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In This Issue
Burke & Wills Historical Soc
Lake Eyre Update
Donna's Rush
Cooper Creek Homestay
Whales in Eden
Wilson's Prom
Trip itineraries 2012
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Issue: 18December   2011
Dear Subscriber,

santa 4WD

 Welcome to the last issue of the Desert Sky Tours newsletter for 2011. It's a busy time for most, but I'm sure you'll enjoy the news we bring in this edition.


Jenny and I take this opportunity to thank you for your support during 2011 and wish you a joyous Christmas and a prosperous New Year.    


Cheers for now....Howard


By the way - past editions of our printed newsletter can be accessed from our website here 



Burke and Wills Historical Society

The Burke and Wills Historical Society was formed in 2005, and has a diverse membership of people who have an interest in Australian Exploration history.
The aim of the Society is to encourage interest in, research into and the preservation of anything relating to the Burke and Wills Expedition and other exploration of Australia and searches for missing explorers.

In 2008 Dave Phoenix, President of the Society, walked 3,750 kms across Australia following Burke and Wills' footsteps. He has now written a set of touring guides based on this historic trip.

The Coongie Lakesfirst book, Following Burke and Wills across Victoria: a touring guide was published last month. It has plenty of maps and illustrations, and includes route details, information about the places where the Expedition camped - both as they were in 1860 and as they are now- extracts from the diaries, information about the explorers and details about the scientific and environmental observations made on the Victorian leg of the Expedition.

The book can be purchased ($29.95) 
through the Society, and further information can be obtained by clicking on the thumbnail

The Burke and Wills Historical Society also has  Reading List
Some of the older books on the list have been digitised and are available for download, and second-hand copies of many of these books can still be found for sale.

Researchers looking into the remaining dispersed - and largely overlooked - records of Burke and Wills' expedition have discovered fascinating and meticulously collected scientific data. The records provide a valuable baseline perspective on Australia's environment 150 years ago, and shed new light on the remarkable achievements of the explorers under extreme conditions.

Read the whole article here at the CSIRO's ECOS website!

Friends of The Simpson Desert Parks

The FrieFOS logonds of The Simpson Desert Parks (FOS) was established August 1986 and has this year celebrated 25 years!.

The objectives of the group are to give volunteer support to park rangers, to raise funds and public awareness, to promote conservation, to reinforce codes of safety and to ease the difficulties of visitors travelling in the remote regions of the national parks and conservation areas.   


As part of the 25th anniversary celebrations, the history of the Group has been updated, and a  copy can be viewed here!  


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Lake Eyre Update
Lake Eyre YC
 The Lake Eyre Yacht Club reports:
        • The deepest water in Lake Eyre North is 800mm at Belt Bay and the level is dropping.
        • Lake Eyre South is dry. 
        • Coongie Lakes are navigable and drying.

A map and details can be viewed here. 


The Cooper Creek is still flowing over the Birdsville Track, closing the Track and the Cooper Creek Ferry is still operating. 

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New Opal Mine - Coober Pedy!

The 7th July 2011 marked the beginning of the first
opal rush in Coober Pedy since Opal Ridge back in

An unknown area has been named in honour of John and
Yoka Dunstan's daughter, Donna Dunstan who tragically
passed away two years ago.

"John (Dunstan), and I had found a bit of opal in Greek
Gully 12 months ago," explains Paul Reynolds. "That kept
us going for over 12 months then in mid-May we decided
to hit it hard and have a good run through the cooler months".

John and Paul started drilling Caldwell shafts at 23 Mile
with no luck. They moved on to Kimba Field and the opal
drought continued.
"By the time we'd finished at Kimba we'd drilled around
90 shafts... not a sniff of colour," said Paul.

"We were pretty disheartened but, between John and me
we have around 70 years in opal mining so we've got
used to the good times... and the bad."

Donnas Rush
In early July John and Paul decided to have a crack at an 
area that John had had his eye on for many years. 
"I found red/grey floaters around there in 1968," John said.

     "They weren't cracked or crazed which made me think there is likely some good opal in the area."
"In all honesty, by the time we got to Donna's Rush we
were on the bones of our ass!" said Paul. "The bank was
starting to own me again but, hopefully, not for much

Based on current drilling, there appears to be two levels.
The first level at 32 feet (predominantly red/grey opal)
and the second level at 46 feet (predominantly blue/green
The partnership managed to keep the discovery of the
new field quiet for two weeks but now the cat is out of
the bag.

There are now over 50 registered claims and over 100
pegged at Donna's Rush, the most at any one field since
Opal Ridge back in 2007.

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Cooper Creek Homestay - Innamincka
Cooper homestay

We are delighted Julie and Geoff have decided to re-open the Cooper Creek Homestay !!

There is a photo of Julie and Geoff (at leat I think he is the gentleman in the suit !!!) on their
We use the Homestay as our "base" in Innamincka on our Birdsville, Cooper Creek and Coongie Lakes trips.

And for the record - Julie is recovering well after a slight misfortune whilst riding her bicyle in the sandy Strzelecki Creek bed !!!

Sapphire Coast News
Cat Balou whale sighting
Whales arriving in Eden  
The following is a report on Sunday 13th November 2011 from Rosalind & Gordon of the "Cat Balou" catamaran which operates in Twofold Bay, Eden:

"One of our passengers was the first person to spot whales today aboard CAT BALOU with a mother & calf found just outside Twofold Bay. These were good whales to watch spending quite a bit of time on the surface and we had some very close encounters from them.

The mother was a Type 2 Humpback which made seeing her underwater easy with her white sides. With the NE wind picking up we headed north finding another mother & calf east of Eden.

They had 10 minute down times but we saw some nice flukes from them. Off The Pinnacles we picked up Bottlenose Dolphins which our passengers loved as they swam beside and in front of CAT BALOU in the pristine water. While we were watching them we spotted another mother & calf which we followed south. On the return trip we picked up Common Dolphins which escorted us for some time. The seals at the breakwall were seen as we departed and also as we returned to the Eden wharf".

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Wilson's Promontory Update
Tracks re-open ahead of schedule 

Visitors are now able to access the Mt Bishop walking track, the Mt Bishop circuit track, and Squeaky Beach directly from the Squeaky Beach carpark. The Tidal River watercourse downstream of the Tidal River Bridge and the Darby River beach access track are also open.

Since Tidal River reopened on Friday 23 September, visitation to the Prom has increased steadily and to date, nearly 25,000 people have visited the park.


More than 350 millimetres of rain dumped on a concentrated area near the Tidal River camping settlement within 24 hours back in March this year.

"We believe it was a one in 300 year event, that was the intensity of it, later on upon reflection we believe it was almost like a small cyclone," says Parks Victoria's chief ranger for Wilsons Promontory National Park Helen Dixonar.
Visitor Centre - Tarra Bulga NP

New visitor facilities have been built in Tarra-Bulga National Park, South Gippsland as part of the joint Australian and Victorian Government $10 million tourism industry recovery package following extensive damage from the 2009 bushfires.


The $743,000 Tarra Valley Day Visitor Area built by Parks Victoria includes a new toilet block, picnic shelter and tables, information shelter and car parking at Tarra-Bulga National Park - popular for its waterfalls, scenic walking tracks, ancient trees and fern gullies. The second phase of the project will deliver a new lookout platform across the park's iconic Corrigan's Suspension Bridge.


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Personalised 4WD trips 2012
These trips are in a Toyota Landcruiser vehicle with a maximum of 4 passengers:

Itineraries 2012    

Close Up Emu

s Hill Circuit
                 (2 days) $695pp
               Saturday February 18 







Gilbert Valley, Terowie, Peterborough (overnight), Franklyn, Ketchowla, Dares Hill, Mt Bryan, Clare Valley.


 Frenshmans Rock
         (4 days) $
         Monday February 27

         (Includes Sealink ferry)





Penneshaw, Antechamber Bay, Cape Willoughby,

American River, Kingscote, Flinders Chase National Park, Cape Borda,  

Admirals Arch, Cape De Coudic, Seal Bay, Emu Bay, Stokes Bay, Snelling Beach, Western River Cove.  



 Wilsons Promontory 

          Wilson's Promontory 

        (9 days) - $3275pp 

         Tuesday March 6 






Grampians NP, Halls Gap, Penshurst, Mortlake, Colac, Queensciffe Ferry, Sorrento, Meeniyan, Tidal River, Waratah Bay, Walkerville, Agnes Falls, Strzelecki Ranges, Tara Bulga NP, Grand Ridge Road, Skenes Creek,  

The Great Ocean Road, Mt Gambier, The Coorong.               



Sapphire Coast


    The Sapphire Coast 

                (8 days) - $3150
                Monday March 19                



Portland, Great Ocean Road, Otway Tree Top Walk, Apollo Bay, Metung, Lakes Entrance, Eden, Twofold Bay, Pambula, Merimbula, Bega, Victorian coastal towns, Meeniyan, Camperdown, Dunkeld, The Coorong.

Gawler Ranges
        The Gawler Ranges
        (5 days) $1575pp 
            Friday March 30


Port Wakefield, Port Germein, Port Augusta, Iron Knob, Corunna, Siam, Nonning, Mt Ive, Lake Gairdner, Yardea, Hiltaba, Paney Station, The Organ Pipes, Pildappa Rock, Tcharkuldu Hill, Minnipa, Wudinna, Kimba, Wilmington, Melrose, Gladstone, The Clare Valley.

         Lake Eyre
                          Lake Eyre
                    (3 days) - $995pp   

                     Includes Plane Flight!


Wednesday  April 11 



Clare Valley, Leigh Creek, Marree, One and a half hour plane flight over Lake Eyre, Farina Ruins, Ochre Cliffs, Hawker, Orroroo, Terowie, Burra. 

              Back O'Bourke
        (9 days) - $3300 pp
         Saturday April 21

Broken Hill, Mutawintji NP, White Cliffs, Wilcannia, Tilpa, Louth, Bourke
(accommodation Bourke Riverside Motel), Lightning Ridge, Gilgandra, Cobar, Balranald, Murrayville, Pinnaroo.

The Painted Desert
                 The Painted Desert
                 (9 days) - $3295pp
                  Saturday May 5

Clare Valley, Leigh Creek, Marree, William Creek, Coober Pedy,
The Breakaways, Painted Desert, Woomera, Roxby Downs, Andamooka,
Port Augusta, Arid Lands Botanical Gardens, Horrock's Pass  to the Flinders Ranges, Orroroo and Burra.

Mungo NP 
          Mungo and Hattah
          National Parks
          (5 days) $1525
           Saturday May 19

Pinnaroo, Kow Plains Homestead and Cowangie, Murrayville, Pink Lakes, Underbool, Mildura, Wentworth, Old Zanci Station, Mungo Woolshed, Walls of China, Grand Canyon, Vigar's Well, Perry Sandhills, Paddle Steamer through Lock 11 Mildura, Red Cliffs, Lake Hattah, Lake Victoria, Rufus River, The Riverland.



Coongie Lakes
                   Coongie Lakes
                   (7 days) - $2500pp
                    Saturday June 2
                    Saturday June 16

Old Strzelecki Track, Innamincka, Coongie Lakes, Cmp LXV, Cameron Corner, Sturt NP, Tibooburra, Broken Hill, Loch Lilly and Quandong Stations, Burra.

Birdsville Hotel         

               Birdsville &
               (9 days) -
               Saturday July 14


Clare Valley, Leigh Creek, Marree, Mungerannie, Birdsville,Innamincka, Cameron Corner, Sturt National Park, Tibooburra,Broken Hill,
 Old Pastoral route to Burra, Adelaide.

Toompine Hotel
             Birdsville & Windorah
            (9 days) - $3300pp
                 Saturday August 4


Clare Valley, Leigh Creek, Marree, Mungerannie, Birdsville,
Betoota, Windorah, Quilpie, Toompine, Thargomindah, Cunnamulla, Bourke, Cobar, Broken Hill.

Oratunga Creek
                    Oratunga Track
                               (4 days) - $1525pp
                               Saturday August 25 

This 4WD loop commences 10km east of Blinman, on the private property of Di and Ian Fargher. The track passes Nildottie Gap and on towards Patawarta Hill. The scenery changes from cypress pines to ancient eucalypts through the Artimore Valley, culminating on the summit of Mt Lucius (815m).
This is some of the best country the Flinders has to offer.
Includes Warraweena Conservation Park and the Old Angepena Goldfield Track, Parachilna Gorge, Brachina Gorge, Bunyeroo Valley, Hawker.

Skytrek Logo
                         Flinders Ranges &

                         (4 days) -
                         Saturday September 1


Rawnsley Park, Wilpena Pound, Willow Springs Station, Skytrek, Bunyeroo Valley, Brachina Gorge, Blinman, Parachilna Gorge, Moralana Scenic Drive, Melrose, The Bridle Track. Port Germein, Laura, Orroroo, Burra, Eudunda, Kapunda. 

 Sillers Lookout - Arkaroola
               Flinders R
anges &
                (5 day
s) -
                Sunday   September  9
                Tuesday September 18  


Rawnsley Park, Wilpena Pound, Bunyeroo Valley, Brachina Gorge, Blinman, Arkaroola,  Ridgetop Tour,  Nooldoonooldoona Waterhole, Gammon Ranges,  

Moralana Scenic Drive.

 Tumby Bay
                    Tumby Bay
                    and The Eyre

                    (5 days) $1595pp
                     Saturday October 13

Port Germein, Arno Bay, Port Neill,Trinity Haven Scenic Drive, Poonindie ,
Port Lincoln, Sleaford Bay, Whaler's Way, Tod Reservoir, Cummins, Mt Hope, Point Drummond, Greenly Beach, Dutton Bay, Coffin Bay, Koppio Museum.
Enjoy a Clydesdale Horse and trolley ride!
Return is via Horrock's Pass 
to Flinders Ranges, Orroroo and Burra.   
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Thanks for your continued interest in Desert Sky Tours

Howard Humby
Desert Sky Tours
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