The Lexus NX 300h hybrid is more of a city gent than a country squire. Derek and Lynn Ogden continue on their outback odyssey to find out if the petrol-electric hybrid could hold its own far beyond the city limits …

The road south towards Winton rolled out in front of us like a hall runner with a road-kill pattern, on either side the flat land going all the way to the horizon. It reminded me of the plains of Nebraska I had crossed years ago by Greyhound bus while on a Jack Kerouac-type trip around the United States as a student.

A glance in the rear-view mirror turned into a stare for my wife, the driver, for there on our tail was the biggest, blackest cloud formation announcing the arrival of a monumental storm. Under the pump, we made Winton ahead of the monster, which exploded in a turbulent mix of wind, dust and noise.

We holed up in the North Gregory Hotel, a retro brick pile which hosted Lyndon Johnson after his plane came a cropper outside town during World War II. LBJ, among other things, later was to become US President after the assassination of John F. Kennedy.

More impressive, I thought, was the tale of a local rugby hero who would practise tackling by leaping on a kangaroo from a moving car. Legend!

2014 Lexus NX 300h Sports Luxury

Next day, my wildlife preservationist wife drove us to a billabong on the edge of town for some birdwatching. We were greeted by a sign warning against swimming in, or drinking the billabong water. Obviously, the local fauna had read the sign too. There was not much of it there.

Longreach was the next stop. Tourist blurb said that when dinosaurs walked the Earth, there was one lurking behind almost every tree in the tropical rainforest that once covered this area. Their bones are now coming to the surface and being retrieved.

We took an 11 kilometre detour on a dirt road to visit the laboratory (tin shed) where the massive dinosaur bones are cleaned up and stored. One myth busted: no caveman could lift one of these bones, never mind hit anybody over the head with one.

Although Longreach is the site of the Qantas Museum, the Queensland and Northern Territory Aerial Service was actually born in Winton. With the Stockman’s Hall of Fame, for me this is to become the object of a further visit.

Barcaldine beckoned and produced one of the most impressive links with the past, the Tree of Knowledge, said to be the spot the Australian labour movement was formed during a sheep shearers’ strike in the 1890s.


Although the tree was thought to have been poisoned, its skeleton has been preserved and is housed under an architecturally impressive timber roof outside the railway station.

The gem fields were up ahead and we could not go past the turn-off at Anakie, for there, among mullock heaps, straddling the Tropic of Capricorn, are Sapphire and Rubyvale, a cluster of small stores with large display cases carrying spectacular examples of local gems, some with just as spectacular prices. It’s Tiffany’s with one-tonners.

Wallets intact, we pushed on to Emerald, like many of the Queensland outback towns, bigger and tidier than we expected. What’s more, my phone woke up and we were finally able to make contact with the folk back home on the Gold Coast.

We turned south and headed for Springsure via the Gregory Highway, and on to Rolleston on the Dawson Highway for an overnighter before moving on to Moura and Banana where we rounded the bend (sorry!) and headed south to Theodore and Taroom.

Cresting a rise in the road just north of Wandoan we were confronted by 600 head of cattle grazing the long paddock, with two riders, a team of dogs and a ute in attendance. With ABS brakes in full cry, we pulled off the road to let the herd through. Mining and lack of rain had put the cattle on the road, the owner said sadly. Things were not what they used to be.

We finally made Miles where we turned for home, the Warrego Highway taking us through Chinchilla, Dalby and the forever fertile Darling Downs, for now free of those invidious coal seam gas rigs that seem to be sprouting all over priceless farming land.

The Gold Coast beckoned over the Toowoomba Range and through the Lockyer Valley, with Murphy’s Creek still a sad reminder of the devastating floods that swept through the area some years past.

Covering close to 5000 kilometres, the Lexus had not put a foot wrong, transporting us in comfort rarely found in such a vehicle, even in conditions alien to the city slicker. And, in a way, I will miss the female voice of the car info system gently warning of our approaching a rail crossing, school zone, or redlight camera.

As far as fuel was concerned, the computer had refused to move far from the eight litres per 100 kilometres mark. Lexus claims 5.7 litres per 100 kilometres on the combined urban / highway cycle.

Considering what we had put the vehicle through – a rear packed with holiday gear and the air-con in almost constant full cry – the petrol engine was called on to contribute a fair amount, thus supping deeply from the wallet, especially at $1.63 a litre at one fill-up.

On our journey, the radiator grille had collected a display of dead insects which would not have been out of place at the Queensland Museum. Oh, the plug was still in place, the tyre fully inflated and the wheel was still going round. Thanks, Grant. Thanks, Lexus.

About Derek Ogden

On graduating with an honours degree in applied science in London, Derek Ogden worked for the BBC in local radio and several British newspapers as a production journalist and writer. Derek moved to Australia in 1975 and worked as a sub-editor with The Courier Mail and Sunday Mail in Brisbane, moving to the Gold Coast Bulletin in 1980 where he continued as a production journalist. He was the paper's motoring editor for more than 20 years, taking the weekly section from a few pages at the back of the book to a full-colour liftout of up to 36 pages. He left the publication in 2009.
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