Boxing Day saw us take the road north via Orroroo, Hawker, Leigh Creek and Lyndhurst. It was a warmish day and we had a tailwind which made the car run a little warm. I took the insect screen off the front and only ran the air-conditioning for short periods if time so as not to run the engine temperature too high. We refuelled at Lyndhurst where we were charged $1 for the convenience of eftpos. I was unimpressed and voiced my opinion via email when we were back at home again. This sparked off a short diatribe between myself and the Lyndhurst Hotel proprietor.
The wind picked up in the mid afternoon and by the time we got to the Farina Campground it was quite strong. Farina is an old township which was settled in 1878 by optimistic farmers who thought that they could grow wheat and Barley in the area. The rainfall however was not sufficient for this endeavour. At once stage Farina was the Railhead and housed nearly 300 residents in its heyday. Recently Farina Preservation Society members have restored the Underground Bakery and have done some other work to the ruins. We found a good campsite in some shade but out from under any dry branches which hang out at all angles from the resident eucalypt trees and eventually and settled down for a slack afternoon. We had the place to ourselves. We both enjoyed a warm shower as the water in the pipes was warm. The flush toilet however was not to be used and it had no less than 35 bush-frogs living under the seat! There were lots of short billed Corellas at the campground and we saw some Budgies come and go from a tree hollow. The birds made heavy weather in the wind. Even a Kite Hawk could not maintain it’s hovering. By 9pm just after dark, the wind was still strong.
The wind finally abated at around 4am. We were on the go at around 8am after a looksee at Farina Ruins where interpretive signs have been erected and a lot of work done to restoring the old buildings. Some gravel road and some bitumen stretches saw us reach Marree and then we did a right turn on to the Birdsville Track. I dropped the car and van tyre pressures down to 28psi and away we went. The countryside along the Birdsville Track is so green that it is unbelievable. Even in the Tirari Desert, which is normally only seen as a gibber plain, the vegetation is lush.
We had smoko at Claytons Bore adjacent to Clayton Station Homestead and then pushed on past Dulkannina Station to Etadunna Station where we did a right turn to follow the track to the Ferry at the Cooper. There ferry came into operation in the 1930’s when the Birdsville Mailman had to get through with the mail. It has only been used once every 20 to 30 years. The ferry was in operation in in 1946/47 when exceptional rains fell, then again in the 1960’s, 1974/75 and again in 1990. The ferry has been operating this time since 8th of June 2010 and it has been suggested that it may be in operation until October 2011. Originally it was just a punt and had to be rowed across but in the 1970’s sides were added for passengers and crew and two 15hp outboard motors in unison power the ferry across the divide.
Once there we found that the ferry master was having lunch and nothing was operational. We could not cross anyway as there is no facility for towing caravans over and we had no intention of crossing the river just for the hell of it. We made for a campsite spied from a distance along the banks of Cooper Creek and followed a bush track there. Unfortunately so many prickle bushes have sprung up with all the rains that walking around on the banks of the river or above the water level wasn’t fun. Jeddah hopped out of her lofty position inside the wagon and hopped straight back in again as she is a fussy dog and does not tolerate prickles! After lunch we made our way back to the ferry crossing and I hitched a ride across and back when a vehicle needed to be transported. That was enough.
We made our way back to the Birdsville Track and then headed north to where the Cooper cuts the Track to have a look. Once there I ventured to drive down along the crossing for a while but it looked too wet and some careful reversing was needed to get back on to high ground again. There we discovered that the caravan’s water tank outlet had broken yet once again and that we had lost all that water. I got underneath the van and repaired the broken connection. The old Cooper Creek Punt sits there forlornly waiting for someone to use it once more although I surmise it has been concreted in to its last resting place.
Our journey then took us back to Clayton Bore where an artesian spa was waiting for us. After opening all of the taps in the proper sequence, what seemed like near boiling water began to pour in, and after about 30 minutes we ventured in. The water however was extremely hot and we had to enter in stages to acclimatise ourselves. It was a very therapeutic experience. Clayton Bore Spa and facilities is generously provided by the owners of Clayton Station and they ask for a small contribution towards the upkeep of the facility.
The rest of the afternoon was taken up with relaxing before I decided to refuel and also to repair a small problem with the van brakes. Soon after we had drinkies but as the sun fell behind the horizon the mosquitoes came out in force ignoring our Desert Dwellers anti insect repellent. We bade a hasty retreat back to the van. Just as well that we had decided not to have a fire this evening as it would have been a waste of wood with the mosquitoes out to get us!!! Our new 12 volt fan purchased at great expense for such a flimsy looking object, works well in the van drawing only .35amp and keeping us a lot cooler. It is a tad noisy but one has to wear that! Today we saw a number of sand goannas crossing the road as well as quite a few bearded dragons. We had two sightings of Emu teenagers in their dark feather colouring. At the creek we saw Pelicans, Darters, Ibis and many duck species and including Inland dotterels.
Jeddah had me up before daybreak and we went for a walk but the mozzies were still around and we soon made a hasty retreat to the van. Jude and I had hot artesian showers in the cubicle provided by Clayton Station and after brekkie we were on the road again. We had not driven very far when we saw and took photos of a Brown Snake on the side of the road. It was about two metres in length and quite unperturbed by our intrusion, and sailed along the windrow amongst the salt bushes doing its own thing. Jeddah looked out of her perch on the door but apparently did not see the snake.
Before the Birdsville Track reaches Lake Harry ruins heading south, there is a prominent flat topped hill with the odd name of Tree Cliff Hill and with a distinct cairn at the top, which is visible for some distance. A wheel track runs straight up the hill and having passed this place on numerous occasions I have always promised myself to go up there one day to look see. So today was to be the day. We drove towards the hill and then unhitched the van and Jude and Jeddah stayed behind while I drove up and over the top. The track has a number of chewed out holes but low range second gear sufficed. Once at the top there were magnificent views of Lake Harry which has a slither of water covering the salt crust of the basin. There is also another track that runs along a spur, then down the hill and up another solitary conical hill. I decided that I did not need to do that one. I placed a stone on the cairn and took some photos before making my way down the hill again, in first low this time. As I got back to the caravan and was about to hitch up another vehicle came along. They were two young fellows from Adelaide in a Ford Explorer. They were going to tackle the hill too but in the end they stopped just short and seemed to be having trouble and after hitching up again I drove over towards them and they explained that they could not engage low range. We left them to their own devices. The countryide is very green at present. We had a look around the ruins of Lake Harry where a Date Plantation was a failure many years ago.The is an artesian shower near the road for those who would like to wash the dust from their bodies after traversing the Biirdsville Track. We drove the rest of the way back to Marree and the bitumen.
The road back to Lyndhurst isn’t fully sealed yet with a stretch of 8km and another of 17km of bitumen. I left the lower tyre pressures as they were and kept the speed under 80kmh. We now saw numerous Bearded Dragons on the road and one had to be carful to avoid running over them. They come out on to the road surface to grab a feed of grasshoppers hit by passing cars. We had smoko at Farina Campground under the shade of the gum trees ad after some looking around and a squint at the reconstructed underground bakery, we made for Lyndhurst. Once there we helped ourselves to 30litres of water from a tank at the ablution block. Then it was on to Copley where we refuelled and then had lunch by the roadside stop. Managed to get another 10 litres of water there, which we put into the van tank.