Travelling the Birdsville in early December.

Submitted: Thursday, Nov 20, 2003 at 18:31
ThreadID: 8645 Views:2206 Replies:8 FollowUps:12
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Hi, I am currently considering the best route to Coober Pedy in SA from Gin Gin in Queensland. I was hoping to travel via the Birdsville track. My car is in excellent condition however, it is not a 4WD. I have a 1987 Ford XF Stationwagon, it is Automatic and has aircon. It has been gone over with a fine tooth comb. I am a 32 year old female and will be traveling alone. I have actually previously been through the Tibooburra, Cameron's Corner, Moomba and Inamincka areas, but not driving. Would my vehicle be sufficient enough to handle the Birdsville track? Currently I live just out of Gin Gin in area with mainly dirt roads. I have plenty of practice on extremely corrugated roads and roos. What does everyone think should I try it or just give it a miss?
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Reply By: John from River City 4WD Club Inc. - Thursday, Nov 20, 2003 at 19:37

Thursday, Nov 20, 2003 at 19:37
The ol' Falcon will probably hold up just fine on the roads (the usual story, as long as it doesn't rain), but are you sure you want to travel alone? Birdsville Track will be a breeze. More rocky at Maree end. Road from Windorah to Birdsville is worse. William Creek to Coober Pedy was a very good dirt road when we did it in August, just a bit narrower in places.
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Follow Up By: Melinda - Thursday, Nov 20, 2003 at 20:42

Thursday, Nov 20, 2003 at 20:42
Thanks for the information I appreciate it. Alone is pretty much all I can do right now. I am taking a hired satellite phone with me just in case. I will have plenty of room in the car so will take water, extra oil, tow ropes and also a tent in case it rains and I have to stay put for a while. Including of course food dry stuff mainly, crackers and that with some tinned stuff. Does it rain much in December around the Birdsville area? I would really love to do the trek this way as it will save heaps of time and I am kinda looking forward to seeing Cooper Creek again. A friend of the family took me out here years ago, unfortunately he is dead now but he said to me that once you drink out of Cooper's Creek you will always return apparently gets in the blood or something. Well even if it's not right I think I owe it to him to go back out there and see it the way he tried to show me. I was young and a bit silly so I didn't listen real well and gave him a hard time. I personally feel if I went this way then things between me and him would be put right again.


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Reply By: marcus - Thursday, Nov 20, 2003 at 20:00

Thursday, Nov 20, 2003 at 20:00
Hi Melinda,
Most of the birdsville track is a reasonable dirt road but from memory the section through sturts stony desert just south of birdsville is pretty rough.This section will be hard on tyres and suspension so should slow down and treat it with respect.I would expect temps around 40c so cooling system would need to be spot on.The trip could go o.k but it is the bad luck things like a serious breakdown,three punctures in an afternoon etc which would make you dependant on others if not self sufficient.The recovery guy in birdsville charges between $2000-$4000 to bring breakdowns back into town for repairs and that is after contact is made(no mobiles out there).You would need to trust your car,be on very good tyres and get an early start to miss the heat of the day to do this trip.Your xf would need to be better than my mates coz i wouldn't go round the block in his.
cheers mark
AnswerID: 37954

Follow Up By: Melinda - Thursday, Nov 20, 2003 at 20:47

Thursday, Nov 20, 2003 at 20:47

Thanks for the information. Would carrying a set of spare tyres be a good idea? Also with high temps would it be safe to carry extra fuel or is there a danger of it exploding? I was hoping to do a lot of early morning travel and maybe camp for the afternoon. I am also hiring a satellite phone just in case. Is travelling at night a good idea or is it just too dangerous to even consider?

My Falcon has travelled back and forth between GIN GIN and the Gold Coast 3 times in 3 weeks and I drive the back way usually dirt roads. So she's pretty reliable.


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Follow Up By: Member -BJ (Sydney) - Friday, Nov 21, 2003 at 17:17

Friday, Nov 21, 2003 at 17:17
You won't need extra fuel & travelling at night meens moooore roo'sRegards Bob
Where to next
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Reply By: Willem - Thursday, Nov 20, 2003 at 21:21

Thursday, Nov 20, 2003 at 21:21

The best route to take is through Cunnamulla to Bourke which is bitumen all the way. From there you can do a short dirt stretch to Wilcannia(336km) and then stick to the bitumen to Port Augusta and then north to Coober Pedy.

Your proposed route is not a good idea in a standard vehicle in daily 40 degree heat. Travelling at night is also not a good idea between Birdsville and Coober Pedy.

Your Falcon may be in good condition at this point in time but may soon develop troubles on isolated well worn dirt roads with hundreds of kilometres of corrugations. Your tyres may also suffer especially on the roads from Birdsville to Marree and on to William Creek. This time of the year we get summer rains in the Northern areas of South Australia and Central Australia. Only a little rain and the roads will be closed until passable again and you may be stuck in a place you would rather not be stuck in.

I did a night run from Alice Springs last Sunday to Port Augusta and the temperature was 32 degrees until 3am. Then we hit a strong headwind and it was slow going towing a trailer.



Always going somewhere
AnswerID: 37961

Follow Up By: Yo Sam - Thursday, Nov 20, 2003 at 22:57

Thursday, Nov 20, 2003 at 22:57
No1. I am disappointed that you were in Alice Springs and we didn't catch up. If you pass through again, please let me know anyone from the forum is alway welcome.
As for you meilinda if you have adequate means of comunication (satphone) and your car is in good mechanical condition and you carry enough provissions for a couple of days, if you do strike difficult problems you can be self sufficient for a while people will help you..

Yo Sam
Alice Springs
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Follow Up By: Member - Glenn(VIC) - Thursday, Nov 20, 2003 at 22:59

Thursday, Nov 20, 2003 at 22:59
Hi Willem,

I respect your advice except for one thing. I would not recommend a single white female to stop at Wilcannia. The towns reputation speaks for itself.Just Do It!

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Follow Up By: Willem - Thursday, Nov 20, 2003 at 23:10

Thursday, Nov 20, 2003 at 23:10

No offense intended but you have to get over this Wilcannia syndrome.
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Follow Up By: Willem - Thursday, Nov 20, 2003 at 23:12

Thursday, Nov 20, 2003 at 23:12
Yo Sam...I take it you were Slammin in a former screen name on this forum. Should be coming through the Alice sometime in the winter of 04 and will try to catch up then.

Always going somewhere
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Follow Up By: Slammin - Thursday, Nov 20, 2003 at 23:43

Thursday, Nov 20, 2003 at 23:43
Hi Willem, no, Slammins still here stuck at home. Glad to hear you got back no prob's. Bad luck we couldn't catch up I am feeling very DRY at the moment ; )......... Though we have had some nice showers and light shows. You've got the ph No etc so call when you are up next, we should get a shindig happening with Yo Sam!

As for Wilcannia, reputations, reputations, reputations they really are very subjective and particularly so when third fourth fifth hand, or even worse created by the media. Personally I like Wilcannia, whenever I have stopped everyones been friendly. As for their social problems thats their problem.
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Follow Up By: Member - Glenn(VIC) - Friday, Nov 21, 2003 at 09:40

Friday, Nov 21, 2003 at 09:40
Hi Willem,

I could explain my reasoning about Wilcannia from first hand experiences, but I don't want to get involved in a slanging match or intentionally degrade Wilcannia. I just think that a single female may be intimidated by what can occur in Wilcannia.Just Do It!

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Reply By: Melinda - Thursday, Nov 20, 2003 at 23:18

Thursday, Nov 20, 2003 at 23:18
Guys guys, please don't argue, a friend of mine suggested that route but bloody hell I have to go miles in the opposite direction of Coober Pedy to get there from Queensland I am currently living near Bundaberg, so I was hoping to do the Birdsville but now I am not sure......

AnswerID: 37982

Reply By: Slammin - Friday, Nov 21, 2003 at 00:01

Friday, Nov 21, 2003 at 00:01

As for your question your Ford is one of the true outback adventurers but weather will definately slow you down sometimes for a long time.... The other factor is how long do you want to keep your car? These roads will definately take their toll and you must realise after a trip like this your suspension will most likely be knackered particularly the shocks.

It will be hot and if it's not it will be wet. In the desert areas it don't rain much but when it does, it tends to come down all at once. It is now mid Nov and we are getting rains now West of Alice Spr which from the weather map also incl your intended areas...... They would have the effect of getting the ground to a saturated point so that when the next set of rains come will cause rivers etc to flow down to the Lake Eyre basin.

I think you would probably make it but it is certainly not a sure bet. Personally I would do it during a less fickle season and increase my odds that way.
AnswerID: 37989

Reply By: Nomad - Friday, Nov 21, 2003 at 00:36

Friday, Nov 21, 2003 at 00:36
Geez Melinda with all that advice I wouldn't be too sure either.

Mate - IF your car's in perfect condition, IF it doesn't rain, IF you've got a spare set of tyres, and IF you don't have too many puctures, yeh you will probably make it.

I understand your sense of adventure very well but please think it through and if you go then put caution ahead of bravado.

Road from Betoota to Birdsville can be very tough on tyres, take it easy. Mungerannie Roadhouse, halfway down the track is a good stopping point if you don't want to go straight through in one day. Even got liquid refreshments. Can pitch your tent or I think they still have room accomodation. Your biggest problem could be the Cooper Crossing just after the Natterannie Sandhills. If there has been rain then the crossing may still be open but only passable in a 4WD. There is a flood detour with a ferry across the Cooper but if the road is open to 4WD's then the ferry probably will not be running. The majority of the track is okay for a car, but you must drive according to the conditions.

Make sure that your cooling system is in absolutely A1 condition. I mean radiator, hoses, header tank, block, head and any thing else that your coolant travels through. Inheat like you will experience at that time of the year, the cooling system will be the first to feel the strain. Cook that and you will cook your engine in no time flat.

Melinda, sounds like you've got a bit of a promise to keep. Fair enough, I understand that. But if you decide to go, at least phone the Police in Birdsville and check the conditions, just before you go and before you get too far.

Hope you can live your dream. Let us know what you do.

AnswerID: 37993

Reply By: Melinda - Friday, Nov 21, 2003 at 11:13

Friday, Nov 21, 2003 at 11:13
Ok new plan.....

How about the strzelecki track????????

Perhaps better?????


AnswerID: 38009

Follow Up By: Hughesy - Friday, Nov 21, 2003 at 11:54

Friday, Nov 21, 2003 at 11:54

I'd go for it. You've got a sat phone, a reliable car, a sense of adventure (yet mature) and at worst case if all hell breaks loose your no more than 12 hours from help after using the sat phone (if 10 vehicles don't pass you during the day anyway). Just make sure you've got a bit of tucker/water for a few days in case it rains - when it does rain and the sun comes out the next day it only takes typically 24 hours for the roads to dry out. Don't let "worst case stories" put you off what you want to do - otherwise we'd all sit in a padded room the rest of our lives.

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Follow Up By: Melinda - Friday, Nov 21, 2003 at 12:05

Friday, Nov 21, 2003 at 12:05
Thanks Hughesy,

So was that go for it with the Strzelecki track or the Birdsville *sigh* getting a bit confuselled.


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Follow Up By: Hughesy - Friday, Nov 21, 2003 at 14:39

Friday, Nov 21, 2003 at 14:39
Go the Birdsville track Mel and Good luck. I will be driving from Brisbane to Perth via Birdsville (on my own) in early January, and look forward to it myself. Cheers.
FollowupID: 27595

Reply By: Peter Guy - Friday, Nov 21, 2003 at 17:30

Friday, Nov 21, 2003 at 17:30
Hi Melinda
we went through 2 years ago during December and it was HOT!
We were driving a patrol and never had to use 4WD. but the high ground clearance was a definate advantage.
We went Arkaroola - Innaminka - Birdsville - Windorah and then up to Longreach.
There were a few deep fast flowing water crossings after Windorah but that is seasonal.
The roads were tough on the tyres - 3 fractures and 1 puncture. mainly around Innaminka / Dig tree area and Arkaroola.
Your ford would do it but take it easy!!!
Its pretty lonely around Corrilo Downs.
AnswerID: 38044

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