After Charleville the next real stop was Lara Wetlands, located north of Blackall and just south of Barcaldine on Lara station, the wet land offers camping with showers and toilets but no power. Dog friendly but dogs must be on leash at all times, it is a working station so there is stock about, in addition to abundant bird life. A little out of the way, accessed via a graded dirt road, it can be a peaceful and pretty place to spend a couple of days. It is no secret hideaway though and tends to be well patronised but there is plenty of space and it is easy to spread out. The wetland is fed from a thermal bore and is a haven for bird life. The bird life and the chance to jump in the thermal pool were the reasons we chose Lara for a stopover.
From the turn off on the Landsborough Highway the drive in is about 13ks on dirt but it was easily accessible even with our ordinary two wheel drive, in the wet it would be a different story. It did rain a little the night before we left but it was not substantial enough to cause us any difficulty, just dampened the dust really. Just over a week later on our way back the road did have to be closed due to wet. We were pretty lucky in our timing. The camp ground itself is well spread out around the lake and you can pretty much set up where ever you want. The camp ground also provides free access to kayaks and bikes. I should add there is no eftpos, so bring cash. They don’t take bookings you really do just “roll on in”. Sites are $25 a night for two people. If you want to digital detox and disconnect this is the place to be, as there is no wifi and virtually no phone reception, but I have to say that is part of its charm, the ability to just disconnect completely.
The shallow lake is eerily full of dead ghost gums, these truly wraith like trunks have been standing since 1908 but the lake and it’s ghostly trees provide a lively habitat for birds. I am not a serious birder, I don’t go out to tick off species but I do enjoy just sitting and watching the bird life go by and there is plenty of that at Lara. I saw species I don’t normally see on the east of Australia like the pink eared duck but also the usual range of parrots and water fowl, tree and fairy martins. (I feel zebra duck would be a better name for the pink eared duck, with its black and white strips. The pink referred to, is just a tiny speck of pink on the side of the head just above the eye).
There is no fishing or swimming in the lake but you do have access to a warm natural thermal pool and also a cool natural pool to swim. The thermal pool is a natural pond with a sandy earth bottom and the warm artesian water encourages algal growth which contributes to a sort of earthy, metallic smell. This is not like swimming in a chlorinated swimming pool, more like swimming in an unscrubbed cattle trough, or a farm tank, complete with a nice layer of green slime. Don’t get me wrong, I thoroughly enjoyed the chance to jump in, it was a lovely, warm, relaxing experience. From my point of view a much more relaxing and pleasant experience than say the heavily chlorinated and patronised artesian pools of Moree. In the cool of early evening and early morning the hot artesian pool was a soothing retreat. I believe the temperature averages out at about 38 degrees Celsius but in the evening it felt warmer than that, deeply relaxing and conducive to a good night’s sleep.
There is a separate cooler pool for kids and a great kids playground so it is a very family friendly environment, although we saw more grey nomads than families. It is the run off from the bore that has created the lake. The pool is constantly refreshed with hot bore water. Also next to the artesian pool is a well equipped rustic camp kitchen.
We only stopped for two nights but I could imagine spending a lazy, relaxing week here. Hopefully we will be back again, I am already planning a similar trip to the north west in the future, so Lara will be a place we come back to.
On the way in, past eucalypt woodland and Mitchell grass pasture I noticed fields scattered with gorgeous purple, pink to white fluffy flowers. To the best of my knowledge it was pink mullah mullah, a fairy like flower softening the otherwise austere landscape of red soil, dry grass and scrappy trees. In their soft, fluffy appearance they reminded me of dandelion heads, a slender pinkish tendril amongst soft white filaments. They were quiet magical, stopped to take a photo and found ourselves being observed by a group of emus. The whole scene had an enchanted, fey quality.
I love the curiosity of wild emus. If you stay quite the birds invariably come towards you for a closer look and you have that moment of mutual curiosity and wonder before the emu trots away, tail feathers jauntily bouncing as they trot back into the bush.