Monthly Archives: September 2018
The road out of Diamantina NP to Boulia was not much different to the one we came in on, a bit shorter and bit bumpier as we crossed numerous little channels along the way. Came across an interesting little place ‘Elizabeth Springs’, this was a short walk off the road to some naturally occurring artesian water seeps, there are about 16 of these seeps, of varying sizes. They were originally found by white settlers in the 1890s and it has been estimated that at the time the water flow from the springs would have been of the order of 4.5m litres a day. The area became a major centre for stock watering. By the 1950s, however, the water flow had degraded to about 68,000 litres a day, and a number of the springs had dried up. Since being made a Conservation Park the area is slowly recovering.
Moving along we made it to Boulia, had lunch, filled up with petrol and headed for Winton for an overnight stop. The trip into and out of the Park had required us to carry an extra 40 litres of fuel in jerry cans, we also had another 20 litres up our sleeve just in case, otherwise we might still be there! Allthego was a bit tired when we eventually arrived in Winton and booked into the Tatts Hotel van park, pretty basic place, but you get a discount at the hotel come dinner time. A rather good steak and chicken parmie were had by the weary travellers. Down at Birdsville we had been entertained one evening by the ‘Crack Up Sisters’, a couple of young ladies from Winton who specialise in the skills of whip cracking. We were blessed to see their house in Winton, not to be missed!
We have had a night in Blackall and will today be heading to Roma for the night and then home the next day to Brisbane.
So until next time somewhere in the great outdoors …………..
Diamantina National Park
Diamantina National Park is one of the most remote NP in Queensland. It lies midway between Longreach and Bedourie, as the crow flies. There are roads into the Park from the towns surrounding it: Bedourie, Boulia, Winton and Windorah, all involving drives of 150-300 km along gravel roads. These are pretty good roads in the scheme of things, at least at the time we are doing the trip. They criss cross gibber plains and Mitchell grass grazing lands. It is a very dry environment at the moment. We chose to take the 193 km trek from Bedourie, leaving town at around 11am and arriving at the Park a bit after 3 pm.
We set up camp at Hunter’s Gorge beside the Mundewerra Lagoon. Mundewerra means ‘dreaming place’, the indigenous people believed Yamma Coona the mother of the Dream Time came here in her travels through the land. It is a bit dusty here, particularly when the wind is blowing across the bare earth camping ground behind us, fortunately the wind changed direction on our second day, blowing across the lagoon and it was a bit cooler too. Those pesky little fly things also put in an appearance and our fly nets proved invaluable!
On our first two nights we had some fellow campers either side of us along the banks of the lagoon. We were alone on the third night. No phone, no internet! Very quiet, but the night sky was brilliant. The Milky Way, a white smudge through the sparkling stars. The lagoon is deep at about 8 metres, in flood time though the waters rise up and cover the camp ground. The drop loo had water marks on the walls about a metre above the floor from the most recent wet season. The loo was also the home of some Fairy Martin mud bird nests in its roof. These little birds scamper around on the ground amongst the grass and flit off when approached. We originally thought the mud nests belonged to some sort of wasp and so had been a little cautious around the loo and some other shelters where we had seem the same ornate structures.
Allthego tried his hand again at some yabbies, the effort yielded a couple of small fresh water shrimps. Down the bottom end of the lagoon a couple were fishing in the shallower water and had caught some fish using these shrimp as bait. Allthego had carefully forgotten his fishing gear, but not next time.
The lagoon area is a haven for bird life. Pelicans cruised up and down its reaches, ducks ventured forth, some brolgas relaxed in the shade of over hanging trees, galahs were everywhere stripping trees of leaves and small branches, kites and eagles soared above and the fairy Martins scratched around in the dirt.
We went for a short drive for about 10 km across the drainage channels of the Diamantina River ‘to the other side’ to see the ranger station and its displays. The NP used to be a cattle station and was acquired by the Queensland Gov’t in the 1990s (I think?) for a National Park. The grasslands and water courses are slowly recovering from their grazing past, although a stock route continues to run through the Park. On the other side we were able to rise up onto the plateau area at Janet’s Leap. From here one looks down into the ‘Diamantina Gates’. This ‘narrow’ gorge is about 1 km wide and our camping ground is on the other side, separated by the river and the channels we crossed to get here. In flood time water comes down across the Diamantina flood plain ( which can be many km across ) from the north and funnels its way through the ‘Gates’ and once passing spreads out again on the flood plain to the south. Apparently, a spectacular sight.
All good things must come to an end and on our third morning we headed off to the north on the 155 km gravel trek to Boulia and then 360 km on sealed road to Winton.
We are now at Bedourie having travelled the 180 or so kilometres north of Birdsville. Bedourie is the administration centre for the local Diamantina Shire, which occupies much of the south-west corner of Queensland and the flood plains of the Diamantina and Georgiana River systems. Eyre Creek flows south past Bedourie and ultimately into Lake Eyre. So the road up to Bedourie passes across many flood drainage channels, clay pans and grass lands. The road is called the Bilby Way, after the critically endangered native rabbit like animal. We didn’t see any.
Part way up we passed by a big stand of the rare Waddi Trees. Very slow growing trees dating back to the last ice age, extremely hard wood that resists burning. Some of the trees are thought to be up to a thousand years old. Also passed the ruins of the old Sydney Kidman owned Carcoory homestead. Abandoned in the early 1900s after a period of severe drought. The nearby bore flows and feeds a pond for the local cattle, water very hot.
Further along we cross Eyre Creek at the Cuttaburra Crossing where a herd of cattle were watering. This is a popular bird watching area and a few vans had taken up residence. Some pelicans were in residence upstream.
Arrived in Bedourie and managed to get the last powered van site in the Caravan Park, we were well located just next door to the artesian spar and swimming pool complex.
After a good nights sleep it was to be day of action on the golf course for Allthego and a dip in the artesian hot water ‘infinity pool’. The golf was a little challenging as there was much loose sand, thankfully a couple of the fairways were quite hard dried sand and a good run on the ball could be had for the low and frequently hitting Allthego. Allthego’s card for the 9 hole course was a modest 60, 27 over for the 33 par course. One shouldn’t bother with handicaps! A couple of bad scoring holes otherwise spoilt a reasonable effort among the sand dunes.
After this it was off for the dip in the spar and swimming pool to sooth away the aches! Homealone enjoyed the time by herself at the van beavering away on some craft.
We are now setting off after two nights here in Bedourie for a couple of days in Diamantina National Park.
Last days in Birdsville
Saturday night after the races we partied a bit down at the hotel and enjoyed the night scenes around the various stalls that were still open. The boxing tent was in full swing and there was much revelry. We even had a star politician in town for the festivities. One Pauline Hanson, she is pretty popular out here. Allthego couldn’t resist a photo-op.
Our time in Birdsville has come to a close. We did our Sunday morning shift on the pancakes, followed up by some stock taking, packing away and lunch. There was some time on Sunday afternoon for looking around Birdsville! We have been here a week and haven’t seen the cemetery yet. Now Allthego doesn’t mind looking through an old cemetery. A lot can be learnt in a cemetery about the towns past. Birdsville’s cemetery sits between a couple of sand dunes on the outskirts of town on the way to the caravan toilet dump point and the town dump. Allthego suspects it was there before either of these two modern conveniences. The graves certainly indicate this. Life was tough out here in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. There is a strong indigenous presence among the headstones, including a ‘rainmaker’. An early Inland Mission Padre died in 1929 and is buried here. He was 29 and it is thought died of a heart attack while having a swim in the river. The bare earth and sun light flickering in the scattered trees among the sand dunes was haunting. It would have been a lonely place a hundred years ago.
Back down by the Diamantina River at Pelican Point we saw flocks of birds on the Birdsville Billabong. Our grand daughter, Alyssa was wondering why Birdsville was called Birdsville. Well, we think we can confirm it is because there are lots of birds here! Or is it because a shop was built here by two blokes, Percy Bird and George Field. Hence Birdsfield, which later, because of a mailing error, became Birdsville! Who knows! Two young Corellas were hiding high in a tree above us as we gazed across the Billabong.
Down by the river the horses are stabled for the great race and it is also here where it is thought Burke & Wills might have camped on their way north back in the 1860s. There is a tree labelled the “Burke & Wills Tree” with a blaze cut into it with some barely legible markings. Better thinking suggests this is an imposter tree, the work of a later day pleasure seeker! But everybody comes here and takes a photo! Remnants of the 5 or 6 thousand campers are still to found in this area. Many will continue north in coming days for the races at Bedourie.
One of the old buildings remaining in Birdsville is the Court House. Signage indicates it is now only brought into action once a year. The Monday after the Birdsville races! No doubt to deal with matters arising from the rather strong police presence in town during the great race . Much breath analysing going on. There has also been a little unruly behaviour on the town common amongst the campers, some lads got excited and threw some gas bottles on a fire creating some big bangs in the early hours of the morning. Apart from this, things have been calm in town with not much angst being displayed.
After our drive around town and catching the last of the ‘sites’ to be seen we headed back to base for dinner and a good nights sleep before heading for Bedourie the following morning.
Birdsville’s Big Red and Race Day
One of the ‘big’ things to do in Birdsville is to drive the 35 km out to ‘Big Red’ and see the sun set. Big Red is a 40 m sand hill fronting the Simpson Desert. There is not much human settlement between this point and the Western Australian coastline. To get across the desert from here involves traversing 1100 or so sand hills. This is something Allthego is keen on doing, but not this trip. We witnessed a number of vehicles climbing up the sand cutting to the top of Big Red, whilst a challenge it did not appear to be overly difficult, would need to let the tyres down to about 18 psi. We resisted the temptation to attempt it and instead walked up and saw others try, all successful! A great view from the top. The sky was clear of cloud, so the sunset was not a spectacular show of colours and patterns as you see in the postcards. Instead, a ball of orangey/ red slowly sinking across the horizon.
We sat on the sand enjoying the view, glass of red and some cheese. As did some others. After the scramble back down we headed off in the dusk and dust back to town.
Our day at the races arrived and we headed off in the shuttle bus to the racetrack which is about 4 km outside of town. Several thousand people were descending on the same place. It was quite a crowd and a little hard to judge how many people were there, perhaps three or four thousand. Races had also been held the day before and I suspect not everyone goes both days. Indeed there had been an exodus of vans from Birdsville before the start of the second day. But it was still a lot of people and obvious that some had been there the day before, very happy individuals!
We planted our seats not far back from the fence and the finishing post. It was a good viewing spot although we were in the sun, needed to be early to get the shady spots under the stand. It was also a good spot to observe our fellow race goers and the fashions on display. There was the usual fashions on the field competition, best dressed females, males and family groups in various categories. It seems a number of people going in these competitions take them very seriously (like in Betoota) and put in big efforts to ‘glam up’ for the occasion, even if they have to wander around amongst the stones and dust in high heels. There are others though who don’t go in the competition, but just like to hop around the place being admired by the masses.
We were also located not far from the parade ground were the horses are shown around prior to the running of each race. The strappers take them out, walk them around for all to see. Allthego noticed many astute punters wandered over to this area with their form guides and carefully pencilled their thoughts into these little books. He thought to himself that maybe Homealone should be doing this rather than relying on names and colours. But then again he saw many of these punters after the race screwing up punting tickets, giving the odd grimace or two and heading back to the bar area for more inspiration. Maybe names and colours are just as reliable after all.
Homealone was unsuccessful in picking winners here at Birdsville, did not even get a placing. Employing the same techniques of the horses name and colours, as she did in Betoota, yielded average performances and two last places. It was easy to leave after the signature event, the 1600 m Birdsville Cup. Here at Birdsville the horses run anti clockwise round the track, like in NSW. The rest of Queensland run clockwise. Why this anomaly, I don’t know.
The bus trip back to town was easy, we had a quick getaway and beat a fair bit of the crowd out of the track.