2015 Simpson Desert Trip

Burke & Wills, Mad Max and Drag Queens!

Happy Campers

Happy Campers

By now, you might think we have settled down into a fairly routine way of life on the road after 5 weeks of touring.

You might think that because we set out from Birdsville heading for Windorah, that we had some sort of direction or plan in mind?Watch Full Movie Online Streaming Online and Download

Well your thinking would be highly flawed because we don’t really have a clue where we want to go next and so are likely to be greatly influenced by a couple of road train drivers, met on the stagger home from the Birdsville pub. These knowledgeable blokes reckon the most stone-free track out of here is down South through Innamincka.

So off we toddle on Monday 7th of September, deep into serious historical Burke and Wills territory.

We have put in a good number of hours driving today and pull in at the Dig Tree to camp alongside the Cooper Creek. And this is where we finally hear the full story about Burke and Wills’ tragic demise. A tale that could well be interpreted as a comical farce had it not ended so inexplicably bad.

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Bourke was the charming expedition leader sponsored by the Royal Society of Victoria in 1860 to take 19 men and 49 pack animals in the race to be the first to get to the Gulf of Carpentaria and return to Melbourne. There was £2000 at stake! In a misguided effort to lighten the load and pick up the pace, Bourke split his exploration team twice, finally leaving Brahe and 3 others in charge of a cache of supplies at Depot 65, a designated tree on the banks of Cooper Creek. Instructing the Depot 65 crew to wait 3-4 months for their return, Bourke with Wills, King and Grey struck out in a mad dash to get to the gulf. 2 months later, on foot they reached the Gulf and immediately turned around in a bid to meet up with Brahe’s party. Alas Grey died on the way back and the 3 equally starving men spent the day burying his remains.

Burke’s party arrived back at the designated ‘Dig’ tree, carved with instructions about where to dig up a camel box of supplies, to find that Brahe’s team, having waited more than 4 months, left a note saying they had abandoned the depot only 9 hours earlier! Bitterly disappointed, they ate the food and re-buried the box as if undisturbed and with it a note recording their actions. This was the beginning of a number of irrational, misguided, unbelievably bad decisions that resulted in tragic circumstances. Twice Bourke returned to the Dig tree hoping to meet with a rescue party. Twice Brahe returned to the Dig tree hoping to find Bourke’s party. For two months they continued to miss each other and never once did any group think to re-dig up the camel box to find evidence of a either party’s earlier visit. Bourke and Wills died of starvation in the desert not far from Innamincka. King was cared for by aborigines before being found 2 months later.

We are fascinated by this story and go to bed debating how it could possibly have happened.

We are woken by a new bird call we have not heard before, a feathered beast we have nicknamed the ‘Text message bird’. This teasing little brat sounds EXACTLY like Alan’s incoming phone message notifications and although he subconsciously knows there is zero phone range out here, this knowledge is not enough to stop him from bouncing up to check his messages. It’s pretty funny to observe really, that city boy brain just won’t turn off!

We travel through Innamincka this morning and down the Old Strzelecki track. This is oil and gas country and pretty much the whole area is owned by Santos. We pass many oil ‘jacks’ busy pumping oil which is piped back to nearby Moomba for processing and further distribution around the country.

We camp for the night, well off the road (we are getting very good at camouflaging the Bushman) on a huge cattle station and enjoy a great camp fire under a beautiful starry night. I cook a hearty beef stew in the pressure cooker on the fire and bake a pretty fancy looking herb and parmesan damper in the camp oven. With a glass of red in hand, we are in heaven.

Julie's fancy damper

Julie’s fancy damper

We drive through Cameron’s Corner this morning, another significant state border intersection, this time SA, NSW and QLD and on to Tibooburra. After a truly sensational steak burger at the pub for lunch, Alan does some fuel calculations to make sure we have enough to get us to White Cliffs as this is the last fuel for 160km. “All good” he says, “we have plenty and don’t need to pay the $1.47 here”. I like my husband’s confidence and always trust that he has everything in hand, after all he is an accomplished bush mechanic now!

And so we drive off, into a fierce head wind and 80k down the road, discover that there has been an ever so slight miscalculation in the distance we have to travel (287k short!) AND using an ambitious consumption rate of 20L per 100k, which we have only achieved once in the past 5 weeks!

Hmmm, don’t worry, there wasn’t an argument just a few quiet “Oh shit’s” between us, not helped by the fact that our primary drive tank was below ’empty’ and the transfer of our only reserve fuel in tank 3 absolutely refused to work. More “Oh shit’s”…

Quick, we better find a camp, while there’s daylight, to dig out the 12volt manual fuel pump, which is of course well buried under the dining seat and transfer this fuel to our drive tank. Two hours later, beer in hand and the heart palpitations have subsided, we debrief and decide to NEVER do that again!

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This is what desert kids do for fun.

This is what desert kids do for fun.

Our plans have changed, we need to divert to pick up the nearest fuel at Packsaddle, over running the turn off to White Cliffs, so we decide to go to the big smoke, Broken Hill, a further 180k down the road.

The stunning sandstone sculptures overlooking Broken Hill

The stunning sandstone sculptures overlooking Broken Hill

This is a happening place! We do a decent grocery shop, pick up a couple of kilos of tourist brochures and drive 20k West to Silverton, the original mining town of the region.

Today is Friday, I think??… and we are doing a walking tour of this very small, historical village full of old churches, art galleries, a pub and the jail. Life in 1885 was mighty tough, evident by each of the basic jail cells in the Goal Museum filled to overflowing with the tools and paraphernalia of ordinary human existence, endurance, recreation and enterprise.

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Wondering through town past the old school, crumbling private residences, a lovingly preserved church and gardens, the municipal Chambers, butcher shop and cemetery tells of a once thriving Silver Town turned ghost like, with only a handful of permanent residents here running the hotel, café and some of the tourist attractions.

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The absolute stand out of the day though, was meeting the Mad Englishman, Adrian, from the Mad Max 2 Museum. This place as it turns out, is Silverton’s major drawcard for Alan and though he thought it was for the muscle cars, by far the shining star here is Adrian and how his museum came about.

This museum specialises in large, Mad Vehicles

This museum specialises in large, Mad Vehicles

Mad Max 2 was predominantly filmed here at Silverton in 1981, where for 11 weeks the place was overrun with film crew, stunt men, Mel Gibson, crazy monster machines, buggies and bikes and feral characters in leather and studs. After completion, Warner Bros. had all the left over smashed up wrecks, ramps, props and hardware pushed into a ditch on the side of the road.

Enter the Mad Englishman, who as an 18 year old saw the film in England and became so obsessed with this Mad Max world that he dragged his wife and kids on a holiday to Silverton,  outback Australia, 24 years later, just to soak up the Madness. Whilst here, Adrian discovered no public recognition or acknowledgement of MM2’s greatness or contribution to the area’s notoriety.

The Vermin have inherited the Earth... apparently!

The Vermin have inherited the Earth… apparently!

Aghast, he then permanently moved the family 2 years later to Adelaide, where in a moment of weakness, his long suffering wife Linda, agreed to move to the “arse end of hell” to establish a MM2 Museum. This museum is chocka block full of photos, memorabilia, original and replica costumes and vehicles and just last week, Adrian finally got permission to dig up that ditch on the side of the highway and retrieved 3 trailer loads of MM2 stuff! And the obsession continues…

Saturday morning we visit a boring touristy mining display in Broken Hill but I am buzzing with excitement because the Broken Heel Festival is in town! Another famous Aussie film shot in these parts is one of my favourites… Priscilla Queen of the Desert and this weekend the place is full of Drag Queens celebrating 21 years of Priscilla Fabulousness. I have missed out on lots of shows and entertainment, but I sure ain’t missing out on the Best dressed Drag Queen parade at midday! Alan is not so excited of course but reluctantly agrees to stay and watch because I am VERY insistent.

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Still wearing my glamorous single pink boa feather, we drive out of town and just outside of Wilcannia, camp on the Darling River, in the exact spot we camped 2.5 years ago.

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A gorgeous place under the River Red Gums, we enjoyed the passing wildlife parade.

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Sunday morning we head off through Cobar and on to Alan’s Cotton farm near Narromine. We will stay a few days here looking over the property, catching up with the farm manager and his wife, try to get on top of a few domestic chores, like laundry!

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Next stop is Sydney. Stayed tuned and thanks for following us!

 

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