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Published: July 24th 2013
Where were we? Oh yes. The Dig Tree.
We decided to stay on an extra night so the following day we had no need to pack up tents and get ready for anything so everyone was fairly relaxed. A few lines were thrown into the Cooper Creek to see if we could get onto some Yellow Belly. No luck.
In the morning Neil and I wandered up the track to look at the little historical exhibit on the Burke and Wills expedition. All in all, I must say that it seemed to be doomed from the start. An ill-equipped team, dodgy leadership and complete ignorance of the local Aboriginal people and their way of life all contributed to only one of the blokes that made it to the Gulf alive. There was also a really good carving of the likeness of Burke in one of the tree trunks, done by a travelling stockman 140 odd years ago.
After lunch Neil, Phil and I went for a bit of a 4WD around the top of the creek to see if we could cross the creek near where we were camped. It turned out that I had my truck in
about five metres and the water was up to the door sills. Reverse! We ended up going further up the creek, which is actually a series of billabongs this time of year, and drove through some of those, up some hills and through some bog holes. During this time I tried to influence Neil’s taste in music, in an attempt to bring him a bit closer to the mode3rn times than Queen and Phil Collins. A few songs from 360, Kid Cudi, Pendulum and Calvin Harris later and Neil was trying to jump from a moving vehicle. It looks like his two young girls will be subjected to his old rubbish for a few years yet. Poor lasses.
After a lazy afternoon and dinner there was a challenge put forth – I said that if someone was willing (and able to walk the creek then I would drive my truck through it. Tony was willing and took off straightaway with his boots, clothes, hat and beer all accompanying him. At one point Tony appeared to be a hat and beer held above water only as the creek swirled around his noggin. Being one to keep my word I told
him to stay there and I’d drive over to pick him up. What are snorkels for after all??? Wiser, less inebriated and some might say, more chicken shit, heads prevailed. Maybe the old girl wouldn’t make it across after all. My penance was to walk the creek and back. COLD! At least I’ve got a bit of height on Tony so I only got stuck up to my armpits. We both survived but my boots are still drying out two days later!
The next day we set off toward Innamincka. On the way we stopped at Burke’s original grave on the Cooper Creek. Apparently he had gotten ill from malnutrition and dehydration, and the only other survivor to that point sat with him while he died. The survivor, King, set out to find the local Aboriginals who he had dealt with in during the ordeal. They looked after him until he was rescued. We also visited the original grave of Wills’, further down the river. The three of them had set out from the Dig Tree down the river, but when Wills died they turned back for a lack of water and food (Wills died first, then Burke). Wills told the other two to push on in the hope they would be saved. He was left with some food and a pistol but died before his food ran out.
Innamincka is a dusty little roadhouse, basically. We refuelled and had a beer in the attached tavern. The cook was serving us and he was a funny young fella. Paddy and I grabbed a pie and we set off south, after changing Neil’s damaged tyre. We had originally thought to camp at Innamincka but it was not quite what we were after.
The remainder of the day was spent driving mainly down the Old Stryzlecki Track on the lookout for a camp spot somewhere east of Cameron’s Corner (where the borders of NSW, QLD and SA meet). As luck would have it we got onto a station property where camping had recently been banned so we plodded on to the Cameron Corner store. It was amazing how many oil wells and gas operations were in place.
The Cameron Corner store is great! It is basically a pub with two fuel pumps and some very basic supplies. When we walked in to pay for camping ($5 per vehicle) we were told we had to throw a five dollar note with a thumbtack wrapped around a 20c piece into the ceiling as a donation to the Flying Doctors. There were hundreds of dollars up there! The people running the joint were real characters. After we set up camp we went back for dinner and had steaks, schnitzels, Spanish Mackerel and chops. It was a great night with lots of laughs and a good fire at the end.
Today we are heading toward White Cliff (home of Mad Max), then off to Menindee where the camp may be for two or three days next to the Darling River. Paddy and I will probably leave on Friday for the thousand odd kilometre drive back to Canberra. Phil will take some of his stuff home so we’ll be looking to do it in record time to make it back to my place in time for dinner. And Friday night football – Carn’ the Bombers!!!
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