Much ado about Mitchell
12 November 10
When we drove into Mitchell, it was just on sunset and we needed someplace to stop for the night. Mitchell is that sort of town. It’s on the crossroads to a number of attractions without really distinguishing itself as an attraction in its own right. But after spending a couple days there, we’ve discovered there’s lots to do in Mitchell!
We pulled up at the town’s central park — having spied a generic playground — and let the girls out for a play. It was then that Mitchell first started to surprise me. Adjacent to the play area was a display of old machinery. A huge locomotive and ancient tractor were accessible for the children, even inviting them to climb up. David had almost as much fun as the girls at playing on the locomotive.
We spent the night near a railway line on the outskirts of town. This was the first time that we have camped “incognito” on this trip, and the location wasn’t spectacular.
In the morning, we returned to the main park for another play and to do some housekeeping — washing dishes and tidying up. (It seems that if we don’t stay on top of the boring housekeeping every single day then the truck and trailer dissolve into a big pile of junk where you can never find what you need!)
Our next stop was next to the river. We browsed through a historical museum. The museum was actually closed to visitors, but it was open today simply because the caretakers had organised a working bee among the volunteers. So we received a guided tour and got to experience some of the exhibits that are normally off-limits!
We followed a concrete pathway that promised a river walk, only to find that the footbridge across the Maranoa River had been dismantled long ago. Never mind. Wild mulberry trees growing along the path provided an exciting focal point, especially for Brioni who has declared mulberries to be her favourite fruit!
David took the three older girls to play in the river while I looked after Delaney. Dell is still napping in the morning, and so that means that I’m often stuck at camp while the other kids and David play away. I don’t mind so much — sometimes I use the time to write, other times to just tidy up camp.
In the early afternoon, the Great Artesian Spa was open for business (it keeps bizarre operating hours — if you’re planning a visit, research it in advance), so we toddled up the street, towels in hand. The Great Artesian Spa is resourced by groundwater surging up from the Great Artesian Basin. The water is naturally heated, and the spa complex maintains two small pools.
One is at 39°C and the other is at 27°C. It also operates a swimming pool for the local residents with a small water park to amuse the little kids. We enjoyed our time in the two spa baths. We moved between the hot and cool pools frequently, and the girls entered into elaborate fantasy games (as they do almost everywhere), amusing the other spa-goers.
As the sun set, David built a fire under the bridge, close to where he had been swimming with the girls, and he cooked a fabulous dinner on a frying pan. It was a lovely location — the driftwood from a previous flood provided good fuel for the fire, and the girls declared their meal to be “DE-licious”!
We stayed the night in our spot on the edge of town, adjacent to the main bridge over the Maranoa and under the shade of a bottle tree. I prefer camping in more remote spots because we can leave the doors open, but camping in the town is a good option when all the other activities are close-by.
Before we drove away from Mitchell, we drove out west to the town weir. In Australia, a weir is a dam that includes a spillway. The water wasn’t running over the weir, and so we drove down the base of the spillway and climbed up for a swim.
Calista and Dell napped in the truck, so I stayed pretty close to the vehicles while David swam with the older girls. The park that is attached to the Neil Turner Weir is set up as a casual camping spot, and we counted half a dozen camper-vans and caravans in the car parks. If we were to spend more time in Mitchell, this would definitely be the place to stay!