Friday, 23 August 2013

A road less travelled .. Part 5 .... Birdsville to Bourke via Innamincka

Leaving Birdsville the next morning we headed to Innaminka; a journey of 420 kilometres which would take us around 7 hours. Our first stop was only a short distance from Birdsville at one of the Burke and Wills slash trees - a reminder of their historical journey and the site of their last camp before entering the Innamincka area. 

In 1860 - 61 Burke and Wills  led an expedition which intended to travel 3,250 kilometres across Australia south from Melbourne to the Gulf of Carpentaria in the north.   This was an ill fated journey as they both died near Cooper Creek in June 1861. To find out more search Dig a Burke & Wills research gateway.

Next stop was Cadelga Station;  once a thriving station its now in ruins and forms part of Cordillo Downs.

Next stop was Cordillo Downs Station.  This station once ran around 85,000 sheep and shearers would make the 4.5 hour journey on bicycles to work at what was the largest wool shed at the time. The owners continually struggled with drought and dingoes and in the seventies after dingoes killed virtually every lamb they moved to running cattle. 

The shed is a heritage listed monument to bygone days

We arrived in Innamincka late afternoon looking forward to exploring the surrounding area and in particular seeing more of the sights connected with the Burke and Wills expedition. There are 2 trains of thought regarding this expedition one regards them as great explorers who ran out of luck whilst the other regards Burke as "a bit of a boffin" and a political appointment ill equipped to head such an expedition.

Whichever you believe the fact remains to make a journey of that scale in those times is an incredible feat of endurance. The fact that they missed their support members by a matter of hours is just another disastrous event that affected them.

From Innamincka you can visit "the Dig Tree" where their support crew left supplies for them. Burke's grave site along with Wills are easily accessible as is the site where the rescue team found King the sole survivor in very poor health.  

The Australian Inland Mission Building at Innamincka houses a fantastic display of the history of the mission and many other facts about the history of the surrounding area.

Of course a visit to the Innamincka Hotel is also a must. The bar is full of interesting trinkets left by previous travellers and we had an amazing dinner before retiring back to camp along the Strezlecki Creek.

The creek is currently dry but last time Garry camped at its edge heavy rain turned it into a raging force during the night. This made for an emergency dash back to Innamincka with the water coming up over the bonnet of our Defender when they crossed the creek.

The next morning we followed dingo tracks on the creek bed until we reach Cooper Creek. The Cooper's many channels spread out across a vast area stretching from Queensland to South Australia. Many of these are dry most of the time but when the rains fall its waters flow into Lake Eyre.

Today we were lucky to see a number of pelicans enjoying feeding on the fish within the waters of the Cooper.

After breakfast the next day we were on our way again, this time heading to a couple of outback Queensland towns made famous in poems and songs. We stayed at Thargomindah and then travelled through Cunnamulla, the home of the Cunnamulla fella, and then onto Bourke. Along the way we saw many emus, kangaroos and wedgetail eagles. 

Bourke is said by many to be the gateway to the real outback and this is encapsulated by the saying "back o'Bourke".  The information centre houses an amazing Back o' Bourke show spanning 3 buildings each complex telling elements of the history of the area. 

The next day we returned to see the outback show which was fantastic and lots of fun. It was basically a one man show with authentic bush poetry and demonstrations of how camels, horses, dogs and bullocks were used. 

If you ever get out that way we'd recommend taking the time to see visit both the displays and the shows. Bourke also has a number of other attractions which unfortunately we didn't have time to explore.

Saturday, 17 August 2013

A road less travelled .... Part 4 .... Mungarannie to Birdsville

Leaving Mungarannie we continued along the Birdsville track and stopped at the Mirra Mitta bore which is still free flowing and can be seen in the distance from the steam that rises from the water. 

There are signs warning travellers that the water is hot and its interesting to see the vegetation that grows on the other side of the bore.

From there we drove through a range of landscapes from stony desert to rolling sand dunes. We stopped to shield a mother cow and her calf from a pack of dingoes who appeared to be tracking the newly born calf - another indication of how harsh an environment we are travelling in.

Arriving in Birdsville we checked into the camp-ground and wandered across the bakery which we'd been hearing lots about from other travellers along the way. Garry had one of the best pies he'd ever had; a rabbit pie so their reputation was confirmed!

Waking up in Birdsville with brilliant clear blue skies and sunshine signals the start of a great day so we enjoy a quick breakfast and head to the Simpson Desert to tackle "Big Red" the largest and last sand dune on the Birdsville side of the desert.

Most people waiting at the edge of the desert are just there to look and Garry recalls when it was a right of passage for everyone who visited to at least have a go - maybe its a factor of the amount of "grey nomads" now travelling broader a field than ever before.

 From on top of big red looking back to the road to Birdsfield

Early morning in the desert animal tracks are visible

From the top of "Big Red" we get some magnificent photos of the surrounding area - this is where the blue of the sky and the red desert sands are clearly evident. 

After our brief visit into the desert we head to an Aboriginal site to learn about   Thutirla Pula—the  story of “Two Boys”. Its an epic tale that links Dalhousie Springs on the western side of the desert with Birdsville. We wander the walking trail and have a chance to learn the story and see the ceremonial sites. 

We also headed out towards Bedourie where there is a stand of ancient Waddi Trees. These trees are very rare with only a few stands existing on the fringe of the Simpson desert. They grow to about 9 - 10 metres high and can be as old as 1,000 years.  The wood is extremely hard and many an axe handle has met its end when used on them. 

We enjoyed dinner at the famous Birdsville Hotel  visit the local cemetery and recognise some of the names from photos we've seen in the famous Birdsville Hotel and also drive by the Birdsville Racecourse before leaving Birdsville and heading towards Innaminka.

The Birdsville Races are held each year and transform this tiny outback town as more than 6,500 people arrive to enjoy the short racing season.

Come tour with us. 

Friday, 16 August 2013

A road less travelled ..... Part 3 ..... Maree to Mungarannie

Had a great night's sleep and started the day reading about Tom Kruse (no, not the actor) the original outback mail-man and a deadset Aussie hero and icon. 

Tom's mail truck on display in Marree

Tom delivered mail and other supplies including fuel and medicine to remote stations from Maree in outback South Australia to Birdsville in outback Queensland. This was a journey of  523 kilometres (325 miles) over roads that were little more than a track including sand dunes. The trip 2 weeks and Tom regularly had to manage break-downs, flooding creeks and rivers, and getting bogged in desert dunes. The documentary Last mail from Birdsville tells the story of Tom.

From Maree we set off up the Birdsville Track. The track was originally a stock route where stockman drove sheep and cattle from stations along the track to Maree and onto Adelaide to market.

Road condition signs are important to check before travelling on outback roads

This is a beautiful but harsh part of Australia and the struggles of the early settlers are evident as we travel along the track and come across ruins. The first just 30 kilometres up the track are the remnants of an old date palm plantation. 

The date palms were planted in 1895 and florished for a little while but as there were no insects around that could pollinate the flowers hand-pollinatation was the only option.  This led to poor crops and then drought and large flocks of birds devastated the crops the plantation was eventually abandoned. 

Another 25 kilometres up the track we stopped at Clayton Station where we had the opportunity to enjoy a spa filled with hot artesian water. It was an amazing experience to sit enjoying the healthy warm waters in the middle of nowhere.

There are camping sites and toilets available where the spa is located but there is also luxury accommodation available at Clayton Station.

Completely relaxed we ventured further along the Birdsville Tack to the old Mulka store ruins. This store and the station it is on have a wonderful history. 

2 children are buried out the back of the ruins both died from pneumonia a simple illness nowadays to cure but in days gone by and in such a remote location it was often a death sentence.

From Mulka we drove onto Mungarannie where we camped in amongst the trees which lined an amazing wetland created by water from the artesian basin. The tranquillity and bird-life were amazing. 

It was also great to be able to have a hot shower, use a clean toilet and enjoy a drink at the Mungarannie Hotel.

The pub had lots of character, the locals were very friendly and we certainly felt welcomed. We wandered back to camp and lit a fire and settled in to enjoy a home cooked meal. 

The Galahs made sure no one needed an alarm clock waking us up bright an early to enjoy sunrise over the wetlands. Its amazing to realise the other side of the wetlands is desert but sand dunes are easily seen in the morning light.

Come tour with us.

Friday, 2 August 2013

A road less travelled .... Part 2 ..... Flinders Ranges to Marree

Today we are heading for Marree where the Oodnadatta track and the Birdsville Track meet. On the way out of the Flinders Ranges we drive through Bunaroo Gorge and Brachina Gorge.  These two gorges are fantastic examples of what nature can create if she is given enough time.

Over periods of time ranging to 600 million years ago this ancient mountain range has weathered away to leave us with some of the most magnificent scenery.The gorges and valleys are just beautiful and its hard to find the words to describe them. 


Fossils of sea creatures exist in the rock face as evidence of when this area was a sea bed.  We stopped at one of our regular spots and were incredibly lucky to be rewarded with a sighting of a yellow footed rock wallaby as he tried to hide from us on the rock face. 

Once out of the gorges we hit the bitumen and drove into Parachilna and stopped at the Prarie  Hotel for  a welcome drink. This quirky pub advertises road kill (kangaroo, wallaby and emu) on the menu!

Our next stop was Leigh Creek where we refuelled then travelled towards Lyndhurst where we planned to visit Talc Alf. Alf is an artist who specialises in carving talc stone. His works are unique and some are for sale. He is an amazing person with a wonderful philosophy on life and it would be easy to spend lots of time listening but we need to move on.

We stop at the Ochre Pits on the way and are amazed at the colours in the cliff face. The site is significant as the ochre was traded with Indigenous people from great distances for many different items. 

Next we stop at the ruins of a town called Farina. When you see the ruins its hard to believe this town was still around in 1950. Certainly makes you realise what time and the harsh outback conditions can do.

Its great to see it taking shape as a tourist attraction with great information boards and a good camp area with toilets and showers. 

From Farina Station we head to Marree and set up camp just in time to enjoy a stunning sunset and head to the hotel to enjoy a lovely meal and chat with some of the locals.

Stay tuned for more....