Prelude:

We had planned a trip this April/May 09 up to Far North Qld but alas the FNQ wet season had other ideas,with most of the areas we were heading to flooded. Poor Karumba is likely to be isolated for at least 8 weeks.

Bedourie and Birdsville are also flooded due to the floods up north moving south. As the saying goes all clouds have a Silver lining, not sure about all but this one does. Flood waters from Birdsville are moving down into the rivers that fill Lake Eyre. Note sure when this event is likely to happen again so we are taking advantage of the situation and going to head South to Lake Eyre.

Lake-Eyre

Salt

Our trip south will also take us through, Bourke, which I might add is currently in flood and a disaster area. (early Feb) Bourke is on the Darling River, which flows into the Menindee Lakes and then into the Murray River, another Silver lining. Then from Bourke to Broken Hill, Silverton, Menindee Lakes, through to SA and onto Lake Eyre. After Lake Eyre up the Oodnadatta Track, up to Oodnadatta, across to Cooper Pedy. We decided to reverse this, went to Cooper Pedy first, and then up to Oodnadatta etc, then back down the Murray River region with a tour along the Murray River. It is sure to be a fun filled trip.

Apex-Beach-5

Chris has been flat out doing renovations in the van, putting in the back area of the van a cupboard/bench area that will house a washing machine, Waeco Freezer as well as other bits and pieces. Getting it all ready for our big trip of 5 ½ weeks.

Day 1 – 8th April 2009

We left home at 5.45pm and made very good time to our rest stop several hours away, at Cooyar. It was a bit hard to find in the dark. Once we had set up we went for a walk to check the place out as it has a tick in the Aus camps book. Can see why, the area is very grassy with lots of trees and a huge area. There is also a swinging bridge that does indeed swing.

Swinging-Bridge

Day 2 – 9th April

We were up at 5.10am and on the road by 5.25am. It was rather chilly and dark. The road all the way to Hebel is very bumpy and flat. We had a Wedge tail eagle fly right in front of the widescreen and then circle next to us, really low, it was amazing site, of course no camera in hand. We also saw some dead dingos hanging from a sign; umm maybe it was a warning for the other dingoes???

From Hebel to Brewarrina has nearly 100kms of dirt road. We decided to go this way as it was the most direct and was 100km shorter than going via Lightening Ridge. Boy talk about dust, there was lots of bull dust on the road and in places over a foot deep. The van and car slipped and slid in it, Chris had to slow down and put the Jack into 4wd all the way. Would not recommend this route and certainly not in a standard car. We saw several lots of emus, and the terrain is very flat with very few trees.

The van was having a good old dust bath, so we decided to stop and check all was ok. For the first time on any dirt road we had a lot of dust in the van, all we could do was close the door and leave it until we stopped for the night. We went back to the car and saw 7 emus had come to check us out. They were very wary moving backwards and forwards. I grabbed the point and shoot camera which was nice and handy. They were moving away at this stage. Chris who was on the other side of the car told me to come around to him, as I rounded the corner of the car there is Chris with his hand in the air bobbing up and down, I couldn’t stop laughing, but you know what it worked. The emus came over to check it out, they got fairly close. What a crack up.

Chris Attracting Emus

Why was Chris doing this weird behaviourWell we had read on the internet a while ago how aborigines would hunt Emu. When they saw some they would hide behind rocks, bushes etc. and use their hand as a head and bob it up and down or wave something at them. The emus being a curious lot would come over to check it out.

Emus

We have stop at Brewarrina for the night some 700 odd kms from this morning, our biggest day of the trip. The rest stop is next to Barwon River with Egrets and Pale headed Lorikeets.

Pale-Headed-Rosella

Talk about a mess, dust was everywhere; heaps came in the back window. Chris has been saying for a while vans shouldn’t have back windows as they always get the dirtiest on the back. We thought we had done it all and went to have showers. I open the cupboard where my underwear is and they were covered in dust. I managed to salvage one pair but everything else I had to get washed. It’s like a Chinese laundry in here with things hanging off cupboards doors etc.We have been on lots of dirt roads and got the van way more dusty and dirty than it is now and we have always been impressed with how little dust gets in the van. There are a couple of spots we know about but have never been a big issue. BUT we have never hit bull dust before; we have heard wild stories about the stuff and boy are they all true.

In my cupboard there are 4 holes about the size of 10 cents pieces where wires come through for most of the caravan fuses which are all open to the environment and dust. Luckily Chris bought a small tube of silicon so problem now fixed. We are considering sealing the whole back window and not opening it this trip and sort it out when we get home.

N – Spring Hill Rest Area

Spring Hill Rest Area – T, B, F, N, M, BR, D. 74 km W of Wilcannia or 122 km E of Broken Hill. This stop is pretty close to the road, so was a bit noisy. It was also pretty full, so get in there early. It’s on the straight bit of road between Broken Hill and Wilcannia, so there is not much choice in places to stop. Still good place to talk to other travellers. Rating – 2.5

Day 3 – 10th April

We had a good night sleep and it was very quiet. Brewarrina is an Aboriginal town so to be honest we did have a few concerns about staying there but we did check the town out and it is a nice little town clean and tidy, they should be proud of their town. The local Aboriginal police man came and had a chat and was very friendly. I guess it doesn’t mean it would be good every time.

Brewarrina-Rest-Area-3

We were on the road by 7am. We stopped at Bourke for water and hopefully gas as they do sell it. We stopped at the only servo we could find and I ran in and asked them only to be told the Caltex doesn’t open on the weekends.

We got some rain on the way to Cobar, it is a much bigger town and we were able to get both fuels. We have seen heaps of emus on the drive, I also saw a Major Mitchell Cockatoo, and we saw a field of cockatoos and have seen heaps of goats, especially on the road from Cobar to Broken Hill. I thought they were feral at first but then there were so many and they look to be in good nick. Other travel folk think they are feral.

We had planned to stop near Wilcannia but all the rest stops were too close to the road and very open. The best one we saw was about 57kms East of Wilcannia. We kept checking out rest stops as we headed to Broken Hill and have stopped at one about 120kms out, along with a lot of other travellers. We did the walk around and had a chat to many of them.

The road from Cobar to Broken Hill is very straight, very few trees and vegetation. It doesn’t look like they use the land for anything apart from the goats and a few sheep.

Day 4 – 11th April

Our night spot was quieter than we thought it would be, might be the main rd into Broken Hill but it’s a quiet road.

The first 100km into BH is so flat and only little bushes for vegetation. We saw a Wedge Tail eagle twice, both times very close to the road eating road kill. One flew off only a meter above the ground. Also saw some more emus. Now the full on driving is done the cameras will come out and be handy to grab. The last 20km into BH was hillier. As you come into town you pass Junction Mine. Also old miner’s cottages line the street as you enter the main area very tiny and all very close together.

The town itself it build right next to a mine, as you drive down the main street and look up side streets you look up them to see these great mounds of dirt quite strange. The rest of the shops are in the other direction.

We called into the info centre which was very busy and didn’t have a lot. Found out what we wanted to know and left. We got gas, not too badly priced here 68.9 cents. We then found the local Woolworths and got our fruit and veggies as you are not allowed to bring them into the area as it is a fruit fly zone. BH and areas are on South Australia’s time 30min behind us.

After filling the fridge we headed out to Silverton home of Mad Max 2 and a number of other movies and TV adds. We are staying at Penrose Park the only place you can stay, it’s on 65 acres of mostly dust and trees bit like a decent size road side stop. There are 4 toilet blocks and 1 shower block, you can spread out and choose where you want to camp. We are too far away from the amenities so will use our own at $9 each it’s a bit steep for what you get but we have little choice, we are booked in for 2 nights. It was established in 1937 as a recreation area for the region miners and their families.

We have had a drive around Silverton, very strange town, things are very spread apart. The buildings are mostly made of stone with a lot of history; several of them have been turned into art galleries. We called into the Peter Brown Gallery, the one with the V Dub beetle cars, all painted up with emus. His limited prints were very unique but expensive at $195 framed. We didn’t realise at first they charge you a gold coin to enter, we had a quick look and left while she was serving someone, else. The next gallery we went to go in had a big milk urn at the front door saying the same thing. We thought this was a bit much, shops don’t charge you to enter so they can sell you something. So we didn’t go in and didn’t bother with any more art galleries.

Silverton Gallery

We stopped at the Silverton Hotel with a replica of the Mad Max 2 car out the front, as Chris said it’s an old bomb. The hotel was interesting with lots of photos of cast of movie crews and actors also of any actor that has ever visited the place. Of course lots of pics of Mad Max 2 and Mel Gibson.

Silverton Emu Bug

Emu-Bug

About 5.30pm our time we went back into Silverton, the clouds were looking good for a great sunset. First we dropped in at a coin carver place where the guy carved out the back of coins only leaving the emblems, takes about 3 to 4 hours work really nice but very expensive at $175. We then took some pics of the Methodist church that was originally a Presbyterian church but the Methodist had a greater following and when the Methodist church blew down in a storm the Presbyterian Church sold them theirs. It was a really nice building. We then went back to the beetle gallery place and took some shots there, all this before the sun set, when the sun did set the sky was pretty good. The lighting on the buildings was great giving much better light than earlier in the day.

Church at Silverton

Day 5 -12th April

There was some sort of reunion in the big hall at the Park and boy they had loud music until well after midnight and then they all started yahooing for a long time after. I put on the Jon Gabriel mp3, 3 times so we should be skinner now, hee hee.

We were up at 6am to get some sunrise shots, it was rather cool. We whizzed into Silverton and headed straight for the Silverton Hotel to get some pics with just the mad max car but there was a troopy parked next to it and other cars along the side. There is a building next to it that is made out of tin with a windmill so not an original building but gee it came up nice with the early morning light. The hotel looks a treat too, all glowing nicely orange pity about the cars. We headed back up to the Peter Brown gallery where we could see the morning sun lighting up the cars and building with a nice orange glow. Unfortunately there were a lot of shadows, so afternoon light is better on them. We will try again tomorrow morning for the Silverton Hotel.

New Dawn Silverton Hotel

There are many ruins around Silverton one was in the middle of the local cafe and another building. Oh the local cafe had a sign up saying entry was free, maybe it’s a go at the galleries for charging entry.

The current population of Silverton is 60, at its peak in the mining days it reached 6000 at the end of 1885. As BH larger mines were established Silverton fell into decline. Many of Silverton’s buildings were transported to BH, this is why only a few on the original building survive and why they are so spread out, with buildings plucked from here and there and moved into BH.

This arvo we went to Silverton Cemetery, it was quiet moving see all the old graves where people died so young in the harsh conditions of early times. The cemetery is on 42 acres and it seems as if people were buried according to their religion as there were different groups and well spread out. It appears they are keeping the cemetery of today fenced off from the older cemetery.

We then took a run out to Mundi Mundi lookout where you look over the Mundi Mundi plains; this is where Mad Max 2 was filmed. It’s flat red dirt with only a few toughs of grass. 8km out of town is the Umberumberka Reservoir the water was clearer than we expected and looked very inviting for a dip, with the hot sun beating down on us, but alas no swimming is allowed. This reservoir was built to provide water to BH.

Old-Church

We have had a nice rest this arvo and we also pulled off the vent behind the back of the fridge on the outside of the van so Chris could get access up underneath a shelf that is there to allow air flow for the fridge. We could see where they had used silicone but they had left gaps where the dust had got in, so Chris sealed all that up. We also took the plunge and sealed the back window, we did it in a way that we can unsealed it (we hope) we went get home and sort it all out properly. This is the window we had trouble with water getting in. We have a lot of dirt road ahead from Cooper Pedy along the Oodnadatta track etc. We really didn’t want that dust in the van again.

The reunion people are still here in fact there seems to be more, tonight we will put the Gabriel CD in the player that just keeps on playing, we will be wasted away by morning.

We have had the genie on this arvo charging up batteries, not noisy as all, in fact Chris thinks we should run it all night and let the hum put us to sleep and drown out the noise from the reunion. We put it on last night to cook the veggies in the micro and it was wonderful and quick.

We plan to go back into Silverton for tonight’s sunset. We will hook the van up tonight, ready to head out for a sunrise. The sunset was a bit of a flop.

N – Lake Pamamaroo Campground

Lake Pamamaroo Campground – B, F, D. 16 km NE of Menindee. Turn onto Main Weir Road 8 km N of Menindee. Dirt road with lots of corrugations. Camp area along the lake, it’s a long area but not very wide in places so can be close to the dusty road. The lake was dry when we were there but would be awesome camping when the lake it full. This is a popular spot during holidays. Toilets can be found at other near by campgrounds. Rating – 3

Day 6 – 13th April

Well last night was quiet, the reunion people left early evening. We were up early again for a sunrise, this is getting to be a bad habit, one I must break, after all I don’t do mornings, I have a reputation to up hold. We went back to the hotel but the troopy was still there so we did what we could. The lightening was excellent. We had hooked up the van the night before so we had an early departure from Silverton.

We headed into BH, looked around for water to fill the tanks, they keep their water under lock and key. We eventually found a park that had a tap but no handle; luckily we had the universal tap that our good friends had bought us, so we managed to get some. We then went up to the Line of Lode which is a miner’s memorial. Which was closed until 10am, which is 10.30 our time, there is a seat that was made especially for the giant miner, so we had fun sitting up in that swinging your legs made you feel like a little kid. I sat up there while Chris put the camera on a tripod on a timer, then he would run like mad jump onto some bricks that were there to help you get onto the seat and then jump onto the seat and sit next to me just in time for the camera to take the shot.

Little Kids

After we finished playing little kids we had a look around the outside before deciding we would go check out the Sculptures at the Living desert which is approx 10km out of BH. You can get a key from the Info centre to drive up to the sculptures otherwise it’s a 40min walk, also this gives you access when the main area is closed so you can get sunset and sunrises shots. Entry into the Living Desert is $10 so we thought we may as well get the key in a few days and camp out that way for the night, there are plenty of places to pull over and we saw a motor home doing just that.

Miners Memorial

We went back to the Line of Lode which still wasn’t open so we had morning tea before going in. We were the first ones in and headed straight to the memorial through the gift shop, we didn’t realise until we came out that they want you to pay for that as well $2.50 each. The memorial lists all the miners who have died since around 1885 up until present, not many present of course. It listed the year they died, name and what they died from.

Line of Lode #2 Line of Lode

BH would not be on the list of CMCA RV friendly towns. We then headed to Menindee which is 110km from BH. The road is on the verge of desert, again we saw some emus. We took what appears to be the main road into the free camping areas along the Darling River about 8kms out of Menindee, 12km of dirt road that had a few sections of severe corrugations that had the teeth chattering on their own.

We are camped on the Burke and Wills camp ground up on a bank overlooking the Darling River, very nice and finally some decent size gum trees. We have just checked the area out today.

Burke-and-Wills-2

We chatted to some local people from BH or the Hill as the locals call it. Found out that they are going to put a wind farm on the Mundi Mundi plains at Silverton, 500 windmills.Lake Pamamaroo is totally dry; apparently it had water in it 5 months ago. It is a big lake but is very shallow. Lake Wetherill has water in it and is the main storage for water for the Hill. You can take a sunset boat ride which we may do one day; the lake has lots of gnarly dead looking trees that would make great sunrise and sunset pics. Lake Pamamaroo also has the gnarly trees so we are going to get some sunset pics there tonight. Lake Menindee has been dried up for well over 15 years. There is another dirt road into Menindee that is 25kms but the road sounds much better. We will take a run into Menindee tomorrow and check the place out and see if it’s a better route out with the van.

Lake-Pamamaroo-Sunset