9 January, 2017.
What a way to start the new year – with a trip to Uluru and the Field of Light installation. We’ve been planning this trip for quite a few months and yes, we know it is a hot time of year to be heading to the Rock, but there are a few pros. There will not be much traffic on the roads; there will be no problems getting into any caravan parks; there won’t be any issues with long queues and lines at rest stops, service stations, tourist attractions etc and we will pretty much have the place to ourselves. The cons – it will be HOT.
So with all that in mind, off we went. The Troopy is all packed up with the new drawer system Damian designed and built. The dogs all have their own tie down points for their harnesses and they have their own beds to lie on. They are all window height so they can see us and they can see the passing view. Thumbs up!
The Aussie Swag is loaded and packed with clothes and food and she’s ready to go as well.
By the time we got away, it was about 8:30am. We had to fuel up and put more air in the tyres to cope with the load on the Troopy and the Aussie Swag. I’m keeping a tab on the cost of fuel at the different places we stop at – for you guys and for our benefit.
Coles Service Station, Daly Road Darwin – $156.09/l
On a slightly overcast morning with the temp sitting at about 29C, we passed Adelaide River at about 10am. It’s beautiful to see how very green it is from Darwin all the way due to the recent monsoonal weather we’ve been having. We are experiencing a real ‘wet’ this season.
We tend to stop every 2hrs or so – for all of us to stretch our legs etc.
The first stop this morning was at Pine Creek which is a small town in the Katherine region of the Northern Territory, Australia. According to the 2001 Australian census 665 people live in Pine Creek, which is the fourth largest town between Darwin and Alice Springs.
Pine Creek is just off the Stuart Highway (the road from the south to Darwin) and is still a notable tourist stop. A number of events are held each year to promote the town in the region. These include the annual Goldrush Festival, featuring the NT Gold Panning championships and Didgeridoo Jam, the Pine Creek Rodeo and Pine Creek Races. In 2005 a prominent resident of Pine Creek, Edward Ah Toy, was recognised as the Northern Territorian of the year.
We did a little tour of Pine Creek before we stopped for a cuppa. First, we headed up to the Enterprise Pit/Pine Creek Goldfields. Here’s an interesting timeline:
1871 Gold discovered at Pine Creek near Gandy’s Gully (about 2kms north of Pine Creek)
1906-1915 The Government sponsored a diamond drilling program which led to the sinking of the Enterprise Shaft. However, work ceased because of the war.
1933 The Enterprise Mine sold by tender to J. Smith-Roberts for 49.0.0 pounds.
1960’s Enterprise Shaft re-opened by R & M Blake and worked intermittently for almost 20 years.
Late 1970’s Jingellic Minerals purchased the Blake leases over the Enterprise.
1981 Goldfields Exploration commenced operations at the site as part of a joint venture project.
Sept 1985 Mining commenced in September 1985 as Pine Creek Goldfields on the Enterprise Pit. Further deposits at the Czarina Pit commenced in July 1992 and ceased in July 1993 as operations at the Gandy’s Hill & International deposits commenced.
Oct 1995 Operations at this Pine Creek Goldfields site ceased.
The former site seen in the photos below is the open cut operation that commenced as the historic Enterprise Shaft in the early 1900’s.
The Depth of the mine at the base of Enterprise Pit is 135mm below water level.
The Width of the mine is 250m wide at the widest point at water level.
Over the lifespan of the Goldfields (1985-1995), 764,000oz was produced worth $393M was the total produced in all pits.
In 1993, Enterprise Pit was filled with water by diverting Pine Creek into the Pit. It took 14 months to fill and contains 6800 megalitres. See photo below.
After visiting the goldfields, we headed back into town to stretch our legs. This really is a pretty little spot and well worth the visit.
There is this beautiful historic building that I just had to photograph.
The Bakery 1889 – Pine Creek, NT
The Pine Creek Bakery started life in 1908 as Jim Ah You’s butcher shop at Mt Diamond on the goldfields.
When he moved to Pine Creek, building materials were scarce and expensive, so he took the shop with him! The shop was relatively easy to move, however to rebuild it, he had to cut local timber for the frame. He carted antbed mortar from the bush to make the ovens which are still standing out the back.
Jimmy Ah You and his son Jimmy Ah Toy baked bread for the community of Pine Creek until WWII when the family was evacuated south after the bombing of Darwin in 1942. The bakery was taken over by the Army and used to bake bread for the troops.
When the Ah Toy family returned to Pine Creek after the war, the bakery was in a very bad condition and soon after was shut down as larger bakeries opened in Darwin.
Once we’d all stopped for a breather and had a cuppa for us and water for the dogs, we headed on down to Katherine where we planned to spend our first night. It’s only a 4 hour trip to Katherine, but we were in no hurry and didn’t want to spend 8 hours in the car a day so just took our time.
We pulled into Katherine but after checking out the caravan park we had identified on Wikicamps, we kept going and looked further afield. We ended up at Riverview Tourist Village which was literally on the doorsteps of the Katherine Springs.
What a beautiful spot to camp. Lots of huge avenues shaded with big trees. Lots of space to spread out. Dogs are more than welcome. As it was the wet, there was loads of space so no one was camped on each other’s toes. We camped on the back fence so it was really just a quick walk to the springs. We took the dogs (though not usually allowed in the Dry) and, mindful of crocodiles, we took a quick dip to cool off. I pretty much stayed on the stairs and wet my feet.
Later that evening, a storm rolled on by freaking Poppy out. This is really her first time out camping with us so not only was she getting used to the back of the Troopy, but she also had to find ‘her spot’ where she felt safe. This she found under the camper between the wheels.
The storm hit with a vengeance – lots of rain for a shot while with the thunder still rumbling a couple of hours later.
Accomodation: Riverview Tourist Village, Katherine
Cost: $38 – powered site.
Anyway, time to hit the sack. In our next post, we travel from Katherine to the famed Daly Waters Pub. I’ll show you some pictures of the inside and the outside of this iconic Aussie pub.
Til next time,
Follow the Sapper
Damian & Vanessa
Recently, I saw a complaint by a traveller about the lack of dog friendly places in Darwin. Well, of course, I wasn’t too impressed because I know of many places here that are dog friendly. That got me to thinking that perhaps I should do a post on where to go here that is dog friendly so you have a better idea when you’re up here.
So, here we go:
- Parap Veterinary Hospital, Parap (inner suburb Darwin)
Ph: (08) 8981 9767
- Palmerston Veterinary Hospital, Palmerston (20 mins south of Darwin – major centre)
Ph: (08) 8932 2344
http://www.parapvet.com.au/ (same link as Parap Vet)
- All Pets Veterinary Hospital, Rapid Creek (Darwin suburb) –
Ph: (08) 8948 0056
- The Ark Animal Hospital, Palmerston
(08) 8932 9738
- Litchfield Vet Hospital, Coolalinga
(08) 8983 2838
- Girraween Veterinary Hospital, Howard Springs
(08) 8983 1183
- Howard Springs Veterinary Clinic, Howard Springs
(08) 8983 1458
- Humpty Doo Vet, Humpty Doo
(08) 8988 3340
LOCAL BOARDING KENNELS:
A word of warning: Kennels in Darwin get booked up for the DRY season and CHRISTMAS SEASON well ahead of time. If you know you are heading up here during those peak times, then it is advised to ring and book your pet/s in as far ahead as possible (even 12 months in advance). Do not expect to book your pet/s in during those seasons as you arrive.
- The Furry Godmother, Airport, Darwin – http://www.furry.com.au/
- Helga’s Pet Resort, Virginia – http://www.helgaspetresort.com.au/
- A1 Kennels & Cattery, McMinns Lagoon – http://www.a1kennelsandcattery.com.au/
- Bees Creek Boarding Kennels (30 mins south of Darwin) – http://beescreekboardingkennels.com.au/
LOCAL DOG MINDING/DAY CARE
- The Furry Godmother, Airport, Darwin – http://www.furry.com.au/
- A1 Kennels & Cattery, McMinns Lagoon – http://www.a1kennelsandcattery.com.au/locals.php
PET FRIENDLY ACCOMMODATION:
There are many pet friendly accommodation options available in Darwin and surrounding areas for those who are travelling with pets but want to stay in somewhere other than their caravan or camper trailer. Rather than list them all separately, here’s the link to STAYZ that lists all the pet friendly accommodation options:
There are also other options and a simple Google search with the terms ‘pet friendly accommodation Darwin’ will bring up a host of them.
PET FRIENDLY CARVAN PARKS:
- Big4 Howard Springs – https://www.big4.com.au/caravan-parks/nt/darwin-surrounds/howard-springs-holiday-park
Please note that Big4 write the following in their conditions: “The dog owner must contact the park directly in advance of arrival to apply to have their dog accepted in that particular BIG4 Holiday Park. Special conditions may apply for each park, including date restrictions and the payment of a security deposit”.
- Coolalinga Tourist Park – http://www.coolalingatouristpark.com.au/
Please note that Coolalinga TP advise the following: “Pets are allowed with prior approval from the Park Manager, so if you are interested in inviting your pet along, please mention this at time of booking. Please note that there is no charge for one dog but a $2 daily fee for a second dog”.
- Oasis Tourist Park & Caravan Park – http://oasistouristpark.com.au/index.html
- Tumbling Waters Holiday Park, Berry Springs – http://turu.com.au/parks/nt/darwin/tumbling-waters-holiday-park.aspx
“Small dogs travelling in own caravan upon application”
- Batchelor Holiday Park, Batchelor (gateway to Litchfield Park) – http://turu.com.au/parks/nt/darwin/batchelor—litchfield/batchelor-holiday-park.aspx
- Banyan Tree Caravan and Tourist Park, Batchelor – http://turu.com.au/parks/nt/darwin/banyan-tree-caravan-and-tourist-park.aspx
- Robbie Robbins Reserve, Berrimah – http://www.campinaustralia.com.au/campfinder/place/robbie-robbins-reserve
- Territory Manor Motel & Caravan Park – (400km south of Darwin) http://www.matarankamotel.com/
OFF LEASH AREAS – parks/beaches:
- From the Darwin City County Website – “Most Council parks, reserves and beaches are `off-lead dog exercise areas’ as long as the dogs are supervised and under effective control. Dogs, however, are banned at East Point Reserve, in the Mall and at markets such as the Mindil, Rapid Creek, Parap and Nightcliff Markets”. http://www.darwin.nt.gov.au/live/animals-and-pets/dogs/leash-dog-parks
- Marlow Lagoon Pet Park, Palmerston – http://www.palmerston.nt.gov.au/laws-and-permits/animals/marlow-lagoon-pet-park
- Casuarina Beach – “Be sure to stick to the first section of the beach, which is only dog-friendly between Rapid Creek and Dripstone Cliffs; the views are worth it. It also happens to be one of the most popular dog-walking spots in Darwin, so you’re sure to find some furry friend”s. (http://www.domain.com.au/advice/best-dog-parks-darwin/}
- Holmes Jungle Nature Park – on leash (to conserve the natural ecosystem)
- Dripstone Cliffs aka beach in front of Darwin Surf Lifesaving Club, Darribah Road, Brinkin
- Vestey’s Beach, Fannie Bay, Darwin (in front of Ski Club & Mindil Beach)
- Nightcliffe Foreshore and Jetty – on leash only but a lovely walk where you can grab fish & chips from the numerous vans in the evening around Sunset then set yourself up on the grass and enjoy the sunset
PET FRIENDLY PUBS/CAFES/RESTAURANTS etc:
- The Cool Spot, Fannie Bay
- Alley Cats Patisserie, Unit 14/69 Mitchell Street, Darwin City
- Salvatores, Cnr Knuckey & Smith Street, Darwin City
- The Foreshore Restaurant & Café, Nightcliffe, Darwin
- Boatshed Coffee House, Cullen Bay, Darwin
- La Beach Fish & Chips, Cullen Bay, Darwin (though you set yourselves up on the beautiful grassed area in front of La Beach and watch the sun set over the ocean
- Café Eco, Paradoxic, 12 Knuckey Street, Darwin City
- Eva’s Café, George Brown Garden Botanic Gardens, Darwin
- Darwin Waterfront – grassed/picnic areas
- Café Central Darwin, 1/29 Rossiter Street, Rapid Creek, Darwin
- Café de la Plage (Darwin Surf Club), Darribah Road, Brinkin – this place is special: you have the whole beach in front of you which is ALL off leash where you can run the dog/s at your leisure. Then, pop back into the café for coffee/drinks/light meals while you sit on the grass or at a bench with your dog/s.
- Humpty Doo Hotel
- Daly Waters Pub (approx. 600km south of Darwin)
- Adelaide River Inn (aka 303 Bar), Adelaide River, NT
- Corroboree Park Tavern, Marrakai, NT
- Bark Hut Hotel – on the way to Kakadu
PET FRIENDLY TOURIST ATTRACTIONS:
George Brown Garden Botanic Gardens, Darwin
- Territory Made Markets (3rd Sunday of the month during the Dry), George Brown Garden Botanic Gardens, Darwin
- Aussie Pooch Nutrition & Wellbeing
2/45 Toupein Road,
Ph: (08) 8931 2906
(about 30mins out of Darwin in the Palmerston area)
“NT’s only Natural Health Food Store for Pets
– Natural Dietary Supplements
– Natural Antibiotic, Cortisone & Steroid Free Medicines
– Chemical Free Worming
– Organic Chemical-Free Grooming Products
– 100% Natural Real Meat, Preservative, Salt, Grain & Filler Free Pet Treats
– Meat & Bones
– Convenience options for Raw Feeders
– Pressure Activated Cool Mats
– NT’s only stockist of Meals For Mutts & Meows
All products & suppliers Australian Owned & Made (apart from our NZ Green Lipped Mussel products)
Our shop is pet friendly. Conditions of entry are:-
– Dogs & Cats to be on leash
– Dogs to have had their full puppy vaccinations
– Puppies welcome 10 days after their 3rd puppy vaccination
– Titer Test signed by a veterinarian accepted for adult dogs who have had some history of vaccinations as a puppy or young adult
If you want your dog to live a healthy life, free of chronic disease like allergies, cancer, liver and kidney disease, then the first step is to get your dog off kibble or ‘junk food for dogs’ as we like to refer to it. Processed foods simply can’t deliver all the building blocks your dog needs for a strong immune system and glowing good health. Nobody who eats processed foods, or meals that come in a box or bag, can be truly healthy. We love dogs and we want all dogs to be happy and healthy. That’s why we believe every dog should be fed a biologically & species-appropriate raw diet of meat, bone, fruit & vegetable, organs and omega fatty acids. As close to the natural diet of their ancestors as possible.
We aim to help those wanting to make a full or partial transition to a healthier diet for their pooch”.
Well, folks, thats about it. As you can see, there’s quite a lot of places you can be with your dog here in Darwin.
As we travel around the NT more widely, we will elaborate on where we have taken our dogs. We are heading to Alice Springs and Uluru next week and are taking our dogs, so will be able to add another post soon on dog friendly NT.
Sunday 4 December 2016
Day trip with Toyota Landcruiser Club, Darwin.
We love being a part of the Toyota Landcruiser Club in Darwin. We get to meet lots of new people with similar interests to us; we get to see a lot of the countryside around Darwin and the NT in general and we get to use the Troopy for the purpose she was intended for – that’s always good, right?
This particular warm sunny Sunday morning in early December saw 6 club members and their 4WDs assemble at the Berry Springs Caltex ready for another great day out in the bush.
On the trip were Chris (trip leader); Ian in his triton; Lucy and her boyfriend driving a hi-lux ute (it was Lucy’s first time on one of our trips); Damian and I in the troopy; Steve in his Cruiser with a couple of guests and tail end Charlie was Greg and his son.
After a group discussion and giving Chris a good listening to, we all headed off looking forward to the day ahead.
A short trek on the black tar before we turned off onto Litchfield Road then off into ‘the bush’ then we were on our way to Annie’s Creek Mine. This was an old mine which was full of rusted equipment and a gorgeous looking lake. We stopped here for a while as Chris had identified it as a great spot for the group photo.
I actually spent quite some time photographing all the relics noting how nature had taken back some of her property before Chris subtly let me know it was time to go.
Time to keep going and Chris led us on what he thought was the track (not the first time he’s done that) so while some went round and round in a circle, others waited til he’d made up his mind…He finally found the right track and we headed on toward what is simply known as ‘the shed’ but not before stopping for another photo of the lake from a different angle.
Arriving at ‘the shed’, we poked around and discovered a serene body of water filled with lily pads and water lilies as well as 2 very calm Lace Monitors. They were quite happy to stand still for their photo shoot as everyone who had any semblance of a camera took their photos. I risked it and ran back to the Troopy to grab my long lens but needn’t have bothered running – they were still holding court when I returned.
After that, we were off to Walkers Ford…and that’s when the fun started. I rode in the lead car with Chris so I could take everyone’s photos coming through what turned out to be a pretty epic water/mud crossing. Given it was Lucy’s first time 4WDing – she did an awesome job getting through this first time. Her vehicle is the one almost completely covered in water.
Passing by some magnetic termite mounds, which stood like sentinels guarding grave sites, we kept going toward the Ford.
Another water crossing but Chris decided he needed to test the depth of this one and as there’s always the threat of crocs, he used the age old method of the putting the biggest stick he could find in the water to see how deep it was.
No problems at all for anyone on this water crossing with everyone handling it well. I managed to go with Chris again so I could get out and photograph everyone as they came through.
Then came across another wet patch of the road, which required some track modification. Steve got out his trusty handsaw and before long we were on our way again.
Not long after this, we came across yet another boggy part of the track and this time unfortunately Lucy got bogged. Not to worry – that’s what friends are for. Damian was behind her so quickly rigged up the snatch strap and towed her out backwards – easy peasy. However, she got bogged again so had to repeat the exercise. She did a great job though when she finally got to put her foot down with the ute nearly careering out of control, she contained it and steadied her vehicle just in time to avoid hitting a tree. Well done Lucy!
Eventually we all made it to Walkers Ford for a well earned lunch break almost right on midday. We found ourselves some shady spots and then wandered around. We found a bit of a waterfall and after carefully checking the river some of us risked standing on the rocks of the waterfall just to cool down – it was a very hot day. The river was quite pretty and it was a lovely spot to stop.
Time to start to head back as Chris wasn’t sure how long it would take to get back to the main road. It could have taken anywhere from 1-4 hours but as it turned out, it was fairly sedate and there were no real problems getting back to the highway and then on to Sand Palms Tavern at Bynoe.
Unfortunately, Greg’s alternator packed it in and rather than head off to the pub with us, he decided he needed to go home to sort it out. All in all, it was a great day and personally, we are loving the Club more and more. We get to see the countryside and meet new friends almost every weekend – what’s not to love?
(c) Vanessa Laverty Photography & Exploring Oz in Style. All rights reserved.
5 November 2016
Another day trip with the Toyota Landcruiser Club, Darwin.
Didn’t think we were going to make this one so were a late addition but boy, I’m glad we did make it. This was a really fun day, which saw an assortment of weather, challenges and tracks along the way. There was nothing ordinary about this day whatsoever.
There are lots of photos in this one, so bear with me because, as they say in the classics, a picture says 1000 words (and in this case, it’s true). I’m not a poet or a writer so can’t possibly convey in words what we all did that day.
We all met at the Noonamah Tavern, a short 40min drive south of Darwin. We were actually right on time (though I was sure we were going to be late) and assembled there already were: Chris (our fearless leader), a visiting traveller by the name of Kirri and her car full of kids, Damian and myself, Dennis, Paul and tail end Charlie was Tony & Mandy.
Kirri is a trooper, and hats off to her – she drove those tracks and I don’t do anything other than take photographs (well that is what I do after all) and take up the passenger seat. More on that later…
We headed off up the road towards Adelaide River and the service station there.
We took the opportunity for a comfort stop then headed off on the trip. Just past the Adelaide River servo is a turn off that goes over the railway so this is the track we took. Not long after, we reached ‘the big hill’ or ‘Telstra Hill’ depending on whom you talk to. Everyone aired down, had a little chat, Chris confirmed that Kirri COULD do the track after she visibly recoiled at the sight of it.
So, we all headed up ‘the big hill’ – not much to it really.
Once we finished that we travelled on the main track and took in the amazing views as we got higher and higher (well I took in the views – Damian was too busy concentrating and driving).
Obligatory Group Photo
Everything was going smoothly and Kirri managed to get up that track with a minimum of distress and then we happened upon our first water crossing. I swear I heard Kirri swear but I can’t be sure – after all, there were kids in the car… Chris went through first and then got out of the car to guide her through by radio and she did a grand job – congrats Kirri.
The rest of us followed at a suitable pace but not until I got out of our car and raced to the end of the crossing to take photos.
After that, we headed along the ridge and some rocky areas.
…and then Kirri hit ‘that big effing rock’… We were in the car behind her and I looked up from my camera in time to see her get caught up on it. We radioed her to STOP and then everyone stopped to help.
That big rock! Now, on the face of it, it seems an easy thing to remedy but she was on the top of a hill that she could have easily slipped down so the guys put their thinking caps on and decided that the pickaxe that Chris just happened to have in his vehicle would be useful. With minimal damage, besides losing the sidestep, the guys eventually got her out and we went on our merry way to Orchid Creek.
The day was hot and the weather was closing in. We arrived at Orchid Creek to find it already busy with a group of campers but we headed just a few metres away and came across another great spot. We pulled up stumps and all got in the water to cool down. Ahhhh it was so lovely.
We spent quite a bit of time here just idling the time away, chatting, eating, getting to know one another, having another dip in the water but really needed to get going so we headed off. The Director of Photography (aka Chris) arranged for us to stop so I could photograph the view from the ridge line.
Figure 16 – the weather is closing in but the view was spectacular Then we headed to GOLIATH HILL. And what happens as we get there? Of course – it rains which made the steep shale track even more slippery. I went with Chris in his car because I wanted to photograph the cars coming down the hill. There was a swear moment (from me) but we made it to the bottom in one piece then Chris went back up the hill on foot to bring Kirri’s car down. By this time, it was pouring much too hard for me to take my camera out but luckily it petered out to a sprinkle so I grabbed my camera to photograph everyone else.
So, we all made it down by which time the rain was still sprinkling away nicely. Knowing there was black soil ahead, we continued cautiously but it was fine – there hadn’t been enough rain to make it slippery.
Track was a little bit slippery but nothing to be concerned about We decided at this point that we were better off at the Adelaide River pub so we headed off there only to be stopped by the only train coming along the tracks that day, week or month… Eventually made it to the pub where I froze because the temperature had dropped considerably and I was wet from photographing everyone. There were major storms in Palmerston that afternoon and by the time we got through to Palmy, you could see the evidence of the storm along the roads with greenery down.
A great day was had by all Personally, we had a ball that day and can’t wait for the next trip. Cheers for the trip Chris – great job as usual.
© 2016 Vanessa Laverty Photography and Exploring Oz in Style. All rights reserved on all photographs.
A very warm Sunday morning saw 5 vehicles and their owners congregate at the McDonald’s car park at Coolalinga on 9 October.
Our troopy, AKA The Beast or Bruce (depending on his mood) was having his ‘cherry popped’ and losing his virginity on this trip. We’d only had him a few weeks and thus was looking like a new canvas – virtually untouched with the exception of a bullbar and a new winch. As we are fairly new to the Territory, having only arrived in mid January, we were certainly looking forward to our first trip with the Club and our first trip in Bruce (he was in a good mood that day).
As we waiting for everyone to arrive, we found some shade and chatted. Of course, the discussion turned quickly to who had what vehicle and what mods were on them etc. I am particularly enamoured by the TLCC sticker that Mick & Kim have on their vehicle and am looking to add same to the troopy as soon as I get the chance.
After everyone grabbing take away coffees from Maccas, we were off with Kim in the lead (Mick was navigating and using the radio) and Stephen & Kaye taking the position of tail-end Charlie.
A fairly non-eventful trip to the turn-off (only a little over an hour from recollection), we all stopped to air down (some chose a different way of doing that – but each to his own as long as it gets the job done).
Continuing on, we had wanted to get out and go for a walk to Bird Billabong, til we discovered it was 2hr+ walk – which ended in a very quick decision to forego that until cooler weather.
We continued along the track and pulled over at a billabong on the Mary River. Getting out to stretch our legs, some of us took photos while others chatted. It was a very lovely spot and worth the stop.
Bamboos and bark were in abundance along the trip. Growing in clumps along the rivers and creeks, bamboo lives for approximately 30 years, flowers once then dies. According to documentation, this flowering phenomenon was recorded on the Mary River in 2005.
The track to Hardies Creek was fairly easy providing just a little bit of mud to make things interesting for at least one of our drivers (not going to name names) but his back end certainly swayed around a little a couple of times.
We made for Corroboree Billabong for our stop for lunch and spent a lovely hour or more there chatting. Damian bought the Weber and cooked up most of the meat tray we won that week.
Time to head back and with the vehicles more than a little dirty, decided they needed more dirt and mud. It’s one track in and the same back out so we did the same all over again. Some photos of the return trip:
On the way there and back, we had seen this rusted old vehicle on its roof so decided to stop and take a few photos.
One of our party went shopping for some new tools –
As we left the last real water crossing and hill exit, we decided it was time to hot foot it back to the Corroboree Tavern for a sherbet.
Once there, we all filled our tyres again (Mick appears to have the hang of it this time).
Then we all settled in for a soft drink before we headed home again.
All in all, it was a pretty great day. Damian and I remarked to each other that these types of days are wonderful. It’s certainly easy enough to go by yourself on day trips, but often you have good intentions then decided it’s all too hard. By being in a Club and having trips organised, you’re more likely to head out and we are glad we did. We are so glad we joined the Club – we’ve met some wonderful people and we’ve only been members for a few weeks. Thank you for having us and we look forward to being very involved in the Club over the next few years while we are in Darwin.
Thanks Mick for organizing – good job mate!
Charleville – Nindigully – approx 433km
Stoked up the fire this morning and first light here is a lot earlier than it was in Birdsville as well as much warmer overnight temperatures – was 6.7° this morning at 7am as opposed to -1° at Birdsville in the morning.
After we packed up, we decided to drive on just a little further because we felt we weren’t in the right spot. What did we find? The right spot! This one was on the river and wide open places to camp. However, last night did us well and we couldn’t complain. We were the only ones around at any rate.
We came across this amazing relic of an old car that Mother Nature was determined to claim back.
I love the colours of the rust against the blue of the sky, the green of the trees and the stark sandy colours of the ground. Nothing can hold Mother Nature back once she starts reclaiming what’s hers.
Time to move on to Nindigully for our last night away from home.
Emu’s aplenty in the paddocks left and right of the highway from north of Cunnamulla on the Mitchell Highway. Also came across this pair of brolga’s which were quite happy to almost pose for me.
Water was seen lying in the pastures by the highway and green shoots everywhere at the moment.
Stopped at the famed Cunnamulla for smoko and we decided to take some time to check out this lovely little town. Of course, Cunnamulla most famous for the song penned by Stan Coster and Slim Dusty in ‘Cunnamula Fella’ and a statue has been erected to honour this.
The township itself is much bigger than either of us anticipated (we had likened it more to the size of Quilpie before we saw it). The beautifully kept main streets are testament to the locals and their steadfastedness to rise above the challenges of drought and all it entails. The town is pretty and the coffee shop we stopped at had lovely coffee and pleasant locals saying ‘hi’. Fuel here was $1.37/litre.
Some sadness today as we saw a dead dingo strung up by his hind legs to a tree and an emu sitting beside his dead mate by the side of the road. You could almost see him mourning his mate and willing him to get up and walk beside him again. Too sad for me (even as I write this many weeks later).
160km from St George, this little town should be on your list of places to free camp at. Beautifully kept with green lawns and verges and a new levee bank to stop the floodwaters which ravaged the town previously. The free camp is on the river on the left hand side as you come in from Cunnamulla, with plenty of shady sites and fire places set up for you. A pleasant walk along the banks and you’re at the free toilet/shower facility within minutes. There’s a dump point there as well. Along the walkway into town they have even supplied exercise equipment for those so inclined.
Bollon is well known for its numerous shearing teams and long association with that profession. Many of the town’s male population work in the industry. Deb’s Cafe offers a hearty meal, burger or coffee (and you would do well to stop and have a burger – highly recommended). The Cafe also features a tribute to the shearing profession and it’s easy to get lost in time while you’re waiting for your order when you wander around the cafe looking at the artefacts around the shop.
You can also pop into the Bollon Hotel for a meal and accommodation if you prefer.
The Bollon Heritage Centre is also well worth the visit with knowledgeable locals manning the centre to answer your questions. Leave enough time to spend there though, as you can easily spend a few hours just wandering around in there.
The Walter Austin Memorial Park holds the Bollon Returned Servicemen Memorial Wall and features Flight Lieutenant George John (aka Jock) Steele who served in the RAAF during WW2 and was awarded the prestigious Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) Medal.
There is also the Thrushton National Park about 40km N/E of Bollon (via dirt roads) for the serious 4WD enthusiast.
St George and Nindigully
Headed into St George and just beat the rain. Stopped only long enough to fill up with fuel then headed to Nindigully. However, we picked up a brochure about the St George Yellowbelly Country Music & Poets Festival which is held at the St George Showgrounds in mid-July. (For more information on this, you can contact the Balonne Shire Visitor Information Centre on (07) 4620 8877).
The festival goes for a week and this year featured artists such as Allan Caswell, Chad Morgan and a host of others. Camping is $15/vehicle per night for a powered site, $12/vehicle per night for an unpowered site with amenities and dump point available. Dogs are allowed but must be on a lead and away from venue and eating areas.
With the rain starting to really throw it down, we headed out of St George off to one of our favourite camping spots at the Nindigully Pub. I’ve written previously about this amazing iconic pub and it’s beautiful surrounds here so read about all it has to offer and do yourself a favour and get out there. Plenty of space.
When we arrived, it was showering so we found a beaut spot, set up camp and I dug out all my warm clothes while Damian started a fire to take the chill off. We treated ourselves to a meal at the pub and, as we didn’t have the dogs with us this time, we took the time to look at the walls and all the memorabilia that was around the pub. What an interesting place. Photos below of our space and the surrounds.
Well, in the morning we packed up for the last time and headed home.
We had a great time on this trip and the BRB will always be high on our priority list for another trip.
Until the next trip,
Follow the Sapper,
Damian and Vanessa
WINDORAH – CHARLEVILLE
After spending the night at Coopers Creek Freecamp (see our previous blog post on this camp site), we headed off for Charleville. Saying goodbye to Kevin and his daughter, we all went our separate ways. Kevin had to high tail it back to the Coast for work. We, on the other hand, had a few more days up our sleeve.
As we headed towards Quilpie, the desolate landscape resembled a moonscape.
The horizon in the distance seems to go forever here in the outback.
We were pretty low on firewood and had spotted this station offering firewood when we travelled into Birdsville so decided we should stop and load ourselves up for the few more nights we would be out.
Clifton Station is a 48,800 Ha (121,000 acres) property between Windorah and Quilpie. Owned and operated by the same family since 1954, they breed droughmaster cattle and merino sheep. Picking up firewood from places like these is not that uncommon and all they ask is a donation for charity which we happily gave.
Further on from Clifton Station, the scenery started to morph again – this time, more green was showing on the landscape. Bones of dead cattle were strewn along the edge of the road to remind us of the impact of severe drought and the hardships that farmers face out here. They feel every death that takes their livestock from them – not just financially but emotionally as well.
Whilst this is the remains of a kangaroo, the starkness of the dead bones against the landscape struck me.
At Quilpie, we stopped for lunch and had a wander around the little town.
We came across their military museum and had a wander around. To Damian’s surprise, he discovered a photo of a friend of ours there. This photo taken at the Shrine in Brisbane, shows members of D Coy, 6 RAR.
I took a few shots of the museum:
Quilpie is such a pleasant little town and I urge those who are going through to take some time, stop for a bit and spend a little of your hard earned money here. People in these towns really rely on your dollar to help them through these tough times of drought.
The road really hadn’t changed from when were through here a week or less ago. We feel it’s a little greener than the last time we were through. There was water lying in the ditches beside the road and evidence of mud and greener pastures in the paddocks. We spotted a large group of emus who allowed me to get closer than I thought I would – no doubt too busy eating the green pick to be too worried about me with my camera.
We pulled up at what we thought was the right spot for our campsite – a free camp on the Warrego River about 70km south of Charleville on the Cunnamulla road.
We had been out of mobile reception for nearly a week which was actually quite liberating. We had had no news of the world happenings and WW3 could have been declared for all we knew.
A had an attempt at a star trail that night – not really much good but you have to start somewhere. Despite what you may think, star trails are quite difficult to master (that is, beautiful ones are).
From here, we are taking a different route home via Cunnamulla and Nindigully (an old favourite of ours).
See you on the other side 🙂
Follow the Sapper
Damian and Vanessa
Well, that 6 months went quickly. One minute we are lightly discussing the possibility of accepting a posting to Darwin – the next minute, there’s 4 weeks left til we head off. Where did the time go?
We’ve done a lot of ‘down sizing’ of ‘things’ that we’ve somehow accumulated over the past 6 years – where does all that stuff come from? There were certainly a few ‘what was I thinking’ moments when looking at things to get rid of. A lot went to the local Animal Welfare League for them to sell through their 2nd hand shop to enable them to make some money for their ongoing works. Some stuff just needed to be sent to the dump, other things were given away to friends who we know will treasure what was once loved by us.
Our beloved horse had to be re-homed – and if you know me at at all, you will know how that goes against every fibre of my being. However, we were a little concerned as to his ability to cope with the high humidity in the Northern Territory as well as coping with cyclonic storms. Given that he’s lived all his life in Brisbane or here in Canungra, both those concerns are very valid. Luckily for us, a lovely friend who lives nearby offered to take him for us. We know her very well and know how much she loves horses – also that she has been involved with horses all her life so we know we made the right decision in leaving Ledge with her. He will be living in the next valley over right near the Army Barracks so he isn’t going too far.
I’ve sadly parted with my beautiful much loved Mini Cooper. Amid tears, I sent her to another family who already have 2 Mini Coopers in their life and I know they will look after her as well as I did.
Our house has been rented out to people who love the life that can be had here in Canungra.
Now, how do we get our 4 dogs, 1 cat and 1 bird up to Darwin? Well, the two big dogs (Jamaica and Poppy) and the cat will be flown up and they leave here at the end of December. I’m a bit concerned for Poppy (the Border Collie) as she is a highly stressed dog when it comes to storms so am fearful of her reaction to the plane. However, this can’t be helped and with the assistance of our amazing vet, who provide me with a relaxant for her, she will be fine. The other 2 dogs and the bird will be travelling up with us on our driving trip to Darwin – should make for an interesting trip with the bird in the back seat.
The removalists arrive the week after Christmas and we head off on 1 January. Seems fitting that we start the next phase of our lives on the day the new year begins.
This is the route we intend to take which we intend on doing in approximately 12 days.
Whilst we are on the journey, I will of course be documenting our trip and when the internet allows, will be posting photos and stories from along the way.
(I am still posting stories about the trip to Birdsville but you know, time gets away).
Anyway, stay safe and I look forward to showing you some amazing photographs from our big trip.
Follow the Sapper
Damian and Vanessa
So, it’s the morning after the night before…the concert is finished and everyone is on the move. People started moving out well before sunrise all keen to get on the road before the hords do. We decided that it was in our best interest to hang back and take our time leaving. We knew only too well that it was going to be busy in Birdsville but also at the Dump Point and Rubbish Dump this side of town. It was also pretty dusty so the more traffic on the road, the further back you need to travel from the vehicle in front.
We left about 9am but still couldn’t avoid the masses. We did have to get back to Coopers Creek (along with at least 50% of the other guests at the BRB) so decided we really did need to get a move on.
We weren’t far out of the campsite before we stopped to help a young mum with 2 little girls who were stuck on the side of the road – flat tyre (or should I say shredded). This wasn’t her only problem either – the car was pretty old, a 2WD sedan that had seen far better days and appeared to be held together with tape. When asked where she was headed, she said Adelaide…hmmm. Anyway, we stopped and Damian changed her tyre for her wishing her luck (she was going to need it). We don’t know how she fared, but I hope she was ok.
Road conditions had certainly deteriorated by the time we got under way as we fully expected. You can’t have that many vehicles on a corrugated road without some deterioration. We figured something like 1000-1500 vehicles were headed back to Birdsville. The corrugations had certainly worsened and there was an incredible amount of dust kicked up. The savvy and smart traveller held well back from the vehicle in front (though some decided to be heroes and pass…). We sat on about 70-80kmh and used more fuel to Birdsville than we had on the way in.
As to be expected, Birdsville was packed to the rafters and it took us til 11am to fuel up and re-stock supplies from the Bakery.
We were able to be a little more leisurely on the way back to Cooper’s Creek and I had already identified a couple of major subjects that I wanted to photograph on the way back.
The first was the Sculptures of the Dreamtime just this side of Betoota.
Just around the corner from this stunning piece of work is the ghost town of Betoota. I’m not sure of it’s history, but you see in one of the photo’s an advertisement for an event in 1997. The photos show the rate of deterioration and the amount of detritus left when people just walk away.
Things were just left in the kitchen and rubbish was just left. This is an interesting place and well worth the stop.
Time to leave and head to Cooper’s Creek but as always, there’s time to stop and chat about all things camper trailers and all things Aussie Swag as we met up with a fellow AS owner.
Don’t let the sign fool you – it’s far more than 2.5hrs to Windorah from here.
Interesting use of the roadways up here as well –
We met up with our mate Kevin unexpectedly at the next rest stop and so we headed on into Windorah to camp together for the night.
Cooper’s Creek was very busy, but if you take the time and drive in and on a bit further, you’ll have no trouble finding a camp spot for the night.
This country never fails to impress with her sunsets and glorious light on the trees. Kept me occupied for a few minutes while the sun sank below the horizon.
Next time, we travel from Windorah to Charleville.
Follow the Sapper
Damian and Vanessa
BIRDSVILLE BIG RED BASH
“The concert is the bonus, not the reason…” Damian
After all the months of looking forward to this event, we are finally here. I’m amazed at the organisation of it all – well done to all involved. I am going to squish the entire event into one post so grab a coffee, sit back and enjoy the story and the images. As I write this, the headlining acts have just been announced for BRB 2016 and tickets will go on sale at 9am on 9 November. Whilst when you first look at the price of the tickets you may baulk, consider what you are getting for your money. Despite having an extra night’s entertainment for 2016, the prices have not increased so great value for your money. Read our story below and hear how much we enjoyed it.
Having arrived last evening, we basically set up camp, got to know the neighbours, got the camp fire going, cooked dinner and headed to bed. Be aware, the days are lovely and warm (26°) but the nights are still incredibly cold – down to 0° or below so come prepared. You do need to BYO wood for your campfire, so bring plenty of good, slow burning wood for the chilly nights.
We must admit that it’s nice to be able to stay in the one place for a few nights. Whilst we love travelling and seeing lots of different places, being able to set up for a few days is nice change. It was certainly lovely to be able to sit by a nice warm fire and have a leisurely cooked breakfast. Sharing with our neighbours is also a nice change. This morning we cooked a full on ‘fat boys’ breakfast – bacon, eggs, mushrooms, tomato with toast for Damian and large mugs of tea/coffee. By the time we finished breakfast and thawed out a bit from the chill of the morning, the sun had started to warm the day and we could feel it’s heat on our backs. Bliss.
After breakfast, we left the fire to die down and decided it was time to do a little recce of the campground. It’s always a good chance to meet others and we first headed off to see a mate of ours – Kevin and his daughter – who were camped not too far away from us. A word of warning here: we were aiming to camp with Kevin but unless you’re travelling together, it’s hard for someone to ‘hold’ a spot at the BRB which is what Kevin was aiming to do. If you do want to stay together, my advice is to meet up in Birdsville and arrive in convoy at the BRB so you can camp in the same spot. Unless you’re a group of 10 or more and have pre-arranged with the organisers that you need a spot together, arriving in convoy is the only way to go.
So, we spent a good hour or more wandering around the campsite and came across some pretty amazing camper trailers and some pretty funny set ups. One guy had a mannequin on top of his vehicle complete with long scarf representing Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. He was camped near us and changed her clothes daily. You could see him over the whole camp.
As we’ve constantly said before, do your best to support the local towns as you go through. Get what you want at Birdsville, including all your alcohol supplies (there’s none on sale at the BRB).
Facilities at the BRB:
- BRB Merchandise Tent – here you can get all your merchandise (as the name suggests) and they even have a special edition Max Trax available at a pretty reasonable cost. When you purchase your tickets online, you can pre-order your merchandise too and I would suggest going down that route so that when you pick up your tickets, you pick up your merchandise at the same time. The obligatory t-shirt was bought and worn throughout the festival (almost everyone wears their t-shirts) and we bought a van sticker as well.
- RFDS (Royal Flying Doctor Service) – Honestly, if you’ve got any empathy at all towards those in the outback, you will already know the good work that the RFDS does. Head over to this tent, grab a free sticker etc but please pop some coins into their donation box to help them continue their service. You never know when you might need their services when you’re travelling outback yourself.
- Birdsville Social Club Inc – run by the local social club (*doh*), this is where you can buy a burger, sausage in bread, soft drink, chips etc. Support the locals by grabbing a snack at this tent. Saves you cooking and you’re helping out the local people at the same time.
- Wood Fired Pizza – this place was certainly the most popular tent in the district. A word of warning – they get very busy so if you’re looking to do something else, order your pizza, go grab your coffee or whatever, then come back. Or, do as we did and just hang around and chat to others waiting for their pizza. Yes, the pizza was good 🙂
- Birdsville Bakery – this is where you can get your fix of sausage rolls, pies and pasties but I don’t remember them selling bread, so stock up on that in Birdsville.
- Coffee Van – yes, you can still have lovely coffee while you’re away (or hot chocolate). We saw plenty of people with coffee cups running around the venue – and they were open in time for breakfast 🙂
- Various companies were set up as well such as Red Arc, ARB and others so just wander around as they’re all in the same spot at the front near the other facilities.
- Portaloos – whilst there were portaloos available, in our opinion there were certainly not enough and they were not spread out enough around the venue. There was also nowhere to dump your grey water which wasn’t really a problem as we only used our own portaloos at night and only for the necessary and we caught our own grey water from washing up in drums which we then took back to Birdsville at the end of the event and dumping in the dumping point. Not really a problem. For 2016 however, the organisers are providing dumping points at the venue which will be cleaned daily. They are also proving more portaloos for next year so those few details appear to have been ironed out. Remember, this event is only 3 years old and it just gets bigger and bigger so the organisers are learning as they go.
- Fires – are allowed, as we’ve said previously, but you must BYO firewood.
- Dogs – are not allowed as the venue is privately owned. Head to the BRB website to get more info re this if you like. This page explains why pets aren’t allowed and also why you must have your own grey water tanks.
As well as these facilities there are a few options for other entertainment available:
- Big Red Camels – Tom, Dave and Kyrraly bought their team of camels in from Birdsville and you can ride these gorgeous creatures throughout the day. They were doing a roaring trade and they kindly allowed me to take a few photos
- Helicopter flights
- Scenic Flights from Birdsville
Take a boogie board for a piece of cardboard and let the kids go nuts running to the top of the dune and sliding down. Take a football and they’ll have a ball. What more could you want?
As we walked around the site taking in the amazing array of different types of vans, camper trailers, tents etc, it occurred to us that those out here were all different but all the same. There was every type of person here – mums and dads with small kids; lawyers, accountants etc; teachers; grey nomads; young guys just enjoying the vibe; teenagers with their families – you name it, they were here. But, there was never any hint of trouble, never any hint of an argument or fight amongst any of these people. Everyone was here to enjoy themselves and personally, I put this down to alcohol NOT being on sale at the venue. Yes, you can go into Birdsville to get more (but it’s a good 30min drive into Birdsville) but it just seemed to go so well without the sale of alcohol. Call me a wowser, that’s ok. Also, everyone here is of similar mind – they all like the outback and they all like to travel with caravans or camper trailers or tents. So they like getting away from it all – and that could account for the lack of agro and trouble that music festivals usually have.
Everyone was here to enjoy the festival, the desert, the vibe, the stars in the sky, the campfires, the camaraderie and the ability to enjoy this great country of ours.
There are over 3000 people here but it doesn’t seem like it. We aren’t camped on top of each other and there’s plenty of room.
A walk to the top of Big Red should definitely be on your agenda. Most people wait til it’s near sunset before heading up there and if you’re a photographer, this is not the best time to be getting those gorgeous photos unfortunately. Too many people up there to get a decent shot but it’s still worth the experience. The light is pretty amazing up there and while I waiting for the perfect light, Damian headed back down to order a pizza. By the time I’d got my ‘shot’ (such that it was), the pizza was ready (that was a good hour) and we headed back to camp to settle in for the evening.
I walked to the top of Big Red (basically my first real foray into exercise since major shoulder surgery only 6 weeks earlier) and shot this iPhone video for you all. Click on the link and enjoy.
How exactly did the BRB first start?
This is the story we heard at the BRB this year. 3 years ago, a bloke decided that after running ultra marathons across deserts around the world, that it was time that Australia had it’s own ultra marathon across the Simpson Desert (as you do). He organised the first ultra marathon – The Big Red Run – and decided to raise funds for Type 1 Diabetes at the same time. They had a sing-a-long around a campfire and the rest is history and leads us to the event we see now – only 3 years on from that first one. They raised $220K this year and have raised over $600K since inception.
If you want a free ticket to BRB, it’s easy. All you need to do is run in the Big Red Run – a 250km multi day race across the desert. Or, you can take the easy way out and buy a ticket – which is what we did.
The entertainment starts about 2:30 each afternoon and you can hear the music all over the grounds. There is a fenced off area where you can go. Take your eskies (not too large) and your chairs and set yourself up for the afternoon and evening. You aren’t allowed to ‘hold’ a spot so you have to line up to get into the area. Most diehard fans will want to be right at the front but honestly, we never felt the need to even go into the fenced area. We were content to stay at our camping area and listen to a lot of the concert. Even when it came to Jimmy Barnes (which was what we were really there for), we didn’t go into the fenced area. We found ourselves a great position right behind the fence on a little hill and we could see his performance perfectly well. Reminder: it’s pretty cold at night watching the concert, so be prepared with layers of clothes.
The concerts over all were pretty damned good and each night concluded with a laser light show on Big Red. Crowd participation was great and the energy levels were definitely high. A good vibe for the entire 3 days.
The three days camping here was one of the best experiences we had. Meeting new friends and hearing other’s stories and experiences is definitely a highlight. Seeing Jimmy Barnes in concert was amazing and seeing him against the backdrop of Big Red was something we will never forget.
We were planning to attend the 2016 concert even before we’d left the 2015 BRB but unfortunately, we’ve just found out that Damian will be away on exercises during the 2016 dates and we will be unable to attend. What a great shame because the amazing PAUL KELLY is one of the headline acts. What more could you want than to see iconic Aussie singers and bands against one of Australia’s most iconic backdrops? If you are considering doing this, then, as Nike says, Just Do It! I promise you won’t regret it. Can’t take the dogs? Please don’t allow this to stop you. We love our dogs as much as anyone but there are times when you just can’t take them. Don’t cut your nose off to spite your face. This is an amazing event and you will absolutely love it.
What would we like to see at the next concert?
Given that this is such an iconic place with an incredible indigenous history, we were sad that, whilst there was a ‘Welcome to Country’ of sorts (really, it was only a small 1 minute speech by an elder), we would like to see a traditional ‘Welcome to Country’ on the stage complete with indigenous dancers and the whole 9 yards. Not only would this be an amazing spectacle set against Big Red, we feel it is the right thing to do.
Secondly, we would like to see at least 1 indigenous performer at this event – be it a secondary act or someone like Dan Sultan who would be an amazing headline act.
In our next post, we start the journey home but are going a different way just to change it up. We do need to go back to Cooper’s Creek near Windorah and from there we head to Charleville and home via St George and our favourite spot, the Nindigully Pub.
Follow the Sapper
Damian and Vanessa
WINDORAH – BIRDSVILLE BIG RED BASH
Today is the today we head to Birdsville. I’ve never been to Birdsville before; Damian has but many moons ago as a younger man on adventures. I’m rather excited by the prospect of today’s drive. While 386km seems an easy drive (really, that should only take 4hrs right?) – add in all the corrugations and we were told that the trip is more like 8hrs plus.
We stopped in at Windorah which is a sweet little town with way more caravan parks and places to stay than I expected – til I realised that this is pretty much the last stop before Windorah. Damian had the foresight to head into Windorah late yesterday evening before the servo closed up the for day and fuelled up with virtually no one else there. Different story this morning as we passed through – heaps of cars waiting to fuel up so I’m glad we didn’t have to waste time in the queue. Well done Damian!
I guess there’s not a lot to say about the drive itself. Pretty straight forward. What struck me in particular was the absolute vastness that greets your eye wherever you look. Emu’s in much more evidence now as are roos. Cattle are plentiful wandering along roads as none of these paddocks are fenced from the highway – well why should they be? It’s not like its the M1 here (except perhaps during the peak grey nomad season). There is still a tinge of green indicating that there has been recent rains even out here. The colours of Australia: a tinge of green in the paddocks leading your eye up to the deep blue winter sky highlighting the red soil of the dunes simply made me sigh with the beauty of it all.
Cattle wander the paddocks with complete freedom. This fence was as straight as an arrow so couldn’t resist the temptation to photograph it. I’m not exactly sure how it worked though – cattle crossed the road in front of us so it didn’t seem to be keeping anything in or out.
We stopped for lunch along the road and I was completely entranced by this particular tree with its curly bark. The light was gorgeous so grabbed the camera and shot off a few shallow depth of field frames.
Then we came into the Lake Eyre Basin catchment area and what struck me then was the quality of light – amazingly beautiful and soft. I so desperately wanted to stop and take endless photos but on this occasion we simply had to keep going if we were going to be in our camp spot at the Bash by nightfall. Next time, when we aren’t on a schedule, there will be no stopping me…
The long long road ahead – gravel roads for a lot of the way but you can see they’ve been freshly graded. Aren’t the colours amazing?
Bedourie – Birdsville
What struck us both out here was the complete lack of wildlife or any form – completely desolate.
The corrugations and the trip treated us well – until…
We got 2 flat tyres – at the same time! Are you serious? At the same time??? We were only 100km out of Birdsville – nearly made it! Pulled over to the side of the road and Damian got to work. I, of course, was of no use whatsoever as I had only had surgery on my shoulder a few weeks before and had absolutely no use of it at all. I sat by the car in the shade occasionally taking some photos to pass the time but really, the area was still desolate and full of nothingness – plus, it was hot. I felt for Damian having to change 2 tyres at once. He later confided to me that he hadn’t had to change a tyre since the late 90’s – then we got 2 at once. Go figure!
Whilst he was changing the tyres, a group of cyclists rode by so I grabbed my camera and took some photos of some of the cyclists. I didn’t ask them to stop and chat but luckily for us, we saw them again at the Big Red Bash. It turns out they were a group of people who were raising money for the Royal Flying Doctor Service. They had started out in Charleville on Saturday 1st July and were expecting to ride into Birdsville by the 5th July. Big ride! They had raised roughly $11K and were aiming to average 100km/day. Big effort and hats off to them.
Arrived in Birdsville to find a hub of activity. First things first – can we somehow get our tyres fixed while in Birdsville? Not only can we get it fixed, but the service station has an entire area devoted to fixing punctured tyres – seems the roads have a reputation out here. You just line up with the rest of the unfortunates and get your tyre back within an hour or two – depending how nice and friendly you are to the tyre fixer man 🙂 If you’re rude and expect to jump the queue – bad news for you (as some people found out). If you’re friendly and polite, step right up and we will fix it for you now 🙂 By the way, those 2 tyres? Neither were able to be repaired so we were up for 2 new tyres – so left $500 lighter.
Facilities in Birdsville:
The Roadhouse – the Grand Central Station of Birdsville. Everyone, but everyone, stops here as it’s the most obvious place to start in Birdsville. There is another service station around the corner and if you only want fuel, head around there as the line-ups are much shorter. During the time we were there, there were often 10 vehicles lined up for each pump; more than a dozen vehicles waiting for tyres to be fixed and a massive line up in the general store at the Roadhouse.
General Store – at the Roadhouse. Stocks the usual basics of a small town supermarket (there is no other choice – at least, not that we could see anyway). Be prepared to line up and allow plenty of time to get what you need at the Roadhouse, the store and the tyre repair joint. By the time we got there, the place was pretty much low on any kind of stock so got what we could. At this time of year, this place is hopping but you know that during the off season, not much happens here and the whole town relies on the dry season for their year’s income.
The Roadhouse seems to be where people meet up and then there’s the main street. There’s a caravan park opposite the Roadhouse and it seemed to be fairly full. Some people had opted to stay there the night before the Bash started and to head out to the Bash on the morning it started – the idea being that they wouldn’t need to line up at the entrance point. We’d been told there was an hour wait to get in.
The information on where to actually get your tickets for the Bash was a little scant so we asked someone else (of course, 90% of the people here were heading to the Bash). I was advised to follow the ‘millions’ of other people and I’d find the Information Centre in town. He was right – I looked right and all I could see was a sea of 4WD’s, camper trailers and caravans lining the road. There were people everywhere.
The Bakery – Another extremely busy place a little way from the Roadhouse. Everyone stops here to sample the food as apparently their reputation precedes them. By the time we got there, there was hardly any bread left and almost no pies or sausage rolls. When we come back through on the way out, we will try again. After all, when in Rome…
The Information Centre – this looks to be fairly new, though I’ve never been here so I’ve no idea how old it is. This is where you get your tickets BEFORE heading to the Bash – a fact lost of some people who turned up at the Bash with no tickets (I believe that’s been addressed for the 2016 Bash). We had pre-paid for our tickets and merchandise and I was very impressed with how well run this operation was. In and out very quickly.
The Birdsville Hotel – Now, I’m desperate to photograph the iconic hotels of Australia (I know, I know – it’s all be done before – but the challenge is to photograph these hotels in a different way to everyone else – that’s what an artist does) but really, there were so many people and vehicles around the hotel, I didn’t even bother getting my camera out. Damian headed in to get some supplies and we then headed out to Big Red to set up camp for the next 3 days.
Big Red –
At last, we were on our way to Big Red. I’ve heard so much about this dune and now I was actually going to see it for myself. It’s about 30km to Big Red from Birdsville on a gravel road that was well graded – obviously graded with the knowledge that some 3000+ people were about to drive on it. Luckily for us, we’d timed our arrival well as there was no line-up and once we’d shown our passes to the guy on the gate, we sailed on through and drove around to select our camping spot.
Plenty of welcoming signs to let us know we’d reached our destination 🙂
We decided not to camp too close to the stage so headed about half way back and found a lovely spot. Luckily for us, we were camped next to a lovely couple by the name of Jenny & Chris who were from Melbourne and camped in a Conqueror.
By now, it’s about 5pm and it really is getting quite chilly. Days are around 26° but the nights are well down towards 0° so a night campfire is quite necessary. Damian got the fire going (between us and the lovely couple next door) and the four of us settled in for a few drinks and stories around the fire.
Let’s talk about the road conditions – roughly 400km should take about 4hrs and we were told to allow 7hrs+ due to the corrugations. The roads were in fairly good condition as they’d obviously been graded recently. With our 1/2hr stop for morning tea and our 1hr stop to replace the 2 tyres, we still only took 4.5hrs to do the trip from Windorah – pretty good going I’d say.
Big Red Dune, Birdsville
This is PRIVATE PROPERTY and we were only allowed to camp here due to the Big Red Bash event.
- BYO wood
- Organic cattle property meaning NO GREY WATER is to disposed of on the property
- Dogs are NOT allowed
For the next 3 days, this is our home and the next posts will be all about this amazing event.
Follow the Sapper
Damian and Vanessa
CHARLEVILLE – WINDORAH
A great camping spot last night with a lovely warm fire. The days are warm enough but the nights are quite chilly and so the fire is a welcome addition to the campsite. It’s so relaxing and peaceful to sit in front of the fire and contemplate life. Nothing to hear but the sound of the campfire crackling, a ring top being pulled off a stubbie (or 2) and the sizzle of sausages on the Weber. Ah, this is the life.
So, after a bit of wind during the night and an early night (funny how the peacefulness and the campfire induce sleep so early in the night), we packed up camp and headed off to Quilpie then to Windorah.
Today, we truly saw the land of change as we travelled through a variety of landscapes in the space of 7 hours. Red soil with plenty of mulga scrub gave way to a more rocky landscape. Its hard to see livestock surviving out here though we did see plenty of cattle and sheep along the way.
The landscape became almost post-apocalyptic as we saw dead trees as far as the eye could see with little to no undergrowth.
Finally started to see the odd emu here and there as well as a pair of brolga’s. Emu’s seem to be few and far between but with the recent rains, it seems that most are able to stay well off the roads as there is more pick available to them. In comparison to recent trips, there was relatively little dead wildlife on the roads.
We passed through some huge cattle stations including Haddon Downs. Testament to their hard work was the pasteurised land where we could see healthy cattle wandering around in wide open paddocks not fenced off to the highway.
QUILPIE was a welcome tea break. We were definitely in 4WD country as 4WD’s lined the streets of Quilpie all stopping for a smoko break in this lovely little town. We made an assumption that most of these 4WD’s towing their camper trailers and caravans were most probably heading off to the Big Red Bash. It was great to see this many people stopped to support the local businesses who do it tough in this part of the country.
Again, we make it a point to shop locally wherever we are to inject some funds into local communities. We stopped at the Quilpie Butchers and were delighted to see they sold ‘paddock to plate’ meat products – beautiful meat and the prices were reasonable too. Had a lovely chat with the owner and the staff. This is what we love about travelling around our country in our camper trailer – stopping to meet and chat with the locals.
After lunch in a pretty park at Quilpie, we continued driving on to our next free camp at Cooper’s Creek, Windorah. There’s really not much of a choice out here – you either stay at Cooper’s Creek or head further on into Windorah and stay at one of the several caravan parks in town. Totally up to you – all are good options. We are completely self sustainable, so we choose free camping as much as possible.
Cooper’s Creek, Freecamp, Windorah
Listed on Wikicamps, this freecamp is a very popular camping spot.
Address: Diamantina Development Road (approx 10km East of Windorah) at Cooper Creek Bridge, Qld.
Co-ordinates: 25° 22′ 17″ S 142° 44′ 45″ E
Phone: Windorah Visitor Information Centre 07 4656 3063
You really can’t miss this site – there’s a humungous tractor tyre as you arrive advertising you’ve arrived at Coopers Creek 🙂
You can park either side of Cooper Creek and it pays to do a drive around before you settle on a spot. It was late in the day when we arrived and as such we took the first spot we saw. It wasn’t til we did a walk around after we set up that we realised you can camp on either side of the creek, either side of the road and that the spots go way up and way down river. There’s loads of space for everyone and you’ll nearly always get a spot to yourself away from others. Council have provided a toilet block (flushing) as well as a few portaloo’s (obviously for the peak season) at the campsite but if you’re self contained, you’re best camping away from it as that’s where everyone seems to congregate.
Dogs are allowed, but as we can’t take dogs to the Big Red Bash, we didn’t have any on this trip. Campfires are allowed but BYO wood. We foraged for kindling and fallen logs and it was easy to gather enough for a campfire.
During our walk along the river, we spotted a half dozen pelicans who are obviously regulars. They fly in and just relax as they let the current take them downstream to where they can get a feed of fish.
We decided to set up the shower for this camp and so enjoyed a lovely hot shower – ahhh the joys of a camper trailer with electric hot water system 🙂 One of the many reasons we love our Aussie Swag.
Shower had, fire built, dinner cooked and eaten – time to settle back and enjoy the peacefulness of the outback.
An easy drive today and it appears the time to drive between Quilpie and Windorah is in the middle of the day. We only came across 1 road train and there were few cars. Loved the campsite despite being so busy.
Tomorrow, we head to Birdsville and are looking forward to 3 days of camping and music at the Big Red Bash.
Follow the Sapper
Damian and Vanessa