Joined May 2015 Message
  • Day56


    June 28, 2016 in Australia ⋅ ☁️ 10 °C

    We continued next day to Charleville with lots of water lying beside the road and flat areas of the countryside. We drove through undulating areas with mulga scrub and still red soil almost everywhere. As we neared Charleville there were some floodways with water flowing over the road about 6 inches deep. The caravan park we checked into had a creek at the back which had been quite high a couple of days earlier as they’d had 100 ml of rain over 2 days. We enjoyed happy hour around the campfire. The next day we had a look around town and the historic house museum as well as a walk along the banks of the Warrego River. Charleville has a Cosmos Centre and conducts viewing sessions in the evening. We had hoped to take part but unfortunately the skies were too cloudy but we were able to listen to a very entertaining Aboriginal woman give a talk on how the indigenous people interpret the stars and relate them to the seasons etc.

    The next day we drove south to Cunnamulla. The roads were wider and there was a lot of traffic heading north, especially caravans. The weather was becoming decidedly colder – no wonder everyone else was heading north! I’ve never seen so many dead roos on or beside the road. Must be because of the number of road trains which travel that route. We must have seen at least a hundred emus feeding in areas near the road too. The rain in the area has left some of the plains looking more like lakes. Cunnamulla is a pretty town with rose gardens in the main street and a large statue of the “Cunnamulla Fella” overlooking them. We went to the info centre and Artesian Time Tunnel exhibition where we learned lots about Australia’s artesian basin. There was also a display of old artefacts and a textile exhibition with some lovely felting and weaving. The caravan park which was situated on the Warrego River had good amenities and a great campfire happy hour.
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  • Day56


    June 28, 2016 in Australia ⋅ ☀️ 28 °C

    We drove on sealed but mostly very narrow roads the next day heading for Quilpie. The rain eventually caught up with us, lightly at first, as we arrived at the caravan park in town. We noticed there were artesian spas next to the amenities block so decided to take advantage of them, sitting out in the drizzling rain in the hot, bubbling mineral water. Overnight the rain was constant and heavy and next morning there were “lakes” everywhere in the park. Thank goodness I brought the gummies!

    By the morning the rain had eased and we decided to do a day trip to Eromanga (pop. 45) which has been made famous because of the 95 million year old dinosaur bones which have been found in the area. Also the area is famous for its opals and the oil and gas fields found there and is also the town furthest from the ocean in Aust. We spent an interesting hour at the natural history museum near town where we had a guided tour and viewing of some of the ancient bones which are still being painstakingly cleaned and prepared for preservation. All the dinosaurs have been named and the first found named Cooper, after the boy who stumbled on the piece of petrified bone, is to be eventually recreated as a replica when they construct a building big enough to house him.
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  • Day56

    Windorah 16/6 TO 17/6

    June 28, 2016 in Australia ⋅ ☀️ 23 °C

    We set out from Birdsville along the Birdsville Development Road (the same road we drove in on). Rain was predicted and we were determined to reach the bitumen road near Windorah before it set in. As we drove along we saw a huge Aboriginal artwork depicting a serpent on a hillside near the road. It was made out of different coloured stones from the local area and must have stretched for about 100 metres. Continuing on our way we made the short detour into Betoota, a town with a sign saying – Population 0. There was just the ruins of an old pub – not really worth the detour!! The road now had some short sealed sections but the dirt sections weren’t too rough and looked like it had been recently graded. Knowing we wouldn’t make it to Windorah we started looking out for suitable places to camp for the night and late in the afternoon we spotted a lookout high on the top of a mesa which was only about 3 km off the road so we decided to stop there for the night. We had great 360 deg views and even a long drop toilet. There was a picnic table set on a large concrete area with a cover over it so we decided to park next to it so we had nice concrete to step onto as we exited the van. However the wind sprung up during the night and the shelter beside us made loud banging noises all night. Outsmarted ourselves again!!

    The next day we drove the last 100 km of dirt road and then on very narrow (only one car width) road to Windorah. The countryside varied from plains with Mitchell grass to areas of Mulga scrub and still very red sand dunes here and there. There were some large mesas and mountains in the distance. We heard from some fellow travellers at a rest stop that it had started raining in Birdsville on the previous evening and that already the roads had been closed so we were very lucky to have left in time. The dark clouds were following us as we headed towards Windorah. Just before the town we spotted a swag roll which had fallen off a ute which had passed us about 10 km earlier so we picked it up thinking the owner may still be in town. Alas, he’d left a name and phone number at the roadhouse but despite several attempts we weren’t able to contact him. The caravan park was all dirt but was only $15 a night and had nice hot showers. There was not much more than a few houses, a pub and a roadhouse but they did have an info centre! There was one little old house (not much bigger than the average kitchen) which had a small front verandah with a couple of old couches and an old chap who just seemed to sit on a chair in the doorway all day! Apparently it used to be the courthouse back in the day.
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  • Day46

    Innamincka to Birdsville 13/6

    June 18, 2016 in Australia ⋅ 🌙 17 °C



    We headed off to our next destination – Mutawintji National Park where we arrived early afternoon and after getting set up at the basic campsite, which had flush toilets and solar shower, we headed off for a walk to Homestead Gorge (by the way we saw no homestead there).It followed along a dry creek bed of quite white sand with only a couple of small waterholes. There were lots of wild goats and roos to be seen and in some places the rocky outcrops were quite high. In one spot there was a large rock overhang with aboriginal art. The following morning we walked to Mutawintji Gorge which was much more impressive with very tall sheer rocky sides and more aboriginal art in an overhang. There was a large waterhole at the end of the gorge which was really picturesque.

    We then headed north to Packsaddle which is really just a pub with accommodation for roadworkers in the middle of nowhere. However they had a couple of powered campsites at the side so we snapped one up. The roads leading up this way were sealed in places, but mostly dirt. We enjoyed the hot showers there and had a meal in the pub which is full of old memorabilia and one part looks like an old shearing shed. The next day we continued up to Tibooburra, stopping at the small town of Milparincka late morning. It is really little more than a ghost town with a pub, historic court house/museum and one or two houses. Then we made our way to Tibooburra over gravel and sealed sections of road. The countryside was still mostly flat with some ranges and mesa hills in the distance. Tibooburra means “Lots of Rocks” and the caravan park there had huge piles of boulders behind it so we climbed to the top to watch the sunset before heading to the Family Hotel, which has murals painted on the walls inside, and enjoyed our dinner there. We also checked out the other pub in town, The Tibooburra or Two Storey Pub which has recently been renovated so its usual display of hats hanging from the ceiling were missing. These old country pubs are really interesting places!

    The next morning we were on the road again heading for Cameron Corner along mostly dirt roads which had been damaged in places by vehicles driving on them after recent rain but there was usually a couple of wheel tracks down the centre to follow. We were now in Gibber Plain country alternating with red sand dunes and in one place we drove across a huge dry claypan. We saw only five cars in two hours of driving. Most of the countryside is tinged with green because of the rain which fell in the area a month or more ago. I get the feeling we’re seeing this countryside quite differently to what it normally looks. We arrived in Cameron corner early afternoon after opening the gate in the Dog Fence to drive through into S.A. and driving past the Corner Post, then into Qld., we booked into our powered site at the caravan park next to the Corner Store. Frank was quick to organise his game of tri-state golf after we enjoyed the famous Corner Store steak sandwich for lunch. He played three holes in each state – a golf course like no other with red sand fairways and sand-scrape “greens”. The greens were actually made of oiled clay. The Corner Store/Pub had a huge collection of signed caps pinned up on the walls so we left one of our own! There were also lots of $5 notes pinned to the ceiling – a quirky thing where they put a drawing pin in your note, wrap and twist a 20c coin inside and you throw it up so it sticks to the ceiling. All proceeds go to the Flying Doctors.

    Next day were were off to Innamincka in S.A. making our way over the 260 or so sand dunes! There was still green growth on the red soil in most places. We arrived in Innamincka late in the afternoon and set up camp right beside the Cooper Creek. What a great spot!! The creek was full and flowing quickly and looked like a river to me. The locals told us that it had flooded a month or two earlier and the spot where we camped was about three metres underwater. We spent two nights there and during that time we went to see all the Burke and Wills points of interest – the spots where both had died and King’s marker tree. Innamincka itself has only a pub and a general store.

    On our way north we stopped in to see the famous Dig Tree where Burke’s ill-fated party missed their base camp party by only about 9 hours. We unhitched our van near the turn-off and drove in to see the Dig Tree site before continuing towards Arrabury Homestead where we turned off towards Cordillo Downs Homestead and historic stone shearing shed. The roads were alternating corrugated, stony and sandy and pretty rough in places. After stopping to have a look at the shearing shed which has not been restored but has thick stone walls and a curved corrugated iron roof, we continued on the punishing road until dusk. We knew we wouldn’t make it to Birdsville in one day and as there was no other option we stopped by the road in the middle of nowhere – literally. We were on a huge gibber plain – just red/brown stones and flat plains as far as the eye could see – no trees. We had some dinner and turned in and were rudely awoken by a car speeding past at 11.30 pm on the rough dirt road only a few metres away. We’d hardly seen a vehicle all day! Can’t say I’d like to repeat that exercise – you feel pretty vulnerable being alone in such an isolated place.

    We arrived in Birdsville about lunchtime next day after more punishing, rough stony road and checked in to the caravan park for a couple of nights. They have the monopoly I guess so can charge $40 a night for a dirt site but the showers and toilets were large and clean and there was a laundry so I was able to catch up on some washing. The weather was warm, even at night. The following day after Frank had done some repairs we drove out to the Big Red sand dune which is a must-see. Of course Frank decided to drive the Pajero up (I walked up to take photos) and he made it up quite easily. There were other 4WD’s and trail bikes up there too. Driving down the other side and up again were a little more challenging but not really a problem. That’s another thing ticked off the bucket list!! Also that day we drove out to see the Waddi trees which are ancient trees which have extremely hard timber, and also walked around an Aboriginal Dreaming site which was quite interesting. Birdsville itself has only a population of about 100 and is situated on the Diamantina River which was quite high and flowing strongly also. The streets were really wide and the buildings sparse. The Birdsville Hotel is on the prominent corner and we enjoyed dinner there one night.

    As Heather said we drove to Mutawintji National Park on a dirt road that was almost like a highway. The solar showers worked well as it had been a sunny day and we had a nice hot shower each by torch light. (separately of course).

    From Mutawintji we had to drive back to the Silver City highway then turn north. The highway had only just re opened due to heavy rains from Broken Hill to north of Birdsville. The road was quite bad and you could see where cars and trucks had carved up the road badly.
    The Packsaddle roadhouse ( pronounced “Pub”) charged $20 a night for a powered site which included a buffet continental breakfast.

    We arrived at Cameron Corner after again negotiating some badly chopped up sections of road which luckily had side tracks formed to get around the worst sections. Our first sight of the boggy claypan was after cresting a Sand Dune and believe me it made a certain orifice tighten until a side track around the mud came into view. Tick a game of golf at the Tri State golf course off the bucket list. The main club used was the Sand Wedge, with the longest hole being 240m and the shortest 56m. I scored well, well over my handicap. The next day I put 5 bucks up on the ceiling for the RFDS after 4 attempts.

    Cooper Creek was interesting as there was a lot of information about the various tree species around the area. In fact we camped under the shade of a coolabah tree by the Cooper Creek! The road from Cooper Creek to Queensland border was one of the worst so far as it changed from white gravel to red sand to large rocky sections, lots of rocky sections.
    We spent a nervous night in the middle of nowhere about 40Kms north of the old shearing shed with absolutely nothing around but the sound of the wind across the rocky desert and the distant howl of the dingo.

    On arrival in Birdsville we discovered the water pipe to the tap on the drawbar had been knocked off by rocks and the handle to the Jockey wheel was also smashed off. Big Red wasn’t nearly as challenging as I had been led to believe although I think I took the easier route up the Dune.
    Birdsville is holding a rock festival called the Big Red Bash in July and there will be more than 6000 people attending. That should catch the attention of the 100 odd locals.
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  • Day34

    Broken Hill 3/6/16

    June 6, 2016 in Australia ⋅ ⛅ 11 °C

    HAY to BROKEN HILL 2/6/16 to 7/6/16

    We spent an enjoyable day in Hay where there are some nice parks and walks along the Murrumbidgee River. We saw the old Goal, Railway Station and historic homes. We also went to the Shear Outback Museum where we saw a shearing demo in the old woolshed and learned a lot about the history of sheep in Australia and the shearers hall of fame.

    Next day we set off for Wilcannia, again following the Long Paddock Route which is where drovers used to take their stock (north – south through outback N.S.W.) Once more we drove through very flat plains with just low salt-bush and hardly a tree in sight. There were some sheep and cattle grazing amongst the salt-bush as well as many emus and a few roos. After a lunch stop at Ivanhoe the bitumen ended and we drove on the dirt until Wilcannia. There were areas where it was completely flat to the horizon and not a single tree to be seen. We saw many wild goats and at one stage two emus which were close to the road decided to make a last minute dash across the road. Fortunately Frank had slowed down but we missed them by millimetres!

    In Wilcannia we stayed at the Warrawong caravan park which is situated on the Darling River just out of the town. We enjoyed drinks and nibbles around the campfire at happy-hour and met more happy travellers. The brand new amenities block at this park was the best we’d ever seen with the most spacious showers – like ensuites. (we grey-nomads judge van parks by their toilet blocks!!) Wilcannia is a typical outback small town – always a pub on a prominent corner in the main street and a handful of historic buildings which are usually restored. A lot of the shops and dwellings had bars on the windows and the town has a bit of a reputation for crime among a certain section of the community but has improved a lot in recent years.

    The road to Broken Hill from Wilcannia was sealed so it was an easier run. We booked in to the caravan park in Broken Hill for four nights as there was quite a lot to see in and around the area. Our first full day was spent visiting places of interest in the town. We went to see the Miners Monument which is situated on top of the Line of Lode which is the mountain of rubble which has been excavated from the mines over the years since mining began in the 1880s. The monument displays the names of all the miners who have died on the job over the years. We then went to the Royal Flying Doctor Service visitor centre where we had an interesting tour of the hangar and communication centre. We headed on to the famous Bell’s Milk Bar (authentic 1950s style) where we enjoyed a great milkshake and spider before continuing on to the Silver City Mint and Art Centre where they had a great display of local art and craft as well as the “Big Picture” which is a 360deg painting of the local landscape which is the biggest acrylic on canvas in the world. It was really well done and gave the sensation of being right in the outback. We finished off the day by watching the sunset at the Living Desert reserve which is on a hill just out of Broken Hill where there are a number of large stone sculptures. Art is really big in this part of the world.

    The next day we drove to Menindee (110 km from B.H.) where there are a number of large lakes which are all dry at the moment. This is a big problem for the people of B.H. as it is the later supply for the town and the reason they are dry is because the Darling River which normally flows into them, is not flowing at the moment because it’s being dammed up in Qld. for the cotton irrigation and is a very political issue around here. We did see the old river red gum where Burke & Wills set up camp and left some of their party during their ill-fated exploration.

    ON our last day in Broken Hill we drove out to Silverton which is the small town which was once a mining town like B.H. but now has only a population of 50 and is famous as the site of many movies like Mad Max 2 and Priscilla and many commercials feature the old pub there. The streets were wide dirt and the buildings old. We had lunch in the famous Silverton pub and walked around and looked through one of the galleries in the town. Once again, art is BIG. We really enjoyed our Broken Hill experience.

    From Hay we drove up to Ivanhoe where we stopped for lunch and I had a chat with the local Copper about the road closures and conditions up to Wilcannia and Menindee. He advised to take the Wilcannia rd due to recent rains.
    About 5km out of Ivanhoe we were on the dirt again and loving it (not). There were 4 or 5 sections where we had to take to side tracks created to go around damage from the recent rains.
    On the road from Wilcannia to Broken Hill we stopped for lunch at a rest stop and drove into a nice spot and began to sink into the soft red dirt. I kept going about 20metres to get through it and ended up with around 50 millimetres of mud on the wheels and inner mudguards. That’s after 20metres we have another 3000k to 4000k to go.
    Because the land is so low and flat around Broken Hill the roads have a lot of Dips and Floodways which is ok in a car but towing a van we will have to travel more slowly.
    We were also warned against driving after dark due to the aggressive Roos and Emus.
    Could someone tell Max that the “world famous Hotdog” at the Silverton Hotel (near Broken Hill) gives the Warnambool speedway Hotdog a run for its money.
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