Home' Open Road Western NSW : OR0318 Contents crew gave up after 18 weeks, leaving a cache of food buried
beneath the tree blazed with instructions to dig, and missing
the exhausted explorers’ return by mere hours. You can bush
camp here, but you’ll need to pay an access fee to enter the
property. The camping is a better experience 55km away in
Innamincka and is closer to where the ill-fated explorers actually
perished. It has perhaps unfairly given one of the most beautiful
spots in outback Australia a reputation for bleakness.
Far from being inhospitable, Cooper Creek is an oasis with
an almost constant supply of water in the midst of desert
country. It’s more like a wide pristine river, teeming with
aquatic life and flocks of birds. Indeed, it’s a bit of a mystery
why Burke and Wills starved here, and Wills wrote in his journal
that they “found themselves all very weak in spite of the
abundant supply of fish”. There’s a theory they didn’t know
how to correctly cook a bush-tucker plant called nardoo, which
they relied heavily on, and died from a vitamin deficiency as
a result. Wills’ grave is about 25km west of Innamincka and a
memorial to Burke is along the creek to the east. Despite its
tragic history, this is a beautiful place to camp and swim, and
you can hire canoes and kayaks at the Innamincka Hotel.
We spend longer than we plan at Innamincka, thanks to an
electrical fault at the Trading Post. It means the fuel pumps
don’t work and we have to wait a few days before an electrician
can be flown in. This doesn’t put a dampner on things, though,
because the highlight of our trip is just a couple of bumpy
hours down the road.
Surrounded by the blood-red dunes of the Strzelecki Desert,
the astonishing Coongie Lakes are listed as one of the most
significant wetlands in the world. They rarely run dry and can be
hard to reach in flood times, remaining inaccessible for months,
even years. The Coongie Lakes are part of the floodplain of
Cooper Creek, attracting vast numbers of waterbirds and those
those classified as rare, vulnerable or endangered. You’ll see
pelicans, cormorants, herons, ibises, spoonbills, ducks and
waders – sometimes in migratory flocks of up to 70,000 birds.
Every campsite enjoys a prime waterfront positioning and
we spend our mornings trekking around the shores, collecting
feathers from the ground and picking out the dingo and camel
tracks in the sand. As wedge-tailed eagles warily eye us from
treetop perches, we sit out the heat of the day and stare across
the expanse of still water. In the afternoon, yellow-billed
spoonbills poke through the weed-filled shallows and small
pods of pelicans cruise the surface, ducking their heads
under the water and waggling their tails in the air together
like synchronised swimmers.
At night, we eat too many Tim Tam biscuits, while marvelling
at the refection of the Milky Way on the water. It’s the best
entertainment for miles.
COBB & CO MUSEUM
Part of the Queensland Museum in Toowoomba, the Cobb &
Co Museum has Australia’s finest collection of horse-drawn
vehicles, with 47 on display. As well as three Cobb & Co
coaches, there’s a wide range of horse-drawn farm wagons,
hawker’s barrows, delivery carts and buggies, plus an
elegant landau – the Rolls Royce of carriages. And kids
will love climbing on the replica coaches in the play area.
Visit cobbandco.qm.qld.gov.au for more information.
The Burke and Wills tragedy has
unfairly given one of the best spots in
the outback a reputation for bleakness
(Clockwise from top left):
A 4WD is needed for the
detour to Currawinya National
Park; Noccundra is a worthy
contender for Australia’s most
remote pub; Eulo’s Artesian
Mud Baths are a unique
experience; one of hundreds of
corellas at the Paroo River.
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