Thursday, 3 August 2017

Winton and Hughenden - dinosaurs and fossils

Somehow on all our outback trips we seem to visit Winton. It's a small outback town in mid-west Queensland and every time we visit it seems to us to be the quintessential Aussie outback town. It is also home to the absolutely amazing "Age of Australian Dinosaurs" museum.
Peter loves spending a couple of days in their Lab scraping away the rock and earth which encases the bones of these pre-historic animals, and the whole set-up now is much more than a museum and if anyone is interested I urge you to have a look at their webpage -

Winton itself claims to be the home of the Australian song "Waltzing Matilda" as the words were written by Australian poet, Banjo Paterson, when visiting Winton in 1895. There was a quite wonderful museum dedicated to this song in Winton which sadly burnt down several years ago. It is now being re-built to a new, big and very swish design and hopefully will replace the old as many artifacts were able to be rescued from the fire. The locals have mixed feelings about the new design and some feel it will be a bit 'citified' for this laid-back, outback country town. Time will tell.

Locals are friendly and always up for a chat.
One is the elderly owner of Searles - a store that sells a wide variety of goods. Bernie Searle has worked in the store founded by his father in 1946 for 65 years. One eye-catching feature is a display of old Australian hats - mostly the traditional Akrubra - that certainly all had been much loved and worn for many years. Bernie noticed my interest and was happy to yarn about his big trip to Sydney and his invitation to attend the book launch of a beautiful 'coffee-table' book devoted to the Akrubra hat. Bernie and his store even featured in the book being long-time retailers of these hats. He didn't think much of Sydney, he said, too noisy and too many people and he was glad to get back to Winton after his city outing.

The town, as well as dinosaurs, also has digs for boulder opal and of course there are stores where you can buy opal either in the 'rough' or polished and mounted in beautiful designs. In one shop I heard a Canadian accent and got to chatting with another overseas visitor - they were from Saskatchewan and so we had a lovely talk about our trip there and Rouleau, the town we visited, where "Corner Gas" (Canadian television comedy) was filmed.

Winton has a Musical Fence! (You read that correctly!). It was designed by percussionist and composer Graeme Leak in 2003 and is a wire fence that can be played as a musical instrument and it is the first permanent musical fence installation in the world. Nearby is a 'drum kit' made of all sorts of metal rubbish - but it is surprisingly good to bang about on it.

We enjoyed our stay in Winton but then we always do! Moving on our next stop was Hughenden, for a few days - again this outback town is in 'dinosaur and fossil' country and it has an extremely good and well presented museum relating the history of the district both ancient and modern.

The friendly staff there were all dog lovers and urged us to bring Charley in too and they gave him a lovely welcome. We're quite sure all the admiration he attracts will quite go to his head.

We went fossil hunting just outside the town and after a short time to our surprise, Peter found one - a Belemnite and only about 65 million years old.  Absolutely thrilled with our find and so, on our way back we called in to see the Porcupine Gorge - quite a spectacular 'gash' in the surface of the earth and a very fine sight.

Next we continued travelling east with the next stop - Charters Towers.