An Adventure of a lifetime

It’s “S Day” we woke feeling a little excited but knew we had a few things to do before we could head down the Birdsville Track to start our Simmo adventure.

We spent the morning letting the canvas on the trailer fully dry and moving things between the 2 vehicles that we either didn’t need to take or did need to. We then dropped the trailer at the Birdsville Caravan Park for storage for the next 2 weeks.

Filled up with fuel and the popped into the Birdsville bakery for a couple of pies, bread rolls and a muffin for Chris. He has had the curried camel before and didn’t like it so this time he got a standard chunky beef and something a little more adventurous kangaroo claret. Chris said the kangaroo was very nice.

Now we were really getting excited as we headed out of town, down the track towards the Warburton Track.

A South Australian Desert Park Pass is required to drive and camp in the Simpson. At time of writing it was $160 and is valid for 12 months. The pass includes a guide, permit and some maps. It can be purchased in advance from the SA National Park website, or from places in Birdsville or Mt Dare. We opted to buy ours in Birdsville just in case something came up that changed our plans, like rain or flooding.

Some areas of the Birdsville track were very rutted from where vehicles had driven along the track in recent rains. In many places there was water alongside the road, water on the road in several places and even some grading being done. All in all it’s not a bad road and we saw plenty of people towing caravans up the track.

A sand/safety flag is also required to travel across the Simpson Desert, check the SA National Parks website for up to date requirements.

The turnoff to Warburton Track is 200km from Birdsville, now the adventure really begins.

Birdsville

It is 385 km from Windorah to Birdsville and according to our Bossy Betsy GPS it takes 4 1/2hrs. The road for the first 100 odd kms Is a single lane bumpy rough bitumen road. You travel through some very flat treeless landscape with a few sand dunes. 266km from Birdsville you hit the dirt/gravel.

For many Birdsville is just a dot on the map. Many wouldn’t think how far it is from the east coast of Qld. What is there and why would you want to go there. Many don’t really realise how remote it actually is. We have been to Birdsville several times but again we are reminded when you have to travel nearly 1600km with the last 266km on dirt road passing through some flat barren landscape that Birdsville is indeed remote and in the middle of nowhere. Of course these days with the Birdsville races and in more recent years the Big Red Bash it’s not as remote as it once was.

We pulled into Birdsville a little after 2pm. First stop was the info centre where we purchased our Desert Parks Pass and booked into 3 O’Clock Creek near Dalhousie. The powers that be insist people book before you go now. Since we didn’t know the exact day like so many other travellers we were told to book several days. Which yep means that we have booked days we won’t be there, like other travellers will do, so the camping areas will be booked out with no one in them. Crazy crazy system that some fat cat in the city office has decided was a good idea but hasn’t thought about the practicality of that.

Every time we come to Birdsville we find discover new things. We had a look around town, then went back to the Windmill camping area to setup camp.

We went to the Birdsville pub for tea, roast meat and veggies was tonight’s menu @ $28.50 each it was a big meal that was so so but filled the tummy and supported the town.

This dog we assume was waiting for his master, and why not have a peak in the window while he waits 🙂

Birdsville and the Birdsville Track

Tues 10th – We woke to a wet foggy morning, we could hear the drip drip drip coming off the branches above us, dripping onto the canvas. Don’t think there has been any rain just very heavy fog, at 9.30 it still hasn’t lifted. As we don’t have the annex up we have retreated into he camper for a cuppa and catch up on some reading. We are hoping the sun breaks through so we can dry the canvas before we have to pack up just before lunch. Chris will be trying one of those famous camel pies Smile

Yeh the fog finally cleared to a beautiful sunny day, the canvas dried just in time to pack up. We called into the info centre first, finding out the Birdsville Museum is closed permanently Sad smile . The storm last night which we didn’t get has closed all roads to Innamincka. We were also told by some travellers that The Birdsville track is wet and muddy, even though we are told its open. We are trying to find out some more info as we might head down it today while the sun is out as more rain in coming over the next few days. We were also told water is over the road of the Birdsville Development road to Windorah, so reports say its closed. We travelled on that yesterday so did well to avoid the storm.

Chris had a curried camel pie and said it was ok, don’t think he was real keen, he is not a curry person. $5 a pie. They also have Rabbit, Kangaroo, lamb, sausage rolls and another items.

We popped into the pub, took a few photos and gave the required donation to the flying doctors for taking the photos, it’s a good cause. We sorted out the go for tea tonight but that was before we found out the road situation.

Birdsville-Pub-2 Birdsville-Pub Birdsville-Hotel

The people that told us were owners of an Aussie Swag which they had to wash when the came into town after coming up the track as it was covered in mud. We have also heard the Oodnadatta track could close, things change very quickly out here. We called into the police station in an effort to find the current and correct info. Ok seems like there is a bit of confusion as the police don’t know anything about the Birdsville track being closed and they are trying to find out who is telling people it is. The road to Windorah is currently closed, confirmed by the police. So we are off down the track, yippee.

Birdsville-Track Welcome-to-SA

We stopped at Moongara Channel, approx 74kms from Birdsville on the Birdsville track. A lovely channel of the Diamantina River. It was a beautiful spot with lots of little birds that looked like Budgerigars, very cute, some were paired up as love birds, snugging into each other. Nice spot to stop for a night as one person commented on the CB, that’s if you had, had a shower, guess they wanted that shower in Birdsville.

Wild-Budgie Moongara-Channel-2 Moongara-Channel

So far the track has been pretty good, a little bit of water on the track in a few places but easy to drive around. Some ruts where people had got bogged in days gone by. There are small wet lands close to the road, some with loads of birds. You could see how easily they would cut the road when it rains.

We have pulled off the track about 140kms from Birdsville right next to a sandhill.  Unbeknown to us, some other people also followed the same track we did but went further around behind some trees. You are allowed to free camp 200m from the road.

Freedom-camping

We had our first beautiful sunset for the trip, was amazing colors of pink, orange and purple. We climbed up the top of the sandhill and watched the array of colors until the colour left the sky, Ahh this is what it is all about.

Birdsville-Track-Sunset

20120710BirdsvilleDesertCamp

Cooper Creek to Birdsville

Mon 9th – Mmm be good if we could keep this place to ourselves. We woke to the sounds of birds chirping, expecting grey skies we were pleased to see blue sky with fluffy white clouds.

There is loads of birds life here, could easy spend the day relaxing by the Cooper taking birds photos. Lots of Pelicans, Herons, Daters, Egrets, Kites and some other beautiful little birds in the amazing rivers gums with touches of yellow on their feathers. This place gets a 5 star in our book. If the breeze wasn’t so stiff be nice to have a paddle down the river.

Pelicans-taking-a-bath Pelicans Heron

We take it slow this morning enjoying the tranquillity of the spot, deciding the have morning tea here before we make the last leg to Birdsville.  It was overcast and breezy when we hit the road at 10.30.

Ohh exciting, the amazing sites you see. A horse and cart, called the Humpy only been pulled by 2 camels and 4 others tethered to the sides . On board was an older couple and a dog. Awesome 🙂

Humpy

Yesterday we had to avoid road kill today its tumble weeds. We hit the dirt about 260kms from Birdsville. We haven’t seen a lot of traffic on the tar for the last day, few cars here and there but wow, it’s peak time. Groups of 4×4’s showering us in red dust as they pass. Maybe it’s groups that have done the Simpson as some have flags, all have spare tyres, max tracks and other gear on their roofs.

Birdsville is a hive of activity and it’s warm, 26 degrees and I’m wearing track pants.  The caravan park is doing a roaring trade with people lined up on the road trying to get in. We are heading for the free camping area in town. Ouch, it hurts at the bowser when you have two tanks and they are both nearly empty, fuel was $1.78 per L.

The camping at the windmill is real bush camping, dirt and dust and grey looking river. Compared to the caravan park this area is pretty empty with only 2 other campers but when the races are on it would be packed. There is a bus pickup near the main road for picking up campers for the races. We thought it was strange for there to be so few campers here but we are thinking maybe people who have come across the simmo and haven’t had a shower for a while are keen to have a long soak in the parks showers.

Windmill

There are still flies here, not as bad as when we were here in April but we have surprised how many there still are.

Wildflowers

Haddon Corner

Thurs – 5/4/12

We had a few problems last night 5kms out of Birdsville that we won’t go into but we had the help of a very friendly local named Glenn who helped us out. It wasn’t until after 8pm that we were back on the road. Glenn told us we couldn’t camp near the river as it was closed off due to the river rising and to watch out for snakes as they were on the move due to the rising river.The lady at the info centre said its expected to rise enough to restrict access in and out to 4wd and be up until the end of April. Glen said to head down the Birdsville track a few km’s and make camp which is what we did, it was quite late by the time we hit the sack.

Away from water the flies are really bad, apparently they have only come out in the last few days. We woke to black spots on the outside of the canvas. Glenn gave us some local knowledge of a product you can by from the Mobile servo (also saw it at the Innamincka Trading Post) its a thick cream made with Rosemary and Cedarwood from Nature’s Botanical. He said it stinks but every one wears it so no one notices the smell. Certainly clears the nose.

We took a drive out to see big red, access to the Simpson was closed this way, due to water at the base of big red on the Birdsville side. We could get to the info area just before big red and see it and the water in the distance. An amazing site.

The Diamantina River is 500m at its narrowest and we were told over 60kms wide at its widest. Wow that’s impressive. They were excited at the info centre because the bakery opened again today, its been closed for the last 5 months.

It looked like the Birdsville pub was closed in the morning so we will have to check inside next trip. The hotel was built in 1884 and was the third and final hotel built in Birdsville. In 1905 a cyclone leveled some of out buildings. There have been several fires in the hotel. The Birdsville pub is one of the most famous outback pubs.

The Royal Hotel built in 1883 was the second hotel to be built in town. It ran as a pub for 40 yrs before being converted to a hospital in 1923. It ran as a hospital for 14 yrs. It is now listed for restoration and preservation by the National Trust.

Driving out of town there is another body of water that has come up since we past it late yesterday, nearly up to the road. It will be across very soon and maybe where the town gets cuts off, not sure.

It’s so flat and nothing to see really, few red sandhills with low green vegetation, but mostly flat, isolated, yet that is the beauty of the place. It seems like another country compared to the cities, the coast, hustle and bustle of the traffic and people. I think the dryness, dust, flies, harshness of the climate and the isolation would get to you after a while but it is an awesome place to visit, despite the flies.

We had a quick lunch in the ute of pan fried toasted cheese and tomato sandwhich yum.

24kms down the turnoff to Haddon Corner we had a flat tyre. Rotten day to have a flat it would be 40 degrees out there. The heat knocked poor Chris around. I bought him the cold water.

Yeah another corner done.

As you get close to Haddon Corner where SA and QLD borders meet you go over a couple of sand dunes. They’re narrow and you cannot see other cars coming, flags would be a good idea in here. You can camp at Haddon Corner, it’s flat, open and at 4pm was still very hot, too hot to set up.

So we took some pics, signed the visitors book and headed back out thinking we may as go until it gets a lot cooler to set up camp

In case any one is wondering why we choose to come out here when it was so hot, well it wasn’t when we left. We have been watching the temps for weeks and they weren’t this hot. Appears nature is having its last blast of hot weather before winter. Our eldest son asked why we had travelled 100’s of KM’s on dirt road to be pestered by 100’s of flies? Our answer, cause it’s fun 🙂

We saw a large group of emus coming out from the corner. They stopped to check us out so we were able to get a few shots.

We stopped for the night 75kms out of Windorah. Just a pull off the road but it was very quiet. We had pizza cooked in the webber for tea, yummo. 410 km’s travelled on mostly dirt roads.

Cordillo Downs

Wed – 4/4/12

We had windows open all night, it was a still warm night. We woke to a mass of mossie on the other side of the screen near our head trying to get in to bite us. Chris had heard them during the night and said it sounded like a swarm of blow flies trying to get in.

We got up early to pack up before the heat and lots of flies hit. Haddon Corner here we come.

The road to Arrabury is a reasonably wide red dirt road with small rocks, dips, very few corrugations but a bit rocky with water course dips. Mostly flat, scenery with a row of jump ups the most interesting feature. Still quite pretty with the red dirt road and the green grass, the only tress are along water courses. About half way along the scenery changes to lots of low trees and the road has patches of bull dust. We have to slow down to keep our distance from a road train ahead which is leaving a load of dust in its trail with little wind to blow it away. About 3/4 of the way to Arrabury there is a turnoff to some mining place which is where our road train turned off. From here the road changed and became much narrower.

Mmm we must have had a few mossie in with us last night as I have some new mossie bites on the tender part of the upper arms. I have more bites on me than I can count now, will have to wear the insect repellant at night too it seems. I reckon they have become immune to the stuff out here.

We had a quick morning tea at the turnoff to Cordillo Downs. Once we crossed back into SA the road got decidedly worse, rough, bumpy, deep ruts in places, holes, lots of rocks. At times it’s like you are driving on a rocky creek bed, recent rains might of washed away the top layer of dirt.

Cordillo Downs is a working cattle station but also has an old stone and mud woodshed built in 1883. It is the largest shed in Australia. Shearing 100,000 sheep a year. Timber was hard to find on the flat gibber plains so a method of construction to minimize the use of timber was sought. The solution was a domed, corrugated iron roof structure supported by stone walls half a meter thick. It was surprisingly cool in the shed. There are several old items of memorabilia in and around the shed.

We have decided to continue along this rocky bumpy road to Birdsville as its the shortest route and go into Haddon Corner on the way back. It seems a popular route despite the road as several 4×4 have gone in front of us.

Ok we hadn’t seen flies yet this trip. We stopped for lunch in the middle of a flat rocky plain, with no water around and we were just about carried away. We ate our lunch in the ute.

It’s hot, it’s dry, there is loads of flies but stopping at the Cadelga Ruins it brings home how harsh life was and can be out here. At least we have our air condition cars to escape the heat and the flies.

Ok us Queenslanders can’t complain about our roads any more. We have experienced this several times. When we come off a SA road into Qld there is a marked difference in the road condition.

410 Km’s travelled on dirt roads.