This Adventurous Age

Adventures travelling and working around Australia.

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2005 Travels September 19


Another hot day of driving, and a rather tedious one at that.

The country was flat, dry, arid, dusty. Again, it was not new – we had been this way before.

The road was mostly unsealed, firm gravel in quite good condition.

We took a short break at Bedourie, where there is very little to see. It was really just to stretch the legs.

Later, stopped at the Carcoory ruins for another break, and to take photos. This stark remnant of a homestead of the late 1800’s is testament to the hardships of trying to live in such a bleak region. Its pastoral run was acquired by Sir Sidney Kidman around 1900, but even he found it uneconomic.

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Carcoory ruins

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There was a small picnic shelter there, where we ate our packed sandwich lunch. The shade was much appreciated. The bush flies were not.

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Birdsville was a welcome sight. We refuelled at the servo which was opposite the caravan park. $1.39cpl. 398kms.

We took a powered site at the Birdsville Caravan Park – $18. The park was rather dry and dusty, at this end of the season. We were able to stay hitched up, with a little shade from adjacent trees.

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Birdsville Caravan Park

As the afternoon cooled off, went for a walk around the town. It hadn’t changed much!

Last night and tonight were both much quieter than our nights in Mt Isa – more what we were used to.

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1999 Travels August 20


This was basically to be a relax day, and time to have a look around Birdsville, and just not drive – after ten days of constant driving.

It was quite hot, to the point where the air conditioning in the town library/information centre was most welcome.

After breakfast, I did the washing. There was quite a lot of that, as none had been done since leaving Alice Springs. Then I went for a wander around town and took photos, while John tried to fix the catch/lock on the Truck back door. It does not like sand and dust.

I spent some time looking at the ruined Royal Hotel building. This was Birdsville’s second hotel, built in the 1880’s. At one time there were three hotels. In the 1920’s this became the  site of the hospital, run by the Australian Inland Mission.

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The Royal Hotel ruin

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The first AIM Hospital

After lunch, we both walked to the information centre, where we spent some time talking with a staff person about aspects of tourism to Birdsville. She seemed to think that we represented a significant sample of their clientele – and a growing one – even though we don’t regard ourselves as totally typical of the demographic.

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Birdsville visitors come long distances

We went to the Working Museum and found it fascinating. I am not usually very keen on such places, but this was excellent. However, too much of what it contained was familiar from my youth – does that make ME a museum piece? That was a scary thought. I saw a horse driven chaff cutter, and thought that my dad would have worked on that sort of thing. There was a very friendly mule in the yard outside. The milk separator machines were too familiar – wonder how many of those revolting yukky separator cups I washed, over my teenage  years?

The Museum was excellent value for $6 each.

We walked back to the pub and bought a cold beer each. We still don’t have any refrigeration at camp, of course.

Bought John a Birdsville 4WD polo shirt – a good quality one. They had run out of my size, unfortunately. But I did buy some magnets and postcards.

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The Diamantina River at Birdsville – and the ever-present corellas

Tea was tinned soup. John had sausages, bought locally, and potato. I did not have any appetite for sausages, so just had some of the mashed potato.

We were both surprisingly tired – probably due to the heat, and maybe to some sort of let down after the desert crossing. Although it was really enjoyable, there was always a little underlying tension over whether all would go as planned, and maybe that has taken a bit of a toll. Anyway, slept well.

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1999 Travels August 19


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.

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QAA Line and yet more dunes – but a creek line for contrast

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!

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The end of the Simpson Desert National Park section

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The remains of the vermin proof fence

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.

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Grey clay pan and creek line between the dunes – near Eyre Creek

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.

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The main Eyre Creek channel

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.

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Our first look at Big Red – with a smaller dune between us and it

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The last dune before we reach Big Red

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That’s where we have come from – looking back along the QAA Line from near Big Red

We decided to try it – and got about a third of the way up.

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We got this far on our first attempt at Big Red. One side track is to the right

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!

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Getting ready for another try

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The second try at Big Red

At this point, he sensibly gave up, and took the side track. Even that route was hard enough.

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Give up – going round

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.

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Coming down the Big Red side track

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The last of the sand dunes

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.

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A COLD beer was much appreciated – the Birdsville Pub

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.