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.

Big Bad Red

Chris was keen to do the run up Big Red. He took an easy track to drop me off at the top, so I could take pics. He lowered tyre pressure even more and went back down.

View of the road heading towards Birdsville.

View back the way we had come over the Simpson Desert.

First attempt failed just short of the top as did the second, each time he took a bigger run up.

But after several more attempts trying different tactics he got to the top and conquered Big Red. Really is bigger and steeper than it looks.

Go you good thing 🙂

Yeah he made it 🙂

Awesome view from the top, and it really is red. We had arvo tea on the top enjoying the view.

We aired back up at the bottom ready to do the last run back into Birdsville.

Woohoo, we made it. There and back different tracks each way on some pretty rough tracks, with no damage to either the Ute or us, well done to us. One more ticked of the bucket list.

The trailer never looked so good. The solar had kept the fridge and freezer running and was fully charged. After hooking up we had a shower at the van park and the shower was soooooooo good. Good old-fashioned shower heads with lots of pressure. We headed back to the Windmill camping for the night.

Poeppel Corner

Another one of the markers showing distance, with someone’s added creation.

We did the slight detour into Poeppel Corner, that’s the three corners for us now, great view over the lake. Poepple Corner marks the junction of three states.

We popped back onto the small section of French Line to finish it all before hooking onto a small bit of the K1 line before we turned onto the QAA.

Going across the salt lakes is fun, it’s crazy seeing all the wheel ruts where people have got bogged when it was wet, some are very deep.

The QAA was also pretty rough, the scenery constantly changes.

We came across a couple of vehicles one was a Ford Ranger that had broken a front strut. The sad thing about it was they had done the other one a few days ago at the start of the QAA and one of their group had done a run into Birdsville, twice to get the new strut. Now they were taking off the other one to do another run into town in the hope of getting it fixed.

We could smell Big Red, we were nearly there, ready and willing to tackle the biggest sand dune on the Simpson.

French Line continued

We decided to get up early and hopefully make Birdsville and back to the comfort of the trailer. Not that we have been uncomfortable in the tent or on the air bed, in fact we were quite comfy. Just setting it all up was getting a bit thin. Even though we had made things as accessible as possible things are not as easy to use as the trailer.

The track didn’t get any better, we had one steep sand dune that was soft and big bumpy holes. Chris tried the slow careful approach to not bounce everything and us about but we stopped half way up so had to back down. So he had to give the Ute more speed. Crikey we were bouncing all over the joint all we could do was hold on and laugh.

We came across two “Pelicans on Postie” trailers abandoned by the track in two separate places. We had passed these guys on our way between Purnie Bore and Dalhousie with one trailer with a broken spring, they had said they were turning back. Either they got it going or it was different trailers, but it seems they decided to keep on going.

They did get a lot further and one assumes they are doing a recovery to pick them up. The bigger trailer had broken the lower spring cup on the independent suspension, and the shockie was completely missing. It looked like a pretty study trailer.

The second smaller trailer one lake further along looked like it had broken a leaf spring shackle or the spring itself.

It can seem like a good idea to take trailers across and obviously some trailers like off road ones would be strong enough to hold together and maybe your tow vehicle is capable of towing it across but not without getting stuck a few times and not without digging up the track for people coming behind you. It’s not a case of whether you can or have but whether you should. Please guys think about the travellers coming along behind you, it’s not really fair for you to have your fun at the expensive of others. Ok rant over, Back to the good stuff.

French Line

The French Line is the shortest, most used and most difficult track across the Simpson. The French Line was name after a French Petroleum Company who put the line in, in the 1960’s. It stretches over 1100 sand dunes to Poeppel Corner.

We were told the French Line was chopped up and it certainly was. Instead of small corrugations they are like wheel size rises and dips, big holes in the sand. It’s like put the whole Ute in, put the whole Ute out, put the whole Ute in and shake it all about. It was very slow going.

Obviously, it would be different every time you crossed but we suggest anyone avoids either side of the Finke Race by a few weeks and leave the trailers at home.

We came across a homemade camper that didn’t make it, with its A frame snapped off, it hadn’t happened that long ago, there was an empty fuel drum near by.

Since it was slow going we pushed on into the day a bit later to make up some kms, not that we got too many done. 11km short of Wonga Junction. We found an awesome place to stop, still with plenty of daylight and setup camp, again plenty of wood for a small fire. Kms from anyone, with stars as our company, does it get any better than that? Well maybe the road could be better 🙂

20/6/17 – Brrr is was a cold night and a chilly morning. We re got the fire going and had breaky around it watching the sunrise. Chris lowered the tyres a bit more in anticipation of some soft sand. We had a dingo check out our camp, cautiously. We had another dingo running behind us for nearly 2km. You see dingo footprints all over the road.

On the road by 9am. The track was a little better after Approdinna Attora Knolls, then got bad again from Colson Junction to Poepple Cnr. Many of the dunes have turns, one was like nearly like a U turn, others with S bends, you come to the top sometimes and can’t see where the track goes.

We are in red sand dune country now. The track is still up and down with big holes and soft sand and some big dunes. You know you are in trouble when you see five ways up a dune and they all look bumpy and soft, we did make it up. We are seeing some amazing country.

We did a detour down Knolls Track to look at Approdinna Attora Knolls. There was what looked to be a tag along group with 4 hired 4×4’s and a leader. One had a very shredded tyre on the back. They headed East down the French Line.

The track continued to be bad, lots of side tracks with people trying to avoid the worst stuff but they were nearly as bad.

We came up a big dune with several paths up with soft sand and big holes on all ways up, so you couldn’t get a run up. We got stuck a few metres from the top. So Maxx tracks had to come out, first go with the tracks we got up. First time bogged in some rough country so doing well. The sand dune kept on going and going with some ups and downs and turns, it was a very wide dune.

First clear flat ground we came along after it we made camp, a bit later than we would have liked, about 25kms from Poepple Cnr. The skies are so clear, no clouds again just millions and millions of stars.

Back across the Simmo

Picture this, after a refreshing night sleep, you wake to a brisk cool morning. You don the swimmers, take a brisk walk to the hot springs before breakfast. You dip into the warm waters with steam rising above the surface and little welcome swallows darting about just above the water looking for their breaky. You are soaking in the warm waters and watch the sunrise over the horizon and you have the whole area to yourself. Well until other people eventually make their way down. That is what we did, it was wonderfully nice, warm and relaxing.

Our view on the Dalhousie Springs camping area hasn’t changed. The area seems to be in an exposed area, so it gets the wind, which whips up the dust.

After breaky, pack up, morning tea and a last dip we headed off.

There is a warning sign at Dalhousie about the road to Purnie Bore how bad it is. It hasn’t got any better in the last few days.

We had lunch at Purnie Bore and then went for a walk checking out the Bore, shower etc, the shower was huge, could fit 10 people in there.

The day area is very dusty, we assume some people would camp in that area but we think the main camping area is around the corner near some trees which is better. There is also an overflow area.

We have come across several people with no sand flags and one guy with no CB as well. The flags really do make a difference as to how visible people are.

Old Andado Station

We were told by a traveller at Dalhousie that the road up to Old Andado was really good and they had gone at 70-80kms an hour but you could go even faster. There are two ways to Old Andado, one is up the Binns Track, the other is via Charlotte Waters and New Crown. One is longer in kms and one has large sections of bull dust, lots of them. Only one of them allows you to get over 60kms hrs. We did both.

The Binns track has large sections of bull dust like we have never seen before, we could see in the mirrors the amount of bull dust being dumped on the Ute, the road does improve in the second half but is still very dusty. When we got to Old Andado and opened the back doors and saw the red dust sitting on the fridge and other areas we decided we would go back the longer route. Just as well we like to take different routes when we can.

The camping area was pretty dusty so we elected not to camp here. There are several fire pits and a camp kitchen. But for those interested it was $10 pp and that included hot showers. You can also pay just to have a shower.

As you approach the front gate of the house there is an information board that starts of saying “Imagine living in a house with no closed in veranda’s, no windows, no flyscreen and no doors. The temperatures in summer can escalate to over 50 degrees …… no plumbing, no power, kerosene lanterns for lighting and fridge’s, wood stove cooked the food and boiled the water ” There is no doubt the conditions were harsh, when Kate was younger living with her parents we lived in the bush and built a house out of flitches that had no windows, doors, flyscreens, no plumbing, we used kerosene lanterns and even had a kerosene fridge, we also had a wood stove that we cooked on and heated the water. The wind used to howl through the windows over our beds. Thankfully we didn’t have the 50 degree heat, or the dry conditions, we did have the snakes and mice.

The difference between Old Andado and other old places we have seen is this place is not set up like a museum, this is someone’s home, who just walked out and left it the way it was for others to see and appreciate the way life was. Donations are asked for and if you do visit I think you will find you are more than happy to donate a few dollars to help keep the place going. It was very interesting and bigger than we expected.

Anotherr traveller who knew Molly personally told us a few fascinating stories about Molly, one was how she started off training as a nurse and due to ill health at the time had to stop her nursing. She so wished to be a nurse. Another story was Molly opened the kitchen cupboard one day to find a brown snake in there. She got the shot gun and shot the snake putting a hole in the back of the cupboard. When Molly and her husband first built the place they had a bad sand storm and ended up with meters of high sand in the house they had to cart out with wheelbarrows. The caretaker is also filled with stories about Molly. Molly sounded like a read character.

The road through New Crown was a better road, through several closed gates and cow paddocks. You could get a bit more speed up on this road, it was still dusty and a few areas of bull dust as most of the roads out this way are.

We decided to head back to Dalhousie and camp at the springs campground and then have a dip in the warm waters after tea, which we did and it was lovely.

Mt Dare Hotel

The word had obviously spread that coming the way we did was the better road to Mt Dare as there was a bit of traffic on it going both ways. The road was pretty good, apart from the last 10km to Mt Dare.

We filled up both tanks at Mt Dare, the guy had a grin on his face when we were filling up. Diesel was $2.17L we filled up with 113L, so $245 we travelled 871 km from Birdsville. Chris was thrilled at the fuel mileage we got.

Chatting to the bloke at Mt Dare he said the way we came was the best way to go back. Over the Finke Race weekend they had ran out of fuel for several days. He said even Alice Springs ran out of fuel. One night they made over 200 meals for dinner. He also said the grader was on it’s way to grade from Dalhousie to Purnie Bore but don’t know if it would be done by tomorrow when we are going back on it.

He also said the French Line was pretty torn up, rough and slow going and said we would be fed up of it by Birdsville and suggested another route. Have to say that we are advocates to not taking trailers across. Most people may do the right thing and lower tyre pressures but it only takes a few who don’t that ruin the track for other travellers.

After a bit of a look around inside we jumped back in the Ute for the next part of today’s journey.

Oasis in the desert

It was a very quiet night apart from the dingoes howling. Yummy pancakes for breakfast while we discussed our plans for the next few days.

First up was secure the tent as we had some serious soaking to do. A soak in the hot spring before we had morning tea.

Then we did a walk around the camping area, some great spots but all very dusty. During the day the wind came up and several willy willies formed with dust being lifted and spread about.

The grader has been grading the roads in and out which is making the roads smoother but more dusty. We have more dust on the Ute and inside it than the whole time on the desert. It confirmed our decision to stay at 3 O’Clock Creek was the right one.

Checked out the info station which had some info boards and then went for a walk around the springs.

Then back in for another soak before lunch.

After lunch we went and checked out the Dalhousie Ruins. We love coming out to these remotes areas but we can all complain about the dust, flies how drying it is on our skin etc but when you see the outback ruins you are reminded how lucky we are to have vehicles with air conditioning to explore the country.

Then it was back to the springs for another soak, we found floating on your back with the aid on the noodle to be very relaxing, ahhh.

Then it was back to camp, we had a few things to do before racing back to the ruins for some sunset shots.

All up we had a very busy day.

Dalhousie

We were up early and on the road by 9am wanting to be at Dalhousie for lunch.

The small section of the French Line we went on had much smaller sandhills than we had been on the day before but they were far more chopped up. Some big holes in the dunes.

We made Purni Bore by morning tea, we had planned to stop there but it was packed with bikes so we just went up the road and had a cuppa.

The Spring Creek Delta Bypass Track from Purni Bore to Dalhousie is a shocker. Some parts were gravel, some very rocky, rutted, then there would be a big area of sand that would also be corrugated or chopped up or both. There were a few clay pans that were smooth. Then it would be back to the rough stuff.

We were glad to get into Dalhousie but were reminded we have to do that section again in a few days.

Yah, hip hip hurray we made it 🙂 we crossed the Simpson and the Ute did great. We celebrated by having lunch and a good soak in the Dalhousie springs to get rid of the dust from the last few days.

It was a warm day and it would have been nice to dip the feet into some cool water instead the waters of Dalhousie were rather warm in fact too warm. Still it was nice to soak the cares of the day away for a short time before we got too hot and had to hop out.

We dropped our rubbish from the last few days at the rubbish disposal on the way to 3 O’Clock Creek. We figured we could have stayed at the campground at Dalhousie as there weren’t a lot of people there but decided we would go to 3 O’Clock Creek.

The area is mostly rocky but we did find a few smooth flat areas we could make camp. There is a water tower to fill up tanks which we have already seen a few doing.

There wasn’t a lot of flies on the desert but they are out and about here driving us nuts.