Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Australia Day in Birdsville

Pub chef Miranda shows us her bowling style.

Australia Day was bright and clear, but very hot and humid. The weather station had 39.5 degrees, although it was 43 degrees on the verandah at the pub, with almost the same in humidity. Everyone kept a very low profile, but started coming out of the woodwork for the Pub Cricket Challenge, due to kick off at 4 pm. The game was remarkably enthusiastic despite the heat, and there were drinks breaks every few overs. My partner Katrina and I scored a very respectable 12 runs before we got retired, whereupon I proceeded to replace the gallons of sweat coming out of me with a cold Goldie in the air-conditioning of the pub. Evan very sneakily hit his first ball straight over the airport fence, incurring six runs and out — thereby avoiding running up and down in the heat. He then went off to organise a golf chipping contest on the oval — our neighbour Lynton hit the ball closest to the flag and came away $100 richer.

The Social Club (Evan and Kay, helped out by me, Kay's partner Russ and fill-in policeman Dave) held a popular barbecue on the verandah in the evening, followed by the Awards presentation in the pub. The official Australia Day Awards were to be held in Bedourie this year, but since its cut off by the floods, they have been postponed until March, so the pub staff organised the unofficial awards instead — we now have six OBMs in Birdsville.

A couple of guys turned up in the pub in the evening, they'd come across on the closed Windorah road, in the dark, hit a washout and totalled their car. They'd walked about 15 kms towards town when one of the station vehicles picked them up and brought them in. They were very lucky to be picked up — it would have been a long walk, and there's next to no traffic at the moment. They looked to be unhurt, although the Flying Doctor came in the next day.

Fiona steps up to whack the ball. Coen (green top, left), gets ready to run.

Ref and scorer Jess keeps a close eye on the action.

Evan and Kay (aka the Birdsville Social Club) clean up after the barbie.

The OBMs pose with their certificates.

This is why you don't drive on flood-closed roads at night ....

Flood Progress Report #2

Just out of town, on the road past the billabong and out towards the river.

These pics were taken a day after Flood Report #1, the water is higher still. Since then, it has dropped and the water crosses the road in only a few places and its possible to drive out to the river again. There has been more rain to the north, the water is on its way back again. We expect the level to be at least as high as this again on Friday.

Taken from the grid at the edge of town. The water is much higher than yesterday.

The flood boat, ready for action if it's needed. Note the houses of Birdsville in the background.

The pelicans cruise up from the billabong to check out what's new to eat.

This is pretty self-explanatory.

Looking across to the shade shed on Pelican Point, normally a spit out in the middle of the billabong.

This is the same spot the day before.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Flood Progress Report #1

Some pics taken last night at about 6.30 pm, and some more from this morning at 9.30 am. Not quite as spectacular as the ones from the plane, but way more immediate.

The bridge across the Diamantina River, about 5 kms out of town on the Windorah Road, taken last night.

Looking up the river from the bridge. The second pic was taken a while ago, this is the usual level of the river.

This road runs along the side of the river — or did.

Two pics taken from the cattle grid that marks the edge of town, looking towards the billabong causeway. The first one is last night, the second was taken this morning.

Looking towards the billabong from the causeway, about where the vehicle is in the above pic.

This little weir is on the outflow channel from the billabong, usually to stop all the water running out. This water is from the river, running back in to the billabong.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The Floods are Coming

Lots of clouds around Birdsville, but bugger-all rain, except in the distance.

Actually, they've already started. After a very hot and dry end to 2008 (more about that in another post soon) it started raining — mostly not in Birdsville, but all around, and most especially in the north. I don't know if you've seen the news, but all across the north west of Queensland, prodigious amounts of rain have been falling, 8 and 10 inches in a day in places that don't normally get that much in a year and is being compared to the big wet of 1974. This link (http://www.abc.net.au/westqld/photos.htm) will show you more if you're interested. The station owners are very happy, it will bring on a very good season, a great relief after the years of drought.

What all this means for us in Birdsville is that the water will eventually make its way down the complex channels of the river systems of the Georgina and Diamantina Rivers and Eyre Creek — and pass us by on its way to Lake Eyre, inundating everything on its way through. Birdsville sits just high enough not to be flooded out, but gets completely cut off from all directions for weeks at a time. Our only means of contact in that time is by air.

We had a taste of it a couple of weeks ago when I was in Brisbane, on an unexpected but urgent visit to the opthalmologist. There had been quite a bit of local rain, which brought on immediate localised flooding that cut the roads north to Bedourie, our nearest town 200 km away, and east to Windorah, 400 kms away. We hadn't had a food delivery from Adelaide since before Christmas, and with the threat of a Big Flood coming, I was trying to organise food for possibly the next six weeks. It wasn't certain that the truck would be able to make it up the Birdsville Track before the flooding reached that far. It was quite surreal sitting in balmy Brisbane trying to get my head around placing grocery and fruit and veg orders in Adelaide to cover the next six weeks, to be delivered in a truck that may or may not make it. The old hands were very helpful, and assured me that if the truck didn't get past Pandie Station, 30 kms to the south, the flood boat would go down and bring the supplies back.

In the end, I flew in from Brisbane the same day the truck arrived. It came in fairly late, dispensed all its load, and high-tailed it straight back to Adelaide while the going was good. Russ, who helped unload the truck, arrived bright and early the next morning with three boxes of dry goods, but I was still missing my fruit and veg order, and the frozen goods. The pub had my fruit and veg, and after visiting several people and making a couple of phone calls, found that the frozen stuff (packets of peas and broccoli, my stock of green veg) was still in the freezer at the supermarket in Adelaide.

The localised flooding has been dropping since, but the flood water from the north is working its way down. Everyone is keeping a very close eye on the river levels, and predict that it will arrive here in the next few days, turning Birdsville into an island, possibly for weeks. Local landowner, David Brook, took us on a recce flight yesterday morning up to Bedourie and across to Muncoonie, on Adria Downs Station. The amount of water is unbelievable — most of the 200 km to Bedourie (and well beyond) is covered, and there's a lot more to come.

I really hope I got that food order right. It's hard to believe, the weather is lovely, there are fluffly white clouds in the blue sunny sky, the temperature is mild(ish, for this part of the world), although very humid. The most noticeable change is the arrival of the sandflies, which attack in swarms every time we leave the house, and the amount of vegetation that seems to be leaping out of the ground. We will have more wildflowers at some stage, the summer ones are apparently quite different from the winter ones.

PS: Just went out to the river to see how its going (6.30 pm) — the water's almost up to road level and is rising rapidly — we'll be cut off by the morning. Will keep you posted with more pics.

Birdsville after the localised rain a couple of weeks ago. Our place is marked by the arrow. The coming flood will be much bigger. Photo by Kay Ezzy.

Following pics heading north from Birdsville towards Bedourie.

A station road runs across a small island in the flood.

Glengyle Station, about halfway to Bedourie. The main Bedourie road runs across the top of Glengyle and disappears into the Eyre Creek.

Bedourie, totally surrounded by flood waters.

Heading west after Bedourie, towards Muncoonie, Adria Downs.

Muncoonie — not much water at the homestead yet, but it's on it's way.

South of Muncoonie, the water is starting to spread out from the main channel into the lignum swamps.

Listore Creek runs into a lake at Nappernerica stockyards, a very rare occurence, one sand dune across from Big Red, west of Birdsville.