Dry July – A Land Cruiser and a Range Rover go winter desert touring. Part 3

We bade goodbye to our little spot on the Cooper Creek.

A quick breakfast and topped off the fuel at the Trading Post. Said goodbye to the characterful owners and hit the road.

Today we would take Walkers Crossing, taking us through the Birdsville Track where we would turn the trucks south and start heading back towards home. I was hoping to get to Mungeranie Station tonight, but not knowing the terrain ahead we would just play it by ear and just bush camp if we didn’t make it.

The below map isn’t the route we took, which was more direct, but Google doesn’t like 4wd tracks. Anyway, you get the gist.

First though we stopped at Wills grave site, to complete our little historical tour from yesterday.

Wills died alone at this peaceful and picturesque spot.

Getting back to the car park we had been joined by some other vehicles. My Cruiser looking seriously underdone in the Overland Jewellery department. I clearly need to work on my ‘look’…

Back on the crossing, the trees soon thinned out. I had put my sand flag on as the track was quite twisty and undulating in places.

Another flock of Little Corellas (I think), the same that had greeted me on our way into Innamincka a couple of days ago.

This part of the track was fast with the regular soft sections that meant slowing for. I noticed I was getting a long brake pedal in the Cruiser. I had a good idea what was causing it, and the next junction I stopped to check it out. Jacking up a front wheel confirmed my suspicions. There was noticeable play in the in the wheel bearing, causing the brake disc to push the brake pads back as it wobbled around – this is known as brake ‘knock off’ and something you will sometimes see racing drivers managing by squeezing the brake pedal slightly just before they hit the brakes properly, so the pads are right next to the disc.

I said to The Accountant, “I’m going to have to sort this”.

I had done the wheel bearing service and also new brakes before this trip. This side with the play in it hadn’t gone back together nicely for some reason. I had redone the assembly at the time and thought I had sorted it, but clearly not. Anyway, I had the special tools with me for the wheel bearings and so would just reset the adjustment on this corner and then check the other three.

 

 

One side sorted, we checked the other three. There was a tine amount of play in the other side front, so as we had everything out I quickly readjusted that one. As I was doing this the first vehicle we had seen since we stoped came by. They stopped and checked we were ok. Everything buttoned back up we packed the tools away and were once more back at it. It had cost us about an hour, but no matter, we were equipped to camp anywhere so there would be no rushing, despite the setback.

Luckily the signage is comprehensive on Walkers Crossing, as there are many service tracks that veer off the main track for the oil and gas fields around here.

I stopped a couple more times just to check everything was hunky dory with the Cruiser, and also to let the tyres down. I had expected once we got away from the creek to go back the rocky country we had experienced yesterday, but heading this was we had stayed in the sandy desert. So with less risk of tyre damage I dropped my pressures.

This creek had seen some water, but it was gone now.

Heading through the creek crossing that this track is named after. There is a commemorative plaque for Walker, but no word on what happened to him.

We spotted this gas pipeline being burnt off in the distance.

We had been following alongside this dune for sometime. The track eventually wound close enough to stop and have a climb up.

This track was reminding me somewhat of Googs Track, that we had tackled a few years ago. Although this one ran in-line with the dunes, rather than crossing them. It also twisted and turned, whereas Googs is pretty arrow straight.

Some snaps from along the trail.

The sand was soft in places. Not the getting bogged soft, just the dab of oppo type soft.

Then back into the red rock desert.

 

And with that we hit the Birdsville Track. Not knowing how this would be, if it was rough and heavily corrugated like the Oodnadatta Track we probably wouldn’t make the station tonight. But as it turns out it was in great condition and we good cruise at 100 clicks fairly easily.

We stopped at the track that leads to Warburton Crossing. This would have been where we would have kicked off our original Simpson Desert plan, but it’s been closed ever since the flood waters came through. Of course some wanker had pulled down the road closed sign. We were not remote enough to stop the influx of dickheads. Judging by the water we would experience tomorrow, the crossing was very much still off the agenda, hopefully these idiots are still stuck down there.

Further down the track we splashed through where this artesian hot spring bubbles out of the desert. Not so long ago a bloke fell in here and was very badly burned, luckily for him someone was able to drive him down to Mungeranie where they gave him first aid before he could be flown out. They resuscitated him three times waiting for the plane, such were the severity of his burns. He lived and is now suing the station for not having the hot spring fenced off properly. So again we legislate for the idiots.

 

We rolled into Mungeranie, and had a beer (and got the hot springs story) before setting up camp. If this is starting to feel like an outback pub crawl, well it seems that’s what it was turning into. No bad thing, all the pubs have great characters in them and were humming with the busyness of peak touring season.


Next day we took a detour out to Cowarie Station, out to Warburton Creek. The Account hadn’t really seen much of the floodwaters and wanted to check them out.

Whilst there was still a significant amount of water flowing, as we tried to walk down to it we got a idea of just how high it had been. This was as close as we got.

A good fifty metres from the waters edge we were struggling to stand and slip sliding around like a couple of drunks (touche!). You put a vehicle on that and you’ll be recovering it for the next few months. So, safe to say the Warburton Crossing into the Simpson Desert, less than 100km from here, is well and truly still impassable.

 

All that considered, this was still a beautiful spot now.

With abundant bird life and an incredible fragrance from the plants that had sprung up on the riverbanks. I would love to know if these were native and edible?

 

Thwarted by locked gates at exploring any further. We headed back to the Birdsville Track and speared on back towards Maree.

A quick reference map for the route from here.

Passing this distant lake on the way, no doubt a depository of the the floodwaters final resting place. Maybe Lake Florence or Lake Tankamarinna according to the map. At first I thought it was just desert shimmer on the horizon but once I stopped and checked with the binos I saw it was genuinely water, the sand cliffs behind are the give-away.

Again we were keeping a decent distance between our vehicles. I rolled into Maree, and was fuelling up and starting to wonder what had happened to the Rangie. As it seemed a longer delay than I was expecting. Had he done a tyre? Or worse…

The answer arrived as I came out from paying for fuel.

The new Rhino Rack roof rack had sheared all its mountings.

Luckily it had done so loudly and so The Accountant was able to strap it down before the whole lot departed from the roof. We estimated the load on the rack to be around 75kg, about what it was rated for off bitumen. However on arriving home and weighing everything, it was found to be 112kg. So overloaded. Weight, as ever, the enemy.

However, I was still surprised. Most quality Australian 4×4 gear is built to take a fair amount of abuse outside it’s specs in my experience – look at all the crap I’ve got having off that Kaymar wheel carrier, spare wheel, firewood and mud clogged maxtraxs that are probably 10kg each. I know it’s not apples to apples but still…

However, as you can see I don’t run a roof rack, so I don’t know anything about them.

Always a bummer when a new expensive piece of equipment breaks, especially first time out.

Let’s go find a pub!

So our last stop would be the Prarie Hotel, Parachilna. We’ve stopped many time here over the years, but I’ve always wanted to have their ‘Feral Feast’ dish. So it was nice that we would end up here late afternoon, and leave only about a half a day drive home tomorrow.

After some boozy chats with the locals at the pub, we headed back to camp 100m up the road and had our final campfire. We awoke to another beautiful outback morning. Before turning the trucks south, an easy few hours on the bitumen today.

I call into Harry’s Homemade, just outside Port Pirie, always worth a stop. Loaded up with pickled octopus, smoked fish, camel burgers and buffalo burgers. We push on for home.

Thanks for reading.

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