23-Apr-2012 -- Introduction
The confluence point 27S 143E is in the south west corner of Queensland, Australia. It about 6 km east of the Cooper Developmental Road at a point 56 km (by road) south of Eromanga. Eromanga is 104 km west of Quilpie, the major city for the area. The area is broadly known as the Channel Country. It is mostly flat and is cut by many water courses. These water courses are generally dry, but at times can flood spectacularly and even major roads may be closed for weeks. The terrain is covered by nothing, low bush or light scrubby forest. In times of good rain (not common) the pasture is excellent. The area is considered to be cattle country. Summer temperatures are in the low forties.
The confluence point 27S 143E is neatly covered by the NATMAP Thargomindah 1:250,000. This map however is inaccurate in regard to minor tracks. The map data is dated 2001 and in the decade since, by usage and disuse, new tracks have been created and old tracks overgrown. I found Google Earth imagery difficult to interpret and on arrival found that the terrain was not as I expected.
Another very useful map for the area is the Hema Great Desert Tracks, South East Sheet, 1:1,250,000.
We first attempted to approach the point from the east in March 2011. The relevant part of our trip starts at Cunnamulla, Queensland. From Cunnamulla we travelled west along the Balonne Highway towards Thargomindah. At this time the heavy flood waters to the north were moving south. We encountered these flood waters at Paroo River just west of Eulo but could cross in our moderately high clearance vehicle. However the only vehicle crossing the Bulloo River just to the east of Thargomindah was the resourceful Thargomindah Council flood truck which was ferrying vehicles across one at a time. The trip cost $20 a vehicle and in disregard of Chris de Burgh’s advice we paid the ferryman before departure. There was, however, because of the flooding of Wilson River east of the Cooper Developmental Road no possibility of driving further west, so the plan to reach the confluence point was abandoned and we (after a couple of days in Thargomindah) returned east to Cunnamulla.
In April 2012 it was time to go north again with the possibility of approaching 23S 143E once more. This time we approached from the west via
Cameron Corner (a geo-political confluence point (28S 141E) in its own right) and entered Queensland at the Warri Gate. (The decision to come from the west was not part of a grand plan to outwit the confluence point, but simply a move to see some different country.) The first town (well, really it’s just a comprehensive hotel) north of border is Noccundra and thereafter the road is mostly sealed.
Our intention was to call at the Bellalie homestead (recognized by various maps, Google Earth and the National Gazetteer of Australia) which is located
some 5 km from the confluence point and to present John Kejr’s excellent
letter of explanation and proceed with blessings from there. The northern entrance
to the homestead, which I had accepted (mainly from Google Earth imagery) to be the main entrance appears to be discontinued and we ultimately left the highway at the more direct southern entrance. We passed a 'permission required to continue' notice at the entrance with a clear conscience since we intended to find the homestead and then seek permission to proceed. We indeed found the homestead but it appears now to be only used at mustering or the like and it was deserted. The station property is clearly being used and is well maintained. The black angus cattle (our assumption) are in excellent condition and very contented. We decided to continue towards the confluence point since in every way the local conditions were ideal – the tracks were dry and firm and the weather overcast (that is, suitable for easy travelling) and by background
and experience we are aware of station country protocol and planned to tread lightly.
By travelling along tracks which had a component in the desired direction we got within 4 km of the confluence point. We then drove along the cleared area next to a new section of fencing to within 3 km of the point before we reached a dry water course. We could have crossed the water course, but not without breaking our tread lightly protocol – and after all, the idea of a 6 km out and back walk in ideal conditions was not daunting. We left John’s letter under the windscreen wiper of the vehicle on the slight chance that someone might come across the vehicle and we set off. The fence lines and gates seemed to be ideally placed for our route and we reached the confluence point without difficulty.
The point was in the middle of a small clay pan within a large grassed area with scattered groups of low trees – the very model of a modern confluence point. The clay pan also contained a couple of emu dusting spots. In fact, while we were documenting GPS data an emu approached within perhaps fifty metres of where we were working. Emus are by nature curious creatures.
The return to the highway was a straightforward retracing of the entrance route. We continued east to Eromanga and Quilpie.
In the Australian outback weather conditions are the dominant controller of activity. In the April 2012 exercise, the weather conditions prior to, and on the day, were ideal. I believe now, had we managed to reach the Highway entrance of Bellalie homestead on our March 2011 trip any attempt to drive and/or walk across the terrain to the confluence point would have been at the best, arduous, and possibly foolhardy.
If you plan to approach confluence points in remote areas of Australia take note of the often advanced advice for travelling relating to (but not
limited to) water, fuel, condition of vehicle, condition of spare wheel(s), frequently seeking local condition reports and not travelling at dusk or
night. Carcasses of ‘roos, emus, pigs, cattle and dingoes that had been hit by vehicles were very much in evidence on our trip.