AWOL Around Australia… The Flooded Desert


Here is a little map for those not familiar with Australian geography. We’ve come across the top west to east, Kununurra, Darwin, out to Nhulunbuy. Then Borroloola and across to Cairns where the pin is. Where we turned around and started heading south-west, detouring to Longreach. Just for reference.


Heading south-west out of Longreach to Windorah. Topping off the fuel, got chatting to the lady at the servo, who the recounted numerous tales of ‘the worst Toyota dealer in the country’, not just me then.

Then due west, heading to Birdsville. We catch our first glimpses of the green swathe that is cutting through this usually dry and barren land.

We considered camping at Deon’s Lookout. Great view, although somewhat windy and more to the point there was no getting a tent peg in up here.

So we pressed on to the Beetoota Hotel, or whatever was left of it. Marked on the map as ruins.


On arrival it was clear the hotel was ruins no more. Someone had fully restored it and spent (a lot) of money on the place. Yet the sign on the way into town said population 0 and there was no-one there. Stickers on the truck round the back said opening August 2018. Had it really gone bust already, after so much had been invested?

Anyway, it made for some good photo opportunities.









The yellow bus is apparently the sister bus to the more famous one near Cameron Corner – which apparently ended up getting buried (!) as the bloke who’s property it was on got sick of all the rubbish around it – that’s the world we’re in…

[As it turns out (I got the low down at the Tourist Information/word on the street in Birdsville) it is still in the process of being restored, it is costing more than they thought… (really? out here? expensive?) and is only open for the desert races and functions. Word on the street – the old boy that owned it left it to the station over the river (we were picking up WiFi signals from there whilst we were camped!), also the Polish guy that used to run it was hiding out there from the law. Ha! Gotta love the outback! Whatever, still seems like a bloody marginal business case to my eyes, but what do I know. Apparently the road used to run right past it (as it shows on the map), now it’s a few km detour, plus only 160km from arguably the most iconic pub in Australia. Anyway, best of luck to them, they certainly haven’t half-arsed the resto]
So, we take those 160km to Birdsville. We didn’t have to come this way, there is no way through (south or east) from Birdsville currently, even this road only opened four days ago. However, we’ve never been to this iconic outback town and especially now, it’s worth a visit.
Indigenous art installation en-route.
Sand dunes, flood waters and greenery.
These two ‘overland’ trucks were parked next to each other in Birdsville. Just a coincidence apparently, despite the fact they were made by the same mob. I got chatting the bloke with the white one. He started off in a VW camper, then a Troopy and now this. When I quizzed him on the restrictions of getting it down any track with trees on it his response was “we’ve done all that, the extra comfort is what we want now” which is fair enough. They make a bit more sense when you put it like that. For older folk.
I’m still not sure what you do with this one though…
We started to drive down here to check out another Burke and Wills tree, but despite dry on top the surface was soft and squidgy underneath. I could tell this because I got out and walked the track – something I neglected to do a couple of weeks later, with predictable results…
We had dinner at the iconic Birdsville Hotel that night.
The artesian water supply on our way out of town. Being cooled off before it can be used.
Even the road north had a detour.
Well worth it as it takes you past Lake Machattie. I spot a track heading down towards the lake and take it.
Bloody spectacular. Seeing all this water in what would normally be a dry desert. It also really shows just how much water is making its way across the country. This water fell as devastating floods arounds Townsville, some 1500 km away, back in February.
I remark to N that this feels like redemption for all the dry lakes and river beds we’ve visited over the years. Driving around the arid parts of Australia it is easy to imagine these lakes and river never fill. So being here now, and seeing this part of nature in action, is a privilege and a rare treat.

2 thoughts on “AWOL Around Australia… The Flooded Desert

  1. So there was no one representing the Betoota Advocate? Shame. Either way…the desert makes people do some decidedly crazy things…

    Fine pics too

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