Corner Country Trip - April 2003.

 

Participants :-

  • Barry, Chris and Tegan in a Land rover Discovery TDI and a Campermatic camper.
  • Shane, Zoe, Sara in a Holden Jackeroo V6 Petrol with a Hard floor Camper.
  • Frank, Kaylene , Gary in a Ford Maverick 4.2 diesel with Aussie Swag Camper.

Monday 14th April - Day 1
We had planned to meet 15 kilometres west of Goondiwindi on the road to St George at a free camping area that we found in a camping book, but as with all the best made plans, things can change as we found out. Frank met up with Shane at Laidley and headed for Toowoomba. Once they arrived there was a bit of confusion and they were separated, with Shane heading for Goondiwindi through Warwick and Frank taking the more direct route along the Gore Hwy to Goondiwindi. At this stage it started to rain quite heavy. By this time Barry was about 4 hours behind with no idea what has happened to Shane and Frank.

Flooded road
So with heavy rain falling, Frank could not find the camping area outside of Goondiwindi and waited on the side of the road to try and catch Shane on the UHF but with no luck, Frank continued on to another camping area that Shane might be at. Shane at this stage was in Goondiwindi believing Frank would be at the camping area 15 kilometres outside of town. By this time Barry has had a very pleasant drive to the Gore Hwy where the rain has just started. Frank had travelled about 80 kilometres past the camping area, only to find the road closed due to flooding, and was informed there was free camping at the show grounds at Tallwood so he set up camp there hoping we would all find him. When Barry arrived at the previously arranged camping area with no one to be seen, he continued on towards St George, calling on the radio trying to find Frank and Shane. About 30 kilometres out of Tallwood Barry made radio contact with Frank (luckily Franks aerial on his car is the size of a flag pole and has a good range). Franks first words to me were "Shane with you?".

Flooded road
Arriving at Tallwood we were starting to get concerned about the where abouts of Shane, just then we heard Shane on the radio. Shane went past Tallwood and when he decided to turn around got bogged and had to wait to be pulled out. So a rocky start to our trip, but we did find a new camping spot at Tallwood which we all recommend to everyone looking for a free overnight camp with power and hot and cold showers.

Tuesday 15th April - Day 2
Waking up, everyone is excited to continue on to see if the road was passable today. Breakfast was a bit of a rush with Shane and Chris devouring a cheese cake without any eating utensils.

Rushing breakfast

Camp near Eulo
When everyone was packed up ready to go the rain had stopped, but the road to St George was still flooded although passable for 4wd vehicles. Arriving at St George we refuelled, had morning tea and then continued on to Cunnamulla. We stopped at the visitors centre to find out where there was a good camping spot and they suggested a bird watching area 20 kilometres before Eulo. There are no designated camping areas there - just drive into the bush and put up the campers.
This was to be our first night camping without any amenities and everything went well. We had a great fire to cook on and we all enjoyed the peace and quiet of the bush. I had a quiet walk late in the afternoon to see if I could see any of the birds that I was told would be here, but I think because the water hole was dry they must be elsewhere.

Wednesday 16th April - Day 3
We travelled into Eulo and caught up with some people we had met at the Rolleston pub on our Ayers Rock trip last year. They are the bee keepers in Eulo and it was a nice surprise to catch up with them again. Eulo is little more than a one-pub, one-store town with a average population of about 35, and yet it has a charm which makes it something more than just another outback Queensland town. Surprisingly - there is quite a lot to see around here. Located about 64 kilometres west of Cunnamulla and 890 kilometres west of Brisbane, Eulo has the Paroo Track, where they hold the world lizard racing championships each year.


Paroo Track sign

The Big Lizard
As you enter Eulo, on the right, before the Eulo Queen pub, is the famous 'Paroo Track' where the lizard racing is held each August. At the left-hand side of the track is a piece of granite with a plaque, which reads: 'Cunnamulla-Eulo Festival of Opals. 'Destructo', champion-racing cockroach accidentally killed at this track (24.8.1980) after winning the challenge (sic) stakes against 'Wooden Head' champion racing lizard 1980. Unveiled 23.8.81'. Somehow the spelling mistake, the absurdity of a cockroach racing a lizard, the circumstances under which the cockroach was trodden underfoot (by a drunken and enthusiastic punter, perhaps?), all lend an immediate charm to the town.
Like Yowah, Eulo has seasonal variations in its population. In winter some dozen beekeepers bring their bees from the south to feed on the eucalypts in the area. The honey, a distinctive Warrego variety, is dark and delicious.

The centrepiece of the town is the Eulo Queen Hotel in the main street. It was named after Isabel MacIntosh who became known as the Opal Queen of Eulo. She had arrived in Australia in 1876, worked as a governess on a station near Bourke, and married a man called MacIntosh who, at the time, was the overseer on the station. The couple later ran the store near Cunnamulla where the Cobb & Co. coaches stopped. With the profits from this venture they bought the hotel at Eulo. It was here that the opal miners came to drink and it was through this connection that Isabel accumulated a collection of opals, which were reputedly worth over £4000. Throughout the far west of Queensland she became known as the 'Eulo Queen'.

Mud Springs

Mud Springs sign

Eulo's Mud Springs
8 kilometres out of Eulo on the road to Thargomindah is a sign which reads: 'Mud Springs Area.
Built up over centuries these springs were the original release valves for the Great Artesian Basin. The tops are usually soft and jelly like and are the release valves. Occasionally they do explode with a loud report audible for miles.
'
If you cross the stile and walk about 100 metres you will see a large mound. Climb to the top and there is a stick which, when pushed into the mound, sinks into a bed of soft clay. In spite of its hard exterior the mound is obviously thick, glutinous clay.

Artesian Bore
Continuing on, we travelled to Thargomindah where we stop for a look at the town's main claim to fame, its artesian bore. The bore, which lies 2 kilometres out of town on the Noccundra road, was drilled in 1891 and by 1893, having drilled to a depth of 795 metres, the water came to the surface. It was then that the town successfully attempted a unique experiment. The pressure of the bore water was used drive a generator which supplied the town's electricity. Enthusiasts have described this as Australia's first hydro-electricity scheme. The system operated until 1951. Today the bore still provides the town's water supply. The water reaches the surface at 84°C.
That afternoon we made to our next camping spot on the banks of the Wilson river at Noccundra. At $5 per night camping fees and $2 hot showers we were refreshed. This is a very popular overnight camping spot with plenty of wood to be found for a fire

Noccundra Hotel
141 kilometres west of Thargomindah on a sealed road, is the Noccundra Hotel. The hotel has been listed by the National Trust as it is one of the oldest buildings standing in southwest Queensland, and it has interesting stylistic similarities to buildings in South Australia. It is a single storey stone hotel with an iron clad roof and was built, probably in 1870 (although some sources say as late as 1882), to meet the needs of the local stockmen. The hotel offers cabin-style accommodation and has powered sites for caravan.

Thursday 17th April - Day 4
We are really starting to enter the outback now. The road is dirt and rough, and with the rain they have had here lately, it makes for interesting driving. Today we will make it to Cameron Corner, although there is only one building there. It is a hotel, grocery shop and fuel depot all in one, and is also where the Queensland, New South Wales, and South Australian borders meet.


Cameron Corner

A tyre problem.

Which way now??

Here travellers also meet the the world's longest fence, the Wild Dog Fence, with a total length of 5614 kilometres from Jimbour in Queensland to the Great Australian Bight. Originally built to keep rabbits out of South Australia, the fence is now maintained to prevent dingoes entering sheep grazing areas. Staff residing in cottages at various points along the border repair holes in the two metre high netting, or clear sand which builds up along the base.


Cameron Corner

Cameron Corner

Campsite.

Camping at Cameron Corner is beside the dog fence at $5 per night, and hot showers can be had at the Cameron Corner store. The camping area is just a big open area and you just pick a spot, make a fire and enjoy a beautiful moon light night with a amazing amount of stars to be seen. Here Shane had to do some running repairs on a flat tyre.


Cameron Corner.

Spectacular moon.

The dingo fence.

Friday 18th April - Day 5
The plan is a simple one today, travelling from Cameron Corner to Innamincka. 235 kilometres along the Strzelecki Track should be an easy 3 hours drive at the most.
Well - the plan was a good idea - carrying out the plan was somewhat more challenging.

About the Strzelecki Track.
The Strzelecki Track was pioneered by bushman Harry Redford, who brought stolen cattle from Queensland to South Australia in 1871. He was later immortalised as Captain Starlight in Rolfe Boldrewood's novel, Robbery under Arms.
In early days, the track was the scene of John Flynn's first efforts at radio communication. Driving a Model T Ford with his associate, George Towns, he headed up the Strzelecki Track in the early 1920s experimenting with Morse signals sent from a primitive set. On his return, a stationhand told him that he'd heard a faint signal from Cordillo Downs, a homestead north of Innamincka. It was the first positive result of many months of experimentation.


Frank bogged.

The crazy camel

Shane playing.

The Strzelecki Track doesn't present any major problems these days. In good weather it's passable to conventional vehicles, although care is required because of the many crests and sections of sand and loose rock. The track is maintained mainly for traffic to the Gidgealpa and Moomba oil and natural gas fields and while it's generally pretty good, can deteriorate suddenly due to unfavourable weather conditions.
Well - it may be no problem when it isn't wet, but we spent 9 hours traversing the Strzelecki Track, although even with a few minor mishaps we enjoyed every minute. There had being a lot of flooding over the roads and surrounding areas with many slippery muddy water crossings and even a crazy camel. We made it to Innamincka though, and camped down on the Common beside the Cooper Creek.


Shane nearly bogged.

The Strzelecki track.

Barry bogged.

Innamincka was geographically destined to play a major role in the early explorations of Australia's unknown interior to its north and west. Its central location and reliable water supply made it an ideal base camp or resting places for expeditions and cattle drives from the east and south. Riverbeds, with their canopies of shade, offered mid-summer relief for travellers and stock alike, and there were plentiful supplies of fish and game most of the year.
Captain Charles Sturt became the first European to set eyes on the Innamincka wetlands in 1844-45. Only 15 years later Burke and Wills died here, tragically close to help. Their companion John King's life was saved by local Aborigines who discovered him in desperate plight and sustained him with their own survival skills.
Between 1870 and 1890 the northeast of South Australia saw the arrival of sheep and cattle, leading to the establishment of the pastoral industry at the turn of the century. Sidney Kidman (later Sir Sidney Kidman) bought Coongie Station in 1902 and Innamincka Station in 1908. The 2 properties were merged in 1930 under a pastoral lease, which is still held by the Kidman Pastoral Company.
The stone-walled Elizabeth Symon Nursing Home, opened at Innamincka in 1928, was part of a network of outback hospitals providing medical services for people living in isolated areas. Today the restored building serves as the Innamincka Regional Reserve Park headquarters and information centre.
In 1988 Innamincka Regional Reserve made its own contribution to history when it was established to assure the integrity of the wetlands with both commercial and managed recreational use continuing side by side. It was the first reserve of its type in Australia.


Innamincka Hotel.

Burke's grave site.

The Trading Post.

We spent two days at Innamincka to catch up on washing and to take a drive out to Coongie Lakes, an absolute must see. It is really quite amazing seeing so much water in a desert. Coongie Lakes is listed as a Ramsar Wetland of International Importance. This listing recognises the significance of the wetland to South Australia, Australia and internationally. The waterbird diversity is high for such an arid wetland and is a significant feeding, resting and breeding site for an enormous number of birds that migrate to the area.

Coongie Lakes
The wetlands in the park comprise of channels, waterholes, lakes, internal deltas and numerous shallow flood out plains, interdune corridors and swamps, which attract the waterbirds and other dependant species. There is a variety of recreational activities to enjoy including bird watching, photography, bushwalking and canoeing. This oasis is a deeply spiritual site for the Aboriginal people who inhabited the area it also has significant European history associated with exploration and pastoralism.

Sunday 20th April - Day 7
Today we are heading to Haddons Corner where the Queensland, South Australian border makes a 90° bend to the west - another well made plan that did not work out quite as it should.
We left Innamincka, and on the way out stopped to see the Dig tree, another historical tree which the Forest Service has doctored and bears a more tragic legend than the Tree of Knowledge. The Burke and Wills "Dig" Tree stands on the bank of Cooper Creek in Queensland's south west corner, not far from the South Australian border.
Thought to be over 200 years old, the coolibah Eucalyptus microtheca marks the site where the explorers, Burke and Wills, died of starvation in 1861, after an epic south-to-north expedition through Australia.
Headed by Burke, the original exploration group of 17 men departed Melbourne on August 20, 1860. But in mid-November - frustrated by their lack of progress - Burke took Wills and two other men and went ahead to blaze his way up to the Gulf of Carpentaria, leaving the rest of the party to wait at Cooper Creek.

Dig Tree sign
Unfortunately for the explorers, their party did not wait long enough. Burke's northward dash took a month longer than he anticipated, and the group returned to Cooper Creek only to find that the rest of the party had already moved on.
However, they had left a cache of supplies behind for the explorers, indicating their burial site by carving the message, DIG 3FT NW, on a coolibah tree previously marked Camp BLXV.
After making several attempts to reach civilisation Burke and Wills died of starvation at Cooper Creek and the now-famous "Dig" Tree marks the site where they met their tragic end.

Robert O'hara Burke
These days, the tree is located on the privately-owned Innamincka Station and the land surrounding it has been turned into an historical reserve. Although the word 'DIG' can no longer be read, the figures 'BLXV' are still visible on the tree and it is something of a tourist attraction. In 1898 John Dick carved Burkes face into another tree (the Face Tree) about 30 metres downstream of the "Dig Tree".
Ross Wylie says too much attention is its biggest problem. "The Dig Tree receives more than 35,000 visitors every year and we have to be careful it doesn't get loved to death," Ross explains.
"It's not properly fenced and with so many people tramping round it, its roots are likely to be suffocated or damaged by soil compaction."
Ross visited the Dig Tree in May 1991 after the Environment and Heritage Minister, Pat Comben, asked the Queensland Forest Service to inspect it, following reports that it was in poor condition.
"The tree is actually in pretty good shape," says Ross. "Its main problems were termites in the main stem, dead wood in its crown and the impact made by so many visitors."
'People traffic' is the major threat to the tree's health and damage to its root system could result in dieback and premature death.
Ross says the tree's root system should be shielded from the impact of visitors but because the area is prone to flooding, it is impossible to build a protective platform around the tree. He appeals to people to bear this in mind when visiting the "Dig" Tree.
"They need to be aware that they could damage the root system by going too close to it." However, Ross says the tree is in no immediate danger. "The Dig Tree is a very vigorous tree and should live at least another 50 to 100 years."
Leaving the Dig tree we may of made a slight error in judgement and taken a wrong turn, but being on a great adventure we continued on - getting ourselves just a tad lost. We were stopped by a employee from the Ballera Gas fields who informed us we were on a private road. After asking where we were headed, he informed us that there was a better way to get there along Cooks Way. So instead of turning us around he guided us through the gas field.


Ballera Gas fields.

Ballera Gas fields.

Ballera Gas fields.

He told us of a camping spot beside a billabong on Cooks Way near Durham Downs Station. On the way Shane was leading and pulled over for yet another flat tyre, and while changing it, we realized I had a smashed rear window. Frank was feeling quite good because he had brought new tyres for the trip, but we were on Sturts Stony Desert, and when he walked back to his car he found he had a flat as well. I might add he was not very impressed about it either. After changing the tyres and taping up the rear window we continued to our camping spot on Durham Downs Station. Frank was a little anxious that the station owner might chase us off, but Durham Downs is three million acres, so my thinking was, as long as we leave it as we find it, it should be a fine place to camp. We had one of our best fires that night as there was plenty of wood on the ground to collect - some type of a red wood that made a great fire.


Strzelecki desert.

Camp site.

Cooks Way.

Monday 21th April - Day 8
Today we hope to make Birdsville after going to Haddon's corner but still unsure of our exact position but heading it the general direction we should come across the road to Haddon's corner with the track in front of us getting smaller and smaller and with no tyre tracks on the road it became a concern that this track had not being used for quite a long time. Finding a air strip beside the road gave us a marker for the gps to give us our exact position on our maps. From the airstrip we worked out we were and in about 20k we would be on the right track and about 110k from Haddon's corner arriving at the turn off to Haddon's corner was a relief I think our slight detour was about 300k but was a enjoyable drive. The track into Haddon's corner was a challenge and a lot of fun. Arriving at the corner to find a marker and a visitor's book to sign.


Haddon's Corner road

Haddon's Corner road

Haddon's Corner

Leaving Haddon's corner Shane had some concerns that because we had made our slight detour and he was the only one driving a petrol 4wd that the 280k to Birdsville might be out of his range. Checking the map to closes fuel would be Windorah 160k away. So that the new plan by this stage of the trip it was easy to see by the state of the vehicles we had covered sone quite rough terrain.


Road to Birdsville

Funny noises

The Teflon car

When we turned on the road to Windorah it had being 6 days since we last drove on bitumen and with no corrugations, ruts, sand, water, and mud was quite a pleasant drive. When we were 6k for Windorah Shane ran out of fuel so I grabbed a jerry can went to town to get some petrol after everybody had made it to Windorah we decided to stay the night at the camp ground in town $5 per car per night what a bargain with flushing toilets, hot showers, was wonderful place.

Tuesday 22th April - Day 9
Heading for Birdsville we past through a place call Betoota.

Betoota Hotel sign

Betoota Hotel - 1974
Betoota, population 0, is the gateway from the east being just over 700km form Charleville and approximately 70 metres above sea level with an annual rainfall of 200ml to 400ml. In 1885, the Queensland Government decided to set up a customs post at Betoota collecting a toll for stock as they travelled the stock route. This practice continued until Federation in 1901. Betoota was also once the site of a Cobb & Co. change station.
Except for surrounding cattle stations, Betoota stands alone in the middle of a vast gibber plain. It was surveyed as a town in 1887 and quickly grew to three hotels, a police station, store and post office. The remaining hotel was built in the late 1880's and was a favourite resting and refuelling spot for visitors until it closed in October 1997.

Betoota Hotel - 1974

Betoota brumbies
The town boasts an impressive racetrack, which comes alive the third weekend in September each year as part of the Simpson Desert Racing Carnival and a new dry weather airstrip will make it a pleasure for the enthusiast to attend the very successful race and gymkhana meetings.

Arriving at Birdsville was a nice surprise we stayed at the caravan park there on the Diamantina river what a great friendly place there are quite a lot to do in town with the first a visit to the famous Birdsville pub with other attractions being the visitors centre, the museum, and for every 4wd enthuses the chance to test there driving skills on big red the biggest sand dune of the Simpson desert.
Birdsville
Famous isolated outback township, which is little more than a pub and few houses.

Birdsville Hotel
It is hard to imagine any place in Australia, which evokes quite the sense of loneliness and isolation as that of Birdsville, the tiny settlement at the northern end of the notorious and dangerous Birdsville track. The poet Douglas Stewart seemed to sum it up when he wrote that it 'has shrunk / between two deserts / on a ridge in the sun'. Located over 1600 km west of Brisbane in the vast Diamantina Shire, Birdsville sits on the edge of the Simpson Desert and operates like some kind of mysterious magnet to people who want to go to the most isolated place on the continent. The first European explorer to venture into this lonely area was Charles Sturt, after whom Sturt Stony Desert to the southeast of the town is named. Sturt was unambiguous in his response to the terrain describing it as a 'desperate region having no parallel on earth'. Such warnings didn't stop the intrepid and foolhardy Burke and Wills who, with King and Gray, passed only a few kilometres from the present town site on their 1860 journey to the Gulf. Wills noted the large number of birds in the region. In the 1870s the grab for pastoral land reached westwards and a series of large stations - Pandie Pandie, Planet Downs, and Alton Downs - were established. Pandie Pandie is located 15 km south of the Queensland border although the original homestead has a distinctly Queensland feel to it.
Birdsville was originally named Diamantina Crossing. The Diamantina River, which intermittently runs to the east of the town, was named in 1866 by the explorer William Landsborough who was honouring the wife of Queensland's first governor, the unusually-named Diamantina Roma Bowen.
The town was renamed Birdsville by the owner of Pandie Pandie Station who was amazed by the diversity of bird life which inhabited the area. It is extraordinary to find seagulls in the salt lakes, which exist in the area.
Birdsville came to importance in the 1880s when the drovers and station owners in western Queensland realised that moving cattle through the Channel country and down the Birdsville Track to the railhead at Marree (which had been opened in 1884) was the most efficient way to transport cattle to the coastal markets.
Pre-Federation Queensland established a customs collection point at Birdsville, which was only 10 km from the border. By the late 1880s there were two hotels, three general stores, a doctor, a bank and a police magistrate.

Caravan park Café
Birdsville's raison d'etre virtually disappeared with Federation in 1901 when interstate trade was freed and since then it has been declining in importance. It currently has a population of about 100. The current fascination with isolated places has meant that a regular stream of 4WD adventurers, all determined to travel the 500 km of the Birdsville track, pass through the town. This adventure travelling has done much to sustain the town's faltering economy.

Wednesday 23th April - Day 10
Today is the challenge to see who will get to the top of Big Red. The 35 kilometre drive out there is very corrugated, and with this being my first time in the Simpson desert it is a amazing sight. I don't think any photo can do it justice. The sand dunes stretch for as far as the eye can see.


Frank gets airborne

Shane on Big Red

Barry made it

Arriving at the base of Big Red there are a few butterflys in the tummy at the challenge ahead. After trying 3 times I arrive at the top thinking to myself - this is not so bad. We all arrived at the top and thought an attack from the western side could be fun - and it was quite a challenge.


The track down.

A little extra help

A longer run up

I had quite a few tries before making it to the top. The only way up for me was low range 4th gear 4wd flat out. Shane with a v6 petrol Jackeroo had lots of power for the climb, Frank however in the 4.2 Patrol, although a powerful motor, was quite heavy in the soft sand, but put on a fantastic show for us trying to reach the top of Big Red.

Thursday 24th April - Day 11
Time to leave the outback now and head for home, but I am sure we will be back - there are many places to see out here, many challenges to meet. On the way back we camped at the caravan park at Quilpie, and just out of town there is quite a good area where you can fossick for opals.
For over 30 years, Quilpie Opals has been presenting the finest opal jewellery and loose stones that Australia has to offer. In that time, we have established a well-deserved reputation for quality and service, which is second to none.
Quilpie Opals is an Australian owned and operated family business established in 1969 in the outback-mining township of Quilpie, Western Queensland.
From humble beginnings our company quickly grew into a large scale opal mining operation, developing open-cut mining techniques which revolutionized the industry at the time.
We opened our first retail store in Brisbane in 1981. Nowadays our modern showroom offers a vast selection of styles for ladies and gents including black, white and boulder opal jewellery, loose stones and watches with prices to suit every budget. We also offer a selection of Australian hand crafted souvenirs and corporate gifts.
Our store offers a relaxed and friendly shopping experience with exceptional service from our highly trained, multi-lingual staff.
As one of the modern pioneers in the Queensland opal industry, we take great pride in offering an educational experience for all our international visitors where they can learn about Australia's national gemstone - the opal.

Friday 25th April - Day 12
We are on the last leg of our journey home now and coming into Roma brings a lot of excitement for the kids. It is the first time in 2 weeks they have seen McDonald's, so not to disappoint them, McDonald's for lunch was on the menu. Arriving back in Brisbane and the planning has already begun - where is our next outback adventure going to take us???