Trek 2010 – Under the Southern Cross – week 6
Day 36 with 4093k’s behind us (from Dongara) and many of the 1100 dunes also at the back of us, we headed off out to face the challenges once more and enjoy yet another day on this iconic track. George and Cedar also commented on the passing traffic each day (both East bound and West bound) as opposed to the year 2000. So many more people have the means of being able to head out in their 4 wheel drives these days – 10 years have brought so many changes in so many ways. Our chosen campsite for today was on the banks of Eyre Creek after making yet another creek crossing at the end of a great day.
On Day 37 we were approximately 57k’s from Birdsville and about 20k’s from the renowned BIG RED dune when we departed camp at 9.30am. Each dune we crossed lead us a little closer to our final destination on this section of our trek. We reached Big Red at approximately 11.30am and spent the next couple of hours just enjoying the moment. Our challenge to this point had been fulfilled, only looking back on photos and chatting with each other will gradually make it seem like the true reality. All tractors (minus camper trailers), support vehicles and our tag along Ron in the Mog did that final run to the top of Big Red and again the cameras were clicking from all directions. For those who were aware of George’s 2010 modification to his camper trailer – the fitting of hydraulic drive – it was a success over the dunes as on the final run to the top of Big Red we crossed the Simpson and the final test was to hitch the camper back on and take it up Big Red behind the tractor which proved successful. His only comment was that it made all the work worthwhile. As we enjoyed our moment at the top of Big Red we had a radio call from Peter and Brenda Barr – Club Members and inaugural trekkers of 2000 – who were watching us from the Birdsville side of the dune.
They had been keeping in touch with our progress along the way and had come to Birdsville to meet us on our arrival. Moments like this are special to all of us. In contrast to the 2000 trek when the land on the other side of Big Red was dry and barren, we were greeted with a very large lake of water which we had to drive around before getting on to the road into Birdsville. Once in Birdsville we took time to set up our campers at the caravan park and take long hot showers (not that we miss a daily shower on trek albeit fairly short ones to conserve water) then it was off to the Birdsville Hotel for dinner and a celebration drink, again there was a lot of reminiscing about the arrival of the trekkers in 2000. A large photo of the 2000 tractors in front of the Birdsville Hotel takes pride of place in the Lizard Bar at the Hotel. Also joining us for dinner and celebrations were Helen and Bill Taylor; Susan Ruby and Charlie Gardiner and George Baldwin, having completed their successful Simpson Desert crossing earlier in the day. Brenda Barr topped the night off for some of us when she firstly went to the piano for a song or two then brought out her accordion and played a few of the old trekking songs for us. Thanks so much Brenda you made our night.
Birdsville was our base for three nights during which time we were able to clean up the tractors, sort the campers and clear the washing load before being ready to head off east again. Whilst it has always been our intention to stay as close to the inaugural trek as possible, the need for flexibility remains after recent flooding in the areas we are going through. It was also agreed to make a slight deviation after Birdsville to allow a visit to Cordillo Downs – the largest wool shed in Australia – the famous Dig Tree of Burke and Wills and accept an invitation to visit an operating oil field out of Eromanga. During our break in Birdsville, Ron in the Uni Mog left us to continue his travels. As he was heading back to Alice Springs Eric Hill – co driver of Plains Wanderer – accompanied him so that he could make the planned pick up of their support vehicle that had been left there earlier on when we departed. Prior to leaving the group, Ron became a member of the Chamberlain 9G Tractor Club (our newest member and our first one from the USA). On the 9th August, Dennis Hill in Plains Wanderer left to return home after a telephone conversation with Noeline who wanted him back home. Also while in Birdsville George celebrated his Birthday (as he has done on other treks in the past) with an enjoyable evening at the Birdsville Hotel.
Day 40 it was time to say farewell to Birdsville (not before one last visit to the bakery!) and take to the ‘highway’. We enjoyed our visit to the woolshed, a place of great history, then went on to Arrabury homestead, obviously a former flourishing property now used as an out-station. We also visited ruins of old homesteads along the way and tried to imagine how the people had lived and what these properties would have been like in their hey-day. Our pleasure at the end of the day was to enjoy a wonderful roast dinner organised by Barbara and Dick. Our campfire looked great with all the camp ovens bubbling away.
Allan and Cedar surprised us all with desserts of quondong and custard tarts from the Birdsville Bakery.
As we continued on day 41 we still had some muddy and bumpy roads ahead of us but nothing in comparison to recent weeks. It was mentioned amongst the group that we had really come across roadside water holes etc almost all of the way although been lucky that we had spent very little time in actual rain or bad weather conditions. With all the lushness around, our farming contingent continually commented on the condition of the cattle etc and even to those of us not involved in the farming industry, we too could see how healthy and rich everything looked. .
As we continued on, our travels took us to the Burke and Wills Dig Tree near the Cooper Creek. As the afternoon was moving on we decided that the banks of the Cooper Creek would be our campsite for the night – very pleasant in the evening and wonderful the next morning with all the birdlife to hear and watch.
Being on the Cooper we were able to observe all he traces of recent flooding in the area; it must have been absolutely amazing to see because it was very hard to imagine when it all looked so calm and tranquil. When told of the height of the flooding, there certainly would not have been any means of driving through t at the time.
Day 42 as we were leaving our campsite at the Dig Tree the other trekkers arrived so there was one last farewell because we truly were going in different directions from there. Our travels for the rest of the day were on the Adventure Highway which gave us variety once again. We found there was quite a lot of bitumen at first (someone was heard to say on the radio “what is this black stuff Allan?”). Then we came across road works crews making repairs after the flooding. This just helped to add a little more water and mud to our rigs!!! Our morning tea stop gave us such a beautiful array of wild flowers only a few metres from the roadside and added to that was the company of a local lizard about 40cm long who was just relaxing and warming himself in the sunlight. By lunch time we had travelled some 134k’s and enjoyed a stop beside a small creek at the road side. As we continued on after lunch there were ranges of table top mountains in the distance, gas fields and oil fields as well as opal mining signs just about all the way. Seeing the oil pumping made us all think of the sights in the USA.
This obviously is yet another area of our great country with rich underground resources. Our campsite was at an old road works depot again providing a good site to spend a lovely evening together.