touring, travel and photography

Birdsville “Cannonball Run” Trip Anzac Weekend 2004

Birdsville “Cannonball Run” Trip Anzac Weekend 2004
Pictures are scanned from photos, sorry about the quality.

Day 1 – Thursday 22nd April 2004
Vaughan, Pam & Alvin left Whyalla at 6:00pm on the Thursday and headed to Parachilna. Deciding it was too early for bed, and not keen on the roadside campsite location, they continued north to the familiar and sheltered Farina campground North of Lyndhurst.

Day 2 – Friday 23rd April 2004
The Hiscocks and Becks departed Whyalla at 5:00am and travelled through the Flinders Ranges to Lyndhurst. After filling Trevors’ portable long range tank and deciding that the Discovery was ahead of us, we continued on to our first fuelling point at Marree where we topped up the kids too with chocolate ice creams.

Photobucket

The wind at Marree was only marginally less than the howling winds of Lyndhurst. Not a good day for those strange tourists on bicycles.

North bound on the Birdsville Track we crossed the Dog Fence just past Lake Harry and had a quick look at the excellent new campground facilities at Clayton. The lower part of the Track was in excellent condition and made the driving easier. The only rough section was the 10kms through the Cooper Creek floodplain where speeds were down as low as 40km/h in places. We stopped for a drink break here but it was fairly rushed due to the flies.

Continuing on through the Natterannie Sand hills that caused Harry Ding and Tom Kruse so much grief, we arrived at Mungerannie and met up with Vaughan, Alvin & Pam and had lunch.

The rest of the drive to Birdsville was uneventful with the Track seemingly improving, if that’s possible, with just the occasional toilet/drinks/tyre check stops to break up the trip. About 30kms from Birdsville we came across a couple with a flat tyre on their Landcruiser. After Vaughan stopped and check that they were OK, I made the comment on the radio that I would hate to have a puncture so close to my destination. Right on cue Murphy kicked in and 13km from Birdsville I felt the rear of the Patrol go loose and I immediately pulled over. The passenger side rear tyre was almost flat. Trevor pulled in behind me and Vaughan turned back to come and help. When Vaughan got back to us he found that he also had a slow leak in a rear tyre. I pumped my tyre back up and found the hole in the centre of the tread. Trevor got his tyre repair kit out and put a temporary plug in the hole, which slowed the loss of air down to a trickle. We pumped the tyre up to 40psi and made a dash for town.

Photobucket

Arriving in town we headed straight to the Birdsville Caravan Park, signed in and set up our tents overlooking the billabong. Vaughan, Pam & Alvin headed off for a pub dinner while the rest of us cooked up a feast. A few beers and early to bed as it had been a LONG day.

Photobucket

Day 3 – Saturday 24th April 2004
Early start to the day due to the Galahs/Corellas/Crows/noisy birds that greeted sunrise.

Vaughan and I removed our sadly deflated tyres and headed off to the Mobil to get them repaired. Once we had this done it was off into the Simpson for the day.

Photobucket

We took the graded but rocky track out to the base of Big Red and deflated our tyres (I went down to 21psi rear and 19psi front) and noticed that the recommended tyre pressures have been removed from the info board.

Photobucket

Photobucket

Obviously fear of litigation has forced the Parks people to be less specific and has probably lead to increased track and dune damage due to people running too high a pressure.

Photobucket

Photobucket

We went over Big Red on the Southern Bypass crossing (about 3kms south of the higher and more challenging crossing) and entered the Simpson dune country.

The first few dunes after Big Red were steep but after that they became less challenging (or were we in that dune driving “groove” already) and we were surprised by how dry it was on this side of Birdsville.

About 50kms into the desert we started crossing Eyre Creek tributaries and 57km in we arrived at Eyre Creek itself. The creekbed was bone dry so we took a right turn and drove upstream for 3kms. This was a first for all of us, especially considering when I went across the Simpson in 1997 it was a couple of metres deep. We backtracked along the creekbed to the main track and as the area around Eyre Creek is still full of thorns we went another couple of dunes west and stopped for lunch.

Photobucket

A pleasant lunch (more fritz sandwiches for Austin) and we headed east back towards Birdsville.

Arriving first at Big Red (the high, soft and steep crossing) we drove three quarters of the way up and got out to walk the rest. Few vehicles had been over it since the desert reopened so we wanted to check the other side (and check for oncoming vehicles). The left track was impossible due to a large sand blow creating a three or four metre high vertical face at the top. The right track was heavily chopped up and corrugated (those tyre pressures?) so the hardly used centre track was our choice. This required a tight left turn about ten metres from the top in VERY soft sand. On my first attempt at going over I was doing 50km/h when I reached the base and hit the hump, which seems to be growing not wearing down, and made it around the bend at the top but stopped about two metres from the ridge.

Photobucket

Photobucket

With pride dented I reversed back down and deflated the tyres to 17psi front and back. This small reduction in pressure made a big difference and I went up and over quite easily. Vaughan in the Discovery was next and with his tyres at 12psi(!) he also did it easily. Trevor & Shirley had decided before we got there that with the camper on the back they would take the bypass track back to Birdsville. I guess it was the sight of us going over the top, and memories of their old 40 series shorty making many attempts in the early 1990s, they got a rush of blood and decided to give it a go. Hitting the bump at the bottom as hard as they dared the Patrol made it to the ridge but stopped within spitting distance of the other side. Not wanting to back the camper down the dune for a second attempt, Trevor accepted a gentle tow over the ridge and we were all on the Birdsville side again. We were all impressed given the camper unit weighs one tonne.

Photobucket

Photobucket

A few photos were taken including Vaughan parking brochure style on the highest point with desert in the background.

Back in Birdsville at about 4pm we had missed the afternoon guided tour of the museum so we lazed around camp and generally teased the neighbours who got stuck on the bypass track and abandoned their desert daytrip. They were truly horrified when I showed them the through the windscreen racecam video of us doing the real Big Red crossing. Vaughan, Pam and Alvin did the pub dinner thing again while we stayed at the caravan park and did it rough with camp cooking.

Day 4 – Sunday 25th April 2004
We were awoken again by the chorus of birds (what would you expect in a town called Birdsville) on Anzac Day and it seems that even in outback Queensland its bitterly cold for the Dawn Service.

Alvin attended the service and joined in the dubious Anzac Day local custom of drinking Bundy and milk at 6am. After breakfast we packed up ready to drive south on the journey home. The kids and I explored the billabong area while the others did the morning museum tour.

A quick photostop at the Birdsville racecourse and then down the track to the Diamantina. The river was quite wide but barely flowing. This side of Birdsville was very green as you’d expect so soon after the floods and in complete contrast to the Simpson the day before.

Photobucket

Further south we detoured after Clifton Hills station onto a track to the Warburton Creek.

Photobucket

Photobucket

The creek had obviously been at leat two metres deeper as recently as a few days before as the bank were very damp and muddy.

Tossing a stick into the water you could see how quickly it was flowing towards Lake Eyre. We hadn’t pack our snow skis so we didn’t venture as far as the two men who had recently been stranded in the area while canoeing (it takes a lot of logical planning to pack snow skis when canoeing in the Australian desert).

Next stop on the cannonball run was Mungerannie waterhole and wetlands for a break and a few more photos.

Photobucket

Photobucket

This looks like a great place to camp but we had plenty of time to get to our planned campsite at Clayton.

Photobucket

The campground facilities are excellent and well worth the donation to stay there. The wetlands they have set up 2kms from the campground is also worth a look.

Day 5 – Monday 26th April 2004
The drive home from Clayton was uneventful. We stopped in at Copley bakery for lunch then a leisurely drive home through the Flinders Ranges.

Photobucket

We arrived home in Whyalla on the Monday afternoon. On Tuesday night/Wednesday morning there was light rain on the Birdsville Track north of Mungerannie and the track was closed for two days. Only luck prevented us from being trapped in Birdsville for an extra couple of days. Whether it was good luck or bad is subjective as an extra couple of days would have been nice but I wouldn’t have been looking forward to making that call to the office…….

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Time limit is exhausted. Please reload CAPTCHA.

Follow

Get every new post on this blog delivered to your Inbox.

Join other followers: