Hi All, I thought I’d share, while it’s still fairly fresh in my head.
I took holidays in the last two weeks of October with the plan of heading out to Birdsville and seeing outback Queensland. Spring warmed up a little early this year, but it was difficult enough to get leave from work, so I knew I'd just have to suck it up :-) As my wife wasn't interested in swealtering in the outback, I got to have a boys own adventure all on my own. Woohoo!
The setup I went with was fairly basic: An esky with no ice to store food like bread etc so that it wouldn't sweat in the heat of the car and chunky tinned soups, noodles, muesli, and anything else that will keep unrefridgerated. I supplemented this with the occasional (read 'regular') pub dinner.
I had a few last minute things to do on the day I embarked, so after a late start my first stop was the free camp at the Chinchilla Wier before heading for Charleville the next day. I didn't stop much along the way as we had done the trip to Charleville a few years ago. After Charleville, I headed off on the Diamantina Dev road to Quiplie the next morning, stopping along the way at the FoxTrap roadhouse for a ginger beer and a rest.
The caravan park at Quilpie was a good place to stop at with great facilities and was a nice place to rest up. While I was at Quilpie, I took a run out to Lake Houdraman and explored all the tracks around there (any excuse to stay in the aircon and avoid the 40+ temperature :-). The info centre told me Baldy Top was the place to be at sunset and they sure were right.
Next stop was Windorah. I stayed at the caravan park, rather than the free camp site just outside town as it was just $5 per night for an unpowered site ($10 for powered) with a bran new facilities building (showers, toilet, laundry). On the east side of Windorah is a 12km ‘Nature Drive’ that starts just outside town and ends at Cooper’s Creek. You basically drive along a dirt track and there are signposts to tell you what you are looking at (spinifex, bloodwood tree, coolabah tree etc). I found this useful later as I was able to identify what I was looking at. At one point I had to get out of the car and open a gate ... wow, the heat on that red sand was so intense, it felt like I was standing in front of a furnace and I could really understand how you could lose your life quickly without shade and water.
I popped by the Windorah info centre to check on the road condition and the girls told me the road was very stony and badly corrugated and that I could expect to be travelling at around 60-70km/h the whole way. Also, being the end of the tourist season, they said if I get stuck, it could be a couple of days before somebody finds me as there was almost no traffic moving out along there. They told me to take plenty of water, at least 30 litres, and I could certainly understand why as I has found myself drinking plenty on that very hot day. Now, being very green (and not ever having seen first-hand an outback dirt road), I chickened out and decided to stay on the Diamantina Development Road and travel to Birdsville via Bedourie, which was an extra couple of hundred kilometres. The unsealed Diamantina Development Road was in great condition and such a great run with plenty of scenery changes (clay pan, channel country, grassland, desert etc) and I stopped many times to take photos along the way.
When I arrived at Birdsville, I discovered from a fellow traveller that the Birdsville Development Road was actually in quite good condition, so I needn't have worried (damn!). There were plenty of tracks on the outskirts of town to explore, as well as the Burke and Wills tree to see, and the Waddi trees to the north of town, but we all know the big drawcard :-). For the three nights I was there, the winds from the south were blowing furiously, bringing the daytime temperatures down to the mid 30s (thank goodness!). On my first attempt to see the Big Red, it was so very windy, and the dust in the air reduced visibility to almost nothing at times, so I turned back to try again later. The second attempt was a nice easy run and after reducing the tyre pressue to 18PSI, the X-Trail cruised up with the greatest of ease.
VIDEO: Trekking out to the edge of the Simpson Desert
VIDEO: Climbing the red dune
When I left Birdsville to head for Bedourie and Boulia, I took the Lake Machatte detour. It was a little rough in places, but not too bad, and there were some great spinifex covered dunes to see, making it interesting and worthwhile. This road takes you within a couple of km of the lake and apparently you can see it from the road, but sadly I saw no sign to tell me when and where to look for it :-P
I travelled back home via Boulia, Winton, Longreach, Blackall, and Tambo. On reflection, I think I would have been better off going back along the Birdsville Dev Road and maybe up through Jundah to Longreach? ... maybe next time.
Anyway, I hope you enjoyed the read,