Some places we've been and some places we're going.

Archive for the ‘Winter Migration 2015’ Category

Adelaide – Saturday

It was very relaxing having space to stretch out, a little lounge, a table and chairs already set up in their special spot, ensuite etc. No rain fell overnight and it promised to be a nice sunny day. We took our time packing our things back into the car then went to check out the junction of the River Darling and the River Murray. Over the years more and more water has been taken out of the Darling for irrigation so it’s nothing like the big old river and is quite muddy looking. The Murray too loses a lot of its flow for the same reason but South Australia has lobbied for years to get what it considers to be a fairer allocation of water coming down. Many water licenses have been sold back to the government so the condition of the river has improved. Standing on the tower today it wasn’t possible to pick out the mixing of the different coloured waters but a large river cruise boat came down the Darling just as we arrived so maybe that stirred the waters up.

There was plenty of bird life along the river. After we’d watched the birds for a while we went back to have breakfast at the Artback Cafe, we sat out on the upstairs balcony and enjoyed the scenery. We hadn’t made up our minds where our next stop would be though it had to be south and west. Leaving Wentworth we headed towards Mildura but when a sign came up pointing towards Renmark we took it instead and then knew we were going home today.

The rainforest of Far North Queensland was behind us and so were the drought affected areas of Central and Southern Queensland we were now in the irrigated areas. Acres of Almond, Citrus, Avocado and Olive Trees were around us as well as all the Grape Vines. At the Fruit Fly Checkpoint the people in front of us had to surrender their lettuce and other fresh foods but all we had were a couple of sprigs from a Pepper Tree. I didn’t expect it but I had to hand them over! After our required stop at the Bakers Shop in Renmark we continued until I saw a well stocked farm gate stall. We bought a big bag of Blood Oranges, and another of Mandarins then I had to buy half a kilo of dried Apricots, they looked just too good to pass up and they were much cheaper than I can buy in Adelaide.

Between Wentworth and Renmark we’d started seeing Gazanias beside the road, they’re a South African plant with lovely bright colours but they’ve escaped from home gardens and are now considered a pest plant in bush areas. I can’t help but admire them.

We arrived home about 4 o’clock and as usual it’s lovely to be back to the comforts of home and exciting to see the fruit trees blossoming etc but also disappointing that our jaunt is over. It’ll be another year before we can go off on a trek again.

Thanks for coming along for the ride. 🙂

Wentworth – Friday

 

Last night I suffered from other people’s negative stories about camping in Wilcannia, every time the chair creaked I imagined it was someone reaching into the camper. Eventually I realized it was just the wind blowing the canvas against the chair but I’ve been tired all day! Wilcannia seems to me to be a town struggling to rebuild itself after its loss of identity as a flourishing river port. Other towns seem to have found a way to promote themselves which results in increased tourism and prosperity. There are lovely old buildings in Wilcannia but also a lot boarded up, I hope the efforts the town is making pay off for them.

Despite our disappointment with the River Run we continued on that way. Some sections of the road had ruts and holes or stretches of greyish soft sand but there were also good hard packed sections. The car is covered in dust but we haven’t been worried by it getting inside.

We stopped to view the “Menindie Lakes” which are now stretches of dry ground and then the grave of Dost Mahomet. He was a cameleer with the expedition to cross Australia from south to north in about 1860. He survived because he was one of the four left behind at Coopers Creek when Burke, Wills, King and Grey continued north. The party of four came back to Menindie and he stayed there, his grave is on the site he chose to say his prayers every day.

Pooncarie was our next stop where we checked out the old wharf which doesn’t exist anymore but there was an interesting sight. Across the river was a boat suspended from a tree, it showed the river level during the flood following Cyclone Yasi which devastated Mission Beach and other parts of FNQ. We were astonished when we went to buy a drink to see about 20 motorbikes at the shop and even more amazed when we realized they were a group of mostly BMW riders some of whom had been on the BMW trip to Tasmania in November. Here we were in Pooncarie a town with a population of 80, in the middle of nowhere and we ran into people we’d been on a ferry with last November!

With very dark clouds covering the sky we headed straight for Wentworth having decided to hire a cabin for the night. The views at Willow Bend Caravan Park are lovely despite the fact all the Willows have been removed for environmental reason. It’s by far the nicest river setting we’ve stayed at.

In New South Wales almost back into South Australia

In New South Wales almost back into South Australia

Wilcannia – Thursday

Today we set off on our first stage of the “Darling River Run” which was from Bourke to Tilpa via Louth. It was a dirt road but had been recently graded because the races were on at Louth and they knew lots of people would be using the road. A few caravans were using the road but they wouldn’t have had any problems.

Louth was a lovely surprise for me, Shindy’s Inn had a wonderful display of bush memorabilia including a fantastic bike. I loved it. The publicans were away fishing “at the Top End”, (Northern Territory for those unfamiliar with Australia) and the person working in their place wasn’t able to tell me the story of the bike other than it belonged to a shearer. I love it because there is so much evidence of the owner on the bike, like the hessian used in different ways, his stitching of it, the wooden stick used as a support for his cup, his billy, toolbag, cigarette tin and axe. In the hessian bag are tins, maybe they held food and most importantly his shears. There are boxing gloves on the back and I know that in the 1920s it was common for men to try to earn money in boxing matches.

On the walls were displays of rabbit traps, mincing machines, saws, horse bits and pieces etc. It was a great place.

After Louth we headed towards Tilpa where we intended to stay. The road was dirt but in good condition. There were lots of cattle some just wandering carefree across the road. Although we were on the River Run we hadn’t seen the river which was a bit disappointing so when we did glimpse it as we passed Alex reversed back down the road until we could get a pull off. There was no need to worry about other traffic we hadn’t seen any and none appeared then. In about 2010 we watched a TV programme about two men going down the Darling in a tinnie, they came to the conclusion it was less of a river and more of a muddy creek and we agree. Most of the time you can’t tell it’s water until the sun glints off it or there are ripples because it’s the same colour as the banks.

There were great swathes of little flowers, yellow, mauve, purple and white.

To say Tilpa was disappointing is putting it mildly. We’d read that they had the world’s best hamburger at the “Trading Post” but we could only find the pub and the school opposite. There were hordes of kids playing in the school so I asked a woman who came out of there but she said she didn’t know the place at all. She was part of a two day get-together for children and their parents who live on remote stations and learn in isolation, they were all camping behind the school. I asked another man and he said there was no Trading Post but you could get anything you wanted at the pub. We gave up and had a hamburger at the pub which was nothing like the Shindy’s Inn at Louth. We decided not to stay in Tilpa.

The road from Tilpa to Wilcannia was the roughest section with clear damage caused by vehicles using it when it was wet. Lots of deep gouges, run offs at the edges and also other rocky sections. The cattle grids also needed care because the road base didn’t meet the grid on the level. We arrived in Wilcannia about 4:00, found the camping ground and discovered we just had time to collect the key to the toilets & showers from the Council Offices. The time it took I did think Alex must have been filling out an application to erect a temporary residence on Council Property!

As we sit in the camper surrounded by big Gum Trees we can hear water falling over the weir, a very nice setting.

Back to Back of Bourke – Wednesday

The Tourist Info Centre gave us a brochure full of Mud Maps for the area and today we decided to use them, they were great. The first one we used was to the Fort Bourke Stockade, although the original stockade has been destroyed, probably washed away by floods there is still an old smaller one there. On the way back we stopped at the cemetery which is divided into religious sections like Catholic, Presbyterian, unsectarian then ethnic sections – Chinese and Afghan.

Map 2 was to the Historical Lock & Weir, the only lock on the Darling River … the lock doesn’t function these days.

We went back into town after that for some refreshments and we saw people coming to the shed beside the cafe. They were waiting for an old Crossley 2 cylinder diesel engine to be started up. It was enormous and I expected great thumping to come from it but that wasn’t the case, it just made a gently whooof, whooof, whooof sound. It’s first job was power generation in Sydney 1923 -1938 and it’s last job pumping for irrigation until 1964.

After that we did the walking Mud Map to see the historic buildings of Bourke. There are lots of impressive old buildings in excellent condition but my favourite is the one designed by …… which incorporates very clever passive cooling, perfect for the Bourke climate.

We still hadn’t had enough of the Mud Maps so then we did the Wharf River Walk, which wasn’t a walk but a drive and as we came back towards “home” we took a track down to the old bridge just in time to see the sidewheeler, Jandara, heading away from the bridge back to its mooring near the Caravan Park. There was plenty of time for us to get back there to see it coming in to dock.

Tomorrow we are starting the “River Run” a series of dirt roads that follow the River Darling from Bourke to Wentworth. We intend stopping overnight at Tilpa, Menindie then Wentworth and are not sure about internet access at either of the first two.

Back to Back of Bourke – Tuesday

After a poor night’s sleep caused by the Air Conditioner in the van behind us kicking in and off all through the night I was ready to move on. We were on the road before 9:00 and it was a very uneventful drive. We saw a few feral goats, a couple of Eagles, maybe a Bustard, some Brolgas and lots of Emus. Our brunch stop was Cunnumulla but it was very disappointing after our Mitchell experience. There was however a very big statue of “The Cunnamulla Fellah” which I found far more impressive than the song which inspired his creation. His face really makes you think he’s someone you could run into around here.

The road from Cunnunmulla to Bourke had very long straight stretches, after a while we started to measure the distance between bends but the longest ones were behind us and we only measured a 7 km straight. There were quite big areas with purple, yellow and white wildflowers.

We booked into Kidman’s Camp again and have the same site as we had when we were on our journey up. This will be a two night stop.

Charleville – Monday

With our cable ties still firmly in place we left for Roma where BJ had recommended someone who could do a proper job on the brake. We were out of our cabin and at the place for 8:00, luckily for us they agreed to check it out. After Alex explained the problem they simply got on with the job and after about an hour the receptionist just printed out our invoice, the job was done and cheaply too.

Mitchell was our lunch stop and it was another nice little town with MASSIVE salad sandwiches at the Bakery. I hurt my arm trying to move one of the outside chairs they were so heavy. Just blocks of wood with small wrought iron backs. I’d love to know what the wood was. There were plenty of big hats and big dogs around the town.

We didn’t see many animals today, not living ones that is, only an echidna and a couple of feral goats but an awful lot of roadkill. In other places the roadside vegetation has been burnt and I wonder if that’s an attempt to keep native animals away from the road. I wish there was some way of protecting them.

I was very keen to see the “Vortex Guns” here in Charleville so as soon as we’d set up the camper we went to find them. I’d imagined giant muskets or something but of course they were nothing like that. Although it’s easy to laugh at the madness of thinking you could make rain fall by shooting into clouds the people were desperate for some drought relief at the time and would have thought anything was worth a try. Besides, Clement Wragge was a renowned meteorologist at the time so wouldn’t he know best?

We’d been warned that this wasn’t a good Caravan Park to stay in, far too crowded but we decided to check it out and I’m glad we did. We have a nice big site, the amenities are well maintained and the people very friendly so it seems fine to us. Alex has repositioned the car though so he doesn’t have to see the Dump Point!

There are some South Australians here who have extended their stay twice already just to avoid going further south and back to colder weather.

 

 

The Queensland section

The Queensland section

Roma – Sunday

Part 1 -Injune

There were a lot of very stiff and sore people about this morning so it seems the unfit get caught out often. We’re fine but maybe in 48 hours the stiffness will set in. Maybe.

It’s a lovely sunny day, I’m sitting at the Info Centre in Injune and Alex is down the road guarding the Bush Mechanic’s ute. I don’t use that term disparagingly, he really is a mechanic who works out bush at a mine site but when his mum (the cook at the Roadhouse) heard that we were looking for a mechanic she contacted him and he came in to help us, even though it’s Sunday and he was on his way back to work. (The reason we need help is that  a very nasty clunking noise was coming from the camper wheel when I reversed into a parking spot.) He’s searched through his supplies but can’t find a bolt we need so he’s gone to a friend’s place to see if he can get one. We’ve lost the bush from the brake mechanism, the very bush the Caravan service guy took so long to get in Adelaide. The disappointing thing about this scenario is that the things he’s “fixed” have all had follow-up issues so we’ll be finding a different caravan service place. The good thing is the Bush Mechanic says it’s the best made camper-trailer he’s ever seen!

Injune is a nice little place, there are laser cut sculptures of local people lining the street with their stories told on a nearby plaque. I’ve enjoyed reading their stories. Cowboy hats and mining vehicles are abundant here.

Part 2 – Roma

BJ, our Bush Mechanic, was very disappointed he couldn’t get the necessary bits to fix the camper but he got us on the road again using cable ties and a bit of wire. The only time he showed any frustration was when the last split pin broke hence the bit of wire. We’re now in Roma, BJ gave us the name of someone who should be able to fix it. Because we want to get to the place early we decided to take a cabin at the Caravan Park. There was a Country and Western singer performing in The Bull Ring but he’s already left and it’s not even 6:30.

The Cook can relax a bit tonight, he has plenty of light and space as well, I’m sure, there will be a few cooking programmes on the TV to get him inspired!

Oh my goodness, he’s using what he calls “a tool of the devil” ie the microwave!