With a few days off at Easter, I decided to head 500km down the road (considered a short hike in these parts) and spend a couple of days with friends in Bedourie. It was an excuse to check out the races in Boulia on the way back.
The “highway” is the Diamantina Development Road which is bitumen almost the entire way (apart from a few small stretches) between Boulia and Bedourie but mostly single lane for the 300km stint to Boulia. There isn’t much traffic but both drivers need to have the passenger-side wheels on the gravel while passing (apart from one truck which refused to move aside forcing me to get completely onto the gravel).
Termite mounds are everywhere in the north of Australia, littering the side of the road.
Here’s a close-up of one. According to Wikipedia, the structure can be very complicated. “Inside the mound is an extensive system of tunnels and conduits that serves as a ventilation system for the underground nest. In order to get good ventilation, the termites will construct several shafts leading down to the cellar located beneath the nest. The mound is built above the subterranean nest. The nest itself is a spheroidal structure consisting of numerous gallery chambers.”
The land is mostly flat on my Easter Thursday drive, though green after recent rains.
Though there is plenty of brown to go round. Remnants of the Selwyn Ranges dot the landscape.
As I said, traffic was sparse. Though amazingly I saw one 4WD stopped by police for a ticket (not photographed). It’s very difficult to resist the temptation to speed on these apparently not-so-lonely roads.
The further south you go the most desert-like the landscape becomes. The Simpson Desert is not far away.
Halfway between Mount Isa and Boulia is the tiny township of Dajarra. A former cattle railhead, it is still the home of 429 people though not one was visible when I passed through. With 350km still to drive, I resisted the temptation to pop inside the pub.
Bedourie is not mentioned on this sign but is halfway between Boulia and Birdsville. Alice Springs would be a temptation but the Donohue Hwy is a 4WD only track.
Trees like this one on the outskirts of Dajarra were rare on my journey.
Cattle were rare too but with no fences on the road, you had to slow down whenever they were nearby.
Desolate landscape south of Dajarra. This is hard country to make a living from.
Just north of Boulia is the turnoff to the Donohue Hwy. Alice Springs is a mere bone-jarring 800km journey that-a-way.
Boulia is the home of the Min Min Light, a mythical and unexpected light with no apparent local source. Whatever it’s dubiousness, it is good for attracting the tourists who have detoured 365km west of Winton.
Next to the Min Min Encounter is the Boulia Shire Hall, a beautiful building which shimmers in the hot sun. It was about 38 degrees as I came through around 1pm.
Onto the road to Bedourie and we are truly in scrubby Simpson Desert country.
Sand and dust dominate the landscape.
But there is water too. The Georgina River is still rising north at Camooweal and the creeks are full.
All this water will eventually end up in Lake Eyre, one of the world’s largest endorheic basins, which is just a fancy way of saying it’s a closed system that doesn’t go out to a sea or an ocean.
We pass the marker for the Tropic of Capricorn, so leave the tropics for the sub-tropics as we drive south.
Cattle enjoy the greenery in the desert.
The view from the top of the Vaughan Johnson Lookout east towards the Channel Country is immense. They have recently put bitumen on the drive to the lookout which is a gem near the Boulia-Diamantina shire border.
Big sky seen from the lookout.
The view south from the lookout.Amusingly named creek in Diamantina Shire. Thankfully this was not an omen for me.
Tree in the desert.
The landscape and colours change again as I approach Bedourie.
View from a hilltop looking west into the surprisingly green Simpson Desert.
An oasis at Bedourie.
Bedourie Community Centre: Where the Simpson Desert meets the Channel Country.
Bedourie pub. Was closed on Good Friday so I had to quench my thirst elsewhere.
“Sand, dust and gibbers” Indigenous sculpture at Bedourie.
Simpson Desert Oasis: Stop for a Coldie! Though again, not on Good Friday.
Time to head north on Saturday, though Darwin will have to wait another time.
Flat desolate country north of Bedourie.
Welcome to Boulia races.
Horses scatter the dust.
Back on the road and it’s tempting to detour through “Australia’s Longest Shortcut” linking Cairns and Perth.
Rocky plains south of Mount Isa.
You gotta take those opportunities when they come.
Almost home again to Mount Isa.
Diamantina Power Station on the outskirts of Mount Isa. Home after a 1000kms in three days.