Bring on the Birdsville Track …

Today started out OK with us bidding farewell to Frank and Helen as we left Birdsville and headed down the Birdsville Track
 
Given the amount of traffic that had been up and down the Track for the Big Red Bash, the first 200 kilometres was pretty good. Most of the time I was sitting on 80kph having to slow down to around 20kph in spots particularly in the creek crossings.
 
With 100 kilometres to go to the Mungerannie Hotel, I got a call on the CB from a car parked at a road junction. He told us that we probably had a flat tyre on the caravan. We pulled up to check it out. We were at Blood Creek.
 
Sure enough, we had shredded a tyre but due to the road noise on the deteriorating Track, never heard it blow. 
It didnt take long to change the wheel with the assistance of our CB mate, grab a geocache at the location then head on our way.
 
To check if the tyres were going down, I would do a wiggle every 10 kilometres and check the tyres in the mirrors.
30 kilometres out from Mungerannie Hotel, on one of the wiggles, I only counted 3 wheels on the caravan. On no, I have lost a wheel. And it was the spare one we had put on 70 kilometres back.
 
We dropped the caravan and headed back to see if we could find the wheel. Luckily I spotted it in the low bush about 2 kilometres back. We managed to find 2 wheel nuts as well.
 
Back at the van and 2 of the studs were broken off as well. After putting the wheel back on and grabbing a couple of nuts off the other wheels, we were back on the road with 4 out of the 6 nuts on.
 
I stopped every kilometre initially to check the tightness and each time the nuts were loose again. It was about 20 kilometres before the nuts remained tight.
 
Finally we made it to Mungerannie Hotel to find that we now only had 2 studs holding the wheel on.
 
After setting up, we had a meal and a few beers with Mungerannie Phil. There was not a lot he could do for us as he didnt have a tyre to suit our wheel or any studs either.
 
I decided to sleep on it and work out a plan in the morning.
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Tick Big Red off the list …

This morning we checked out the Birdsville Visitor Centre, just a short walk from the caravan park. They had an interesting film on the people of the Diamantina.
 
We made sure that we were not too late for the Birdsville Bakery today grabbing a curried camel and satay chicken pie. I am not sure but the camel sure tasted like beef 🙂 .
 
It was then time to catch up with Frank and Helen and head out to Big Red to enjoy the sunset. Frank had been told that the road out to Big Red was rough and to be careful. Apart from a 100 metre section, this road was the best we have been on so far and even had a 5km sealed section in the middle.
 
Arriving at Big Red, I was somewhat underwhelmed. I was expecting a sand dune a lot bigger and higher. Even the track up didnt even look like it needed 4WD to get up. There were already a number of 4WD’s on top so we took some time to lower our tyre pressures to 20psi while they came down.
 
I headed up first to see what it would be like as Frank was not a huge 4WDer. The track was fairly firm apart from a bend near the top but overall it was an easy climb. I walked back to the track to talk Frank up but he had already started, unfortunately I could tell that he was in low range which would not get him past the soft section. As he reversed back, I got him on the radio and told him to use high range and use a bit of momentum. All good this time up.
 
As I returned to the car, it was a matter of dodging the 4WD’s coming up the western side of the dune and at some point I must have twisted my knee as I would find out in the morning.
 
There was plenty of action with 4WD’s making their way up the western slope but around 430pm they all disappeared and it looked like we were to have the dune to ourselves for sunset.
 
As we approached sunset, enjoying nibbles and beverages, two car came to join us but that was all.
The sunset was spectacular and we grabbed plenty of photos.
 
The drive back to town was in darkness and we called it a night once back in town.
 
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Tick the Birdsville Pub off the list …

Another warm day, with the flies warming up as well. We had a bit of cleaning to do. 
 
Yesterday while travelling on the dirt sections, the vent in the shower opened up and sucked all of the dust we were making into the van or at least it seemed like it.
 
Included in that was a lot of washing as everything inside was covered in dust. We headed into the Birdsville Caravan Park where there was water, power and washing machines.
 
Most of the day was spent getting rid of dust. By 3pm, we thought it was time for some lunch so headed over to the Birdsville Bakery to find it closed at 230pm.
 
Oh well, a quick tour of the town checking out the artesian bore and cooling ponds before calling in on Frank and Helen (the three wheeled caravan) to see how they were getting on.
 
Their home for the next few weeks is in their caravan in the Birdsville Roadhouse yard. We ended up doing happy hour with them before heading to the Birdsville Hotel for dinner.
 
The pub was still suffering from the Big Red Bash with no white wine or lemonade but plenty of beer. The meals were good, particularly the Barrimundi we had.
 
We got kicked out of the Dining Room at 10pm, they wanted to clean it so after buying the obligatory stubbie holder we headed back to the caravan.
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Another corner off the list …

Well we had some very changing road conditions in our travel today. It started with 2 lane bitumen then to single lane bitumen to wide gravel road.
 
Even the gravel road was changing with good gravel surface to bull dust to white powder and some sections of heavy corrugated road. Every now and then they would put a section of bitumen in as a “overtaking opportunity” or an “Emergency Airstrip”.
 
The first 200kms through to Haddon Corner was not too bad with bitumen for 3/4 of the distance then the Innamincka Road having been recently graded with little traffic on it.
 
The last kilometre into Haddon Corner involved a couple of sand dune crossings. I could have unhooked the caravan but what would have been the fun in that.
 
The first dune had a solid surface going up but on the down side it was very soft. That was no worries as there was a second return track to the north that was a lot less steep.
 
The second dune was not as large as the first and again had a firm surface going up but very soft going down. There was no second track coming back on this dune. Thus should be fun coming back.
 
At Haddon Corner there is the obligatory signs, visitor book and point post. This is the northeast corner of the State of South Australia. 
 
It was now time to conquer the dunes. First attempt on the western dune was a flop. Thats OK, reverse back and give it some more momentum. Second attempt all good and over we went.
 
The eastern dune wasn’t even a challenge with the northern track and soon we were on our way to Betoota.
 
A short distance from Betoota is Deon’s Lookout with views from a tabletop over the surrounding countryside. There was even another section of bitumen but this soon ended heading into Betoota.
 
The sign for Betoota says it all, “Population 0”. It is a ghost town however the Betoota Hotel is being resurrected in time for the Betoota Races at the end of August. 
 
However for us today it was a pub with no beer. We were going to camp here but decided to do the last 170kms into Birdsville.
 
This was probably some of the worst road with a lot of corrugations. In fact 35kms from Birdsville there was a caravan with only 3 wheels.
 
It was Frank and Helen from Griffith, NSW. We stopped to see if they were alright and all was good, just waiting for a tow truck, so we continued on.
 
Arriving into Birdsville just before sunset, we crossed the Diamantina River and I looked right and recognised a caravan on the banks of the River.
 
It was our friends from Western Australia, David and Deanne. They have been in Birdsville for a month, working the Big Red Bash.
 
We pulled up and camped the night with them along the banks of the Diamantina River and enjoyed a campfire.
 
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Anyone for chicken …

Another clear skied day in Western Queensland and only a few hours to get to our next destination, Windorah.
 
Once again the caravan park was virtually empty when we left. We are getting used to that.
 
The road west to Windorah was predominantly single lane bitumen which takes for a special sort of driving. Unfortunately most of those still returning from the Big Red Bash don’t seem to have that skill.
 
Most of the drivers heading east seemed to think that it is either a physical challenge or a big game of chicken.
There were many times I had to take evasive action to avoid getting hit.
 
How did I know they were Big Red Bashers. They had it written over their windscreen.
 
When we arrived at Windorah, we spoke to the Visitor Centre staff and they said that it has been like this for the last 2 weeks.
 
They have been just getting off the road when they see traffic coming when coming to work.
 
Windorah is on the Cooper Creek and even with the rain that occurred a couple of months ago, the creek is looking fairly empty.
 
I guess most of it has made its way down to Lake Eyre.
 
We took the town tour and the nature drive to check out the sights of the area. It didnt take too long to see it all.
After-all the population is only 80.
 
Hopefully most of the Bashers are now further east from us and we wont have traffic issues again.
 
Tomorrows destination is Haddons Corner. This will be the second corner visited. We have done Camerons Corner already.
 
Diesel was $1.17 in Windorah.
 
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Westward ho …

The further south we headed, the colder it was getting so it is time to head west again.
 
We farewelled Charleville after filling up the jerry cans. We now have an extra 40 litres of fuel which will be needed in a couple of days.
 
Another easy day with 200 kilometres through to Quilpie getting in around lunchtime. This is sort of like being grey nomads without the early starts.
 
Not a lot to see here apart from the Baldy Top Lookout and the Opal alter in the local church.
 
We made the walk up to the top of the Baldy Top Lookout which gave 360 degree views of the region. 
 
The St Finbarr’s Church had been donated a lot of opal back in the day with which they adorned the alter and lecterns with. There were some interesting colours and large pieces too.
 
Back at the Channel Country Tourist Park, Jenny went for a spa. They are filled with artesian water and Jenny enjoyed it.
On sunset, it was campfire and singer time. Tonights singer was Kenny M, who did both kinds of music, Country and Western, as well as many of his own poems.
 
Tomorrow we head further west to Windorah.
 
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There it goes …

Wow, was it cold this morning. We awoke to a chilly 1C at 8am and normally we would have stayed in bed but we needed to be somewhere.
 
At 915am each morning, the Bureau of Meteorology releases a weather balloon automatically at the Charleville Airport.
 
We have never seen one released so precisely at 915am, the balloon came out of its home and headed off, unwinding the instrument underneath as it went. After 5 minutes, you couldn’t see it so tick that one off the list.
 
Four years ago, there was a road train carrying ammonium nitrate that caught fire 30 kilometres south of Charleville, taking out the road bridge, the rail bridge as well as the fire trucks.
 
There were a number of injuries but no deaths and the explosion was heard in Charleville.
 
The road bridge has been replaced but not the rail bridge and there is a memorial to the event at the site with information boards and of course a geocache.
 
We headed down to check it out. The Emergency crews were very lucky to be alive looking at the photos of the devastation. 
 
Back in town a train came through so not sure what line they were using as there was no getting through where the explosion had occurred.
 
This afternoon and evening we spent at the Cosmos Centre & Observatory. There was some interesting presentations but the best bit was when it got dark.
 
The skies are very clear around Charleville and they have a good observatory with 4 telescopes and we got to see up close the moon, Jupiter and Saturn.
 
The presenter, Sandra, was very knowledgeable and pointed out many constellations. Even got to see a shooting star.
Being outside, we could feel it getting cold again. It was already down to 12C as we left to head back to the caravan.
 
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Looking for the Cosmos Bilby …

A bigger than normal travel day with 400 kilometres from Barcaldine to Charleville.
 
There were a few stops along the way for geocaches with one taking us to the first crash site for Qantas back a long time a go when they were flying biplanes.
 
We nearly stopped at Tambo for the night as the rodeo was on in town but we decided to continue on to Charleville.
One interesting tree along the way was Boab trees. We were not expecting to see them here. 
 
A lot of Big Red Bashers would be making it through Charleville tonight so I made some calls to make sure we would get a caravan site.
 
First park was a no go as they were full. The second one, Cobb & Co Caravan Park, had room for a couple of nights.
 
We arrived in Charleville around 4pm. It is the largest town we have been in a while with wide streets and lots of shops and pubs but no traffic lights.
 
Spent a little bit of time checking out the town before taking it easy for the night.
 
One thing for today, the high was 19C. Looks like the jeans might make an appearance again.
 
Diesel was $1.569 in Tambo.
 
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Geocaching all day …

Not much today but flitting around the area grabbing 50 geocache finds while Jenny had a day back at the van taking it easy.
 
Even got 5 First to Finds on 4 puzzle caches and 1 multicache.
 
Nearly got to clear the map around Barcaldine but not quite leaving a few for the return visit in September.
 
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That’s a lot of machinery …

Its time to move on from Longreach but only 100 kilometres up the road to Barcaldine. Barcaldine is the location for the Queensland Outback Geocaching Muster in September. 
 
For the event, there have been a lot of geocaches hidden and I wanted to make a headstart on finding them. Tomorrow will be a big day.
 
Along the way, there is a little town called Ilfracombe. It is famous for its Machinery Mile. There is machinery along the Main street ranging in age from the horse drawn and steam era to current days.
 
Arriving in Barcaldine, we were confronted by the Tree of Knowledge or more so the Memorial for the Tree of Knowledge. It is huge and can be seen from a long way out. 
 
This site was again another shearers camp during the 1891 Shearers Strike. But unlike all the others, this is the actual spot where the Australian Labour Party was formed or so we are told.
 
We set up camp in the Barcaldine Tourist Park. This is a good spot with grass sites and even a billy tea and damper session with a local musician to listen to while partaking.
 
I will be staying here when the Queensland Outback Geocaching Muster is on with many other geocachers that have also booked in.
 
We were told to visit the Tree of Knowledge at night and it did not disappoint.
 
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