Burton's Perth to Cape York Mungerannie to Birdsville Day 15/16 - 14 and 15 April 2011

Sunday, Apr 15, 2012 at 17:56

Mike & Amanda


Dingos and Corellas kept us awake last night. Regular howling, close then afar, followed by the loudest squawks of corellas and pinks and greys we've ever heard! Right outside the trailer they performed ensuring a broken sleep! The flies are back in their droves first thing this morning as well. They get a bit much after a while,driving you mad. We packed up, said goodbye to the South Australian family and continued our journey down the Birdsville Track.

It was disappointing that the Cooper Creek crossing was so dry and desolate, just a solitary toilet amidst difficult to discern dusty tracks. The ferry must be down the now closed bypass road, so we missed out on that experience...

The weather is warming up, clear blue skies and strange white wispy clouds. It is around 320ks to Birdsville and we have made the decision to stay there for two nights, well and truely putting us behind schedule. It is such an iconic location we'd like some time to look around as well as to rest. We've been reading the book Birdsville, seen photos for years from the 4WD mags, so now want to soak up the atmosphere as well as visit Big Red. We'll probably sacrifice two nights in the Diamantina, which may not be accessible anyway due to flooding.

The road changed continually from the typical wide gravel to narrow and very stony, to the occasional sandy drifts. The stone sections were the longest, made up of desert gibbers and looking very sharp and tyre damaging from where I was sitting. We didn't see anyone for the whole day. Large stones banged up under the arches and I could see big rocks being flung behind, partially concealed by the long dust clouds. The front rubber mud flaps just behind the trailer stone guard are becoming shredded on their ends, looking like strands of spaghetti. The canvas on the Stone Stomper around the main bar is also looking decidedly 'pitted'. Needs some duct tape. Well, after all, we have now covered around 4,500 kilometres and about 80 percent on the dirt! This trip has tested all the equipment to the max and sadly dust has made its way into everything. Even the gas bayonet for the kitchen now requires regular application of CRC to enable the fitting to slide in. I hope Australian Offroad Campers (please Scotty!) are up to completing my growing to-do list. One of which is to try and fabricate a light drop fly screen around the quick overnight awning. Velcro should do it. We'll also visit Superpeg in Brisbane to see if they have some fly screen for our 4WD awning.

Through the Sturt Stony Desert, lizards and not much else. This place is really devoid of life. We passed bores spraying in the air to cool the hot artesian water. A lot of this route was set up and owned by the cattle baron Kidman who used his vast ownership of adjoining properties to provide good water and get his stock to market in Adelaide. Passed an unbelievable lake, Lake Howitt I think, huge amounts of water on the side of the road.

Eventually the track narrowed into two dusty and sometimes sandy wheel ruts, weaving around, sometimes with gibbers, other times boggy. We passed the Pandie Pandie Station wishing Birdsville to be soon.

Finally we arrived, Birdsville signs, bitumen followed by huge amounts of water everywhere, along the side of the road and stretching in the distance. Amazing, email sounds started as five bars of Telstra appeared. Believe it or not, we almost got lost in this metropolis until we sighted the famous Birdsville pub, and managed a few indiscreet photos with some locals peering out the windows. Then we sighted the Bakery, but first the golden rule and fill up first. A rather stern lady served me at the Mobil, doubling as a Post Office...I seem to remember in the book Evan mentioning the lady you had better not mess with....

The Bakery was fantastic, friendly lady, great pies and a good chat. Kate was adamant she was not going to have a camel pie.."because Daddy, we saw them and they are live friendly animals..you just can't eat them..." the logic of beef and chicken didn't work either...never mind, they had vegetarian pies. The walls were adorned with outback artist John Murray's great and humorous work. Kate was quite taken with two kookaburras sandwiching a frog on a tree stump with the words "oh bleep !".

We booked in the caravan park, once again friendly service and managed to sprawl over two sites under the welcome shade of an old gum tree. Lot of Simpson Desert warriors camped, typically with swags. Few camper trailers and caravans. The back of the Park and the famous Pelican Point are all under water.

Due to the ever present flies doing their best to drive us permanently crazy we set up quickly. Showers, a glass or two of wine and we drove out (should have walked) to the Hotel for dinner. Being the weekend here, everything is closed, including the visitors centre. The pub is not serving a menu, just a smorgasbord consisting of slow cooker lamb shanks, chicken and veggies. Still it was nice, the beer garden filled with visitors and mossies. I had to go to the car to get the Bushman spray. DDT should nuke the little &@$!?'s. Soon invading hoardes of beetles arrived in plague proportions. They ended up as a seething mass under each light! We had a couple of drinks, bought an iconic stubbie holder and has some very mediocre deserts.

Early morning shower, toast for brekky and snap on the sand flag to the Cruiser's roo bar. We perused the mudmap drawn by the Park owner and headed out to Big Red. The main track is closed due to flooding around Big Red so the 50 odd kilometer detour is necessary. The road out was good, more stones, but an easy 90 kph and what a difference without the trailer on the back. The Cruiser was like an eager puppy, raring to go. Another clear fine day, already in the 30s. The damn flies are still here.

We passed a very dead dingo, hit the detour that took us down rutted station tracks until we started encountering the red dunes. We had to drive over several largish dunes, sandy with precarious top....bleeding off momentum at just the right moment, not too soon or bogged, not too late or airborne....

Little Red and Big Red appeared with the QAA Line disappearing over a large red dune into the Simpson. The tops were just like Sahara dunes I have seen, the color a beautiful deep red against the aquamarine sky. It all looked quite lush. We parked at the bottom, peering up at the various tracks to the top. Cameras in hand we climbed the dune....wow what a vista and no other cars in sight. Behind Big Red was an incredible blue and very large lake, studded with flooded trees. The sand was quite hot on the bare feet as we darted from dune to dune top taking copious photos. Flies, dragonflies, butterflies and bees everywhere. Even some deep yellow primrose type flowers.

We couldn't wait. Running down the hot sand we took advantage of the privacy, stripped off and cavorted in the incredibly cool water. It was so invigorating. Who would believe it? Swimming at Big Red! The water was clear, blue with a sandy bottom. It was ice cold! The kids and I swam for ages, playing, splashing until warned by Amanda of a car coming. I e managed to don shorts before spotting a red sand flag at the top. Another car was spotted on our side coming towards us behind the dune at lake level..blue lights on top..it was two police troopies coming to arrest the children for nudie swimming. They very hastily dressed, squealing as a smiling Birdsville policeman, the famous Neale from the book approached. We chatted for a short while before they both powered the troopies up Big Red to the other car and stopped for a chat.

The private, incredible swim at Big Red in the Simpson Desert over, we returned to the Cruiser and headed over the dunes home to our Oddy. It didn't take much to convince the others to bypass to the bakery for some lunch pies and a double shot coffee...mmm.

The afternoon was spent with kid's schoolwork, the time consuming blog upload and swatting flies.
Mike & Amanda
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