Birdsville Track dubbed ‘COVID highway’ after influx of holiday drivers


Police in Queensland and South Australia have been issuing warnings over a particular stretch of desert road which desperate travellers are turning into an interstate express way.

The 500km Birdsville Track which bypasses the quarantine restrictions in New South Wales has been hot with an influx of drivers, many of which are unprepared for tough driving conditions and summer heat.

Dubbed the “Covid highway”, the track takes two days to traverse between southwest Queensland and Marree in South Australia. However, it is no motorway.

Once a celebrated tourism route for 4×4 safari enthusiasts and those wanting to see the country’s interior, it’s normally dead quiet at the peak of summer, with the Simpson Desert reaching over 40 degrees Celsius during January.

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The Birdsville Hotel general manager Ben Fullagar is both bemused and concerned that he’s seeing so much traffic on the “Covid Highway”.

“This is my eighth summer in Birdsville, I don’t recall having a single motel room [booking] for a night between Christmas and New Year,” Mr Fullagar told the ABC.

It has been a saving grace after what Mr Fullagar called a “very average year”, but he was concerned by the state of the two-wheel-drive cars arriving at the SA – QLD border.

“Please, do your research and be prepared,” he said.

The town of less than 150 people has welcomed this unforeseen influx in visits. However, not everyone appears to be aware or prepared for the dangers of a desert circumnavigation of NSW.

Police across the states are worried that casual travellers are taking the route, and have seen a number of motorists try to take on the outback track in sedans and small family cars.

A terrible surprise then, when the road runs out leaving just sand for stretches of the 517km route.

“A lot of people are under the belief that it is a sealed road all the way out from Brisbane down to Adelaide, but far from it,” Constable Stephan Pursell of Birdsville Police told the ABC.

So far, this year there has been a swamped campervan stuck on the road for about a week, and a car rolled over on the southern portion of the road.

“People think they can just drive out, refuel and keep driving, but the challenges are certainly there and you can be out there for a couple of days before someone comes past.”

This article originally appeared on the New Zealand Herald and has been republished with permission



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