Tall tales are a feature of the Outback, where a “yarn” (Australian slang for a story) can get bigger in the telling. And the five-hour drive from Winton takes us to Boulia, home of the mythical, mysterious “Min Min lights”.
But first, there’s some wonderful country to pass through as we start our first day of driving the Outback Way. We made way for road trains and cattle musters, and stopped to take in the views from the Cawnpore Lookout, and to check out an old movie set (part of the Australian movie Goldstone – the sequel to Mystery Road – was made here).
We stopped along the way at the Middleton Hotel, where Lester and Val Cain were ready to have a chat. Walking into the pub – the only building in Middleton – was a bit like walking into their lounge room, with the bar off to one side. It’s tiny, and you get the feeling the Cains are used to people just popping in for a quick drink then moving on!
In Boulia, we make our first stop at the Min Min Encounter, to learn more about the mysterious balls of lights that have haunted the town since 1918. Boulia has built its tourist industry around these lights, reputed to follow travellers and stockmen for long distances at night. It’s all a bit spooky and fascinating, but has never been scientifically explained. If you’re passing through Boulia, it’s well worth a look!
Boulia’s also known for its dinosaur fossils, and there’s a terrific display at the Stonehouse Museum. The stone house which is the centrepiece of the museum was built in 1888 as a family home and is one of the first houses built in western Queensland, designed to deal with the stifling summer heat. A separate building houses a large fossil display, including an “80 per cent complete” fossil of a Plesiosaur.
At dusk, we headed out of town a few kilometres for a sunset view. I was more entranced tonight with the enormous flocks of pink Galahs that screeched and fluttered in the trees above us.
We may not have seen the famed Min Min lights but we were rewarded – as we would be almost every day on this trip – with a beautiful night sky.
A Glass Half Full travelled as a guest of the Outback Highway Development Board.