2011 BIRDSVILLE - THE DOG FENCE - SILVERTON

Thursday, Jan 26, 2012 at 20:48

Navigator 1 (NSW)

Via ... CORDILLO DOWNS ROAD, INNAMINCKA, THE DIG TREE, BORE TRACK, CAMERON CNR, STURT NP and the FENCE LINE TO SILVERTON
Wed 7th September – Sat 22nd September



Several months ago we added our names to the trip proposed by Wim (Qld) to travel from the Dig Tree to the EO Annual Gathering at Silverton following the Dog Fence as much as possible.
To join the group we left Birdsville, headed east approximately 118 km and then headed south onCordillo Downs Road. We made a night stop 45 km down the track at CADELGA OUTSTATION RUINS. I believe the outstation was inhabited back in the 1800's, at that time owned by Cordillo Downs Station, but was abandoned in the 1950's. This was our second visit to the ruins and yet again we found it something special. We camped 100 meters from the ruins and watched the sandstone change colours with the setting sun. At these ruins I feel I can slip back in time and imagine living there with all its beauty and hardships.




The next leg of our trip took us to the famous CORDILLO DOWNS SHEARING SHED, the largest in Australia. This Station was first taken up in 1875, when it was known as Cardilla. A good account of the station can be found here. http://www.southaustralianhistory.com.au/cordillo.htm
It is amazing to read how Cordillo Downs was once big enough to have its own Post Office, opened in 1893, a saddler, blacksmith and police station, manned only at shearing time and polling boxes during elections. These boxes were carried by camels from Farina.
The Afghans with their camel teams hauled the station stores up the Strzelecki Track from Farina and returned with wool.Farina at that time was a large railway town. Camels continued to bring in supplies until the 1940’s
The woolshed was built in 1883 and like other early Cordillo Station buildings, it was constructed of local sandstone rubble with a curved, galvanised iron roof - a form that was self-supporting which provided greater interior space, an ideal design in a region with little natural timber.
By 1890 the woolshed had 120 stands which makes it Australia’s biggest woolshed. By the early 20th century, Cordillo Downs, with 85,000 sheep, was Australia’s biggest sheep station. The record number of sheep shorn on the property in one season was 82,000 in 1888 - all with hand shears. A steam-driven press compressed the wool into bales.





After a scouring plant was installed in 1885, Cordillo Downs wool clip was cleaned before it was baled and shipped to England. This reduced the weight by 40% and made it more economical to transport. The machinery for the scour, which included several large steam engines, was brought up the Strzelecki by wagons. The trip took nine months and two weeks. At Innaminka, to negotiate the rising Cooper Creek, the teamsters had to put 52 bullocks on one wagon and enlist the aid of the local mounted constable. By 1891 the venture was an obvious success, with more than 1,400 bales of scoured wool carted by camel to Farina or Lyndhurst.
Today, the station runs cattle. The Cordillo Downs Homestead and Woolshed are listed together on the Register of the National Estate and the SA State Heritage Register. The woolshed is open to anyone who wishes to wander through.
All this I learnt from Mr Google and the notice boards outside the woolshed.
It had started to rain! We were out of the gibber country now and onto dirt tracks which quickly turned slippery and boggy. Concentration was needed to keep the truck on the road. Just north of Innamincka the skies cleared and the sun came out so we pulled over onto a stony area for a cuppa. Hugo 1 really looked as though it had been places!



We arrived at INNAMINCKA and caught up with EO member ken b (Qld) on the Town Common. He and Margaret were also heading to the EO Silverton gathering but via the Silver City Highway. We took the truck and the car and the caravan down to the Cooper where Ken used his pump to draw water out of the creek to wash them down. We spend the night with Ken & Margaret then moved over to a waterfront position after they left.
Innamincka boasts a National Parks Office in the old Nursing station, a general store with fuel, a pub and a few residential properties. There is also an amenities block with 2 toilets, 2 showers and a laundry – tubs only - which is well used by all the travellers. With the Moomba and other gas fields in the area the pub always has visitors.




We left early evening to travel east 78 km along Adventure Way to the Dig Tree on Nappa Merrie Station to meet up with Wim and the group. It was late so we caught up with EO members Wim & Judy, Rob & Judy, Ben & Margret and Greg at breakfast time. The group had decided that Monday should be a lay day which gave us time to spend at the tree, read all the information in the shed and to appreciate the history that took place at this location so many years ago. It was here at Bulla Bulla Waterhole, on Cooper Creek, that Brahe and his party buried supplies for Burke and Wills before departing for Menindee. They had waited for over 4 months for the men to return from their attempt to reach the Gulf. The sad part is that Brahe left in the morning and Burke, Wills and King arrived later that very same day. The rest is history! The roots of the Dig Tree, a beautiful Coolibah, are now protected by a walkway and hopefully it will live for many more years to come so travellers will be able to visit this historic site.
Bird life at Bulla Bulla Waterhole was more prolific than that at Innamincka. It was magic! Our fees were $11 per vehicle (or aeroplane, as the sign stated) and were collected by the very friendly station caretaker called Bomber.


On Tuesday morning our adventure began with us heading south down the northern section of the Bore Track. It was ‘open country’ with tracks that showed the signs of last season’s rain. All went well till we reached the sandy section where Ben & Margret, who were towing an Innovan, got bogged. With a little digging to the clear the wheels and tyres deflated Rob was able to snatch them out. All eyes were then on the truck and we could imagine the other 4 cars saying, I’m not pulling that thing out’. They were quite surprised to see us drive straight on through!
The southern section of the Bore Track was closed to traffic so we headed into NSW and south through Epsilon and Omicron and then onto CAMERON CORNER. We had experienced good tracks and easy travelling. After a drink at the pub and a picture at the post marking the meeting point for NSW, SA and Qld we settled into camp.







Wim had pencilled in a lot of km for the second day so it was an early start. We crossed the border into NSW and began our trip through the Sturt National Park. We made a quick stop at the Dog Fence on the border of Qld and NSW, past Olive Downs, a stop at Jumpup Lookout for lunch then onto Tibooburra to fuel up. It was decided not to spend an evening at Mt Wood Station as fires were prohibited. Mt Wood Station was one of several station properties which were amalgamated to create the Corner Country's magnificent Sturt National Park. Fortunately for us we visited several years ago and enjoyed camping near the historic homestead, climbed Mt Wood to the summit and drove around the self guided loop. As well as the camp ground, accommodation was available at the Mt Wood Historic Homestead or at the nearby shearer's quarters. Both had kitchen and bathroom facilities. A nearby out-door museum area contained a displays of machinery used in the early days of the pastoral industry.






The meaning of Tibooburra is ‘ heaps of rocks’ and there is no guessing why when you drive into the town. The town really came into existence with the discovery of gold at Mt Browne and then Tibooburra itself in 1881. That year thousands of miners arrived in the town which led the government to survey the townsite and build a post office. Today there is a nearby campsite for travellers, Dead Horse Gully, which is just north of town . On our last visit we stopped for a drink at the Family Hotel, a magnet for the outback artist community. The Tibooburra Hotel on the other hand claims to be to be the only hotel for 150 km with beer on tap!
The last leg of the day’s trip took us to Milparinka, Pool’s Grave and then onto Theldarpa Station.
Milparinka is now a town on the brink, despite the best efforts of volunteers who are restoring its old buildings to create a ‘heritage precinct’. It, like many other towns, was founded during a gold rush in the 1870’s. Unfortunately the Albert Hotel is now closed and it is doubtful if it will reopen. Allegedly the owner is looking for a lessee at an unreasonable rate! We had a great meal on our last visit and we were looking forward to it again but it was not to be!
Milparinka ... http://www.outbacknsw.com.au/Milparink




Just 10 km further east we stopped off at DEPOT GLEN where Charles Sturt and his team, in 1845, were stranded for more than six months. They were the first Europeans in the area and were searching for the inland sea. While stranded at Depot Glen (at Milparinka) they explored the Corner Country. A nearby creek was their only known source of water and they could not safely move on until they had found another. But Sturt, ex-military, knew how to keep his men sane as they battled flies, scurvy and boredom. Every day he had his men walk to the summit of nearby Mt Poole to create a cairn. At the end of the ordeal he had lost only a single man – his second in charge, James Poole, whose grave is marked nearby.
On our last visit we climbed the hill and added a stone to the cairn but this time we rested in the shade at Poole’s grave site while the rest of the party climbed to the summit.
A little more than a half hour drive west of Milparinka, along the Hawker Gate Road, and we pulled into Theldarpa Station.http://www.outbacknsw.com.au/Theldarpa.htm
It is a 50000 ha sheep and cattle property located in the heart of the Corner Country and owned by the Sandow family who have lived in the area for thirty years and is home to Sarah and David.
Visitors to Theldarpa are welcome to camp alongside the Yandama Creek where they can watch native animals and birds coming in to water at dawn or at the end of the day or beside the shearer’s quarters. The showers, laundry and toilets are available for use.
For those not camping visiters can stay in the shearers' quarters comprising of six adjoining rooms each with two single beds or two rooms with double beds. This was all a bit basic. The kitchen had a gas stove, refrigerator and electric fry pan, plus crockery and cutlery. A barbecue was also available but we opted to cook on the open fire. The large dining room featured an open fire-place and two large tables which would seat around 20 people. This proved to be a great place for us to look at mapping for the rest of our journey. Power was available from shearer's quarters and 4WD tracks, which we opted not to venture out on, were accessible to those with high clearance vehicles.

We missed the remains of the historic Yandama shearing shed ( where 60,000 sheep were shorn in the 1890s) and wool-scour on the Yandama Creek. There is always next time.
We spent a lovely evening around the camp fire before turning in.



Back out on the road we headed west to Hawker Gate then south to Pine View Station paralleling the Dog Fence and service track for a quite a while. We passed 6 graders parked on the roadside and were grateful for the work they had done. There was a lot of water lying around and many, many emus. Don’t you just love the way dad looks after the chicks! I think we have a lot to learn from emus and sea horses regarding the raising of children!

Once we reached Smithville House it was the last we would see of the Dog Fence. Our track, the Moorabie/Smithville House Rd , swung a little further to the east and then south through Moorabie, Lake Muck and Border Downs to Pine View Station which is located 180 km North of Broken Hill. It is a family owned and operated organic sheep and cattle property and boasts 40 km of the NSW/SA border (dingo) fence as one of its boundaries.






On our next visit we may take one of the following tours offered by the owners...

• Sunset tour of SA/NSW border Dingo fence approx. 2 hours (recommend you see it at sunset for some fantastic photos).
• Tour to Yellow waterhole: where Captain Sturt camped for eight weeks during his journey into the centre of Australia looking for an "Inland Sea".
• approx. 3 hours.
Bore run: checking on bores, troughs and stock, around the property approx.4-6 hours.’
For those who wish not to camp, a 3 bedroom self contained homestead is available. Pine View also offers the opportunity for registered hunters to hunt feral pigs on the property.
After a lovely afternoon tea in the homestead and a talk about the property we drove the short distance to the shearers’ quarters and set up camp. Wood was provided for our camp fire and we had the use of the toilets and the showers with hot water provided by the donkey.



We pulled out at dawn as we had lots to do in Broken Hill before heading out to Silverton, leaving the rest of the crew to follow on at their leisure. We turned off to the east on Corona Road, meeting the Silver City Highway just 30km north of Broken Hill. Along this road we ventured off on a track to explore the old mine site which was now full of water. Back along the road was the remains of bridges that crossed the creeks which were all dry when we passed through. There is just so much history just lying around if you just take your time and look.
With jobs done we headed out to Silverton to meet Dave Beharrie and his wife Nora, the organisers of the 2011 Exploroz National Gathering.





Silverton is just a special place and is home to many artists. Over the next few days the cars, trailers and caravans rolled in and then for five days Dave kept the activities going for the gathering. We had an absolutely wonderful time catching up with old friends and making new ones. Many blogs and Forum threads have been posted on the success of the gathering so please refer to them for more information.

After a week in Silverton we started eastward on our trip home to Sydney.

The outback calls
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