TENNANT CREEK to MOUNT ISA

The only good thing about getting up at 4 AM is that you get to see the sunrise, and over the grassy plains of the Barkly Tableland – that’s magical!  We are up this early to beat the wind.  The riding here is hard enough – six days of dead straight road, unbearable heat, flies that are even worse, and only one roadhouse and town along the way to keep you motivated.  If you can get a few hours “wind free” it is worth it.  After that experience, it’s no wonder we liked Mount Isa!

Mount Isa is ‘real’ mining town – you can’t forget it either, as the mine is right in the centre!  The Mount Isa Mine is like an ‘iceberg’ what you can see on the surface, is only a small part – it goes down 2 km and has a tunnel network stretching over 1,000 kms – that is 10 days cycling for us !!!

It feels like a mining town too – prosperous, hard working and welcoming to all.  It’s been over 80 years since, John Campbell Miles, found lead in the surrounding ochre-red hills, but I reckon, he’d be proud to see that the pioneering spirit is still alive and well here today!  It’s a hard place not to like.

Did you know, Mount Isa is one of the biggest cities in the world? Well, sort of… Camooweal, 188km to the west, is administered by the Mount Isa City Council, which technically makes the city area 41,000 sq kms and the stretch of the Barkly Highway between the two, the longest main street!

It’s no surprise that such a ‘big’ town should have a ‘big’ school.  We visited the Mount Isa School of the Air to learn how kids on remote stations receive an education.  Imagine your teacher giving lessons over the radio, while you and your class mates sit scattered hundreds of kms away!  The school has 220 children enrolled, from 150 families in Prep to year 10, and covers roughly a quarter of QLD!  It’s proof, there are no problems in life, only challenges – and the School of the Air, is a great example of overcoming the challenge of making education a reality for isolated kids!

Now what happens if you get sick on a remote outback station? Thankfully, there is the Royal Flying Doctor Service and we gave the Mount Isa base a visit to learn more.  These doctors are busy – doing 15,000 visits a year, across 550,000 sq kms – now that really is flying!  Imagine, if you’re hurt, and in the middle of nowhere, then the lights of the Flying Doctor plane appearing over the horizon, must surely feel like an angel has arrived.  It’s a wonderful service, an Aussie icon, and another great example of over coming the challenge of isolation.  The live up to their motto – The Furthest Corner.  The Finest Care!

We’d also like to thank Neil, Billy & Jenny at the Moondarra Campground for putting us up while in town, and being the perfect hosts.  It’s been great having a real bed for a few nights!

From Mount Isa, we now cycle through the hills to Cloncurry, then north to Normanton in the Gulf of Carpentaria.  It’ll be more straight roads, plenty of flies, one road house and one town.  Are we there yet??

Enjoy the ride!

Jules & Jess

Kids, check out the following websites to learn more;

http://www.mtisasde.eq.edu.au/touristInfo.html

http://www.flyingdoctor.org.au/About-Us/Our-History/

Cycling from 4 AM to beat the wind

 

You get to see the sun rise

 

And on the Barkly - that's magical!

 

Then the head winds start (we wish they were cross winds!)

 

The mental challenge of 6 days of this, is the hardest part

 

A shady rest stop (can you count the flies? - about 1 million!)

 

A windmill means water, and is always a good thing to see

 

Dinner time ... hmm looks alot like last night?

 

Our camp for the night, luckily sheltered from the rain

 

Are we there yet?

 

Yeah baby! Back in QLD ... a long way from Argentina !!

 

Mount Isa a real mining town - and there it is, right in the middle!

 

With Tim Moes (Principal) chatting with the School of the Air kids about our ride

 

With Royal Flying Doctors, Capt Martin Hurst and Jeni Sloan from the Mount Isa base

 

Getting a closer look at mining life on the Hard Time mine tour