Beyond the Black Stump to Birdsville

With our Fraser Island Adventure over, the outback weather had taken a turn for the better. The sun was out and the flooded roads of the Channel Country were drying up. We decided to make another trek into Western Queensland and attempt to get to Birdsville, an iconic town famous for it’s race meetings, pub and bakery, in the middle of absolutely nowhere!
We spent a few days in Maryborough doing the usual repairs and restocking as needed. A beautiful old town with many grand old buildings, it wasn’t hard to imagine how it must have been during the 1800’s when it was settled.

From Maryborough we had a 1500km plus drive before we would arrive at Birdsville. Our plan of attack was drive as far as we could each day, via the most direct route possible and hope the roads, many of which were still closed, would open up before we reached them.
Our first night was spent in Rolestone, where we arrived and set up quite late in the afternoon. Of course it immediately began raining and continued to do so throughout the night and into the next morning. This meant everything got wet and soggy and then had to be packed wet and soggy! We were off to a great start!
The next day we took an unsealed back road from Springsure through to Tambo.  Arriving at the start of the road we found it was open to 4wd vehicles only and we decided to have a crack. Not long in, it started to drizzle and the road suddenly got soft, muddy and slippery. We decided to press on regardless and were pleased to find the road improved and the sun began peeking out of the clouds on the horizon. The drive itself was fantastic through some beautiful country.


Endless road

By the time we arrived in Tambo the sun was shining and it was still quite early. We continued on to Blackall where we set up camp a bit earlier than planned to dry everything out from our wet pack up that morning.
Blackall is the home of the famous ‘Black Stump’, originally used as some sort of survey point. It is also where the saying ‘beyond the black stump’ originated from and we found this pretty apt as that was exactly where we were headed! So after going to have a look at the stump in question we continued on our drive, this time towards Windorah and the Cooper Creek.


We’re heading right


Explaining the Black Stump

Cooper Creek is part of the Channel Country. Mostly the country is pretty dry and desolate but when the drought breaks and the rain comes the many channels fill, often flood and it becomes lush and green. All this water then flows towards the Lake Eyre basin. Lake Eyre is in the middle of the South Australian desert but is below sea level. Most rivers in Australia flow towards the sea but those in the Channel Country flow into the desert to Lake Eyre. The recent rains (we had in Longreach) meant that many of the roads had been closed due to flooding. We seemed to come just at the right time as all the roads were re-opening, the rivers were full and everything was lovely and green.


Cooper Creek

That night we camped on the banks of the Cooper Creek. It was beautiful and we were pretty excited to find a lovely camp on the riverbank all to ourselves for free! Hopping out of the car however, we were assaulted by flies. When the flies went to bed we abandoned our lovely Gidgie campfire and headed for the zipped up sanctuary of the camper trailer as the mozzies picked up where the flies left off! In amongst it all though, we managed to catch a yellow belly and some cherabin in the nets we threw out to catch red claw!

The next day we set off with Birdsville firmly in our sights. After a long drive we stopped for lunch in the ghost town of Betoota.  Along the way this amazing rainbow serpent appeared as we rounded a corner!  It was absolutely huge and very impressive.


Rainbow Serpent art out of Betoota


Made from the three different kinds of rocks found in the area.

Finally after a long, dusty drive we arrived in Birdsville. With the temperatures in the high thirties, after setting up camp we headed for the only bit of air conditioning we could find which was of course, The Birdsville Pub.

The next day we headed out to Big Red nice and early to beat the heat. Big Red is a massive red sand dune that marks the start or the end of the Simpson Desert crossing, depending on which direction you travel. It was really cool and after driving to the top we had a good look at the scenery while the kids rolled and slid down the hills. After driving up and over and back again without too much drama we headed back into town.


The ripples of Big Red


Looking over Big red and beyond into the Simpson Desert

The day before we were told that the Prime Minister would be flying into visit Birdsville to announce the arrival of 4G to the town. So after a look at the visitors centre and a bit of lunch we headed back over to the pub (everything happens at the pub here!) to see if we could catch a glimpse.
The pub filled pretty quickly and pretty soon Malcolm was jetting in on a RAAF plane and landing on the airstrip (right next to the pub). He eventually made his way over and gave a bit of a speech about the 4G network before having a mingle with everyone. We decided to try our luck for a picture and as we approached one of his ‘people’ practically elbowed everyone out of the way so he could meet us! Next thing we knew the PM had my phone and was shuffling us around the bar in search of better light so he could take a selfie with us! We all met and shook his hand and then some guy interviewed us. It was all a bit exciting! And then, as quickly as he arrived, he jumped back on the plane and was off again!


PM Selfie!

As the whole town had gathered in the pub, we then got to meet loads of the locals.They were great fun and happy to have a yarn about life in their town and ask about our travels. It was a fantastic day. We met the local baker who invited us to his bakery, even though he had closed up for the end of the tourist season. Lockie and Phil went to see him the next day and he gave them fresh bread out of the oven and showed them around his bakery. We also scored a couple of curried camel pies for the freezer, which were delicious!
The next day we sadly waved goodbye to Birdsville and headed towards New South Wales. It had been three months in Queensland and we knew that we needed to move on after staying a month longer than we had planned. So off we went with the aim of getting as close to the NSW border as possible.  That day we crossed two borders, cutting across the top corner of SA and back into Queensland.

We passed through Cordillo Downs, which used to be one of the biggest sheep stations in Australia in it’s heyday.  On it stands the World’s largest Shearing shed, built from stone.  We also passed through the ruins of Caldega Outstation.


Cordillo Downs Shearing Shed


Inside the shed


Reminders of days gone by


The old Wool truck


Built with local stone and iron carried in on camel trains

Cordillo Downs station was established as a station in the late 1800’s and at it’s peak in the early 1900’s it was running more than 85000 sheep.  These days it is mostly a cattle station and the shearing shed is no longer in use.

That night we found ourselves a lovely bush camp on a ridge that overlooked the magnificent channel country on all sides.  Also popular with the local fly population, we were off early the next morning to hit the road for the NSW border.

After a bit of a morning coffee in Thargomindah, we headed towards Hungerford.  This town is unique because it sits either side of the Queensland and NSW Border.  The famous writer  Henry Lawson once visited here in search of work and wrote about the town of Hungerford in “While The Billy Boils”.  At this time half of the town was in New South Wales and the other half in Queensland.  A rabbit proof fence with “rabbits on both sides of it” (Lawson)  ran through the middle, which still stands today.  We stopped in for refreshments at the Royal Mail Hotel, which still stands in it’s original condition from those times.


Royal Mail Hotel Hungerford

We finally made our way out of town and over the border into NSW.  We headed to Bourke where we spent the night and reflected on another great outback adventure.

Time for a new state and new adventures.  Stay tuned!

Categories: Uncategorized

1 comment

  1. I want to be there, it sounds so interesting and so much fun. Love to all

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: