Simpson Desert and Corner Country Tour with Outback Spirit
Commenced April 20th, 2008
Others will have different opinions but
this is the way I saw things. I genuinely liked everyone on the trip and had
many long and interesting discussions with everyone. Anything I write about anyone
is purely in fun. If I have made any mistakes please tell me.
For Peter and Angie, this was their maiden voyage with Outback Spirit with a
brand new vehicle. Consequently, a few things did not go as they intended but this did not
All the photos have been reduced in
size (and subsequently quality) for faster downloading.
April 20th. Sydney - Yass - Wagga Wagga.
April 21st. Wagga Wagga - Hay - Mildura.
April 22nd. Mildura.
April 23rd. Mildura - Mungo - Menindee - Broken Hill.
April 24th. Broken Hill - Tibooburra.
April 25th. Tibooburra - Cameron Corner - Innaminka.
April 26th. Innaminka - Birdsville.
April 27th. Birdsville.
April 28th. Birdsville - Bedourie - Boulia.
April 29th. Boulia - Gemtree - Alice Springs
April 30th. Alice Springs
Peter (driver & guide) & his wife Angie (guide)
Val & Lurline
Peter & Barbara
Judy & Neville
Alan & Margaret
Rick & Ann
Ron & Nancy
Hank & Phillipa
Herb & Pam
Most Represented Job Category
Unusually, I could not find any people that had the same job category. On a
previous trip I found 4 ex teachers.
Distance Travelled in Coach
I did not get the fuel consumption for all the trip but for one long section it
was 32 litres/100km.
Highest Fuel Cost
I checked and took photos of the fuel prices at Cameron Corner, Innaminka
and Birdsville expecting one of them to be the most expensive. However, I was
surprised when Peter told me the prices at Gemtree, a town about
140km from Alice Springs (bitumen all the way) were $2.01 for unleaded and $2.06 for
diesel. I never bothered to check or take a photo because I did not expect this
Tourism is Big Business
The manager at Innaminka told me that the hotels at Innaminka and Birdsville
are owned by the same person and business is booming. A new fancy restaurant is
being constructed at Innaminka. On some days they serve over 200 meals at
Innaminka and Birdsville. The motel at Birdsville is booked solid until October
2008. During peak periods up to 4 coaches per week visit these towns. They day
we left, Birdsville was expecting 27 helicopters and some coaches with 94 people
In Broken Hill, Greg was walking down the street wearing a floral shirt when
a passer-by made a rude comment to him. We made good fun of that comment during
the trip and Greg played along. He should never have mentioned it.
The Lollypop Lady
At Birdsville, I noticed that there was a marked school crossing on the road
outside the school. I wonder if they have a lollypop lady given the large number
of vehicles that pass the school?
Most Embarrassing Moments
When the gas ran out whilst cooking
a BBQ lunch in the park BBQ at Hay. Didn't matter because Angie had a backup
plan to use the local Hotel facilities which we did.
The door magnetic cards not working
on our first night at Wagga Wagga.
My mobile ringing whilst we were
watching a DVD at Rio Vista house in Mildura.
Not getting to the sculptures at Broken Hill before sunset.
Apparently, some of the sculptures utilise the setting sun for special effects.
When we arrived there were lots of people there. Some had tripods set up to
capture these special effects. I suspect you would need to get there very early
to reserve your photographic place.
The power failure in the Tibooburra
dining room at breakfast.
Satellite telephone not working when we broke down about 2 hrs out of
Birdsville. It didn't really matter because the coach also had a CB radio which
all the locals use (and is probably better).
Lurline breaking the water tap in
the toilets at the Birdsville racetrack. Water was spraying everywhere. Ann
tried to fix it but couldn't. Dorothy was in the toilet at the time and could
hear the sudden rush of water and yelling so she made a fast exit. Her only
concern was that she had not put the toilet lid down as the sign requests you
do. This photo is a bit like what the water looked like.
I turned the tap off at the water tank suppling the toilets and Peter and Greg
fixed the tap and turned the water back on. At least the toilets got a good
A Confusing Time
During the tour we crossed the borders between 4 States a few times. With
this came different time zones. This always created confusion in deciding
which time to use for meeting at places and whether to move clocks backwards or
forwards. To add to the confusion, Broken Hill (which is in NSW) uses Adelaide
I took this photo in the
Innamincka hotel which should help Peter and Angie
on future trips.
If my mobile phone can automatically change time zones (when in range), then the
sophisticated Outback Spirit coach should have the console clock connected to
the Satellite telephone (which should be always in range [when it works]) and
automatically change time zones.
Who's On First
Which floor is the 1st Floor?. At the Pavilion Hotel in Wagga Wagga, it was
the floor at ground level which in Australia is usually called the Ground Floor.
Herb and Muriel
Our tour guide at the Alice Springs Telegraph Station was Muriel who got
sucked into some entertaining quips with Herb. We had a good laugh. She even
commented that this was the best fun she ever had with a tour group.
Fortunately, it was not anyone on our tour but the elderly lady we ran into
at the Hotel in Mildura. We first saw her at the reception desk when we arrived.
She was complaining about the quality of the wine in her room and that she was
not going to pay for it. Another time she was near Greg and poked him in the stomach retorting "and you need
to lose weight". Ann said "Good Morning" to her and she retorted "Its a terrible
morning - the guy is 30 mins late picking me up". We last saw her sitting
outside the Hotel waiting for someone to pick her up for a day tour to Mungo
Lake National Park. The poor tour guide was in for a hard day.
What is the Population
Of Birdsville? I asked at the Caravan Park, the Service Station, The Museum
and other places. It varied from 60 to 120.
We have travelled with Outback Spirit a few times before and I noticed a few
improvements on this brand new vehicle.
The window curtains are now pull
down translucent blinds whereas previously they were pull across blackout
The road cam monitor is bigger and brighter
and the camera at the front has a wider viewing angle.
Peter added a slice of lemon to the
water carried on the bus.
We never saw any butterflies on the trip but we did see
placard at the Desert Park in Alice Springs.
At Silverton. They had crossed off some staple items from the menu. See
No dinners were exceptional but the main course of beef ribs at the
Birdsville Hotel was the best beef I have tasted. Apparently, it was "eco" beef
Most Travelled People
Hank. There is hardly a country that he has not visited or lived in. Herb
and Pam have also travelled extensively.
What Surprised Me
That most of the historic outback
hotels are not the original structures. Most burnt down last century. However, when they
rebuilt, some part of the original structures were incorporated into the new
The condition of cattle in the
outback. Most looked reasonably healthy. This was confirmed by the people from
Cordillo Station who stopped to help us when the bus broke down.
The Motels we stayed in at Innaminka
and Birdsville were as good as any in major cities.
The level ground and canals from
previous irrigated rice growing around Hay from the Murrumbidgee River. It was
more extensive then I expected.
In Boulia we had to leave very early next morning to travel to Alice. The
group was split between the Desert Sands Motel and the Hotel and it was
organised that we have continental breakfast in our rooms. Those that stayed in
at the Hotel had an inadequate meagre breakfast.
Country Town Quirks
Noticed sun blocking sails over some of the
parking at Coles in Mildura.
In Mildura saw this sign at the
drive-in grog shop under the Hotel we stayed in "Mildura first - EFTPOS to your
car". They get excited about important things in the country.
In Broken Hill the early morning
street cleaners were meticulously soaping, scrubbing and rinsing the rubbish bin holders
along the street.
Wagga Wagga is the home of the
Chicko Roll (about 1935).
There is a golf course at Cameron
Corner. Peter pointed it out to me. They used buried buckets for the holes.
In Alice Springs a "Kiss n Go" drop
off zone outside a school.
Some of the evening meals we had
were a bit strange. You got a choice - well sort of. For example, main course
would have three different meals but you got what was served. If you did not
like that meal you could swap with someone else. This happened at Wagga Wagga
and Birdsville. Hank had never seen this before in all his travels.
Best Ice Creams
At Jervois. A small stop between Boulia and Alice Springs. Just about everyone on
the coach bought one. See this photo of the queue. At $2.50 each they made enough money to run their diesel
generator for 1 hour.
The morning we left Broken Hill a guy hassled us whilst we were loading our
bags onto the bus. He wanted to know why the tour had not visited the "biggest
painting in the world (or maybe that was Australia)".
We attended the dawn service out front of the Hotel at Tibooburra with a few
locals who later cooked breakfast for us. My first dawn service and it was very
moving. Later, Angie kindly provided us with a large tin of ANZAC biscuits which
we consumed in the forthcoming morning and arvo teas. See
this photo of Ann at
the dawn service.
Crews working on new pipeline near Innaminka. They were working on ANZAC day. Someone found out
that they work for 28 days and then have 7 days off irrespective of weekends or
Who won at the Birdsville Races?
A dead heat between Ann and Lurline. Click
here for the photo finish.
Strange Things You See
A double decker bus dumped about 50 km from Cameron Corner. When we walked
around the front of the bus, Alan pointed out that it had been towed there, not
driven, because it had a towbar coupling arrangement sticking out the front.
Click here for
photo of me beside the bus.
A sign with shoes all over it. Click
here for photo.
Lots of willy-willies. I counted at
least 10. Most were small but one extended about 200 Metres into the air. They
seem to appear in the more desolate areas.
Most Expensive Beer
At Bedourie, a town halfway between Birdsville and Boulia. $88.88 for a slab. Click
here for photo.
Greg told me that this is over twice the price you would pay in Sydney.
The Most Desolate Place On Earth Estate
The new estate at Birdsville. I gave it this name because there was no sign
telling you about the estate. It was very modern even having underground power.
The three or so houses there were all on stilts. Click here for photo. All the locals I spoke to thought the developers
were mad but maybe the developers know something the locals don't.
What Could Be Changed Or Improved
Dorothy suggested the bus carry a
bush to hide behind when going to the toilet.
Rather than 2 days in Mildura it
would have been better to spend 2 days in Broken Hill. We could then have had an
extended visit to the Mungo National Park rather than the cursory visit we
We were each given a drinking mug to
use for the duration of the trip. These should be Outback Spirit souvenir mugs
that we get to keep at the end of the trip.
The Best Thing I Saw Or Did
Sunrise and sunset in the outback where you can see the 360 deg horizon. You
cannot photograph it and it is difficult to explain the visual experience but it
is magical. The glow spreads around the horizon like an aura.
We all viewed sunrise in the coach when we left Boulia before sunrise driving
towards Alice Springs.
At Birdsville, just before dinner, Ann and I decided to walk out and photograph
a large sign about 2 km out of town. Took about 40 mins to walk there and back.
Luckily, we observed the sunset just after we photographed the sign.
This photo gives you an idea of what
it looked like.
We have seen the spectacular ocean sunset at Broome but I believe the outback
one is better.
Wagga Wagga. As soon as we drove into the town I noticed the clean, wide and
well manicured streets. Shop signs were bright and visible. Apparently, this is
attributed to the multi generational pride in the town.
Bedourie was also a nice looking town. They have spent a lot of money there on
facilities even though the population is small.
Brenda and Judy. See this photo of
Brenda taken at the Birdsville Hotel.
Judy knitted on the bus.
Soon after we left Sydney it was discovered
that the hot water system for drinks had a leak and was not functioning
correctly. This did not stop the bus from operating.
The door catch had a sharp edge on
it and a few people got scratched whilst getting out. Peter filed the sharp
About 2 hrs from Birdsville, a low
water alarm sounded. Lifting the cabin revealed that a hose connection on the bottom
of the header tank had worked loose. Took about 1 hr to detect and fix.
After the above event, Peter used
the Satellite telephone to call the Birdsville Hotel and advise that we would be
late. However, Peter could hear them but they could not hear Peter. I suspect
the Satellite telephone problem was not resolved because Peter and Angie used
public telephones for the rest of the tour related calls.
About 1 hr out of Bedourie, the belt
driving the air conditioning compressor broke. Took about 20 mins to replace.
Whist we were fixing the coach after breaking down about 2 hrs from
Birdsville, a vehicle from the local Cordillo Downs station stopped to offer their
help. Even after we found the problem, they would not leave until they were
absolutely sure we would be OK. They even left details of their CB radio channel
if we needed any further help. They also provided the current AFL football score
to those interested.
The old Truss bridge at Wagga Wagga.
Closed in 1993 after over 100 years of service.
The old lift Span bridge at Mildura. Nor
used any more but incorporated as a feature into a new estate.
The curved ballroom floor in the
basement of the Rio Vista house in Mildura.
The replicated ships mast and
covering over the dining room in the Hotel at Wagga Wagga.
Oldest/Youngest On Bus
Dorothy at 82 and Greg at 56.
On the toilet seats in the toilet at the Birdsville race track. Ann told me
the dust was about 50mm thick over the top. There was a sign asking you to
please put the lid down after finishing.
The ones Peter had to brake hard and swerve to miss coming into Birdsville.
An earlier breakdown held us up so we were driving after dark which is not
The Apple Crumbles
Many of the outback towns had an obsession with Apple Crumble for dessert.
At Tibooburra it was terrible but at Alice Springs it was nice except they called it
Innaminka. After traversing the Strzelecki Track with its dust, corrugations
and desolate landscape we drove through Innaminka and stopped at the Cooper Creek
about 200 Metres past the town. The water was flowing strongly (you could hear
it gurgling) and there were lots of trees full of very noisy birds. Click
here for photo. It was like
walking into a different world.
In contrast, the Darling River near Menindee (click
here for photo) and the Diamantina near Birdsville
were both drab and lifeless.
Most Cheapest/Expensive Glass Of
Boulia Hotel at $3.00
Alice Springs Resort at $7.50.
Enamelled Is Best
At Innaminka and Birdsville they served soup and dessert in chipped enamelled mugs
and the main meal on chipped enamelled plates. I asked the waitress why and she said
that it is very difficult to transport china plates because they break in
transit over the rough roads. Also, kitchen accidents break china plates.
Nevertheless, they are obtaining china plates soon. I think they should continue
using enamelled plates. It adds to the character of the place.
The Thing Ann Liked Most
Her bed at the end of each day and me beside her.
The Desert Park at Alice Springs. Its theme fitted the area and it was
extremely interesting. I was also impressed by the young man in a wheelchair
handing out the audio guides. He was stricken with spina bifida but that did not
stop him doing an excellent job.
The Working Museum at Birdsville was also very good but it could have been
located anywhere. I was so impressed I purchased a couple of their DVD's.
"Working" means that the owner shows you how some of the old pieces worked and
he swapped between pieces at a very fast pace.
Most Overrated Attraction
The Min Min centre at Boulia. It was very sophisticated and played on the
tale of the mystical Min Min light. A bit dragged out and at a cost of $1.8
Million I thought it was overrated. I expected the Min Min light at the end to
be a hologram that flew around the room.
Having said that, the next morning whilst driving out of Boulia, someone noticed
a light in the bus road cam and suggested it might be the Min Min light. See
photo. The light is in the top LH corner.
Most Derelict Town
Menindee. It looked like a shanty town.
Name the 4 places in Australia where the borders of 3 States meet.
Cameron Corner. SA, QLD and NSW. We
went there and it was not that exciting. A large steel pole marking the corner
and 3 smaller poles marking the borders. See
Poeppel Corner. NT, QLD and SA.
Surveyor Generals Corner. WA, NT and
SA, NSW and VIC meeting does not
have a name. The border of NSW/SA at the Murray does not directly meet the
border of VIC/SA at the Murray. The NSW/SA border is 3.6 km East of the NSW/SA
border at the Murray.
In the shop at Shear Outback in Hay an older guy working in the shop came up
to me and asked "How much did you pay for your shoes?" Initially, I was taken
aback but he went on to explain that he once sold the type of shoes I was
wearing and was interested in what I payed for them.
The flies at lunch stops near Innaminka and Birdsville. A head net was
essential. See this photo of Ann.
I Am Over It.
Anything to do with Burke and Wills. Their story is very interesting but the
local communities have milked it to the extreme. Also, I am not convinced of the
authenticity of the dig tree or the engraving on it for two reasons
It is hard to believe that since
Burke and Wills made their voyage the dig tree has not died, washed away in
floods or been souvenired. Sidney Kidman was one of Australia's greatest
pastoral landholders and in the book about him by Jill Bowmen, Kidman admits to
souveniring a part of the tree. How many others have done this?
Peter (Driver) mentioned that there
is some discussion between experts about the format of the writing on the dig
tree regarding the use of Roman Numerals by Burke.
Sandwiches at the Royal Flying Doctor Service in Alice Springs. The lunches
we had on the road were also good.
Judy was ill whilst we were in Mildura but recovered in a few days.
Neville at the dawn service at Tibooburra singing Advance Australia Fair.
And he knew the words!
The Longest Pause
Angie when reading some tour notes. She would start reading and halfway
through a sentence stop and then resume up to 30 secs later. This was quite
annoying at times but she got much better towards the end of the trip.
The Greatest Cost
Diesel fuel at Innaminka. The Manager of the Innaminka Hotel told me it
costs $21,000/Month for fuel to run their generator. However, by early 2009, they hope to be supplied
with electricity from a Geo Thermal station near the Moomba gas and oil fields.
The High Cost Of Paper
In the Birdsville Motel information pack there was a sheet of paper with an interesting map of the
town. It was similar to one in the brochure I got from Innaminka. I asked at the reception desk if they had any copies I could have but they
did not. The pack had a warning that if you remove any sheets from the pack you
will be charged $50 so I took this photo.
The pools at the Hotel in Mildura and Alice Springs.
Worst Section of Road
Boulia to Birdsville. It was terrible in places. Nearly as bad as the Tanami
Track which we traversed a few years ago. Our average speed in the coach along
that section was 68 km/Hr. This includes the last 140 km of bitumen.
During our brief stop in Balranald we discovered that there is a very large
frog population in the wetlands around there. I found one of the frogs and took
this photo with Ann.
"I am going to visit the locals" translates to "I am going to have a beer".
The Grand Hotel in Mildura. After a swim in their pool I used the spa and
then the shower near the spa. To my annoyance, the handle fell off the cold water tap
so I had to use the shower in our room.
Alice Springs. They have no water restrictions and the shower rose was huge
with enormous pressure. Nearly blew me out of the shower.
The Pavilion Hotel in Wagga Wagga. Could have fitted 10 people in it.
Herb is a retired property developer and he told me a few times to "never
become attached to real estate". He gave me a business card at the end of the
trip but it did not have his motto printed on it.
Best Bus Sleeper
I suspect it was Nancy although I never observed her sleeping. She told me
the story about Ron suffering from sleep apnea and forgetting to bring a vital
component for his sleep apnea machine and that she did not get much sleep
during the night.
We noticed Herbert streets in 2 outback towns. Then later we passed Herbert
Downs Station and in Alice there is a Herbert Heritage Drive. He was very excited.
At Innaminka they are building a new restaurant. Someone on our bus asked them
if they had any window glass broken in transit from wherever to Innaminka (the
roads are terrible). No, they replied but when the forklift driver was unloading
the windows at Innaminka he broke some glass. Had to wait another month for new
Books and Films of Interest
Films: We of the Never Never, The Back of Beyond (a tribute to Birdsville
Track mailman Tom Kruse).
Books: We of the Never Never, Mailman of the Birdsville Track (the story
of Tom Kruse), Kidman the Forgotten King (the story of Sidney Kidman, the
greatest Australian pastoral landholder in modern history).
To all the tour participants for many interesting and entertaining
discussions. As Hank said, you should leave the tour having learnt at least one
new thing from each person. Ann would like to particularly thank Lurline and
Dorothy for the entertainment at the Birdsville Races. They had many laughs
about it later.
It was better than I expected. 4 out of 5 Stars.