Dry July – A Land Cruiser and a Range Rover go winter desert touring. Part 2

Pink sunrise greeted us the next day. We fuelled up and headed out.


Back down the access road from Arkaroola we hung left, north east, this dirt road would take us up to the Strzelecki Track, and on to Innamincka, our destination today.

This track was relatively busy this morning. We passed a group of four pick-ups that were stopped. I checked they were ok “a bit of car trouble, but we’ll work it out” hopefully they did.

Then it got back to normal outback rush-hour.

We got to the junction with the Strzelecki Track. This track, now a major outback travel route for tourists and industry alike, was originally pioneered in 1870 by Harry Redford. Who stole 1000 head of cattle in Queensland and drove them all the way to Adelaide in South Australia, and sold them. Through terrain that only ten years prior has finished off the explorers Burke and Wills. The feat so impressed the jury at his trial that they found him not guilty!

The full tale is here. It should probably be called the Redford Track I think.

Almost immediately there was a step change in the scenery, from the red rock desert that we had been in since leaving the Flinders, to now proper sandy desert. This is the Strzelecki Desert, named after the Polish explorer Pawel Strzelecki.

The track is easy going. Dust from other vehicles being the only difficulty, so we kept a good couple of kilometres between us. Unlike some groups coming the other way. It’s a pet gripe of mine, I just want to say to them “if you’re idea of fun is driving around in your mates dust 100m off his bumper, then that’s your business. But at least put your headlights on so other people can see you a bit further away than 10m when you emerge out of the dust…” /rant

There are a couple of different routes you can take to Innamincka, one being the old Strzelecki Track. However we wanted to check out the oil and gas fields at Moomba, so we just stuck to the main dirt road this time.

The desert-scape just outside of Moomba was worth a stop for some extra photos.

Not surprisingly this was as close as we got to the facility.

However, it still looked suitably ‘Mad Max’ from a distance.

As we were taking photos, three road trains pulled out of Moomba and headed down the road to Innamincka. So this was our view at the start of the 150km stretch to Innamincka.

Bloody dangerous. Especially with the road-trains seemingly being all over the road at times. However with 150km still to go I didn’t fancy sitting here doing 40-60km/h, so when the wind blew the dust the right way and the road was clear enough I started working the Cruiser past the lumbering beasts. Confident in the fact that The Accountant is also an, ahem, seasoned overtaker and would have no trouble doing the same. Especially as the Rangie deploys somewhat more firepower than my Cruiser.

The welcoming party as we rolled onto the bitumen at Innamincka.

There are two businesses in Innamincka. The Trading Post – a general store that also sells fuel, and the pub. However this time of year it is busy with tourists, many on their way back from the Big Red Bash (a music festival held on a sand dune), in Birdsville, just up the (dirt) road.

It not being immediately apparent what the camping arrangements were, I headed into the store whilst The Accountant fielded work calls now we were back in service (that’s why he’s on the big bucks), the lady who manages the store ran down the options, either just outside town on the creek with a $5/night honesty system, or in the National Parks for about $12/night. Plus we would need an $11 permit for each vehicle to enter any of the parks (this lady was quite a character and this was all explained in the tone of a country person who thinks most people from the city are idiots, but in a nice way…) “is the camping any better in the National Parks than by the creek?” I enquired “nah, it’s worse if anything” I thanked here for her honesty “also, it’s roast night at the pub tonight”, good to know.

We grabbed a beer and chatted to some of the people coming back from Birdsville “what was the Bash like?” “a three day dust bowl, but still worth it”. Iconic Australian band Midnight Oil had been headlining the festival, back to touring now the lead singer has given up politics.

We moseyed on down to the campsite and set up. It was busy as expected, but the camps were well spread out, so it didn’t feel it. I’ve camped in worse spots.

This is the Cooper Creek, one of many outback river systems. The locals were glad that some of the water making its way across the country ended up coming down this system, as it has run dry several times in the last few years. Apparently the fishing was at its best a few weeks ago, not that it would have made much difference to a fisherman of my ability

We then moseyed on back to the pub and joined a few hundred other travellers for roast night, which was pretty much what we needed after a full day of driving.

So with our original Simpson Desert plans scuppered, and also the nearby Congee Lakes also out of bounds due to the same flood waters. We decided to tour around a few of the historical sites in the area the next day, Leave our small camp set up.

The morning checks of the trucks found the BFG’s on the Rover were showing some sidewall damage. I suggested we check the other side of the tyre (fine) and it might be time to run a bit more pressure in those bad boys.

We headed back into Innamincka to pick up our permits. Whilst The Accountant did more work stuff I snapped a few photos.

Apparently this (below) had been here for 5 days already. There are no auto services in Innamincka (any more), but at least there is accomodation and a pub whilst you wait for someone to drive you out a wheel and tyre. The advertising for these sort of AWD ‘lifestyle’ vehicles often alludes to the fact they are suitable for camping, etc. The space saver lasted 20km on the dirt, whouda’thought?

Very popular option now down under, these Iveco trucks.

The Cooper Creek is where Burke and Wills, of the ill fated first north/south crossing of Australia perished. On their return from reaching the Gulf of Carpenteria, the northern coastline. Burke and Wills certainly got  posthumous fame for their achievement. However compared to many contemporary explorers they had many failings. If you consider their main competitor, John McDouall Stuart, never lost a man, in six expeditions into the unforgiving heart of unexplored Australia. Think about that. I do, a lot.

Anyway, today we would tour some of the Burke and Wills historic sites in the area. Firstly to Burke’s grave.

Both Burke and Wills bodies were later exhumed and returned to Melbourne for a state funeral.

Much of the expedition’s failure is heaped upon Burke’s pigheaded-ness, and refusal to work with the Aborigines. No one can question the bravery of any of these explorers though, no maps, no vehicles, no communications and compared to where most of them were from (Europe and the UK) a very unfamiliar and unforgiving environment.

The Accountant snapped this rather tasty shot looking out to the Cooper.

Next up was not an inconsiderable detour into Queensland to check out the ‘Dig Tree’ site. The road out of South Australia is so rough that new tracks have been established in the verge on both sides.

Once over the border, you are treated to smooth bitumen. I wonder what choice words Queenslanders have for South Australia, coming the other way…

Back over the Cooper as the Dig Tree is on the northern bank.

The Dig Tree is where Burke and Wills missed their relief party by a matter of hours, after the party had waited eighteen weeks for them. They left provisions buried and blazed the instructions of where to find them in this tree – which are now illegible, and there is some debate as to what they were in period too.

In an adjacent tree there is a carving of Burke (done sometime later, but still over 100 years old) that is still very striking.

There was a dirt road north of here that would loop up back to Innamincka.

I found this bizarre tree at our lunch stop.

Back at the pub, the Rangie had pick up a pal.

Back to camp in good time, so time for a fire and a cook up.


Steak and pasta.

Next day we would press on. Across Walkers Crossing to the Birdsville Track.

Thanks for reading.

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