It was mid morning before we launched our kayak. The lagoon is fed by discharge from the Birdsville artesian bore. Water comes to the surface under pressure at just below boiling point and runs via a bore drain into the lagoon. Recent rains have raised the lagoon water level to record heights and so we were able to paddle over country that is normally dry. While we were away exploring the lagoon a murder of crows moved onto our unattended kayak trailer and began tearing to pieces the heavy-duty padding used to protect the kayaks when travelling. What sort of behaviour was this? Were they simply being mischievous or did they think the padding was something to eat?
There were two friends we had to visit in town. The first was John at the Birdsville Museum. John came to Birdsville twenty years ago and set up what I consider to be one of the most extensive private and informative museums in Australia. John boasted with a sign out the front ‘No government money used to set up this museum’. His guided tours always began with, ‘Roll up ladies and gentlemen. Don’t interrupt me as we go, let me do the talking. If you have any questions I will be pleased to answer them at the end of the tour’. John had his spiel down pat and would describe and demonstrate many of the items in the museum. When we arrived there today we found John packing up all the exhibits. He has sold out to a Longreach enterprise. It‘s a tragedy that John is moving on; his departure is a great loss to Birdsville. People moving on is one of the changes happening in the bush. Old donkeys end up burning themselves out, they just cannot continue. Unfortunately there are no young donkeys to take the old donkeys’ places. This, in my mind, is the changing face of the bush.
After bidding John farewell we went to the Blue Poles Art Gallery and caught up with Wolfgang, an artist specialising in desert scenes. During the 1990s I interviewed characters who had something to say for ABC Radio and Wolfgang was one of them. I first met him at Lyndhurst, a small outpost near the start of the Birdsville Track in the south. He had bought a new 4WD from Adelaide and was waiting on delivery, meeting the dealer half way. Lyndhurst is roughly half way between Adelaide and BirdsvilIe (1190km). Over a beer I asked him why he chose to live in Birdsville. He designed textiles for the local and international market and said Birdsville was pretty central to Paris, London, Rome and New York! Wolfgang’s son Karsten was the first person to bring cappuccinos to Birdsville when he set up a café in his father’s gallery and called it the Caravansarai. Karsten has gone now so you can no longer sup on a real coffee and contemplate which one of Wolfie’s paintings to buy. Wolfie is still there painting and his work has lost no appeal. Google Wolfgang John to see his online gallery.
A visit to the iconic Birdsville Hotel is a must so had a beer for old time’s sake and poked our noses into the dining room where we dined and entertained our many passengers during our years of touring.
The plant in the foreground is cumbungi or bullrush. There are three species found in Australia, only one is considered imported. Cumbungi grows in slow-moving and static water wetlands. Aboriginal folk eat the soft asparagus-like roots.
When atmospheric conditions are right the seedpod explodes and millions of seed drift off on the wind.
A couple of photos from Backtrack touring days on the Birdsville Track.
It has always fascinated me as to how stony desert pavements like this evolved. If you imagine the surface here is metres higher, the pavement stones would be scattered throughout the profile. Over time the sand and fines are blown away leaving the stones behind and they eventually touch each other presenting a surface impervious to any further erosion
The image above was taken at the ochre pits near Lyndhurst at the southern end of the Birdsville Track. Note the severe thunderstorm on the horizon. We were to travel up the road under the storm the next day but unfortunately the storm made the road impassable so we had to hold back a day. This sounds easy but when you consider that onward accommodation was booked for a coach load of people at Tibooburra and Bourke it was a logistics nightmare reorganising accommodation. Bev and I took about four hundred people to Birdsville over a period of five years
The journey matters not. What matters is the destination and the people you meet.