Simpson Desert, Uluru and Lake Eyre – July 2019

Saturday 29th June 

Jase and I were up by just after 3.30am, getting the trailer out and up the driveway, then I went and woke the kids, still on track for our 4.45am departure. Baxter arrived, just before 4.45am, then off we went, right on time, heading to Lithgow to meet Louise, Mark and Archie.

We made good time, arriving in Lithgow right on 7am, watching the temperature gauge dip below 5 degs. We hooked up, then headed to Bathurst for our next stop, which also included breakfast and coffee. The temperature in Bathurst was 1 deg when we stopped, very, very cold, but we still stood outside the bakery eating our warm pies, the kids deciding to eat theirs in the truck because it was so chilly.

Unfortunately, we had to make an unexpected stop in Dubbo, at the Bunnings, to buy a new jerry can, as one of our yellow water ones got a crack in it, hence we were now 20 litres short of water, which, in the outback, is quite a lot.

Back on the road, heading to Nyngan, our lunch stop, all the while watching the dark clouds in the distance, hoping it wasn’t going to rain. The road from Dubbo to Nyngan was beginning to get that rather long, straight feel about it, making for the landscape passing by to be all much the same. (Jason hates the Dubbo to Nyngan, to Cobar – stretch very boring!)

I drove from Dubbo and because it was extremely windy, the road, at times, became a ‘red out’ of dust, which was blowing from the dry paddocks. It was a struggle at times to hold onto the truck, with the wind pulling the truck back and forth, I got rather a big fright when a bus came out of the dust heading our way. Our stop in Nyngan was quick, as not long after we arrived and got our lunches out the rain slowly started falling and coupled with the coolish temperature, we all wanted to get back in our warm, dry trucks.

Our very quick lunch stop.

The road was now very straight, with not much traffic either way, making for an uneventful trip into Cobar, which was perfect. We stopped for fuel to top us up, Baxter and Mark both needed a decent fill, both Navara’s holding around 140 litres, the Landcruiser holding 290 odd. We pushed on up the road to the Gundabooka turnoff about 140km on. We happily sat behind a road train the whole way, as he easily sat on 110kph. We turned into the park and onto red dirt for the first time, saying goodbye to bitumen for a few days. Half an hour later we were in the camp ground and Adam & Jody & the girls were there to greet us.

Finally arrived at Gundabooka National Park.

There were a few campers around which surprised us, as we thought it would be fairly quiet, what also surprised us was that Adam and Jody had their fly nets on already, making comment that the flies were horrendous! We all got about setting up our own camps, the kids all collecting firewood, then the men going out to collect a bit more.

Our first campfire of many during the trip.

Dinners were had, which was an assortment, we had pre-made taco wraps, as after such a long drive we wanted something easy. Everyone sat around the fire catching up, with the kids finally going to bed, the mum’s not much after. The men, who were all a bit excited, sat up for quite some time, consuming a few more beverages, but then with slight drizzle on and off, there was movement as they went under cover to Baxters awning, back to the fire, back to the awning, there was a lot of laughing and comparing of truck sizes.

We had knocked out just over 800kms on this, our first day and probably our biggest km day.

Sunday 30th June

As we had had such an early start yesterday, we all relished the sleep in, not rising until after 8. It was decided that we would walk up Mount Gundabooka after lunch, so we spent the morning checking on the truck and trailer and, fixing any issues and moving things around to help with the packing.

The kids all playing, while we all repacked things for the next leg.

We all had lunch, then all but Baxter and Louise headed off for our walk up to Mount Gundabooka, snacks and water in hand. Jase and I had done it before, so we kind of knew what to expect, the beginning was flat as you made your way across dry creek beds, the kids all charging off and as there was no chance of them getting lost, it didn’t bother us.

At the Mount Gundabooka carpark.

We started to walk steadily up hill, which at times was rather steep, reaching the summit in just over an hour. As it was such a clear day and as flat as far as you could see, we were able to make out the curvature of the earth. Making our way back to the trucks, we came across two rock wallabies minding their own business, finally reaching the flat ground again and the easy walk to the trucks. We had afternoon tea with the flies, then headed back to camp, where Baxter and Louise had already got the fire going which was nice to come back too.

Mount Gundabooka.
It’s so flat, you can make out the curvature of the earth.
All a bit tired and in need of a rest.
Mark, Jase and Adam.
Jase and I on the way down.
The first of many days of dust!!
Thought this was a beautifully cut piece of wood.
The three camp ovens with assorted dinners…pot luck!
Megan and Erin getting practice for their night photography.

We all settled in, having drinks and getting our dinners ready, three of us needing coals for our camp ovens as we were having roasts. Dinners were had, with more stories shared, before we all had an earlier night as we wanted to get away fairly early the next morning.

Monday 1st July

Our departure time was 9am, but as Jase thought it was 8.30am, we were all ready to go just after 8.30am, so we were actually ahead of the excel spreadsheet departure time. We were heading towards Louth for two things, one a shower and the second, a beer at the Shindy Inn and because Jase and I had been to Louth before, we knew there were public showers there. The showers were awesome, very hot and very much needed after 3 days already, then onto the pub for that beer, even though it was only 10.45am.

And here we go, the first convoy of the trip, all very excited.

Beers, shandy’s and soft drinks were had, while overlooking the Darling River, which was very low, the last time Jase and I were there, we couldn’t go the way we wanted as the roads were closed due to the water around. It was great talking to the publican, who actually went to a boarding school in Waverley, so knew Louise and Marks part of Sydney well.

Baxter, Jase, myself, Louise, Mark, Adam and Jody, outside Louth pub having a beer.

Leaving Louth at 11.25am we headed to Wanaaring, arriving there at 1.30pm, just in time for lunch with the flies again, something we had to get used to this whole trip and as it was only a quick stop, we were off half an hour later, heading for Mt. Wood.

On our way to Wanaaring.

This part of the drive was our first real taste of being in the middle of nowhere, it was dry and very dusty, driving in to the sunset was extremely hard going, so we really spaced the trucks out by km’s as the dust just hung on the track, making visibility next to nothing at times, lucky for our radios, which was our only means of communicating during these tough drives.

We found Baxter’s Corner Store.
Last time Jase and I went this way, the roads were all closed, due to wet weather.
Just a random boot, in the middle of nowhere!
Just parked for quick break.

As you came into Mt. Wood, there was a slight rise with a big right hand turn, enabling us to look back across the plain, seeing Adam’s dust trail way off in the distance, with him still km’s away. Arriving at Mt. Wood at 5pm, we were yet again surprised to see other campers and also disappointed that fires weren’t allowed and as it already felt cool, we knew it would be an early evening, just to keep warm.

The kids playing a game of badminton.
Was getting rather cool as the sun went down.
Megan taking control of the sunsets.
Wispy clouds, making for a pretty sky.

Our gas stoves got a work out for dinner, we had pre-made butter chicken and rice, which was warming, as it was getting cold, wash ups were done, then it wasn’t long before we all headed to bed as the temperature had dropped considerably.

600kms knocked out today.

Tuesday 2nd July: Happy Birthday Jase

Was again an early morning start for us, as we were heading to Innamincka, our next two-day camping spot. We were ready to leave by 9am after a beautiful sunrise made its way over the horizon, the orange hue glowing through the trees. Mt Wood was once a sheep station, National Parks have now taken it over, unfortunately we were unable to spend any time doing some of the walks/drives and general looking around as we were on a tight schedule.

Was a beautiful sunrise.
It was early and cool, but well worth it.
A flock of birds enjoying the sunrise as well.
Finally over the horizon.
Let the first of many pack-ups begin.
Leaving Mount Wood.
Let the red dust begin.

Off we went, heading to Cameron Corner, with Tibooborra only 20 mins up the road, the three others fueling their trucks and purchasing a few essentials from the Corner Store. We then headed out on the track to Fort Grey for a quick toilet break and also, surprisingly, large garbage bins, so we all emptied our rubbish.

Arriving in Tibooburra, our adventure just beginning.

The road was very red, however there was no sign of any wildlife, which was disappointing, as we were hoping at least to see some emus, it had started to get quite corrugated in places, including some very soft sand at times, making for some interesting driving. Baxter was in front, relaying back any nasty cattle grid surprises, cars coming the other way and bends we had to slow down for. The dust that each car spewed up was incredible, you could see the cars that were ahead, just from the dust that followed.

That’s what we like to see, all roads open.

Cameron Corner was our next destination, which was very exciting when we finally made it, crossing the border into South Australia. We went to Cameron Corner so we could be in three states at the one time, something I have never done, nor has anyone on our trip, so that was exciting for us all. Back in the trucks, just up to the The Corner Store, where we had lunch of burgers and steak sandwiches, including a beer for the adults. Unfortunately we found out that the Old Strzelecki Track was closed due to a gas pipe explosion, so we had to take another route to Innamincka, which was going to take us a far bit longer, so I used The Corner Store’s phone to cancel Jason’s cake at the pub which we were going to for dinner that night. We bought some bread so we could have toasted sandwiches when we arrived at our campsite.

Yee-ha, arriving at the South Australian/New South Wales boarder, at the dog fence.
The great dog fence.
Mark crossing into South Australia.
Our truck coming across.
Adam and family now in South Australia, not quite sure where Baxter went!
Now in South Australia.
Jase and Kye on an old plane beside the runway.
That’s not what we wanted to read.
Congregating around Cameron Corner.
Jase and I on Cameron’s Corner.
Kye on Cameron’s Corner.
Megan and Keira on Cameron’s Corner.
Zarah on Cameron’s Corner.
More of that fantastic Dog Fence.
Looking back towards our trucks, The Corner Store was just off to the left of the trucks.
Cameron Corner Pub.
Just some of the caps inside the Cameron Corner Store.
On our way to our next stop, via a detour, due to the gas pipe explosion.

We finally headed off on what was going to be a massive afternoon in the trucks, making our way to Innamincka via Naryilco and Orientos Stations, where we were going to camp for the next two days. We didn’t see any wildlife, which was rather disappointing for all of us, as we were all looking forward to seeing emus’s, camels, or at least kangaroos and considering we were driving at dusk, not seeing kangaroos was a relief.

Driving at dusk, into the sun, didn’t see one kangaroo.
Had to stop for a sunset photo.
Heading to our next campsite, stopping for a sunset pic first.

Finally arriving at the campsite at Cullyamurra around 7.30pm in the dark, after a huge day driving. We decided on a spot after a bit of searching, setting up and then settling in for an evening in front of the fire and from what we saw coming in to the campground, there was only one or two other groups around. The campsite runs for quite a few km’s along the side of the waterhole, which actually had a fair bit of water in it.

Not a very big day, with only 480kms done.

Wednesday 3rd July

As we had had a big day in the trucks yesterday and not needing to rush out this morning, we decided to have a rest day, including a sleep in, which was very much needed by all.

Our campsite at Cullyamurra Waterhole.

Rising about 8.30am, we were all amazed to see just how open the area was that we were camping in, as last night when we arrived, it seemed extremely bushy, with only limited spots. The area was very open, with only a small number of trees and loads of camping spots.

The amount of water in the waterhole surprised us all.

As Mark had started the fire from the hot ashes the night before, we all had toast and toasted sandwiches for breakfast, including our morning coffee. The men started repairs on the trucks, tightening screws, fixing anderson plugs, taping aerials, tightening lights amongst other things. The flies, which this morning seem to take a while to wake up, have woken with vengeance, are horrible, the worst so far of the trip, so gross.

We were having a slow morning and afternoon as it was decided that we would head out later, heading first to Burkes Grave, then Wills Grave, then to where they found King, then back into Innamincka for showers and dinner. Even though we had to wait for our $2 showers, they were very hot and well worth it. It was lovely walking into the pub with clean clothes and smelling nice, ready for an outback beer, which actually cost us $20 and a nice meal.

At Burke’s Grave.
Louise, Baxter, Me, Jase, Jody, Adam and Mark.
Chloe, Megan, Keira, Erin, Zarah, Emma and Kye.
Birds together.
The Cullyamurra Waterhole.
Lets hope we are all fueled up.
Wills Grave on the Cooper Creek.
The area where they found King.
The 2010 flood level sign and from where we stood we couldn’t see any water in the river at all.

Our meals came out, all delicious, then quite sometime after dinner Jase’s Birthday cake arrived, which was chocolate with cream, very, very nice. Despite having a nice meal and well deserved beer, Jase and I were a little bit disappointed in the pub itself, as it didn’t seem to have that outback type feel we enjoy, but was expensive and seemed to be set up to cater for tourist bus groups, a large group actually sitting at the next table.

It wasn’t long after Jason’s cake that we left for the campsite, where, when we got back, we got the fire going, having a few more drinks, a cup of tea, then to bed, ready for our early morning departure, heading to Birdsville.

More night time photography.
You can see stars, we love this pic.

Thursday 4th July

We were all up fairly early, getting ready to leave for Birdsville by 9.05am, after breakfasts and coffee. Driving first, we went straight to The Dig Tree, which was about 1.15 hours down the road from the campsite. There were a few people around, with groups that looked like they had camped there for the night, we took pictures, had some morning tea, was amazed that there was plenty of water in the creek, then headed off for Cordillo Downs Road. Jase and Mark were at The Dig Tree more than 25 years ago and they remembered nothing but the tree, out in the middle of nowhere. Now it is a campsite on private property, where you have to pay, with toilets and an airstrip beside the road, we actually watched a small plane take off.

The Burke and Wills Dig Tree.
The Burke and Wills Dig Tree, with a lot of water in the creek.
It was a beautiful tree.

Cordillo Downs Road was an absolute shocker, full of corrugations, washouts and stony gibber driving. It was also yet again very dry making for another dusty trip and by the time we got to Cordillo Downs Station we were amazed why anyone thought they could run sheep and cattle in such a desolate area. There were a few people around, with us enjoying our lunch again with the flies, some of us walking around the shearing shed, a fascinating place. Mark noticed there was no natural water source on Cordillo Downs Station and it was running 10,000 head of cattle, which really put in to perspective the size of these stations, considering we only saw about 20 head of cattle ourselves.

Ready to head off to Cordillo Downs.
Yep, in the middle of absolutely no-where.
Heading towards the South Australian Border again.
A whole lot of nothing, and we love it.
The next rig for Jase and Baxter, oh and some Tetanus thrown in for good measure!!
Beautiful blue sky and red dirt and nothing.
Cordillo Downs Shearing Shed.
The shed was under repair when we saw it.
We think Baxter was in a rush.

We left the station at 1.50pm, our next stop was Caldega Ruins, which was an out station of Cordillo Downs. It was a solid foundation as it was stone, as this was obviously the only material they had at the time. Back in the trucks, it wasn’t too much longer, before we crossed back into QLD and came up onto the Birdsville Developmental Road, where we turned left, making our final push into the town itself, this road had a bitumen stretch which doubled as a runway – actually able to land a jumbo jet if needed for evacuations. We arrived just before 6pm.

Caldega Ruins, an out station of Cordillo Downs.
We love that chimneys always last.
For an out station, the size was pretty impressive.
The boys didn’t want to sit in that one.
The long and the straight of it, Baxter in the distance.
We arrived…Birdsville!!

As we had booked into Birdsville Caravan Park, we headed straight there, found a spot and set up for the night. We had heaps of washing to do, so got that underway and as there were no fires, it was soup and noodles for dinner, we all showered up, the kids happily watching TV in the common room for a while. Baxter headed across to the pub, while the rest of us were sorting children and washing, we did say we would come and meet him once we had all finished. Unfortunately, it took us longer than we thought to complete the washing, so much so, that Baxter came back and went to bed.

Adam, Jody, Mark, Jase and I eventually got to the pub at 10.30pm for a couple of beers, making for a latish evening, and something we really didn’t enjoy as we were too rushed.

In hindsight, we only stayed at the Caravan park to get our washing done, there was plenty of free camping just outside the town and we were even told taps were available in the free camping areas. We have to come back here and redo Birdsville as we missed the whole pub experience of standing out on the verandah and enjoying a few afternoon beers. Also, the bakery was shut, which we knew was going to be closed before we arrived, which was a shame as Jase, Adam and Mark were looking forward to having a camel pie. All in all, this time around, Birdsville was a little disappointing, something to add, they were also preparing for the Big Red Bash, which was something we wanted to avoid, due to the numbers of people that would be around.

Friday 5th July

Up and on our way finally by 10am, after an early rise of 6am, preparing for our trip through the desert. We had breakfast, tidied up, filled the water tank in the trailer then went and filled the truck with diesel, grabbing coffees, taking pics in front of the Birdsville Hotel, also grabbing some milk, which was $7.30 for a 2 litre.

The Birdsville Hotel.
Info about Burke and Wills.
The air strip in the middle of town.
Doesn’t seem that expensive now, considering Sydney prices can get up there at times.
Baxter all excited with his new flag.
The iconic Birdsville Hotel shot.
The night before, beer, today, coffee.
We were all in that shot, including the trucks, minus the photographer, who I think was Erin.

It was 36km to Big Red, which was on dirt road, with the occasional section of bitumen. We all let our tyres down, us down to 15psi, the others down to 20. We drove up on the back side of Big Red, got to the top, then got out and watched others try and go from West to East up the Dune, which was good fun cheering those that made it.

We were all getting excited.
Letting the tyres down, 15psi for the next 5 days.
An amazing birds nest we passed.
Big Red!!
And we made it!
A long time planning, finally a reality.
Looking towards the dunes to come.
On top of Big Red.
Jase trying his luck getting up Big Red from the other side.
Baxter having a go and making it to the top.
We finally had to move on, Baxter’s new rake in the foreground.
Ready to go on our huge adventure.

We were up there for quite a while before heading back down and continuing on to the next dune. We all got up Big Red fine, but the second dune was quite troublesome for Adam, who struggled to get over it, Baxter and Mark having to go back to snatch him up.

Baxter heading up to snatch Adam over the second dune.
What a 15psi tyre looks like.
Someone looks pretty proud of himself…after the first Desert toilet stop!
The girls at the top of the dune waiting for the trucks to come up.

Off we headed again, dune after dune, in constant contact with oncoming vehicles, coming over dunes heading West to East. It was very exciting to actually be in the desert, a trip we had planned for months and months and with the constant chatter over the radio and travelling in convoy making for an exciting start to this part of our adventure.

There were times when we made it over the dunes all rather easily, other times, Adam needing a bit of assistance. The flies were horrendous, as every time the was a snatch happening, we all got out, needing our fly nets, Louise and I waiting for the others, at one point covered in the disgusting creatures, making it all rather unpleasant, I can’t even imagine how bad they would be in summer!!

Mark and Louise coming over a dune.
Adam followed closely behind.
And off we go, into the unknown for all of us.
One of the many salt lakes we would pass on our trip.
The stunning scenery.

Back in the trucks after a brief stop, off we went again, heading over more dunes, most of which we all made on the first attempt. It was great fun, passing lots of other groups, having a quick chat here and there. Back in convoy again, we had to make a 60km detour as the Eyre Creek crossing was way too high for vehicles to cross. It was amazing to see so much water in the river, something you don’t imagine in the Desert. We passed quite a few other groups, making our way along the side of the river, looking out for the place to cross, finally finding it, us going first, then Adam, Baxter, who gunned it, then Mark.

The Eyre Creek crossing that was closed, adding 3-4 hours to our trip with the detour.
Amazing to see green in the desert.
An oasis of water and greenery, amazing to see.
Eyre Creek was full of water.
Jody, Adam and the girls crossing.
Huge wake when Baxter crossed.
Mark creating his own wake.

Off again, this time, making it over another dune before scouting the area for a campsite as it was getting on into the afternoon and we all wanted to get our camps set up for dinner and the evening, not wanting to set up in the dark again. Deciding then that we would have a driving cut-off time, this being 5.30pm each evening, not just for the dark, but also because there was no point stopping as the flies were still horrible.

We found a spot, which was in a green patch, but which we actually worked out later, was on private property, so hopefully the farmer won’t come past and make us move on. Firewood was collected, tents and campers were erected, a campfire was lit, then a relaxing late evening was had by us all. Dinners were had, we had lamb chops with pesto gnocchi, others having sausages, baked potatoes and steak.

The first of many outback sunsets.

The stars finally came out after a cloudy afternoon, with the milky way absolutely stunning. There were shooting stars every which way, making for beautiful star gazing evening. The kids all went to bed, while the adults stayed out for a bit longer, enjoying the coals that we had created.

Saturday 6th July

It was a very mild night, in fact, I got rather warm at one point. I heard some strange noises early in the morning, not sure what they were though. I got up before Jase, which was very rare for me, it wasn’t a cold morning, in fact I put shorts on not long after I go up. It was a beautiful sunrise on top of the sand dune, where I watched it creep over the horizon, a bit like the start of The Lion King.

The Lion King sunrise, just over from our campsite.
The light was beautiful, and the sweet little animal prints in the sand.
Our campsite for the night.
The water along the side of the track we were on.
The start of the dunes for the days travel.

We were off and ready to hit the QAA Line, which we were going to be on for the day. After about 1/2hr of good driving we came back onto the QAA line on the other side of Eyre Creek. All that distance covered yesterday to be 50 metres further along the QAA!

Someone is happy to be in the desert.
Right at the start of the desert.
And off we go!
One of my favourite desert pics.
We took the right track, Baxter the left!
Snatching Adam over.
Another salt lake.

The dunes were big today, Adam having to be snatched over three, we did the ‘Reverse of Shame’ on two of them. There were quite a few groups that passed us heading in the same direction. We decided that we would pull up yet again at camp by 5.30pm at the latest, to give us enough sunlight to set up and the flies would ease up on sunset as well. We pulled off to the left of the track about 100metres into the scrub and found a good level area. A fire was started and we sat down to dinner and beers. It was another clear evening and it felt like we were the only people on the planet as no vehicles passed either way!

Another stunning sunset.
A cracking fire to keep us warm.
The light from the fire turns red sand even more beautiful..pic courtesy of Erin.

Sunday 7th July

It was yet again a very mild night, which turned into a beautiful morning, not needing long pants at all. Unfortunately, we were lagging and held everyone up, so we didn’t leave until just before 9.30am.

We had camped just off the QAA Line, so continued on that for about 30 mins, eventually making it into the Northern Territory, which was our first time in the Territory, finally hitting Lake Poeppel, where we had to take a left turn, travelling along the side of the Salt Lake. We then took a right turn, heading up over a dune line to Poeppel Corner, where it was quite busy, with a few other travelers.

On our way to Poeppel Corner, passing another salt lake.
The sand was deep on some of the dunes, making it hard on the way down too.
There were some tricky corners going up some of the dunes.
The Poeppel Corner turn off.
Again, standing in three states, this time NT, QLD and SA.
First time in NT for both of us.

Standing in the three states of Queensland, South Australia and the Northern Territory was very exciting, another first for all of our group. Leaving Poeppel Corner at 10.40am, we headed off to the French Line, making our way to Lindsay Junction, arriving at 1.45pm, which was another 40kms on from the Corner. We had lunch with the flies, which isn’t pleasant, it does make our stop quicker, as we are all desperate to get back in our trucks to get away from the disgusting things. There weren’t many massive dunes, although we did have to do the ‘Reverse of Shame’ at one point, as we couldn’t make it up one dune. The track started to flatten out, with the dunes becoming further and farther between. The track was very, very, bumpy, with the similarity of erosion mounds in the Victorian High Country, making our travel really slow, we even bottomed out a few times.

Looks like a plait, not sure what type of animal though.
There was some stunning flora in the desert.
Unfortunately, one of the only camels we saw.
More stunning flora, with another salt lake.
Crossing the another salt lake.
A beautiful view of yellow wildflowers.
We headed to Approdinna Attora Knolls, on the Knolls Track.
This track was rocky in stages, which surprised us.
The WAA Line junction.
A rather massive salt lake.
Just having a break to let the kids stretch their legs.
It looked like snow close up.
The kids looked quite little, just goes to show how big the salt lake was.
Just a bit of sand we collected to add to our weight.
And down we come.

The landscape was stunning, very red, but at times, really green, with amazing wildflowers, beautiful wattle trees and I even spotted the occasional yellow bottle brush. We were all surprised as to how green it was, with so many trees, one time it even looked like cows could graze, with green grass and trees, the only thing missing was water.

Looking across the dunes in the distance.
Some purple wildflowers.
Such a beautiful place.

We traveled south along Knolls Track crawling through the massive erosion mounds for about 34kms, turning right at Tilley junction onto the WAA Line. It was getting later in the afternoon, and as we passed other groups, you stop for a quick chat, one group in particular having a bit of banter regarding the trucks they had, three landcruisers and a prado landcruiser, they did say our truck was nice as they passed.

Down a big dune.

There are strange little trees out here, that the girls have nicknamed ‘Troll Hair Trees’, as that’s exactly what they looked like, so when we pass a group of them, that’s called a ‘Troll Hair Tree’ village, with some villages even having a chief ‘Troll Hair Tree’!!

‘Troll Head’ tree village.
A Troll Head.

Wanting to get to the junction of the Erabena Track, which was 30km away, to set up camp for the night, we headed off at 4pm, however, we had only travelled 17kms along the WAA Line before we hit our knock off driving time of 5.30pm having done 115km, so we found a flat spot on the side of the track and set up camp.

The setting sun.

The kids all collect firewood while we set up, then a fire was started as most of us needed a fire for dinner. We were having steak parcels with garlic butter, potatoes, cheese and vegetables. Others were having steak, Mexican steak wraps and gnocchi.

As the moon was now getting bigger, the stars and Milky Way weren’t as bright as they had been previous nights, but still a very pretty sky. The air had a very slight dampness to it, so I’m assuming there will be a dew in the morning.

Monday 8th July

Compared to other nights there was a slight breeze coming through our kitchen window, which also made for a very cool morning and a dew, as I had predicted. As we are so far west the sun doesn’t rise until just before 7.30am, so getting up is a struggle, especially when we need to start heading off early.

Breakfasts were had then the pack up began, Adam in the meantime siphoned some diesel from the silver Navara as he was concerned about his consumption and making it to Mt. Dare. We were all ready to depart from camp just before 9am, which was a bit later than we had hoped, but still earlier than the previous morning.

Dead wood makes for interesting desert photos.

We were slowly making our way west on the WAA Line, with another 15km to the WAA/Erabena junction. It was slow going, the dunes not very high, but just the deep corrugations, extreme dips and soft sand made for some very slow driving, especially with the trailers on the back.

Doesn’t really look it, but the track is full of deep corrugations.

The track seems to be fairly busy as we have passed two groups of seven, one of these groups had 4 trailers between them. We can now here over the CB that they are having trouble on one of the dunes we had passed earlier, with the recovery taking them a few goes.

The dunes are getting closer together, however they don’t seem as big as on the QAA Line and the sand is getting softer, still with rather large erosion mounds between them. We had a few groups pass us, as well as us passing groups heading east and as it was only a single track with quite a number of trees and shrubs on either side, there wasn’t a lot of room to pull over to allow groups to pass.

There was constant chatter over the UHF, our group on channel 29 with the lead truck calling track conditions, which include bumps, soft sand, take the right track, corrugations, more bumps, take the left track. The chatter over channel 10 was the traffic on the track, communicating between convoys, letting each group know when one is cresting a dune, which direction each group was travelling or how far away from certain points we were.

We fell in love, as everyone does, with the deep red of the desert.

We all agreed that the dunes were getting tougher to cross, actually tougher than the QAA Line, as the sand was a lot softer. We actually had to do the ‘Reverse of Shame’ on more than one occasion, not yet having to be snatched though. There was one dune in particular that was very tricky, in which Adam struggled up, needing a snatch just from the top, which didn’t go to plan as both Mark and Baxter got bogged while attempting to double snatch him out. Both Adam and Baxter had to do the ‘Reverse of Shame’ to have another go. Baxter went up, so as to help Adam at the top again. Adam had another go, but didn’t manage to get any further than his first attempt, due to the fact that the sand was very soft, it had a few bumps and a slight right left turn.

Us at the bottom, waiting for our turn.
Adam having his first attempt.
Mark and Baxter helping Adam over the top.
All out of their vehicles, inspecting Baxter’s truck, which was now stuck.
And,yep, Mark had to snatch Baxter out.
Adam and us, still down the bottom.
The just chewing the fat, without technology in hand!
Here Jase comes.
And yep, he made it over.
Another attempt for Adam, not quite making it.
Lucky photos don’t speak, Jody was letting rip with the swearing!!!
If only it was that easy!!

After Baxter got to the top, we had a go, not making it, doing the ‘Reverse of Shame’, Jase struggling with the trailer a bit, slightly jack knifing it into the bushes on the side. The whole time, there was a single truck making its way to the dune we were having trouble on. He came up, and as he was a single, we let him go through us, however he didn’t make it the first time, nor his second attempt. He reversed down and sat in the middle of the track and proceeded to let his tyre pressure down which didn’t impress Jase, so he went past him and powered up the hill, with the single truck coming up again behind him.

With all vehicles at the top, Adam had another go, this time making it ¾ of the way up, then completing the summit with a double snatch from Baxter and Mark, the whole recovery taking us about 2.5 hours. We made our way through Lynnies junction and pulled up for camp a short while later about 5.40pm. We covered roughly 80km today and settled down to enjoy our last night in the desert.

A Dalhousie sign!!!
The sun setting for our last night in the desert.
Megan and Erin’s photography class continued again with star shots, albeit a little blurry.

Tuesday 9th July

It felt exceptional cold this morning, actually -1, hence we were all a little sluggish with the morning routine, it is the only time to eat breakfast though as there are no flies buzzing around trying to share your cereal. 

Was a chilly start for our last day.

We had coffees while packing up, finally ready to head off for Dalhousie Springs at 9.20am. Passing a few other campers off on the right-hand side, also passing another group of three trucks heading east on the Rig Road. It wasn’t too long before we came to Mokari and all of a sudden it seemed like the hard driving was done. We stopped and had a look at Pecanek’s memorial, Jase noticed another water leak and that was the end of our 2nd metal jerry can! We continued a bit further on until we came to Wonga junction which bought us back on the French line. Others that had passed us earlier this morning were airing up for the run into Dalhousie. We did the same, we continued on and stopped at Purnie bore for lunch. A little further on we realized we aired up too soon! There were still some tricky sand dunes to cross and we had to pull the reverse of shame again, Jase decided to air back down and Adam followed.

Despite the desert being challenging, we are already looking forward to coming back one day.
Pecanek’s memorial.
We think we aired up the tyres too quickly, as the road to Dalhousie was a shocker.
Our last sign in the desert.
We laughed at that sign, 40km in the desert was fast!!
There wasn’t a sign like this when traveling in the direction we traveled.
The end of a challenging, rewarding, fun, hard and awesome 5 days.

We soon came to the Desert park sign (for those heading the other way). That was it, we were out of the desert. It was about 70km odd to Dalhousie, and boy was the road rough, corrugations galore as well as some big washouts and bull dust, we were hitting 100kph. Baxter radioed through there was a sharp turn coming up with lots of bull dust, unfortunately we were on it before we knew it, Jase didn’t quite make the corner and went straight over a tree totally demolishing it. We came to the outskirts of Dalhousie and stopped at the garbage dump to empty our rubbish, it was then that Jase realized that the GoPro had disappeared off the bull bar. It must have been the tree he collected. We headed back for a quick look but couldn’t see it, all that was left were scattered branches and bits of bark!

The road ahead to Dalhousie.
Just behind the trucks was a garbage dump, coming just in time.

We pulled into Dalhousie and it had quite a few campers already setup, we weren’t used to the crowds! We found a space that fitted us all, set up, grabbed a beer and headed to the springs. It was awesome, so nice to get rid of the dust and grime, the water was warm and there were a few other people swimming and enjoying the springs as well. The adults stayed in the water for quite some time enjoying our beers and just lazing around, talking to other groups, discussing the adventure that we all had been on, or were about to take.

A very much needed warm dip in Dalhousie Springs, it was beautiful.
Our campsite at Dalhousie, was quite the dust bowl.

Unfortunately, fires weren’t allowed, so dinners were cooked, yet again on the gas stove we had our homemade chicken soup and noodles. We actually saw a dingo run off with someone’s shoe. Once the excitement settled down and everyone had finished dinner, it was an early night, as it was a bit cool and we all decided to head to bed.

Wednesday 10th July

Despite how busy the campground was, it wasn’t noisy overnight, nor was it very cold, it seemed cooler when we got up and started the pack up for the long day in the vehicles, including our detour to Lambert Centre, the geographical centre of Australia.

The springs in the early morning light.
Off we set for Mt. Dare Hotel, for beer and fuel, maybe not in that order.

After the worst morning of the trip so far, as in slowness and children not pulling their weight, we were off on what was going to be a massive day in the truck. Jase went with Baxter to back track and have another look for our GoPro, so I drove our truck with Megan, Keira and Emma.

We were told the track to Mt. Dare was rather rutted and very corrugated, but after the drive from the edge of the Desert to Dalhousie, we didn’t think it could be worse. We all got to Mt. Dare, although the silver trucks fuel light had come on before we got there, the road was extremely corrugated and stony, a bit like being back in the Stony Desert. The diesel was $2.45 per litre, so we only put in 40 litres which was enough to get us to Kulgera Roadhouse, where the diesel was cheaper.

The queue to fill up the trucks, apparently the petrol tankers couldn’t keep up with demand.
Baxter’s truck, front and center.
Another iconic Pub photo ticked off our list.
Heading to Finke, somewhere Jase and I really wanted to visit.
Back in the NT.

Lunch was had after fueling, with coffees, beers and hot chips, before we all set off again at 1.50pm this time heading to Lambert Centre, through the community of Finke. We had seen an episode about Finke on Backroads, we didn’t think it showed the actual real community. I made the girls in the car put down their phones and watch as we completed a lap of the community. They were amazed, as were we, at the rubbish each house had, the state of the houses, asking questions regarding the number of cars in each yard that were complete bombs, missing tyres, with smashed windows. Emma mentioned how many dogs were around and there were, dogs everywhere, with the occasional pig in someone’s yard. I think driving through that community made them realize that our life isn’t that bad after all. We then made our way into Lambert Centre.

Finke, then on to Kulgera eventually.
Finke, famous for the Finke Desert Race.
Just one of the brightly painted pots in the community.
Showing some of the corrugations on the road.
On to Lambert Centre Geographical Centre of Australia.
The Centre of Australia.
Standing in the Centre of Australia.
Erin, Adam, Emma, Jody and Chloe.
Archie, Mark and Lousie.

The road in was strange, with single tracks that turned into forks, splitting them in two, which happened quite a few times, I even got the girls to decide which track to take in the end, there was a lot of left, right, right, left, then with the callout of the occasional truck coming the other way, at one point, we even seemed to do a complete circle on ourselves.

It was exciting to be in the dead geographical centre of our vast country, the kids finally realizing just how big our country is, considering how many kms it has taken us to get there. We all had photos then headed back down the tricky forks, extremely narrow, corrugated tracks to the main Kulgera road.

We still had 190km odd, approx. 3 hours to Kulgera Roadhouse, our next stop for the night. It was getting late in the afternoon, so this next leg of the trip was going to be fun, the road was very corrugated, with large washouts which became harder to see because of the shadows that now crossed the road, I think we only got air twice!!

The sun was making for a beautiful sunset, but at the same time, it was causing havoc with the dust that was been thrown up from Mark’s and Adam and Jody’s cars, making visibility nearly next to nothing. The comms were becoming more static the further the front group traveled, so the warning of the large tanker road train came as a bit of a surprise when we came up behind it. He was on radio too and gave me enough warning to pass him, with also a wave as we went passed.

Our spot at Kulgera Campground.

The road was still extremely corrugated, so we had two stops to check the connection to the trailer, making repairs on the second stop, to hopefully get us through to Kulgera. I had to drop speed a fair bit, full spotlight and lightbar working overtime, especially as there had been comms come through that there were cows on the road, but then the cows had cleared, all but one, who decided to buck it’s way directly in front of us, scaring us all half to death.

We finally pulled into Kulgera Roadhouse, which was nothing like we had pictured, as it had a full caravan park, pub and service station. As we hadn’t booked at the caravan park and it was fully booked out, the guy was a bit frazzled, but managed to squeeze us in towards the back end of the paddock. We all did a very quick set up, the kids actually helping a lot, due to the fact that they wanted to go into the pub to watch the last State of Origin game, which was about to start and also have dinner.

The pub was a great little place, with loads of character about it, we found tables, here and there, ordered dinners, then had a much-needed beer, after such a long, hard slog on the road. Keira and I didn’t last until much longer after half time before we headed back to camp and bed.

Thursday 11th July

At the time we pulled in last night, we hadn’t realized just how close to the road we had camped, as the road trains we could hear through the night sounded like jets taking off. It wasn’t at all cold overnight and the morning was quite pleasant, we did the usual pack up and took advantage of having a hot shower. We fueled up the Landcruiser – 230 litres at $1.99 a litre and headed off up the bitumen to Curtain Springs. The speed limit was 130kmp so that was another first for us, we made quick time to the turn off at Erldunda roadhouse. We were all relieved that we filled up at Kulgera as the queue for fuel was ridiculous, there must have been a hundred grey nomads in line. We continued on and stopped at Mt Ebenezer roadhouse for lunch. It showed on the map and we thought we could grab a pie, but it appeared now long abandoned. We said goodbye to Adam, Jody and the girls as they were heading up to Kings Canyon for the night and coming back the following day to Curtain Springs.

Just a bit more….
At the Kulgera Pub, we loved the clothesline.
Something you don’t see on NSW roads, hence the photo.

We arrived at Curtain Springs at 2pm, it was not quite what we expected! It wasn’t a particularly large open space and it was pretty full, but it would do us. We were going to head back and forth down the road to the Uluru and the Kata Tjuta over the next couple of days to do our sightseeing so it was only a base to sleep and eat from.

Mount Conner, not far from where we were staying.

We had an easy afternoon just fixing and tidying up and generally having a rest, Jase, Baxter and Archie headed across the road and collected firewood for the evening. We got a fire going then Mark and Louise came back from their quick trip into Yulara to grab some essentials. We had an easy dinner, then sat around the fire for a while, having a lazy evening. After everyone headed to bed, Jase and Mark ducked across to watch the cricket and have a few late beers in the pub come store.

Friday 12th July: Happy Birthday Keira

It was nice to finally have a sleep in, none of us rising until before 8am, even the Birthday Girl, who is now 13! We eventually got up, had breakfasts and coffees, she got a few pressies, including a much wanted Akubra hat, then we headed off to Kata Tjuta for a look and to do one of the walks.

We all headed off around 10.30am under some very wispy cloudy skies, excited about what was to come, our first glimpse of Uluru. The road into Yulara/Uluru is a very easy drive, with long straight stretches, allowing for multiple overtaking spots, which is very much needed, due to the heavy amount of vehicles towing massive caravans.

Eventually Kye spotted Uluru out on the front left hand side, so we pulled up at the first opportunity, which also included a dune, that Baxter had to have a go at, but due to 40psi tyre pressure, he didn’t get very far and had to do the ‘Reverse of Shame’. We all parked our cars and walked up the small dune to an amazing view overlooking Uluru, it was breathtaking, the size, height, colour and seeing so many images and news stories over our life, to finally see it, in all its glory, didn’t disappoint at all.

And there it is, in all it’s glory.
It was just stunning.

After that excitement we were back in the car, heading to Kata Tjuta, first stopping at the viewing platform and like Uluru, Kata Tjuta didn’t disappoint either. They were amazing, the same beautiful colour as Uluru, they were large and imposing, it was hard to take it all in. We drove around to where the walks started, grabbed our lunches, then went on the Valley of the Winds walk, which was a 7.4km circuit and due to the temperature been a little cooler, the walk was open, as it shuts if it’s going to be above 36 degs after 11.30am.

Kata Tjuta, also an incredible place.
At one point, we didn’t know where to look!
From the viewing platform for Uluru.
From the viewing platform at Kata Tjuta.
The flies were still dreadful.
Getting closer, it was even more spectacular.
We thought about crossing another border, but it was just that little bit too far.
The start of our walk, The Valley of the Winds walk through Kata Tjuta.
Everywhere you looked were photo opportunities.

It was a fairly tough walk, rocky, steep in sections but well worth the effort, as the landscape and views were spectacular. All the kids did very well to make it, there were two water stops along the way, which was very well received by those not carrying a water bottle. After reaching the top of a steep section between two domes, you looked down on what looked like beautiful green pasture land, perfect for cattle, it was an incredible sight, that wasn’t expected at all.

It was like looking down onto farm land.
It was a warm day, and there was a beautiful breeze standing there.
We were amazed at how big the place was.
The kids were getting rather tired by now.
On the downhill, before the final push back to the truck.

We stopped at one water station/shelter and Keira actually saw someone she knew from her acting classes, doesn’t matter where you go, even in the middle of Australia, you always see someone. Our last push, back up to the carpark was on the first 1.6km of the track but in reverse, there weren’t too many people around, more flies than anything, yet again and everyone tired and sweaty by the time we finished.

Done, with some hot and tired children.
It looked like a painting.

Back in the cars, this time heading to the Uluru Cultural Center for a look, which was right at the base of Uluru. There was quite a bit to see, with lots of information regarding the Aborigines of past and present, a large café and shop that had all things touristy at exorbitant prices.

Such an amazing place.

As it was getting late in the afternoon, we made a quick stop at Yulara IGA for a few things before heading back to Curtain Springs to meet up with Jody and Adam again. The IGA was chaos, so busy with backpackers and tourists, but surprisingly things weren’t too badly priced.

We got back to Curtain Springs around 5pm, and we were pleased to see that they had been able to get their camper in next to our setup. For tonight we decided that we would have dinner at the eatery at the station for Keira’s Birthday dinner. The menu wasn’t too bad, but we did think the prices were a bit on the high side. It was a nice evening and dining under the stars did have a nice ambiance about it! Two of the girls ordered meatballs, it was a shocker – 2 meat balls in gravy, flat out wouldn’t have fed a gnat! Our steaks and ribs were nice, but again better value was elsewhere! After dinner, we had a cake for the Birthday girl, which I had pre-ordered. It was a massive chocolate, cream cake, that feed us all and more and at only $35, an absolute bargin.

Keira’s massive birthday cake.

Back at camp, we got the fire going and sat around for a bit longer, before heading to bed, as we were getting up early for a sunrise viewing of Uluru, everyone deciding to do their own thing.

Saturday 13th July

Up before the alarm, which was set to go off just before 6am for our sunrise viewing of Uluru. Got the kids up and head off, travelling for about 40 mins before taking a track off to the left-hand side, then up a slight sand dune, to have what was going to be an amazing view overlooking Uluru, even though at this point it was still dark.

From our off road viewing platform.

The horizon had started to change colour, with very pretty oranges appearing, a small amount of light just starting to make its way onto the surface of Uluru. By the time the sun had finally made its way over the horizon, Uluru had changed colour, from deep reds, burgundy to lighter shades of red. It was rather cold on the sand dune and as we forgot the matches or lighter in the truck we couldn’t get a fire going, which would have been nice.

It slowly started to change colour.
The sun was fully up, still creating stunning shadows though.
Kata Tjuta in the distance from our make shift viewing platform.

From our vantage point we could also just make out the top of Kata Tjuta, where Jase spotted parachutes slowly floating through the air. By the time the sun was well and truly up and everyone was freezing we decided to make our way back to Curtain Springs, where the kids all went back to bed, I made coffees and Jase and I sat around the fire that someone in our group had re-started from the night before.

It had been decided that we would all do our own thing during the day and meet up for the sunset viewing of Uluru, with dinners and champagne. Adam, Jody, Emma, Chloe and Erin had already left for Kata Tjuta early, so we just missed them on our return. Baxter headed off to walk around and maybe up Uluru, while Louise and Mark did what we did and have a quick morning clean up. We organized what we were having for dinner while watching the sunset that evening, so packing bags, fridges, chairs and warmer gear to put on. Louise, Mark and Archie headed off and we weren’t that much after them, leaving about 11.30am for our day/evening around Uluru.

As Zarah and Kye wanted to go on a camel ride, we went straight the camel ride place to get that organized, however as they needed and adult, Jase had to go with them. Megan, Keira and I left them there, then headed out to Uluru to walk around it, a circuit of 10.6km.

Mobs of people were still climbing Uluru.
One of a few places you could take photos around Uluru.
A map of the 10.6km circuit.
It was so large up so close.
The girls looking a bit tired, nearing the end of the walk.

We parked, then headed off for our walk, the time was 1.30pm. The size of Uluru when you are a long way away is amazing, but up close, standing just below it is mind blowing. The walk was easy, following the track, which at times took you right to the base and at other times you were quite a distance from it. There were many areas during the walk that you couldn’t take any photos because of cultural beliefs, which I understand, however it was unfortunate as most of those places had the best areas to photograph.

There wasn’t as many people walking as I thought, we passed many groups going both ways, also people on bikes and three Segway groups. We got back to the truck 5mins after 3.30pm, so completing it in 2 hours was pretty impressive, we were all complaining of sore legs, blisters and other ailments.

In the truck and heading back to Yulara to meet the others for our 4pm rendezvous at IGA. Jase, Zarah and Kye had finished their camel ride which they all enjoyed and walked back into town. Jase said that the female guide was very impressive with her knowledge across a lot of things. Apparently, the estimate of camels in the wild in Australia is between 250 thousand to as many as 500 thousand, which is a surprise to us as we have only seen one dead on the side of the road, also, as camels aren’t owned by anyone, you could catch a camel and keep it as a pet!!

Louise and Mark were in IGA doing a bit of shopping, Baxter, Adam, Jody and their girls were meeting us at the Sunset Viewing carpark. We all left and met the others in the Viewing carpark, but Jase and Kye were desperate to climb Uluru, so he went off with Zarah and Kye, leaving us with the others along with our chairs, fridge, snacks and dinner things.

The carpark was filling up with everyone else doing the same thing, so we were glad we got there early for prime spots, not long after arriving, pulling out the champagne and cheering the great adventure we had all been on together. Not knowing if Jase was able to climb Uluru due to the time, I got out our evening nibbles of dips, cheeses, chips and crackers and got ready to settle down to watch what was meant to be a fantastic display of colour.

Getting ready for our sunset viewing.

It wasn’t long after we had organized everyone with drinks and nibbles, we did notice smoke was now visible from the top and apparently, they were burning off on the other side. Jase and the kids returned not having made it to the top, in fact turning around not far from the bottom as Jase didn’t realize just how steep it was, it was too late in the afternoon and Zarah didn’t want to go any further up from where they were, Kye wanted to keep climbing and was rather upset that he couldn’t.

Louise and I taking a pic of Adam getting out of the passenger side of the truck.
They were back burning behind Uluru,making for a more unique photo.
The light was turning Uluru such stunning colours.
I couldn’t take enough photos.
Keira, Archie, Erin, Megan, Chloe and Emma.
Getting darker, with deeper shades of red.
Not really a good pic, but there we were, enjoying the show.
Almost gone in the darkness.
And gone.

We stayed and watched the magnificent show of Uluru during sunset and it didn’t disappoint at all, it was a spectacular sight, watching the sun turn Uluru into amazing shades of red. We all had cup of soups with noodles for dinner, then it was time to pack up and had back to Curtain Springs. We pulled up on the side of the road back into Curtain Springs to get enough firewood to last us the rest of the evening, as it was starting to feel very cool.

Back at camp, the kids did the washing up, then Megan packed the back of the camper trailer, ready for an early departure the next morning. We all sat around the fire and had some leftover birthday cake, all discussing the trip we had just been on. It was a lovely way to end our massive two weeks of adventure.

Sunday 14th July

It had been a very cold night, one of the coldest so far on the trip, so we all had more of a sleep in than we wanted, we had a big day in the truck, travelling to the Painted Desert, which was 569kms away, partly dirt, bitumen, then dirt again.

Despite packing the kitchen and back half of the trailer last night, it still took us quite a while to get everything done, but finally setting off, after saying our goodbyes to Jody, Adam, Emma, Chloe and Erin, the girls flying back to Brisbane on Monday, while Jody and Adam make their way back with the trailer. Louise and Mark headed off to Yulara, to get Pip, their daughter, who had flown over to join them for the rest of the trip home. They were then going to play catch up and meet backup with us tomorrow.

Goodbye Curtain Springs.

We donated money towards the RFDS, then filled our trailer water tank up, which I think was getting near empty and we still had a week to go. Turning off the main road, heading towards Marla via Mulga Park Station, our next stop for diesel and hopefully a pie, the road quickly turned to dirt, however, it was an excellent dirt road, we were comfortably sitting on 100kph. At times it was corrugated, but it was mainly smooth dirt, 245kms of it, passing numerous herds of cows, but still no other wildlife.

On our way with a long day in the trucks.
Of course, the road we wanted was closed.

After just under 3 hours we made our way back on the Sturt Highway, travelling the 179kms to Marla, all on bitumen, arriving at 2.15pm, wanting that pie. The only thing Marla had in plentiful supply seemed to be diesel and cars with caravans and camper trailers, there was hardly a car/4WD that wasn’t towing something, some clean and shiny, others fairly dirty, but none in the same filthy, dust covered condition as ours.

Unfortunately, no pie was had, the girls all had hot chips, Kye a sausage roll from the servo/supermarket, Jase had an ice-cream, which there wasn’t much choice of either, myself a double espresso iced coffee. Hopefully at Oodnadatta we might yet get that pie!

Heading into the start of the Painted Desert.
The light was beautiful, this late in the afternoon at Arckaringa Station.

Left Marla all rather disappointed at the lack of lunch and on to Arckaringa Station where we were going to spend the night. The road in to the station was excellent, only slightly corrugated, but we were sitting on just under 100kph, passing two adventure bike riders with other vehicles heading the other way. Arrived at the station around 4.30pm, to a great open flat area with only a dozen campers, so we found a spot and started to set up while Baxter went off to collect some firewood for the evening.

Baxter made some new friends.

This place was amazing, it cost us $20 per vehicle per night and that included hot showers, which we all had and which, after 4 days without one, was luxurious. Dinner was pre-made spaghetti, Baxter having steak, the kids all washed up, then we all sat around before they all went to bed, as everyone was getting rather tired. We sat for a bit longer, Baxter making friends with two of the farm dogs, one actually sitting on his lap in front of the fire, snoring his head off!

Monday 15th July

Because we were waiting for Mark and Louise to catch up from the day before we all got a sleep in, until 8am anyhow. It had been rather cool overnight so the morning felt very cold, Jase and I went and had another shower, two in two days, which was rather unusual for us.

Mark and co arrived at 9am, however with some unhappy news. Apparently, Pip didn’t make her flight, so Louise had to fly back to Sydney to look after her for the rest of the week, so Mark and Archie were flying solo, which also means for the first time, the males outnumber the females for the rest of the trip.

Waking up to a very cool and foggy morning.

Today we were travelling down the Oodnadatta Track, heading to Lake Eyre, via Oodnadatta and William Creek, where we were going to have beer. We left Arckaringa Station 9.30am going via the main house, as we noticed a man at the gate and wanted to say thank you. He was the station manager, so we had a quick chat, reaping praise on how great our night had been and the hot showers and clean amenities.

The Painted Desert.
More hills of the Painted Desert.

We made it to the Oodnadatta Pink Roadhouse which was a great stop, it had everything. The girls bought themselves hoodies, I bought tea towels, stickers and a very pink beer cooler and we finally got that meat pie!! After an hour, we left for our next stop of William Creek, with the sign saying the track was open, so that was a relief.

The Pink Roadhouse at Oodnadatta.
The inside of the Pink Roadhouse.

The Oodnadatta Track was in fairly good condition, the thing that amazed us about it though, were the number of floodways it had, they were very frequent and with 2m flood depth markers the water really must flow through. You could see the floodways from quite a while away, as on both sides of the road, the trees followed what would be the river, and considering the land was so arid, seeing lines of green trees was quite a sight. Algebuckina Bridge, whichwas the longest bridge in South Australia was our next quick stop, where we all got out and had a look at this very impressive structure. The Oodnadatta Track follows the old Ghan Railway Line which is now not in use anymore, so there was a lot to see along this stretch of road.

On our way to Algebuckina Bridge.
An eagle on the side of the road, enjoying his lunch.
Algebuckina Bridge, was an amazing sight.
Looking down on the trucks from the bridge, quite high up.
The bridge goes for 587m in length.
All of us on the bridge.
It was an awesome thing to see.
Ready to go, Baxter had already taken the hard track and was coming back.

A rusted old unused water tank beside the railway line was our next attraction, yet again, another fascinating piece of history to see. Mark found a few sleeper pegs, which although rusted, were still in good condition, making Jase and Baxter quite excited to hold such old relics.

The old rusted water tank.

Making our way to William Creek, through what was very flat farmland, very remote and at times just arid countryside. We arrived at William Creek at 3.15pm ready for a beer and some hot chips, however the kids were slightly disappointed as the kitchen had shut at 2pm, so there were no hot chips. The adults all had a beer, the kids a soft drink, two pies and 3 ham and cheese toasted sandwiches were had. It’s great chatting to other campers at these stops, as everyone has a different adventure to share, where they have been or where they were headed..

Some more old ruins we passed.
On our way to William Creek Hotel.
Enjoying the ambience of the William Creek Hotel.
The kids enjoying their pies and toasted sandwiches.
Inside the William Creek Hotel.
Another iconic outback pub ticked off our list.

We stayed for a 2nd beer and eventually headed off around 4.30pm, a short drive down the road and we turned left onto the track out to Halligan Bay. This was not a bad track, some ruts and corrugations but we were able to head along around 100kph, it was 60 odd km’s out to the campsite on the edge to the lake. The water came into view from about 10km away, it was very surreal, the land looked like the surface of the moon, Jase said it reminded him of Hawaii, the Big Island which is lava fields everywhere. 

That’s what we like to see, all tracks open!
Our first view of Lake Eyre.
Yet again, another amazing sight on this trip.
We have all been to the highest point in Australia, and now the lowest, at 15m below sea level.
It looked just like the ocean.
The sun was setting with some beautiful colours.
Night was falling.
As we couldn’t have a fire, it was getting rather cool.
The sun was gone, leaving a beautiful colourful vignette on the horizon.

It was remote but there quite a few campers already set up, we found our spot just on dusk, set up and settled down to a dinner of bacon and egg wraps off the gas as there were no fires allowed. We caught the last rays of the sunset and headed to bed not long after as it was fairly cool and we had had a big day.

Tuesday 16th July

We were up reasonably early, we had another big day to cover. Breakfast was done and the trailer packed, we walked out on to the lake as far as we were game as the surface broke apart under foot into a boggy mess as Kye had discovered the night before – his shoes ended up in the garbage! We headed back to the turn onto the Oodnadatta track and the next stop was Coward Springs. We stopped here, but consensus was to keep moving as opposed to an hour plus stop to bath in the spring.

The sun rising over the hills behind us.
Even with the sun up, it was still rather cool.
Down at was exactly like the foreshore of the ocean.
A raw and amazing thing for the kids to see, Lake Eyre with so much water.
Getting ready for another long trip in the trucks.
The area around Lake Eyre.

A bit further on we stopped at Curdimurka ruins. The track in to it was fenced off so it was a little walk in, but it was impressive, in pretty good nick and just amazing to think that people lived out here in the middle of nowhere relying on the train to keep them surviving.

Curdimurka ruins, in the middle of no where.
Our type of house.

We continued on to Mutonia Sculpture Park otherwise known as Plane Henge – quirky and again, you have to laugh at our Australian sense of humor! Half an hour later we arrived in Maree and had a coffee and our packed lunch. We had a look at the old Ghan trains, and Baxter headed over to the yacht club for a souvenir beer cooler! Unfortunately, Maree also is the end of the line for dirt track! The road becomes bitumen from here on to Port Augusta. We picked up the speed and continued south through to our next stop at Rawnsley Park at Wilpena Pound.

Plane Henge.
An amazing birdsnest on top of one of the sculptures.
There were some quirky pieces of artwork.
Marree, loved the sign to ‘Keep of the Grass’.
An original Ghan Engine.

The road takes you past the giant Leigh Creek coal mine, we seemed to travel alongside it for km’s it was way bigger that the ones in the Hunter valley that we are well used to. We stopped quickly at the township to fill both Navara’s and continued south following the train line. We had suspicions that the train line wasn’t in use, this was confirmed when we crossed creeks and the bridges for the line were fenced off at each end. We researched the mine when we got home and discovered it had been closed in 2015. The township was suffering and looking like closing as it was the service town for the mine, a sad decline.

A wild brumbie just on the road.
The Flinders Rangers.
Finally, some wildlife.

We reached the turnoff for the Moralana Scenic Drive which took us through the Flinders Ranges and across to Rawnsley Park, we arrived just on dusk and after checking in and paying we headed through the park to find a nice flat site away from everyone else. We set up and got a great fire going and settled down to dinner. It was a wonderful setting as we watched the moon rise over the pound and enjoyed the warmth of the fire, as you could feel a slight coolness in the air, there was no rain forecast, but the air had a dampness about it.

Our first sunset overlooking the mountains at our camping spot in The Flinders Rangers.

We all stayed up longer than some of the previous evenings, as we all knew we could sleep in the next morning and the heat of the fire was too hard to leave!

Wednesday 17th July

Finally, a sleep in, something everyone needed, as putting the trailer up and down every day was very tiresome, and starting to wear us down especially for Jase and I. It was a beautiful morning, although cold, so we spent it around camp repairing a few things, tidying up and just organizing everything for last few days of the trip. There were a few wispy clouds just starting to appear above the mountains to the right of us and the temperature dropped a few degs, turning what was a nice morning into a morning that looked quite threatening.

And here come the clouds.
Our nice morning, turning quite fresh.
Awesome start to the morning.

We couldn’t believe our eyes when we saw that the truck had a flat tyre on the rear wheel. All the distance we had traveled over ridiculously crappy roads and to be back on bitumen!! After Jase fixed the numerous things that needed repairing, we set about changing the tyre, which unfortunately took some time. We needed the high-lift jack, as the normal jack wasn’t high enough, then it took a bit of time getting the tyre off the truck, due to the wheel nuts been put on so tightly. Eventually, after Baxter stood on the socket, they got the tyre off and after lifting the truck a bit more, a new tyre was put on.

Megan and I joined Baxter who was going to have a shower and as Mark mentioned, they were great showers, the block was fairly new, so it was clean and the water was hot, which is very much appreciated, nice to be clean yet again!!

We still wanted to go for a drive to Wilpena Pound for a look, however as Megan wasn’t feeling the best, she stayed behind with Baxter, who wanted to do some washing and tidy up a few things, so the rest of us headed off for the afternoon. We had only just head off from our campsite when Mark radioed that our right back tyre looked a little flat as well, so we stopped at the entrance and Jase spotted a nail, great, two flats in two days!!

Our walk to Wilpenna Pound, which the kids weren’t interested in.

Wilpena Pound was only 30km down the road, so we put air in the back tyre at the servo at Wilpena, went into the info center and had a quick chat before deciding to do the Hills Homestead walk, which was a 2 hour round trip. Zarah, Keira, Kye and Archie were not impressed we were doing a walk, it was rather fresh, 12 deg, but it felt a lot cooler with the wind chill.

Hill Homestead at Wilpenna Pound.

The walk was very easy, along a flat dirt track, which followed a dry creek bed, until slowly making its way up a slight incline, where the homestead was, which was a beautiful old sandstone building. The walk continued for another few hundred meters past the homestead, up the side of the mountain to a platform which had a view overlooking Wilpena Pound. The comments from the kids was that it wasn’t worth it, so they all headed back to the info center, while Mark, Jase and I walked up to the other lookout, which was a fairly steep, short 400m.

The view from the lower viewing platform at Wilpenna Pound.
You could make out that is was bowl shaped, the view from the air would be spectacular.
It was, yet again an amazing place.
It was getting late, and cool, so we headed back.

Although you could see that you were looking into the middle of a large bowl, it would have been great to see it from the air to really appreciate the whole thing. We went back to the info center, bought a few things for dinner from the IGA, then headed back to the campsite, stopping to get some firewood on the way, as it was still rather fresh, so a fire was very much needed.

The view from where we got firewood from.
The colours of the sun setting over the mountains at the campsite.

Baxter helped us plug the nail puncture we had in the back tyre and yet again it took a bit longer than we thought, as plugging the hole needed a lot of force, which was something only Baxter could provide. He had also got the fire going early in the afternoon, so it was really cranking by the time we got back. The tyre was done, so Jase took, Zarah, Keira and Kye off to have showers, while I started dinner, which was alfredo pasta, grilled capsicum and potato chips with pork chops, the others having lamb, veg and chips, all cooked over the coals.

The final hours of sun.
Our cranking fire for the night.

It was going to be a full moon, so watching it rise over the mountains, so large and yellow, was amazing, we started this trip with a full moon and have now done a full lunar cycle. Jase and the kids came back, all squeaky clean, more wood was put on the fire, then we settled down while our dinner cooked.

We had a full Lunar Cycle of this moon on this trip.

Everyone enjoyed their dinner, while the fire was cranking, then eventually when that died down, we all went to bed and not because it was cold, but because it was getting late and we kind of wanted to get away earlier than normal the next day.

Thursday 18th July

It was hard to get up as it felt cold and from looking out of our kitchen window, we could see there had been a frost overnight, making it extra hard to leave the warmth of bed. It was 2 degs when we finally rose, with the sun just starting to make its way over the mountain range, turning a cold morning into a beautiful clear day. Jase added some wood to the ashes and within 10mins we had a flame, keeping those who were up toasty and warm, it was lovely sitting around the fire, drinking our coffee and watching the day begin.

One of only a few frosts we had had the whole trip.

As everything was very wet from the heavy dew, it took us a lot longer to pack up, even then we had to pack up a wet tent, finally ready to leave at 10.30am, which was very late.

The fog that was over the campsite.
We needed a fire to get going, as it was rather fresh.
The stunning view of The Elder Range.

We were pushing through to Menindee Lakes, where we were going to spend the night, our second last for the trip, which is sad. We needed diesel, as our light had just come on, so we made a bee line for Hawker, which turned out to be a great little town, with a café, where we got coffees, and as the diesel was only $1.57 per litre, we filled the truck.

Oh yeahhhh….finally, road runners!!
Awesome action shot.

Back behind the wheel, now heading for Yunta, which was 232km away on dirt road and after leaving Hawker, travelling on dirt road, we finally started to see some wildlife with numerous mobs of emus running every which way, two actually ran in front of the car for a few hundred meters before finally ducking left. Not long after the turn off to Yunta, we let the tyres down, which was great timing as, not long after the intersection, the road became rather rocky.

When we crested the hill we thought this was a lake ahead of us.

The road to Yunta was rocky, very windy, a lot of dry creek crossings, floodways and cattle grids which made for a very interesting drive. We passed the gold mining town ruins of Waukaringa where we all stopped for a look, they were great ruins, the main building was a hotel, which was very large, the licencee closing up in 1967, not that long ago, in the scheme of things. We also finally got to see a shingle back lizard, just lazing in the sun, until the kids all came along and ruined his serenity, making him move on to another spot.

A Shingleback Lizard at the ruins.
Waukaringa Ruins about 40kms outside of Yunta.
The Hotel at Waukaringa Ruins.
He hung around for a bit, before getting annoyed and disappearing.

It was then only 40km to Yunta, which didn’t take us that long, as the dirt road we were on was great. We pulled into one of the two servos to air up the tyres as we were now back on bitumen until Menindee Lakes, which was roughly 300km away, driving through Broken Hill.

Just leaving Broken Hill, heading to Menindee Lakes.
As it was so late in the afternoon,, we didn’t get a chance to have a look around.
Last sparklers of the trip.
Finally the settings on the camera were just right.
The last sparkler.

We got into Broken Hill about 4pm, and Baxter quickly grabbed KFC, must have been missing it and we also grabbed a lotto ticket. We headed off to Menindee just on dusk and the kangaroos were everywhere and as we drove around 80-90kph on high alert, it took a long time to drive the 100km. It had been the most kangaroos we  have seen at dusk on our travels, we all had a few close calls but made it to Menindee, eventually in the dark. We quickly found a spot on the edge of the lake and set up camp, got a fire going and had a quick bowl of noodles and soup, as it was cool and we were tired, it wasn’t long before we were all in bed by 9pm.

Friday 19th July

It was a coolish morning, so I grabbed little twigs, dried leaves to get a morning fire going, to warm up my hands after getting lunches ready for the day. Now that we could see, we were indeed on the edge of the lake – nothing but trees and scrub and sand, absolutely no water! The kids were all up earlier than other mornings, which was helpful, as we stopped in to Menindee for breakfast, which was a bacon and egg roll, with coffees, we just didn’t realise it would take well over half an hour to make!!

We were right beside the lake, but no water to be seen.
Second last pack down of the trailer.
Menindee Lakes, a very sad sight indeed.
There was a very small amount of water.

Finally, on the road by after 9.30am after what half of us described our bacon and egg rolls as delicious, the other half as crap, Jase and I thought they were yum! We pulled up to Ivanhoe after 205km of dirt road, one quarter of which was excellent, the other three quarters was filled with potholes, rutted, sandy and at times, needing a side track because of the large washouts in the middle, we decided that the council from Menindee obviously went as far as they could be bothered to grade the road, then just gave up.

The kids were excited to finally see a sign with Sydney on it!

We stopped at Hilston, which was another 100km on from Ivanhoe, getting lunches out, ready for the next leg, which was to Lake Cargellico, 100kms on from Hilston, which we now think was bitumen all the way back to Sydney.

Surprisingly, Lake Cargellico had a water in it, reminding us a little bit like Lake Jindabyne, it was a pretty sight to see so much water, after Menindee Lakes had nothing. Continuing east, we were passing through Condoblin, which was yet again, roughly 100kms on from Lake Cargellico, Baxter needed some fuel, so we stopped quickly before the final 90kms to Forbes, which was to be our final overnight stop for the trip.

The last set up of the trailer, in Forbes, beside the Lachlan River.

As promised to Mark, we pulled up just as the sun was setting, making it the first stop in a while where we were actually setting up with natural light! We all set up camp at an overnight camping spot just on the other side of the Lachlan River along with a lot of other overnight campers, then headed into a pub for dinner.

It was nice to sit and have a beer or two, dinner and discuss the last 3 weeks adventure we had had. We weren’t rushing to get back to camp as we hadn’t taken out any chairs, so it was straight to bed when we got there, finally hitting the sack back at camp at 8.30pm.

Saturday 20th July

It felt like a cool morning, as you could see your breath in the tent, sometime during the morning the birds made so much noise, it sounded like there were hundreds of them, when Jase and I finally got up to drive to get a coffee the temperature said 3 degs in the truck. We got back and the kids were all up, with the inside of the tent all done, ready for us to pack away for the last time on this trip, we think they were desperate to get home.

The Lachlan River, we have seen it much fuller.
It was a pretty morning standing there.

Ready to leave by 9.30am for our final push home, heading towards Eugowra, although having to stop for the local farmer and his cattle, while he herded them down the road, with his dog and one lonely sheep, who obviously thought he was a cow!!

The sheep was funny amongst the cows.

The drive to Orange was easy and quick, then on to Bathurst where Mark wanted a spin around the Mount Panorama racing circuit, lucky we both made poll position! We stopped for lunch at a bakery, but unfortunately not the same one we had been to before though, so the pies were a little bit disappointing.

Oh yeah, pole position, trailer and all.
Just over 7000kms on this trip.

Back in the truck and our last 3 hour journey for this trip, the traffic through Lithgow was flowing nicely, so we were making good time. We finally arrived back in Narrabeen around 4pm, some 22 days and 7,100km’s later!

We were tired, we were on the go the whole way, but that puts it into perspective just how far we traveled and how big this country is! It is fantastic out in the middle and to steal a quote “it’s hard to describe why it’s so captivating when there’s essentially nothing there”. We would love to head back tomorrow, but tomorrow will have to wait, for now. 

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