Alan and Christine Betteridge are on the road near Boulia.
Alan and Christine Betteridge are on the road near Boulia. Alan Betteridge

Knee-deep in mud, will the shoe ever be seen again?

AFTER spending the last few days in Winton it was time to head off to Boulia, 360km to the west.

As we packed up, my wife Christine reminded me that I still had the yabby trap in the water so it was off to the water's edge I went to retrieve it, her words of warning still ringing in my ears: "Don't go too close, it may be a bit muddy".

Never one to heed advice, that was exactly what I did - with disastrous results.

Suddenly I was up to my knee in thick, black, oozing mud.

Retrieving my leg was not a problem but the shoe I was wearing was another matter altogether.

It had totally disappeared into the quagmire and short of putting my arm down the hole it was there it was going to stay.

I decided to donate it to the Long Waterhole Mud Gods and cut my loses then and there.

There was no sympathy from my beloved, only a mild tongue lashing for both losing the shoe and delaying our departure.

And to add insult to injury I didn't catch any yabbies either.

About 5km north of Winton, we turned west onto the Min Min Byway.

This road was much narrower than what we had been travelling on but it was sealed and in good condition.

If there are two words to say what to look out for on this road, they are road and train.

These monsters of the region can be more than 150m in length and they take up the entire road.

There is no way they can move over so the only safe course of action is to get off the road and stop.

Travelling west, the countryside is generally flat but we noticed there was a range of hills in the distance and as we approached them the countryside changed altogether.

We made our way through the foothills of what we were to discover was the Lillyvale Ranges and the scenery was spectacular.

As usual we made several stops to take photos and take some time out from travelling.

We passed through the small town of Middleton (pub only) and headed deeper west to the site of the Min Min Hotel ruins and cemetary.

It was at this site that the first recorded encounter with the mysterious Min Min lights was made.

In 1912, the same year as the pub burnt down, a drover who was riding past later made this report to the Boulia policeman.

"About 10pm I was riding to Boulia and passed close to the Min Min graveyard.

"The night was somewhat cloudy.

"All of a sudden I saw a strange glow right in the middle of the cemetery.

"It got bigger until it was the size of a large watermelon.

"I couldn't believe my eyes as I watched it hovering over the graveyard.

"I broke into a cold sweat as it started coming toward me.

"It was too much for my nerves.

"I dug the spurs into my horse and headed for Boulia as fast as I could go.

"Every time I looked back the light seemed to be following me.

"It only disappeared out of Boulia."

Since that time there have been many reported sightings of the Min Min lights and no one has ever been able to explain them, although there are many theories.

I wanted to camp the night there but Christine was adamant that it was not to be, so it was on to Boulia.

Eighty kilometres east of Boulia you pass the ruins of the Hamilton Hotel.

This was demolished in the 1990s when it became unviable.

All that remains is the fireplace and chimney.

By this stage, the countryside is extremely dry and it is hard to believe after all the rain we have had in Maryborough that out this way they have only had 23.5mm of rain since June last year and are on the cusp of a serious drought.

We stayed at the Boulia caravan park on the banks of the Burke River and were pleasantly surprised at how green it was compared to the surrounding countryside, courtesy of sub-artesian bores.

Although Boulia is small it has a lot to see, including the Min Min Encounter which uses animatronics, fibre optics and loads of other high-tech wizardry to tell the story of the Min Min lights.

If you do nothing else then this is a must visit.

You are guided through six 'stages' starting with a hotel bar and finishing with a simulated bus trip and it is well worth the $16.50 entry fee.

I had a beer with one of the locals who asked if we had come out to see the Min Min lights and I told him yes.

He just laughed and said: "You won't find the lights they will find you".

Maryborough couple Alan and Christine Betteridge are touring western Queensland with their caravan in tow and keeping us entertained with their travel tales.


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