Winton, Queensland

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I had a very good rest in Mt Isa and was lucky to able to stay with a brilliant warm showers host.
Belinda was wonderful and knows what long distance travelers, cyclist, or walkers, need when they get to a town.
It was also very interesting to talk to her about her plans to start a long cycle trip again. She says that she has sort of got stuck in Mt Isa but is very much planning to get out on the road again. There was a lot of discussion about destinations, equipment, and general traveling life.

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But, after resting, buying new supplies and filling the water bottles, it was time to start heading east again.

Mt Isa to Winton

Day 1

I started reasonably early, refreshed and rested. It felt easy and gentle and I had bought a new pair of thongs (flip-flops) that actually felt great. I have been having a hard time finding good thong that fit well and feel good, but these seem, at least so far, to be just what I need. The biggest problem is that they were expensive! I really hope that they last well, there is no way I can afford expensive thongs if they wear out too quickly..
I have another small problem with my feet as well. My left heel ( in fact all of both my feet) has been very dry and has cracked and developed a split through the skin that refuses to heal. Every time I start walking it just splits again. It’s not super serious, but it hurts more or less all the time and refuses to go away. I am going to have to try to treat it more seriously and try to use some antiseptic cream combined with some skin lotion on it to try to soften that area up so it doesn’t continue to split. Even more important is to make sure it does not get infected, that would complicate things!
Even so, the walking was good and the sun felt nice. It was good to be on the road again.
14 km east of Mt Isa, a car pulled up and the driver leaned out and asked if my name was Mats. When I confirmed that it was, he said that he had something for me.
At the beginning of February this year, just before flying to Stockholm to work, I met Lars Bengtsson, the lost cyclist, in Bangkok. We went out for a meal and a couple of beers and talked about long distance, long time travel. It was a great meeting and was the first, and so far only time, I have met Lars in person. We went to order a last beer and Lars said that he didn’t have any money left, he had not yet had a chance to go to the ATM or bank. No worries I said, I’ll get yours as well. Ever since then Lars has been joking about how he owes me a beer, or the money for one, in a lot of our interactions on social media. Now he had somehow organized that a couple of guys traveling through Australia on longboard skateboards would try to get the money to me. But they had not been able to catch up to me and had enlisted the help of a French couple to get the money to me. And here it was!
Thanks, Lars, but I think that at that moment I would have preferred a beer to the money!
🙂

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Not much more happened the rest of the day, just step, step, step. I had been warned that it was much hillier after Mt Isa and it was, but I can’t say that it was too difficult. The hills were not that steep or that long. In fact, it was more of relief from the constant flatness of the preceding month.

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After 50 km I came to a truck stop and just near it was a gate. I went through the gate and a few hundred yards down the track and found some trees to hang my hammock in. Still trying to force myself to get used to the hammock as it really appeals to my minimalistic side. It’s also super quick to set up and as long as you can get used to sleeping in it, very comfortable. I woke in the middle of the night to the wind picking up and starting to gust quite strongly. The trees I had picked were swaying, but they were sturdy and the movement was more nice than threatening. Occasionally, the gusts would come in just the right sequence to make the hammock start to swing quite radically. I relaxed and enjoyed the ride…

Day 2

The alarm rang at 6 am, but it was cold and windy outside the hammock. The sleeping bag was nice and warm and I just turned the alarm of and snuggled down deeper into the hammock.
Nevertheless, I had to get up, had some breakfast and set of. Again, a day of just taking one step after another. The scenery is great, with red, ancient hills studded with the rugged sort of bush that Australia is known for. It’s a crumbling, rugged, yet jagged countryside that looks as old as it is.

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During the day, I walked past a Wills and Bourke memorial. They had apparently passed past here on their inland exploration. Back in 4th or 5th grade at school, I won a book price and one of the books I choose was about Bourke and Wills. Guess I have always been interested in journeys of exploration. Did I imagine that I one day would be walking across their route, on foot, on my way between Stockholm and Sydney?
🙂
The flies are bad around here and I kept walking until the sun had set before setting up the tent in the scrub behind a gravel pit. I only have my cell foam pad to sleep on and that is not very thick, but I have gotten used to it and no longer wake up with aching shoulders and sore hips. In fact, I sleep really well in the tent, better than the hammock which is much more comfortable. Strange how that works, being able to move around seems to be very important to me when I sleep. Just as well considering how hard the foam pad is…

Day 3

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I had walked 42 km the day before and only had 30 or so to Cloncurry to do, so I took it easy and ambled along. Just as well as I started out the day limping along with my left heal hurting every time I stepped on it. It seems to be healing, or at least not getting worse, but not quickly. After 30 min or so, your mind realizes that you are going to keep walking despite the pain and filters it out.
I arrived in Cloncurry early in the afternoon and went shopping. Bought way too much food and gorged myself on fresh stuff. Made sandwiches for the coming day and enjoyed fresh milk in my coffee.
From here, I have to decide if I am going to head towards Townsville or Rockhampton. The turn off is a little ways outside of town and I think I will just walk out there and decide what feels best when I’m there.

Day 4

I left Cloncurry after an easy morning, with lots of coffee and yogurt to keep me going through the day. I had also made some fresh sandwiches to keep me going, pastrami and camembert.
I was planning to take 3 days ( or 2.5 ) to reach McKinlay so had plenty of time as it was ”only” 110 km or so. I made good time walking along and the countryside flattened out and the hills started disappearing. I really enjoyed my fresh sandwiches and they helped keep my spirit pretty high. Late in the afternoon it was getting hot and the flies were starting to get very annoying, but just then a car stopped and offered me a cold bottle of lemonade. Just what I needed!
🙂
As the sun got lower and lower, I started looking for a place to camp. I finally found a paddock that I could get into along the side of the road that had a few trees and some scrub, shielding it from the highway and decided to stay there. It was a nice place and I set up the hammock and relaxed after finishing the last of my fresh sandwiches.
The hammock is very nice and comfortable in the beginning and add to that the fact that it is nice and cool and you would think that it would be perfect to sleep in. But as I have said, I have a hard time moving around in it and it also gets cold in the early morning hours. I’ll keep trying to adapt, but I’m getting closer to being convinced that I am better served with just a tent. I would like a tent that is cooler than the one I’m using at the moment, but still.

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Day 5

I was cold when the alarm rang in the morning, and as I was in no particular hurry, I stayed in my sleeping bag for an extra hour, until the sun had started warming up. As I got up and got dressed, I managed to rip a great big hole in my shirt. My favorite walking shirt that has been with me from the start and protected me from the sun all across the USA. Not all that strange that it finally gave up, after being used day in and day out, with countless hand washes and the sun beating down on it, the fabric across the shoulders had become extremely thin. To the point that it now finally gave up!
I ate the last of my bananas for breakfast and set off. A couple of cars and a truck stopped to check that I was ok or if I needed a lift, one of them a police car. But I told them what I was doing and thanked them for checking on me.
My heel is starting to get better, or at least not getting any worse. The trick that finally allowed it to stop splitting and start healing? Lip balm…
After 18 km, I arrived at a rest stop and decided to have some lunch. It’s always nice to be able to sit down at a table in the shade.
As I sat there, a small bus converted to a camper van pulled over and the driver came over for a talk. We chatted for a long time and I was offered a couple of cups of coffee and even a beer. It turned out to be a very nice lunch and I felt relaxed enough to just enjoy it without feeling the need to stress ever forward.

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But I did eventually need to get going and by the time I set off, it was just after 2 pm and the hotest part of the day. Because of the late start and long lunch I had only walked about 36 km by the time the sun started setting. I found a gate in the fence along the road and hid myself behind some bushes, where I pitched the tent. The tent is not as comfortable as the hammock, but it is warmer in the early mornings and despite the harder surface, I seem to sleep better and be more rested after sleeping on the ground. Still hope it’s just a matter of getting used to it as the hammock really is much more comfortable.

 

Day 6

Today was alway going to be an easier day. The distance between the ”towns” dictate, at least to a certain extent, when I stop and it was only 30 km left into McKinlay.
I arrived a little after 1 pm and got a tent site at the Walkabout Creek Hotel. It’s famous for being in the Crocodile Dundee movie. McKinlay is a tiny town, essentially only the hotel and a small roadhouse. It’s going to be difficult to resupply here and the next ”town” is 2 days away. Unfortunately, I think that is even smaller, consisting of only a small road house! Then it’s 4 days to Winton before I will find any sort of store. So need to get together enough food for 6 days here and at the next stop. Guess I will have to buy sandwiches and whatever else I can find. Still have food left from my big shopping spree in Mt Isa, but not enough for the whole distance.

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I have just set up the tent, had a shower and am listening to the washing machine wash my few clothes. When it has finished, I think I will take a walk and take a few photos before heading into the hotel for a beer. Then a big feed at the roadhouse….

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Day 7

There was no Telstra reception at McKinlay, so the story continues…

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I set off with a stomach full of scrambled eggs and some fresh sandwiches for the day. The road was straight and I had only to walk on. It was a little bit hot and the flies were bad, they have been getting worse, something I thought would not be possible!
The surrounding landscape is getting even dryer and looks like it has been grazed to death. Apart from the odd oversized vehicle, complete with police escort, the day was uneventful.

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Late in the afternoon, or rather early in the evening, a car stopped. They had passed me by going the other way, had read that I was walking from Stockholm to Sydney and had to turn around and find out what it was all about. They were a Dutch couple with their daughter, living in Australia. After I told my story they made sure to give me a ”proper” sandwich and a cold beer. White toast gets pretty boring after a while so it was nice to have some proper sourdough bread with a nice slice of Dutch cheese. Not only that, they are starting a company to manufacture treacle waffles and left me their last packet. Check them out at . www.treacletreat.com.au. I decided to save it for breakfast tomorrow, a real calorie bomb to start the day of with!

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Five km down the road I stopped and camped at a rest area, more of a parking bay really, and enjoyed a short time without flies after the sun set.

Day 8

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Another short day. 30 km into Kynuna and a stop at the roadhouse/caravan park. Ate a big hamburger and chips for lunch, had a long shower and took it easy during the afternoon. I had hoped that I would have Telstra reception here, but no. So it looks like this story will have to continue until I reach Winton, another 3 to 4 days away.
The lady in the kitchen told me that Waltzing Matilda was written here in Kynuna, don’t know how true that is but the town was founded around the local stations and there are a lot of sheep here. At the moment, there are only about 14 residents in the town, down from 400 in1894.

Day 9

Another start with a full breakfast in my stomach and fresh sandwiches packed in the Mule. There were storm clouds on the horizon and, thankfully, a fair bit of cloud that was helping to keep the temperature down.
My first stop was at a rest stop 18 km out of town and as I sat there Jim, a Scotish man living in Australia came over for a chat. He had come from the west and I took the opportunity to find out about the condition of the Gib River Road and if it was possible to cycle. Sounded like it was rough but not too sandy which would be the biggest hindrance to tackling it on a bicycle.

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I had just finished talking to Jim when another couple asked me if I was really walking. It was Terese and Mario from Sydney, themselves out on a 2-year tour with their caravan. We chatted for a while and they left me with a cold beer and some fresh fruit, great!

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Later during the day a car with 3 or 4 Indian people in it stopped and checked that I was ok. They told me that an Indian man had walked this stretch about 6 months ago and left me with 2 cans of coldish drink. Not long after that 2 cars stopped and I was offered a cold bottle of water and a bottle of sprite. People sure where being friendly and helpful!
🙂
In the afternoon, the storm front finally reached me and it started raining. Hard, heavy drops, driven by a hard wind. I only have my poncho as rain shelter and I am discovering that a poncho is not all that great in a heavy wind. At least not the light-weight type that I have. Didn’t matter much though, it was not very cold and the rain was refreshing and probably very welcome in this area.

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The rain didn’t last all that long and I continued on into the late evening and even kept walking after the sun set. After I had covered 53 km for the day, I found a gravel stockpile site next to the road and pitched the tent behind the largest pile, crawled in and rested.

Day 10

The day dawned without a cloud in the sky and not much wind. Looked like it was going to be a hot one, and without the wind to help keep the flies away, it was going to be annoying. I had my first break 18 km later, at a rest stop and both the heat and the flies were worse than they had been any day earlier. I wanted to cover at least 55 km for the day in order to make it to Winton in 3 days and it looked like it was going to be a tough day!

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It was hot when I set off, but I was lucky as the afternoon brought with it some small clouds making a little bit more bearable.
I was again lucky that the same Indian family that had given me some drinks the day before came by going the other way and stopped to give me a Red Bull. This time, they stopped to take some photos as well.
I walked until the sun had set, the only way to get rid of all the flies and set up the tent just next to a stock route turn off. I had just passed the 60 km to Winton sign, so the last day was going to be a long one!

Day 11

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I got up early, to a wonderful sunrise, and started walking. It was going to be a long day and I did not want to have to do too much of it in darkness.
I only had short food breaks and tried to walk rather than sit around and waste time!
🙂
It started out warm with lots of flies but the wind gradually picked up and most of the day I was fighting my way into a headwind.
With about 10 km to go, I was starting to get tired and, just in time, a family stopped and offered me a cold soft drink and a beer!

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Talk about timing. With some extra energy, I was able to finish the close to 60 km day and get myself a room at a hotel. I had to walk the last 5 km in the dark but there was not much traffic and it felt great to finally walk into town. A quick shower before I headed to the pub to get a feed. The family that had helped me earlier where there as well, having dinner, and I sat down next to them and started to relax.

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Tomorrow will be a rest day, with laundry, some shopping and maybe even a new blog post. Then it will be time to start the 4-day trek to Longreach…