Birdsville and Back 2019

  Trip Leader: Peter Macgill

Dates:              Saturday 27th July – 7th September 2019

Convoy:         Lynn Phillips, Bob & Bridget McPherson, Bruce & Judith Brinkley, Peter Mann, George Shevstov & Linda Brotherton, Libby Sakker (out of Sydney member TrackCare) Peter Cooper (out of Adelaide member TrackCare). Des & Jan Bunter (out of Geraldton member TrackCare)

Many of the Route/Campsite Way Points & Tips: With thanks to Malcolm Harrison  member of Mitsi, Grafton and Ballina Clubs.

Event Brief:    This trip of just under 7 weeks will take us to Ceduna via the Old and new Eyre Highways, then from Ceduna to Coober Pedy via Googs Track. From Coober Pedy to Birdsville via the Madigan Line returning to Coober Pedy via the Rig Road and the French Line. To end at Laverton and go our separate ways,  we will experience  the Anne Beadell Highway.    Participants must be fully self-contained for periods up to 10 days and with fuel capacity to cover 900kms of desert driving.
All relevant permits and private permissions obtained for each vehicle.

At the beginning of this report  I should mention that this seven weeks took on a whole unexpected and welcome dimension other than driving the amazing desert tracks  of Australia.  Within this group of people there were a number with a vast knowledge  of  plants, from tiny ground orchids to tall eucalypts,  tiny crawling insects to large reptiles,  jumping mice to camels, and finches to eagles.    For what they didn’t collectively know already, Libby or Lynn had concise reference books.  Coops brought along a Madigan expedition diary which allowed, for the last few evenings of that section, for a campfire reading by Linda while dinner was cooking.
Was not just a long drive through the deserts!

July 26th – Met at Bakers Hill bakery 0800 for a 0830 Departure…4 vehicles – MacGills, McPhersons, Brinkleys, Peter Mann   Camped first night at Breakaway


27th July – Refuelled Norseman, George & Linda who’d been camping elsewhere joined us there.    Camped 25km west of Balladonia.


28th July – Travelled the Mundrabilla Coach Road (with permissions) – wow, unbelievable sight of wombats running everywhere that theoretically don’t live in WA.   Camped along this road. Stopped at 2 of the huge rock holes and couldn’t find the third cave entrance noted on the map.

29th -30th July – Travelled on the Old Eyre Hwy, met up with Libby at a spot west of Ceduna.  Headed north to camp 2 nights at Koonalda Homestead. The “car graveyard” was worth a look – motley assortment of old cars that have been left behind in the plains. The homestead used to sell fuel plus being a sheep station. An abandoned shearing shed still has old tools and other implements.   Constructed of sleeper walls  Koonalda Homestead itself is in good condition. Damp wafting mist in the morning made for good photography.
A very interesting place to camp… in and around the homestead.

31st July – Head of Bight, great views of the whales.  They were so close to us.
Bush camp east of Nullabor Roadhouse

1st – 2nd Aug Through border search at Ceduna and essential lunch stop at the Oyster Kiosk just up the road a little. Best fish, chips and oysters!!   In town restocked, refuelled etc. replaced some cooking equipment proving to be inadequate. Best butcher.  Overnight stay Ceduna Caravan Pk.  Real showers. Excellent camp kitchen complete with open fire place. and designated area for washing mud off the vehicles.

3rd Aug – North to Googs Track. Map shows many suitable campsites.  First taste of deep sand and  hilly track!  Good to drive.  Camped at Googs Lake. Lovely spot. Views, walks, peace.  Quite a few other campers spread through there.



4th Aug – Continued north along Googs Track to Mt Finke.  Very stony site but we can always find a spot to set up camp. Some of us climbed Mt Finke.

5th Aug – Kingoonya – Free camp, clean loo, and pub across road.   George and Linda upset publican by driving over the quite unexpected and inconspicuous “cricket pitch” across the road from pub…!  Plus we also didn’t realise there is a parking etiquette for the front of the pub.  However, they prepared a great meal for us and  while it was being cooked we had drinks with the publican and a few locals around their firepit in front of the pub.      Kingoonya pub.. the only place in town… !


6th – 7th Aug  On to Arckaringa – called into Coober Pedy for supplies – Peter gave us 2 hrs  or maybe it was only 1.5 hrs? Tough Trip Leader…. We raced around town quickly to get everything we discovered we needed over and above our supplies (water) top up.  On to Arckaringa Station camp ground for 2 nights.  Flat smooth areas that night were taken up by caravans so a good idea is to get there early to get a camp floor without gibbers underfoot. There were hot showers (only 2 or 3) and a lot of people camping over.  Drove north to the Painted Desert on 7th to have a walk to the top, look around, admire, take
photos in the westering sunlight.



8th Aug – Some of the early risers packed up and returned to Painted Desert for more photos with early morning light on the faces of the mesas. The sleepy ones packed up slowly and met them there.  Next stop Pink RoadHouse at Oodnadatta.   Fuel, lunch, real coffees, phone coverage!   Next , wandered around Pedirka Siding/Station ruins and moved on to wander Dalhousie Homestead ruins.  Camped near, not at, Dalhousie (hot) Springs called  3 O’clock Camp on road to Mount Dare. Lovely place, dry creekside,  away from the crowds (20 people?) at the hot springs.   Only place on whole trip we didn’t have a camp fire.  From memory signposted fires were prohibited.

9th Aug – Back into Dalhousie Springs for an early second soak.   Weather was so cold that we wore jackets over swim gear to get to the spring. Oohs and aaahs once we were immersed in warm water. Bonus beauty treatment of fish cleaning away old skin… like a Bali pedicure. All of us feeling very clean and fresh we drove on to Mount Dare Hotel.  Dust holes and detours were pretty horrendous on the route! So different to the Mitsi trip in 2018 when this whole section was  water depth testing, mud,  and sliding vehicles .

Completing our group, Des & Jan and Peter Cooper met us at the Mount Dare campground. Pub meal, yeay!  Last fuel until Birdsville. Hot showers and clothes hand washed and strung up to dry while covered in flies.

10th Aug – A few kilometres of bulldust as we left Mount Dare for Old Andado Station.   What a place, so much “stuff” just left as it was when the owner Molly Clarke left just prior to her death.  Books, ornaments, bedrooms made up. Linen in cupboards. A kitchen just needing the stove to be lit.  Appreciation from all who visit this homestead shows in the total lack of any malicious damage often seen at other homesteads across the outback.  This is truly untouched.



A caretaker lives within a distance to maintain the wood supply.  Beautiful cold sweet drinking water.  Piston Broke opportunity here as Brinkleys were so taken up in wandering and setting up camp and just generally enjoying camp and company they forgot to top up their water tanks.

There were a number of others doing the same trip as us travelling in both directions.
W.A. Land Cruiser Club contingent also camping there



11th Aug – 18th Aug  Leaving Old Andado visited Mollie Clarke’s grave, a grove of acacia trees planted by Mollie and hubbie (cant remember why they were significant?  Only ones in the world???)

One of the rarest and most striking trees of the Australian arid zone, it grows in the reserve on a stony windswept plain in one of the driest regions in Australia, where the average annual rainfall is 150 millimetres. In such a harsh environment the Acacia Peuce thrives, growing to heights of 17 metres and living up to 500 years. The trees have adapted to the environment, and have spiky needle-like leaves that ensure little moisture is lost through the leaves.

Acacia Peuce is found in only three places, in Queensland near Boulia and Birdsville and in the Mac Clark Conservation Reserve. In the early twentieth century many of the trees were cut down to build stockyards and shelters, even though the wood was so hard that nails could not be used.



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