Was it really ten years ago that I first drove out to Winton in the far west of Queensland, to check out the Australian Age of Dinosaurs project? This was when I was researching ‘Unearthed’, the fifth and final book in my Annie Bryce series. I was able to visit the site of their current dig, witness a large hunk of dinosaur being unearthed – to the excitement of all the diggers (and me) – and see the ‘prepping’ of the fossils in their laboratory, a tin shed on a stunning mesa overlooking the vast red plains of the outback. All of that arrived between the covers of ‘Unearthed’.
What a difference ten years can make! The tin shed is still there, but in that time the Australian Age of Dinosaurs project has received significant funding, built a reception area with an excellent auditorium, and constructed a gallery of terrifyingly authentic dinosaurs along the edge of the mesa – you reach that via their shuttle bus. Plans are going ahead for their Natural History Museum on the same site. All very professional but the excitement and enthusiasm are still there in spades.
Winton has a vibe all of its own. Proud home to the birth of Banjo Patterson’s Waltzing Matilda, it’s a vibrant town at a five-way crossroads. Everyone shares large tables on the footpath outside the pubs, and you meet all sorts of interesting people. It’s become a sought-after destination for making movies, and why not with that crystalline light, and the vivid reds and greens of the outback?
Revisiting Winton reminded me how much I enjoyed writing my series of Queensland-based novels – and how much I learned in the process.