Desert Sky Tours


In This Issue
A Journey To Dares Hill
Wilsons Prom
Kangaroo Island
Dig Tree 150th
Cooper Creek Ferry
Trip itineraries
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Issue: 14March  2011
Dear Subscriber,

Dorothy McKellar has been proven right again - we live in a land of drought and flooding rains, and presently there are a number of northern South Australia roads either closed or 4WD only!

Moderate to major flood levels are current on the Georgina, Eyre, Diamantina and Cooper Creeks and are rising in several locations. The town of Birdsville is isolated and expected to be until the end of March. The causeway at Innamincka is still closed due to flooding of the Cooper Creek which is rising at Windorah with a current flood level of 5.1m and more water heading in that direction along the Barcoo and Thompson Rivers. This adds to a previous flood pulse which is already downstream from Innamincka along the Cooper Creek.

Lake Eyre North currently has approximately 70% coverage of water although it is only shallow for the majority but in Belt Bay it is estimated to be up to 1.9m deep and Madigan Gulf up to 300mm deep and static. Lake Eyre South is considered full with up to 2.5m of water at the deepest point.


Most of this water has come from local rain being fed in by the local creek system. Small flows are currently coming from the Macumba, Neales, Clayton, Frome and Warburton into Lake Eyre North and several creeks such as the Stuart, Screechowl, Warrina, Gregory and Margaret are trickling into the south lake.


The outback has come alive for the third year in a row and is already looking amazing with many plants  beginning to bloom along with abundant animal and birdlife.

The latest Bulletin from Department Environment & Natural Resources mentions most campgrounds and the Innamincka causeway may be closed until at least June.
Coongie Lakes National Park may be inaccessible for 2011

On this basis, I have contacted all who enquired about our Coongie Lakes trips and deferred departures until 2012.

Updates on Lake Eyre can be found on the Lake Eyre Yacht Club website, and departure dates for our 3 day Lake Eyre trip are in this newsletter.

Cheers for now....
A Journey to Dares Hill - 1st March 2011
William Dare was the first white man to stand on a high and craggy hill known later as Dares Hill in the northern Flinders Ranges. Near the foot of the hill he built his homestead among dense woodland by the Piltimittiappa Creek.

Our journey to this interesting part of the mid north when we "Travelled in Goyder's Footsteps" .After visiting the superbly preserved historic town of Mintaro, we entered  the Clare Valley through Sevenhill and Clare then a small detour to Spalding, Gulnare and Gladstone.

At Laura we found the statue of C J Dennis (the Australian poet who was born in Auburn, and spent much of his boyhood in Laura), was missing from it's usual place outside the Dick Biles Gallery. It has been moved to the median strip in the main street and now welcomes visitors entering the Town from the Gladstone side.
We later learned that it was Dick Bile's wish the statue be relocated in the main street, and he was able to see this come true a few days before he passed away.

On to Appila, and although the main street was closed for road widening, we were able to see the excellent murals on the CFS building next to the Hotel.


One of the great things about touring is finding the unexpected!
It was nearing lunch time, and we were on the lookout for a quiet place to stop, and we found it at Appilla Springs, a short distance out of Appila on the Tarcowie Road.

The local people have done a fantastic job in putting picnic facilities there without disturbing the natural beauty and tranquility of the place.

At  Pekina, we made a detour to Magnetic Hill, and yes! - it still works, and the vehicle was seemingly rolling backwards up the incline to the large "magnet" positioned near the roadside.

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Wilson's Promontory - 6th March 2011

I always enjoy the trip to Wilson's Promontory - possibly because of the wonderful contrast in scenery during the 9 days. This trip was a little different in the fact our normal route through the Grampians National Park was closed due to damage caused by recent rains. In lieu of the Zumsteins Road, we chose the Mt Zero Road into Halls Gap. This road is unsealed, but in good condition, and a gentle breeze kept the smoke from a prescribed burn off well away from us.

After a night in Halls Gap, we visited Lake Bellfield . This reservoir impounds the water of Fyans Creek to augment the water supply to the Wimmera and Mallee regions. Capacity of storage 63,000 acre feet.
It was opened on the 6th of October, 1969.

 The road beyond Lake Bellfield to Dunkeld was closed, so we opted to take the Pomonal Road to the east of the Grampians, with some great views, including Mt William.
We did try a couple of side roads which eventually ended in closures, but it was all a good experience!

At Camperdown we drove out to Lake Bullen Merri and took a drive around the western edge of the Lake.

The numerous lakes in the Camperdown district, like the mountains, are related to volcanic activity. Some, such as Lake Purrumbete, Lake Bullen Merri and Lake Gnotuk lie in volcanic craters or maars and are fed largely by underground water. The larger lakes including Lake Colongulac and Lake Corangamite (Victoria's largest lake) occupy depressions which are partly a result of overlapping lava flows that have blocked or diverted streams.
These depressions are now internal drainage basins with little river inflow or no outlet. Evaporation has concentrated salts in the lakes and some are now much saltier than sea water. The size and water quality of these lakes varies in response to long term climatic changes, and there is clear evidence that Lake Corangamite was once much more extensive.

And so to Meeniyan - via the Quuenscliife Ferry to Sorrento and the Mornington Peninsula.
This was our "base " for 4 nights, during which time we explored Whisky Beach, Squeaky Beach and Tidal River on Wilson's Promomontory. We even found Turton Falls on the way home through Foster!
Another day trip started at Shallow Inlet and around Waratah Bay to Walkerville where we visited the old Lime Kiln ruins and cemetery, and on to Inverloch, Cape Patterson and Wonthaggi.
Tarra Bulga National Park was the destination next day, and after visiting Agnes Falls (which were flowing very well), we made a couple of detours to Port Welshpool and Port Albert

Since the early 1840s, when Europeans first came to Victoria's southern coasts, cattle have grazed Snake Island.Sheltered from the pounding waves of Bass Strait by Wilson's Promontory, the 3500 hectare island holds a special place in the cultural and economic life of South Gippsland.
Traditional grazing practices stretching back more than 100 years are maintained, with cattle driven to the island across the tidal shallows on seasonal winter and summer agistment.
 When it's time for them to return to the mainland the call goes out for keen graziers and horse riders to volunteer for the muster and then walk the animals at low tide across the shallows to Port Welshpool.

About 200 head are agisted there on a per head value over summer and about 500 are taken to the island for winter. They are all mustered and taken off the island by September 1.

By the time we finished lunch in Tarra Bulga National Park, a shower of rain had stopped, and we were able to take one of the walking trails to the suspension bridge over the valley.

One of the local residents (right)  came to say G'day!
Our return to Meenityan was via Traralgon, the main commercial centre for the Latrobe Valley, and home to most of Victoria's power generation facilities.

 It is interesting to drive along the  Cape Otway light station road to see tan area of gnarly coastal eucalypts, and even a koala walking alomg the side of the road!
Although mist prevented a view of the 12 Apostles in the Port Campbell National Park, it lifted as we journeyed further along the Great Ocean Road, and Loch Ard Gorge, London Bridge and the Bay of Islands were spectacular.
As usual, we stayed at the Skenes Creek Motor Lodge, and new owners Lorna and Trevor made us most welcome.
A night's stay in Mt Gambier, and we returned home through the Coorong, stopping at Policeman's Point to buy some fresh Coorong Mullet!!  (Jenny cooked it for tea that night!)

A week after out trip, Wilson's Promontory received 370mm of rain in a 24hour period, a third of the park's annual average.
Severe flash flooding has caused significant damage to the Tidal River General Store, cabins, offices and other essential services equipment.
The flooding caused damage to the bridge across Derby River and the main road. VicRoads have completed initial assessments and advise that even limited access will be at least a couple of weeks away.

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Kangaroo Island -  22nd March 2011
Leaving Cape Jervis on an overcast morning, Kangaroo Island appeared soon appeared in front of the ferry, a ray of sunshine highlighting our destination - Penneshaw! A morning tea stop at the Visitor Centre provided opportunity to see  Frenchman's Rock - this is the original inscription carved on a piece of rock by one of Captain Baudin's crew aboard the Le Geographe in 1802.
(A replica is found in the shelter at Hog Bay).
Recharged, we made our way to Cape Willoughby, and an inspection of the Light-station. - the first lighthouse to be erected in South Australia, lighting the Backstairs Passage between Kangaroo Island and the mainland.
Unfortunately much of the aesthetic appeal of this light was lost in 1974 when the lantern room was replaced. It is interesting this lighthouse established in 1852 was originally known as the Sturt Light after Captain Charles Sturt who at the time was Treasurer of South Australia and was instrumental in establishing the light.Another point of interest is the bulge in the side of the tower. It seems that this is not due to deterioration, but came about in the original construction.

Any one  who has been on our Kangaroo Island trip would remember we have a Lunch stop at Brown Beach, on the Dudley Peninsula. It was a surprise to find the facilities are being upgraded with a new toilet block, picnic tables and large shelter now with a wall on one side to the prevailing winds! One of our group was the first person to use the new toilets!
To American River and unfortunately we were a couple of weeks too early to taste the oysters.
Nevermind, a walk along the beach of Nepean Bay was timed perfectly - just before a light shower of rain.

The Wisteria Motel has new ownership and has been re-badged as the Kangaroo Island Seaside Inn.
The father/son management team  of Chris and Alex welcomed us and made sure we were comfortable in our accommodation.

Taking the Playford Highway next day, we visited Cape Borda Light station and National Parks Ranger Mick answered all our questions - including why the lighthouse is rectangular rather than the usual round design.!
After enjoying Mick's hospitality, we took the Shackle Road to Flinders Chase National Park, and a great lunch which included burgers/wraps with the locally produced Ildoura Wild Fruits Tomato Sauce!

Remarkable Rocks proved to be it's usual windy but awesome experience, and we delighted in  the New Zealand Fur Seals at Cape Decoudic.

I appreciated the advice of National Parks Ranger Don at Seal Bay next day. It was a little cool and the Sea Lions were taking shelter - many of them in the sand dunes between the visitor centre and beach.
We chose the self guided board walk, and saw many groups of sea lions - including a family right next to the boardwalk!!

We had an enjoyable lunch at  Kaiwarra Food Barn - the gateway to Seal Bay. This is the closest accommodation and restaurant to the Seal Bay Conservation Park, and the staff do a great job to make you feel welcome.We visited Emu Eucalyptus Distillery and Clifford's  Honey Farm (Honey icecream yum!!) before travelling the Old Bullock Track to Reeves Point and the site of South Australia's first settlement.

The North Coast Road passes George's 400 lights "Castle" and the old Wisanger School 1885-1945.
We stopped off to have a close look at the school- particularly the way in which it has been preserved.

The Rules for Teachers 1872 was a little discerning!!
After an impromptu school lesson we were on our way again to Stokes Bay, (The Pirates in the "secret tunnel" were away that day) Snelling Beach and lunch (well packed by Rogers Deli Kingscote) at the very scenic Western River Cove

I must mention our dinner that evening at Cape Jervis Tavern. The service is excellent, the food superb and having an meal here means the traffic from the Sea Link ferry has dispersed by the time you are ready to drive the 100kms back to Adelaide!

Now- 4 days home then off to Mungo National Park!

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Dig Tree - 150th Anniversary.

The Burke and Wills Historical Society had planned an event at the Dig Tree (Camp LXV) to coincide with the return of Burke, Wills and King from the Gulf Of Carpentaria to the Camp on Thursday 21st April. 


Bearing in mind that they had only 4 days prior buried their companion Charlie Gray in a Lignum Swamp somewhere to the north, their sense of isolation and hopelessness at finding the Depot camp abandoned is so tangible that we can still sense and almost taste it across the decades.

Due to flooding in the Cooper Creek, the prospect of any organized event looks increasingly unlikely.

Vice President Richard Corke said "If it is at all possible to get to the Dig Tree, I know there will be a "hard core" of diehard enthusiasts who will be on site - but the style of event that we had hoped to organize will simply not be likely at all.
At the moment we are pulling up short of saying that the event is cancelled - we will give things another couple of weeks before we make that call."

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Cooper Creek Ferry

The Cooper Creek punt is expected to be in operation again next month, as more floodwater makes its way along the Cooper Creek from Queensland.

The Transport Department said works have been completed on the punt to allow for longer vehicles to travel on the Birdsville Track.


The Department's regional manager, Jeff Dodd, said it could be in operation for more than half of this year, because of the amount of water on its way.


"I do understand it is significant and it's going to possibly close the road for four to six months and I think they're thinking that the ferry will have to be operating until October - November when it does get here," he said.

In last month's email I suggested a 4 day trip incorporating a plane flight over Lake Eyre, then heading up the Birdsville track for an overnight stop at Mungerannie. This would mean a trip on the ferry over Cooper Creek!!

Let me know if you are interested!

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Personalised 4WD trips 2011
These trips are in a Toyota Landcruiser vehicle with a maximum of 4 passengers:

Click on thumbnail - itinerary opens in new window




         Lake EyreLake Eyre
        (3 days) - $900pp   

         Includes Plane Flight!


         Monday May 16  Monday May 23
         Monday May 30  Friday   June 17
         Monday  June 27  

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

Birdsville Hotel        Birdsville & Innamincka
        (9 days) - $3250pp              
        Saturday July 9
         Friday August 5


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

Sapphire Coast

The Sapphire Coast 

                (8 days) - $2950
                Saturday April 9
                Sunday October 23              

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.

    Mungo and Hattah Kulkyne
     National Parks

     (5 days) $1525pp    
      Monday May 9

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.

 Close Up Emu

s Hill Circuit
     (2 days) $650pp
     Saturday 1st October

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

Skytrek Logo
    Flinders Ranges & Skytrek
    (4 days) - $1400pp                  
    Saturday August 27


Rawnsley Park, Wilpena Pound, Willow Springs Station,
Skytrek, Arkapena Scenic Adventure & Chace Range Spectacular,Arkapena 4WD Moralana Scenic Drive.

 Sillers Lookout - Arkaroola
      Flinders R
anges & Arkaroola     
       (5 day
s) - $1950pp                  
      Monday September  5
      Sunday September 18         

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

 Frenshmans Rock
  (4 days) $
  Tuesday November
  Tuesday November 29  

 (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.
 Tumby Bay
    Tumby Bay and The Eyre Peninsula

    (5 days) $1525pp
    Saturday October 15

Port Germein, Arno Bay, Port Neill,Trinity Haven Scenic Drive, Poonindie , Port Lincoln, Sleaford Bay, 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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