Members Trips

stories from Australia


flight over lake eyre
Portion of a five week trip

by Paul & Leanne Slorach

Lake Eyre with water

    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.

26th  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.

Burra 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 days.

    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 swap stories.

    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 this stage.

    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.

1st  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 time.

    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 air.

    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 flight.

    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 to Warrnambool



Burra Creek Gorge Camp Burra Creek Gorge Camp Parachilna Pub Leigh Creek Coal Mine


Too big for our car Leanne's New Truck Leigh Creek Mine - the big hole Leigh Creek Mine


Farina ruins Busy Marree before the dust storm Lake Eyre Yacht Club Dust storm


dust storm from the car Dust beginning to clear Shelter from the wind Sunrise after the dust storm


 Marree from the air  Lake Eyre Lake Eyre Lake Eyre


Lake Eyre Lake Eyre Lake Eyre Lake Eyre


Lake Eyre Lake Eyre Lake Eyre Lake Eyre


Marree Man Passengers and pilot  Mungerannie wetlands sunset Mungerannie wetlands


august 2009