Sturts Stony Desert SA - Dust, mud, Maree, Mungerannie & a bush camp beside the Birdsville Track

Monday, May 21, 2007 at 00:00


Monday 21st May, 2007
Bush Camp
Birdsville Track S.A.

A very early start the day being out of bed at 6:30 a.m. Hugh had arrived home from the pub at some indeterminate hour and fell asleep within 35 seconds. He was snoring within 45 so in went the earplugs.

It was a magnificent morning as we packed and bade farewell to our fellow travellers in the park including the worlds worst joke teller! We were on the road by 8:30 a.m. having showered just before leaving. The early morning sun provided fantastic lighting conditions as we headed south towards Balcanoona prompting several photo stops. From there it was west through Italowie gorge and the two aboriginal settlements of Iga Warta and Nepabunna. We passed a couple of hitchhikers on the way which prompted a stop and a carrot give-up. A white nag and his mate, a friendly donkey who just wanted a scratch behind the ears and a bit if roadside love’n.

Once through the western ramparts of the Gammons, the land gradually flattened with less prominent mesa’s and hills. We reached Copley and Leigh Creek in good time.Leigh Creek was as I always remembered it. Sleepy and getting sleepier. I think half the stores that existed only a year or two ago have closed. The open cut café will be next mark my words. We did some shopping for food items and enjoyed a snack at the café and then it was down to the mobile service station to fill up at $1.46 per litre for diesel. Joy of joys. Dear petrol, again. Just on $197.00 to fill the tanks.

We cleared LC at 11-ish and was on the highway north to Lyndhurst and then the dirt to Farina and places north. The road was in very good condition to Maree and after a quick drive around town that took all of 45 seconds, we went out to the Birdsville turnoff, took the obligatory photo’s of the various cairns and signs and were away north once again. Having been stuck at the Maree Pub for 10 days way back when it used to rain in the outback, I didn’t see much a need to revisit.

The track north was in fantastic nick with several road crews working the stretch between Marree and Mungerannie. The low hills soon gave way to the arid plains of gibber and dust. Dead flat with nary a tree to break the monotony. That the area had had heavy rains in the recent past was obvious by the ever increasing number of pools of water by the roadside, the occasionally chopped up condition of the road, and eventually, some 150 km north, the fact that the creek crossings were full of water and mud slowing us considerably. It is a funny contrast to be throwing clouds of dust behind you and yet have to slow every kilometre for a flooded creek crossing.

The road edges were often so soft (dust not mud) that once in them, the tyres broke through the crust and the vehicle pulled sternly to the left, faking the feeling of a blown tyre. Of course as any experienced bush driver knows, one doesn’t swerve back harshly once in the bleep and so it was that Hugh and I found ourselves heading slightly more west of the road than intended. Thankfully the nearest tree was still 34 km away and even then, two kilometres off the road. An interesting detour if somewhat short lived. Thankfully only gibber and nothing of consequence in the table drain.

By the time we reached Mungerannie we had well and truly covered the vehicle, in mud and slush. The amount of water lying about was astonishing. Some of the crossings were 50 m wide and up to 40 cm deep. There was still very little in the way of green feed seen over the vast, arid plains and even less in the way of stock.

Mungerannie camp ground was singularly unappealing having been well stocked with grey nomads. The permanent stretch of artesian fed Derwent river provided no allure what so ever. It was considered necessary to have at least 1 drink at the bar but at $20 for two scotch and cokes and a packet of chips…one was all it was going to be. Not even the amusing parking metres out the front could cause forgiveness for that affront.Well I suppose they have to freight it out there and then only have a limited season to earn a buck so….

It was 3:15 p.m. by the time we left and the number of flooded dips and creeks only increased as we headed north. Some 50 km north, we stopped by the roadside to collect some wood at the first eucalypts we’d seen in 150 km. The site looked attractive so we have driven east off the road into the lee of a small dune about 600 metres off the track. We overlook a small dry creek and have set up camp within the sandy confines of a few spindly gums.

After initial set-up I climbed the nearby dune to catch a magnificent sunset. A hot shower before dinner, a fire, and slow grilled steak with fire roasted spuds and kumara and a chilled scotch. Life’s good. Even managed to get three minutes of Sat-phone reception! It’s just after eight under a gibbous waning moon and a starry sky. Hugh has set the billy and is contemplating the fire with all the comfort of a friend he’s known forever.
''We knew from the experience of well-known travelers that the
trip would doubtless be attended with much hardship.''
Richard Maurice - 1903
BlogID: 918
Views: 20992

Comments & Reviews

Post a Comment
Blog Index

Sponsored Links