Innamincka, Strzelecki Track, Birdsville Track - July 2011

Saturday, Jul 09, 2011 at 09:00

Member - Min (NSW)

Innamincka, Strzelecki Track, Birdsville Track - July 2011

Please note that this blog was written for our own memories and for future reference. Anyone is welcome to read it and if you glean any worthwhile info so much the better.

To see a full size photo, just click on it and it will 'explode'.

Saturday 9 July: Home to Nyngan

Left 9.20, later than we wished but frost everywhere and very cold. It was overcast then light rain until early afternoon. Stopped in Cowra for coffee then ate our packed lunch in Parkes. Arrived in Nyngan 3.30 and stayed in an ensuite site at Riverside cv park ($36). The ensuite is a little shabby but the park has a very pleasant setting on the river with lots of grassy space if you don’t want power.

Sunday 10 July: Nyngan to Eulo

After much discussion and map examination we decided to head for Innamincka where we will stay for a couple of days before heading down the Strzelecki and up the Birdsville to the ferry and continue on to Birdsville and Currawinya NP if time permits.

Left Nyngan after finding the IGA open where we bought water and tinned veges for a backup. Bourke was very closed up but were able to buy filled rolls for lunch. Also checked out the wharf – it’s still there – and the newish Back o’ Bourke Centre (Info).

Road works north of Barringun. Lots of roadkill, first roos then emus. Saw heaps of live emus.

The country is very flat and the road mostly straight. Bought diesel in Cunnamulla, an attractive town. Arrived in Eulo where we are staying behind the pub. Very pleasant but spartan amenities. Good hot shower but in the first cubicle I couldn’t get the cold tap on so had to nick out and shower in the one next one leaving all my stuff behind. Sat around a roaring fire outside. People went away and cooked their dinner and brought it back to eat by the fire. Someone made a sweet damper and shared it. (3 cups SR flour, ½ cup sugar, 1teasp salt and 1 can beer. Add sultanas if desired.) Clear skies all day and night. Will be a cold night and the power is not reliable so probably no heater.

Monday 11 July: Eulo to Innamincka

We were able to run the heater very low until we went to bed. The night was close to 0 degrees but we were quite warm in bed. I passed the test! Sky brilliant. No mice, although the publican told a story about a team of road pilots and truck drivers with a huge load who had to wait there for 2 weeks for floodwaters to recede on the Paroo River who were fighting over who would get his cat to sleep with because the mice were so bad.

Before leaving town we called in at the date farm and bought some date and chocolate liqueur, date topping and some ginger, almond and fig dip. We could also have had a mud bath but passed on that one.

The road was narrower, mostly one lane but a good surface. We enjoyed the drive through mostly flat country with occasional jump-ups. Sometimes you could see forever then the road would change direction and you’d be looking at broken ranges – mesas, etc. The route also took us through channel country and it was amazing to see where the country had been inundated for many kilometres.

We stopped at Lake Bindegolly where we met EO people from Tweed Heads and chatted a while. The walk was flooded but I wish we had spent more time there just taking it in – lots of birds.


The greatest sight was coming to the Burke & Wills bridge over the Cooper – wide and full of all kinds of birds. We were then back into dry jump-up country and hit the end of the Strzelecki Track just short of the ‘town’. This consists of a general store/fuel station, pub, auto service business and unmanned NP office. There are also public showers with 3 minutes of hot water for $2, a bargain. The two public phones were not working – disappointing because we wanted to let Michele know about our changed plans.

The lady in the general store was very helpful in explaining the camping and interesting sites. We elected to camp on the Town Common which costs $5 per night (honesty system). It is $9 for the length of your stay for NP entrance. The Town Common is a stretch along the Cooper and has long-drop loos.

After a search we found a good site not directly under the trees but still more shaded than I would have liked considering the cool weather. We picked up firewood along the way so we had a nice, thought small, fire. Very pleasant. The birdlife is breathtaking, just as it was at B&W bridge.


The night was not too cold and we weren’t worried by mice although I thought I heard scratching during the night, which may have been rats.

Tuesday 12 July: Innamincka

Lazed around camp bird-watching etc. until after lunch. After unsuccessfully trying to call Michele we drove to the place where Robert O’Hara Burke died. It is high above a very wide stretch of the Cooper Creek – again, alive with birds and many wildflowers. A sign high in a big tree well above the river at the start of the walk shows the level of the 2010 flood.
There are good interpretive signs but without botanical names. A bad case of ‘dumbing down’. We also went to Cullyamurra Waterhole where camping ($15 p n or Desert Parks Pass) is permitted. The river did not seem very accessible and the camping is high above it although the Cooper is wide and beautiful there.

Returning to town we tried the phones again but no luck so asked at the store if there was an internet connection and was surprised to find one on satellite which we were able to use for $5 if we were successful. It was slow so didn’t check any incoming except one each from Sophie and Rachel with reports. We couldn’t look at the reports but they had both done very well. Sent a message to Michele letting her know our change of plans.

Dinner was by a fire again but not much wood left for tomorrow night.

We were disappointed at first with the new strip of LED lights John had mounted before coming away but have found it quite adequate for reading. Last night the fluoro outside failed but the LEDs worked and today we set up the solar panels and the battery charged up but we won’t risk using other than LEDs. John thinks when we are driving the fridge uses more than he thought so he will change the system before our next trip.

Wednesday 13 July: Innamincka

Light rain on and off all day but we still enjoyed ourselves visiting the sites of Wills’s death and the place where King was found being cared for by Aboriginal people. We also went to some other camp sites, Ski Beach and Minke. I like the Town Common much better as we are so close to the water and the birds.
Collected much firewood which is permitted away from designated areas.

When we got back to town the rain was still light but steady and it was gloom and doom about whether roads would be open tomorrow. Packsaddle was already closed. The word was if you are going, head for Thargomindah. But, hey, that’s just where we came from. No way!

We gave all our wood away as we couldn’t be bothered having a fire in the rain. The camp was very muddy especially where the water had pooled in the annex and spilled over. We were going to put away the shower tent and annex ready for a quick getaway but that was not practical so just put the shower tent away and put the potti, which we had not used, outside the door – no one could see us and it was very pleasant sitting there looking out over the water! I had decided I would not use the long-drop again as it was quite some distance away and I came back several inches taller with the mud build-up on my shoes. It was like thick glue. The car was caked with it.

It stopped raining around 10 or 11 pm.

Thursday 14 July: Innamincka to Lyndhurst

We got up early and packed up without breakfast. It took ages because everything was still wet and the mat was muddy. We headed out and saw the road to Lyndhurst i.e. the Strzelecki Track which was open, so off we went. Breakfast was coffee made from water boiled at 6pm last night and was still quite acceptable, and a sweet biscuit.

Despite the wet track John was able to drive at 90-95 kmph except where the tracks ahead showed a tendency to slide. I did a couple of hours but was not confident enough for some time to match John’s pace. Apart from mine vehicles and one or two road trains the only other vehicles we saw for most of the trip was a blue Toyota which John passed then later I allowed him to pass me. He was a good pilot and I gained confidence. He went in to Montecollina Bore and later passed us when we were having lunch at a windswept rest stop. I wish we had had a look at Montecollina – lots of trees, I’m sure it would be a nice camp.

The road was in excellent condition although closer to Lyndhurst it became slightly rougher and with lots of dips and dry creeks. It would be easy for a 2wd to do the Strzelecki although I would not recommend it for long vehicles, i.e. motor homes and large vans because of the dips unless they have good approach and departure angles. We brought much of the Track to Lyndhurst with us. I found a long screwdriver the best tool for getting it off. We removed huge clods from the wheel arches, stone guard, etc. at lunch time but it was replaced by the time we reached Lyndhurst.

The rain continued on and off all day, never heavy but requiring wipers for much of the trip.

We are camped at the Lyndhurst pub on a powered site and will probably stay tomorrow as John is very tired and didn’t sleep well last night. We are on blue metal which drains well so it is not muddy except for where we and others have dropped it from our vehicles.

Friday 15 July: Lyndhurst


A very lazy day. We drove to Leigh Creek, stopping at the coal mine along the way. Leigh Creek is a ‘new’ town constructed in 1980s so that mining could be carried out on the previous town sight (basically Copley). Mines are always depressing for me and this was no exception. I wonder if it will be cleaned up, i.e. the overburden put back where it came from. I doubt it. The town is very ‘designed’ with no individuality, but functional with lots of lovely gum trees and all amenities and an excellent FoodWorks supermarket that sells everything including a large range of clothing. John was looking for a warm sloppy joe and found just what he wanted at $15. 10L of water was $3.50 – bargain. Very fresh fruit and veges at city prices. This surprised me as I had been told that Marree was far better. We had a rare pleasure, a hamburger, at the cafe. It was very good, and so was the large mug of espresso coffee. Ah well, I’ll have to wait another year before having another one.

It is school holidays and there are lots of families enjoying themselves, often in groups of three or more. No doubt the kids have been cooped up all day and the big patch of lawn here is a great relief to them. It’s good to see.

Now it’s off to the pub for dinner – we really are living it up today!

Thursday 16 July: Lyndhurst to Cooper Creek on the Birdsville Track

We filled our water tank at Lyndhurst before getting away to Marree. The road is unsealed from now, a bit mucky after the recent rain but okay. I slowed for someone to pass on a bitumen section and he proved a good pilot for some time. Some large jump-ups are in the distance to the west soon after leaving Lyndhurst. We drove around Marree to check it out. There is a general store of sorts but I definitely would not rely on the place for anything. Leigh Creek is the excellent for groceries and Lyndhurst for fuel.

We hit the Birdsville Track and found the surface quite good. There are a couple of good lakes close to the road, which was a surprise, one is Lake Harry. Of course the country is flat with occasional rises and jump-ups. Some cattle.

Near Ettadunna station we came to the flood by-pass but continued to see the Tom Brennan Memorial. The MV Tom Brennan was a tiny barge which was the first vessel for public use when the Cooper was in flood. It was commissioned in 1949 and was used many times in the next few years as the Cooper flooded again and again. It looks as if it would only fit four people in it and not much else. Of course, it was used by the legendary Tom Kruze ‘The Mailman of the Bush’ to get mail and supplies up and down the Track. It would have been quite a circus bringing stock across in it but apparently they did. Many stories abound.

We had considered camping there but went to the ferry – there it was, I achieved my dream to see the Cooper ferry in action. The ferrymen advised staying on the south side as the rats and mice are far worse on the northern side.


We found a nice campsite well away from the ferry, the only drawback is that it is in a dip and we can’t see the view when sitting down, just need to move the chairs up a little rise.

The mice came out in the late afternoon – not many. We had a nice fire but settled down early as it was very cold and mice were annoying. There was a beautiful sunset over the Cooper. We could hear the mice scratching and gnawing away in the night but the only damage was a couple of chunks eaten away from the edge of my soft rubber shower mat. Hope it gave them a belly ache.

Sunday 17 July: Cooper on the Birdsville Track

We decided to stay another day as the mice were not much of a problem.

The QE3 (inflatable tandem sit-on –top) finally got wet when we paddled up to the ferry and across to the other side beside it. The current was with us on the way up so we got more exercise on the way back. After lunch we went upstream and had an easier ride back. There were a few dead fish floating on the edge of the water, don’t know the cause. It has been a beautiful sunny day.


Our camp was 100 metres from the next one and there was another further on. A man on his own came late this afternoon. Each camper called on us once or twice so it was nice to chat with people but still be private. It is not always convenient when you are packing up for a long drive but they are not to know.

We noticed two kinds of mice: one like house mice and the other was lighter coloured and had a very long tail that was fluffy on the end.

Monday 18 July: Cooper Creek to Birdsville

Cloud came up last evening and we had a few drips of rain in the early hours. We had taken down the annex and shower/loo tent last night so we packed up fairly quickly even though we had visitors.

I think we must have been first to cross on the ferry this morning because we had to wait for Brad and the other ferryman to come down from their camp. They are very friendly and Brad is the third generation in his family to operate the ferry. It was a bit of a job getting off as the trailer caught on the stone guard but came off with a bit of a grind but no harm done.


The road was quite good as far as Mungerannie and John was doing around 90+. Mungerannie is quite a pub. Lots of coming and going – we waited about ½ an hour or so for a warm cappuccino but it was entertaining. I drove from there and was able to do 90+ for a while but the road deteriorated and we were down to 65-90. There was much gibber country which means stony road. We reached Birdsville around 3.30 and are in the cv park which is quite good. Walked up to the pub for a beer.

Tuesday 19 July: Birdsville

Did the washing then went to the visitor centre to use the email. It was incredibly slow and it was not until we got home that we realised that some of the more important emails must have timed out and did not go through.

We picked up a mud map to go out to Big Red. There was a long diversion over several dunes because of water across the main road. We negotiated the first three dunes which got progressively bigger but bombed out at the top of the next one. We have never done this type of driving before and had the car in low lock which was probably too slow. So we backed down and cut our losses. We had had our fun and Big Red will still be there next time. Also we did not have a sand flag which I realise is very important because anyone could come flying over the top of the dune and would have no idea we were there. Of course another reason for not making it could be that someone who shall remain nameless refused to lower the tyre pressure because it would take too long to pump up again! We could have driven back very carefully and done it at the servo across the road.

When we hit the main road we drove a little way past the detour sign and, over a big dune, and there was a wonderful sight. There was water on either side of the road and lots of birdlife. We climbed the dune and had a lovely view and took photos of wildflowers, one of which was the spectacular Regal Birdflower (Crotalaria cunninghamii).



It was back to town and out on the road to Bedourie for about twelve kilometres to see the Waddi trees (Acacia peuce) which is very rare with only two or three stands left in remote areas. They were very obvious when they came into view looking like Desert Oaks (Allocasuarina decaisneana).


I was very confused when I came across a couple of plants that had sharp needle leaves and I believe them to be Mount Gason Wattle (Acacia pickardii) which is even more rare. They are not meant to grow here but on the Birdsville Track south of Clifton Downs and the other two populations are in the western Simpson Desert, one on Andado Station close to A.peuce.


Returning to town we photographed the geothermal power station and read all about it - very interesting.

Wednesday 20 July: Birdsville to Windorah

After taking a couple of photos in Birdsville we headed for Windorah. We crossed the Diamantina River which was actually backing on to the caravan park and some people were camped there. The road was okay but stony and before too long I noticed that the car was not tracking very well and asked John to drive for a while to see what he thought. He walked around the car and found the passenger rear wheel flat. It took about 50 minutes to change it, taking it slowly, and we were away again very aware we now had no spare tyre. (Decision made - carry an extra spare).

The countryside on today’s drive was spectacular with gibber, grasslands, water here and there, and trees along water courses and drainage lines. And the jump-ups and eroded dunes were beautiful.

There was a lookout just east of Betoota which was very high and afforded a fabulous view all around – a rough road up but well worth it. We had lunch there.

We were lucky that we weren’t a week or two earlier or we would have had to negotiate many wet crossings at best or the road would have been closed. Our neighbour in Birdsville who was in a 2wd sedan pulling an on-road van had waited 10 days to get out and left this morning.

We pulled in to Windorah at 3.45pm and got into the caravan park ($10 with power, basic facilities) then went looking for a tyre. Found the very disorganised, dirty service station and stood around for a while before the lady attended to us and we were amazed to find that she had an AT tyre for the Prado. Her husband was away and she could not put it on but phoned up someone who could and sent us around there. $269 for the tyre and $30 for fitting and disposal of old tyre. All fixed.

The very friendly council rep came around to collect the fee for the cvp and said the rats weren’t too bad. The first one appeared as I was preparing dinner. Prior to that I had been visited by a duck that seemed very put out that I didn’t have anything to offer him/her.

We knocked off the rest of yesterday’s bottle of wine and opened another to celebrate our problem solved.

We were told of a good free camp with flushing toilets on the Cooper about 10k out of town but we really wanted to be warm and have a hot shower. I’m sure it would have been lovely there if the weather was warmer.

It would be good if the general store has some fresh fruit and veges and cheese tomorrow.

No phone coverage here. The locals rely on their two-way radios for communication.

Thursday 21 July: Windorah to Thargomindah

With visits by two rats in the ct during the night we didn’t sleep much but continued on the Diamantina Developmental Road to Quilpie where we had planned to do some shopping and perhaps get some nice filled bread rolls. We soon discovered that the town was stopped dead because of a blackout since 8.30 am and which affected a large region. A chopper had been dispatched to find the break in the line. Went to St Finnbar’s Church to see the beautiful alter, lectern and font decorated with boulder opal and then continued to Thargomindah where we checked in to the caravan park where we were informed that the town was having sewerage problems and we should not have a shower unless we really needed to and then only for ONE minute. Also the laundry was locked. Thargo had also been affected by the blackout but power was now restored.

Friday 22 July: Thargomindah

Went to Lake Bindegolly again and spent some time there wandering around and trying unsuccessfully to take photos of the prolific birdlife there. For my little camera I definitely need a tripod to hold it still enough at long zoom. However it was very enjoyable and I came to realise just how much skill is involved in capturing birds in a good photo.

I redeemed myself by taking a good photo of a lovely honey-eater by getting into the camper and using it as a hide.


After lunch we went for a walk beside the Bullo River. The Bullo is a contained waterway as it just disperses into some ephemeral lakes. Enjoyed a nice hot shower before dinner.

Saturday 23 July: Thargomindah to Bourke via Dowling Track

Left Thargo with the intention of staying in the Currawinya NP or in Hungerford if the cp was okay. It wasn’t. And neither was Currawinya (we would have been camped close to others which is not my idea of bush camping) so after much consideration we decided to continue on the road to Bourke. (Hungerford consists of a pub and a school.)

We are at the Kidman Camp in North Bourke and there are dogs barking, which is par for the course in Bourke and we are jammed up with other people. Oh for the Town Common in Innamincka or the Cooper on the Track.

The drive today was not easy, requiring concentration on the mostly stony and sometimes soft single lane track with puddles. The scenery was not so enjoyable because the vegetation was close to the road for most of the time and consisted almost entirely of mulga (Acacia aneura). We saw only one or two cars except for three close together at Ford’s Bridge and a couple more on the outskirts of Bourke.

Sunday 24 July: Bourke to Narrabri

I had never been to Brewarrina so we decided to go then on to Wee Waa and Narrabri to see Mt Kaputar NP (our third attempt).

Brewarrina is a pleasant town and has the ancient Aboriginal fish traps which are well worth seeing. They are a complex system of rock enclosures and diversions which were maintained over many generations. Brewarrina was a central meeting place for many groups and there was a need to provide food for large numbers of people when gatherings took place and the traps ensured a plentiful supply of fish. Now there is a weir just above the traps. Today we saw no humans harvesting fish but plenty of birdlife was having a good feed. They were standing in wait all over the rocks.

We had lunch in Walgett and are now in the Big Sky cvp in Narrabri. The RSL in only 200m down the road and we had a good dinner in the ‘Outback Shack’ there.

The scenery today was nothing special except for just out of Bourke when I noticed that I could see the blue horizon beneath the browsed canopies of the trees. I should have taken a photo because although the country was flat all day, I saw nothing like that sight again (It was not mirage.).

Monday 25 July: Narrabri

We were woken at 5 am by local traffic, mostly white double cab utes or small trucks. Goodness knows where they were coming from but there must have been thousands that passed us until they thinned out around 8 or so.

Feeling fairly confident about the weather we set off for Mt Kaputar NP. The drive was lovely and the views of the volcanic plugs of the Nandewar Range became more awesome as we progressed. The road once inside the Park is narrow and winding and begins with dirt changing to bitumen as it gets narrower. I’m glad we didn’t meet anyone coming down. Caravans are not permitted on the road but small box trailers and campers are.

We visited all the lookouts but one and did the nature trails at Bark Hut and Dawsons Springs camping areas. At Bark Hut we saw the only campers in the park and they had an Aussie Swag camper and we got chatting for a while. They had spent two nights there but the cold was getting to them and they were packing up.

We had lunch in the sunshine at Dawsons Springs after doing the nature trail. As we were finishing cloud came over and it quickly got very cold so we checked out one more lookout and began the drive down.

The two camping areas are well serviced by modern toilet and shower blocks with hot showers and at Dawsons Springs treated drinking water is also supplied. Bark Hut would be my choice as it is smaller and would be much quieter. There are also cabins at Dawsons Springs equipped with everything you would need except bedding. There are wood fires in the cabins and wood supplied. Wood for camping must be brought in from outside the park.

We need to return to do more of the walks and to see a separate section of the park called Sawn Rocks, one of Australia’s best examples of the geological formation known as organ piping

We went to the NP office in Narrabri and got a comprehensive plant list for the park – very obliging lady. Also went to Maca’s for coffee and wifi. It was slow but we did what was necessary. Returning to camp we had showers and I prepared the meat and veges for a stir fry. We did not have the annex up as we prefer to be right out in the open if possible and the clouds were threatening. We got a very quick stir fry as it started raining very lightly and our al fresco dining plans were thwarted but dinner was excellent.

Tuesday 26 July: Narrabri to Home

The intention was to stop for the night in Cowra but as the morning progressed I had the feeling that we could make it home. The Newell Highway is a pain for big trucks and it was good to leave it at Dubbo and pick up the Mitchell. We stopped for lunch at Wellington Caves and ate the stale filled rolls we bought in Gilgandra where we had coffee. It was then on through Molong and Canowindra to Cowra. The weather was a bit dubious and we knew we’d make it home with no problems so off we went. The Lachlan Valley Way is a lovely drive although windy and hilly, but that’s why it’s so delightful. The country looked great even in the depths of winter. We were home by 5.30 and the traffic was a shock when we hit Canberra.

It has been a wonderful trip and we both feel a great love of the outback with the red earth and huge sky and changing landscape not hemmed in by vegetation close to the road. Out there is room to breathe and to wonder at this incredible country of contrasts.

We both feel very comfortable with bush camping now and in warmer weather that is what we will do whenever possible.
John 'n' Min
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