Day 13: Arkaroola To Leigh Creek
We got up early for a quick breakfast and mustered at reception for a 0700 hours departure to head to the airstrip for a scenic flight over Arkaroola Village and the northern end of the Flinders Ranges.
Where is Arkaroola Village?
Seeing the Flinders Ranges from the air gave an incredible perspective of the ranges and their formation, being ancient sea beds of rock and sedimentary layers, tilted on their side, then eroded away over millennia by water.
Our pilot – Doug – was a wealth of information about the Flinders Ranges. He also has plenty of ‘Pilot Jokes’ and is a fine pilot to boot!
After landing safely back at the airstrip, it was back to the Arkaroola Village Resort and a couple of hours spare for the CAOS Team to head out and shoot some content for the NOMAD 270 Bub Awning, with the Flinders Ranges around Arkaroola as a picturesque backdrop
A quick dash back to the Arkaroola Village Resort for lunch, then back out the front of reception by 1:00pm to depart on the world-famous Arkaroola Ridgetop Tour, which is a guided tour on a private 4WD track, in the back of an open sided Land Cruiser Troop Carrier. Arkaroola's signature 4WD tour will give you an epic encounter with the classic terrain and the natural beauty of the Arkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary.
What an experience! As if the track itself wasn’t bumpy and hair-raising enough, the tour culminates at a small summit area with an almost sheer cliff on one side, called Sillers Lookout, which is just large enough for the vehicles to do a 10 point turn – but what a view!!! Stunning 360° views of the Flinders Ranges and beyond.
In the afternoon, we had coffee and tea which included the world famous ‘Arkaroola Lamingtons’ – Yum!! The WUDU film crew then hurriedly organised the team with Macca front and centre to record the “closer” for the Flinders Ranges tour.
No sooner was this footage ‘in the bag’, we had to dash off in one of the WUDU Crew cars to get back to the resort, so we could jump into the CAOS Jeep and LC79 to make a dash for Marree for the night. It was dark when we left, so with spotlights blazing to give us a better chance of avoiding the wildlife, we headed straight for Leigh Creek for some dinner at the Leigh Creek Outback Resort before turning north for the Marree Hotel.
Leigh Creek is a former coal-mining town and now serves as a perfect site for dauntless travellers to further explore into the desert.
Day 14: Birdsville Tour
We also had an early start on Day 14 of our trip and quick breakfast followed by refuelling at the servo in Marree. Then off we drove out of town to the turnoff for the iconic ‘Birdsville Track’, almost 600km of dirt track through the Australian outback. We weren’t sure what to expect, as neither of us had driven this track or been to Birdsville before, for that matter, but the track was in remarkably good condition, allowing for travel at highway speeds for most of its length, although there were a few rocky sections with long sweepers that demanded some restraint with the right foot.
Where is Birdsville?
We rolled into Birdsville just after 3pm and checked out the Birdsville Hotel to see if we could book some accommodation for the night. Unfortunately, they were fully booked, so we headed over to the Birdsville Tourist Park to see if we could book some rooms at the Birdsville Lodge.
Once that was sorted, the next stop was Big Red, about 45 minutes drive out of town on mostly bitumen road. We aired down in preparation for tackling Big Red, then hit the track up the rear side of the dune and before we knew it, we were on the top of Big Red!
The challenging tracks are up the western face of the famous sand dune, so we picked our spot to enjoy the sunset and then started snapping some photos of this iconic location. Duke put the drone up to get some amazing images of the CAOS Jeep and LC79 on top of Big Red.
As the sun sunk lower in the sky, closer to the horizon, more tourists arrived to enjoy the spectacle, with the brave ones tackling their “bungee jump” moments and taking their Land Cruisers, Prados, etc to face the challenge of summiting Big Red, amidst great atmosphere of Aussies giving their mates a good-natured ribbing if they failed to make it up the top.
With plenty of content on the memory cards, we decided to pull out a couple of Front Runner Expander camp chairs, crack open a cold drink, and get comfy as we enjoyed the view from the top of Big Red, with the sun sinking slowly down over the horizon.
Just after sunset, the light became that soft and magical outback sunset, with hues of red and purple making the red sand of Big Red look amazing. As the light faded, it was time to head back down from Big Red, air up and make tracks for Birdsville for a feed at the iconic Birdsville Hotel
We ordered a pub favourite – Bangers and Mash – washed down with a well-earned ice-cold beer, and as it turns out, the Bartender saw the CAOS logo on my jacket and informed us that he’s bought some of our gear and loves it! That night, we were grateful to enjoy a delicious meal and great service from the team at the Birdsville Hotel.
Day 15: Last Trip Before Heading Home
It was a crisp morning in Birdsville with temperatures just into double digits. Our first task was to grab some sunrise photos of the CAOS Jeep and LC79 in front of the iconic Birdsville Hotel, so we loaded the cars and dashed around the corner in the pre-dawn glow to prepare for sunrise.
It was a stunning outback sunrise, with the bonus being that the flies obviously like a sleep-in, so we captured some memorable images of the CAOS 4WDs in front of what is arguably one of Australia’s most iconic pubs. Then it was time to hit the road out of town and after a short section of black top, the track became dirt again for several hundred kilometres, with intermittent short sections of bitumen.
As we drove through the outback, it's amazing to think firstly, how vast the interior of Australia is, and secondly, how tough those people are that choose to live in the outback. We stopped at Deon's Lookout to take in the view over the valleys of the channel country, then continued on through Windorah to Quilpie, and a quick stop for refreshments at the Foxtrap Roadhouse, Cooladdi, before continuing onto Charleville to refuel.
There was still some daylight, and with homesickness starting to kick in, we decided to keep tracking on to Morven to stay the night. After checking into our motel rooms, we walked around the corner to the Sadleir’s Waterhole Hotel, where we enjoyed a delicious steak meal with an ice-cold beer, to wind down after a long day at the wheel.
As we were both keen to get home as early as possible, we loaded up and were ready to roll at 5:00am, and being more than an hour before dawn, the LC79 took the lead with its bulbar and super-bright LED spotlights and light bar blazing into the distance. Thankfully we avoided getting up close and personal with the wildlife and were relieved as dawn broke and the sky started getting brighter without incident.
The early start meant we hadn’t eaten, so a quick stop for breakfast at Maccas Roma to stop the tummy rumbles, then we continued tracking eastwards towards the coast. We stopped at the BP Dalby for the last refuel of the trip and then on through Cooyar, Yarraman, Blackbutt and Kilcoy.
We arrived back home to our families around 1:00pm, very glad to be safely home with our loved ones and with some amazing memories of our epic adventure through the Flinders Ranges.