Travelling Oz…’Monsters of the Outback’ – on the trail of the dinasours

We visited Winton a few years ago when it was in drought, it is almost unrecognisable after a couple of years of good rain. And they have had a bit of winter rain as well, meaning some areas are still boggy. Everything is green.

We didn’t take too much notice last time of the dinasour connection. I’m not sure why, perhaps we didn’t get caught up in the magic. But, it happened this time. On our drive into Winton we diverted to the Age of Dinasours Museum and got to see some of the dinasour bones that have been found in this area. We also saw exerpts from the documentary on the discovery of the bones. A DVD of the whole documentary was on sale in the gift shop, but DVDs are not that useful and I asked if they had it in another format. Unfortunately not, but a Google search later and I found the full show on Vimeo. We were fairly hooked after our visit to the museum and we watched the 40 minute documentary in the evening.

Today we took a tour to another site, which they think is the site of a dinasour stampede. ‘A minute in time preserved for 90,000,000 years’, as someone has said. We could have driven to the site, but it made it a sort of rest day to be on a tour, plus you get far more information about the landscape and and the dinasour bones and tracks that have been preserved for so long here. We also had good, healthy food, apart from morning tea with biccies and lamingtons. Our tour guide had everything in our vehicle and he served three snacks/meals during our time. Lunch was cold meat and salad and afternoon tea was fruit salad, in individual packs for each person.

We went on a tour run by the museum to see the stampede tracks, which have been enclosed to try to preserve them. Embarrassingly, a wall fell in on the tracks after four months, but they have also left some of the covering rocks in place so not everything is exposed. Even if there is further damage at least part of the record has been preserved. The current theory is that tiny dinasours, the size of chickens, plus some slightly larger ones, were at a water hole when a very large predator arrived. As the large dinasour tracked down a victim the others fled towards it as they had the water at their backs and nowhere else to run. This is only a theory, and fits what is there, but they stress that they don’t really know what happened, though they know something of why the tracks were preserved. This area was rainforest in those times and actually located a bit south of where Tasmania is now.

The open savannah grasslands of present time are very good for cattle. Although they started out here with sheep it is mostly cattle now, and many pastoralists at least try to practice sustainable land use without overstocking.

The light during today was slightly less bright than I expected. Perhaps the polution which is giving us such splendid sunrises and sunsets is also present during the day and holding back some of the light.

As the day went on I noticed that there was much about the history of settlement in the area, as well as the ancient history, but nothing about the original inhabitants. Eventually our tour guide told us that story too. After pastoralists started settling here they ran into dispute with the indigenous people, who, after all, had the greater claim to the land. Police were sent in and killed about 200 people. The rest were sent off to missions and their original culture and language was lost over the generations. However, they eventually mounted a native title claim which has been successful. A good result in the end, but doesn’t make up for how their ancestors were treated.

The weather is sunny and cool, and ideal for exploring and we felt that we had a really lovely time. Our guide was ex military and fairly commanding. He said doing the tours was like taking his friends’ parents on outings. We were all grey nomads, of the fit and healthy kind, and very docile. Perhaps keeping us fed and watered is to that end. The tour was value for money at $145 per person, and included all our food and drinks, plus entry to the Lark Quarry (the name of the stampede excavation).