Desert and Corner Country Tour with Outback Spirit
April 20th, 2008
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
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 spoil
the photos have been reduced in size (and subsequently quality)
for faster downloading.
- Yass - Wagga Wagga. Photos
Wagga - Hay - Mildura. Photos
- Mungo - Menindee - Broken Hill. Photos
Hill - Tibooburra. Photos
- Cameron Corner - Innaminka. Photos
- Birdsville. Photos
- Bedourie - Boulia. Photos
- Gemtree - Alice Springs Photos
Peter (driver & guide) & his wife
Val & Lurline
Judy & Neville
Alan & Margaret
Ron & Nancy
Hank & Phillipa
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.
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 high price.
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 staying.
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.
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?
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.
door magnetic cards not working on our first night at Wagga
mobile ringing whilst we were watching a DVD at Rio Vista house
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
power failure in the Tibooburra dining room at breakfast.
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).
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.
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 clean.
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 time.
took this photo in
the Innamincka hotel which should help Peter and Angie on future
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.
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.
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.
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
window curtains are now pull down translucent blinds whereas
previously they were pull across blackout curtains.
road cam monitor is bigger and brighter and the camera at the
front has a wider viewing angle.
added a slice of lemon to the water carried on the bus.
never saw any butterflies on the trip but we did see this
information placard at the Desert Park in Alice Springs.
Silverton. They had crossed off some staple items from the menu.
See this photo.
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 grown locally.
Hank. There is hardly a country that he
has not visited or lived in. Herb and Pam have also travelled
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 buildings.
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.
Motels we stayed in at Innaminka and Birdsville were as good as
any in major cities.
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.
sun blocking sails over some of the outdoor car parking at Coles
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.
Broken Hill the early morning street cleaners were meticulously
soaping, scrubbing and rinsing the rubbish bin holders along the
Wagga is the home of the Chicko Roll (about 1935).
is a golf course at Cameron Corner. Peter pointed it out to me.
They used buried buckets for the holes.
Alice Springs a "Kiss n Go" drop off zone outside a
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.
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)".
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
won at the Birdsville Races?
dead heat between Ann and Lurline. Click here
for the photo finish.
Things You See
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.
sign with shoes all over it. Click here
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.
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.
Most Desolate Place On Earth Estate
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.
Could Be Changed Or Improved
suggested the bus carry a bush to hide behind when going to the
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 had.
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.
Best Thing I Saw Or Did
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
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.
seen the spectacular ocean sunset at Broome but I believe the
outback one is better.
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.
was also a nice looking town. They have spent a lot of money
there on facilities even though the population is small.
and Judy. See this photo
of Brenda taken at the Birdsville Hotel. Judy knitted on the
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.
door catch had a sharp edge on it and a few people got scratched
whilst getting out. Peter filed the sharp edges off.
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.
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
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.
old Truss bridge at Wagga Wagga. Closed in 1993 after over 100
years of service.
old lift Span bridge at Mildura. Nor used any more but
incorporated as a feature into a new estate.
curved ballroom floor in the basement of the Rio Vista house in
replicated ships mast and covering over the dining room in the
Hotel at Wagga Wagga.
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
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 desirable.
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
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.
contrast, the Darling River near Menindee (click here
for photo) and the Diamantina near Birdsville were both drab and
Cheapest/Expensive Glass Of Wine
Boulia Hotel at
Alice Springs Resort at $7.50.
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.
Thing Ann Liked Most
Her bed at the end of each day and
me beside her.
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
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.
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
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 this
photo. The light is in the top LH corner.
Menindee. It looked like a shanty town.
Name the 4 places in Australia where the
borders of 3 States meet.
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 this
Corner. NT, QLD and SA.
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
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.
flies at lunch stops near Innaminka and Birdsville. A head net
was essential. See this
photo of Ann.
Am Over It.
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
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?
(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.
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!
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.
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.
High Cost Of Paper
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
pools at the Hotel in Mildura and Alice Springs.
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.
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.
am going to visit the locals" translates to "I am going
to have a beer".
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
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.
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.
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 glass.
and Films of Interest
Films: We of the Never Never, The
Back of Beyond (a tribute to Birdsville Track mailman Tom
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 was better than I expected. 4 out of 5 Stars.