A Desert Adventure 2004

Uncle Milton and I left home on Sunday 19th Sept and had a good trip up through Hawker and Lyndhurst and motored on to Claytons Bore on the Birdsville Track. Had a lovely sojourn in the artesian spa bath and soothed our aches and pains. I rang Jude on the Satellite phone. There was only one other camp there for the night, a young couple from Tasmania. We had a chat. The long drive had taken its toll for the day and we fell asleep soon. The following morning the spa was irresistible before breaking camp we managed another dip. After that I drove down to the wetlands to show Uncle the bird life and diverse flora.

Claytons Bore Spa

Claytons Bore Spa

We made our way to Birdsville after stopping at Mungerannie Pub and various places along the way. This time I walked down to the Mungerannie Wetlands and viewed the bird life. We had a cold drink at the pub. We arrived in Birdsville at 4pm and caught up with George and Maureen who had arrived the night before. They had had a puncture at night on the way from Bedourie and had destroyed the tyre. I met up wit Ruth again and introduced ‘Uncle’ to her and she in turn gave him a big hug. I rang Jude after 7pm and let her know that we had made it safely to our destination.

 

Mungerannie Wetlands

Mungerannie Wetlands

On Tuesday we lazed around while George fiddled with tyres and Milton went for a walk. In the afternoon George somehow got the spare wheel wind down tyre lever stuck in the mechanism and it took Milton and I an hour to extricate it. I went over to the Birdsville Servo and caught up with my distant relative Theo Nel and his wife Marietjie. They had some other expatriate South Africans with them and we rattled away in Afrikaans.

Wednesday morning we headed out to Big Red and the Simpson after I had fitted the ‘Wog Pole’ flag pole to the bulbar. It took some more fiddling and plenty of electrical tape to stop the pole from disintegrating. In the end it survived the whole trip and did the job. We drove over Little Red and when we got to the western side of Big Red crossing, George just had to have a go. Up he went and right at the top another fella came charging over without a flag. It was touch and go to an accident. Milton and I growled at them for not having a flag pole and they growled at us for not being on Channel 10 UHF.

We made it to Poeppel Corner late in the afternoon and set up camp nearby. We enjoyed an idyllic evening. But in the night the wind sprang up and made life in the morning very unpleasant. I refueled nevertheless and the fuel consumption averaged out at 6km/l.

3 in three states

3 in three states

Poeppel Corner Plaque
We pressed on to Colsons Track and our camp at Lynnie Junction. Saw 27 other vehicles for the day and spoke with a few. We ran tyre pressures at 15psi and used High Range first gear to crest the majority of dunes. It was a good drive for both days and the desert was looking well. There was a bit of rubbish left about by campers especially un-burnt toilet paper. We had lots of laughs around the campfire and made up a hotchpotch stew which resulted in my stomach having the wobbles.

I rose early on Friday and had breakfast and got the fire going again. The wind sprang up at around 7.30am. This kept the flies at bay. We had breakfast and then George discovered an issue with his fridge. Milton took off down the track for a walk in the early morning breeze. We broke camp at 8.30 and did a dog leg on the WAA Line to the Rig Road. Stopped at Macumba Oil drill site and I nearly ran over two star pickets which were sticking out of the ground. Later the road swung to the east and we motored along for what seemed like endless kilometres. The dunes were moderate and third and fourth gear, in high range, were used most of the time. We spotted camel tracks and eventually found a herd of 14 who obliged us with a trot across the track for a photo opportunity.

 

Rig Road

Rig Road

At the end of the Rig Road we turned north on to the Erabena Track and stopped off at Lone Gum for lunch. There were two other parties there all from Victoria. We refuelled and my consumption had improved to 6.2km/l
We made our way up Erabena Track and then turned east on to the WAA Line. The hills were undulating with some big washouts in them and we had to drive with care. Maureen came with me for this drive while Milton sorted out Georges UHF problems. We camped on a small clay pan about 2km from the Knolls Track. George and Milton killed off the booze around the campfire. It was a beautiful still starry night.

Cresting a dune

Cresting a dune

We broke camp at 8am and made our way to the Knolls Track. This track was good in places following atop a sand dune. We passed another group of vehicles whom we had seen at various locations. Took some photos of the Knolls and had smoko at the French line intersection and chatted with other travellers who were passing by The track on the French Line is very chopped out on the western slopes of the dunes. George and Maureen struggled on a few dunes as I surmised their tyres pressures were too high but we only met two groups coming our way. George’s flag pole came loose and had had to be fixed by me with numerous cable ties. It looked like spiked anteater. We camped about 100km out from Birdsville in the Simpson Desert National Park in Queensland. The flies were very annoying. Milton and George repaired the Waeco fridge which, it has been proven, was wired up incorrectly by the auto electrician in the first place. I did some repairs to my flag pole. I made damper with a bit of help from Maureen and we smothered it in honey and munched it down. We got to bed by 11.30 and slept well. I woke up through the night with lots of arthritis pains.

Today was an ordinary day on the QAA Line. Lots of corrugations, chopped out dunes and soft sand. Then dunes are a bit easier from the west and we motored along at a steady pace. I had to wait for George and Maureen a few times as they tended to get behind and out of radio range. We followed camel tracks for a long way and finally saw a bull and a cow off in the distance.

Half way up Big Red

Half way up Big Red

At Big Red, the old crossing, I dropped the tyre pressures down to 15psi and mad it over the crest and up to the high side of the blow. George had three attempts and gave up. We met up again on the eastern slope of Little Red and re-inflated the tyres to 32psi. I also telescoped the flag pole as I thought it might crack at higher speeds. On the way to Birdsville we dropped the rubbish off at the Tip.
Ruth Doyle very kindly gave us a freebie for the night which had something to do with ExplorOz discounts. We washed all our gear and had that long awaited shower. George had an issue with his spare tyre again and took it to the servo for repairs. We talked to a few campers nearby about vehicles and troubles they have had. We rearranged all our gear and got ready for the trip to Innamincka. In bed by 10pm

I slept well and was up at 5.30am

We had cappuccinos with Ruth and soon we were on our way south. Made good time down the Walkers Crossing Track and camped at Minkie Waterhole 9 km from Innamincka and had the place to ourselves.

Walkers Crossing Track

Walkers Crossing Track

Walkers Crossing

Minkie Waterhole

Minkie Waterhole

It was a beaut place with its own resident pelican and lots of corellas. Slept well despite the full-moonish night. Set off for Innamincka in the morning and after some purchase we left the Hi Lux and camper in the carpark and made for Coongie Lakes in Ruby. The countryside is quite stark driving through to Coongie but a pleasant surprise is in store when one arrives there. It is a paradise for birds and turtles. Not many campsites available, though. There is a long lake shore drive which shows the lakes from different angles. There is lots of bird life, especially ducks.

Coongie Lakes

Coongie Lakes

On the return journey the heat increased and a strong wind sprang up creating a dust storm. Back at Innamincka I refuelled at $139.9/litre. Took 80 litres which worked out at 7km/l. We took to the road again and followed the Old Strzelecki Track down to Merty Merty looking at some of the oil rigs along the way. We camped at Yaningurie Waterhole which was almost dry. Plenty of flies around. Winched a dead tree down for some fire wood.

It started raining at 1.30am and George and I quickly put stuff away. The rain continued till 5am and I got everyone up and ready to roll at 5.45 We made it on to the Strzelecki and slipped and slid for 38km when we saw a truck bogged on the side of the road. Then we both bogged in the wet bulldust and stayed there for 4 hours before being able to drive off again.

Bogged in clay

Bogged in clay

The rest of the trip was uneventful. We dropped it at Talc Alf’s and looked at his stuff and crazy life interpretations.

We made it to Warraweena Conservation Park by 6pm after shopping at Copley and Leigh Creek. We were given a campsite right next to Noel, Hubert and Mike who just happened to be there. Rain interrupted the fireside chatter. Noel and party left early in his Mercedes Benz 300GD. Milton and I went up to the homestead to shower. Stony had not lit the donkey so the hot water was to take a while. Gina came with a message to say that Andrew and friends were on their way and I was to contact them on HF. I tried but was unsuccessful. The aerial was crook again. Gina suggested we shower at her house and we did just that. Then Andrew and families and Paul Goerecke and his dog Milo arrived and we went down to the camp for lunch. After lunch I took Maureen and George in the car with Milton and me and was Trip Leader to Old Warraweena Station Homestead. It was a pleasant drive with lots of flora to see plus some kangaroos. On the way back we met Stony who had come out to warn other campers that there was a storm weather alert out. Then it started raining. Only a few drops at first and then really hard and we only made it to within one kilometre of our campsite when I decided to pull off the track to higher ground as the floodwaters were reaching up to the doors of the GQ.

Before the deluge

Before the deluge

Fifty millimetres of rain fell in the space of an hour and this had swelled all creeks to peak velocity. The creek rose even more and we hurriedly removed some fallen timber and old logs and drove the vehicles to even higher ground. We all spent the night out there in the cold worried that the waters may rise even higher. The rain stopped and the creek rose and ebbed a few times but did not threaten us. We lit a huge fire and erected some tarps and rustled up some tucker. There were 9 adults, 7 youngsters and 1 dog(Milo). We spent an uncomfortable night either in the cars or by the fire. The creek had subsided enough for us to make for our camp in the morning. Stony arrived later, proudly driving the Nissan G60 which I had donated to him as a work vehicle for the Park, to say that he had rescued other parties on the west side of Warraweena and that all roads in the Flinders were closed. We had to wait for further instructions. We made breakfast and cleaned our camp stuff.

I called Gina up on the UHF at 11am for instructions and she indicated that we should soon be able to leave as Stony was busy organising the stranded travellers. We made our way to the homestead and were mulling around when Stony arrived back and instructed that he wanted a convoy of vehicles leaving the property first and that I was to be trip leader up to where he had closed the track at Beltana. We were to collect other stranded travellers along the way. We did just that and everyone made it through the washouts without damage except for George and his camper trailer who managed to bend one of the stabiliser legs of the trailer whilst crossing Sliding Rock Creek. Once at Beltana I removed the bunting so that all could pass through and new visitors could enter the property.

We called in to Marion’s Gallery and to say g’day and then made our way to Beltana Roadhouse for something to eat. The journey back to Peterborough was uneventful although there was some debris across the highway in places and quite a few low water crossing. I tried to wash the Strzelecki mud from the truck by driving through the water a couple of times. We arrived home in the late afternoon.

 

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