Mt. Dare Hotel opening bash to Birdsville

Offroad testing products with RV Storage Solutions

Cooper Pedy, Oodnadatta to Mt Dare

This time of year is normally a bit early for a trip North but we had a pressing engagement we couldn’t miss. The Mount Dare pub opening weekend. Besides myself and Bruce were the entertainment!! Both myself and Bruce are or were Musicians in another life and when we heard of the cost to get a band to Mt Dare for the weekend, we just had to help the Cox’s out.

It was decided that while we were there we may as well come back across the desert and test a few products. The trip began by heading to Coober Pedy on the black top where you will pick up any last minute fresh supplies. There is also a well stocked store at Woomera where we had a look around at the rockets and planes etc which are on show near the school in town.

The turn off to Mt Dare is at Coober Pedy Via Oodnadatta. If you haven’t done it, do the detour via the painted desert its worth a look. This time we took the direct route through to Oodnadatta camping at Arckaringa creek where there is plenty of fire wood. You can get in off the road a bit and do your own thing. Watch out for the ant nests though!!

This says it all!
Karen at the Stuart Monument outside Coober.

The next morning we were up early and in Oodnadatta by breakfast time. We had the ever reliable egg and bacon sandwich at the Pink Road house and kept moving. Oodnadatta was a buzz as the preparations for the Oodnadatta races were underway for the weekend. The pioneer cemetery is worth a look here. On the way out of town we stopped at the Afghan graves which are up on a common just past the dam. If you have a kick around there’s lot to explore.

We went on through Hamilton station stopped at Pedirka siding to have a look at the buried car and arrived at Mt Dare just in time for Lunch. Dave and Melissa Cox were having the grand opening of their new pub and we were the entertainment. It ran over the weekend and spilled into Monday as it was a public holiday in the Alice.

We were there for 4 days and had a great time. The Cox’s have set up a great facility in the middle of no where. It is the stepping stone for a trip east across the desert and the finishing point for western travelers. Its also handy for day trips to Dalhousie springs and ruins.

1st class meals are on offer and there is plenty of milk and bread and other camping items for sale if required. As well as Melissa’s art (she’s a great artist in her own right), there’s lots of Aboriginal art for sale by the residents of Finke.

Some of the gang ripping it up.
Bruce and Mark rocking the Mount Dare Hotel.

There is a camping area with hot showers and rooms available. Down the track the Cox’s want to have modern accommodation units built around the dam next to the pub. I look forward to that one.

There’s plenty of knowledge on offer to for those wanting to explore or need help. Dave offers tyre repairs and minor repairs to 4WD’s and there’s Ian and Pat who are resident Guru’s on the desert and surrounds. They work for Hema maps and have been just about everywhere. Friends of the Cox’s, Dale and Renee complete the mob. They moved up from Melbourne to work for the winter. Dale recently working for ARB and has a sound knowledge on 4WD’s.

The party was great and went without a hitch. Every one that was there had a great weekend. We even sang in key!!

A highlight for us was Molly Clarke coming down for the weekend. Molly hates you to mention that she is a legend or anything special. I got told off when I introduced her over the microphone for those that didn’t know her. She reckons she’s just a country girl who worked and lived at Old Andado station. Sorry Molly you’re a bit more special than that!!!

This track heads east through Malbooma, Tarcoola and Kingoonya where we turned off and headed North. The pubs at Tarcoola and Kingoonya had closed down which was a bugger as it was hot and dusty and a cold one would of been a treat. The sign on one pub said it will reopen as soon as a tenant can be found to run it!!

The whole Mob kids and all who work at Mt Dare.
Mark and Karen with Molly Clarke.

Into the desert

Any trip across the Simpson must be started or finished with an invigorating swim at Dalhousie springs.The day we were there we had it to ourselves and had a good swim. Karen and Cherrie were happy but sad at the same time as they knew it was their last proper rinse for 3 or 4 days.

We were trying to make the Colson track to camp for the night and didn’t get away from Mt Dare until after lunch. Needless to say we didn’t make it. The obligatory flat tyre, a stop at Purni Bore and lots of photos made sure of that. It wasn’t too bad as we found a beaut clearing with plenty of wood a bit off the track about 20kms short of our target on dusk.

I should of known better than to make a timetable. It never happens out here as there is always something that will crop up or an opportunity that arises. So always allow a couple of extra days if you can and take your time and take it all in.

I was looking forward to see how our new 80 litre under tray water tank had held up that we had installed on the Nissan Cab Chassis. It was in good shape and the in built pressure switched pump worked a treat. We had instant water and with the 2.5 meter hose attachment we could use it around the camp kitchen with little effort. It had a good clean taste with no hint of plastic.

Later that night the wind picked up and continued to blow at between 20 and 30 knots for the next 3 days.The sand stings when on a strong wind.

What's left of Purni Bore.
The Black Widow 85 ltr under floor tank worked a treat.

WAA Line – Rig Road

We found an interdunal about 20kms short of the Colson junction that was clear and flat. We headed in a couple of km’s and found a great camp site with plenty of wood and a bit scrub for wind protection. We had the biggest spider I have ever seen pay us a visit around the camp fire that night. If it wasn’t six inches across I’ll go hee.

An early start saw us turning right on the Colson Track in good time. It was smoothish compared to the French Line and was a welcome. Turning East on the WAA Line which I must say looked as if one or two cars had only ever been down it, saw us back on the rough and tumble. Its amazing how rain and wind can repair the land back to its original state. Literally the desert receives thousands of visitors a year and whilst we were there at least, it appeared to receive only one or two.

The WAA Line was slow going with speeds of 10 to 20 km’s an hour the norm. We hit Knolls Track and turned south towards the Rig Road and arrived at the Lone Gum mid afternoon. There is a large sign nearby telling all about the trees rarity in the area. The track out to the Lone Gum is severely rutted and is very slow going. In the end where we could we made a few diversions so the bones could settle down again.

We headed back up the Rig Road and headed east hoping to reach Poolawanna oil well for camp. We didn’t make it as usual and camped on the Rig Road short of our target. Wood is scarce in these parts, small and scrubby. We had a job getting good coals for the camp oven. The wind was still up and it poured rain overnight.

Camp in an interdunal on the French Line.
The lone Gum (Coolabah) Rig Road.

Knolls Track to the French Line after breakfast we were back on the road heading for Knolls Track which would take us back to the French Line to continue our crossing. We got to Approdina knolls which we thought, nah I won’t say! Pretty uneventful. Large gypsum outcrops which are fenced off and if you wanted to get any closer to these exiting lumps you had to track it in by foot. Suffice to say a few pics did the job from behind the fence.

It was here on climbing a dune for a better pic that horrible noises started coming from the 100’s front end. Closer examination found that the outer CV had literally exploded. Great!! Another 300km’s of desert in two wheel drive. Unfortunately this meant we now had to hit the dunes with a bit more force than we would of liked just to get over the buggers. Heading east bound all the dunes seem to have a dip right before the climb and with the wind blowing the way it was the faces of the dunes sheer with a high peak. When your hitting this at a faster speed than you should so as to make it over, it makes for bone crunching work.

Poepples Corner to the QAA Line

Now in limp mode our going was slower and more calculated. We couldn’t take each challenge as we came to it, we had to pull up and work out the best way over or around. Turning right at the French line and heading east saw the track pretty rough going. The exposed rock in the track had to be taken gently. As the track got closer to the state junction the sand became incredibly soft and with the wind gusting the track became at times unidentifiable.

French Line.
Corner saltpan country.
QAA line.
French Line.
Another visit to Poepples Corner.
Home away from home. With the Black Widow awnings and clip on extension tables.
This old Motor bike frame has been out here for years.

Once we hit the salt and clay pans we knew we were close to Poepples. It was lunch at the corner in a howling gale with the only positive being that the bloody flies were kept at bay with the wind raging. We hooked up with the QAA line by mid afternoon and were heading east. The QAA line is like a highway compared to the rest of the tracks out here. The faces of the dunes are steeper heading this way but it was heaven. The interdunal’s also carry plenty of timber and trees for shelter from the wind. The dunes are bigger and redder or so it seems.

We made camp on dusk with the wind still howling. We found a treed area which gave us some respite from the wind. Bruce conjured up a great damper in the camp oven for tea which went down a treat.

It rained quite heavily overnight which settled the wind. The next morning the tracks were clean and it seemed as if we were the first to ever travel them. It was mid morning before we hit our first oncoming out of Birdsville. Nothing annoys me more than those travelers that don’t have the time to stop for a quick chin wag about information we could give them about where they are heading and like wise for us heading the other way. Oh well not all people are friendly.

Eyre Creek to Birdsville

A lot of rain had been falling prior and during our visit. We couldn’t believe how green it was when we crossed a large dune to expose what seemed to be a lost valley. It was a different world with grass a meter high, birds everywhere and flowers blooming. We had entered the Eyre creek area and the water was up at the normal crossing and too deep to venture into.

A couple of Km’s south a bypass had been put in where it was only about two feet deep. We took the opportunity for a few photos and had a cuppa. The western face of the dune skirting Eyre creek is quite close to the usual Eyre creek crossing point and with it closed and the by pass heading back around to the base of it, there wasn’t a lot of room to hit it with any speed. With the 100 in two wheel drive only it was a challenge. There was a split second there I though I would have to call on Bruce for a snatch but luckily we willed it over. The 100 weighs over 3 tonnes with all the gear on it and with the extra weight of all the musical equipment we had hauled up for the Mt Dare gig, it made it heavier than usual.

I would never of lived it down if Bruce had pulled me over!! He had already pulled me out earlier in the day and was pretty chuffed. I told him it didn’t count as I could only muster 2WD.

It was decided for us blokes to travel together and the two girls could have a chin wag. Karen drove the Nissan ute and we followed. We captured her off road driving prowess on film and I was pretty pleased at her driving skills. I think its a great idea if your partner can negotiate off road conditions because you never know when they will be needed.

I've never seen it this green.
Eyre Creek was too deep at the regular crossing point on the QAA line.
There was a detour about 2km's south that made for easy going.

Big Red

We arrived at Big Red the last and highest sand dune around lunchtime. I was determined to get the 100 series over it two wheel drive or not. I was convinced that I was going back to Birdsville skirting the eastern side of the dune and not the western down to little red.

The first attempt up what we call the soft or girls accent didn’t happen for me. I had 3 go’s at it and with the rain I had chopped it up to a bog and another attempt would be fruitless. Bruce trundled up this track with ease with 4WD and asked me what all the fuss was about.

I decided to hit the more direct steeper track. With a decent run up I had two go’s and each attempt I edged closer but no cigar. I decided to bring the 100 all the way back to the sign pictured left and as quick as I could get the car to go, that’s the speed I was going up it. I would ‘t recommend this method as the speed required was outrageous. I made it over and a cheer rang out.

I must add here too that we both were using Cooper tyre’s. Terry Smith from Exclusive Tyre’s was keen for us to try them out. They performed very well. We had only the one flat in the 4,000 KM’s of rough going we did on this trip and that was a spike that would down any tyre. I had the 305 ST’s on the 100 while Bruce had the 285 STT’s on the ute. We used them at many varying tyre pressures and were super impressed with how they handled. Tyre pressures are very important on trips like these and to know your tyre’s perform well at the many pressures required is very reassuring. There is also a lot of corrugations and once the pressure we needed was set up, both us passengers and the cars had a much easier time of it.

Another tip, make sure that your compressor is a good one or you will have a lot of down time waiting for the tyre to reinflate. We found the quickest to be Max Air.

Clean top dune QAA Line.
Take the challenge of Big Red and return to Birdsville on the other side.


We were looking forward to Birdsville a hot shower and a bed. We were out of luck as all the rooms at the pub were booked and the cabins at the caravan park were also taken. There was no way the swag was coming out tonight and a forward call down to Mungaranie found us a room each.

The bakery at Birdsville is great and we had lunch there and had a look around town for a while. Bruce hadn’t been to Birdsville before so he had a bit more to do than us. We enjoyed a cold drink at the pub while he went over to John Menzies Museum ( a must whilst here). The servo is great too and provides mechanical assistance as well as basic foods. I put the 100 up on the hoist and confirmed our problems.

We were planning on going east on the development road and down the Cordillo Downs road and home via Innaminka etc. The roads were closed that day so that wasn’t going to happen. As it turns out a day later all the roads in the area were closed and we would of been stuck here, so I’m glad we left when we did. The rain just got heavier and a few days later the Outback Challenge was cancelled mid stream because of it.

Top of Big Red. Black Widow sand flags stood up to the desert well and performed at all safe speeds.
Bruce right at the top of Big Red.

Birdsville Track

I have never seen so much water out here on our trips. The Birdsville track for the most part of the Northern section (Goyders Lagoon) was under water. The stoney desert was awash and the track was very boggy. If you take it easy and lower your tyre pressures you will have no problems with conditions like this. The amount of panic stricken people heading North was amazing. We had people telling us to head back as we won’t get through as they had only just made it themselves. A quick look at their vehicle setup explained why.


We pulled into Mungaranie around dusk and were champing at the bit for a shower, a feed and a cold beer. Fortunately for us we got all of the above in copious quantities.

The new owners Pam and Phil were very hospitable. Pam is a great cook and we had plenty of tucker. Phil joined us for a couple of quiet ones and before we knew it it was midnight!! Phil looks the part with his hat and full beard and whatever you do don’t say he looks like Johnno the previous owner because he will chew your ears off!!

Pam and Phil have great plans for Mungaranie and are both well traveled. Ask Phil to show you his large map of Oz with all his travels marked on it. He’s done some miles.Great hospitality, great Pub.

The track south from here was easy going, a few small puddles but for the most part was dry. There is lots to see and a detailed map of the area is advantageous. I would also recommend a bit of reading before you go as to give a meaning and history to what your looking at.

This is true of places like the Mulka store and particularly Farina. Government Gums as it was called has an amazing past. There are people buried there that have a story to tell. The page family grave is another sad story and shows how quickly you can perish in these harsh condition. Standing by the grave is an experience. Most good maps like the Hema maps will have the GPS co ordinates for these places.

A great source of information is at the Mobil service station in Hawker. They have a vast array of books on the area and people and pioneers of such. Every time we go there we come away with a months reading material.

We stayed at Port Augusta that night and visited out dealer Andrew Fitzgerald ( Fitzy) at Augusta 4WD Centre. Fitzy is a doyen of these parts and is a wealth on information particularly on the Flinders ranges. He offers a very experienced work shop and I can highly recommend him for all your pre trip preparations and servicing.

Stoney desert under waters.
Mulka store remnants.
Birdsville track.
The owners Pam and Phil with Mark and Karen at Mungaranie.


It was a great trip with an amazing variation of conditions. We had dust, gale force winds, sand storms, fly and Mozzie plagues, mud, rain and hot to freezing temperatures.

You couldn’t ask for more. As with every trip its all in the preparation. Don’t skip the quality for price, read and listen to people who have experience out there. Have a chat to people like the mechanic at Birdsville or Fitzy at Port Augusta (Augusta 4WD serice) and you will hear stories of things people do and the trouble they get into that will curl your hair. Be prepared.

Safe Travels,
Mark and Karen

The owners Pam and Phil with Mark and Karen at Mungaranie.