Brisbane to Birdsville
In the days preceding departure the anticipation grew as steadily as the packing did in the back of the Patrols; almost like a ritual. On the day of departure, the team got an early start, making it to Toowoomba by the start of business to buy food for the trip. After that it was a straight shoot through to Charleville, where the group headed over to the Cosmos Centre to get a closer look at the vibrant night sky with the help of the centre’s massive telescopes. Each star was brilliant in its own right, with Saturn in particular looking larger than life. After that it was time to sit back, enjoy some stew and apple crumble, and watch the yabby races at Bailey Bar Caravan Park.
The next day it was onto Birdsville, with an eight-hour drive standing between the group and their home for the weekend. Upon arrival, everyone enjoyed a catered barbecue at the Birdsville Hotel, in the good company of the other Nissan drivers from all over Australia who were there for the celebrations, and of course for the famous camel pies.
Exploring Birdsville & surrounds
Over the weekend the group enjoyed the surrounds in a leisurely fashion, with members giving talks while others demonstrated proper navigation skills to willing participants of the event. The kids were never seen, always out having their own adventures down at the creek or around the caravan park.
Saturday night was a celebration of mammoth proportions with great music, excellent surroundings and a very contented gathering of explorers. The entertainment of the evening was top notch, with James Reyne and Daryl Braithwaite giving show-stopping performances to a rapt crowd. Dinner was supplied by Dusty of the Birdsville Bakery, with some sublime food that not a soul could complain about (or would want to).
The first half of Sunday was filed with instructing participants of the event in the art of navigation, but the afternoon was devoted to journeying to Big Red and catching the sunset. Taking in the golden hues of light that lanced out over the red of the Simpson was breathtaking, and created a feeling of close connection to the land itself. It also allowed the group to truly appreciate Spriggs’ triumph over the harsh Simpson Desert, a feat that took place well before the advances in technology that we count as necessities nowadays.
The next day the group woke up well before dawn, heading back out to Big Red for a photo shoot to admire the sunrise. With the shoot going on overhead from the perspective of a low-flying helicopter, each member of the group stood mesmerised atop the dune as they looked out over the seemingly endless expanse of the Simpson. After savouring the view one last time, and enjoying some memorable days in dry and windy Birdsville, the group headed back down Big Red and hit the track once more.
Birdsville to Innamincka
Making it to a spot in the Sturt Stony Desert (near Cordillo Downs) before sunset, the team set up camp next to a creek for a night that turned out to be one of the highlights of the entire trip. The site was a good choice, but what made the stopover so memorable was the pure isolation that accompanied it. Up until that point each night had been in comfortable surrounds with other groups and vehicles in the mix; this night there was not a soul for miles. There’s something special about being out on your own with nothing to catch your eye but a flickering fire and a starry sky, and some good conversation to match.
The next morning the group headed from their impromptu campsite to the Burke and Wills Dig Tree, a detour that was well worth the extra kilometres. Visiting the Dig Tree was a sobering and awe-inspiring moment, with reverence to both the harshness of the country we so love as well as the spirit of exploration that flowed through Australia’s early pioneers. As modern day explorers, it was a lucid reminder of the fortitude that it took to undertake such a bold journey that at the time was seen as almost inconceivable. Within the group, the Dig Tree was recognised as a powerful connection to our past both as fellow Australians as well as kindred spirits.
From there it was on to Innamincka to give the cars a good wash, before burning through daylight and some hours of the night to reach Cameron Corner. No-one managed to bend a boomerang around three states, but then again no-one remembered to bring one. After Cameron Corner it was another long day of driving to get to Broken Hill. The iconic mining town was a treat to visit, as the group checked out the view from the Line of Lode as they sat on the Big Bench.
Broken Hill, Bourke & home again
The next day it was another all-out slog to get to the next destination, with over 600km separating Broken Hill and Bourke. After an uneventful night in Bourke, it was a straight shoot back to Brisbane the next day, and a bittersweet conclusion to a memorable Hema Maps adventure. Coming home is always met with both relief and a touch of sadness, and this trip was no different; over 5000km of roads, tracks, and shared memories were suddenly in the rear-view mirror. The good news though, is that so long as we are prepared to explore, there will always be another just around the bend.