Drive North West Queensland website. That loop goes west from Cairns then south to Cloncurry and east to finish at Townsville. We will complete the circle by returning to Cairns via Townsville. Today began that circle back with the 450 km trip south to Cloncurry.
We were awake early and ready to move by 7:30 am. Majella drove us out of town and back toward Normanton. We saw a few small groups brolgas along the way but nothing like the number we had seen by the waterhole yesterday. We did see what we thought were a pair of bustards along the way. As we approached Normanton we paused briefly where there were pools of water either side of road and saw a jabiru and a group of what we thought were magpie geese.
I filled the tank with diesel in Normanton and Majella drove on for another hour. The countryside was flat with lightly wooded grassland either side of the road. There were a couple of very minor rises in the road for the first hour or so south of Normanton. We saw areas that were heavily populated by termite mounds and others where there were very few to be seen. A bit more than an hour south of Normanton we paused at a rest area to have coffee.
I drove on from there through much the same scenery with just a few low ridges to crest so that we occasionally got a view of the surrounding countryside. Most of it was grassed but we saw a few areas that were bare. We paused at the Burke and Wills Roadhouse at the four ways junction and enjoyed ice creams before I drove on. From there south the country became more interesting with occasional ridges to cross and rocky knobs visible on either side of the road.
We changed drivers again about an hour before we reached Cloncurry about 1:00 pm. That was too early to go to a campsite so we followed the sign to John Flynn Place Museum and Art Gallery. We parked outside and ate lunch of ham and refried chip (leftovers from yesterday lunch) sandwiches with ginger beer – gourmet delight or healthy choice, take your pick.
When we entered the museum the woman at the counter asked if we were going to both museums, that one and the one across town. We had an afternoon to fill so opted for the discounted combined ticket.
There was much to see at the museum which had numerous posters packed with text and several short movies as well as artefacts. The story of the flying doctor service and its impact on outback life was told in vivid detail. In addition to the historical material there were galleries with art works on related themes. We spent a bit more than an hour learning much more than we had ever known about the history of the flying doctor service and then spent some time to see the art work.
Across town we found the information centre and Mary Kathleen memorial park. We spent some time in the museum area. It had a small collection of artefacts from local history including clothing and other domestic items and some indigenous artefacts but the larger part of the collection was an extensive array of mineral specimens from around the world. That was linked to the mining history of the area and especially the Mary Kathleen uranium mine and township halfway between here and Mount Isa to the west. We are not gong that way this time but might sometime in the future.
Majella had managed to contact our niece, Terese, who lived at Cloncurry with her husband Andy on her first teaching appointment. Terese gave Majella addresses where they had lived so we drove by those for a look.
By then it was after 3:00 pm. We found a grocery store and replenished provisions, refueled the van, and then headed for our campsite. There we found a site with some shade and immediately tackled the ice cream that we had bought but could not fit in the tiny van freezer. Then it was time to relax in the air conditioning until the sun dropped far enough to permit me to barbecue our dinner.