In the morning light, a truck seat is a far better place from which to inspect the overnight road kill. Sharply in focus are the entrails freshly shredded by a wedge tail eagle, flapping away angrily from its interrupted breakfast.
All shades of brown, green and grey khaki layer the draglined landscape. Mullock heaps and machines either pockmark or festoon the pastures depending on how earnestly you care about the economy or the environment.
White utes and 4WDs scurry past, decorated with bright red flags and fluorescent-orange-shirted drivers. They represent an industry that has poured untold billions into the nation so we feel a sense of respect and approval. Temper that with doubts about the longevity of demand, the need to reduce emissions and the ticklish problem of high earnings by miners distorting pay structures and costs in the rest of Australia.
We pass a cluster of Grey Nomads parked up at a free site on the Dawson River west of Moura. Signs of lazy stirrings can be seen around the 50 or so vehicles that also represent a massive social change in Australia.
Caravans and motor homes have clogged the Queensland roads in the last few months as elderly bones are moved away from the southern cold. Australia’s winter migration pattern has slowly altered to the point where it has become one of perpetual motion.
We still have retired southerners driving their caravans into parks such as those at Hervey Bay, pulling out their deck chairs and settling down for three months in the middle of the year. Another creature has emerged, however.
Retirees are investing as never before in self-contained mobile homes, either towed or driven. New technology has made them self-sufficient and unsurprisingly they want to take advantage of that. Some have sold their homes and are on the road permanently; some wander for months at a time.
All clutch their bibles, the camping book that advises where they can find free or cheap campsites. They lob into caravan parks now and again but mostly freedom camp in small clusters for a night here and there, a week somewhere else and maybe a month or longer if some spot appeals.
In the case of the pretty toileted and showered Dawson River camps at Theodore and west of Moura, the free sites might be a little too appealing. Nomads are supposed to move – but there again no one predicted retirees would take to the gypsy life with such gusto. Commuters and truckies might curse, but the numbers of wrinkled toddlers on the road are rocketing and, like the mining industry, adding colour and dollars to the countryside.
* Photo: The way we like it - enjoying a sundowner out in the bush.