Saturday, June 15, 2013

Dinosaur Trail

Age of Dinosaurs, Winton
Welcome to Age of Dinosaurs, Winton
Replica of Banjo
Connor with Banjo replica
It was amazing how quickly the pack up occurred in Winton.  All the boys had been looking forward to visiting the Age of the Dinosaurs which is just 24 kilometres on the Longreach road (in the opposite direction to which we were going) and to have sufficient time for a visit this required an early start.  We have been most impressed how each of the boys has willingly packed up their stretcher, bagged their sleeping bag, repacked their packs and helped with the taking down of the tents normally all before breakfast and with no complaints.  This morning instead of being out of bed between 7 and 7.30 we got up at 6.30!  We were packed and out of the camping ground by 8.30 a.m. – a record for us.  After a stop at one of the local general stores for grocery items we headed out of town.
Winton, and nearby Richmond and Hughenden are considered the dinosaur trail of Australia and each of the towns has exhibitions of the fossils that have been collected in the area.  Peter and I have visited the Age of the Dinosaurs exhibition when we were in the Longreach/Winton area in July 2011 but we knew the boys would enjoy it.  The facility is set high on top of a huge mesa plateau (huge rocky outcrops with cliffs and canyons overlooking the plains) and is home to the world’s largest collection of Australian dinosaur fossils including some of the most famous such as the Australovenator and the Diamantinasaurus.

Tim riding Banjo
Jake with Banjo
We paid to attend the two tours available the first being the collection area.  Here we were shown the various bones that have been collected for the Australovenator (known as locally as Banjo) and the Diamantinasaurus (known as Matilda).  One of these is 30% complete and the other 60%.  A audio visual presentation of the dinosaur was also shown including where the collected bones fit on the dinosaur.  It was certainly very interesting especially if you are a boy and love anything to do with dinosaurs.

From here we walked down the plateau to the laboratory where the second tour commenced.  Here the guide explained about the yearly two week dig, how the fossils are protected for transportation and storage and then we were able to see a group of volunteers and staff using fine tools to carefully remove the fossils from the rock.  It was amazing to learn that the first fossils were found in the area in 1999 and that they are finding so many bones during each year’s dig that they have sufficient in storage to keep the staff and volunteers working for twenty five years to prepare the fossils for show.  Jake was particularly interested in having an opportunity to be a volunteer and thinks that he will ask his parents to bring him back to Winton  when he is twelve to undertake the ten days “prep a dino honorary technician assessment” program. 

Jake taking a ride on Banjo
Jake and Tim had looked forward to visiting
the Age of  Dinosaurs for a long time
After everyone had learnt enough and seen enough of the dinosaurs it was time to continue our trip towards Townsville, still about 700 kilometres away and we needed to be there by the next day.  We went back into Winton, had lunch in the park and set off for Hughenden.  We had a stop in Hughenden at the Information Centre to view the fossils there on display as Hughenden is part of the fossil triangle along with Richmond (to the west) and Winton. 
During our travels Peter had worn his hat most of the way and in fact often two hats to avoid them being ruined.  Both Jake and Tim had often referred to him as “two hats” and it was not uncommon to see one of them wearing both hats.  All three boys had previously had the Australian outback type hat but had worn them out or grown out of them so we decided it was time that they had replacements.  So fortunately the Hughenden Information Centre had the correct sizes and three birthday presents (all in advance) were purchased much to the pleasure of the boys.  So before we left town they had their photo taken wearing their new hats in front of the dinosaur display.

Lizard at Age of Dinosaur complex
We joined the Flinders Highway (which goes east/west from Townsville through Mt Isa) towards Townsville and had decided that we would camp overnight at Campaspe River.  This is a free camping area that we have previously stayed at and the boys were keen to have a bush camping experience and to light a fire.  The riverbed was dry but made an interesting place for the boys to explore.  There were a number of caravans and motorhomes already parked up when we arrived and they watched in surprise as out climbed the boys and the unpacking of the roof rack commenced and the tents erected.  Jake and Tim have been taking it in turns for one of them to sleep in the tent with us and the other in the tent with Connor – it was Jake’s turn tonight.  With the tents up and dinner underway wood collection became the priority and after some hairy starts he fire eventually stayed alight – marshmallows were the priority but only after first course of T-bone steaks and salad.  The Engel fridge in the rear of the car has worked extremely well as a freezer and we have travelled the full two weeks with a supply of meat for each day bought in Melbourne before we left.  The T-bones were the last and were pretty tasty too.

After lots of marshmallows especially for two of the boys (Jake only like one or two) and a game around the fire it was time for bed.  We still have 250 kilometres to go tomorrow to reach Townsville, our final destination.  The road trains and the trains on the train line behind us kept going all night but surprisingly we all slept well.

"Matilda" photo taken during audio visual presentation


Signage of fossilized bones already found

Showing fossilized bones still surrounded in rock/dirt

Lower rib bones

The boys with the tour leader at Age of Dinosaurs

Surrounding countryside from the meza plateau - Age of Dinosaurs

Jake and Tim beside dug bones wrapped in plaster of paris until
ready to be removed from the rock

Photo of recent dig poster

Volunteers being supervised by technician

Jake being shown work in progress by volunteer - note use of
magnifying glass

Tim having a hands on experience looking at the fossilized bones

The volunteers hard at work - it was really noisy like being at the
dentist with the drill going!

Boys with their own hats with dinosaur replica in Hughenden

Tim with the dinosaur at Hughenden

Tim and friend in Hughenden

The road train that caused our broken windscreen!

Unpacking the roof rack at Campaspe River

All hands on deck to help - bush camping at Campaspe River

Connor's tent is up but waiting on the fly to go on

Jake making up his stretcher after making up Tim's

Tim taking his stretcher into the tent - waiting on help

Connor and Jake adding the fly

Tim took a snatch strap with him to look for some wood 

The dry river bed with the railway bridge

Tim assured me there was water near but I didn't see it

Tim enjoyed poking in the ash in the brazier

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