Life Around Birdsville Day 12 to 20

Saturday, Jun 15, 2002 at 00:00

ExplorOz - David & Michelle

This section of our diary does not contain trip data or specific location details as requested by private land owners who do not want an influx of tourists in these areas.

Rolling up to see Wolfgang and Karsten after almost 3 years away felt both familiar yet strange. A lot has changed around Wolfie's house since then and having finally reached our destination after 12 days of continuous desert driving we took a few quiet moments to adjust and settle ourselves.

We had planned to do some camping trips together to see their favourite places and to see the scenes that Wolfgang often paints. He often talks of places where he goes "sailing" (in the desert) and also where the grass is so green that the cattle look like dairy cows in an English meadow. That we had to see.

The Caravanserai Cafe that we'd heard so much about was in full swing and look fantastic. We generally put ourselves in the position of the "traveller" when we travel and we tend to go everywhere and experience everything from this viewpoint. I think regardless of our obvious bias towards their fantastic cafe, anyone who visits Birdsville would find this place a great inspiration and one of the highlights of a trip to Birdsville. In fact, a lot of people do just stop and stare because its so colourful and unusual. I mean we are talking about the home of an eccentric (sorry Wolfie but you are) artist.

Everything is alive with colour including the artistically arranged courtyard with relics and collectables you could only find in a wild place like Birdsville. Wolfgang's Gallery and Studio is the Blue Poles Gallery that sits adjacent to his home. The old church-like stone building has had a recent extension and new roofing to accommodate his growing art collection. Visitors can come and browse, purchase direct and even watch him at work. Wolfgang is a water colour artist and his use of colour and texture is fascinating. When you hear how he achieves the finished painting you begin to understand that there is quite a craft as well as natural talent involved.

But there's a twist to the art, with Karsten's own psychodelic touch including the freshly sprayed purple landcruiser, the projected kaleidoscope images on the tin wall and the eclectic mix of bohemian and classical music that is either played live by Karsten and Wolfgang for guests around the campfire or piped through the symphonic outdoor stereo.

Karsten and Jackie operate the Cafe to provide gallery guests an opportunity to relax and enjoy their visit. Food is served all day, so you can come for breakfast, morning tea, afternoon tea and dinner.

We intended to sample everything on the menu during our visit and got straight into things on our arrival. Being a Friday night we had arrived on their busiest day so we blended into the scene for the night. Both locals and tourist groups book in for dinner served at colourful chairs and tables in the courtyard. Later on people move their chairs or sit on logs around the campfire whilst Karsten and Wolfgang entertain with music. Both are talented musicians and play a mixture of styles including classical and more flamenco/south American inspired music on guitars, bongos, mouth organs, pan flute etc.

It didn't actually take long for all the locals to recognise us again and we settled in to catch up on all the latest stories.

Wolfie had arranged a few days off painting to go camping with us - to some of his secret locations that we'd only heard about and seen in his paintings. This section of our diary does not contain trip data or specific location details as requested by private land owners.

For the next few days - Saturday through to Tuesday we completed a 400km circuit that started at the Inside Track where we went sailing in the Laser on a private waterhole, then traversed cross country to pick up the eastern bank of Eyre Creek, which we followed all the way north to the QAA line. We then crossed over to the western bank of Eyre Creek and continued north along the diversion track. At the stony crossing we continued NE over a few dunes and through private property where we camped at some old ruins with a tragic tale that inspired Wolfgang to paint a macabre image called Annandale Angels. I think the original has been sold, but he has made this one into a print.

Eyre Creek is bone dry at present - quite different to last season. Eyre Creek is not a permanent water course and only "floods" every so often, ie. it does not have a seasonal flow. However the banks are gouged and there is evidence of the past heavy flooding. Wolfgang gets very excited when it does flood because the land comes alive of a few weeks with amazing blooms and colour - a stark contrast to what you see when it is dry.

After experiencing Annandale we continued our circuit further north - none of this is via defined tracks. Wolfie just follows his nose and we follow him! You would be mistaken to think he's just wandering around but infact he knows where every species of interesting plant can be found, can tell a detailed history of people in the region, can locate their graves and find aboriginal grinding stones. He took us to places that took our breath away with their raw beauty - lakes and dunes and cattle grazing on green pastures. You would not think this was Birdsville.

We came back into Birdsville for 4 days in town, mostly spent visiting other locals, going out to the Dingo Caves and Waddi Trees and on the solstice, we helped Karsten plant his 5th pole in his astronomical "Star Picket Henge", based on the same principles that created Stone Henge.

When it was time to leave Birdsville we decided to make our double crossing of the Simpson Desert a little more interesting. Rather than return across the French Line we went south along the Inside Track and just past Clifton Hills Station we veered west via the Warbuton Crossing and picked up the Rig Road. Camping with Wolfie is quite magic - we flew kites above the salt lake, he played his guitar and we all slept out under a full moon.

Wolfgang travelled with us along the Rig Road for most of the next day until we parted company at the Knolls track junction. He went north along the Knolls track to the QAA line back into Birdsville and we continued along the Rig Road all the way to Dalhousie.

David (DM) & Michelle (MM)
Travelling fulltime in 2024
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