The Birdsville track
is a dirt road that joins the town of Birdsville in Queensland to the
town of Marree in South
Australia. It passes through the Lake Eyre catchment area.
Since the days of Captain Cook Lake Eyre has been mostly a salt pan,
partially filling up about once every few decades, It was built
in the early days of European settlement as a Cattle trail for drovers
to bring stock from the Barkly Tablelands down to the markets in South
Australia. There are artesian bores dotted along it's length to
facilitate droving. Without research, but from my count, I would
guess that traffic on the track was about six cars a day.
I drove my Yaris from Sydney to Marree via Menindee,
Broken Hill, Port Augusta, then north along the Birdsville track to
Mungaranee station then to Birdsville, across to Charleville, then down
through Bourke and back to Sydney. This is the story of that
I stopped over with friends at Neville (Near Barvennon) and Condobolin
(my original home) on the first two
nights. From Condo I drove through Lake Cargellicoe and then
across to Menindee. The road from Ivanhoe to Menindee is good
gravel, however there are stock grids along the road, where the road
narrows. About 5 KM from Menindee around dusk I did not see a
grid until quite late. At about 100KPH I managed to slide between
the gates without touching them, but then went into a full broadside
slide and ended up off
I might remark at this point that since I have changed over to FWD
(front wheel drive) vehicles about 20 years ago I have been involved in
two earlier sideways slides. A slide in a FWD seem to be
inherently less stable than in a rear wheel
drive. This is probably because in a FWD that has started to
slide, the front wheels feel the braking force of the engine, while the
back wheels do not. Consequently the rear of the car has a lower
resistance to travel than the front of the car, which means that the
car becomes more likely to turn "broadside". In a rear wheel
rear wheels produce drag (something like the feathers on an arrow) that
tends to keep the car aligned with the direction of travel. Car
manufacturers could rectify this instability by installing a device
that automatically applied either a braking
effort to the rear wheels or applied a slight acceleration to the
engine (or some combination of the two) whenever the foot was removed
from the accelerator.
The slide broke the rim to rubber seal on the front and rear tyres
of the drivers side of the car. Those tyres were now
flat. I put the spare on the front, and after attempting to pump
up the rear tyre drove the remaining five
KM as indicated on the GPS to a caravan park in Menindee.
Next morning the caravan park owner pumped up the tyre I had
replaced. The rear tyre was a writeoff. I continued
Broken Hill, stopping on the way to view a Menindee
lake which was to the south of the road. It was an
large body of water, as can be seen on Google Earth. (Just type
"Menindee" into the search box of Google Earth.) The lakes are
west of the town of
Broken Hill is a "must see" town. It is a part of Australian
history, being the birthplace of BHP-Billiton, one of the largest
mining companies in the world of 2010. It is quite large
20,000). There are mines (pits) throughout
the town, lots of trades halls with socialist type names, and a
concession with wifi.
My fourth night on the road was spent at a caravan park in Port Augusta
(MacDonalds and wifi again). Next
morning I bought water and food against the eventuality of a
breakdown in the desert. Then I headed for Marree. I
stopped for lunch at the company town of Leigh Creek. Leigh
Creek has a lot in common with another company town that I once
visited, Jabiru in Kakadu. Both are architect laid out towns
the usual ramshackle organic growth layouts. Leigh Creek is the
dormitory town for the miners of brown coal a few KM north. The
brown coal goes by rail to the power station at Port Augusta.
Normally it would be cheaper to produce the electricity at the
coalfield. In this case the need for cooling water was probably
the deciding factor. Leigh Creek coal mine is located in a
Then I continued up
to Lyndhurst where I called in at the roadhouse at the start of the
Strzelecki track. The advice there was that the track was not
recommended for a 2WD vehicle.
At Marree I called in at the petrol station mentioned in an earlier blog.
same person), but from her
response when I began to talk about caravan parks to stay it occurred
that somebody might have mentioned my earlier blog, where she
recommended husband Eric's caravan park without mention of their
advised rather huffily that there was a family camping business nearby
and that the
Birdsville track was open to anything.
It was still daylight, so I started off up the track. The south
end of the Birdsville track was good
quality dirt road. Some time later I arrived at a detour
sign. This detour
was to the Cooper's creek ferry. Global warming has increased the
rainfall away from the equator for monsoon areas. (For instance,
increased rainfall is also being experienced in the Sahel area of
Africa as the Sahara desert retreats northwards.) As a
consequence the saltpan we call Lake Eyre is being
filled with water from Cooper's creek. So we cannot drive across
the dry Cooper's creek riverbed any more.
Shortly after nightfall I arrived at Cooper's creek. It was in
flood, about 100 meters across. Not a clearly defined
riverbank. Lovely colours from the just set sun. The ferry
stopped for the night. Back up the road a couple of KM the
ferrymen were camped. So I put the seat into recline and slept.
Next morning I woke at 7.30 and the ferry was
ready to go. It was a single car ferry, probably wouldn't
take anything bigger than a single medium sized 4WD. Trailers
would have to be
taken separately. A couple of hours later I arrived at the Mungerannie
pub. There were about ten
people there. I asked for a newspaper, and got a laugh.
Then I said "what about the internet?" and was told they couldn't get
it working for the last couple of years. So I got it working for
them for a cup of coffee and a hot shower.
I was warned by some of the travelers from up north about a creek
crossing the road that was unexpectedly deep. So after a while I
started out again, and headed for Birdsville. I came to a rather
small ford about an hour later, and figured that was it. The road
was becoming quite rough. Lots of quite large stones were
gathered in ridges along the centre of the wheel tracks. To avoid
those hitting the sump, I had to slow down somewhat (to 70 KPH) and
drive with my wheels on the stones.
Then I came to the ford that they had warned me about. I walked
through it first, and then drove across on the western (downstream)
side of the road. A few bad minutes of slipping, but photographed
the ford after I crossed
it. Then on to Birdsville. The road was a mixed bag, in
places it had been newly graded around (new) swamps, some places there
were large stones. In one section smooth grading turned into long
and high bumps very abruptly. I had been at 100 KPH and started
flying until I managed to brake somewhat, which is a somewhat hazardous
exercise on a dirt road that is bending and bucking.
Birdsville was green. It has a pub, a bakery, no supermarket, a
service station and a quite comprehensive looking caravan park.
Over a coffee in the pub I learned that Birdsville was normally desert,
the daily papers were not available, and that the bakery shop did
Kangaroo pies. The bakery had kangaroo pies which I do not
recommend. I eat a lot of Kangaroo meat, usually Kangaroo fillet
purchased from Coles or Woolworths. (I started eating Kangaroo in
revenge for all my fences the wild ones knocked down. I do not
want to eat beef or mutton because I rather like cows and sheep.
I now only eat Kangaroo meat.) My preferred method of cooking
Kangaroo is to slice the fillet into thin strips then brown it on a dry
cast iron pan. Then add a small quantity of water to make a thin
gravy and serve as is.
Since it was still only about 5PM on Sunday I continued to drive.
I got to Charleyville while it was still daylight, and after a quick
coffee in the Charleyville pub continued on. (What is it about
West Queensland that they name towns after slang names for women?) then
(no petrol being available) continued on to Sydney, hoping to buy
petrol further on. No such luck, I had an empty tank at 4AM just
15KM (by the GPS) from the town of Quilpie.
Next morning someone going the wrong way (west) responded to me waving
him down. He drove me to his place of work about 5KM further
west, where I attempted to negotiate purchase of 5 litres of
petrol. Interestingly, the farmer/landowner engaged in the
business of "charcoal burning". I had read of this
profession. Wood is heated (usually burnt) with insufficient
oxygen. The fire is smothered at the point where most of the
volatile gases have been driven off, leaving a carbon (charcoal)
residue. Wikipedia shows how this is done in India, by building a
pyramid of wood, then covering it with a mud chimney, then burning
until charcoal is produced. I asked to see the process in
Queensland. It was done by digging a 2-3 meter wide and deep
it with wood and then doing a controlled burn using corrugated iron
over the hole as a means of restricting oxygen.
Some time after I continued on. The road from Bourke to Dubbo is
good, but watch out for Kangaroos after sunset. There is an
overnight drive through MacDonalds in Dubbo, but with a somewhat
restricted menu. I catnapped near Wellington and reached Sydney
QUID PRO QUO on BOURKAS
The news from Europe is that Bourkas are being made illegal. As a
libertarian I believe that to be a mistake. My solution would be
that European governments enact a "Quid Pro Quo" law, Under
that law, anybody who chose to wear a Bourka would have to prove that
they came from a liberal country that did not force visitors to conform
to their own cultural concept of "appropriate" clothing. So
somebody from say Jordan could wear a bourka so long as they carried
appropriate identification. If they were from Saudi Arabia, then
they would not be permitted, on pain of a $1000 fine and/or jail, to
wear face or hair covering.
The government and Greens castigate the Liberal's refusal to allow
refugees to immigrate as "inhuman". I personally think that
they should be allowed to immigrate. However I am satisfied that
a majority of fellow Australians think otherwise. They probably
fear (with some justice) that those immigrants might overload our
overly generous social security system. Of course the appropriate
response would be to reduce Social Security, but no government would
survive such an attempt.
However I agree that it would be inhuman to return them to their
country of origin if they were in danger from such an action. So
yes, I would vote to give them a working visa until circumstances in
their country of origin improved, at which time they could
return. It is evident from the decrease in boat people landing in
Australia that it was the reward of Australian citizenship that was
attracting refugees, not the push of fear. The push of fear only
needs sanctuary, it does not require a reward.
Last August (see subheading Representative
Democracy) I asked some questions about the release of the
Lockerbie mastermind. Like I suggested then, perhaps somebody
should have a look at the financial affairs of all those involved in
that release, including the doctor and the politicians. If they
have been enriched (and it should be fairly obvious if they have) then
they should lose the lot and go to jail for life. And that money
should be recaptured from any descendants who might benefit. That
old idea from the ancient roman empire, (where if a traitor fell on
his sword, his estate was left intact,) was a fairly efficient system
when you think out the ramifications.
ABBOTT & GILLARD
The election has just been called. Apparently the odds are with
Gillard. I cannot see why. Labour is known to be
hopeless. And Julia has one personal $14 billion failure, the
BER. Since Tony has an image problem, maybe he should just be
positive about the stuff he will do, not personally attack Julia or
Labour, let his party do that.
TWO WEEKS LATER.
It is now the end of July and as I predicted (last
fourth paragraph) would happen when an election was
called, Julie is toast. Murdoch must have rubbed his hands with
glee when the Sussex Street boys spilled Rudd. It is truly
amazing how short is the memory of the public for the sequence of
events. Rudd's fall from public grace was a long drawn out
affair. If he were still PM he might still have recovered from
all the shite. But nobody seems to see the chains of causality
leading to his downfall.
In retrospect the takedown of Howard was far more subtle. The why
is easy. "Work Choices" was very good for workers and for small
business, and I had thought that it was mostly neutral for big business
and only bad for the union bosses. On further reflection such is
the case. Small business is the natural competitor of big
business, and it is only by extreme government regulation that most big
business manages to survive. For instance, how would Coles and
Woollies do against smaller competitors if our government did not
regulate where shops could be opened? Other regulations
that hinder small business are the huge amounts of paperwork that must
be submitted on a regular schedule. This equation of government
regulation helping big business is true for just about all big
business. Think Home Building corporations, medical centres,
education, the list goes on. The reason why governments favour
big business is money. Big business pays big taxes, big wage
packets to unionists, and big contributions to party coffers.
And why is Work Choices good for small business? Because in good
times small business will be very reluctant to
put on new employees if they cannot be easily released if there is a
downturn. It is far more important for workers that there be
lots of employment than that their working conditions be
regulated. If there are more employers seeking workers then
working conditions will improve in an attempt to attract employees.
So that is why Howard had to go. With big business
bosses and the union bosses cmbined and anti Howard,
it only needed Rupert to provide the "how". The
"how" of the takedown was far more subtle. Johnny was a careful
and prudent player who made very few policy mistakes. Not enough
mistakes to amount to a sackable insult. It wasn't
"Work Choices" that killed John Howard. Instead Kevin
was promoted as a younger and more adventurous version of Howard, and
enough Australians swallowed that storyline to make a change.