Dig Tree Camping.

Monday, Jun 18, 2012 at 20:18

Member-Heather MG NSW

Since reading 'The Dig Tree' earlier this year- the story of Burke and Wills expedition to be the first European Explorers to traverse Australia from South to North, I have been planning an itinerary including a camp site at the place where they set up camp under the shade of a coolibah tree on the banks of Cooper Creek. It was where the rest of the party remained for some 4 months while they waited for Burke, Wills, King and Grey to return from their trek north to the Gulf(Grey died before they got back). Also where close by both Burke and Wills perished because of bad timing, incompetence, misunderstanding and ill treatment of the local Aboriginal people,and failure to leave any sign that they had returned to the tree, amongst other things.

It is amazing to think that this tree has survived without graffiti and the original blaze although not able to be read, is still visible...a true reminder of the exploratory European history and of the harsh nature of the climate in this region and the incredible hardships suffered in the quest for fame and adventure.

The site is around 15 kms off the Adventure Way, along a dirt track past the gates of Nappa Merrie Station and through the property, dipping through a stony creek crossing and undulating land then down to the tree lined creek.

On arrival here on Wednesday afternoon (13th June 2012) we paid the vehicle entry fee of $11 at the gate (an honesty system) and drove down along the track which follows the water in Cooper Creek, surprised at how few people were set up. We had heard that it is a popular place for campers and were worried about finding somewhere suitable for our van.

We parked the van sideways in a clear space with views, parallel with the water, and were very happy to find a small fireplace out in front, with small rocks around the perimeter. Other sites both behind and in front of us would have been at least 100 metres away and were screened by vegetation, although we were close to one of the dirt tracks.
It looked close to perfect..a tranquil and beautiful place with many birds to watch, and maybe fish to catch!
I was keen to go for a walk to see the Dig Tree but wanted to do it when we could walk around alone and imagine the place a hundred and fifty years ago with the camp set up by Burke and Wills, take a few photos, and just absorb it all. That was not possible this afternoon with a steady convey of vehicles many resembling army style land rovers of various vintages pulling in and out, so I decided to return early the following morning.

We walked back to the van and John unsuccessfully tried to catch a fish in the muddy brown water while I took photographs of reflections, and the cloud formations. I reached for the camera again as the sinking sun transformed the from white to pink and apricot...like a big spiralling plume of pink smoke.

Then it was time to get a fire started and meal cooking in our camp oven. The breezes stilled and I was fortunate to be looking iin the right direction when a ball shaped shooting star arced its fiery way slowly across the sky, leaving a trail of sparks like fireworks, quite low above the horizon. It was simply amazing and there was time for me to get John to turn and watch before it burnt itself out and disappeared...leaving us both wondering whether we had really seen it!
We sat for a while after dark in front of our small fire, enjoying the stars and milky way, listening to the howls of dingoes in the distance.

Thursday 14th June 2012

I was woken by the sounds of bird calls and wings in motion and the splash as they landed in the water.
John surprised me by unpacking the generator from the depths of the car rear and set it up for me to make coffee using my compact Nespresso machine while I was off exploring the Dig tree before breakfast.
We are carrying fuel and the generator, purely as an emergency back up form of power, so it may as well be put to good use, and we are such a distance from anyone else it is not likely that they will even hear it. The heating of the machine and making a big mug of coffee takes only a few minutes so the horrendous noise(of the whisper quiet Honda 2) is only present every few hours for a few minutes....and worth every bit of it to a coffee affictionado! Until now this trip, I have been drinking my stove top brewed coffee which is ok but I have run out of decaff and unless I can find the Blue Lavazza brand I only have instant to drink after breakfast....
I sat and enjoyed the coffee and breakfast while watching the pelicans and ducks on the water....then we had a walk along the river picking up bits of firewood for the next couple of nights use.

It was a lazy day really, very relaxing for both of us. We got an early fire going and put on lamb shanks to slow cook in the camp oven, then during the last half hour of cooking time, added a damper to the top, separated by baking paper, and John heaped the hot coals on the lid.
I set up the tripod and experimented with camera settings and my infrared remote, taking photos of us both sitting around the fire and doing silly things while I took photos.

There are a couple of possible shots for me to use for this years Christmas card photo there...each year I photograph the two of us in some special location and then print my own cards to send and email to friends.
We ate by the light of our head torches and once again enjoyed some time around the fire, waiting for water to heat in our boiler so we could do the dishes, and planned the activities for the following day.

Friday 15th June 2012 Day 3

This morning there was a stunning sunrise with perfect reflections over the water and I took photograph after photograph.....The colours are just so intense and vivid...reds, golds and oranges, contrasting with the almost black shapes of trees and river banks. To be out of bed and outside in the cool morning was well worth the effort.
Unfortunately the day was not so good...with the clouds hanging around. We packed some snacks and lunch and set out for Innamincka and the historic sites nearby. At Burke and Wills bridge John obligingly stopped and waited patiently while I took photos.
On our way we drove to the site where Robert O'Hara Burke was originally buried, under a shady coolibah tree on the banks of Cooper Creek, and where now a monument and information board stand. It is a beautiful place....white sand underfoot, monumental red river gums and showy smaller shrubs and plants and at the time we visited, a big expanse of water just metres away.
Afterwards, we also drove to Cullyamurra waterhole and the camping area, and encountered three or four patches of mud with deep wheel ruts which we followed through. There was one lone camper trailer set up and they were lovely sites but as both tracks were signposted '4WD no vans or buses' we were glad we had not attempted to camp here instead of the Dig Tree.
We were disappointed on arrival in Innamincka to find all of the other tracks around closed. I took a few photographs of the Hotel and Roadhouse, and we filled up with diesel ($2.09.7 litre), bought two drumsticks (icecreams) at $5 each...a record price so far and headed back to the camp, with me taking photographs every now and then...of red sand dunes covered with shrubby grey green plants, the road and clouds....
The evening meal was once again cooked on the fire and we watched as the stars of previous nights were covered by clouds. During the night we heard light rain falling...not good when we had decided to leave in the morning and take the unsealed Arrabury Road north to the Diamantina Development Road. Unfortunately when we woke early on Saturday it was still showering and we faced a dilemma. But that is another story!

Our bird list includes the following...budgerigars, crow, blue billed ducks, cormorants, pied mud larks, black kites,pelicans, quail, brown tree creeper,noisy miners, white faced heron, pink cockatoo, whistling kite, short beaked corella, darter,swallow,honeyeater...yellow throated, willy wag tail, peaceful dove,barking owl, magpie,blue bonnets, burkes parrots, pacific baza,greater egret.....and there are probably lots more!
Of all the paths you take in life, make sure a few of them are dirt. John Muir
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