Birdsville to Tobermorey (Donohue Hwy) - More bulldust than a meeting of merchant bankers!

Wednesday, Jun 01, 2005 at 00:00

Mick O

Wednesday June 1st, 2005
Tobermorey Station, Northern Territory


It was a leisurely start to the day. An extra half hour in bed as it was expected to be an all day trip to reach Boulia at 390 km to the north. After breakfast and the packing was completed, a quick visit to the amenities for a freshen up then off, well sort of. As I expected the tailgate of the ute to take a further peppering from stones, I botted a box from the local servo and jury rigged some protective measures hoping to solve the problem somewhat (god bless Gaffa Tape!), then it was off north.

The road was being improved just out of town and the dirt remained in reasonable condition. Imagine my surprise when we found sections of sealed surface of considerable length. As it turned out over a third of the road between Birdsville and Bedourie (total of 188 km) was in fact surfaced. What Joy. The Eyre Developmental Road skirts the eastern edge of the Simpson Desert often running parallel to the red dunes. You are left in no doubt that you are in Channel Country soon after passing the ruins of “Old Rosebirth” Station. The countryside changes from the gibber of previous days to flat alluvial type plains with many significant creek beds. There are lots of lignum clad flood plains, the depth gauges by the road side a testament to just how well this area is inundated during the wet season.

Bedourie is an interesting place. The road performs a chicane across a high red dune and you are suddenly confronted with this green town. Although small and not marked by any tall trees, there was never the less lawn in abundance. Sprinklers were on everywhere. Obviously there is a good supply of top quality artesian water available. We stopped briefly at the general store/motel/tourist information/saloon. The young bloke who served us is a testament to the fact that cousins should never marry. Real deliverance stuff. Had trouble understanding the concept of a sealed road and the word bitumen. Had a head the size of an orange. Frightening!

If the B/Ville-Bedourie Road was a surprise then the 190 km from Bedourie to Boulia was a revelation. Only 60 km of it remains unsealed allowing much better time. The road basically headed due north following the Georgina and then Bourke Rivers and criss-crossing their many branches. It was interesting to see the countryside change so often. The cattle were abundant and looking very healthy thankyou. Had lunch by a small dry creek bed (Thoggamorra Creek) exactly 80 km north of Bedourie at 12.30 p.m. About 60 km before Boulia, you hit the Bourke River and the countryside changes once again. Tall grasses, acacia and ghost gums. Saw several pairs of Brolga by the roadside. Water appeared plentiful and the cattle, very happy.

We filled up with fuel at Boulia and was informed that the road west to the Alice was stuffed….but only the first 700 km of it. The last 150 or so was supposed to be fine as this was sealed. The road in fact wasn’t too bad excepting the frequent patches of bull dust. I think patches is actually an understatement and I fear to launch into a real description for fear of being accused of exaggerating. Some of these patches were 60-70 cm deep and several hundred meters long. They extended past the edges of the road boundary so there was no avoiding them. The deepest and longest patch saw the front of the car disappear withy viscous waves of superfine dust rolling over the bonnet. It was pandemonium inside the vehicle as well as the pervasive dust penetrated the ventilation system and was blown into the car. The heavy usage by tri-trailer cattle trucks was obvious with the centre ruts formed perfectly to the height of the trucks undercarriage as forced there by the final set of tri-axles. Doesn’t do much for a 4x4 which is a good deal lower so you hit the dust over bumper height. I’d just love to know if anybody has done a study of the properties of bulldust.

Then only was to tackle the patches was with a bit of speed in 2nd or third and hope that you could maintain momentum and torque until you reached the end. We only had two near misses thankfully.

As we had reached Boulia by 2.30 p.m. it was decided to try and knock over a couple of hundred kilometres off the Donohue Highway before stopping for the night. As it happens, we made 250 and have pulled in at Tobermorey Station for fuel and the night. Once you hit the Territory border, the Highway changes in name to the “Plenty Highway”.Tobermorey has a rudimentary camp ground set up to supplement the station income together with fuel at $1.65 per litre regardless of flavour. There are seven other vehicles here as well most towing either trailers and two by “off road” Jayco’s. I counted three broken rear windscreens as well as my own so that’s made me feel better. The helicopter flew in on dusk returning from the days mustering activities. It caused a of excitement around the camp.

It’s going to be a big day tomorrow if we are to make Alice Springs. There’s 400 km of rough going before we see the bitumen. I hope to be away by 8.00 a.m.
''We knew from the experience of well-known travelers that the
trip would doubtless be attended with much hardship.''
Richard Maurice - 1903
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