Easter at Cullyamurra Waterhole

By Andrew

2006 Cannonball Run – Innamincka for Easter

Each year the Whyalla 4WD Club has a “Cannonball Run” trip in April. Normally we do it on the Anzac weekend but as it wasn’t a long weekend this year we used the Easter break instead.

This years’ destination was Cullyamurra Waterhole near Innamincka in the SA NorthEast region. Cullyamurra is a large permanent waterhole in the Cooper Creek and is a popular camping area only about 1km out of Innamincka.

Although Cannonball Run sounds like a race and brings images of high speed driving – not really possible or very clever in fully loaded 4WD touring wagons – it is more about driving a long distance to a destination, with minimal stops along the way, and then spending a few days in the one spot to fully expore the region.
This is different to most Club touring trips where there are lots of stops made along the way with many side trips and exploring.
Previous runs have included runs to Coober Pedy/Painted Desert and Birdsville.

Mitchell and I left Whyalla early on Good Friday morning, stopped at PtAugusta for a McBreakfast and then took the turn off Highway One towards Quorn and the Flinders Ranges. The dozen vehicles on the trip were well spread out as some had left the night before and camped on the roadside and others towing campertrailers and caravans had left extra early.

We stopped at Copley and topped with diesel as this would be the last “cheap” fuel for a few days. We waited at Lyndhurst (the end of the bitumen) for a few vehicles that were twenty minutes behind us and then took the turn onto the Strezlecki Track.
Other than a few road trains coming the other way it was an uneventful run to Innamincka with the track in superb condition.
Some of our group stoppped for lunch at Montecolina Bore where they fought a losing battle with the millions of flies and retreated back to the comfort of their cars.
Flies would continue to be in plague proportions all weekend but this is always normal for anywhere in the outback at that time of year, especially anywhere near water.
Arriving at Innamincka it was a quick look around town for those who hadnt been before and a visit to the Trading Post for Desert Parks passes for the few that didn’t already have one.

Once everyone was ready we drove out to our campground. We set up camp as a group, spread out along the bank of the waterhole, and waited for the sun to go down so that cooking could start without flies for seasoning.
Saturday morning we were all up early and cooking breakfast – to beat the flies – and by around 9am everyone was ready for our day trip out to the Dig Tree.
For those that haven’t been there for a while you now have to go out to the Dig Tree via the long loop over the Burke & Wills Bridge as the old “Cooper Creek Carwash” shortcut is closed.
Not long after leaving Cullyamurra we reached the SA/QLD Border crossing. Visas checked, passports stamped, a few photos taken and general comments about how windy and cold it is in Queensland we were quickly on our way.

The loop road around to the Dig Tree is in good condition and before we knew it we were turning off and heading back towards the Cooper.
When you arrive at the Dig Tree area now there is an information shelter (and yes it has LOTS of interesting info) and you need to fill in the paperwork and pay your money into an honesty box.
There is also an explanation about the fees and what they are used for and the fee isnt unreasonable – $8 per vehicle.
Although it wasn’t my first visit to the Dig Tree, it was still a great experience particularly when seeing it with my 9 year old son. He had done a lot of reading about Burke & Wills before we left so the whole trip was like an unfolding story for him. The kind of education you cant get from a book or television.

The camp markings on the Dig Tree are still clear and Burkes face on the Blaze tree is as confronting and haunting as any Ive seen.
We spent about an hour taking photos, walking around the area and soaking up the history before getting back into our vehicles for the drive back to Innamincka.
Returning mid afternoon to Innamincka it was time for a beer at the pub, some shopping at the Trading Post and a look at the displays at the National Parks headquarters in the restored Australian Inland Mission building.

As well as being a great historical and scenic region the Cooper Creek is also a good spot for a bit of fishing.
Back at camp the hunters gathered and lines were cast but despite the assembled collective talents the only rewards were a few small fish and a lot of weed…..and a putrid lingering smell from the bait Alvin bought at the Trading Post.
A campfire, a few beers and some laughs and it was a late night for the large group.
Sunday we were up early again for breakfast – yes the flies were still a pain – and it was a lazy day of exploring. Some made the trip out to Coongie Lakes while the rest of us explored the many historic markers and scenic spots along the Cooper. Fishing at the causeway was slightly better than Cullyamurra but nothing worth keeping was caught. The cemetary is worth a look and has many sad stories typical of pioneer life in the outback plus more than a few drownings in the Cooper.

Sunday night we had the roast carvery at the pub. A word of warning – even though we had booked for our group when we arrived at our booking time they had already run out of food. Im not saying avoid the pub, just book an early time. Cant really blame the pub as catering for an unknown number of tourists that don’t book is hard in a remote area. Some of our group went back to camp while the rest of us waited until more meat was ready and had an enjoyable night.
Back at camp it was campfire time again although many went to bed early due to the 10 hour drive home.
Monday morning Mitchell and I didn’t leave Cullyamurra until after 9am, had an uneventful drive down the Strez – although it did start to rain when we were 20kms from Lyndhurst – and we were home n Whyalla before dark.

Another Cannonball done and dusted – literally.

  1. Wayne Dwyer says:

    Brought back some fond memories of my own trip to Innamincka and the Dig Tree.

    The site looks good Andrew, lots of nice shots capturing the feel of the place, congrats