Members Trips

stories from Australia



Corner Country, Innamincka & the Flinders Ranges

by David Cook


Day 1 – Friday, May 9

    Leave home at 10.30am, David (me) and Jan in the Pajero, James (son) and Megan (his partner) in his Landy TD5, after two weeks of frantic preparations and several months of close planning. Camper packed, water tank filled to the brim. Seemed this day would never come. A leisurely drive over the Blue Mountains to Forbes, 382km away, where Jan has a relative. We get to sleep in normal beds, have regular showers and eat at a table, all for the last time for two glorious weeks.


Day 2 – Saturday May 10

    Leave Forbes at 8.30am and head up through Bogan Gate, through the beautiful little town of Trangie to Nyngan, asphalt all the way except for a 10km stretch of dirt where the road was being widened. Stop on the bank of the Bogan River at Nyngan for morning coffee and muffins, courtesy of Megan, then on to Cobar where we refuel after 383km. The V6 petrol Pajero pulling the estimated 1000kg of camper is averaging 14.83 litres per 100km on these long flat sections, while James’ Td5 Landy (with no trailer) is getting 9.4 litres per 100km.. Just out of Cobar we stop to satisfy James and Megan’s curiosity about paddymelons growing along the road. To satisfy curiosity I split one open and taste it – wish I hadn’t! I’ve still got the taste in my mouth. Continue the long drive to Wilcannia, stopping to check that there’s actually water in the Darling (still pretty low), then head up to White Cliffs, arriving at 5.30pm after 748km to meet our friends Phil and Lyn, from Adelaide, with their Nissan and his home-built/rebuilt pop-top camper. Camp ground is basic but it has all we need and is right on the edge of town, in Johnston Street. A riotous evening at our first camp, too much to drink and good food. Fall into bed exhausted after a total of 748 km for the day.


Day 3 – Sunday, May 11

    Drive around White Cliffs, checking out some of the mines, the great Otto Photo Gallery, crazy Jock’s mine tour (worth the $5 a head just for the fun of seeing Jock and hearing his wild stories). We have lunch at the local Sports Club at the Mothers Day banquet being laid on by the local miners - have a great time amongst the locals, and $10 a head for a good salad meal. A morning well spent. After staying for the speeches we leave and head to the fuel depot to top up the tanks and the jerry cans, then head out of town for Mutawintji National Park, half way to Broken Hill. The road is full of bulldust and pretty rough in places, but we arrive okay after 157km, with a collection of wood picked up on the way for a fire. Set up camp at the Homestead Creek camp ground, about 5km inside the park entrance. Well water and long drop toilets, but hot showers make up for just about anything. We have a good feed and settle down for a few quiet drinks around the campfire before retiring.


Day 4 – Monday, May 12

    Before breakfast James, Megan and I head off for a walk over some nearby ridges. Spot several wedgetailed eagles and lots of ‘roos in the sunrise light. Arrive back in time for a good feed. Some nearby campers tell us that we’ve missed the twice-weekly tour with a guide, but they had been on one and were very disappointed as their guide didn’t seem to know much about anything and left them and all the rest of the group who were on the tour - who’d driven all the way up from Broken Hill - feeling dissatisfied. They advise we simply drive up towards Mutawintji Gorge, at the end of the first side road into the park and follow the trail into the gorge. We give it a shot and find it an easy one-hour walk in, with lots of roos and even more goats. Along the way we find aboriginal paintings in a rock shelter near the start of the gorge. The gorge ends in a large rock pool with a (dry) waterfall at the back. It would be very impressive after heavy rain. We walk back to the cars and head off towards the intersection with the Silver City Highway 69km away. We arrive to find asphalt, and as our course is now to the north to Tibooburra we raise tyre pressures a few pounds, from 26. I put mine up to 29, but Phil goes to 32 pounds. This so called highway turns into a terrible road, with sections of asphalt interspersed with longer sections of very rough dirt. I’m not surprised when Phil calls back on the radio right on sunset to say he’s blown a tyre 30 km short of Tibooburra. We had been planning on getting into town before dark, but this kills that as he’s completely destroyed this rubber and it takes a while to swap it over in the failing late evening light. We arrive in darkness at 7.30pm and get three adjoining powered sites at the Granites caravan park in town. After setting up camp we walk up the main street to the pub where we enjoy a good counter meal washed down with cold beer. This is living. Walk back to camp and everyone too tired to do more than fall into bed.


Day 5 – Tuesday, May 13

    After refuelling we decide to do a day’s driving around the Waratta gold fields. We attempt to get permission from Gum Vale Station, on whose property the old field now lies, but can get no answer on any phone, but we leave a message as to our intent, and our contact details, and so figure since we’re not planning to go anywhere near the station homestead we should be okay. We head out on the Cameron Corner road and turn off at the Gum Vale turn-off 13km out. We drive through Gum Vale Gorge but miss our turn-off and follow the track out of the gorge and eventually find ourselves heading towards the Gum Vale homestead. We try a side road (signposted to Mt Sturt) but the land doesn’t “look right”. We backtrack into the gorge and find an indistinct track heading along the creek bed, and follow it and soon find ourselves driving through old mine shafts and remains of mining activity. We stop for lunch under the shelter of gums in the sandy creek bed, and find more old mine shafts nearby. Care must be taken as these are not marked or fenced off and if you drop a stone down it’s a long way to the bottom. We then continue along the track nearby to the old Waratta mine area, where there’s a smashed crushing battery and concrete water tank, with a collapsed windmill. After taking a leisurely look around we try to follow the track back to the creek but find it blocked, so backtrack to near our lunch site at the old mill and follow another track up through a gate then down into the creek bed. From there the track follows the creek, and unlike most other creek trips this one is smooth and pleasant over sand, winding through beautiful silver and red River Red Gums, passing the occasional crowd of emus. A charming drive that is full of pleasant surprises. Eventually we come to the old Waratta Bore (windmill) off to the right. We check this out, then follow a track back across the creek and along an old fence line and eventually find ourselves back on the much hated Silver City Highway. We turn right (south) and drive down to Milparinka and walk around the now virtually deserted remains of what looks as though it would once have been a thriving town. Surprisingly there’s a serious bit of building work going on in the middle (?!) of town. After checking everything else we wander into the pub for a beer only to find it deserted and a raging fire burning in a small oven, even though it’s 28 degrees outside. After about 15 minutes the bar tender ambles in, having been somewhere to get change. We order and consume our beers and then depart for Tibooburra, in time to catch the sunset from the granite boulders behind the camp ground.


Day 6 – Wednesday, May 14

    We start this day with a tour of the School of the Air in town, but find that the very welcoming and informative Tibooburra school has only two students now accessing its audio-visual computer resources (no longer using the old pedal radios) and only a handful of day students, so there are concerns that it may be closed. We then take a drive around town, and to the park to see the whale boat, a surprising site so far from large bodies of water. Such a boat was hauled here by Sturt in 1844-45 in search of the “inland sea”. We then head out on the Mt Wood Road and turn off onto the Gorge Loop Road, taking in the museum of farm appliances, the old shearing shed and shearers’ quarters and walk around the outside of the station house at Mt Wood. We follow the Gorge Loop Road, but frankly find it not much more than a rough road over the plains and the “gorge” is not much more than a dent in the surrounding countryside, but I suppose if you lived out here it would seem worth noting. We head back into Tibooburra to pick up the campers, which we’d left at the campground, and top up the fuel and then back up the highway to almost opposite the exit point of the Gorge Loop Road  to turn off onto the Jump Up Loop Road. Here we strike the only rain of the trip, a series of brief showers that turn the top of the dirt roads into a sticky paste and leave the trailers spattered with red. As we ascend the face of the jump-ups (they call them mesas in Hollywood) the sun comes out and we take in a glorious panorama across the plains. We drive on to Olive Downs Station, then head 4km back along the road and set up camp at the Olive Downs Camping area. There’s barbecues, long drop toilets and pump water. We get a few rain showers while sitting around enjoying wine and cheese after dinner, so retreat into the back of the Aussie Swag to cosily continue the party.


Day 7 – Thursday, May 15

    Depart Olive Downs and head out along the excellent Middle Road, which skirts along the border and the Dog Fence. Eventually it meets up with the main Cameron Corner Road just out of Fort Grey and we continue along to Cameron Corner. We enjoy the standard beer and have lunch at the store, take the usual photos at the border post and then continue west along the road into South Australia, but turn off at Bollards Lagoon Station 14km from the corner. Here we head into the station, a sprawling mass of buildings just off the main road. We knock on the door and a woman takes $10 for each car and gives us a mud map of the station property up to the boundary with the Innamincka Regional Reserve. The clay pan just behind the station house is impressive but eventually we find ourselves weaving through and over long parallel rows of sand dunes. These disturb us as we have no sand flags, and are concerned in case of any oncoming vehicles, so stop to attach a white plastic bag to the aerial on Phil’s Nissan. We pass numerous side roads, which lead to oil and gas wells, and all of which are marked as off limits. The Bore Track, as this is called, is a great drive that weaves its way north parallel with the Queensland border. The northern section of the track is apparently subject to becoming pretty bad in rain, but we had nothing but sunshine so continued all the way up to the Nappa Merrie Road (Adventure Way), just out of Innamincka. This section of the Track rises up out of the sand dunes onto a gibber plain, and on the northern edge before it drops back down into the dunes again there’s a great view out to the Merninie System (in the distance) and the Cooper Creek system, with jump-ups scattered along the skyline. At Adventure Way we turn left (west) and head into Innamincka, where we refuel and decide to camp on the town common ($5 per night compared to $15 per night plus an extra charge for something at Cullyamurra Waterhole) just 500m down the hill from the CBD, which consists of a pub, a general store, a shower/toiler block and the restored Australian Inland Mission building. We set up camp among clumps of bushes near Strzelecki Creek, which is just muddy, but the Cooper Creek, another 200m further over has plenty of water. There are occasional long drop toilets, and a shower block opposite the pub ($4 for 4 minutes of hot water – and make sure you have plenty of coins because the pub doesn’t). However, the pub does have good food and most other wants can be provided at the store.


Day 8 – Friday, May 16

    We drive out to Cullyamurra Waterhole, 15km out of town, back along Adventure Way. We start at Burke’s Grave, and are just stunned to find this astonishingly lush waterhole (actually a section of Cooper Creek that’s 21km long, 150 metres wide and, at the Eastern (inlet) end 30m deep. There’s bird life everywhere, and lots of huge gum trees and even grass along the banks, but walk 20m away and you’re back in sand and another 20m and you’re among scraggy dead looking trees. We find other camper trailer folk camped along here. The camp ground is about 8km long, with occasional long drop toilets, the odd barbecue and plenty of shelter. We wish we’d opted to spend the extra and camp here, but we just didn’t know. We drive to the end of the track, at the end of the campground, and decide on the walk to the Choke, as the narrow rocky inlet is called. The walk is fairly easy, the views wonderful over the waterhole, and there’s heaps of bird life and plenty of turtles visible in the water. How Burke died here has me beaten. Near the Choke, on the right amongst red boulders, we find lots of chipped aboriginal carvings. It’s after 1pm by the time we get back to the camp ground, so we stop to have lunch on the bank of the waterhole, under the shade. We head back out onto the Adventure Way and turn east (left) and around to near Nappa Merrie Station and then in to the Dig Tree. It’s an $11 per vehicle hit to drive in, as this is on private land, and all the facilities are provided from these funds. It’s such an iconic spot that we grudgingly pay up and take all the obligatory photos before heading off, as it’s after 4pm and we have an 80km drive back to Innamincka. However, instead of turning back west, we continue north-east for 15km and turn onto the Flood Bypass Road. This is right on sunset, and the golden light on the jump-ups and the distant hills are glorious, but the track is narrow and in places badly eroded, so care is needed, but it was worth the effort and we get back just on dark.


Day 9 – Saturday, May 17

    After dropping the garbage off at the Innamincka tip – worth the trip across the gibbers to see the turnout of crows – we head off for the Coongie Lakes (a desert parks pass needed, bought at the general store), 120km north. The track crosses some imposing sandhills (all generally clay topped so there’s no tough going) and winds through dry sandy desert country. Two thirds of the way there you come to the Kudriemitchie Outstation, a relocated building from the old Innamincka station, that’s being prepared as a ranger and scientific study base. Aside from the large waterhole behind the outstation this is dry and harsh country, so after a while, while driving along the back of a long orange sandhill it’s surprising to see the odd muddy hole on the left. Then suddenly you see before you a small sign to the right, indicating Coongie Lake this way. You drive up over the top of the dune, and there before you is a sheet of water that just leaves you slack jawed. There are black swans and bird life everywhere, and lots of bird life. It’s just astonishing to find this sheet of green and beautiful water in the midst of such desolation. We have lunch on the banks of the lake under the shade of pleasant gums, then take the long drive back into Innamincka in time to take the girls out for a meal at the pub and a break from cooking. The 500m walk up from the Common is pleasant under the stars anyway.


Day 10 – Sunday, May 18

    Today we leave Innamincka behind after refuelling – with diesel at $2.01.9 per litre! We head off south along the Old Strzelecki Track. We avoided the newer track, as it’s become a vast dirt highway and relatively boring. The Old Strzelecki is a little less civilised but is not the straggling bush track we were lead to believe. The most interesting aspect is the oil wells you come across right on the edge of the track, rocking away, pumping oil from the ground. At Merty Merty you have a choice, to turn left back towards Cameron Corner, or right, over the sandhills towards the new Strzelecki Track, which we take. After a couple of hours we arrive at Montecolina Bore. This lies behind sandhills to the west of the track, but is well signposted. If you’re going past this is a must stop as it is a remarkable oasis in a sea of sand. A constantly running bore feeds a permanent pool of water, around which are found vast flocks of white parrots (short beaked galahs), as well as a healthy population of magpies which have become so used to people’s presence that they will feed from your hands. The flies notwithstanding we enjoy our lunch before heading on towards Mt Hopeless, just north of which we turned off to the left and wind our way towards the Gammon Ranges. At Moolawatana homestead we stop and decide to check access to Terrapina Springs, our planned stop for the evening. The property holder – Mike – is at first very opposed to our stopping there as he has had considerable trouble with people with guns who had apparently cut down his population of yellow footed rock wallabies. However, our appearance, and our assurances of our good intentions leave him convinced that we are considerate campers, and with strict warnings to camp no closer than 500m away from the waterhole we head out along a goat track of a public road towards the Springs, to the west of the homestead. These are a pool on the left of the track, where Hamilton Creek crosses the road. We camp 300m up the creek bed on the right and James and Megan head off to spot the wallabies, since both work with native animals. The rest of us take in the glorious sunset then settle down around a good campfire with a few wines.


Day 11 – Monday, May 19

    We decide to check out the next springs down the creek, accessed by a side track about 8km down the track which crosses the creek, but after a lengthy crawl along through hills we came to the conclusion that these springs are closed to the public, and as they are on an adjoining property and we have no approval to go any further we turn around and return back to the main track past Moolawatana down to Balcanoona, where we are to turn off towards Arkaroola. The drive is scenic, skirting along the eastern side of the Gammon Ranges and we arrive at the Arkaroola turn-off with no trouble, to turn off towards Arkaroola. However, we plan to camp at Weetootla Gorge, which is about 4km off the road up to Arkaroola and well signposted. There is a good long drop toilet but we move 500m further up the gorge as there are already several campers set up in the area. We set up camp on a flat area at the end of the road, and then head straight off into Arkaroola, where we plan showers and a look around before doing the astronomy trip at one of the resort’s observatories. We have just arrived when we run into Doug Sprigg, the resort operator, who is having trouble with his generator, so Phil, an old hand with electronics, sets off to give him some assistance. The lights are restored after the rest of us finish our showers in the dark but we are at least able to refuel and then enjoy a restaurant meal before the trip up a goat track of a road to the nearby hilltop observatory in an old Toyota bus. The observatory is interesting, and then we drive back to Weetootla for the night, arriving about 10 minutes apart allowing the dust to settle after each car’s passing.


Day 12 – Tuesday, May 20

    After breakfast the rest of us set off to follow James and Meagan up a walking trail at the head of the gorge. The first bit is dry and not particularly interesting, but eventually we begin to find pools of water, then running water, all of which is being fed from a spring upstream. James and Meagan had found another population of Yellow Footed Rock Wallabies there and spent some time photographing them. After returning to camp we have lunch and then pack and head off west 100 km to Leigh Creek, where we refuel and restock with food then head south to Beltana, where we turned off towards Warraweena Station. This is an old sheep station of 355 sq km which has been turned over to eco-tourism, including four wheel driving. We know the manager, Stony Steiner, a jovial Swiss who has lifted the battered property to a well run and popular spot for campers, 4WDers, mountain bikers, hikers and anyone else looking for a breath of fresh air in the Northern Flinders Ranges. We set up camp at our designated area, with nobody else around, and are joined for dinner by Stony. Lots of wines later around a camp fire before we all retire for a good night’s sleep.


Day 13 – Wednesday, May 21

    After showers and breakfast we take Stony’s recommendation and set off on the toughest 4WD trek the park has to offer. This starts with a full verbal explanation by Stony, a set of trip notes and maps. The track winds its way up a steep and narrow creek bed that at times requires someone outside with a two-way giving instructions to each driver. After lunch next to an old copper mine we eventually find ourselves on top of a mountain with panoramic views over the Northern Flinders. There is an easy way down, but we decide to be brave and take the tough trip, down the appropriately named Suicide Hill. This is a two-in-one descent down a shale hill, and introduces James to some of the abilities of his 4WD. We then get bushed and find ourselves heading up a dead end gorge before working out where we are and head back, finding our way back to camp and having a leisurely late afternoon around camp.


Day 14 – Thursday, May 22

    After showers we head back to Beltana to take a look around. This was once a thriving town, which built itself on the Overland Telegraph Line, the Gahn Railway and then large copper mines in the area. But all this ran out and the once prosperous town died, leaving a smattering of beautiful old stone houses scattered amongst old chimneys and the skeletons of once thriving homes. The town is now largely saltbush with these scattered beautiful old buildings, all now privately owned – even the police station and railway station. We spend a heart rending hour in the town cemetery, checking out the graves, some of which are still lovingly cared for and others sadly falling into decay. You had to be there to experience it. After Beltana we drop off at the Sliding Rock copper mine ruins on the way back to Warraweena, which was a small town on its own, with its own pub and shops, until the minerals ran out. We head back to camp to ready ourselves for the long trip back to Sydney, as tomorrow we leave for home.


Day 15 – Friday, May 23

    After a frustrating wasted hour fixing a puncture I discover on arising, we say our sad farewells to our friends and Stony and head back towards Sydney, vie refuelling at Beltana Roadhouse, heading into Wilpena Pound through Brachina Gorge, taking in some spectacular scenery on the way towards Wilpena Chalet, but before we got there we turn off south east towards Yunta. The first part of the trip is pretty good and very scenic but the last half is over a flat and largely uninteresting landscape, but the South Australian dirt roads, as almost always, are great. I think the NSW Government could learn a lot from the SA roads people about how to make a dirt road. Just out of Yunta we run into a gypsy caravan being pulled by four camels, with another half dozen tethered to the back. I can’t believe such a thing in this day and age. At Yunta we refuel and turn east towards Broken Hill. A long day’s drive of 601 km gets us into The Hill at 8pm. Our plans to grab a couple of cabins to break the run of nights in the camper and, for poor James and Megan, in  their little tent, is destroyed when we find that there isn’t one single room available in town. So once again we set up camp in a caravan park, then drive back into town to have dinner at a restaurant. We’re feeling tired and out of sorts after a long day on the road and just want to hit the bed and get some sleep.


Day 16 – Saturday, May 24

    After breakfast at the Barrier Social Democratic Club – recommended – we hit the road for the long drive back to Forbes, all 793km of it. We get in around 7.30pm, thoroughly tired, and hit the hay early.


Day 17 – Sunday, May 25

    The drive home over the mountains is uneventful, except for the traffic jam at the roadworks which delayed us by an hour. The contrast with the complete absence of another living thing on the Bore Track couldn’t be starker. Arrive home at 7pm wishing we were still back out there, with the endless stars overhead, big white gums all around and the promise of another day’s exploration of this great country, but knowing that only work and the computer screen await. Ah, such is life!



Total distance covered: 5430 km

Total fuel bill: $1433.38 (ouch!)




Lunch on the banks of the Bogan River at Nyngan.

Don’t like the taste of that paddymelon.

The final run into White Cliffs in the sunset was spectacular.

Our first camp, at White Cliffs.



We settle in for an evening of good eating and drinking at White Cliffs.

Megan, Phil and Jan looking out over the plan at the back of White Cliffs.

Megan, James and Jan enjoying the tour with crazy Jock.

Mother’s day lunch at the White Cliffs Sport Club.



Collecting firewood before entering Mutwintji National Park.

Moon rise, Mutwintji National Park.

Nothing beats the please of a good camp fire in the bush, Mutwintji National Park.

Star trails, Mutwintji National Park.



James on top of the world – well, at least a ridge – sunrise, Mutwintji National Park.

Megan and James with aboriginal artwork, Mutwintji Gorge. Rock pool at the head of Mutwintji Gorge.

Phil’s busted tyre, sunset, 30 km short of Tibooburra.



Phil burrows in to get the jack under his car, Silver City Highway.


Driving through the beginning of the Waratta Goldfields.

James checks the depth of an old gold mine Waratta Goldfield. Most mines don’t have any warning fence around them.

At the old mill, Waratta Goldfield.



Enjoying lunch under the trees, Waratta Goldfield.

The old bore at the Waratta Goldfield.

Driving down the creek bed, Waratta Goldfield.

The old court house, Milparinka.



One of the curios behind the bar at the Milparinka pub.

Our camp set up at the Granites camp ground, Tibooburra.

James and Megan’s humble set-up at Tibooburra.

James tests the whim at Mt Wood Station. It works.


All muddied up at the top of the jump-ups on the way to Mt Olive Station.

The view from the jump-ups.



The sort of dust you get in the bush . .

. . . until you get to bulldust.

Our Aussie Swag set up at Mt Olive camp ground. Phil was on duty with his massed radio communication systems.


This storm passed us to the north at Mt Olive camp ground.

Our Pajero and AS along the dog fence, Middle Road, on the way to Cameron Corner.

Wedgetailed eagle, Middle Road.



Jan welcomes Phil and Lyn to the border, Cameron Corner.

A cool beer in the Corner Store, Cameron Corner.

Crossing the clay pan behind Bollards Lagoon Station, at the beginning of the Bore Track.

Fitting our home made sand flag, Bore Track.



Phil and Lyn, Bore Track.

Phil on the gibber plain, Bore Track.

At the lookout, Bore Track.

James and Megan, Bore Track.