The excitement was building as we toke care of the last minute preparations. Getting know the small town of Cunnamulla as the job’s was ticked off the to do list. Simpson desert here we come.
Day one of the tour arrived. However we weren’t actually going anywhere and nothing was planned till the afternoon. We spent the day getting to know our fellow travellers and in the afternoon we all had our first briefing as a group. Giving everyone a chance to meet our tour guide and to get a general idea of what to expect traveling in a tag along tour.
It was mentioned there were flood water’s coming down from Winton and Longreach. Which could make it interesting getting into Birdsville later on in the trip. Little did we know how interesting it would get.
Once the formalities were over we were then bused into town for a welcome dinner at a local hotel. A BBQ style meal with a fire pit and entertainment from an old bushy helped everyone relax and set the tone for the trip ahead.
Day two was when the tour really kick off. Waking up extra early we dressed and had breakfast. Then packed camp up. Our starts were often earlier than the rest of the group as none of them were traveling with a four year old.
After a morning briefing everyone started their four-wheel drives and as a group drove out of town heading west. Our destination a bush camp on the banks of the Wilson river. An easy day of bitumen driving as everyone settled in to the rhythm of the tour.
Along the way we stopped in the town of Eulo. While the rest of the group wandered though the historic buildings. Alec and I found something more our style. A cool prehistoric creature and a park to have a play at.
The artesian mud baths were also visited. Alec was little confused with the concept, but he did like all the cool old bath tubs. Another stop at the town of Thargomindah had us looking at the first ever hydro-electric power plant in Australia.
By mid afternoon we were at the historic Noccundra Pub. Only a few kilometres away from our camp for the night. I decided dinner at the pub was good idea, so after we had soaked up the history we pre-ordered our meals and went down the track to set up camp by the Wilson river water hole. Alec had a play by the water’s edge while some of the group had a swim.
With an awesome pub meal and a couple of well earn drinks Alec and I had no problem sleeping that night. Even if my swag was a little hard. I must be getting old.
The following day we packed up camp and all meet at the Noccundra pub for a group vehical photo and the morning briefing. The goal today was South Australian. More precisely Innamincka. Approximately 30 km from the Queensland South Australia border. Not an overly hard day’s drive but we did experience our first unsealed road as a group.
We had a couple of stops for the day. All centred around the explorers Burke and Wills. The famous Dig tree first. Then once we had crossed the border into South Australia we visited the site of Burke’s grave.
Not all went to plan for one our group when we were visiting the Dig tree. While taking care of business in a long drop toilet her phone fell out of her pocket and down the hole. With ingenuity, patience and some fishing gear the phone was recovered and return to the very relieved and grateful owner.
Arriving in Innamincka we set up camp in what is called the town common. A bush camp below the pub and general store. Which is pretty much all Innamincka is. While the group was busy making a home for the night our tour guide was trying to find out if we could get into Birdsville. Although the reports were a bit unreliable at best. The general conclusion was we weren’t going to be able to get into Birdsville. Not from the south anyway.
With this news in everyone’s mind we all gathered for dinner at the large dinning room attached to the pub. The dinner was organised by the tour company. We enjoyed a roast dinner as alternate plans were discussed. The decision to stay an extra day in Innamincka had all ready been decided. Hopefully the news would be better the next day.
Waking up slowly the next day. I started to work out what Alec and I would do for the day. It was hot, dry and the fly’s could carry you away. How I was going to keep a 4 year entertained and keep my sanity. The answer a cabin. The pub and general store both had basic accommodation available. We got a cabin with air conditioning, tv, bathroom and an early check in. Perfect. We spent the day chilling in the room. Alec caught up on some TV and me computer work.
In the afternoon we all gathered in the dinner room to discuss options for the rest of the tour. The bad news had been confirmed. If the tour was to continue and get into Birdsville, the start point for crossing of the Simpson desert. Then the only way in is from the north. A 1800km trip up to Longreach and Winton. Then across to Boulia and down to Birdsville. With a slight possibility of better news once we get the Windorah. Windorah to Birdsville is the usual route taken if traveling from the east. With little choice we went to bed early. Knowing we had some big days of travel ahead of us.
I was concerned how Alec would go. The trip so far had been tough on both of us. The heat was one thing but the fly’s were something else. I had trouble getting Alec out of the car and once outside it was uncomfortable and almost impossible to eat. Now with some huge days driving ahead of us things weren’t improving. Taking it day by day was the only option. The extra day in Innamincka had done us some good. Hopefully enough to keep us going.
Why a tag along tour.
Although I am happy to travel with Alec to remote destinations. With any trip or activity I always way up the risks. The Simpson desert crossing was a no brainer. The remoteness of the Simpson desert is extreme. Doing a solo crossing is taking a big risk. Taking a 4 year old is just outright irresponsible. So for us a tag along tour was the answer. These tours aren’t traditional tailored for families and definitely not for a single father with a 4 year old. The tag along tour company we went with didn’t take the decision to let us join the tour lightly. I had a couple of discussion’s with the company director to make sure I was fully aware of what I was getting Alec and myself into. The fact that Alec and myself had done a fair amount of remote touring already helped.
This decision making process speaks volumes for the professionalism of the tour company and we were happy we chose Tagalong Tours Australia.
Now you might be confused about the flooding that is stopping the group from entering Birdsville. As no real rain had been reported in the area. Well here is my best attempt of explaining how the river systems works in this part of the world.
The town of Birdsville is located on the Diamantina river and in the geographically area know as the channel country. Which cover’s 150,000 square kilometres. The Diamantina river starts above Longreach and eventually flows into lake Eyre 900km away. With Birdsville approximately around 500km away from the start of the river.
The water that was causing the tag along group so much trouble was a result of flooding in Longreach and Winton 4-5 weeks before the trip. That is how long the water takes to get to Birdsville.
Oh course it very hard to pick precisely when the water will reach a certain point and at what depth. They are lots of variables that can affect the flow. If group had been day or two earlier we wouldn’t of had a problem. The river peaked just as we were planning to cross.