I had been watching the weather all week. As more torrential rain struck Brisbane, 2000km away on the east coast. Causing more flooding and damage to an already flooded and damaged part of the country. This rain was making it’s way south-west, through outback Queensland and then to northern New South Wales, specifically the Darling River. The Saturday before I was due to leave to do the Darling River Run, all the National Parks that I was planning to visit were shut for a week due to (expected) flooding.
Time for a Plan B. Out with the big map – there are three vast National Parks in north-west Victoria, I had been to Murray Sunset before but Wyperfield and Big Desert NP’s would be new to me. 4 days, 3 nights, sounds about right.
So, east from my home town of Adelaide to Loxton in the Riverland. Then over the border into Victoria, and due south-ish through Murray Sunset NP – camp there first night. Then onto Wyperfield NP for another night. Finally into Big Desert state forest for a final night. Truck’s already packed (of course), new dampers fitted, let’s go!
I am yet to post a time on the Nordschleife, but the outright lap record would no doubt be in trouble if the Blue Meanie ever got to Germany with these beauties fitted!
Onto Costco to fuel up, no joke at the moment – everywhere else is $2.15/L. Still better than some other countries. It does occur to me that my timing for going touring in the worlds least economical vehicle could be better, ah well it’s only money…
Onto what is colloquially known as ‘the breakky servo’ such is its range of questionable but tasty breakfast options – not a meal I regularly eat these days, but I am officially on holidays.
Uber Eats guy – whilst waiting for my tasty
Big Kahuna Burger breakfast burger a guy came in to collect an Uber Eats delivery, same guy came back in five minutes later with the order..? Odd. Didn’t think much of it till I’m walking out with my order and there is Uber Eats guy with the bonnet up on his Hyundai Getz. I put my breakfast in the truck as by now he’s trying to push his car into a parking space. I jog over and help him push the car – the battery is flat he explained, despite being only 3 months old. I note there are two child seats in the back of the car – this area has a large immigrant Vietnamese community, this man’s English is good but not perfect. So he’s probably a fairly recent immigrant, with at least two young children to support. Picking up some lazy fucker’s meal as it’s probably the only job he can currently get and now his car won’t start… How’s your Monday morning going?
He has one of those ‘1 shot’ lithium jumper battery but it’s done… asks for help to push start the car. I tell him to hang on and go and pull a Thumper out of the Cruiser and thump the Getz back to life – we have a quick chat about what might be causing his battery issues, I say “don’t stall” and we go our separate ways.
As I wander back to my fully equipped Land Cruiser, knowing I’m about to drive off purely for recreation for the next few days, for which I will be paid for my time, during which I WILL WANT FOR NOTHING. It is not lost on me to be thankful for the life I live. His life is hard, much harder than mine and this is a preferable option to whatever he came from. Think about that, I did, a lot.
An uneventful bitumen drive up to the Riverland. Note; the Engel fridge doing sterling service in the back of the ute, as we take the punt over the river.
The River Murray.
Finally over the border and a hard right, heading south, into Murray Sunset National Park.
Now I had been down this track last time, but it was dark then. So I had no sense of how open this part of the park was compared to the denser Mallee scrub further south.
The sun was out and I felt like the only person for miles (which I probably was as this was a Monday), it was great to be out again in the Blue Meanie just following tracks as they wiggled through the wilderness.
Big sky country.
There were literally hundreds of kangaroos. Sorry, phone camera is not much chop for photographing them.
I eventually managed to run out of smaller tracks and took one of the main tracks that ran through the park. The shadows were getting longer and it was time to head to camp.
A quick stop at this old airstrip first.
On arrival at camp there was a group of about 6 four wheel drives already set up around a large fire. A fire that they were fuelling with a dead tree that they had dragged through the campsite, leaving large gauge marks in the ground – also a tree that had been placed where it was by the rangers to stop people making ad-hoc new tracks in and out of the campsite. You got 6 vehicles, including a 70 series ute and you couldn’t bring in your own firewood? Or even pick some up on the way here…?
I didn’t interact. These aren’t my people.
Fortunately I was able to set up well away.
This set up is fast, 15 maybe 20 mins. I was just using foam tiles and my 2/3 length hiking mat for a mattress. No need for an awning, sun’s nearly gone. Fire, chair, table. Simple.
I had been clearing out the loft at home and had brought some old car magazines to read, this is Performance Car, the magazine that kind of became Evo magazine. This article, written by English journalist David Vivian about (mostly) being driven (and shocked) by Stefan Roser in a Ruf 911 was what inspired a highly impressionable 17 old me to put RUF before the first three letters of my name ANT – as I thought a Ruf 911 was just about the coolest thing on the planet, still do (although an Alpina BMW is right up there too). Fortunately for me no one else (wolrdwide!) seems to want that combination of letters, so it’s stuck all these years. Anyway, it’s still a great read now, 29 years (!) later.
Dinner was what seems to be my traditional first night meal now. Peri peri marinated chicken, just cooked over the fire, minimum fuss nor attention needed.
Doesn’t get in the way of other important business.
Good to be back out here.
I was up packed and gone swiftly the next morning. Heading south, the country soon became the mallee scrub I had remembered from my previous time here, although that time we were crossing west-east, not north-south.
Whenever I’m in this environment I’m always amazed by how Australia’s Indigenous People managed to navigate this (and many other) terrain. With no track through here, the scrub is too tall to see over, not strong enough to climb to get a better view, the terrain is mostly flat and there are no land marks… Apparently early European explorers and surveyors had a right time getting through here. I bet.
The odd small dune meant the sand flag was on.
These funny little ant-hills were everywhere.
Also everywhere were wild dog tracks. Not a good sign for a lot of native animals.
The sand was getting a bit softer.
I’ve had worse mornings.
I stopped here for a wander around. Wander I did looking for the rockholes – plural…
This strange growth caught my eye. No idea what it is, isn’t nature wonderful?
Another natural sight ruined to cater for the stupid brigade.
Walking back to the truck…
I was just about at the southern border of Murray Sunset NP now. Time to hit some gravel roads and then back on the bitumen to head for the small town of Pinaroo.
Time for another wander, coffee in hand.
Early Nissan Patrol (I think?), looks pretty far gone…
I decided to just take the bitumen for the 80 off km to Victorian town of Underbool, which is the turn-off to get to Wyperfield, the next National Park. It was around midday and I was keen to get into camp in good time tonight. Time can quickly get away from you off-road touring in Australia, the distances are large and it can be (very) slow going at times.
I threw another $100 if fuel in at Underbool, I wasn’t low but I could forget about fuel for the rest of the trip now. Good chat with the servo/workshop owner. Grabbed a quick piccy of his cool Holden (Izuzu) ute out the back.
T U R B O
Into Wyperfield, familiar terrain to start with.
Then onto a vast dry-lake. Wyperfield has a massive (and ancient) dry river/lake water system running through it. I wonder how many, many year it has been since it was full?
The overcast skies was giving it all a slightly ethereal feeling.
Another beauty of an afternoon’s drive.
Plenty of roo’s here too.
I took a stroll up to O’Sullivan’s Lookout. Looking back you can really see the dry lake, surrounded by the sand dunes and Mallee scrub.
Looking forward. Imagine being lost out there…
Of course, this wasn’t always a National Park.
I got to camp really early, great. A big campsite at the foot of a big dune, time for a snack.
I wasn’t feeling this place. There were people already here. The dune was covered in foot prints. I dunno why this bothered me, maybe I’ve camped next to so many untouched remote dunes I’m spoilt…
I really fancied just one night completely on my own. There was another site a bit further on. I decided to try for that. Quick run up the dune for some photos first.
Back on the trails, amongst the kangaroos.
Another hour or so of driving and I arrived at the other campsite. Deserted. Excellent.
More to follow.
Thanks for reading.