Australia 2010

A circumnavigation (with risks).


It is about about 400 km from Winton (Population 3100) to Boulia (Population 300).

Although it's a major route and a sealed road it is often only single track. So if you meet an on-coming vehicle you both have to pull off into the scrub, leaving only your off-side wheels on the tarmac.

About half way between Winton and Boulia is Middleton (Population 3). We decided to spend the night there in the free Hilton Hotel camp spot.

The notice reads "Vacancy - Hilton Hotel - No air-conditioning - No TV - No pool - No Charge". But it does have a well ventilated "amenity block".

Middleton was proclaimed a township in 1908. It then had a police station, a general store, a school and, most importantly, a horse changing station for the Cobb and Co. Stagecoach that ran from Winton to Boulia. The trip took four days and required nine changes of horses.

The town of Middleton is long gone, all that remains is the Middleton Hotel (and the Hotel Hilton camp spot opposite).

The hotel has a five dongas (very small, very utilitarian metal-box sleeping units)...

...and a bar.

When we were there (Friday P.M.) there were three customers (all locals) seated at the bar and a barman. All three customers seemed to be drinking both beer (in a stubby) and sweet red wine (in a tumbler) - alternately. They seemed to be committed, well practiced and experienced drinkers. After six hours they left by truck.

The bar was decorated with the sporting triumphs of the barman, mostly photographs of very large, very dead, wild pigs in the back of a *ute. There were also photographs of what seemed to be two different helicopter crashes.

The barman's day job was mustering (rounding up) cattle by helicopter. His current helicopter (un-crashed) was parked outside.

With the keys in ready for a quick takeoff in the morning.

Two or three times a day 50 metre long road-trains carrying hundreds of cattle pass the hotel heading for the stock yards at Winton.

* A ute is the standard outback work vehicle (a utility vehicle) - a pick-up in the UK.