Lake Eyre & the Birdsville Track by Air & Road - Post 2

Saturday, Jul 09, 2011 at 15:44

Kevin S - Life Member (QLD)

The trip to Horsham to join the tour was uneventful. We left Brisbane in sunshine but the skies progressively darkened to produce drizzle just past Narrandera and rain at Finlay. The drive across northern Victoria was overcast and Horsham greeted us with strong, cold, blustery winds.

The forecast was not hopeful but an early departure on Tuesday morning allowed us to escape Victoria’s winter but with not much time to spare. Much later and we would have been grounded. There had been a change of plans, with our aircraft and pilot from Horsham required for Wrightsair’s operation in Marree, so we tracked there via Mildura and Broken Hill. Strong head winds required an extra fuel stop.

With our new pilot and aircraft and a sandwich organised at Marree we set off for the Holy Grail, Lake Eyre. Our track took us over Muloorina Station (a number of campers by the stream near the homestead) and on to see the point at which the south lake joins the north. There has not been any flow into the south lake this year, so that event is unlikely any time soon. Water in South Lake Eyre is from local rainfall.

We flew the entire length of the lake at 500 ft and followed the Warburton Grove away from the lake.

There was little wind and the lake was a millpond. The scattered cloud was so perfectly reflected in the shallow water that it was difficult to see where the horizon was. Fortunately Nicholas, our pilot and guide, kept his bearings and the right side up.

From Lake Eyre we headed almost directly north into the Simpson Desert. At first there were lakes, large and small in all directions, but further north they became less frequent and green clad sand dines marched into the shimmering distance. Most have sand exposed at the summit but the sides are vegetated with good coverage. From above the pattern of the dunes is fascinating.

We picked up the course of Eyre Creek and got some idea of the area covered by the water that had spilled from this normally modest and dry stream. By this time we were at about 7, 500 feet and could see a great distance in the late afternoon light. The estimates of flooding up to 14 km wide could be correct. There is a very large amount of water to dry up before that part of the Simpson is drivable.

We reached Bedourie just before dark. The town boasts an excellent runway and airport which gets good use, particularly when Bedourie is isolated by flood waters. Jim Smith, the licensee of the hotel was there to meet us and take us to our accommodation. The hotel is an old historic building but a new block of motel units has been built. We were accommodated in this facility. The rooms are well appointed and very comfortable.

After dinner in the dining room of the old hotel, Jim joined us for a chat during which he suggested that he take us for a drive out to nearby Cluny Station, so it was up early to fit this activity in before breakfast. The drive took us over both Eyre and King Creeks, the twin streams that collect water from the Georgina and carry it towards Lake Eyre.

We made a quick visit to the station cattle yards and the old Afghan crossing where the camel trains used to cross King Creek. We also got an appreciation of the huge area of flood plains that were flooded for several months this year to isolate Bedourie. Back in town we called on the information centre while Jim knocked up a mountain of bacon and eggs for breakfast. A Bedourie camp oven enjoys pride of place in front of this very well presented information centre.

Back in the air we went looking for Big Red, the legendary large sand dune west of Birdsville, but without success, and dropped in to Birdsville to refuel. With tanks topped up we set off for the Goyder Lagoon.

What a fascinating area this is. The Diamantia River divides into myriad small streams which in turn divide again. The result is a pattern that resembles the veins in a delicate leaf but on a huge scale. Some tidal areas in northern Australia take on similar patterns but this area is a long way from the sea. I could not help reflect on the amount of water and the number of floods that it would take to create these tributaries. Long term, is Australia such a dry country? I doubt it!

We then made tracks for Innamincka via Coongie Lake. This wet area would just be another chain of lakes but for the pelicans. There is something about this area that attracts breeding birds with a number of small islands crammed full of pelicans, with others in the water around the islands waiting for some of their fellow pelicans to vacate so that they can come ashore.

After a lunch stop at Innamincka we tracked down the cooper, disturbing flocks of pelicans and ducks as we looked for the Cooper punt. The Cooper was well within its banks at Innamincka but as we approached the punt the creek had broken its banks, a situation that continues for several kilometres. Then suddenly the Cooper is a chain of water holes again. The flood waters have not reached this area, but it soon will.
We then did Lake Eyre from east to west making our landfall at the observation point at the southern end of Halligan Bay. From there it was only a short flight to William Creek.

You will, of course, have heard of the pub with no beer. William Creek hotel was the pub with no water. Well, bottled drinking water at least. Someone must have misjudged when ordering. Evening medication was washed down with apple juice.

I did not become a fan of William Creek. It has historic significance but that is completely submerged by its role as a money factory. I hope to travel the Oodnadatta Track one day, but if so I will bring my own accommodation rather than stay in what passes for a hotel room at William Creek.

We departed William Creek at about 9.30 am and made for the Painted Hills on Anna Creek station. The hills are magnificent scenery. Formed by iron oxide on sand stone, they are similar to the Breakaways at Coober Pedy, but much more extensive. The colours are quite breath taking.

From the Painted Hills we dodged around the edge of Woomera, where some kind of testing was going on, flew past the huge BHP Olympic Dam mine and its attendant dormitory town of Roxby Downs and then over Port Augusta for a fuelling stop at Port Pirie. We then tracked over Clare, Swan Reach on the Murray and Kaniva to Horsham.

As mentioned before, this tour is operated by Wrightsair from William Creek. We now have a sound understanding of the wonders of this area and the vast amount of water lying and running around it. To see the extent of Lake Eyre and then fly over the Simpson Desert was a rare experience and one that we would gladly repeat. But we will have to save up first!

If you go the the Members EO Track Me page and click on Kevin S you will see where we have been. The straight lines are the air tour.

Kevin S
Kevin
It is important to always maintain a sense of proportion

2005 Mitsubishi Challenger 3.0L V6 with Coromal 525 Off Road Pop Top
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