AWOL Around Australia… East. Then West.

So, as I said we were due to head west from our home town of Adelaide. However, ever since our first dog Alby passed away we (Naomi) had been on the lookout for another pal for our remaining dog, Rollo. Now Rollo is 1.8kg/4lbs and thirteen years old, so we were keen to get a dog of similar size and age. We only look at rescue dogs, so finding a good match wasn’t easy.
We were contacted by a lady in Brisbane, Queensland, who had a suitable dog. This lady knew us and knew our situation, as she was the one who brought us Alby in the first place. So in a nice circular narrative, our new dog came through the same charity and even from the same pound as Alby did (I was in the Australian Army for a few years, and was posted to Brisbane for most of that time).
So that meant the small matter of driving half way across the country. As it worked out we were a little pushed for time, so we drove the 2000km in two days. No speeding, but only stopping for very short periods. The Cruiser allowing us to take more direct dirt roads than sticking to the highway, and just minimal bush camps – 15 mins set ups and pack downs, tops.
Lots of this.
Anyway, that type travel is not much fun, but it gets the job done.
Meet Roxy!
So new pup (10 year old) picked up, we could turn the truck back west, and take a less direct route at a more sedate pace.
We had been camping at the village of Marburg just outside of Brisbane, from here we took a mixture of backroads and easy dirt tracks, heading roughly south west. We drove up over the Main Range National Park, part of the Gondwana Rainforest that we had first encountered in Border National Park, back last year in northern New South Wales.
Here are some shots from the mornings drive.
Strange rock formation.
Queensland humour.
A nice little diversion and got us more back in the touring frame of mind. However, we did still have to start recouping some of that 2000km we had borrowed getting over here – our eventual destination being Eyre Peninsula, South Australia. Where I had done the planning for the first part, of the third part, of this AWOL trip.
So, we pounded some bitumen too.
Camped on the banks of the Dumaresq River, just outside of Goondiwindi. We had camped here before, again late last year.
Sunrise.
After studying the maps I couldn’t really find any side detours worth it in this region, so we just spent most of this day pounding more bitumen, albeit at more like 90km/h. As opposed to the 110 we were doing on the way over. Why? Because it means the fuel consumption of the 1FZ in the 105 goes from catastrophic to merely terrible. A side benefit (or maybe the main benefit) is you tend to relax more, take in more of the details, talk more, listen with more interest to the interview on the AM radio station (that’s all you’ll get for a lot of country Oz), etc, etc.
This attractive building is to be found in the town of Moree. Which is a green oasis in sea of dusty dry country (especially if you are coming from the south). Why? The town is supplied by water from the Great Artesian Basin, the massive aquifer that stretches across a large part of the continent. Last seen by us, bubbling out into the desert via the mound springs on the Oodnadatta Track. Also the old boy with the walking frame engaged us and was a wealth of information about the buildings in the town – interactions like this help make the country Australia experience.
Christmas Corvette.
On arrival at the town of Bourke, our journey would begin to deviate from the journey out here. Thinking that we probably wouldn’t be in this area again any time soon, we would now head directly west, rather than south west, further into the Outback. Incidentally, this is roughly the area we were heading to after Christmas before N got sick and we went home. Then, as now was the height of summer. A couple of Poms (English people) in the Australian Outback in the middle of summer, what could go wrong…?
So we took the Wanaaring road out of Bourke, marked on my map as all dirt, the start of it had recently been sealed. Then it went back to dirt, but good condition and not much slower than the black stuff. Familiar scenes soon greeted us.
Now the Outback is hot, dry, lonely, dusty, filled with many friends if you like flies and not without proper danger too. However, it has a unique feeling that gets kind of addictive, and I could feel my junkie starting to get his fix.
Anyway, it’s was N’s birthday. So we were headed for the only pub in the region, hoping for a cold adult beverage and something and chips!
 
The fierce heat of the day was keeping the local wildlife from being particularly active, which is always a concern driving at this time of day almost anywhere in Australia. So we made good time to the Wanaaring pub.
We quickly set up camp and headed over to the pub for a couple of drinks “is there a menu? “Nope” “two steak and chips?” “Should be ok” a bit of banter with the locals. Another couple rolled in, in a beast of a stretched 200 Series.
Wasn’t the last time we would run into these guys.
We had hit a bird on the way in, they caught some carnage too.
Gotta take your girl somewhere special for her birthday..
At least I could confidently say, this was a place that none of our friends had been to before, very exclusive…
Leather steak, a Wanaaring speciality. Hot chips were good though. You have the adjust your expectations out here or you just won’t get it… (the pub, was staffed by one, relatively young guy. Barman and cook).
That night was one of the hottest we’ve had camping, probably around 35 degrees C/95F. The air was totally still, almost no movement. Anyway so we sweated and panted the night out. The coolest part of the night was just as the sun came up, so we actually slept in relatively late, till about 0730. As we didn’t sleep much the rest of the night, this was good!
Wanaaring was a fairly typical Outback town
Despite this I was enjoying being back in the remote outback with its dry and dusty towns, wide open spaces and rich red dirt. The plan was to push through to the town of Tibooburra this morning. Then take stock of the situation, weather, fuel, road conditions, etc. All being well we would push on to Cameron’s Corner, where the corner of the states of New South Wales, Queensland and South Australia all converge at the same point. From there push down the Strzelecki Track to the north of the Flinders Ranges. Picking up our route from our Red Centre trip last year, then down to Eyre Peninsula from there.
Here is a map for reference. The pin is Cameron Corner, so you can see we were well off the direct Adelaide to Brisbane route by now (which is more of less a diagonal line between the two cities). Port Augusta is our eventual destination with Port Lincoln being at the bottom of Eyre Peninsula.
The road was good this morning. Pretty smooth and not much wildlife. How many other vehicles did we see? Not one.
With no warning the Cruiser suddenly slides sideways, I give it a dab of oppo and straighten her up. Then she has another slide, bit bigger this time, another armful of oppo and an “oh, darling!”from the passenger seat. Slowing we see a puddle ahead. The surface of the road looks completely dry, but as we pull over to the side it is apparent it is wet and muddy under the sun baked surface crust. We can see several puddles and parts of the road are hard to stand on, that slippery it is. As we gingerly drive on, only a few hundred metres later the road is back to dry, dusty, hard corrugations. Obviously the rain just fell very heavily, on that half a kilometre of road and none other…? Welcome to the Outback.
This actually ties in with what the farmers have been saying (on the AM radio, you get a lot of farming news!) that there is rain around, but it is very patchy, one farm gets it, his neighbor doesn’t.
Big country.
Anyway, we arrive at Tibooburra without further incident. Although it should be noted the road got progressively rougher the closer we got. As we transitioned from red dirt country, to more rocky terrain. We pass Mount Stuart on the way in, named after John McDouall Stuart who was the draftsman on Charles Sturt’s expedition. Stuart, would go on to be arguably Australia’s greatest explorer.
Tibooburra is an altogether more thriving town than Wanaaring was. Its proximity to Cameron’s Corner and the Strzelecki no doubt means it sees more tourist traffic. We go on the hunt for coffee, and strike gold at the Corner Country Store, they also make a mean bacon and egg muffin.
We chat with some of the locals. I have a powwow with N, as I’ve changed my mind about the route. It has taken us 3 hours to do the 200km to get here this morning, and looking at how far we have to go means we’ll spend another night if not two in the blazing Outback summer heat. Also the roughness of the roads concerns me, considering the amount of damage, short and long term, the truck sustained after doing the Oodnadatta Track last year. I had good reason to suspect the Stryzlecki Track, also being one of SA’s Classic Outback routes, would be similarly hard on the Land Cruiser.
Not to mention we would need to top up fuel here, at $1.60/L. So that plan will have to keep for another day. It will make for a great trip in the cooler months, maybe out of Adelaide with a few mates.
So, I just write all of that to explain some of the factors in route decision making. I find sticking steadfastly to a plan just doesn’t work out here. You have to be willing to adjust to circumstances as you find them. On the flip side it is worth doing some research and having a rough plan, otherwise you can just wander a bit aimlessly. Sounds sort of idyllic in theory, but I find a balance between the two, and a willingness to change anything and everything as required is what works best in the real world.
So we headed down the road to Broken Hill. Part bitumen, part dirt. Part rough goat track along side the road crews putting in the bitumen sections. With some ‘Mars-scapes’ along the way to boot.
I originally thought we might make the country SA town of Peterborough tonight, but with the roadworks sections slowing our average, and the fact that I could feel the effects of a lack of sleep coming home to roost, meant we adjusted to the small hamlet of Cockburn just outside of Broken Hill as our overnight stop.
As we approached Broken Hill the road has a few twists and turns in it. One of which we had to take evasive action on, as the semi trailer coming the other way misjudged his speed through the bend and was rapidly understeering across onto our side of the road, truck and trailer… I slowed and pulled off while he sorted himself out. One of those don’t want to think about the consequences of being 200m further down the road at that time…
Cockburn turned out to be a let’s say, authentic outback experience. The few locals left trying to give their town a reason to cling on. It would have certainly given the Swiss girls camping next to us (in a rental Hilux camper they were returning from Brisbane to Alice Springs, cheap-ish way to see the country “the $100 of free fuel Hertz gave us, didn’t get us very far!”) a genuine ‘Mad Max’ feel.
C’mon old man, keep up!

 

Travellers rest. $10/night.
Making morning coffee on the railway sleeper table.
Another night of broken sleep as high winds hit during the night, as a cold front finally blew through. At about 0130 one of our awning guy rope buckles finally gave up after 12 odd years of Australian sun and wind, and with it noisily went the awning. Oh well, just the way the cookie crumbles sometimes, I got up to fix that up, and peg down the extra guy ropes for the tent too.
Original guy rope vs new for comparison.
And with that, we were back in South Australia.
Thanks for reading.

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