Days 16 to 19 - Dajarra to Boulia, Bedourie, Birdsville.

Monday, Apr 15, 2013 at 07:44

Member - Ossiejs (Qld)

Day 16: Dajarra to Boulia, Bedourie.
NOTE: photos now added.

After an uneventful trip from Dajarra, and not being the tourist season, Boulia was quiet. I stopped at the Donohue Highway turnoff, thinking this would be a good point to head to Alice in the NT on a subsequent trip after I had seen as much of Queensland as I could. And not travelling solo.

Thankfully the Min Min Encounter Coffee Shop was open for good food and a dam good coffee - what every traveller in the Outback needs.Boulia has a strong Telstra signal which I took advantage while supping on coffee and chowing down on good tucker. I'll spend more time here on a later trip to the NT.

The attached Information Centre was well stocked with gifts, stock and interesting material. Refreshed, I fuelled up for the trip ahead - $1.79 a litre for diesel - at the only servo in town. This was the only choice as I needed nearly a full tank.

It was then off to Bedourie, out of the tropics. I hardly noticed any climate change. After a few kilometres of bitumen, the road turned to gravel. "Here we go again" I thought, but thankfully, the bitumen resumed after a few kilometres. The Camper was accumulating its fair share of very fine, red dust. En route, I decided I could use a day without driving, and my clothing and bedding (and me) could use a wash - so a Caravan Park it was to be.

I booked into a powered ensuite site at theSimpson Desert Oasis Roadhouse Caravan Park ($15) just North of Bedourie. The Caravan Park/camping area is over the road from the Roadhouse, which has a fairly well-stocked general store, fuel supplies, tavern, restaurant, motel units and cabins, as well as laundry facilities.

Chatting with the Manageress, as you do, we realised she has been friends with some of my relatives for many years. It is a small world.

Being the non-tourist season, I had the Park to myself. The en suite amenities blocks were clean and well-maintained, and the Park's Store is well stocked with groceries, etc. Fuel price is a bit ordinary - $1.925 a litre for diesel. Lucky I bought "cheap" fuel in Boulia. As well as the washing, a night or two would give my, my car and my Camper batteries a chance for a bit of R&R. As for the tow ball on the Prado and hitch on the Camper with all that fine dust! A bit of TLC (grease) has now been added to my kit. A 12v vacuum cleaner was added to my list for a next trip.

240v power for the Engel - poor thing is about 20 years old and is doing it reasonable well but rather tough in the hot, dry conditions out here. Touch wood, it hasn't let me down yet, but, I have been covering a lot of miles most days. And running water, with an amenities block close by. Camping in the bush is great, but occasionally, just occasionally, some simple, feel-good, creature comforts e.g. showers, toilets, washing machines and dryers if needed, make a welcome break.

Did a little drive in the early evening to see if there really was no mobile coverage in the town. Suddenly, it was Christmas time. Blue and Red lights indicated I should pull over as there was no other obvious emergency in the small town. After checking my Drivers Licence, and a blow in the bag (0.00% of course), I was on my way again. It's all about stats. The local PC Plod in a 4WD also confirmed there was no mobile coverage in Boulia. I later read that there had been a serious accident where a number of young people were injured. I suspect alcohol was involved, as the local PC Plod reinforced in a local rag he had a zero tolerance for drink driving. I have absolutely no problems with that stance.

Day 17: Bedourie - Rest Day.

So much for rest. This was my planned washing day. Clean bed linen tonight, with cupboards full of clean clothes. I'll be right for another week at least now. Mopped out the floor and other surfaces in the Camper such that it would pass inspection if the road dust police do an inspection. Then greased up the tow ball and Camper hitch ready for the anticipated dusty roads South to Birdsville tomorrow.

Now time for seeing the sights in the Bedourie. First Port of Call was the Bedourie Royal Hotel to catch up with the owner Jim Smith, who in 1971, bought the Hotel from an Aunt and Uncle. He had been out of town for a week or so, so he missed out on family updates.

With the vigilant PC Plod around, and my vehicle known to the Plod, I decided NOT to have a refreshing ale (and it was a tad early).

Drove slowly from one end of the town took less than 2 minutes, including time for photographs. The small Information Centre had some useful history and literature about the surrounding area, especially points of interest on the road to Birdsville.

That night, about 7:20pm, the lights went on in the Camp ground. Simultaneously, I lost ALL power - both 240v and 12v. Checked all fuses - none blown. Camper battery had plenty of power, but none was getting out to my lights of cigarette lighter sockets. Checked 240v power-point outlets in the Park . All seemed intact but no power at any of the GPOs. Oh! Oh dear!

Tracked down Doug who also managed the Roadhouse. We checked the 15A power outlets (which I had already done) but still the Camper had no internal or external power at all. No clues in the manual, other than the Camper may have had a power surge when the lights were turned on - blowing a surge protector. Doesn't explain why my 12v electrics, other than the battery in the Camper, were dead. Now I know why I carried the spare Waeco battery. A least I will get by. Got plenty of gas - LPG and Butane - and only need a match to start to cook.

Sounding like a job for an electrician, but with the closest sparkie being in Birdsville, I decided to push ahead tomorrow, and contact the resident electrician there.

Perhaps a word of caution to all types of van and camper travellers: be cautious of 240v supplies in remote localities.

NOTE: I was to find out in Birdsville that the Camper had, as legally required, a 240v circuit breaker. There is nothing in the manual, and I can't say I noticed it when packing the Penguin. Now, I know!

Day 18: Bedourie to Birdsville.

All packed up and routine maintenance completed on the Prado, it was South to Birdsville along the Diamantina Development Road and onto the Eyre Development Road - "The Bilby Way"- after pre-dawn photos of the eastern sky. Did I mention the dust? the road? the wide open, harsh and treeless plains?

Just out from Birdsville (in outback terms, or 85km), stands the National Trust registered Carcoory Ruins, on property once owned by Sidney Kidman. I'm amazed it has stood the test of time, despite some obvious petty vandalism, and its use recently by some mongrel as a toilet!. Hope a King Brown bit them on the butt.

I was amazed that although missing a roof (taken for iron during WW2 I understand), inside the ruin it was noticeably cooler. An iron roof may have changed that.

On arrival and setting up the Camper in the Birdsville Caravan Park, I contacted the nominated electrician from a business card at the Birdsville Shell Garage. He was happy to visit me tomorrow morning (Monday), thankfully, and arranged to meet him at the Birdsville Caravan Park. Needing only an unpowered site (obviously), I set up camp under one of the few shade trees available, attended to some emails, and updated my blog.
I checked that ExploreOz had captured and recorded my trek to Birdsville. Right on target. Now, it was time to update my blog, and consider when I would take in the sights of Birdsville.

Day 19: Birdsville

Another lay day while I waited for the resident electrician James Humphries to visit. Although a tad warm for a good night's sleep, I surfaced before daybreak to witness what could be a spectacular sunrise. As usual, the fly scouts alerted the regiment of my appearance - time for their moisture rehydration. Straight for the eyes while I tried to snap the dawn.

James the sparkie arrived nice and early to work his magic. He checked all the circuitry. Everything seemed okay, and commented that there must be a 240v "circuit breaker" somewhere in the Camper. We searched the Camper, and in a most unusual out of sight spot, "Eureka" I said softly as James said a loud "Ah haaa". A flick of the switch, a quick check, and I had all power again. Can I say that my sigh of relief must have been heard in Bedourie.

As a novice Camper trekker, this was one big lesson to have learned. This trip has been a major and continuing learning experience, but now I know, I think, where most things are, and how to fix many things which may be obvious to experienced Camper and Caravan travellers. Thank you James. The Shell servo in Birdsville can give you his mobile number. And, he's the only one in town.

Happy now, I unhitched the Camper to see the sights, and a planned trip to Big Red. Feeling on top of the world, I did a circuit of the town, and on seeing a road to Big Red on the edge of the Simpson Desert, I headed West for about 35 kilometres. First, I had to photograph the famous Birdsville Hotel.

That done, I had to complete a task on my bucket list - Big Red. I have a print at home of artist John Murray's painting of that outback icon. Now it was time to see the real thing. After about a 35km drive west towards the Simpson Desert National Park, I saw Big Red - the traditional start of the Simpson Desert.

Noting the advisory signs, I paused at the base of the 35m sand dune (as with any sand work), assessing my approach, gear range, tyre pressure and speed, I've done a lot of driving on sand, and crossed many sand dunes, almost all on the islands off the South-East Queensland coast. And, I have been bogged many a time on sand and other places, but that is another story! This was different. For a start, unlike coastal dunes, the moisture content was likely to be much deeper and therefore softer. At 35m above the desert plains, this was going to taller than any sand dune I've attempted before. I run Cooper AT.3 tyres on the Prado, usually at 40psi. Having a wide footprint, I decided to attempt the climb at that pressure. If that didn't work, it was only a matter of reversing back, reducing all tyre pressures, and have another go.

Engaging high-range 4WD in 2nd gear and building up a little bit of speed, I easily climbed Big Red the first time to join other travellers viewing the spectacular Simpson Desert. All of a sudden, I realised why they were gathered at the top of the Dune - they were waiting for a vehicle climbing Big Red from the west as it suddenly and quietly appeared as if out of nowhere. I now saw the value of sand flags (he didn't have one) to minimise the collision and roll-over risks associated with outback driving. Another item to buy before any desert trip. Travelling solo, I had no wish to drive down and back up a more serious climb. Left alone to contemplate my existence, I took a few landscape shots, and considered the vast and varying landscapes I had experienced on this trip. I agreed that it doesn't get better than this.

Resisting the urge to continue West, plus my Camper being unhitched in Birdsville, I forced myself back.

Nearing a herd of cattle on the side of the road, I slowed from 50khp of the rough dirt road. A dingo appeared from the side of the road and paced the car. I slowed even further, and the dog ran parallel with the car for some metres, and suddenly, crossed in front of me. A first dingo road kill for me. Checked the animal (carefully) and seeing no signs of life, left it by the side of the road for the aerial scavengers to recycle. I have a photograph, but in the interests of good taste, it won't be published.

Safely back in Birdsville, it was time visit the famous Birdsville Bakery for lunch. Haven't had a pie forever, it seems, so I indulged. The Bakery has a range of freshly baked food, and importantly out here, real bread. The walls are decorated with local memorabilia and a range of John Murray's uniquely Australian prints. Also of interest I saw planted in front of the Bakery, two small rare and ancient Waddi Trees with their sharp, spiny leaves.

Refuelled in Birdsville. Diesel in $1.719 per litre. Makes you wonder why the price difference just up the road in Bedourie.

A stiff breeze again in the afternoon made the Camper comfortable, so I took advantage of the quiet time to catch up on the reams of brochures collected in recent weeks. I will be back, as there are many other historical sights and places of interest in this corner of Queensland, so a lot more time, and some company, will be needed.

East tomorrow.Betoota? Windorah maybe? Read my next blog to find out.
To forget one's ancestors is to be a brook without a source, a tree without a root -- Chinese Proverb
John & Marie
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