Ilfracombe to Tennant Creek, NT

Below are overviews about some of the towns I went through.

Winton: Rich in history, Winton was originally known as Pelican Waterhole and was first settled in 1875. The Outback town is best known as the place that AB (Banjo) Paterson wrote Waltzing Matilda in 1895, while staying at Dagworth Station outside Winton. The first performance of the ballad was reported to be at Winton’s North Gregory Hotel on 6 April of the same year. Winton is recognised as the ‘home’ of Australian bush poetry, hosting the annual Bronze Swagman Award, one of the country’s most prestigious literary awards. Queensland and Northern Territory Aerial Service (Qantas), Australia’s national airline was formed in Winton in November, 1920 and its first board meeting was held in the Winton Club on 21 February 1921. Winton is famous for its water supply which thrusts its way to the earth’s surface from three artesian bores, all around 1,200 metres deep emerging at a temperature of 83 degrees Celsius. The water is sourced from the Great Artesian Basin which provides water for most of Australia’s Outback. Winton is in the centre of Matilda Country, a diverse region in which vast Mitchell Grass plains are broken by magnificent coloured gorges, ridges and jump-ups. Visitors to the region will be amazed by the vastness of the plains and the undulating nature of the landscape. There is a wide variety of animal and bird life in the area, generally best seen around dusk and dawn on minor roads and tracks. Day trips from Winton take visitors to Opalton, one of the oldest opal fields in Queensland; Combo Waterhole, where the swaggie of ‘Waltzing Matilda’ fame reputedly met his fate; the vintage sandstone homestead of Old Cork Station; and Lark Quarry, where 93 million year-old fossils capture a dinosaur stampede.http://www.queenslandholidays.com.au/destinations/outback/places-to-visit/winton/

Mount Isa: Described as the Oasis of the Outback – a gleaming mirage on the horizon for travellers from all directions – Mount Isa nestles among the ochre-red Selwyn Ranges, on the banks of the Leichhardt River. Mount Isa has grown from strength to strength over the years but the harsh picturesque landscape has barely changed, becoming one of the main draw-cards for visitors each year. Mount Isa brings out the adventurous spirit in everyone, with ample places to fish, camp, four wheel drive, or relax and enjoy an Outback sunset. The rugged terrain is a four wheel driver’s haven, and visitors can explore the region just as the pioneers of the region did many years ago. The twin jewels in Mount Isa’s crown are the spectacular Lawn Hill Gorge in Boodjamulla National Park and its neighbour, the world-heritage listed Riversleigh Fossil Fields, both of which are accessed from Mount Isa. A must see while in Mount Isa is the Outback at Isa complex, incorporating the award winning Riversleigh Fossil Centre, Hard Times Mine, Sir James Foots Building, Outback Park and Visitor Information Centre. Other attractions are the School of the Air, the Royal Flying Doctors base, National Trust Tent House, Underground Hospital and Beth Anderson Museum, surface tours of Mount Isa Mines and fishing for barramundi at Lake Moondarra. Mount Isa’s existence and its main financial base is the huge Mount Isa Mine, the world’s largest single producer of copper, silver, lead and zinc. In 1923, John Campbell Miles found a silver-lead ore outcrop and sent a sample to Cloncurry to be assessed. Miles pegged two leases and soon 500 were filled. Mount Isa Mines took over operations in 1924. This rich deposit is still producing high volumes of ore and is classed as one of the world’s great mines. http://www.queenslandholidays.com.au/destinations/outback/places-to-visit/mount-isa/index.cfm

Tennant Creek: Tennant Creek is a small township of about 3500 people, located 500 kilometres north of Alice Springs and 1000 kilometres south of Darwin. It’s a place shaped by Aboriginal culture, gold mining and pastoralism. The surrounding area is called the Barkly Tablelands, a region characterised by wide grassy plains, endless blue sky and massive cattle stations. The traditional Aboriginal owners of the area surrounding Tennant Creek are the Warumungu people. Their culture and stories are showcased at one of the country’s best art and cultural centres called Nyinkka Nyunyu. Tennant Creek is also known as the ‘Golden Heart of the Northern Territory’ – a name that refers to the warm personalities of its people and because it is the site of Australia’s last major gold rush in the 1930s. People initially looked for gold in quartz, but it wasn’t until the 1930s that they discovered that the gold was still in the ironstone. The town’s goldmining history remains, and is captured at sites around the town such as the Battery Hill Mining Centre. In fact, it’s thought that there is still plenty of gold to be found, and mining for this and other valuable minerals, like manganese and copper, remains a vital economic contributor for the region. http://en.travelnt.com/explore/tennant-creek/tennant-creek.aspx

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Mohandas Gandhi

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