THURSDAY 19 AUGUST QAA LINE CAMP TO BIRDSVILLE 130kms
We slept well, with nothing feral disturbing us through the night.
While we were packing up camp, a very skinny, starving-looking dingo appeared and flopped down under a nearby tree to watch us. I wondered if it was the same one we had seen yesterday, padding along the track, the other side of Poeppels Corner. It didn’t seem likely, but they do cover big distances, and it looked identically scrawny. We felt really sorry for it, so I put out the block of “dead” cheese, from our rubbish bag. It moved a bit further away when I moved towards it. I dug out a little hollow in the ground, lined it with a piece of foil and filled that with water. Littering, I guess, but to me it was in a good cause. We hoped that, after we left, it would come in to investigate the camp area and find the goodies we’d left for it.
Back on the track for more ups and downs over dunes.
There were several lots of passing traffic, including one convoy of seven vehicles, all heading west.
Gradually, the distance between the dunes widened again, trees began to appear, and we came out of the National Park at the remains of the vermin fence, built to deter the progress of rabbits, about a hundred years ago. It didn’t work!
Then, the bottoms of the valleys between dunes became crossed by grey, rutted, channel forms, and we were in the Eyre Creek area. In floods, this can be over 15kms wide, either closing the track completely, or necessitating a big detour to the north.
We lunched beside the main Eyre Creek channel, though John refused to admit this was our location, because his GPS said it was still some kms away. Because John has to work out co-ordinates from our maps, and then enter them into the GPS, there is room for error.
After that, it did not take us all that long to approach Big Red – the large dune at the eastern edge of the Simpson Desert that is a challenge to drivers to conquer. Often, travellers who come to Birdsville, but are not tackling the Simpson, come out to have a go at Big Red, anyway. A form of local sport!
As we got closer to Big Red, but had not yet seen it, we had heard the radio traffic of drivers messing about at it. This was a bit annoying because we couldn’t tell if they were drivers coming our way, or not, in the dunes. The memory of yesterday’s close call was still vivid.
Eventually we crested a tall dune and saw Big Red in the distance, with a smaller dune between us and it. Could see the main track over it, and also the side tracks needed by the majority, to go around the steep crest part and over a lower point of the dune line.
We decided to try it – and got about a third of the way up.
I got out and walked to the top – hard work in deep sand! But I had a great vantage point for the photos I wanted.
John backed down, let some more air out of the tyres – and didn’t get much further on the second try!
At this point, he sensibly gave up, and took the side track. Even that route was hard enough.
I walked down and met him at the base of Big Red – Birdsville side. This was the last of the sand dune driving, so it was time to inflate the tyres back to road pressure. Yet another instance where we are so pleased to have installed the air compressor.
While John did that, we watched some other drivers failing at the bypass track. I said it was hard!
It was an easy, 30kms drive on into Birdsville, through flat, stony country.
We have crossed the Simpson desert – yippee! Feel a great sense of achievement.
We drove straight to the legendary Birdsville Pub, for a beer. We had been promising ourselves the treat of a properly cold beer for the past couple of days! And wonderful it was, too. We toasted ourselves and our achievement.
At the Birdsville Caravan Park, booked onto a powered site for two nights, at $17 a night.
Set up camp, and then headed off for showers. The hot shower was so wonderful!
Then we relaxed for the rest of the afternoon, in shade by our tent.
John did the afternoon sched to Alice Springs Base. I used the phone box to call K and leave a message that we had reached Birdsville and all was well.
Tea was a split pea and vegetable stew with “instant” couscous. I’d been able to buy some fresh vegetables in town, on the way to the caravan park, to supplement the dried ones from our stores.
The Birdsville township has quite a pleasant feel about it. It is small, of course, but not tatty or decrepit – I don’t count the historic ruins in that category. It actually has quite a dynamic atmosphere, to us. The hotel staff are young, with-it people, back packers, I guess. The caravan park man seems pretty go-ahead. The airstrip is much bigger than I expected – and the runway is sealed.
Tonight we went to sleep to a background of human type noise – not excessive, but just there. The nights we had in the silence of the desert were so much better.