Tuesday, August 8, 2017

South West Queensland Channel Country

A rather late start from Yaraka this morning. We stopped to fill our drinking tank and topped one of our non potable tanks before paying our camping fees at the hotel. $6.00 for two days camping is hard to believe. 

We were no entering the channel country. The first 36 km was a good dirt road with the conditions so good that we had no need to reduce our tyre pressures, mind you we weren't in a hurry so we sat comfortably under 60 km/h. The remainder of the trip as far as the Retreat property was 50 km of bitumen. We passed by Welford National Park where we have previously camped on the Barcoo River with its magnificent river red gums. Three quarters of the channel country lies in Queensland with the remaining spilling over into parts of South Australia and New South Wales. 

The major towns are Windorah and Birdsville and they are surrounded by arid floodplains of the Georgina and Diamantina Rivers and Cooper Creek. When the catchments of these rivers receive enough rainfall these floodplains flow into Lake Eyre.

Our drive today is less than 200 km and we are off to camp on the banks of Cooper Creek 12 km south east of Windorah. We enjoyed camping here in 2012 and have decided to spend the night here.

There were two choices at the intersection adjacent to the Retreat property. Take the better road or take the minor 55 km Hammond Downs road which was the shorter option. Of course we chose the shorter option which turned out to be a nice drive through two station properties, with cattle surrounding waterholes and great mobs of emus who would take to running in all directions as we appeared.

On arrival at Cooper Creek I parked on the main road and walked down to the spot we camped on our last visit but unfortunately there were several vans already parked with the best view of the creek so we headed into Windorah to empty our toilet cassette and then into town to purchase fuel at $1.57.9 cpl.

On our way back out to find a spot to camp we stopped briefly to chat with fellow BT owners Jeanette and Jeff who joined us later and camped nearby. After I started our fire they joined us for a drink before we were joined by another Bushtracker couple Maria and Bruce who had parked across the road from us.

Our new Easy Burn fire pit was christened this evening and we cooked our meal over the coals which consisted of fillet steak, onions, sweet potato and zucchini. We ate inside before adding more wood to the pit and sitting outside with another red wine before retiring.

A rather late start this morning after a load of washing and our farewells to Jeannette and Jeff and a toot from Maria and Bruce as they headed south towards Quilpie.

From Windorah we headed west on the Diamantina Development Road.
This road was single lane bitumen for 110 km before we turned south west onto the Birdsville Developmental Road. The bitumen ran out 10 km later so we stopped and reduced our tyre pressures before continuing on.

A couple also pulled up after driving from Birdsville this morning in a single axle supposed off-road van. He said the road was in a shocking condition but if I sat on 80 km/h I would be able to skip above the corrugations. Mind you his tyres were at 45 psi and he had already wrecked two tyres this morning. We also noted that his pipe fittings under the van were all broken and hanging free.

One of Jeff's mates drives trucks back and forth from Birdsville and he reported that the road was very rough and corrugated. Just our luck to find out that road crews would be working on the road prior to the Birdsville Races in early September but not for another week.

Well I must say his mates report was correct and the conditions for the first 100 km were not particularly nice and very ordinary. Apart from the corrugations the surface was strewn with rocks and the numerous floodway's being extra rough. 

Our plan was to camp at Deon's Lookout for the evening but the site is very exposed and the winds were almost cyclonic so we decided to leave and drive an extra 20 km and camp in the ghost town of Betoota.

Another cloud free day with 11 degrees inside the van this morning but the diesel heater soon had the temperature up to 18 degrees.  At 7:00 there was already a slight breeze as I stepped outside to take some photos so I was glad to return to the warmth. My eyes were watering from the cold so can only assume the temperature outside to be around 3 to 5 degrees.

We were totally surprised with the condition of the road for the next 40 km. It was more like a bitumen road and we sat comfortably on 70 km/h but the road soon changed and we were back to yesterdays conditions except the floodway's and corrugations were much worse.

We arrived in Birdsville just on midday and drove into the front of the hotel for a photo shoot before setting up camp several km south of town. There is another Bushtracker parked several hundred metres in front of us but the occupants are out for the day.

After setting up it was into the Birdsville Hotel for a beer before heading over to the Bakery where we both had another beer with our pies. Ros went for the chunky beef and I thoroughly enjoyed my camel pie.

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