A Very Different Track

The Birdsville Track is iconic. It is a feat for many modern-day travellers, 4WD enthusiasts and caravanners. The “track” we drive these days is a world away from that of our predecessors. The road now is practically a dirt highway mostly smooth with rocky patches here and there. Back in the day soft sand dune, flooded creek crossings, rough corrugations and sharp rocks made the journey that much harder and longer. A trip up the track could take weeks now you can practically complete it in five to six hours depending on conditions. It was originally opened back in the 1860’s to drove cattle from North QLD & the NT to the railheads at Port Augusta and later Marree. The track was immortalised by the film “Back of Beyond” about the outback legend & mailman Tom Kruse. From 1936 to 1963 Kruse held the contract for the Birdsville Track mail route and for his struggles he became an outback legend.

We started our trek at Marree like many others do. A quick drink at the pub and we hit the road late in the afternoon. Our aim was Cooper’s Creek and if lucky enough maybe even Mungerannie Pub. As the wheels of the Colorado hit the gravel road we started the journey that so many have before us. It really was such a momentous occasion for us. After so much planning we were finally heading up “The Track”. Destination Birdsville.

After only thirty minutes of driving over to our right was a massive expanse of water. Who would have thought so much water could be  lying around in the desert. According to our Hema5 GPS we were looking at Lake Harry but to be honest it looked more like and inland sea. It was breathtaking. We hopped out for a few minutes to dip in our toes and take it all in.

As we drove along taking in the wilderness that surrounded us. We came up on Cooper’s Creek and pulled in for a look. It was a nice little camp spot however a few grey nomads had taking up most of the room so we decided to push on. Another quick stop at a monument of the old Cooper’s Creek Ferry. When this area floods the road can be cut for months and this ferry and flood bypass are the only thing that keep each end of the track connected. However, the old ferry is a lot different from its modern day counterpart that many traveller utilise in the wetter years. The original ferry was nothing more than a 12 ft steel punt fitted with an outboard motor. There are many historical accounts of the original ferry sinking and having to be unloaded to allow it to refloat. Lucky the water has receded and we didn’t encounter this.

We arrived at Mungerannie Hotel late in the afternoon. I can imagine the relief on many a travellers face as they reached this little oasis in the desert. The campsites are dotted along the river and only metres from a hot spring spa. This was delightful and much appreciated after the stress of smashing our window earlier that morning. Due to the days events we headed to the pub for dinner and a few drinks. The characters you meet in the outback really make your experience that much better. Phil, the publican was no exception as he poured our drinks he had us in absolute stitches. What a character.

The next morning we hit the road early as Birdsville was in our midst. For some reason Birdsville holds a special place for us and we find ourselves coming back again and again. We have been three times in the last 18 mths and are already planning our next adventure back there in September. As we neared Birdsville we stopped for an early picnic lunch on the edge of a river. It was so romantic just us and a gazillion meats ants and even more flies. After the ants and flies chased us back into the car after half and hour of shooing them away we were back driving up the track. Next stop, Birdsville.

Pulling into Birdsville felt like coming home. We don’t have a physical home at the moment so Birdsville is as good as any. We decided to stay for two nights to catch up on blogging and washing, yes in that order. I have to admit we spent quite a lot of unplanned time at the pub and relaxing around the campsite. We had some lovely meals at the iconic Birdsville Pub and they were quite reasonable priced. The Birdsville Bakery was frequented for brekky with Dusty’s square, flat croissants delish. The mayor of Birdsville even got a standing ovation after a true Dusty style introduction when he came to get his morning coffee.

From Birdsville we had a horribly long trip to Mount Isa in one day. I say horribly long because we are heading to work soon and the thought of not travelling for leisure is always a dampener. We left Birdsville early and waved goodbye as we headed North. Don’t worry the road always leads back there.

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Published by S and S

Following our dreams and seeing Australia one trip at a time.

4 thoughts on “A Very Different Track

    1. Depending on weather. I think it any 2WD vehicle could complete the track. It is smoother in some places then bitumen. The only thing would be tyres it is a bit rocky in places. If you air down and drive to the conditions i.e not fast anything could get there. If you come into Birdsville from the North (from Boulia) It is now only about 60km of gravel and I think less and less gravel in the near future.

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