Sunday, March 15, 2009


This was written in March 2009, but for some reason I didn't put it up. I thought I should finish the story ....

Neale the policeman finally opens the Birdsville Track for traffic.

At the beginning of March we were starting to develop cabin fever, after having been unable to get out of town because of the flooding for the last five weeks. As soon as the water went down enough for us to leave we drove down to Adelaide for a week just for a change of scenery. We knew there was a fourth flood coming, and hoped it would be up and down again quickly enough that we could get back in, but just in case, arranged for the flood boat to pick us up if necessary, and leave the truck on the other side. And necessary it was — it took nine days for the water to drop enough for us to go and get it back.

We finally got to drive all the way down the Birdsville Track. We stopped overnight at Mungerannie Hotel, a little pub next to a spring, with the Mungerannie Station homestead nearby. Pam the owner was lovely and looked after us very well, I think we were the first people she'd seen in days, it still being non-tourist season at that stage. The road itself was very good, but it was so hot we thought our air-conditioning had broken down until we opened the windows to find out. We realised how bad it would be to break down out here in these conditions, with little chance of someone happening by to help out. It reinforces the need to let people know where you're going, and letting them know when you get there.

There are a lot of ruins along the way, the most interesting being at Farina. There were several buildings, the town was finally deserted in the 1980s after the railway was closed, but once had a population of 300. I can't imagine how people used to live out here.

The ruins of the Mulka Homestead.

The ghost town of Farina. The Post Office finally closed in 1980.

The Lake Eyre Yacht Club. Not such a joke now, with all the water in Lake Eyre at the moment.

At last the scenery started changing, there were hills and trees, and the towns were closer together. After an excellent lunch at the pub at Parachilna, we detoured through the Flinders Ranges which was so foggy and rainy it was difficult to see anything. At the Clare Valley, I had to buy a jumper because when we left Birdsville it was so hot I didn't think to pack warm clothes. We stayed in a fabulous house overlooking the valley and enjoyed a bottle of wine in the spa bath, looking out at the blustery rain, thinking what a novelty it was to be cold again.

The scenery finally starts to change, although it is still a bit surreal. The (sealed!) road winds around naked hills south of Marree.

The Flinders Ranges was so overcast we didn't see much on our detour through after Parchilna.

This is the view of the Flinders on the way back north, the one most people see.

The view from the spa in the Clare Valley.

I'd earlier been looking on the internet job sites to see what sort of work might be available when we left Birdsville, and had spotted an ideal position in Broke, in the Hunter Valley, a couple of hours north of Sydney. We'd decided we loved Birdsville so much we would stay until after the next races in September, but the job was too good an opportunity to miss. After a couple of phone conversations, I agreed to do an overnight trip to Sydney for an interview once we arrived in Adelaide, which was successful. This threw a major spanner into our plans, I was due to start at the end of May. We were absolutely torn, our heads said what a great opportunity this was, our hearts said oh no, this means we'll have to leave soon! I was very excited at the new job, but it was going to be hard leaving Birdsville ...

By the time we drove back up the track to Birdsville, it all seemed a long way away — we still had three months to go, we would make the most of it. We radioed the flood boat guys and stashed the car at the race track. There was a welcome party in the boat when it arrived, it was a real homecoming. We stowed our belongings in the boat and headed back to town.


I'll put some more up shortly from what I can remeber, but it seems so long ago now. I'm dying to get back out to Birdsville, but circumstances so far have prevented it. Evan managed to get out there for the last Races, and for the Bronco Branding -- the National Titles were held there in May. And to the Drovers Festival in Camoweel -- his latest book, called The Drovers -- Stories behind the heroes of our stock routes was released recently and is a very good read -- not that I'm biased!


  1. I just finished reading Evan McHugh's "Birdsville - My Year in the Back of Beyond". I could not put it down. I travelled to Darwin from the Gold Coast via Birdsville in 2002, we spent only two nights in Birdsville but I knew I wanted to go back one day. I really enjoyed Evan's book and admire you both for taking the plunge & living there for a year. I genuinely felt sad at your leaving there as the book came to an end.
    I'm 47, divorced and inspired to go out there myself for a while. Thanks for sharing your stories.

    Gold Coast

  2. Sheree, glad you enjoyed the book. The year in Birdsville was one of the best in my life, it really changes your perspective. If you're up to the challenge, its a fantastic thing to do.

    Regards, Michelle

  3. Hi Michelle
    Like Sheree I've just finished Evan's book and enjoyed it immensely. Congrats to you both for having the courage and initiative to take on the challenge.
    Jan and I did the 'tree change' progressively from 2005 and now run our own farm. Whilst we are only 400 km west of Sydney many of the aspects of what you went through are similar and thus we can relate strongly to the stories in the book.

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  5. beautiful photos!too many interesting things Dogs training

  6. Hi, i just finished reading *Birdsville* and enjoyed it a lot, i have also enjoyed your blog and putting pics to what Evan wrote about. thanks so much for sharing, i love out back Australia and one day hope to get to Birdsville.

  7. Like many of your comments received, I've just finished reading the eBook version of the "Birdsville" book, and enjoyed it immensely, but without photographs in that version, it is now great to see your published photos, which so well illustrate the book descriptions. Needless to say, I also love the Australian Outback

  8. Thank you both, your story was such a good read, how so much can happen in one year.
    We live only an hour from Adelaide and are still face with some of the same issues you were in the outback. Thank you for sharing it with us. I am off to get my next book, The Drovers

  9. Lorraine WilkinsonJanuary 11, 2012 at 2:57 AM

    I have long wanted to visit Birdsville but, as yet have not managed to do so. As compensation, my husband bought me Evan's book as a Christmas present and I could not put it down. What an amazing year and what a terrific read! As I read the book I could feel and picture myself there. The saddest part was finishing the book, but then I was able to go to this terrific blog and see the photos. Both have served to reignite my desire to visit Birdsville at the first opportunity I can. Thank you both for sharing your wonderful story.

  10. Hi Michelle
    I have just finished reading 'Birdsville' and thoroughly enjoyed it. I visited Birdsville last year and really loved our time in the outback.
    As I read Evans book it was so exciting. I had been to some of these places and met some of the people in his book, it was like visiting an old relative, it felt familiar and heart warming. I will be returning to the outback again this April- in just a few weeks and am so looking forward to returning to Birdsville. It feels like I am returning to friends. Thank you to both you and Evan for the smiles you gave me whilst reading this wonderful book.

  11. Hi,

    I am re-reading Evan's book for possibly over the tenth time. We travel out to Birdsville quite frequently. Well by travelling to Birdsville standards. Our website is we are currently planning a trek across the Simpson raising funds for the Royal Flying Doctor and would love help spreading the word. Please see our fundraising page also.