Flinders Ranges, Cameron Corner to Brisbane September 24 - 28 2018
  The world looks different in morning sun.

We are in National Park, where "only" the goats, emus, and kangaroos graze.

  The road to Blinman is sealed. We expected gravel. Progress is better than expected.
  Our route takes us towards Mt Hopeless, a junction with the Strzelecki Track.

In 2010, our first trip in the truck, we drove southwards along the Strzelecki Track and pondered turning south at Mt Hopeless on this road. However, a bit of rain put us off. The road was closed.

We are headed towards Innamincka, but will turn east to Cameron Corner.

  Looking back at the North Flinders Ranges.

We are driving across relatively flat, very arid, plain.

The beginnings of the Strzelecki Desert which extends northwards.

  Prism Hill.
  There's a few bends in the road. For a short while we find ourselves driving towards mountains again.
  Just past the National Park headquarters at Balcanoona we are reminded of the distances involved crossing the middle of Australia. As we pass the headquarters we recall filling our tanks with water there in 2010.

There is fuel at Cameron Corner if we need it. But Thargomindah is only 1100 km from Port Augusta and we have sufficient fuel for 1400 km at our current rate of consumption.

The only bit of road we are uncertain of is the track north east from Cameron Corner for about 60 km.

  We enjoy the mountain ridges.
  Not much traffic.

A couple of motorcyclists and their support vehicle carrying lots of jerry cans headed south from the Strzelecki Track.

  After 280 km we stop to camp at Yerila Creek.

Lunch, then "nanna nap".

Cameron Corner is about 250 km, then Thargomindah another 350 km. We'll aim for Warri Warri Creek, about 70 km beyond Cameron Corner.

Today's important task is to repair the "desert flag", broken on trees in Maralinga Tjarutja land, and useful for the roller coaster dunes between us and Cameron Corner. An easy repair ..... shorten it by 5 cm, taper the end, push firmly into quick release air fitting.

  The evening constitutional provided a few surprises. An earlier walk along the dry creek bed came with a few distant bird sounds but nothing seen. The evening was much different as I walked about 50m from the creek bed.

The creek bed is quite narrow, but there's a much wider, at least 500m, flood plain.

First was a black-faced woodswallow. Enjoying the evening's insects.

There's a cool breeze and some warmth still in the sun.

  The flock of budgerigars were a bit nervous and took flight easily. The woodswallow was a bonus.

There was also a flock of zebra finches. I wonder where the water is.

  Then came the rainbow bee-eaters. Just two, or was it three.

Perhaps a little smaller than elsewhere. And sitting still for shorter times. Ignoring the tall trees for smaller shrubs. At first I thought they were more blue than elsewhere, but just a trick of the wonderful light.

Like the woodswallow, maybe its feeling a bit cold.

  The cockatiels flew off at the slightest hint I was looking. But not far.

Initially on the ground, but on a high dead branch when I finally caught up with them. I thought they'd flown further away. I left them alone lest they miss their evening meal.

The few galahs also flew off.

  I thought perhaps a wattlebird. It didn't stay on its perch for more than about 30 seconds then was gone.

But the bird book says they don't live here.

  Then back to budgies.

Standing still seemed to be the most effective strategy for me. They eventually arrived in a tree next to me. Totally ignoring me.

I don't know whether to be pleased, or annoyed.

In the grander scheme of things there's nothing particularly special about either the campsite (a bare, windswept, alternately hot and cold, patch of earth next to a dry creek) or the birds and plants (we've seen many examples of all of them previously). But there is seemingly something special about the moment for me. I hope I never tire of such moments.

  So beautifully camouflaged. I thought there were just four in the tree.

But after a few minutes the whole flock of about 30 took flight.

Home for tea after a fascinating half hour watching the world come alive. And so pre-occupied with birds I forgot to look for lizards.

Though I did notice there was no spinifex. "Just" grasses. I suspect I've only seen "arid" for short periods, very infrequently, and haven't quite grasped that it doesn't mean desert. And even desert doesn't mean devoid of life.

Somehow these creatures manage to live successfully here.

And I did notice the trees, and how some of them have several trunks, as if the main trunk had died and others sprouted around it. And the evidence of chainsaws cutting firewood. There hasn't been a fire here recently, but I'm guessing there must have been at some time in the past.

A bit like buying a particular model car then noticing everyone has one. Now I know about basal epicormic growth ........

  Next morning, without the benefit of a dawn chorus, about 20 km north to the Strzelecki Track.

Turn right, towards Innaminka.

  We've been crossing the Strzelecki Desert since leaving the Flinders behind.

Its a mixture of just about every sort of desert. Sand plains, gibber plains, dunes.

Except the "lush" vegetation of the Great Victoria Desert that is.

This looks like the vegetation is hanging on while the sand around is blown away.

We struggle a bit as there are obvious results of grazing cattle.

  Er .......

The seal lasts for 7 km.

Unexpected, but very nice while it lasts.

  No self respecting desert is complete without camels.

We've taken the same shortcut avoiding Merty Merty we took in 2010.

The track is in much better condition than then.


This sign at the northern end.

Apologies to Lindon Station.

  The road to Cameron Corner is also much improved.

The broken clay topping over the dunes has been repaired, and the road graded.

There are a few red flags marking where the road has begun to break up again. And some broken dune tops aren't marked.

But very easy going.

  Bollards Lagoon Station seems to have stamped their authority on the road.

We didn't see "The Yellow Bus", and there was a "no camping" sign as we crossed the grid at the station boundary.

The "no swimming" tanks weren't obvious, or had been renovated, plus some new tanks and yards.

Near the station buildings was what looked like hay, and water, and paddocks, and cattle.

  Cameron Corner. Where the straight line state boundaries between NSW, Queensland and SA meet. Looking much the same to us as it did in 2010.

Lots of signs.

In particular "road open" and distances along the track leading north east from the corner.

There is a subtle difference though. Between then and now we have traveled many thousands of km on unsealed roads and tracks in various conditions in many countries. We feel more comfortable, and differently, perhaps more, aware of safety. 

  We don't need fuel, we are 680 km from last fill at Port Augusta and still have about 700 km left. There's no internet. Its too early in the day for a beer, and we have wine with us. We aren't yet hungry.
  I wasn't sure what to expect. On the map its a track. Which could be anything between tyre marks in the sand and a graded road.

Its labeled "Cameron Corner Road" which gave us some hope. As does the large sign.

It was graded once, and in places formed with gravel.

The surface is now a bit broken. There are the inevitable corrugations, and ruts.

50 - 55 km/hr is a good speed for us.

  Occasionally there's nice smoothish sand, as through this grove of mulga.

The track runs along wide swales between long dunes. Occasionally, but not often, crossing one.

  Then there's stony gravel, as with this patch approaching a bit of an escarpment.

We sense we are leaving the desert and entering "Channel Country", though that won't be really obvious for a while.

  After 97 km we reach the T-junction with Orientos Road. There are oil wells to our north west, and Santos (oil and gas company - abbreviation of South Australia Northern and Territory Oil Services) are active.

We turn right, so that in a few km we can turn left towards Thargomindah by a route that's not identified on the sign, but is shorter.

Warri Gate Road would take us south to the border. To the gate we took a pic of in 2010. Innaminka we visited last year, after the Simpson crossing. We are slowly but steadily getting our bearings around the middle of Australia, but its big.

  The road is a bit more substantial. Enough to be happy at 60 km/hr.

Its still only lunch time, but after about 320 km we are suitably battered. We stop to camp at Warri Warri Creek. We are still closer to Port Augusta than Brisbane, about 1100 km away. Queensland is a big state!

Last night's campsite must have been a bit of luck for bird life. Tonight we can hear but rarely see.

It seems the next step in our bird observing career may be to listen more acutely and understand the behaviour of those small birds that like to hide from us while singing to each other. And to better relate habitat and bird life.

  The creek bed was dry.

But not too far away were these hoof prints in the very dried mud.

Which reminded me of the sauropod tracks at James Price Point.

Including the raised lip.

  Tickalara Road, and Bulloo Downs. That's our road.

Its shorter than the "main" road to Thargomindah. But not as developed.

  Almost not a road .....

But smoother than the main road.

  Progress is at around 50-60 km/hr.

Over the (not very high) Grey Range, then descend to Tickara Creek and the Bulloo River.

  Past Bulloo Downs, the old steam engine caught my attention - as they all do.
  The Bulloo River, crossed at its narrowest. Just puddles, no flow.

But of course there are many minor channels, all dry, to cross.

The isolated river flows north to south, ending in an ephemoral lake and marshes more or less at the border.

We'll have to add Idalia National Park, that contains the source of the Bulloo, to our list of places to visit.

  At last ......... a dog fence where a dog fence is shown on the map.
  Thargomindah, about 225 km from our campsite.

Fuel, though we still have plenty to spare.

  Then, on welcome seal, towards Eulo and Cunnamulla.
  The Paroo River at Eulo has water that is flowing.

We are now in the Murray Darling catchment.

  We've stopped to camp at Paddabilla Bore, about 15 km east of Eulo.

I'll spend some time with the bird book.....

We are looking for Halls Babblers, which according to the sign at the entrance frequent the Bore.

This is not. But I don't know what it is.

My perennial problem is where to look. In the trees, in the bushes, on the ground, at the water ..... ?

  I expected the Babblers to be in the trees, making their babbling sounds.

But this one is very distinctive and immediately identifiable as a Halls Babbler. There are three hopping around on the ground. Looking for whatever they eat for their evening meal.

A couple of kangaroos, but none of the Bourke's Parrots known to frequent the bore.

  As the sun set a couple of kangaroos ventured to a small water tank for a drink.

Very cautious, but I guess they needed a drink.

  Next morning.

A handful of Mulga Parrots arrived for a drink.

But also, what can only be a pair of Bourke's Parrots. Not a flock, just a pair.

At the limit of the camera, their faces look more blue than the bird book. The other colours don't look quite right either.

But given the time of day, and the distance, and that there are no similar parrots, I have no doubt.

The bird book describes them as "locally abundant". I hadn't heard of them until yesterday.

Though, of course, it could also be a blue bonnet given the blue on its face and a bit of red underneath. The more I look, the more I think Blue Bonnet.

  Across the Warrego River at Cunnamulla.
  And the Balonne River at St George.

Still part of the Murray Darling Catchment.

  We stop for the night just outside the boundary of Alton National Park.

A miniscule park, we have no idea of its purpose.

However, we did see some unexpected grass trees. We believe they normally occur at higher altitudes. Along with the cypress pines.

We are now about 400 km from home in Brisbane. Just a few hours.

About 19,000 km, about 3,300 litres of diesel at average price of $1.65 / litre. A big figure of eight across the continent. In distance and time, similar to Kuala Lumpur to Scotland. Still some, but definitely fewer bureaucratic obstacles. And of course  mechanical and electrical problems solved.

A very different experience of course without all the physical evidence of history that pervades Asia and Europe. Australian history is more subtle and less obvious. So more natural history which is much less altered and more accessible.


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