Jul 29, 2014


Since returning from our trip, I have been asked by a publication to write a summery on our outback jaunt.

The Australian outback is a wonderful place and depending on whom you talk to it will depend on where it starts. Just recently I was granted two weeks off so the decision was made to head west and to tick several iconic locations off our never ending bucket list. A plan was set with an outback loop from the east coast to Bourke, up the Dowling track to Thargaminda, west to Innaminka, down the old Strezlecki Track to Merty Merty, head east through Cameron Corner to Tibboburra down past Packsaddle across to the Darling then up to Bourke for the return drive home. Sounds like a huge trip; but on paper it would be an epic 4500km round trip taking just 2 weeks visiting a host of iconic and historical landmarks. 

The first stage of our journey was to head straight out to Bourke in western NSW ( where I believe the outback starts ) then head up the Dowling Track into Currawinja National Park for several days. The Dowling Track stretches 567km from Bourke to Qulipie and is a tourers delight; long straight red dusty roads with iridescent colours within the landscape as it follows the path of early explorers as they found their way north heading towards the gulf. Generally the road surface is pretty good changing from a gibber rock compound to long sandy stretches that is a pleasure to drive on. We spent several days camped beside the Paroo River in Currawinja National Park which is located 200km from Bourke along the Dowling Track. We spent several days exploring this remote park and were very surprised that it contained pastoral history, massive Granite boulders that overlook the park, we explored the Caiwarro homestead ruins, it has both fresh and salt water lakes within its boundaries and is home of the infamous Bilby, not that we ever saw one !!. Apparently there is a secret 25km square breeding compound within the park that is very hi-tech with security cameras and electric fences that was opened in 2001 to protect this endangered species. This was one place where we would definatly come back to for the serenity and what it holds within. 

Back on the road and this time we were heading further 165 km to the north towards Thargaminda. A small outback community of 250 people, basic facilities are available to travellers. After refuelling and restocking it was here where we left the Dowling Track to head west towards The Dig Tree, Innaminka and the Corner Country for another stint. Travelling westward along the Adventure Way from Tharga, the road was tar for several hundred kilometres which was a chance to knock over some miles on our journey, open plains were the main feature we did cross Greys Range which was a pleasant sight that held some spectacular colours in the facing rocky outcrops. Out this way; gas is a major industry and the closer we got towards Innaminka the more traffic we encountered as well as a host of gas fields. Finding the turn to the Dig Tree we trundled along the well used and extremely rough station road towards the camp. Before hitting the camp ground you will need to register and pay a very modest fee at the information shack which has a lot of interesting artefacts and information on the early explorers that passed through here back in the 1860’s. Setting up camp on the banks of the Cooper River was great; huge river gums lined the banks and water birds were cruised the river. After our camp setup we visited the infamous dig tree carving in the 200 year old Coolibah tree where now there is a timber boardwalk around the tree to protect it for future generations. 

Back on the road again we headed into South Australia with a restock at Innaminka where anything from fuel, food and souvenirs had a demanding price. You won’t find much here at Innaminka- a pub, general store, Innaminka Regional Reserve display centre and a road house is all that is on offer. After several years of drought out here we were lucky enough to see that the Old Strzelecki Track was open. Heading straight south from town we soon found the unmarked turn for the irregular maintained track that follows the Strzelecki Creek. Travelling along here we found the road conditions were not too bad due to a lack of traffic and it was definatly more scenic from the main Strzelecki road. While it was not a true 4wd track we decided to select high 4wd to cope with the sandy sections, several low areas and diversions that we came across. One thing that we did notice through here was that we were encounting rich red sand dunes- and this meant that we were getting deeper into the channel country. We weren’t crossing them yet just following them south towards Merty Merty. Hitting the end of the Old Strzelecki, our direction soon changed as we headed eastward back towards Cameron Corner, this is known as jump up territory where each dune or rise jumps up from the flat landscape. There is an estimated 200 jump ups between Merty Merty and Cameron Corner; some are very slight where others can be steep on either side along this well maintained and used road. The Cameron Corner store is a popular stop for us where we always grab a bite to eat and walk to the marker which defines where QLD, NSW and SA meet. Passing through the Dingo fence we decided to camp at nearby Fort Grey in the Sturt National Park. This park is a hidden gem in the outback where after setting up camp you can wander over the dune to explore Lake Pinaroo. In dry times you can walk out into the lake where Sturt marked several trees on his way north. You can explore the ruins of the homestead that was destroyed by waves on the lake, walk amongst other relics and enjoy the countless birds in this vast wetland. 

Refreshed and keen to head off again we continued on passing through Tibobburra, exploring the history at the Milperinka ruins and eventually finding our way across to Tilpa which is situated on the banks of the Darling River. Not much happens here anymore, but if you visit inside the pub the walls are jammed packed with photos, news clipping and old relics from days gone by. Over the past 100 years paddle steamers used the darling river as the gateway to the outback, carting livestock, general freight and people to various ports along the way. We noticed that the Darling River has serious flow issues, yet talking to the locals in the pub they were saying that the water in the Darling generally starts from the North Queensland cyclones !!. 

The Darling River Run stretches for some 730 km from the Victorian border north to Bourke, which would be our final destination. The roads out here that follow the Darling river change from season to season. We found that due to the lack of flooding that the eastern road beside the river was very dry and dusty forcing us to put several kilometres between each car, yet this gave us the chance to admire the huge river gums that sat between the road and river and wildlife that was still abundant even in this dry time. Our next stop, 110 km north was Louth, a small community of around 40 people enjoying the solitude of the outback on the banks of the darling River. The pub as usual is the hub of the town, lined with 100 years of history inside there are some amazing photos of floods, paddle steamers, local shenanigans, and much more. What we found that was pretty hectic was the bridge behind the pub that crosses the Darling River was some 40 feet above the river, yet inside the pub there are photos of floods that cover the roadway on the bridge !!. 

Our plan was to head 60km north to a newly opened up Yanda campground on the banks of the Darling River, this relatively new and small area lies within the Gundabooka National Park. The road from Louth to Yanda changed from the dusty floodplain black soil to the typical red sandy soil you would expect to find further west. The only concern on this road were the soft sandy edges that had been left after the recent grading.

Situated 4km off the Darling River Road we found that the campground was large enough for camper trailers and off road vans. The camp area is located high above the river to minimise any damage caused by flooding, and with a 5 minute stroll down to the river the views are truly sensational with large Red River gums lining the banks. We strolled down at dusk to enjoy a sunset over the river and saw wild pigs coming down to drink, pelicans were using the water flow as a free ride and little swallows were chasing insects over the water. Facilities here are very basic but clean, with several bbq shelters, a rain water tank and long drop toilets. 

The last day on dirt saw us head just 50km north into Bourke where we started 2 weeks ago on our epic adventure. With several more iconic destinations ticked off our list, remote camps and the urge to go again; we realised again that the outback isn’t that far away at anytime. 

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