This is a trip report of a 6 day overland trek through outback Australia.
Part 2: Time to travel overland.
Those clouds that made such a dramatic sunset last night delivered a small amount of rain. Never as much as the people who live up here would like to see. Enough however to make for a cold and damp pack up (it is winter here in South Oz), no complaints though, we had spectacular weather the last two days and today would be about making some miles.
We said our goodbyes to Stony (not a short exercise, but an absolute pleasure – a more passionate, and off-beat man for this region you could not find). Both vehicles packed back up and we headed out. An easy drive back to the ‘ghost’ town of Beltana – last time we were here about 5 years ago this could be called a ghost town proper, amazingly it was definitely more inhabited and has had some extra infrastructure built. With seemingly the State Government and the residents/volunteers making it the tourist attraction it deserves to be.
In the town we got chatting to a couple in a Hilux camper, who warned us about ‘terrible’ Old Beltana Road heading north out of the town, we thanked them for their warning. As we climbed back in the vehicles and drove off, the UHF crackled to life as the The Accountant confirmed that would be the road we would take? He knows me too well.
In fairness it probably wasn’t much fun in a top heavy camper, but in well packed 4×4’s it was no worries.
Stopping at the remnants of the old railway that had made Beltana such a thriving community, till it was moved 20km west, sealing the town’s fate.
Looking back towards Mt Gill where we got such spectacular views yesterday, we definitely got the luck of the draw there.
Plenty of water around for this part of the world.
Onto the small town of Copley. This little place has never let me down over the years, whether it be for a new tyre, fuel or just some tasty baked treats. We only needed the latter two today.
It is no stretch to say there is some serious baking talent in country South Australia.
Fuelled up. Then a short drive up to the town of Lyndhurst, to turn north-east, up the Strzelecki Track
Now many of Australia’s classic dirt roads are slowly being paved over (especially when they have something like a gas field at the end, such as this one), which is a shame. However a track like this I don’t mind so much, it’s too wide and too heavily trafficked to feel like an adventure. So the bitumen stretches help the miles go by a bit more smoothly.
Plus there is not a whole heap to see along the way, but if you’ve never been through a desert it’s worth the trip.
For the Star Wars landscape.
Also, way greener than last time were came this way, so they must have had rain this far up also.
I’ve told the story before but it is worth re-telling. I believe the track should be renamed The Readford or Redford Track, Strzelecki can have the desert (and a few other things) but this track was all Redford, and an amazing achievement for a white fella through this country (if somewhat dubious motive…):
In 1870, Readford was working as a stockman on Bowen Downs Station near Longreach in Queensland. Realising that remote parts of the property, which stretched some 228 km (142 mi) along the Thomson River, were seldom visited by station workers, he devised a plan to steal some of the station’s cattle. With two associates, George Dewdney and William Rooke, he built stockyards in an outlying part of the property, and gradually assembled a mob of about 1,000 cattle, which he then took from the property, all without any of the station workers realizing what was going on.
Readford knew the cattle would be recognised from their brands as being stolen if he tried to sell them in Queensland, so he headed for South Australia through the Channel Country and the Strzelecki Desert. Only ten years earlier, explorers Burke and Wills had set out to cross the continent along the same track, and died in the attempt. As a droving exercise, it was a remarkable achievement, as anyone who has travelled the present-day Strzelecki Track will know. Three months and 1,287 km (800 mi) later he exchanged two cows and a white bull for rations at Artracoona Native Well near Wallelderdine Station. They then moved the remainder of the mob via Mt Hopeless, and sold them for £5,000 (2009:A$250,000) at Blanchewater Station, east of Marree.
Workers at Bowen Downs eventually discovered the yards, and the tracks heading south. A party of stockmen and Aboriginal trackers set out on the trail, many weeks behind Readford. They eventually reached Artracoona where they recognised the white bull.
In April 1871 Readford married Elizabeth Jane Scuthorpe at Mrs Elizabeth Nevell’s home in Lewis Street, Mudgee, NSW. The couple had at least one child, a daughter, Jemima Mary Elizabeth, in 1872. Readford was apprehended in Sydney in 1872, and faced trial in Roma, Queensland. However, the jury members were so impressed by his achievements that they found him not guilty, whereupon the judge, Charles Blakeney, remarked, “Thank God, gentlemen, that verdict is yours and not mine!” In response to the verdict, in July 1873, the Government shut down the Roma District Criminal Court for two years but rescinded the order in January 1874.
Anyway, she’s a big old stretch of road.
We finally turned off. Now heading easterly, this section I hadn’t done before, and it was treat. The white sandy plains mixing with rolling red earth dunes. I climbed one for a few photos.
Plenty of water through this section.
The Accountant pushed on. Keen to get to Camerons Corner, the corner of the three states (Queensland, New South Wales and South Australia. He is yet to find a sleeping set up that really works for him and had been fatigued all day, after the rain we had last night. I let him crack on whilst I faffed around with a few more photos of the water in the desert, knowing it would probably be quite different next time we came this way.
Water means lots of bird life too. Stunning flocks of Budgerigars, flashing across the sky.
We arrived at Camerons Corner, you can camp for free. Wind was up now. The Accountant considered a room, but no dogs allowed, then set up shop inside the Rover.
We’ve spent enough nights in the OzTent to know if you set it correctly, it will handle most things the Australian weather system can throw at it, and so it would be here.
Use the 4×4 as a wind-block and a lashing point, plus this desert sand is perfect for hammering pegs into, good and deep.
Slight hiccup along the way…
Must have come off the pole last night and the pole has then ripped the canvas. Luckily I had both items to repair anything.
If it can’t be fixed with zipties and duct tape, it can’t be fixed…
Sunset over the pub.
We had a great night at the pub with the bikers and boomers.
By the time we got to bed, there wasn’t a breath of wind. Which is how these things tend to go.
A peaceful night. Meant we slept well, only punctuated to have a stare at the expected, yet unrelentingly spectacular Milky Way.
Only a short drive, so no rush in the morning. Tailgate breakfast.
Quality control crew were keeping a close eye on things.
I wandered over to chat to one of the bikers planning to head out, “how does she handle fully loaded?”
“like a drunken Elephant”. Fair enough. Still cool though.
Here goes nothing…
Now crossing state borders in Australia pre-COVID was about as risky as staying in, watching Netflix and ordering take-out. However, one of the ways COVID has been managed to great effect in this country is limiting the travel between states. It had looked at bit dicey in the lead up to this trip with a Victorian man unknowingly infected travelling (legally) through NSW. However, it seems he wasn’t very infectious, so as much as we knew the threat of border issues was minor, although we hadn’t had internet for 4 days, and with COVID that can be a lifetime. Whatever, I’m not one for turning around unless absolutely necessary.
N getting up close with the native animal artwork.
Two different solutions outback travel.
Again we set our own paces through this section.
More and more sections of the Australian wilderness and being fenced off to re-establish and preserve the native species. Good.
Giant Numbat taking on the Cruiser (we survived).
The drive took us through Sturt National Park, named after another early white explorer. We took a detour to Fort Grey Campground, and a wandered over to check out Fort Grey Basin.
I’m fairly sure this much water would be the exception, rather than the rule.
Note – J M Stuart as a party member on this earlier mission, who would go on to be a first rate exploration leader in his own right (the same Stuart from Mt Stuart we passed earlier in the trip).
Yet more water on the road once we were out of the National Park (if it seems I’m making too much bother about the water, it is because it’s a pretty rare experience too see an abundance of water in this type of country).
As we got near Tibooburra, it was back to the sort of terrain I remember, coming in from the other direction. Last time we were here.
Some again, good coffee, from the Corner Country Store. A bit of faffing trying to find where we could camp, especially with the wind picking up. However, soon sorted.
We were nice and early with only a short drive this morning. Plenty of time to get set up correctly. Pitching the OzTent for a windy night and enclosing the awning for a nice calm area to hang out. Did I mention this thing is the near perfect for camping in Australia?
It should be noted this ‘town camp’ has some dark history:
I hate history sometimes. It is often brutal. Only now are we beginning to understand how much we could have learned from the traditional custodians of this land, about how to manage it, to get the best out of it. Don’t question what benefit change will bring you, question what you might lose.
So I settled in for a few adult refreshments and that refreshing thing you do with no reception or connectivity – reading, remember that?
One of the big things I got out of our big trip was how satisfying reading is compared to phone scrolling/videos, etc. So I make a point of doing it more, especially out here.
A plant that looks like Christmas itself, out in the desert (I bet it doesn’t taste or smell anything like Christmas).
For dinner we take the short trip back into town. To The Family Hotel (photo taken the next morning).
Which has a somewhat bizarre mural inside.
The pub was busy, as there is a big road-crew in town, but lacking the vibes of the previous night. Good night’s, you can’t force them, they just happen or they don’t.
We de-camped back to the camp and had a few whiskies round the fire. Tomorrow would be a big day one way or another so it was good to hit the hay early.
Pretty smooth pack up. The old techniques start to flow after a few days on the road.
We had a pal to keep us company packing up – spiders tend to like it under the tent. Perhaps a Funnel Web Spider in this case, it didn’t hang about in the open once we packed up.
Another exceptional bacon and egg roll/coffee at The Country Corner store before hitting the road. We were heading due south, to the large country town of Broken Hill.
A few stops along the way.
The wind was relentless on the drive, with 1/8 of a turn of steering needed in a straight-line and the engine revving 500rpm more than normal for a given speed. The Cruiser likes a drink at the best of times, so this was the equivalent of a Friday night lock in till the early hours.
Broken Hill was our first reception since Hawker, 5 days ago. With that brought a weather report for our original intended destination – Menindee Lakes. With up to gale force winds predicted. I always say have a plan, but be prepared to change any or all of that plan as required. With the internet also came the news that some rogue Victorian’s had escaped their locked-down state and travelled through NSW, so the borders were starting to look dicey.
So in the end it was an easy decision to head west rather than east, back to South Australia.
The Accountant had IMPORTANT accountant stuff to do, so he was going to push for home tonight. Not before we had a quick lunch and admired the interior of the Palace Hotel. Featured in the film Priscilla Queen of the Desert and hosts the Broken Heel (geddit?) drag queen festival.
We said our goodbyes to The Accountant, he wound up the wick on the Range Rover and pushed through to Adelaide. We ambled on, thinking we would take another night before heading home.
For some members of the party it was all a bit much…
So we trundle on, realising that we are not going to get to any of the camp spots I had in mind, at any sort of reasonable time. Again I change plans, and bail to somewhere I seem to have a habit of bailing to. Peterborough Caravan Park. Maybe because I know it has three grass camping spots you can’t put a caravan on, that are nearly always empty, and so it was.
So we could have fire, cook steak and potatoes. Chat to the old boy next to us trying to get back overland to Tasmania (through locked-down Victoria).
I haven’t done any food photos this trip, as it’s been dark and I’ve been cooking for three. Anyway, the new Coleman burner has gone great guns, a single tank of fuel has lasted the whole trip.
Did I mention I love camping?
A misty yet easy drive home the next day. This was definitely one of the best trips we have done, it had a bit of everything. Warraweena is a stunning destination that cannot be underestimated, then a good long distance road trip, gives that proper overland adventure feel.
Thanks for reading, cheers.