Monday, October 31

Phil & Christine Rettke's Honeymoon Day 6

G'day everyone!! Welcome aboard again for the next instalment of our journey.
We woke early today, 5.30am!! After a trip out to the sand dunes yesterday afternoon a sunrise was a must for us!! After packing everything up, securing it and warming the Patrol, we left the Coopers Cabins at Windorah. A very nice spot with everything the weary traveller could need. I would definitely stay there again. We reached the sand dunes pretty quick, so still being dark I set up a light and I whipped up a quick breaky snack, some Coco Pops and juice. With a full belly, camera and tripod in hand, we kicked off our thongs and proceeded up the cool sand of the dunes. As the sun started to rise, the cloud overhead started to light up wonderfully. Next thing I knew, I was screaming "WOOHOOO, MACKERAL SKY!!!"

We wandered the dunes for quite some time and explored the area. The animal tracks were amazing and we were trying to think of what each of them belonged to. As the morning was starting to get on, we snapped another shot on the way back to the car as the cloud cover started to thicken.
We left the sandy track and turned onto the Diamantina Developmental Road towards Birdsville. We were headed West further into the outback. Our next point of interest for the day were the J.C. Hotel ruins. We weren't too sure what to expect as all we had read was there were still remnants of the hotel and a large pile of broken bottles. The detour off the road was not far but I left a little disappointed of what little did actually remain. It was definitely tyre piercing territory. A place where I probably should have worn more than thongs. The cloud had started to come over quite thick now.
About 10mins further on we spotted a sign for another point of interest, this was for a Native Well that had been made by the Mithaka Aboriginal tribe. This was pretty cool, basically a hole in the ground that had been widened out under the surface. When it rained it filled with water. The smaller opening on the top limited evaporation. Quite clever! The little bird that made its home in here got quite a shock when we came over to have a closer look, but not quite as much as I did!
The next point of interest was the "Hole through the Hill". This was at Mount Henderson and was pretty much self explanatory. Not far from here we soon came to an intersection where we turned left towards Birdsville. We stopped here for a few minutes, for one of our 10yr old Cokes. We continued along this road, the Birdsville Developmental Road, heading towards our next stop of Betoota. We drove on an emergency airstrip (which was part of the road) and passed about 3 Wedged Tailed Eagles sitting along this short stretch of bitumen. We then flew past and Emu where we came to a cattle grid and a small deviating track with a POI sign. We headed up this 4WD only track for roughly 2kms where we finally reached Deon's Lookout. The view from here was amazing. The sky had also changed its appearance. We were on top of the highest point for quite a while and the terrain was quite unexpected. For anyone travelling it would be ok to camp here, they had fire pits, a picnic table and a composting toilet, with a view to die for!! The Birds of Prey here were also plentiful! Good eating!!
We continued only a short way further down the road, where the cloud and landscape really looked amazing. I couldn't help but to pull over again.
We finally made our morning tea destination of Betoota, a ghost town. It did have a population of 1 until 1997 when the publican sold up. It was a good place for a packet of chips and an iced coffee. We explored a bit and I may have even snuck through the hole in the fence to have a peek inside.... There was still so much in there... Even a few tubs of Mrs Crocketts Butter in the wooden cold room. This was definitely the smallest town I have been to!
While we were poking around, Christine used the loo (while eating) 
I had a little more trouble.....
After relieving ourselves we continued on our way. Around 1pm we arrived on the outskirts of Birdsville, to be met with our first sighting of what lay ahead. Water!! It seemed to be everywhere, on both sides of the road!! Not what we expected to see so close to the desert.
As we entered town we stopped at a few interesting spots, the Burke and Wills tree and then the old pub.
The Artesian Bore Head Outlet was next, where the water comes out at 98 degrees Celsius. The water has to be cooled through special channels before being pumped into the storage tanks. Pretty cool!! Or was that hot??
We did a quick stop at the info centre where we were told the working museum and a Curried Camel Pie from the Birdsville Bakery was a must. The museum was packed full of goodies, so much interesting stuff. Well worth the $10 entry fee for the guided tour.
As for the Curried Camel Pie, wow!! It was good!! After a new burst of energy and being so close we decided to brave the 70km 4wd only detour from the West side of town and spend the afternoon on the edge of the Simpson Desert at Big Red, the largest sand dune in Australia. I was excited at the prospect of some real 4wding!! After coming to a halt as we hit the first sandy section I jumped out and let the tyres down. I was definitely going to need it.
 I also took the time to tie a flag to our UHF aerial so oncoming traffic could spot us coming over the dunes. It was awesome!!

We crossed 7 or 8 quite large dunes, easier than I had thought, but I am an awesome driver... It was getting pretty late in the day by time we crossed the last dune and could see Big Red in the distance. We had made it!! We got to the top and it finally clicked as to why the detour had been set up.
We wandered and took photos as the midgee and sandfly populations dined on our legs. We both have never been attacked so viciously before. The last thing we expected. I even bit and swallowed a few back. But the landscape was worth it!!
We spent sunset here and started to head off back to Birdsville to find somewhere to set up camp. We passed Little Red on the way and we even saw a Brest (I am still trying to work out what it was ;) ).
We videoed my driving skills on the way back over the dunes and turned back onto the main road. We pulled up here at the turnoff as the moon on dusk looked quite pretty over the lake that had formed on the side of the track.
It was already quite dark so no more stops on the way back. We headed through town, to the Diamantina River free campground... The campsites were spaced out quite well so our nearest neighbour was a giant rat that had come for a feed. A quiet spot, that we enjoyed sitting by the campfire and having our dinner, KFC. Ok ok... so maybe it was Baked Beans and toast... Being dark when we set up camp we didn't know yet what was just beyond our campsite.....

To see more of Phil and Chistines Honeymoon adventure.  Click here. 

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