Unhitching the van at the old windmill we headed into Birdsville for fuel and in hunt of Big Red – the legendary huge sand dune featured on every 4WD magazine at some stage. Some quick directions from the friendly local store and we headed out of town. 

“Head out of town, you will come across Little Red and just follow the track around to the right to Big Red.”

Little RedWe found Little Red about 30km out of town, after a quick walk to the top to check out what was on the other side of the dune (a really step descent in one section to avoid) it was up and over without any issues.

Over the other side we followed the track around to the right and found ourselves facing a rather large flood plain area around Lake Nappanerica. After a lot of driving around in circles we found a side track that took us around the flooded area along the side of a dune.

We continued to follow this track for many kilometers, Big Red was nowhere to be seen, this had us scratching our heads wondering how we missed such a big sand dune. The track continued all the dune around the end and back down the near side. Returning to where we started we almost gave up on finding Big Red.

Big RedBig Red sand duneWhen returning to Little Red we found a little track around to the right just before Little Red started. So we followed it a few hundred yards and low on behold there was Big Red. We made our way up the dune without any difficulties, I admit we took the easier eastern side of the dune, but since the steeper western side lead down to the flood plains we had just avoided the easy way would have to do.

Tea AnyoneBack in Birdsville we hitched up, refueled and headed to Boulia. Somewhere between the two towns we found a nice spot to microwave a meat pie, watch a little bit of television while keeping warm around the kitchen oven.

This morning I woke in a state of panic… on the roof I could hear what sounded like rain… the skies were clear last night surely this cannot be rain. After trying to kick start my brain into a functional capacity and listening carefully, I confirmed it was indeed rain, very scattered, very spasmodic but rain none the less.

The thought of slick mud tracks, heavy rain and knowing that we were about 15km from the main thoroughfare road had me worried. After an amazingly quick pack up we were on the move, the rain had obviously just started as the track was still dry and dusty, but the heavy looking clouds felt ominous.

Dark skies on the road to BirsdvilleAs we returned to the Dig Tree turnoff we were faced with a decision – turn right, continue onto Birdsville (some 450km further) and hope the rain does not get in our way – or turn left head back to Innamincka (around 70km) and wait it out. We looked at each other, looked at the sky. Dark clouds lay ahead of us, but they where moving quickly… Birdsville or bust was the choice.

So heading north we continued passing the Cordillo Downs Rd entry near Arrabury station, a track we might have considered as it was a much shorter route (some 200km) had of the weather been more favourable.

Road gives way to tacky mudTacky mud roadThe rain had been a little heavier around here with some still very tacky floodways, one in particular looked like any other bit of road, until the crusty surface was broken giving way to thick clay like mud. Thankfully I was maintaining a little momentum (probably too much in hindsight) that pushed us through, made the reflexes twitch a bit though.

Further on we found another road crew doing some more road building. Past which we where presented with quite a few floodways that contained a reasonable amount of water. Since this section of road had been recently rebuilt they did not pose a problem.Floodway

We headed into Haddon Corner and found a couple of sand dunes to conquer. As far as sand dunes go these two where quite timid, but add a 20ft caravan into the mix and things get interesting. First attempt lacked enough momentum, so I backed the van back down the dune for a longer approach. Second attempt was successful traversing the dune with ease. When we reached the marker the area was flooded, but I did manage to cross the puddles and sign the visitors book.

Old windmill camp area at BirdsvilleFrom Haddon Corner we headed for Birdsville via the Birdsville Developmental Road. After a quick lap of the town we settled for the night at the old windmill just down the from the Birdsville Racecourse.

After studying the maps and road condition websites we charted our route from Tibooburra. The plan as it stands is Cameron Corner over the border to SA, towards Merty Merty homestead turning right onto the Strzelecki Track, into Innamincka to refuel and camp.

Road to Cameron CornerWe pulled off from Tibooburra not quite sure what to expect. The road was nothing like I imagined it. I expected a couple of wheel tracks and lots of sand, however the roads are wide and well maintained. You could quite easily manage them with a 2WD vehicle in the dry.

Of course there are sections of corrugations and lots of rocks that get sprayed everywhere (and inflict a fair amount of damage) and you have to be wary of the wheel rut marks created from where people have driven the road when wet. Seeing how deep some of these ruts are makes it apparent why the authorities are so keen to close roads.

Cameron Corner StoreDog FenceAt Cameron Corner we spent a little time checking out the Dingo Fence and jumping around between SA, NSW and QLD at the border marker. We stopped in at the Corner Store and refueled with the most expensive fuel so far, $1.85/L thankfully we only needed 20 liters odd to top the tanks back up.

Once we joined the Strzelecki Track there was quite a lot of traffic and we often passed road gangs laying sections of new road – which basically looked like dumping a whole heap of dirt, packing it down, wetting it, packing and rolling it some more… voila new road.

Moomba RefineryThere is a lot of oil and gas extraction around this area, as we came over the rise near Moomba the spectacle of a massive oil and gas refinery was an amazing contrast after so much of so little.

We arrived at Innamincka just in time to catch the ‘Trading Post’ (the general store) we had about 10 minutes to spare.

Since the phone lines were down (and had been for some time with no means of contacting Telstra) there was no EFTPOS, thankfully we had some ‘emergency’ cash on hand to cover the fuel – otherwise we would of been it a spot of bother with the next leg of our trip being the longest without fuel, some 520km which with these road conditions is stretching the friendship in regards to fuel usage.

Innamincka Trading PostSince the phone lines were down, it also made contacting our at home contact a problem, how to report back that we where OK and our schedule was on track, especially since it was going to be at least 2 days before we could make contact again. Luckily they had Internet access, satellite I assume, and we were able to fire off an email.

Sunset at Burke and Wills Dig Tree CampsiteWhile at the store we also paid for our parks day pass and camping fees, which turned out to be a complete waste of money as the spot we had picked to camp at was closed. So we missed out on Burkes grave, closed due to the previous bad weather.

We continued on to Burke & Wills Dig Tree, where we paid the ‘honesty box’ and spent the night.

Road to TibooburraToday we hit the dirt and headed towards Tibooburra, the last of the tarmac for several days. Studying the road closures and weather forecasts we were worried that we might find ourselves stranded for a few days if the rain fell and the road turned to slush.Lake PattersonThere is a lot of nothing around this area, but the nothing is interesting all the same. We were surprised to find that Lake Patterson and Salt Lake contained water – surrounded by dry sandy scrub. The last thing I expected to find was such a huge water mass.

We spent the night in a quaint caravan park, we looked like the only guests other than a ‘permanent’ van.

picp1040856.JPGpicp1040847.JPGAfter returning the Living Desert Gate key to the visitor information centre we headed out towards Silverton to go on the Daydream Mine Underground Tour. Daydream Mine is an old silver mine which opened before mining began in Broken Hill. Mark would never have made it as a miner in those days – he’s way too tall! Not a tour fo those who are claustrophobic….We went down three levels in the mine, donned in our helmets and headlamps. Lucky we had those helmets coz even I smashed my head on the roof about a dozen times.

Next it was onto the town of Silverton (about 25km out of Broken Hill) to have a look around. Quite an interesting town. Several movies have been filmed around here. Check out http://www.silverton.org.au/ if you want more info. There are a few old buildings (some turned into art galleries), a museum which was quite impressive, a pub with a replica of Mad Max’s V8 Interceptor parked outside and even some donkey’s who were quite interested in looking into our car!

picp1040912.JPG

picp1040913.JPG

picp1040920.JPG

picp1040943.JPG

We then came back to Broken Hill to spend another night in the Van Park before heading into the never-never tomorrow.

 

We left the Meadow Glen Rest Area this morning and traveled the remaining 420km to Broken Hill. We drove around the town of Wilcannia on the way for a bit of a look. We were going to need more fuel but we decided to continue on and use what we had in the Jerry Cans rather than stopping!

We arrived at Broken Hill around lunch time – the first stop being the tourist information centre to see what was happening around town. We decided that we would go and see the Living Desert Art Sculptures just out of town at sunset, so we paid our $10 entry fee and a $20 deposit for a key to drive right up to the sculptures rather than walking the few kilometres the other way. For the rest of the day we checked into the Lake View Caravan Park as some clothes washing and battery charging was needed. I always feel much more at ease when we leave the van unhitched in a van park rather than at some random place!

When we saw that the sun was starting to descend we jumped in the car and headed off to the desert sculptures. The sculptures are amazing, and with the sunset in the backdrop they look awesome. Well worth a visit. The shots shrunk for the blog don’t really do it any justice – you’ll have to look at our full set of pictures at some stage!

picp1040654.JPGpicp1040662.JPGpicp1040685.JPGpicp1040746.JPGpicp1040700.JPGpicp1040791.JPG

After a slippery start to the day thanks to consistent overnight rain turning the fairly firm camp site into a mud pan, wepicp1040600.JPG headed back to Nevertire, Nyngan and onto Bourke.

They make the roads fairly straight around these parts, just black tarmac into the distance. The area looks very flat out to the horizon but when travelled some parts are quite undulating.

We stopped in at the tourist information shop at Nyngan after a lap of the main street, picked up some information on Broken Hill – but did not find anything too interesting on Bourke.

Moving on towards Bourke we were still amazed at how green everything looks, a nice downpour last night created a few floodways over the road – all small and shallow – but its easy too see impassable roads should the rainfall be extended. The runoff gullies along side the road were nearly always filled with water – not what we expected this far inland.

After checking road closures at Bourke it was determined that the unsealed road between Bourke and Wilcannia was closed to Louth (a 99km stretch from Bourke) which meant we had to stick to the bitumen down to Cobar then across to Wilcannia – the heavy rain last night making the road impassable and a lots of others on the list 4WD only.

We found a nice rest area just west of Cobar for the night – thankfully the bull ants where inactive this evening.picp1040609.JPGpicp1040612.JPG

HippoWhen in Dubbo a visit to the Western Plains Zoo was on our must do list. So after arriving at the Zoo we were required to unhitch the van in the designated area.

ElephantNot really sure exactly what the purpose is to being able to ‘drive’ around the park – most exhibitions require parking the vehicle and walking a few hundred metres – sure some exhibits are along side the road, but many are not. So as you head around the Zoo you end up driving 500m, stopping and parking, walking a loop of say 500m then repeating the process.

A lot of people hired bicycles – which looked like the best way to go – weather permitting.

LionHighlights of the day included the Asian Elephants having a swim and the informative African Elephant talk and seeing the Hippo’s have their feed.

By about 2pm the rain had returned so we ended the Zoo tour and re-hitched the van in the rain before a few last minute ‘large town’ purchases.

We headed out of Dubbo towards Bourke, turning off the route to spend the night at a rest area just south of Warren.

After a midday rising we gathered our belongings, thanked our hosts (cheers C & L for the hospitality), repacked the caravan and made tracks out of Sydney suburbia towards the Blue Mountains.

After avoiding the toll roads on the way out we stumbled upon a Krispy Kreme and succumbed to purchasing an assortment of tasty doughnuts.

It was fairly slow going through the Blue Mountains to Katoomba along the Great Western Highway – not so much due to the steep inclines – but the consistent rain, slow cars and populated area speed limits. It took at least 2 hours to travel the 120 odd kilometres.

We stopped at Lithgow for some lunch and from here the road opened up an we made good progress to Bathurst, Orange, Wellington and finally Dubbo. We pulled into a familiar free camp area and chose to interpret the ‘no camping’ & ‘no caravan’ signs to mean along the waters edge.

Today we caught the bus into the city for some general sight seeing – while there was still light showers it was quiteSydney Harbour Bridge enjoyable to wander around the streets – the rain kept some of the ‘other’ tourists home keeping the bussle to a minimum.

We stopped in at the Marietime Museam which is a massive display with many different galleries – which are all FREE – visiting the ships or submarian does attract a fee however.

Beer Can BoatI did find a boat that I would happily help build… or at least assist in providing the materials.Sydney Opera House

After wandering around Darling Harbour, we caught a river ferry to Circular Quay. From there we walked around to the Sydney Opera House – something I had never seen close enough to touch before.

From there it was back to our friends for a beautiful Sunday roast, a few refreshments and some good conversation.

« Previous PageNext Page »