Familiar faces on the Birdsville Track

We could hear plenty of campers leaving to queue at the gates before dawn to be the first offsite when they opened at 7am. I was fairly confident that their plan to have all 7,000 campers offsite by 12noon was an ambitious one so we took our time to pack up and joined the queue a little later.

The drive back to Birdsville while less than 40km, took over 3hours and at one point we all turned off our cars and Miss7 and I pulled out the hot pink footy to have a kick on the side of the road. This prompted another little girl from a car in the line behind us to jump out of her car excitedly yelling “I do Auskick too!” and join in the fun.

As the trip back to town took so long, we stayed overnight before hitting the Birdsville Track the following day. For some reason our gas stove stopped working when we got back to town so I stopped in at the ‘more than a hardware store’ for some butane gas before making one last stop at the Birdsville Bakery.

The track was something I’d wanted to do for the past two years yet in 2015 and 2016 when I’d come through this part of the world it had been under water and open only to 4WD. I was determined this year to make the trek – even going so far as to get myself a new car that was 4WD with a 50mm lift kit.

The irony of having a solid 4WD with off-road camper and the track being in such good condition that the trusty RAV4 could’ve made it easily wasn’t lost on me! To think the track had been closed only a week earlier and we were now averaging around the 80-90km/hr speed slowing for some rocky spots and passing cars. I’d go so far to say that the Birdsville Development Track on the way into Birdsville was rougher than this.

We arrived at the Mungeranie Hotel, fuelled up and set up camp. After some hot showers and dinner we headed to the pub for a drink and bowl of chips. The pub reminded me a little of the Daly Waters hotel with its Akubra hats, thongs, shirts and ID cards pinned to the walls and ceiling. The quirky distinction here however, was the fairly large collection of people’s ‘rats tails’ nailed to the ceiling… I’m surprised at how many people happily cut these off and left them behind – there were a few there that had clearly been growing proudly for decades before their untimely end at the Mungeranie Hotel!

When we sat down I noticed a woman looking at me and thought I’d sat in her seat. She approached us and I immediately recognised her face but couldn’t think from where until she asked if we’d been at Home Valley last year. It turns out that we’d both been travelling the Gibb River Road last year on our respective family laps around Oz and now, both families had made the trek out to BRB2017. We’d managed to camp only two bays away from them at the festival and even stayed the same nights in the caravan park before finally crossing paths on the Birdsville Track! 

We spent the night by the fire with them enjoying some drinks and reminiscing on our stories from the Kimberley and travels around Oz. As footy fans and with family in Melbourne it’s likely they’ll make the trek over from Kalgoorlie to Victoria in the future so we exchanged details and farewelled each other the following morning with plans to stay in touch. I’m still blown away at the fact we managed to find each other again in the middle of nowhere after both having gone back to ‘real life’ and taken time off for a quick holiday to Birdsville.

The second half of the track was in great condition too so we made good time getting along it and stopped for lunch at Clayton’s Bore just after noon. I’d hoped to camp here the night but I was met with a few ‘there’s nothing here’, ‘I’m not interested in another hot spring’ and ‘the flies are so bad’ comments that I decided the troups wouldn’t be happy with this plan (besides, you’ve always got to leave something for next time). Miss7 had a dip and I soaked my feet in the hot spring tub while we ate lunch.

After stopping off at the Lake Harry ruins where Miss7 managed to score a $2 coin from an older guy using his metal detector and we got some photos, we got to Marree and checked into the Oasis caravan park.  

We took a look around town at some of the Ghan railway remnants before making a stop at the old pub with its beautiful stonework and museum of Tom Kruse the Birdsville Track mailman. Sitting outside enjoying a cold beer in the afternoon sun we started chatting to some fellow travellers. A couple of ladies had their daughters playing in a makeshift treehouse that they’d put together up the road so Miss7 joined them while we enjoyed a chat over some cold drinks. When Miss7 came back I asked if she’d had fun – she was happy talking of her new friends and when I asked about the cubby she replied ‘I wee’d in it!’. Apparently this was a good thing, all the girls had done it and it was just part of making it their home!

As the sun set with its red and orange hues, it set off the pinks and purples in the clouds and sky in the north and east. The full moon started its rise over the horizon in the east as a bright yellow in a cloudless sky. It’s moments like this I wish I had a better camera. It cooled rapidly after this so we farewelled our companions and headed back to camp.

We’d booked a powered site and were looking forward to a hot shower. Turns out a fellow camper had a faulty appliance that kept tripping the power out across the entire park! Whenever the power went out, the water would turn off and what was left was cold. We could easily have been staying at the Mirage Caravan Park where we had the illusion of a hot shower but where you were instead left standing naked in a dark shower block with no water just hoping for warmth and a wash.

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