Still no word from the specialist (Mikes shoulder) however I guess this is to be expected when you are in the Outback. The roads are still very narrow and the drive from Julia Creek to Mt Isa is spectacular. We crisscross more tributaries which, when in flood, eventually flow to Lake Eyre. It really is hard to imagine these parts of the country in flood. Half way through this drive we start to climb into the mountain ranges known as the Selwyn Range. This rugged country side is rich in minerals comprising copper, gold, lead and zinc. These incredible Proterozoic metamorphic rocks create some of the most remarkable rock formation. Upon entering the town of Cloncurry the realisation hits that this once remarkable area has been decimated by years of mining. We continue onto Mt Isa (‘The Isa’ as it is known to the locals) travelling through the Selwyn Ranges where it feels like you are on top of the world.
Upon the horizon we spot a plume of smoke. Is that Mt Isa??? surely not. As we get closer it becomes apparent this plume of smoke continually oozes out of a giant smoke stack. Adjoining this stack are another two stacks which, like the first, continue to omit pollution 24 hours a day. It is quite sad to see such a site (mine) after having travelled through such picturesque countryside. Once we enter the town we question whether or not it was such a good idea to be staying.Moondarra Lake is a manmade lake approx. 15km from town. It was constructed for the towns water supply in 1958 having been built by private enterprise. In addition to being the source of the Isa’s drinking water, the lake is also used for waterskiing, fishing and swimming and it is a very pleasant and peaceful area amongst a smoggy and unhealthy town. It was a little cool the day we were there and thank goodness as a couple of days later I read an article that the lake was full of freshwater crocodiles. Despite what some people say, freshwater crocs can also be rather dangerous. The picnic area was full of peacocks and eagles (eagles are a common sight throughout outback QLD).
Leaving the scenic lake we venture off the beaten track to a local carving known as the ‘Three Sisters’. We asked several locals if they knew of the area but to no avail so we carry on with our mud map we managed to get our hands on .The location was via some private property and then into a protected Aboriginal area (local tribe being the renowned Kalkadoon people). Unfortunately it had been dry and therefore the waterfalls that would appear during the wetter months were not present. It’s a shame as you can visualise how spectacular the swimming holes would have been. The scenery and the carvings are really quite special.
By day three I am starting to feel my lungs aching and even the kids say their mouths and lips are tingling. This is not a healthy place to live and we wonder how anyone could possibly want to live here (other than for the mining money). Who monitors the air quality in this town??? apparently Xstrata, the operators of the mine. We were informed they undertook an air quality study over a 4 year period and deemed the air quality to be within the normal or acceptable range. We were also informed this particular study did not include detecting for lead, acid and copper, which is the bulk of what is mined here….mmmm. The city has been developed so that the town is on one side of the railway tracks whilst immediately on the other side is the mining monstrosity. The upside to this mining town is the money that is injected into the town. Xstrata fund a number of facilities including a massive play area and water park that includes a kids bike track complete with street signs, (no, Mike did not attempt any stunts today). The park has a terrific view of the mine (approx. 200m away) and strangely enough the park is closed every Wednesday for maintenance (we believe this is so the equipment can be thoroughly cleaned so there is no or little trace of any toxins should someone decide to independently test at any time.
The School of the Air was open (Qld schools have returned for term three) so we toured this great facility and watched as one of the teachers was live on air to 8 students somewhere in outback QLD. Correspondence is still by phone (no skype yet as the NBN has not reached these remote areas… as if it ever will).
Rodeo drive gives credit to some of the best bulls and bull riders who have gained legendary status at one of the biggest Rodeos in the southern hemisphere. Unfortunately the rodeo is not for another few weeks and we were not willing to hang around and potentially burst a lung.<