Homewood Bound

I, Kate have come down with a cold that had me coughing all last night. So we have decided to cut our time away short by a few days and head for home. We are missing our dog Jess as well.

We stopped at Blackall for a few hrs break and dip at the hot pool complex at Blackall. Last time we were here 3 years ago it was $2 to get in. 3 years later it’s still $2 to get in and $1 for kids. You won’t get that price in the city. They have put up a few new shade covers, few more table and chairs. The place is very well kept. After a swim you can also have a hot shower.

They sell food which is very well priced. We had fish and chips and it was a large meal for $15.

Blackall is a nice town, highly recommend stopping at the hots pools. After that it’s just drive drive drive heading for home. This trip we downloaded the Audible App and got some Audible/talking books. Really helps the kms just pass away. We have been listening to Sherlock Holmes that has us hooked from start to finish.

Our last night on the road. It’s been an epic trip, one to tick off the bucket list. Bit over the dust at the moment 🙂 until next time be safe.

Lara Wetlands

Barcaldine was a hive of activity, so many parked vans we lost count. Nice tidy friendly little town.

Our friends had told us of this wonderful place with an Artesian pool, wetlands with lots of birds, free canoes to use, hot showers and toilets. Fire pit at each site with free wood. We had driven pass the area several times but didn’t even know it was there.

It’s called Lara Wetlands 28 kms south of Barcaldine and 78 kms north of Blackall in Qld. It’s 14 kms up a good dirt road where you are greeted by friendly hosts to pay your fee of $10pp, you can also use their facilities for the day at $5pp. You can camp anywhere around the wetlands.

The hot showers are donkey showers that are lit mid-afternoon. They are unisex.There is an old funny dunny which is good for a laugh to think people actually used toilets like this. Thank Goodness for modern toilets.

A large camp kitchen and play area for the kids.

The hot pool was really hot, it actually hurt your feet and legs when you first hopped in. Maybe slowing the water coming into the pool may help reduce the temp. Maybe it was hotter at the time we were there but everyone was commenting how hot it was. We went down at night and had the pool to ourselves, floating on your back looking up at the millions of stars was nice.

There is also a cold pool but we didn’t see anyone using it.

The lake has loads of dead trees in it which would be fun to kayak in, there are free kayaks to use.

The only downside for us was the word had got around how good the place was and being the busy time of year in this part of the country it had a lot of campers, vans etc. the day before they had a record numbers. We know people including our friends who have stayed here and had the whole, place to themselves which would be awesome.

Matilda Way

We arrived in Winton about morning tea time. After a cuppa we had a walk up the Main Street and checked out the new building being built to replace the Waltzing Matilda Centre that unfortunately burnt down a few years ago. So good to see they are replacing it, the old one was great.

After filling up with fuel we went and had a look at Arno’s wall. The wall is 2m high and is over 70m long. It is made from concrete and rock bought in from Arno’s opal mine at Opalton and has all sorts of bits and pieces like old lawn mower, microwave, oven, whole motorbikes, boat propellers, plates, cash registers, typewriters, even the back end of a cement mixer and even the kitchen sink. Why we don’t know, someone was a little eccentric we think.

Since we had looked at most attractions in Winton and Longreach it was mostly just a drive through this time.

We stopped at Ilfracombe and went to the Artesian Spa which we hadn’t done before even though we had passed by several times. It is only open certain hours and cost $2.60pp. It was pretty good, about 37 degrees and a very popular spot. We did find later our eyes stung, we smelt of bleach and were very thirsty. Bit to highly chlorinated we think, so something to keep in mind if you are senstive to these things.

We stopped for the night a few kms outside Ilfracombe at a big free rest area. Bit dusty, crunchy grass and prickles, you can get a fair way off the road.

Lark Quarry

Lark Quarry was really interesting and very impressive. The tour starts off with a series of short videos and talk by one of the tour guides telling you about the history of Lark Quarry, how the first footprint was discovered and the events that led on from there over many years before the actual stampede area was discovered.

It was then mostly a case of lots of muscle to help chip away and move the rock that was on top of the footprints. The army cadets, volunteers from the Qld University, Winton and anyone else who was willing to help. One of the men that did was a 70 year old called Malcolm Lark.

The army cadets challenged Malcolm to a challenge as to who could move the most rock. Malcolm single handily moved the most rock out of anyone there. Cut a long story short he was thanked by the lead scientist by naming the find Lark Quarry.

A building was built over the dinosaur’s footprints to preserve the prints this building stood for around 20yrs before the current building was built.

Lark Quarry is the only place in the world that has such a record of a dinosaur stampede. It was fascinating to see footprints of animals in this case dinosaurs that left their imprint on the world over 95 million years ago.

We are kind of making our plans as we go, we needed fuel so started heading to Winton. We stopped for the night about 100 kms away in a spot well hidden from the road with lots of wood to have a fire.

Diamantina National Park

Boom or Bust, Water or Dust, as isolated as it is dusty, at times you can be cut off at the Diamantina by overflowing clay pans or flood waters spilling from the multiple river channels. Seems a great advertising for the park as found in one of the brochures. Sounds very inviting.

Our experience was it was dry, dusty, lots of flies, isolated, rough dusty roads, did I mention the flies. We drove into both camping areas, Gum Hole and Hunters Gorge to have a look. Gum Hole was more like a bush camp with each camp spot separate by trees along the river. Looked nice but dusty all sites were full, they need to be booked online.

Hunters Gorge was a large flattish area in a Gorge with a permanent waterhole. Lots of birds and it would be great to kayak up the river, it was rather muddy looking. This is where the caravans and motorhomes went.

We called into the Diamantina Homestead complex, which has lots of park information, the Old Homestead and Quarters, Ranger Station etc. they have put together a great display area.

A stop at Janet’s Leap lookout is worth a detour into with a view of Janet’s Leap and a view over the river channels and the Diamantina Gates.

Just outside the park heading towards Winton is the Mayne Hotel Ruins. There is not much left of the old hotel and underground cellar. Flies there too. They are not too bad when you first get out of the car but then they find you and try and fly up your nose, in your mouth, behind your sunnies trying to get to your eyes, buzz your ears and whisper we will find you, tickle your arms and legs and just be a great big pest and we are sure if you stand still long enough they will either drop you to the ground with the weight of them on your back or carry you away.

The road on this side of the park is more interesting, more vegetation, trees, ruins, jumpups but the road is rougher. You could be forgiven to thinking you were in a western.

We took the turnoff to Lark Quarry hoping we could do the late arvo tour. We have wanted to go to Lark for a while but it’s never been on our route until today. There is a warning sign at the start of the road warning of rough corrugations.

Bedourie, an Oasis in the Desert

Bedourie means “dust storm” population 120. Is perched on a sand dune and surrounded by Eyre Creek. In the 1880’s Bedourie was a major watering and rest stop for drivers moving cattle from NT and NW Qld to Birdsville. Bedourie is home to the Bedourie Camp Oven. In 1920’s a tin smith constructed the camp oven for drovers who were having trouble with the outback cookware. In 2001 the Australian Government recognised the Bedourie Camp Oven as “Uniquely Australian”. In recognition of the iconic oven the ACT named a St called Bedourie Street.

Bedourie proved to be a nice little town, one we would happily visit again. The Mud Hut dates back to the 1880’s and is said to be one of the first buildings constructed in Bedourie.

The Bedourie Hotel previously known as the Royal Hotel over the road constructed of sun-dried bricks is said to be in the same time frame.

A new artistic representation of a dust storm and whirly winds.

We popped in to the visitor centre and spoke to a very friendly lady who has only just moved there from the Sunshine Coast, what she currently lacks in local knowledge she makes up for in enthusiasm. She convinced us to go to the Artesian Spa and Aquatic Centre. A $50 fully refundable key deposit is required for the key to unlock the gate as the spa is not staffed. The spa is 40 degrees or hotter. It was hop in 10-15 mins then out for a break. We had the whole place to ourselves.

We dropped the key back and had lunch at the park opposite which had shelter, tables and chairs even a BBQ. Really nice spot to have lunch with public toilets next door with the most water used at flushing we have ever seen.

We then headed out of town towards Diamantina National Park. The road to the park is flat, the whole country side is flat and devoid of much vegetation, don’t think we have seen an area so flat for such a long distance. There is just nothing there yet that is what makes it special and has its own natural beauty.

The road is wide, gravel, dusty with some areas of bull dust with views a long way to the horizon with mirages of water. Wouldn’t like to be here in the heat of summer. Apart from a line of trees along dry creek beds every now and then and a couple of station properties, 4 gates as many cattle grids a few jumpups the landscape stayed much the same until the National Park.

Q – Cuttaburra Crossing

Cuttaburra Crossing – T, F, OR, B, W, D, DP. 68 kms from Bedourie on the Eyre Developmental Road. There is a toilet and dump point. It opens up to a flat gravel area next to the river, there is a shelter shed with table and seat. A track leads off following the river, there are several small cleared areas near the river to camp. There are several bird hides tucked away amongst the trees. Loads of birdlife and fish jumping in the muddy water. Sort of place you could stay a few days if you had the time. Rating – 5

 

Birdsville the Modern Big Smoke

“Your great Outback escape awaits you. Deep in the heart of wild and isolated country you will find the frontier town of Birdsville. Situated between the eastern edge of the Simpson Desert, the vast gibber plains of the Sturt Stony Desert to the south and rich in Channel Country to the north. It was once a notorious place through which cattle drivers moved their stock. Now Birdsville is a thriving modern community” taken from several tourist brochures.

Some may not call it modern but after being in the desert for 10 days and nights Birdsville actually did feel like the big smoke. We did a big clean up and resorted and shuffled bits between trailer and Ute again. Nice to have the simple usability of the trailer once more. After lunch we filled fuel and water and let the van park know we had picked up the trailer the night before. Today was very much a sorting out day.

Birdsville is filling up. There is a Big Red Run from Birdsville out to the Simpson, from the 24th to the 29th. The Big Red Run course comprises a mixture of sand dunes, open gibber plains, clay flats, salt lakes and a few station tracks. 250km over multiple days. You can check out the course map here and more info about the race if you are interested in doing the race in 2018.

We had completed the Simmo in shorter time than we had allowed which we had hoped to do allowing for hold ups etc but still making sure we felt we had plenty of time exploring and enjoying the Simmo. This allowed us a few extra days to do the long slow trip home via Bedourie, Diamantina National Park, Blackall and where else we felt like exploring on our way home.

The road to Bedourie known as the Bilby Way is very flat with lots of open spaces, not a lot of vegetation. Pretty good gravel road with lots of areas with bitumen. Approximately 12 kms from Birdsville you come across the Waddi Trees. Some of these trees are almost a thousand years old. Apparently the timber is almost impossible to burn and it is so hard it can damage an axe.

Someone does have a sense of humour. I’ll let the photos show the interesting sites we saw along the way.

81km’s from Birdsville is the Carcoory Homestead Ruins. It is all that is left of one of the first properties owned by Sir Sidney Kidman.

We stopped for the night at Cuttaburra Crossing 68 kms from Bedourie on the Eyre Developmental Road. There is a toilet and dump point. A gravel area where you first come in next to the river. Several caravans were camped there.

There was a track leading off following the river which we took. There is a bird hide tucked away amongst the trees. Loads of birdlife and fish jumping in the muddy water. Several cleared areas to camp along the track. A camper van was in one spot.

We snagged a good hidden spot amongst some trees next to the river. Sort of place you could stay a few days if you had the time.

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 🙂