Adels Grove, the Gulf and Return June 2015

Saturday, Sep 26, 2015 at 23:11

Stephen L (Clare) SA

Two weeks prior to starting our holidays, the northern parts of South Australia had received varying amounts of heavy rain, from over 43 mm at Marree to almost half that amount at Mungeranie, with only 22 mm, and around 10 mm of rain in Birdsville. With that much rain, the complete Birdsville Track was closed to all traffic and this was not the type of information that we wanted to hear so close to heading off. Having been caught out a numbers of times with wet weather along the Birdsville Track, I immediately started planning another route north in the event that further rain would delay the opening of the Birdsville Track.

For nearly a week the rain kept steadily falling and then when the clear blue sky appeared we knew that it would usually take around 3 days to dry the track out enough to have it reopened to traffic. Three days before our intended departure, the Birdsville Track was open, but with care. Leaving Clare, we were in no hurry, as the longer that it took us to head North, the dryer the tracks would become. Another first for us for the type of country that we intended to travel, was to leave the swag and tent at home and head bush with our Ultimate Camper that we had purchased in August 2014.

Heading north up through Hawker, the weather was perfect, with the outside temperature on a steady 19°. Leaving Lyndhurst, the track was dry and compact, but there were large sections of very cut up track from vehicles travelling on it before it was closed. Entering Farina, large parts of the campground were still wet and muddy, so we headed for slightly higher ground away from the mud and set up camp and soon had a great little camp fire going. In true outback form, the moment that the sun started to go down, so did the temperature and as warm as the campfire was, we did not stay up late and went to bed reasonably early. Next morning there was a very heavy dew, so we did not want to pack up until the camper was as dry as possible. After the usual look around this old town, we stocked up on a few treats and oven fresh bread from the Farina Bakery before heading further north. Fiona wanted to check out Marree to see how many people were in town, as that weekend was the annual Marree Camel Cup. The area around the pub was still quite muddy, which would have turned to slush with lots of people tramping around on it.

Back onto the Birdsville Track there were no dramas, but evidence of the track being cut up were still very evident. Again we were in no hurry and only intended to go as far as Mungeranie, plus I had a couple of important tasks to do along the way. As we were travelling along, something tall caught my attention off to the side of the track, and then the very tall bird darted across the track, and it did not stop until about 100 metre across the other side of the track. I quickly got out of the car and tried to get a few photos of the first ever Ostrich that I had ever seen in the wild.

Our first intended stop was Milner Pile which is over a kilometre off of the track. On all the major topographical maps, including the EOTopo map, Milner Pile is shown more than 3 kilometres south of its true location and no one from EO had ever recorded its true location or had any photo images for the cairn. The view from the top of Milner Pile gave us 360° unobstructed views and we were glad that we took the time to visit this important outcrop.

With our lunch stop at the Cooper Creek crossing of the Birdsville Track, my next important task was to locate a Blaze Tree that I had been aware of for a number of years, but had not been able to locate it. Around 10 kilometres north of the Cooper Creek Crossing, it was again time to set out on foot again and see if I could finally locate this blaze, a job that I was not going to walk away from until final success. Over a couple of small dunes and around 200 metres east of the track was a very quaint valley with a large Eucalyptus tree, a vast contrast to the saltbush on the Birdsville Track. We finally found the tree and with accurate GPS readings and photos in hand, it was a small drive to Mungeranie and our camp for the night. Once we were set up, we soon had a great little campfire going and enjoyed the rest of the day at Mungeranie

Next morning, we were in no hurry and after showers and a few last photos, we were heading north to our next nights camp, Birdsville. The Birdsville Track was in good condition and the area around Clifton Hills was in its usual condition, but nothing to worry about if you drive to the conditions. We stopped a number of times along the way for a few GPS Waypoints and photos and made it into Birdsville around lunch time. First port of call was the Birdsville Bakery for lunch and then as we were starting to drive off, Fiona spotted a vehicle and person that we knew. Following it to the Wirrarri Centre, we went inside and caught up with Ian, previous owner of the Birdsville Caravan Park with his wife Ruth. With our camp set up for the night, the rest of the day was spent walking around Birdsville and just taking it easy. Well before dawn the next morning, we were woken by the the early morning calls of the hundreds of corellas that spent the night it the trees on the edge of the Diamantina River. Seeing I was now well and truly awake, I joined the birds and went out into the still dark morning and re kindled the campfire and set up my tripod to take images of the sun as it broke the horizon. After the usual morning chores, it was time to leave Birdsville and head north towards Boulia for our next nights camp. No stop in Boulia would be complete without seeing many of the fine and rewarding sites in and around the area, including the Min Min Encounters Centre.

From Boulia, we indented to head straight to Mount Isa, but with forecasted thunderstorms expected, it was a change of plans on the run and detoured and spent two great days in Winton where are again set about taking in the the great sites of the area, including the fantastic Waltzing Matilda Centre, not knowing that within days of leaving Winton, would be destroyed by fire. By now the weather was just perfect and temperatures were now in the high twenties making it perfect for being on holidays. Those two days went too quick, but we had to now stick to our original plans and still head to Adels Grove, so we left Winton knowing we would be visiting again on our way back home. The morning we left, it was a little windy, but nothing too bad to worry about and then around 90 kilometres from Winton, disaster struck, in the form of our kayak being written off as a road train went past and the force of the air ripping the brackets from the kayak holder, sending the kayak still attached to the brackets flying. I will not say the choice words that were said, and will leave that to you the reader!

The only main detour from the main road to Cloncurry was to visit Combo Waterhole, the location set in the late 1800’s where our famous true Aussie song, Waltzing Matilda occurred. The forecast rain band held out until we arrived in Cloncurry and then it set in. With over an inch of rain falling, all dirt roads in the area were closed, so again we were delayed for two days in Cloncurry before things dried out enough and after speaking with Adels Grove, headed off towards Burke and Wills Roadhouse and the turning off point to head to Gregory and our final goal, Adels Grove. Over the following four days, we hiked every walk, swam in the unreal Lawn Hill Creek and of course kayaked the waterways in a hired kayak. Our stay here will not be our last, as this area is a true oasis in the desert and one location that all Australians should at least try to visit at least once in their lifetime. The two main highlights here were the great walks and of course kayaking through Lawn Hill Gorge and stunning scenery of the area. When it was time to break camp, it was one time that wished we could have stayed far longer, but we still had a long way to go before our return travel south again. The drive up to Burketown and Normanton was great and the section of Savannah Way was a very enjoyable drive. Karumba was a very busy place and the caravan parks were packed out with travellers from the southern states making the most of perfect winter weather and great fishing.

Our return leg from Normanton saw us heading back to Burke and Wills Roadhouse and then the main road to Julia Creek. The free camp there was very well organised and had the full support of the local Shire Council. The following day saw us heading for Richmond where we again spent 2 enjoyable days enjoying the town and the special sites that are on offer. We could have spent a lot of time out at the Fossil dig sites, but we had to catch up with one of the local Pastoralists north of the town. From Richmond we travelled back to Winton, and this time caught up up an EO local, Bob and his wife that we were unaware lived in Winton. We could not believe the damage and great destruction of the Waltzing Matilda Centre caused by the fire and our thoughts were with that small town of Winton. It may only be a small population, but those people were so friendly and we know in true Aussie spirit, the centre will be up and running again in time for the 2016 tourist season. The drought conditions in this area have to be seen to be believed and the the drive between Winton and Longreach of 180 kilometres, was covered with hundreds of dead kangaroos, to the point that you could not drive with the window down, as the stench was so overpowering. The good thing about our stay in Longreach, was it was our first major supermarket to restock up on supplies since leaving Cloncurry more than 10 days ago.

From Longreach, it was time to leave the main highways and follow more interesting tracks down to our next intended camp, Windorah. The drive was very rewarding and we past through more great country and arrived in the early afternoon, with ample time to top up on fuel and then headed out of town where you can always guarantee a great camp along the Cooper Creek. Large rains had fallen through the area around a week before we arrived and some of the bush tracks were still closed so the area that we wanted to camp was still under water, so we headed back across the bridge and soon found a good little spot and camp was set up in no time flat. The first thing that we did after that was get the campfire going and to sit back around our campfire and enjoy the tranquility of the Cooper Creek and the only sounds were the calls of the abundant birdlife, the flowing Cooper over the rocks in the water and the crackle of the wood as it slowly burnt away. Then in typical fashion, in drove another vehicle and of all the kilometres of Cooper they had to set up camp, you can guess where they set up their Jayco, less than 30 metres from our camp! That is the only trouble with some people, they do not feel safe camping by themselves and like to feel more secure knowing that other people are nearby, where as me, more isolated we are, the better.

The time spent here at the Cooper was nothing but fantastic, and highlights the facts that both Fiona and I both agree that this type of camping wins hands down over caravan parks, with no questions asked. From the banks of the Cooper at Windorah we made our way through more backtracks and more great camping at the Dig Tree. Even though we have to pay the small fee of $11, to us it was as good as true bush camping, as there are many great sites along the Cooper here where you can camp, and the fee is for entry only and not a day fee. We had a great chat with “Duck” the manager and he gave us details of how to take the short cut to Innamincka, saving over 30 kilometres from where we were camped. The drive to Innamincka was quite quick, made so by the fact that all access to all the Major points of interest in the area were all closed off due to still closed roads from the recent rains. Another very easy day on the banks of the Cooper in the town common, where we just sat around, watched the birdlife of the Cooper and an enjoyable stroll around the town area, before going back to the Pub for tea.

Next morning the sun was shining, but a breeze sprang up and and icy wind followed with overcast skies, putting to an end to the great weather that we had along the trip and the Cooper. Packing up the camper was now down to a pat, and in no time at all, we were heading south down the Strzelecki Track under cool and windy conditions. Our final munch stop for the trip was at Montecollina Bore and the further south that we travelled, the colder the weather was getting and there were now a few spots of rain on the windscreen. The sun tried its best to break through the clouds and after our last fuel top up at Lyndhurst, we were now on the final run home on roads that we had travelled countless times.

Stephen Langman

September 2015
Smile like a Crocodile
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