From: "Desert Sky Tours" <>
Date: 13/06/2013 10:10:14 PM
Subject: News from Desert Sky!

Desert Sky Tours
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In This Issue
Outback News
Coongie Lakes report
Back O'Bourke report
Q & A- Bourke Bridge
Datsun 1600 climbs Big Red!
Trip itineraries 2013
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Issue: 26 June 2013

Dear Subscriber,

A number of recent trips  have seen us on the road to:
  • The Back O'Bourke
  • The Flinders Ranges and "Skytrek"
  • Coongie Lakes 
Each trip has gone well. and it was particularly interesting to see Coongie Lakes, which has opened for the first time in 3 years after flooding from the Cooper Creek and the southwest Queensland Channel Country.
We have two more visits to Coongie Lakes, with departures on 15th June (fully booked) and 30th June (2 seats remaining).

The recent rains are most appreciated in the northern areas, and the prediction is for some wonderful displays of wildflowers - particularly in the Flinders Ranges, where Hawker Artist Jeff Morgan is anticipating good numbers of the Sturt Desert Pea.

News from around the Outback


Woolshed Restaurant Rawnsley Park     


Cynthia and Peter Frey have taken over management of the Woolshed

 Restaurant at Rawnsley Park.
 They started on the 1st December last year and have had many years experience in  
  Many of you will remember Sally and John who previously managed the restaurant.


William Creek
A new accommodation facility is available at William Creek.
 In November 2011 Trevor Wright (Wrightsair) opened "Pelican Cabins"which feature flat  
 screen  TV, air conditioning and en-suite with shower and toilet !

 We used the cabins on our recent Painted Desert trip and found them to be very comfortable


Shirley has relocated the Quangdong Café/Bakery to the Copley Caravan Park.
All the great temptations are still available!

The Leigh Creek Coalfield  visitor viewing area has been closed and the Bucyrus
Eyrie (walking dragline) is being dismantled. Whilst Alinta Energy has declined to give a
reason, it is understood to be in the interest of public liability.

Cameron Corner

A well known landmark on the road between Merty Merty and Cameron Corner was
the abandoned double decker Yellow Bus. Originally used by a seismic crew in
Tibooburra, the bus was towed to this site in the 1970's and used as a mustering camp.
It has now disappeared !

New Book

This is a great read! Full of stories & tales of life for a newly married city girl in the remote Australian Outback on the Birdsville Track.
Sometimes funny, sometimes sad, but always entertaining.
No Beating About The Bush is the story of Val Oldfield and her days at Mungerannie with Eric. The book was launched February 2013.
(Contact us if you wish to purchase a copy)



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Coongie Lakes trip

This was the first opportunity in 3 years to visit Coongie Lakes which has been closed due to flooding of the Cooper Creek, so we were keen to get back again!
In the week leading up to departure, there were some significant rainfalls, with Leigh Creek receiving 38mm and Moomba airport recording 25mm and the Strzelecki Track closed for a few days.

The closure resulted in a "bonus" as we took a day trip from Copley to Arkaroola (via Nepabunna and Balcanoona). A highlight was the sighting of a number of Yellow Footed Rock Wallaby at Arkaroola Waterhole.

With the Strzelecki Track open next morning,we headed up to Mt Hopeless through a number of pools of water at creek crossings to Monte Collina Bore for lunch.
Lindon Station is made up of two leases, Tinga Tingana and Whitecatch.

Montecollina Bore is on an area of the Tingana Tingana lease, and is a popular camp site on the Strezelecki Track where hot bore water overflows into a dam and then into a wetland that attracts many birds.


In view of the recent weather, we decided to keep to the main Track rather than the Old Strzelecki Track which runs from Merty Merty to Innamincka, and we had  opportunity to see the Moomba from the viewing platform. 



Our accommodation at Innamincka is the Cooper Creek Homestay, and many will remember meeting Julie and Geoff.  Their daughter Ali and her husband Chris now manage the Homestay, and we met them on the second night of our stay.


Julie and Geoff did a great job "holding the for" until their return from a trip away.


I should mention the Homestay has a very new coffee machine and serves the


best cappuccino!



After being closed due to floodwaters, the floodplains north of Kudriemitchie have finally dried out.   Coongie Lakes National Park is one of the most spectacular of South Australia's natural attractions. The park is a pristine water world made up of channels, waterholes, lakes, internal deltas, shallow floodplains and interdune corridors and swamps.
A short walk into Scrubby Camp (the road was closed for some reason!) gave a good view of the north arm
of Cooper Creek, and we continued on to Kudriemitchie Outstation for morning tea. The Track to this point was corrugated in parts and does not improve for the next 22kms to Coongie Lakes.

Arriving at Coongie Lakes NP, we headed to the camping area and toilet facilities and we chatted with the owner of a caravan. It had taken him 5 hours to travel the 100kms from Innamincka and he was not keen to return for a while! We wished him well and drove up the first sand dune on the Lakeside track.
There are many beautiful spots to pull into off the track, and we chose one where we had seen group of about a dozen Brolgas earlier as our lunch stop. Here pelicans, swans, terns and other birds passed by as
we sat and ate lunch.

It is a worthwhile drive to the furthermost point of the Lakeside Track, park in the turning area and climb the red sandhill for a great view.
The lake can be seen stretching north, creating further channels.

We travelled down the Old Strzelecki Track from Innamincka to Merty Merty, and it was a good choice
- less traffic and a better road than the main Track past Moomba, plus we were able to make a couple
 of detours.
One was to the old Nappacoongie Station, and here we paid our respects to Harry Bird, the well
inspector who met a tragic death when the well he was lowered into collapsed. The other detour was
to Toolatchie Homestead Ruins and again we paid respects to "Little Jack" who perished in 47c heat
after losing his way while inspecting feed on the run.

Morning Tea at Merty Merty, a climb up the red sand dune, and we were on our way along the "roller coaster" to Cameron Corner. After one of the best in steak sandwiches from the Corner Store, we entered the Sturt National Park, taking the Middle Road to the Jump Up Loop Road.
An abundance of wildlife greeted us as we headed to the old Olive Downs Sheep Station and via the Silver City Highway to Tibooburra.

A good overnight stop in the Granites Motel before continuing down the Silver City Highway and a visit
to Depot Glen and Poole's grave just out of Milparinka.
The Highway just south of Packsaddle is undergoing extensive maintenance 9.8km of the road is being sealed. (ABC News Report can be viewed here)

Our return to Adelaide was via Broken Hill and the Barrier Highway.

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Back O'Bourke


Perfect weather, good company and a sense of adventure as we left Adelaide and headed north to Burra to pick up the
road through Quangdong, Loch Lilly and Harriedale Stations to the Silver City Highway and Broken Hill.
A good overnight stay in the Silver Haven Motel before visiting Mutawintji National Park where a short walk from Homestead Creek car park took us to the Thaaklatjika overhang - also known as"Wright's Cave" -because there are
two triangular markings made by William Wright, Manager of Kinchega Station who later joined the Burke and Wills Expedition at Menindee. Mention must be made of a great lunch spot at Ten Mile Creek then on to White Cliffs, where there were a few people still packing up after the Gymnkana event held the previous two days. The Underground Motel as usual provided amusement as we studied the map to find our rooms!

The original plan was to travel next day to Wilcannia and then up the Darling River Run to Tilpa, however after chatting with the motel, we decided to try the Wanaaring / Tilpa road. It was a good choice and we arrived at Tilpa in time for morning tea and a look around the hotel. Here we picked up the Darling River Run, past Idalia and Kallara Stations to Louth and a great steak sandwich in the hotel!
A day in Bourke gave us opportunity for a cruise on the Darling River aboard the Jandra Paddle Steamer, a visit to the fantastic Bourke Exhibition Centre, and a drive to the top of Mt Oxley ...and yes! ...there were a couple of eagles seen as we climbed to the top.

It is close to 100kms east from Bourke to Brewarrina, a little town which only a couple of days ago celebrated 150 years.
" This is a fantastic milestone for the town and we are delighted to be invited to celebrate with the community," said Warringah Mayor, Michael Regan.

After morning tea at a delightful spot overlooking the Barwon River, we headed off in search of the 'Club in the
Scrub' on the Grawin Opal fields for lunch then to Lightning Ridge.
Several years ago we took a short cut in the bus via the Lake Narrun road to the Club but subsequent wet years me ant we
headed to Goodooga and Hebel on the better roads.On this occasion there was no problem with weather,and although
the road was a little corrugated in places we made good progress and arrived in time for lunch.

I mentioned just after our first visit the warm welcome we received when we entered the Club In The Scrub and
it is still there today. It is a genuine welcome from locals and staff in a Club which is the hub of social activity in
Grawin. At Lightning Ridge we visited the site of the first opal mine, experienced being underground in the Walk in
Mine, and marvelled at the work of artist John Murray int he Big Bird Art Gallery.
Good luck to those adventurous souls enjoying the Artesian Hot Baths - if we had packed our bathers we (might)
would have joined you!

The Warrumbungle National Park was ravaged by fire early January this year - it destroyed at least 49 homes and it was "miraculous" Australia's largest telescope at the Siding Spring Observatory was not destroyed.
Subsequent heavy rain caused soil erosion. The Visitor Centre in Coonabarabran has images of the bushfire and it is incredible to see the devastation.

White Gums lookout is one of the few attractions presently open in the Park, and here we enjoyed a picnic lunch and walk.

                  (photo courtesy Pat and Bill)

Gilgandra is the home of the Cooees - referring to the march of 35 men from Gilgandra to Sydney in 1915 to
volunteer for the war. By the time they reached Sydney their numbers had swelled to 263 making the 1915 Cooee March from Gilgandra to Sydney the first and most successful recruitment march of World War 1.

We visited the Heritage Centre before going to our over-night accommodation at the Village Motor Inn.
On the way to Cobar next day we called in to the Nyngan Museum.
In 1990 the Bogan River flooded the township and so much history was destroyed.
The Museum was established by a wonderful group of locals wanting to collect local family history, relics and items of historical significance.
Housed in the historic Railway Station the Museum continues to grow beyond all expectations due to the dedicated group
of volunteers whose passion is preserving local history to share with others.

An amazing array of wildlife greeted us next morning on the road from Cobar to Ivanhoe.
In the early morning goats, kangaroos and emus crossed the road - which although unsealed was in reasonable condition
and we arrived at Ivanhoe just as a Rotary Club car rally came into town.

Along the Balranald Road, amidst flat salt bush plains and red sandy ridges is Hatfield. It was here in 1879 that a band
of four horse thieves began a very short-lived spree of bushranging when they robbed the hotelier. They were caught after a shootout two days later and subsequently executed. Nothing stirred as we passed the now derelict hotel.

The Ben Scott Memorial Bird Trail at Balranald has two bird hides and a wooden bridge over the water that is in the depressions at times. We took a late afternoon stroll and listened to the sounds of the birds in the bush. The River Drive and picnic grounds on the banks of the Murrumbidgee provided a great place for afternoon tea.
After a very comfortable stay at the Sturt Motel Balranald, we made our way home through Mildura and the Riverland Towns.


Top of page

Q & A

Situated in North Bourke is an historic lift bridge which was erected over the Darling River in 1883.
In 1997, after 114 years of service the old lift bridge was replaced by a modern prestressed concrete girder
bridge named GATEWAY BRIDGE.

Unfortunately, the old bridge had two main faults -excessive friction in the lifting system required too much effort to wind the winches - and the lift span would jam between the towers when about half raised. Modifications were made in 1895 and this
resulted in improved designs for subsequent lift-span bridges.

The bridge is the oldest moveable-span bridge in Australia and is the sole survivor of its type in New South Wales.

A question often asked is why the north approach is curved. The Bourke Bridge Inn is next to the approach,
and suggestions are that the hotel would not sell the land to enable a straight approach.

This is partly correct-

Another fault in the original layout of the bridge was that the long timber viaduct on the western side went
straight to the village, then West Bourke, close by the hotel. The T -intersection was difficult for long bullock teams to negotiate, and so on many occasions the verandah was demolished.

Negotiations to resume the hotel site for improving the intersection failed, so in 1902 plans were drawn up for a curved viaduct to join the shore line on clear land. It is an extant feature of the historic North Bourke crossing of the Darling River.

Picture Gallery

Flinders Ranges
On top of Prominent Hill
Willow Springs Station Flinders Ranges

This photograph, courtesy of Rhonda and Don is taken at the top of Prominent Hill.
The Hill is one of the climb up on the "Skytrek" 4WD track on Willow Springs Station in the central Flinders Ranges. In the background can be seen the eastern side of Wilpena Pound, with Rawnsley Bluff on the left.
The track descends to the right, before climbing Upalinna Hill where there is a visitor book to sign!

Upcoming Personalised 4WD trips 2013

                   CLICK IMAGE TO VIEW Itineraries 2013 


            Yorke Peninsula
           & Southern Flinders
         Saturday November 2nd

                   (5 days)  


            definite departure           

Ardrossan, Port Julia, Port Vincent, Edithburgh, and Wool Bay. Scenic drive to Troubridge Point and Marion Bay. Innes National Park includes Cable Bay, Cape Spencer and Pondalowie Bay. Corny Point, Warooka and Yorketown.

Moonta and Wallaroo.  Banking museum Kadina.

Southern Flinders Ranges, Alligator Gorge, Melrose.

Bridle Track to Port Germein. 





          Kangaroo Island
       Thursday 31st October   
                (4 days)

     (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.  



          The Gawler Ranges
          Sunday 13th October 
                   (5 days)          
            definite departure  
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. 



           Coongie Lakes

        Coongie Lakes
       Saturday 15th June
       Sunday     30th June
             (7 days)
      definite departures         

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


          Birdsville & Innamincka 
              Saturday 20th July
                       (9 days)  





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

             Birdsville & Windorah
              Saturday 10th August 
                    (9 days)
              definite departure  

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


            Flinders Ranges
      Thursday 5th September 
                    (4 days) 
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. 

           Flinders R
     Saturday 14th September 
                  (5 days)
Rawnsley Park, Wilpena Pound, Bunyeroo Valley, Brachina Gorge, Blinman, Arkaroola,  Ridgetop Tour,  Nooldoonooldoona Waterhole, Gammon Ranges, Moralana Scenic Drive.

             Flinders Ranges 
                    & Outback
                     (8 days) 




Rawnsley Park, Wilpena Pound, Bunyeroo Valley, Brachina Gorge, Blinman, Arkaroola,  Ridgetop Tour,  Nooldoonooldoona Waterhole, Gammon Ranges, Moralana Scenic Drive.
Marree, The Oodnadatta Track, William Creek, Coober Pedy,
The Painted Desert, Woomera, Roxby Downs.

             Tumby Bay  
           The Eyre Peninsula
         Monday 21st October 
                    (5 days)                        


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.

           Head of Bight  


        The Eyre Peninsula 

    Sunday 22nd September

                   (8 days)



Port Germein, Arno Bay, Port Neill,Trinity Haven Scenic Drive, Poonindie , Port Lincoln, Sleaford Bay, Whaler's Way, Coffin Bay, Lock's Well, Elliston, Talia Caves, Venue Bay, Murphy's Haystacks, Point Labatt, Streaky Bay, Smoky Bay, Ceduna,
Penong, Cactus Beach, Fowlers Bay,Nullarbor Roadhouse,
Head of Bight Whale Centre, Minnipa, Wudinna, The Gawler Ranges National Park, Kimba, Iron Knob, Australian Arid Lands Botanic Gardens, Wilmington, Melrose, The Bridle Track to Port Germein, Clare Valley.



         Coongie Lakes
      Mount Samuel  
        Alpana Station
              (4 days)
      Sunday 25th August 


       definite departure


 Clare Valley, Wilmington, Quorn, Hawker and Oraparinna to Alpana Station. Using Blinman as a "base" we travel Glass Gorge to Oratunga Creek and Alpana Station.   

Splendid views which include Mt Samuel, Mt Samuel Proper,


Lake Torrens, Nilpena Sandhills, Mt Buggery, Mt Deception and Patawarta Hill!


Picnic lunch Green well Creek before continuing to Valley Bore where it is common to see kangaroos, emus, feral goats.
The Parachilna Gorge Road takes us past Angorichina Station and back to Blinman.

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Thanks for your continued interest in Desert Sky Tours

Howard Humby
Desert Sky Tours

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