Birdsville to the Gulf of Carpentaria

Offroad testing products with RV Storage Solutions

Birdsville was the start of our trip North. Those in the convoy made their way up to Birdsville from Port Augusta over a leisurely 2 days via a stop at Mungaranie the night before. Johno and Genevieve put on a good feed as usual and a good night was had by all. We ambled into Birdsville about lunchtime. We all stayed at the pub in what would be our last real bed for several weeks.

This trip was an industry product testing exercise led by Ron and Viv Moon. We were looking forward to testing our whole product range in what was to be some pretty rugged terrain.

A visit to John Menzies Museum is a must when in Birdsville. John is a living Marvel and is pretty talented at leather work also. If you need a custom belt or work done on leather, he offers a while you wait service in between his working tours. Be warned, allow several hours to look at all his displays. You could spend a whole day there.

We stayed at the pub. The outside of the pub is as glorious as an outback pub could be and fitting of its reputation as Australia’s most famous pub. What’s offered on the inside is best left alone.

The next morning we set off Indian file west out to Poepples Corner where we were to turn right and head in a criss cross line to the Gulf of Carpentaria tracking the Northern Territory/ Queensland border.

The old Royal hotel which burnt down many years ago. We wished it was still open.
Karen at the Birdsville Pub on sunset.

The run out to Big Red is only about 35kms and the road is well graded. To get to big red you need to turn North when you hit the dune and travel a couple of km’s skirting the dune. Once over you are entering the Simpson proper and the up down begins. The early part of the QAA line is pretty as you pass across Eyre creek. It’s hard to imagine that water comes through here at a rapid rate but it does when there’s floods!!

To me the desert is an amazing experience. It’s a must do if you have the vehicle and the time. It is a living thing and close observation will show an amazing array of life. Go to desert life for our selection of shots we saw out there.

The eastern side of Big Red where the desert starts.
A typical section of the QAA line.

The QAA line is a good track to first experience sand driving. Heading east the dunes graduate to a crest and its a matter of just rolling over them.

Because of the time we all took playing around on big red the goal of Poepples corner for the night was always going to be a challenge. As it is when you travel with larger groups, everything takes twice as long. Ron runs a tight camp and when its time to stop we stop. This particular trip was catered and the cooks needed time to prepare the tucker.We pulled up about 20km’s short.

Each night Ron would fill us in on where we went for the day, how far and what’s in store for the morrow. Ron and Viv Moon to me epitomize what 4WDriving in the Outback is all about and much can be learned from them.

The experience and knowledge I learnt from them on this trip was invaluable and I recommend if you ever have the opportunity to travel with or meet them, do so.

Eyre creek. QAA line
Poepples corner marker.

The next morning saw us at the three state junction and some filming with Ron in good form. I must show him the out takes I got on my camera one day!! We turned right here and headed North. The trip now was pretty much in interdunal valleys and a crossing of a dune when required to stay on course. There were no tracks here and we humped and bumped our way on. The suspensions were taking a beating and as the day wore on no resistance was offered as the shockers reached melt down.

The LTR shockers I had on the 100 series were fine and worked well. Some other vehicles however had worse luck with their choice. All the vehicles on the trip had black widow storage systems fitted. It was great to see whenever we pulled up, all our gear being used as it was designed. And for that matter standing up to the conditions with ease.

The Poepples oil well remnants.
Beachcomber oil well.

As we followed the border we came across many interesting things as shown left. When Wells blazed the border North they actually cleared the line some 20 feet either side of it. It must of been back breaking work. Every mile they put in a marker and every 10 miles they would put in a large post. We came across one of these long since fallen posts still just recognizable.

Alan from Piranha spotted the concrete marker stone from a fair way of. We traveled to it and had morning tea there. It was a good find and Ron used the opportunity to go to film. Those who have seen the video of this trip will recognize this marker pictured left.

We took in Madigans camp’s 16 and 17 as diversions and camped at camp 17 for the evening.

Camp 17 is nestled next to the biggest sand dune I saw on the trip and it took a bit of getting over the next day. Camp 17 also proved to be an ideal opportunity for some great photos on dusk. We were lucky enough to get Michael Ellem from Off Road Images to spend some time shooting myself and Karen lairizing on some clean dunes in the Black Widow 100 series. They made for great shots and we still use some of these shots in marketing today.

Camp 16 was a funny old time too. The blaze tree really doesn’t resemble such any more and a couple of the lads decided it looked like something a bit rude. Suffice to say there was some very funny film out takes that never went to air.

The visitors books at these locations are worth a read as you can see who has been out and about and what they thought of their trip and the location. Most of the available space has been taken up by company stickers and those of 4WD clubs. The 4X4 magazine team added their bit as well.

Remnants of an old border marker post. These were put in every mile.
These markers were put in in the 1960's by National mapping. This one was 70 miles North of Poepples corner.
Northern Simpson.
Mark, Karen, Viv and Ron at the Blaze tree Madigans Camp 16.

We were now heading North West to pick up on the Hay river where we would follow for the next few days into Lindsay Bookie’s place. We gradually left the Simpson behind us and the dunes were now becoming smaller and smaller. The country was opening up to wide flat expanses with trees and shrubs changing by the mile. We were making good time now and heading for Lake Caroline.

Lake Caroline turned out to be where we did the Black Widow film shoot with Ron. Its always a nervous time being interviewed live on camera. I had watched as others had done their bit on the previous days or when the scenery or conditions were right.

As it turned out we got through our bit to film in half an hour. Every body seemed happy with the way it went and it went without a hitch. I was very pleased and so was Ron.

Watching it later on DVD when it was the finished product always seems strange. It didn’t seem that way at the time and its a bit like hearing your own voice recorded, it doesn’t sound like you does it!

The end of the day saw a beautiful sunset and a great camp. We were on flat ground and it was nice to actually set up the tent and sleep on a level floor. Ron was full of voice that night giving us a run down on what was ahead a Lindsay Bookie’s place and what we could expect when we got there. One thing for sure was that we were going to get a hot shower. We had had one with our shower system that is fitted to the car a few days earlier but gave that up as a bad joke. The reason being that when you are in a convoy you do what the boss says and in this case it was Ron and Viv and I was not going to argue with either of those guys!! The mornings are too cold and when the sun dips in the sky at days end it bloody cold as well! So when traveling with a group its go go go and these are the only times available to get wet. Suffice to say we stayed dirty and were looking forward to a hot shower at Lindsay’s place.

Michael Ellem had decided that the Lakes bed would make a great Magazine front cover shot. So he lined us up went up front to the camera car and hung himself with strap restraints so he was horizontal to the ground. All I can say is that we were moving at a fair speed tightly bunched together and here is Michael virtually scrapping along the ground up in front of us. It was scary stuff and we all thought he was mad. As it turns out the shot was a great shot and shows why he is the best.

We stumbled on this bloke sunning himself.
There was some great sand ridges at Madigans Camp 17.
These markers appear at Madigans camp sites.
The sand was hot and soft so the Landy took a detour!!

Most lakes are either sloppy under the crust or powdery like talcum powder. Lake Caroline was great and we were told that in living memory it had not had any water in it. It was weird because the shot to the left with the cracked surface has probably been that way for over 100 years. This can happen out here and I have often read stories of our explorers coming across the tracks of another explorer many many years later. Dray tracks and all. It can be like a place time forgot and its something to experience.

After another photo shoot it was becoming quite hot and we all wanted to get moving. It was becoming tiresome waiting around all the time and in most cases we didn’t know what was going on. I know the results are worth it but flies and heat can rub people the wrong way.

After another couple of hours sitting around we were finally off and heading to Lindsay’s.

Lake Caroline.
Lake Caroline's surface on close inspection.

We arrived at Bookie’s camp and you could tell right away Lindsay was a character. He was old school and really loved his land. He keeps a tidy camp and is fastidious on where you can camp etc with all thoughts on keeping the land in an untouched and pristine state .These days he lives in the Alice and comes home when a tour group like ours comes through. He becomes the consummate host and we were lucky this time as his family was with him including his Mum.

Mark and Lindsay Bookie.

That afternoon after pitching camp and a hot tub, Lindsay took us on a guided tour of his land. It was amazing to hear his passionate stories about his fore bares and the history of his part of the world. We went to spots where he has family artifacts in their natural state where his family used them. Things like grinding stones and implements used in food preparation and the like.

We had nibblies and a cold beer on sunset and watched the most amazing color show at the pinnacles. There were many things to see like a rock with a tree growing from within in it, elephant rock which from a distance was uncanny,the Pinnacles etc. It’s well worth a visit and booking a tour because you would never see it otherwise.

We marched on North heading for Mt Isa where we were to pick up more to join the convoy. We passed through Jervois station, Tobermorey station had a beer at the Dangi Pub. Once through Mt Isa we camped at Lake Julius on Leichardt Station. We were now on the standard tourist tracks as the cattle musters stopped us going the more interesting and challenging way North.

We passed through and camped at Adels Grove, Kingfisher camp, Hells Gate, Barra Base Camp and Woologorang station ending up at the Gulf. We visited Burketown and fossicked around the many relics of days gone by.

When we reached the Gulf after literally hacking a track through the last 4kms of scrub and mangroves, it was all worth it it. To drive on a beach where no one has ever driven was a great feeling. The station owner said that no one had ever been that far up before except a few piggers and their tracks went faint many km’s from where we pushed on.

It does pay to arrive at camp in the daylight up here as a few of the boys woke up the next morning with their swags on top of what we were sure were croc slides on the side of a creek!!!

Elephant Rock.
Lindsay's back yard.

We were pretty fortunate with most of the trip as we saw things that Ron had organized that you wouldn’t ordinarily see. The trip finished with a big party and a lot of new made friends. It was a great experience.

We took about 5 days to get home to Gisborne from the top end visiting many places we had not been and or had the time to enjoy. The stockman’s hall of fame in Longreach and the Quantas museum are a must see. The famous Walkabout Hotel in Mckinlay from the Croc Dundee movies is worth a look and what a place Bourke is! The short cut from Cobar to Hillston is something else when wet.

See you on the road.
Mark and Karen Oliver