Sunday, March 15, 2009

And yet more flooding ....

Desert? What Desert? Just out of town on the Big Red road, looking west.

The third flood was a doozy. It came up much higher than the previous two, lapping at the grid that marks the edge of town and reaching 7.2 metres — the flood level sign disappeared altogether. The river flooded out all over the gibber plains behind town as well, so we were surrounded on three sides, and the Bedourie was completely awash about 30 km north.

We were totally cut off for a while because the only way in and out of the place, the MacAir plane, went broke and stopped flying. The government had to charter a plane, but there was no ticket-buying infrastructure and for a week or so you had to already have a ticket or be dying (literally) to get onto the plane, causing a great deal of frustration for people wanting to leave or come back. They then made tickets available through the council, and have since awarded the Birdsville route to SkyTrans for the next six months while they tender the contract. SkyTrans has been very reliable so far, they actually come when they're supposed to, but they've hiked up the price of tickets quite significantly.

The food truck from Adelaide wasn't able to get here either, they finally came last week after nearly six weeks, and had to stop on the other side of the flooding, about 5 kms out of town. The food was ferried across by a couple of the locals in utes with snorkels. We get a delivery from Quilpie on the plane previous to that, and I was able to get a supply of fresh fruit and veg, a good thing because I was down to cans and frozen stuff.

Finally after three weeks the water started to go down again, although the Georgina River/Eyre Creek system was still coming up. We went out to have a look at Eyre Creek, about 45 kms into the desert. The water runs down channels between the sand dunes — it was apparently about 16 kms wide but we didn't get past the first channel. Another weekend, we went camping out to Adria Downs Station, on the Eyre Creek about 100 kms north of Big Red. The normally dry Muncoonie Lakes are full and very spectacular. We camped on the dune south of the lake and had a relaxed evening around the campfire. In the morning we dropped in on the station owners for morning tea (Judy's delicious pikelets with jam and cream). Don had to come and get us in the tinnie, they were still flooded in. When the lakes dry out they will grow lush grass which will feed the cattle for the next couple of years, so they were very philosophical about it all.

This sign is on the fence of the grid at the eastern edge of town.

Annie and Georgina don't let the flood stop their morning walk.

Lauren and Paul in the floodboat, checking out the water.

The bridge out of town.

From the billabong (south side of town) looking back towards our unit.

Looking back across the gibber plain on the western side of town.

The first of the 16 km-wide channels of the Eyre Creek about 45 kms out into the Simpson Desert.

Whoops, could have done that better! The dunes are very soft after summer and no-one driving across them. And it pays to travel in pairs — it only took a few minutes to pull Neale out again with a snatch strap. Otherwise, it would have taken a long time to dig him out by hand ....

We passed this herd of 25 wild camels on the way up to Muncoonie Lakes.

The two lakes, separated by a sand dune.

Don arrives with the tinnie to take us across to the homestead for morning tea.

We had to walk the last bit ....


  1. wow, great pictures!!
    hope you two are having fun up there

  2. love your photos,have just finished reading
    "Birdsville" by Evan, thoroughly enjoyed.
    My husband & I flew to Birdsville with Dick Lang Bush Pilots back in April, was amazed by the flooding, alot had receeded north of Lake Eyre.
    Your year in Birdsville would have been a great experience.
    Rhonda Donovan SA 12.9.09

  3. Enjoyed & loved the Book and the Blog. I met Evan in Birdsville this year and it was great to chat with him about your experiences in Birdsville. Please send my regards to him.
    John Miko & Fatboy (that's my truck - he may have remembered that).

  4. Have just read your book. Brilliant. Enjoyed it so much. Have just been thinking that instead of those drugged/sex/needle injecting black movies Australia is so fond of making your book would make a wonderful movie and just what overseas audiences would love. What it needs now is a script writer, perhaps Evan could do it and send it off to a producer/director.

  5. Hi Evan and Michelle, just finished your book. fantastic, Deb and I travel to Birdsville many times each year on tour and loved reading about the many people we know out there. We would like to give each of our future passengers a copy of your book when they arrive in Birdsville. Would like to chat about this.
    Cheers Graham and Deb

  6. Just finished reading Evans book, its was great. We were there in September 2008 when a dust storm blew up about 2am in the morning, what an experience,we were staying at the caravan Park. We jumped out of bed and the van to 'batten down' with everyone else in the park. The funny thing was I forgot to get dressed and was in the nude. Nobody else seemed to mine, but I realised and put on a pair of shorts. The dust did not settle until we departed for Bedourie two days later. We look forward to returning one day.
    Bruce & Lisa

  7. I came across your blog while looking for information on the current flooding in Birdsville. My search was prompted by an e-mail I got this morning from friends of mine, Russ and Kay Ezzy who live in Birdsville. Kay sent me a picture of the current conditions. My wife and I as well as my daughter spent a couple of weeks with them on Daydream Island in January. It was the first time we had seen each other since they visited Canada 26 years ago. Had a ball. We didn't make it to Birdsville but maybe next time

  8. Hi,

    Just finished the book and loved it but thought there weren't enough photos, then saw the link to your blog. Great photos, thanks.

    Went to the Races the year of the Horse Flu. Had a lot of fun, went to the boxing, the toy horse races at the pub, the wheelie bin races at the course, camped on the common (just near the tree that is under water in your photos!!!), even had camel pie from the Bakery. Then we did Birdsville Inside Track, Mungerannie, Maree, Coward Springs, William Creek, Cooper Pedy, Painted Desert, Oodnadatta, Mt Dare, Dalhouse, the Simpson, Poeppel Corner, Big Red and back to Birdsville - very quiet with the races over!! - then Walkers Crossing, Innamincka, Coongie Lakes, Old Strezlecki Track (like a four lane now with the work done by oil and gas exploreres - all the charm and our heritage destroyed, then Cooper Corner to Tibbooburra. Great trip!

    Couldn't believe the photo in the book of the broken Hilux and the number of stories about rescues. Can't believe how lucky we were not to have any problems.

    The stories of the Danes with no water and no spare tire and the woman walking in the heat and running out of water just astounded me.

    People traveling alone in the outback unprepared without VHF or sat phones and not properly prepared with a weeks emergency water are mad!

    Will you be doing any posts for the last 2 months of your stay?

    Best wishes

  9. Hi
    I have been reading your blog because I am thinking of moving to Bedourie from the Lockyer Valley near Brisbane.
    Are you still living out there? It seems like a great adventure!
    I have a thousand questions for you about living in a remote area and, being a previous city dweller, you seem a good person to ask.
    Will check back soon to see if you have added any more to this blog.

  10. Grew up in the outback, had a choice of becoming an alcoholic or a butcher! Chose alcohol and moved to the city - ha ha.. Loved Evans book and your pics.. Made my kids read the book to get an understanding of what community means..

    Probably why I am always the only male secretary committee member.. netball little athletic etc.. It was expected in the bush..
    Thanks for the flashbacks and memory's you and Evan Provided!
    Well written book - Up there with "In the middle of no-where" and "A fortunate life"
    Thank you
    Garry Hollow

  11. Hi all, it's been some time since I checked the blog, feel a bit guilty. I did write another installment and never put it up, I think I will have to. And maybe one or two more about the last couple of months. The magical year in Birdsville finished, and we couldn't bear the thought of going back to Sydney, so we now live in a gorgeous little cottage in a vineyard in the Hunter Valley -- close enough to civilisation when we feel the need, but with enough space not to feel crowded. But we really miss Birdsville sometimes.

    Paul, sounds like a fabulous adventure, and Niki, if you find this I'd be happy to fill you in. I hope you get to Bedourie -- its a nice little town, and only 200 kms up the track from Birdsville!

  12. Hi Michelle,
    i just finished Evan's book this morning and was fascinated to see the pictures of your time in Birdsville. Inspirational! It has given me a small insight into community life out there and given me a hunger to go there one day, but maybe not when its flooding, or in summer!.
    Thanks for having Ann and i to stay at your lovely Hunter valley abode when the Folk in Broke festival was on. I hope you enjoyed the CD's.Say hi to Evan. See you down the track
    cheers Rosie.

  13. I also finished reading the book this morning which my lovely wife Angela surprised me with on Christmas Day 2011.
    Loved every moment of the read. Gave me the determination to visit Birdsville very soon.

  14. Hi Michelle & Evan I have just finished reading Birdsville. Many Thanks to you both for the amazing opportunity to share in your "Life Changing" experiences. Your spirit of contribution, commitment and appreciation for the real heroes of the Australian Outback is a great testimony to both yourselves and the worthiness of those you write about. Having visited Birsdville, viewed the expanses of the top end in a light plane when in flood, spent much of my early retirement living, working, camping, bull mustered and fishing across the Cape, Gulf, NT and some of WA I believe qualifies me to highly recommend this book especially to the city and coastal dwellers. The values of care for your fellow citizen and generosity are so accurately detailed. I thank you also for your honesty about the real history of the aboriginal generations you covered along with the contributions of current generations choosing to live beyond the tragic wrongs of the past. Thank you for the encouragement to pursue perspective in all of life's challenges and the next book I plan to read is your Outback Stations. Kindest Regards Graeme