Innamincka and beyond - 6 weeks away from home

Saturday, Aug 16, 2008 at 09:01

Member - John T (Tamworth NSW)

We left Tamworth bound for the National gathering at Innamincka on Saturday 5th July 2008. Drove along the blacktop to Bourke and stayed there the night. Off next morning to Olive Downs via Waanaring (the blacktop ran out fairly soon after leaving Bourke), well inside Sturt National park in the far NW of NSW. Had a very peaceful camp there in the park with only 1 other vehicle. Had a long look about the various old buildings on Olive Downs the next morning before heading off for Camerons Corner and Innamincka. Managed to hit only 1 kangaroo that did not do any damage to vehicle or trailer.
Met Signman and co at Camerons Corner, had a bite to eat and then onwards to Innamincka via the Bore Track. What a great drive - pity we did not take any piccys along the way. Washouts, gibber hills, huge clay pans, sand drifts etc - you name it - that track has it and I'd love to do it again. Finally arrived at Innamincka, found the "flag" and set up camp for the night. Even had roast lamb delivered for dinner - thanks Bruce and Annie (if my memory works right). As most of the EO folk had camped in a slightly different area we moved camp to be closer to them next morning and to give us some room for the games that would follow - also more area for the camp fire so ably kept burning by Sir Kev.
We wandered around the countryside going to the Burke and Wills Dig Tree, did the Loop Road that day too. Coongie Lakes were beautiful - what a sight to see so much water in a desert area. Cullymurra Waterhole was another eye opener as were the other places on the Coopers. We saw dingoes, had lots of time to photograph and video a wedgetail eagle who did not want to move from his tree - ended up with Julie under the tree and me driving almost under it too before he flew off.
The group had heaps of fun with the kids being allowed to just run feral with no parents being concerned about their safety.
Lots of fun and laughter with the horseshoe tossing comps held most afternoons - it was very difficult to give the bottles of wine away at times with the "crazy" tossing and the "ringers" - lots of fun was had by all. Yarns around the various camps, and fun around the campfire at night - even used the boat rack on the Trak Shak as the mounting for the tarp that was used as the screen for the "Burke and Wills" movie.
Sadly all great things have to end and by mid morning on Monday 14th everyone had packed up and was on their way to other places - home or in our case to continue the trip.
Off we went from Innamincka to Birdsville via Walkers Crossing - again a drive I would recommend to anyone who has the vehicle to do that drive. Lots of oncoming traffic that day. Arrived in Birdsville in plenty of time so set up camp in the caravan Park - ah the lovely showers in clean water. Also time to get so washing done here too. Had a look at and drove up "Big Red" which, to be honest I was a bit dissapointed with - expected something huge and a real challange - went up with 30psi in the tyres no problems. Had a very peaceful afternoon and evening up there waiting for sunset. Just us and the crows.
Left Birdsville bound for Coober Pedy but little did I know what problems there would be down the track. At Mungarannie Pub I noticed that the Trak Shak was very low on the drivers side - we had lost a bottom mounting bracket for the shocky and the coil spring was resting side on in the mount and the safety chain was broken - BUGGER. With the valuable help of Phil - Publican at the Pub- we jacked the camper up, removed the wheel and put the spring back where it was sposed to be, put some "d" shackles where the chain used to be and then limped on towards Maree and Coober Pedy where Phil had given me some names to talk too about the repairs needed. Had to do minor repairs at property "Eldunna" - thanks for the 8 ga wire and another shackle. Camped on the Cooper Crossing site the night and then continued down the track before finally getting to Maree - refueled and limped up the Oodnadatta Track that day to Coward Springs - what a lovely osasis in the middle of nowhere. Off again next morning and finally made it to William Creek. Left the C/T in the caravan park while we went out to Lake Eyre - another very interesting drive in itself - what a moonscape in places - saw corellas roosting in a "tree" (really a very small shrub about 3' high) and a dingo who did a runner when he saw us. Oh did I mention we drove out there and back in a dust storm. Got back to the Pub and asked about a cabin becasuse of the wind and dust / sand storm - None left was the reply. So nothing left but to erect the Trak Shak in the slight shelter of a shed and make to best of a bad night. I have never spent a night camped out in such terrible conditions - camper was rocking on her suspension all night and, at times I thought we were going to be blown away. Did not get much sleep and we dragged ourselves out to a slightly less windy morning with everything coated in the finest red dust and sand you can imagine. Breakfast and packed up - we are now on the way to Coober Pedy. Still blowing dogs off chains and at times we were down to 20kph and thinking about stopping the dust/ sand was so thick. But again a drive I'd do again just for the visual stuff - "Moon Plain" - what a sight - no wonder they made part of Mad Max - Beyond Thunderdome there. Got to Coober Pedy on a Sunday so not much to do so booked into a cabin at the Stuart Caravan Park until the camper was ready again.
Took the Trak Shak to Bulls garage Monday morning and "ordered" the new shocks and was told theyed be a day or so - haha. Took it over the road to "Ross" a 74 year old bloke who is too busy to retire. He redesigned and rebuilt the shock bottom mounts on both sides, fitted new chains etc and the cost - $260.00 and a very nice bloke to boot. The shocks are another story - yes they arrived but were the wrong ones - 18" instead of the 21" we needed. We had taken the Trak Shak to the caravan park and set it up and lived nicely while we waited. The right ones finally arrived the following Saturday, I fitted them and we were ready to continue. We enjoyed Coober Pedy anyway - got to know all the locals, would love to play golf there just to tee off the first hole, had a look at some of the touristy things and spent a few hours in an open cut opal mine - Julie's friends.
Off now towards the Alice. Stopped many times to take pic's of flowers and other stuff. Made it to Kulgera for the night. Away and this time we made it to Curtain Springs - most expensive fuel anywhere for the whole trip $2.53.9 for diesel. We saw an eagle feeding on roadkill just off the road - stopped and had the bird fair ripping the guts out of the roo while we video's it all to ourselves until some twit came up , got out of his car and of course the eagle flew off. Free camping and $4.00 for a shower - done deal. Went out to the "Rock" and was not willing to pay the $25.00 per head to see it so turned around and found an unmarked track and put the Nissan in 4x4 and went off over the sand hills until we had a great view of the "Rock" - had aftrenoon tea, watched the sunset, lots of great pic's all for free. Hope the property owner does not put the "No Entry" sign up.
Next day out to Kings Canyon - Saw our first camel on the way - stopped for pic's and video. I had read about the "Henbury Meteorite area on the Ernest Giles Road so that's the way we headed - funny seeing a sign telling us about the road -Bulldust, sand drifts etc and then a 110k speed limit - forgot to take that pic. Anyway - this is the worst 98 k's I have ever driven on - 4wd all the time, sand drifts having me down to 2nd gear, corragations a foot deep blah blah. The "road" however does have redeeming features - Rogers Pass was beautiful and the mob of camels we saw off to the side on a claypan were very accomodating - I just drove over the claypan to them and they milled about for 10 - 15 minutes while Julie pic'd and video'ed them - the big bull was really "upset" with him frothing at the mouth and carrying on - took him a while to get control of the mob and move them into the sandhills where we could not follow. Set up camp near the meteorite area in the dark. The craters were small but I could still hear the noise from the impact - only 4700 years ago. 14 craters - the biggest being caused by a rock about the size of a 44 gallon (205 litre) drum - punched a hole and smashed rocks 100's of feet into the earth that is still quite a bit deeper than the surrounding land and still 160 metres across. Away again and this time on the blacktop again - what a relief. Into Alice Springs, a nice van park with lots of clean hot water again - domestics and longish showers.
Looked at all the usual stuff in and about the Alice area, moved camp to Ormiston Gorge to look at the rest of the things out that way. Have any of you lot ever noticed how many diffent flowers there are out there to photograph?? - takes ages to get anywhere. Left the West Macdonnell ranges and headed east - a camp at Trephina Gorge this time - for me one of the lovliest places I've been.
Continued on out through Arltunga (old gold mining area) and an overnight stay at Gemtree. Again so many things to look at and take pic's.
We had talked about the trip back home and after so many rough roads our backs made the decision to take the long way via Tennant Creek and not across the Plenty as originally planned - a bloke in Alice told me there was only 2 bad bits on the Plenty - from the start of the gravel east of Gemtree to the NT - Qld border and from there to Boulia. So off again up the blacktop with an overnight stay at Tennant Creek - every dog and teenager was out and about - very noisy night but again lots of hot water for the showers. Stopped lots again taking pic's and just looking.
Off again on the Barkley H'way - lots of nothing out there folks - scrubby trees finally giving way to endless plains of grass and termite mounds in all sizes. Headwinds all the way. Overnight at the WW11 site west of Mt Isa.
Off again into My Isa, filled up while Julie was yelled at for smoking on service stn grounds - cheapest fuel for the trip - $1.74.9. Left there and went for a visit to Mary Katkleen township - sold off at auction in 1984 and nothing left but the concrete slabs. Though Cloncurry after a look at the John Flynn museum and an overnight stay at McKinley - famous for the smallest public library in Qld and the hotel scenes at the Walkabout Creek Hotel in Crocodile Dundee. Free camping and great facilities.
Onwards next day to Winton where we wanted to see the Dinosaur footprints at Lark Quarry - left the Nissan and Trak Shak and took a tour bus from the caravan park. Spent a couple of hours gazing at footprints made 95 million year ago. Getting closer to home now and I'm thinking about sleeping in my own bed soon. So next day on to Blackall - bl%$#y roosters at 3am. Off again and this time we are on the way to Charleville where we wanted to go to the COSMOS centre and star gaze. Very cold out there at night I can tell you but the stars were beautiful as was our moon.
This was our last night - I was determined to be "home" the next day / night and thats the way the trip ended - lots of stops along the road but turned the Nissnans engine off outside my home about 9.30pm last Thursday night nearly 6 weeks after leaving.
Spent Friday cleaning out the 4x4 and the Trak Shak, doing the washing and being lazy.
I'd like to thank Willem for arranging the Innamincka gathering, for all who gave their all to make it the success it was and to all who attended - it was a pleasure to meet each and every one of you. I'll be at St George with my horseshoes in Sept - Oct 2009.


Just received the fuel used and k's travelled data.

We travelled 9078 k's ( about 5,000 on gravel, sand or unmade tracks - rest on blacktop) and for most of this distance we were towing the Trak Shak c/t which weighed about 1200 kgs. We used 1508.88 litres of diesel - most paid was $2.58, least paid was $1.72.9. Average litres per 100k's is 16.62 - not unhappy with that given the conditions.
John T (Lifetime Member)
VKS-737 Mobile 2619
Selcall 2619
"Argue for your limitations and sure enough they're yours" - Richard Bach in "Illusions"
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