Our 5-week trip was planned around a
flight over Lake Eyre. We missed the opportunity to do this a few years ago
because of time constraints and as Lake Eyre doesn’t fill with water very
often we didn’t want to miss out this time around. With it only completely
filling three times in the last 100 years we weren’t sure how much water to
expect in the lake. We had heard various and mixed reports and we were
hopeful that we would enjoy it.
June 2009 Warrnambool – Naracoorte
After a disastrous day at work on the
day prior to leaving we eventually finished packing on Friday morning and
finally left home at 11am, hoping we hadn’t forgotten to do anything. We got
to our first overnight stop Naracoorte in good time. We stayed at the Big 4
CP on a powered site as it was pretty cold. As we had crossed into South
Australia we did a big stock up of fruit and veg.
Naracoorte – Burra Creek Gorge
Getting up early we left at 8am and
set out for Burra Creek Gorge. The day was very cloudy but not too cold. The
days drive was uneventful and we found a spot right down by the dry creek
and set up camp. There are two different camping sections to the Gorge and
drop toilets are available in both areas. Only one other couple joined us in
the area we chose so it was very quiet night. The other camping area in the
gorge was quite crowded.
Creek Gorge – Copley
After a brief early morning shower of
rain, just enough to make it a wet pack up, we were on the road by 9 am and
headed for Burra. Burra was really busy with lots of travellers going in all
directions and this was to be the tone of things to come for the next few
We arrived at Hawker very early
afternoon and the weather had warmed up considerably. We were going to stay
at Hawker overnight but we decided to head on to Copley for the night
instead and stayed at the Copely CP. We had stayed here a few years ago and
it was just as good this time around. The facilities are excellent and they
have a communal fire each night for travellers to meet each other and to
During the drive the view of the
Flinders Ranges as always was spectacular. We wished we had more time to
spend a few days exploring the area. We stopped at the Parachilna Pub for
some refreshments. The service was ordinary and it appears to have lost its
real bush hospitality, which is a real shame as this was one of the places
we had been keen to visit on this trip.
Copley – Marree
After a leisurely pack up we headed
into Leigh Creek to do the Coalmine Tour. This is a free tour and is
operated on a Monday and at least one other day of the week and is booked at
the Visitor Information Centre in Leigh Creek. This tour was excellent and
very informative. A donation to the RFDS at the end was much appreciated.
Well worth it if you can work your itinerary around it.
By the time we finished the mine tour
it was quite warm and windy. We headed off for Farina our next overnight
stop. We had a good look around Farina and were concerned by the wind at
We went down to the campsite at
Farina, it was quite busy and not being able to find a good sheltered camp
spot, we decided to head for Marree. With the sky looking like it could rain
and our flight over Lake Eyre booked for the next day, we didn’t want to
risk missing it by getting stuck on the dirt road. We got the last campsite
at the Drovers Rest CP and it was an excellent choice of caravan parks.
Excellent facilities and a great camp kitchen. The wind continued to get
stronger over the evening. We settled into bed for an early night looking
forward to our flight the next day.
July 2009 Our Flight over Lake Eyre
After little sleep from being rocked
and rolled all night by the strong wind, and up several times to anchor
things down and remove awnings we poked our heads out in the morning to
great a warm, cloudy and still windy day. The thought of no flights today
went through our head when at 7.30am 3 planes and a helicopter flew over –
the first flights for the day. Feeling a bit nervous about being "up there
in that wind" in a little plane I was pleased that our flight at least
wasn’t going to be cancelled. How wrong were we!!
Because of the wind persisting in the
morning we had to partially pack up the Ultimate and then spin it around so
that the wind assisted us in packing it up. After packing up we went to the
Oasis Café, checked in and got our "boarding pass". With time up our sleeve
we wandered outside to the busy streets of Marree, visited the Lake Eyre
Yacht Club for a very informative chat and then wandered around to fill in
Eventually we drove to the airstrip to
wait for our flight. Whilst sitting and chatting to others we noticed a red
tinge in the sky on the horizon and hoped that it wasn’t coming our way. The
9.30am flights returned and the pilots appeared to be anxious about
something. After much discussion amongst them, all flights were cancelled
for the rest of the day due to the dust storm that we could see in the
distance. The pilots weren’t prepared to risk low visibility if the dust
storm did head our way.
We raced back into Marree (along with
everyone else) to see if we could organise our flights for the next day. We
got the last two seats for the day! Unfortunately for some that were on a
tight schedule they didn’t have the time to stay another night and re-book.
Over lunch we wondered what to do – to stay in Marree or go out to Muloorina
Station where you can camp by a waterhole and is easy access to Lake Eyre.
We decided to head out to Muloorina and about 20 kms into the drive out to
Muloorina the dust storm hit – it was raining red dust and it was very dark.
Not knowing how long it would last, we decided that it was not safe to
continue and we turned around and drove very slowly back into Marree to take
shelter in the pub along with everyone else.
Once the storm settled a bit we
returned back to the Drovers Rest CP for another night. The wind was still
blowing and we found a sheltered spot behind a big shed and settled in for a
great happy hour with other travellers with red dust still hovering in the
We woke the next morning to a
magnificent sunrise and a still and clear sunny day – perfect for our
11.30am flight. We had a leisurely pack up, checked in again and hoped that
today all would be well. With 5 passengers in total we took off on time.
With the very "young" pilot and being a bit anxious about flying in a small
plane, I soon felt comfortable and relaxed and settled in to enjoy the
We headed out over Muloorina and then
on to Lake Eyre south before flying over Lake Eyre north. The flight over
Lake Eyre was amazing – just the sheer size of it, let alone all the water
that was in it - and for those who were disappointed I can’t understand why.
It was 2/3 full of water when we flew over it but very shallow in places.
You could see the definite outline of Warburton Groove, which was still
flowing (we later called in at Warburton Crossing on the Birdsville track to
see the river still flowing). The colours in the water from all of the salt
were amazing, ranging from pinks to yellows to brown, being different on
each side of the plane. We weren’t disappointed that we didn’t see any bird
life, as we were to see a lot more on our travels. After viewing Marree Man
and an hour and half of flying time, we landed on terra firmer absolutely
thrilled that we had taken the time on this trip to do the flight. It wasn’t
cheap but we are so pleased we did it.
Following a quick bite to eat we
headed up the Birdsville track which saw us finish the day at Mungerannie
having a quiet drink and watching the sun set over the wetlands. A perfect
ending to a perfect day.
The rest of our trip saw us travel to
and stop at the following places: - Birdsville - Boulia - Mt Isa - Cloncurry
- Bladensburg NP just outside Winton – Isisford via Ifracombe – Windorah –
Innamincka – Noccundra - Tibooburra – Mutawintji NP – Hay – Kyabram – home