Trek 2010 – Under the Southern Cross
Trek 2010 – Under the Southern Cross
Firstly, our sincere thanks go to everyone who braved the chilly morning to farewell us at the Fisherman’s Hall in Port Denison on Saturday 3rd July.
After some last minute checks at Geraldton we continued our journey north to Steep Point and the official start of our trek. Our first overnight camp was at Galena Bridge where we shared the area with many holiday makers setting out for the July school holidays.
Day 2 saw us break camp at about 8.45am and finally feel as though we were really on our way. Morning tea break was taken at the 200 mile tank, with our lunch break being at the Billabong Roadhouse. Our evening campsite was at the Overlander Roadhouse. Once everyone had set up for the evening, welding repairs were under way for Harry whose trailer required a spot of welding. At about 4.30pm we had a great surprise (especially to those of us who were on the original 2000 trek) when Kim and Susan Henderson arrived at our camp site on their way back from a week’s holiday in Exmouth. An earlier text from Susan had determined where we were but none of us had any idea that they were about to join us. Susan is remembered by members not only for her great entertainment qualities both musically and with her bright, bubbly personality but also as Secretary and a major co-ordinator of the 2000 trek. A great evening of fun and laughter was had by all around the camp fire.
At the beginning of day 3 repairs continued on Harry’s trailer then Anne & Noeline were given a fairy induction by Chief Fairy Susan (again many past trekkers would relate to this side of Susan)! With trailer repairs completed and farewells made to Kim and Susan we finally headed west where our travelling day ended at Tamala Station camping area right on the beach. Unlike the year 2000, we were not able to take the tractors right out to Steep Point this time – all part of changing times! None of us could complain about the campsite offered though, we all made the most of the Indian Ocean views being well aware that it would be a long run before we would enjoy the views of the Pacific Ocean.
On day 4 some of the group made the trip out to Steep Point in the support vehicles whilst those who had been there in the year 2000 stayed in and around the campsite.
Day 5 after returning to the Overlander, where refuelling etc was carried out we were again on our way finally turning in to Byro-Woodleigh Road and heading east at last. We did approximately 200km’s for the day before setting up a bush camp near Yalardi Station.
Day 6 we awoke to overcast conditions with warnings of rain on the way. During the day more welding was required on the trailer but we still made good travelling time to have a scheduled meeting with two reporters from the West Australian Newspaper who wanted to do a photo shoot and interview about our adventure. We then made our way to Beringarra Homestead – home of Simon and Natalie Broad – where we set up camp for what was to be our first wet night. For the Broad’s we were all aware of how important any rain was so of course there were no complaints from the trekkers. These people in this sort of country are to be admired especially seeing how the red dirt and dust quickly changes to sticky red mud!!
Packing up on day 7 was not so pleasant but we were soon on our way heading towards Mt Gould and on through to Meekatharra. When we commenced the day we were travelling in rain and mud then before Meekatharra we travelled through a sand (not dust) storm. On arrival into Meekatharra we certainly looked as though we had been travelling in the outback. Gone were the shiny rigs that left Dongara on day one!! Once we were parked up at the local caravan park it was decided that any requirements in the way of repairs or re-stocking would be carried out the following morning before we departed the town. An evening meal at the Commercial Hotel sounded like the go for four of us – most enjoyable at that. An added pleasure to us (the Bass’s) was catching up with Kate (formerly employed at the Shire of Irwin offices) and Marty (Police Officer) who are now happily based at Meekatharra.
Day 8, with most chores completed, we headed out of Meekatharra at about 2.30pm with the aim of getting within 100k’s of Wiluna before camping up for the night. Harry undertook major repairs on his trailer in Meekatharra so he and Walter rejoined us later in the evening.
Day 9 saw us camped at Gunbarrel Grapes Wiluna for the night having been joined by our additional support crew in Barbara and Dick Garnett. Since leaving Port Denison on the 3rd we have done some 1274k’s and were now preparing for the long haul over the Gunbarrel Highway and beyond towards Warburton.
The men in the group (being the majority– 3 Ladies to 8 Men) had taken to damper making with Allan starting the ‘competition’ then George contributing with his cheese and bacon speciality. It seemed that dampers were going to be almost a nightly treat while each fellow tried to gain best points for his presentation.
Being a re-enactment of our 2000 trek many stories have already been told around the evening campfires usually commencing with “do you remember when……………….”
Day 10 at Gunbarrel Grapes, Wiluna saw us all wake to some degree of condensation in our various modes of accommodation so it was agreed that we would make a slightly later start – approximately 9.15am – just to allow a bit of drying out time. As we headed east the road conditions were very good – almost to the point of being a little boring when it is adventure in our 9G’s that we were all there for – after covering some 245km’s for the day, we finally made camp at which point we were approximately 85km’s from Carnegie Homestead.
During each day we took a little time out to enjoy any points of interest along the way or just to stop and enjoy a cuppa and a bite to eat in the ever changing bush surroundings.
Day 11, now 1520km’s from our start at Dongara we left camp at 8.30am continuing on the fairly easy going road in to Carnegie arriving at about 10.30am. Two of our support vehicles had some issues with tyres during the early part of the day, so our stop at Carnegie gave the opportunity for all tyres to be repaired, have our lunch and generally attend to a few chores. On leaving Carnegie we travelled another 75km’s before making camp for the night at around 5pm.
Always on arrival into our campsites the first thing that seems to happen is that the fire is started – all who enjoy camping out would agree that this is a very special part of bush camping not only for camp oven cooking etc but also for the opportunity to sit around and tell a story or two or just enjoy general chatter. Watching those dancing flames can be so relaxing.
Day 12 we were up and on the road by 8.15am allowing us to again take in a couple of points of interest along the way including the Mt William Lambert lookout which provided a wonderful panoramic view of our whole surroundings. When we reached the junction of the Gunbarrel Highway and David Carnegie Road, we turned left after reading the sign for the Mungili Ruins. We thought this sounded an interesting sightseeing opportunity and were also aware that we could then cut across from there to rejoin the Gunbarrel Highway further along the way. We did the 17km’s in to the site where we found that the ruins had been removed but to our surprise there was a sandalwood production operation being run there by a local indigenous community. What an interesting place to visit and learn about from the local folk who were on site. This appeared to be such a positive venture amongst so much negativity often portrayed in the indigenous society.
After what we all found to be a very interesting interlude to our morning, we headed east from Mungili on what turned out to be a challenging, exciting road back to join up with the Gunbarrel Highway. The track conditions turned into exactly what folk like Cedar Armstrong and George Bass (both currently taking part in this re-enactment trek) and many others who were part of the Club’s first trek in 2000 have told stories about many times over. To most of us who were not on that trek the adrenalin really began to flow. Finally the boredom of long straight gravel roads gave way to true adventure!!!
These ‘adventurous’ conditions took us on thru Day 13 and into day 14 when, still on the Gunbarrel Highway, there were more challenges to face. We again took the opportunity to check out some of the water bores along the way as well as markers placed by and dedicated to the famous surveyor Len Beadell – as we stood beside this sort of monument so very far from anywhere, we could only wonder in awe at the accomplishments of those early pioneers of our amazing outback land.
George carried out a small welding job on the new hydraulic system which had been fitted to his camper before we reached and turned on to the Heather Highway.
The first 30+ks of the Heather Highway (our chosen route down to Warburton) continued in a similar vein to the challenging conditions on the previous days but once over that, we were on the long straight runs of well maintained, unsealed road once again. It was on that road that ‘Plains Wanderer’ (part of the South Australian contingent of the group) had a puncture to one of the large rear tyres, so quickly repairs were under way on the side of the road and we were back on our way within 1hr 45mins. Once we turned on to the Great Central Road we decided to make camp for the night some 25/30km’s west of Warburton. Another good night around the fire was had by all. Our nights are not generally very late as everyone is usually quite ready for bed by the end of the day.
Saturday 17th July – day 15 – commenced with the short run in to Warburton where fuel and water were taken on and a few purchases made from the local store plus the opportunity for all to make use of the telephone service and touch base with those at home before we were once again on the Great Central Road heading towards Warakurna/Giles. A large herd of camels on the move were a highlight as we travelled along but alas they were too far away for any good photo opportunities. We all enjoy the odd sightings of any wildlife during our travels each day, to this point they have included of course camels, bush turkeys, dingoes, kangaroos and snakes to mention a few but given the vastness of our country we sometimes wonder why we don’t see a lot more. During the day our men Allan, Cedar, Walter and George were called up by Dick to lend a hand to an indigenous lady who had a flat tyre.
She was travelling from Warburton to Docker River with one child, bald tyres, no jack, no spare water, and a leaking fuel connection, all conditions in which none of us would ever leave our own driveways let alone head out into the outback where there is nothing from point A to point B!! Anyway the fellows did our Club proud and changed the flat tyre for the bald spare tyre, made a temporary repair to the fuel line and we had the lady happily on her way!! She even mentioned that she took photos of the tractors at Giles in the year 2000. Some 20km’s further up the road, having passed the South Australian contingent of our group she was once again on the side of the road with another flat tyre so Dennis and Eric did the good deed this time repairing the tyre for her. We didn’t see her again but all wondered and hoped that she and her child did make it to Docker River without any major issues!!
Our chosen campsite was in a gravel pit some 40+km’s west of Giles. Our pleasure around the campfire that night was a shared soup meal with the choice of three homemade soups (carried in the freezer since our departure at Dongara) and a savoury pumpkin damper made by Allan – that damper took Allan back to being just in front of Eric and George in the damper making competition to date!!
After dinner Eric, with the assistance of chief trek fairy Wanda, performed a very amusing skit – Eric has shown a hidden talent for verse as we have gone along the way! On this night Dennis and Noeline decided to go on in to Warakurna to the caravan park to enjoy some of the comforts of home including normal power allowing for the use of their TV plus washing machines, dryers and unlimited showers.
Day 16 we awoke to an overcast, slightly breezy morning although this cleared during the day. As we did the 40+km’s in to Warakurna/Giles, it was agreed by all who had travelled this way before, that the new Great Central Road is a far cry from the old road used on previous treks. After morning tea near the Giles weather station we continued on towards Docker River calling briefly in to Lasseter’s Cave. A great sighting of a herd of about 17 camels during the afternoon was a real highlight and allowed for what we all hope will be some great photos. We made camp in a roadside camping area at about 4.45pm- a fairly quiet night for all.
Day 17 we left camp just after 8am to move on towards our first ‘treat’ for the day – a visit to the Olgas, often agreed by folk as being more impressive than ‘the rock’. After wandering and enjoying the surrounds here we moved on to Uluru – ‘the rock’ – taking many more photos (even though most of us are lucky to be able to say that we already have the same photos at home in our collections). After enjoying a light lunch and some time at Uluru we checked in to the Ayres Rock Caravan Park for our two night stay allowing sorting and re-organising for the next part of our journey. We all enjoyed an evening barbecue at the Pioneer Resort before turning in for a good night’s sleep with no particular ‘get up’ time!! Our second night at Yalara saw us enjoy another night of fine dining at Gecko restaurant where we all had a good laugh together when it was realised that each and every one of us had ordered a seafood meal of some sort – what else would you order in central Australia!!!!!
To most of us home is looking further away now as Byron Bay comes ever closer although with only 2698km’s behind us we know we have more challenges to face yet before we reach that final destination.
Day 19 we made a leisurely departure from Yalara heading towards Curtain Springs. It had been hoped that this would be where our next camp site would be (as it was in the year 2000) but with the progress of time and the sometimes apparent poor behaviour of travellers through private property, the current owners have ceased to allow camping at any of the waterholes or any other areas on the property. The only area set aside for stopovers was their camp area on the roadside near the store/restaurant and their private residence. So most of us enjoyed a gourmet burger served under the bough shed along with a very informative chat with the owners about life and trials of living in these remote areas. Following this we all took to the road again heading towards the junction of Lasseter Highway and Luritja Road where we turned left and made camp a short distance from the intersection. During the previously mentioned chat at Curtain Springs, we were made very aware of the problems caused by camels on these outback properties and the vast numbers that roam the countryside. To us as travellers/tourists the sighting of camels (as previously reported) generally causes a degree of excitement and a lot of camera shooting but to know of the problems they cause has somewhat changed our thinking. Our thoughts are now genuinely with the land owners who suffer so much damage to their property. Around the campfire that night we all enjoyed listening to Len Beadell’s address to the Shepparton Rotary Club some years ago. To anyone who has had the opportunity to hear it, you would understand that it was a good, light hearted way to end another great day on the road.
One of the very special sights of the day was that of Mount Connor. Whilst only seeing it from a distance as we travelled along, it certainly was an impressive sight on the skyline.
Day 20 began with a normal start but just as we were ready to leave the campsite the youngest member of our group – Walter James – cut his shin quite deeply, causing a re-assessment of our travel plans. We were able to attend to the injury with one of the normal first aid kits carried in each of the tractors but it was then decided that it should be attended to by a Doctor. Given that Alice Springs was only some 2 to 3 hours away on the main road, Harry and Walter left in one of the support vehicles, Dick took over driving Harry’s tractor and Barbara drove our other support vehicle with Anne as companion. Walter’s wound ultimately required four stitches and we were not to meet up with them again for four days. Unfortunately for them they missed three of the most amazing, challenging days as follows. After the events of the morning we were eventually under way at about 9.15am moving on towards Ernest Giles Road where we then turned left and on in to Finke Gorge. Washouts and water crossings started almost immediately being, for most of us, the commencement of, as stated, one of the great challenges that make trekking in our 9Gs so much fun. It turned out that we actually had to ‘blaze’ a new trail through the Gorge following recent flooding in the area. Four years ago several of the group had gone through the Finke Gorge in one day on our Cape to Cape trek but this was not to happen this year!!! At about 5pm it was time to make camp and have a fairly early night ready to face it all again the next day.
Day 21 dawned and we were up and on our way by 8.30am, straight in to the next river crossing!! So it continued throughout the day – we actually did approximately 25km’s for the whole day. At many points it was a matter of members of the group walking ahead to access the situation and maybe try to pick up ‘old tracks’. There were times when the words “maybe we should turn back to the main road” were heard but really this was the last option for most.
Not only was walking ahead part of the process but we also had members who stripped down at water crossings to walk ahead and mark a trail through the water with stakes for the rest of us to follow safely. Again we have to say not a lot of kilometres were covered but the challenges were multiple. Having Dick in Harry’s tractor without towing a camper made it all a lot easier especially for going ahead to check the route and also for towing up embankments and in very sandy riverbeds where some of the group chose to venture at times. To other Club members in particular, relating to “doing a Cumber thing” would be understood and by the end of the day we had renamed Allan – Allan “Cumber” Faulkner!!!! That innocent look and comments like ‘I just thought I would check out an alternative way’ could be heard as he was towed out and back on to our ‘official’ track.
Every corner turned held something new or challenging but nothing that made us feel we could not overcome. Again at the end of day two on the Finke our campsite on the river bed was a welcome sight and an opportunity to assess “where the water got in”. Any necessary cleaning up took place then it was time to put our feet up and chat about the days happenings.
Day 22 we awoke to a dampness in the air – not exactly condensation inside but dampness outside – so for most of us it was decided to wait until the sun was high enough to dry things off a bit before we packed up and continued on. Our South Australian contingent decided to move on earlier to address prior commitments, believing (and rightly so) that the ‘worst’ of Finke Gorge was behind us now. Later in the day they rejoined us at Hermannsburg. For the remainder of us a leisurely exit from the Gorge was enjoyed with only a couple of small waterholes and embankments to be completed before lunch on the river bed then a drive out to the Highway on a well maintained gravel road. As mentioned earlier, some of us had fond memories of the Finke Gorge in 2006 with its river and water hole crossings but our 2010 adventure will remain special to us. As a result of recent flooding in the area we made numerous river crossings and crossed many water holes throughout our three days. We were truly disappointed that Harry and Walter missed this part of our journey but pleased to say Walter ‘made a complete recovery’.
At this point we all want to pay tribute to our relief support vehicle driver Barbara. What an amazingly capable lady. There was not one time that she reacted to any of the challenges to be faced even calmly saying to Anne at one point “my feet are in four inches of water”!!! Well done Barb.
Once we arrived at Hermannsburg we took a brief look around the settlement before heading off to Palm Valley where we were to have Harry and Walter rejoin us. On the way in to the valley, Harry’s tractor (now affectionately renamed by us as ‘Uncle Harry’) decided to ‘act up’ and ended up having to be towed in to our campsite.
With Barb still at the helm of our support vehicle she had to do the towing while Dick guided the tractor. Another very capable, confident display thanks Barb.
The designated campsite at Palm Valley is well worth a mention with its immaculate ablution block, piping hot showers (supplied using solar power), beautifully maintained coin operated barbecues and generally well kept surroundings. Sitting right on the edge of the Finke River setting up camp there for the night was a real pleasure..
Day 23 saw Harry, Walter, Cedar and George carry out the replacement of the head gasket on ‘Uncle Harry’ in the morning while the remainder of the group took in an informative, enjoyable guided walk at Palm Valley.
Most of us waited until ‘Uncle Harry’ was up and running again and ready to make the trip in to Alice Springs where other work would be carried out before moving on. We left Palm Valley at about 2.30pm arriving in to Alice Springs at about 6pm.
As in 2000, Alice Springs was to be a major stop for us to allow for restocking our stores, cleaning and checking of the tractors and general bits and pieces before our move on towards Birdsville via the Simpson Desert. ‘Uncle Harry’ also had the necessary work done to be ready for the next part of the journey. Bob King, Chamberlain club member and interested party in ‘Uncle Harry’ joined us with his friend Maureen at Alice Springs, planning to travel with us to Mount Dare but unfortunately Maureen’s ill health changed these plans somewhat. Noeline Hill returned to South Australia as planned.
Our break in Alice Springs also allowed us to enjoy some more ‘fine dining’ (not that we did not do that around the camp fire!!) at local restaurants patronised on previous treks.
In undertaking this as the official trek for 2010, it was agreed that we would carry the official club collection tins in each tractor and vehicle as well as having a small amount of merchandise available if required. As ever, we were in awe of the generosity towards our fundraising by the general public. Not a day passed that we were not asked if we would accept a donation. Our sincere thanks must go to all concerned.
Day 27 saw us ready to get back on the road. From Alice Springs we went south east towards Santa Teresa on unsealed but well maintained road. After a brief stop there we headed to Alambi Station to pick up the road to Andado but this was where we faced our first “road closed” sign so had to back track to the Deep Well access road. Allan made a telephone call to the Deep Well Station and we were willingly given permission to pass through the property (calling at the homestead on the way). After chatting with the owners for a while and being given alternative directions, we continued on to the Old Ghan Rail Track Road. A few earlier threatening clouds, thunder and lightning and some spots of rain lead to a heavy downpour just as we were about to set up camp at the historic Rodinga siding.
Setting up was a little more difficult than at previous sites but we all ended up around the campfire later in the evening discussing the happenings of the day and pondering the conditions to come following the latest rain in this area.
Overnight there were two or three short showers and some very strong wind gusts but day 28 dawned reasonably dry – albeit muddy!!!! – as well as overcast skies. Bob rang to tell us that Maureen was going to be hospitalised for a few days so he would join us later that day for an overnight camp. We broke camp at Rodinga at around 8.30am to face some very slushy conditions and major washouts – nothing that we had not expected though. At about 10.30am we had our morning break so that we could listen to a radio interview that the group had done with the ABC whilst we were in Alice Springs. Our day’s travelling continued on the Old Ghan Rail Track Road – originally actually the rail track through the area but in later years formed to make a road – there were even times when the old sleepers could be seen through the roadway. Sightseeing stops were made during the day, mainly being at historic rail sidings including our lunch break at Bundooma siding.
Whilst here a passing motorist stopped to talk to us, these folk were from Finke (our next destination) and were heading in to Alice Springs for a few days. They made a very generous donation to us saying how important the Flying Doctor was to those living in remote areas. We had a very interesting conversation with them as they had spent many years in and around the outback. The lady was Principal at the Finke School (and had been so for a number of years). We arrived at the small community of Finke at approximately 3.30pm where Bob caught up with us. Most of us made this an ice cream stop after which we continued on for another 10/14km’s before picking a camp site for the night.
Day 29 – having now completed some 3554.6k’s since leaving Dongara – started as a morning of major slipping and sliding through water and mud. There was also some bogging along the way but ‘Uncle Harry’ was to the rescue each time. Our lunch and fuel stop was taken at Mt Dare Hotel before we continued on a very rough road in to the famous Dalhousie Hot Springs and camping area.
This was to be a two night campsite to enjoy the hot springs and ‘collect our thoughts’ as the saying goes. Allan treated us to a great roast lunch on the Sunday followed by a shared fish dinner, with contributions by all and cooked by George.
As said before we don’t miss out on ‘fine dining’ even around the campfire! George decided to make bread (yeast and all) to go with the fish meal so went through all the stages of rising, kneading etc before putting it in to the camp oven and on to the coals. At this point he went to do a welding job for Harry and being distracted he didn’t realise the heat of the coals and alas the bread burnt. With the bread being considered ‘dead’ Dick entered the damper competition and whipped up a sweet damper – yum. Much to our surprise though George decided to rescue his loaf of bread, give it a bit of a scrape and we all gave it top marks as well. As we were sitting at the fire after dinner a large ‘rig’ pulled in to the park and next thing there was a voice from behind our wind break asking if we were the guys with the tractors. Our guest was Ron McGehee from California who was touring around the outback of Australia in a Uni Mog shipped here from the USA. Ron asked if we were going to be crossing the Simpson Desert and when we said yes, he asked if he might be able to ‘tag along’ with us and so he did, right through to Birdsville. Also when we arrived at Dalhousie we met up with Helen and Bill Taylor; Susan Ruby and Charlie Gardiner and also George Baldwin, all club members but doing a private trip in their 9Gs that year. They departed the day before us to make their crossing of the Simpson Desert.
On Day 31, with our ‘tag along’ we headed out from Dalhousie at 8.45am facing more of the same, rough, wet and muddy conditions. In saying that though we all enjoyed the experience so much. Because of the rains in recent times in the centre of Australia everything was so green and lush and from all reports from those travelling East to West on the Simpson these conditions continued all the way, unlike the dryness experienced by the Trek in 2000. We were still travelling in the Witjini Reserve when we passed by Freeth Junction and Purni Bore. Some of the crew took the opportunity to enjoy a beautiful hot shower at Purni Bore. We then proceeded on into the Simpson Desert.
The desert greeted us on Day 32 with a real frost – 3 degrees was the report and condensation a plenty!! Our newest official Club Member Walter James was heard to mention being freeze dried in his swag!! At this point in time the group would like to make special mention of our Support Team in Barbara and Dick Garnett. As they are often heard to say themselves they are no spring chickens having both reached a special milestone in 2009 but to some of us we could only watch in amazement at their camping and bush capabilities. For this trek they decided to tent/swag it, agreeing to be an additional support for us from Wiluna, WA to Eromango, Queensland. They carried all their needs on the back of their vehicle and both managed so very well, adapting to any situation whether it be pitching the tent in the rain, waking up to ice and condensation inside their tent with 1 to 3 degree temperatures or even seeing their vehicle almost float in creek/river crossings! They smile and enjoy every single day.
Once back on the road, we were straight into the first of the 1100 dunes that cover the crossing of the Simpson Desert. Water, mud and rough roads were still part and parcel of the day. 65k’s was to be the total covered for our first day in the desert! Finding a campsite at the end of the day was not so easy either because of the sparseness of our surroundings. It was very much a roadside camp for the night this time.
Day 33, 1 degree, ice and condensation!!! At 9am we were packed and ready to go again. The day saw us crossing many, many dunes, valleys and basically having all sorts of conditions in one day. The green of the desert along with the beautiful varieties and colours of wildflowers made such wonderful sights to see. We thought it was awesome at the beginning of our crossing, but with each turn or dune there was something else wonderful sights to see. We thought it was so great and it just seemed to get better and better. Our cameras did not stop clicking. W
62k’s was about it for this day when we were all ready to camp up and relax for the evening. We enjoyed watching some of Barbara and Dick’s photos on their digital frame, then more on Walter’s computer. Walter then played the DVD of the 2000 trek to refresh our memories of the adventure and also to show our tag along guest Ron what it was all about back then. An enjoyable evening finished off a great day.
The early morning desert treated us a little better on Day 34, it was not quite so cold getting up and we all seemed to be managing to adjust to the condensation situation a lot better!!!!!! We can only say the day was “more of the same” which could make one think that it was boring but be assured crossing the Simpson Desert in a 9G group is far from boring, it has to be one of the greatest experiences. Cedar and George were the only ones in the group who had undertaken the inaugural trek in 2000 and they were amazed at the changes the wet had brought to the crossing. Their 2000 experience was of a vast, dry landscape, dusty tracks and loose, sandy dunes. They said the going this time had the same degree of challenge just with different conditions. Our evening gave some of us time to sit and chat with our guest Ron and find out about some of his travels and experiences. He had travelled extensively in and around Australia during the past 5 years and had a wonderful knowledge of our country.
So it all continued on Day 35, we can only say once more how lucky we are to be having this experience and hopefully our many, many photos will tell the story when we return home – it is all so hard to put into words. We made camp at Poepell Corner for the night after visiting the point where you can basically stand in three states at one – Queensland, South Australia and the Northern Territory.
Day 36 with 4093k’s behind us (from Dongara) and many of the 1100 dunes also at the back of us, we headed off out to face the challenges once more and enjoy yet another day on this iconic track. George and Cedar also commented on the passing traffic each day (both East bound and West bound) as opposed to the year 2000. So many more people have the means of being able to head out in their 4 wheel drives these days – 10 years have brought so many changes in so many ways. Our chosen campsite for today was on the banks of Eyre Creek after making yet another creek crossing at the end of a great day.
On Day 37 we were approximately 57k’s from Birdsville and about 20k’s from the renowned BIG RED dune when we departed camp at 9.30am. Each dune we crossed lead us a little closer to our final destination on this section of our trek. We reached Big Red at approximately 11.30am and spent the next couple of hours just enjoying the moment. Our challenge to this point had been fulfilled, only looking back on photos and chatting with each other will gradually make it seem like the true reality. All tractors (minus camper trailers), support vehicles and our tag along Ron in the Mog did that final run to the top of Big Red and again the cameras were clicking from all directions. For those who were aware of George’s 2010 modification to his camper trailer – the fitting of hydraulic drive – it was a success over the dunes as on the final run to the top of Big Red we crossed the Simpson and the final test was to hitch the camper back on and take it up Big Red behind the tractor which proved successful. His only comment was that it made all the work worthwhile. As we enjoyed our moment at the top of Big Red we had a radio call from Peter and Brenda Barr – Club Members and inaugural trekkers of 2000 – who were watching us from the Birdsville side of the dune.
They had been keeping in touch with our progress along the way and had come to Birdsville to meet us on our arrival. Moments like this are special to all of us. In contrast to the 2000 trek when the land on the other side of Big Red was dry and barren, we were greeted with a very large lake of water which we had to drive around before getting on to the road into Birdsville. Once in Birdsville we took time to set up our campers at the caravan park and take long hot showers (not that we miss a daily shower on trek albeit fairly short ones to conserve water) then it was off to the Birdsville Hotel for dinner and a celebration drink, again there was a lot of reminiscing about the arrival of the trekkers in 2000. A large photo of the 2000 tractors in front of the Birdsville Hotel takes pride of place in the Lizard Bar at the Hotel. Also joining us for dinner and celebrations were Helen and Bill Taylor; Susan Ruby and Charlie Gardiner and George Baldwin, having completed their successful Simpson Desert crossing earlier in the day. Brenda Barr topped the night off for some of us when she firstly went to the piano for a song or two then brought out her accordion and played a few of the old trekking songs for us. Thanks so much Brenda you made our night.
Birdsville was our base for three nights during which time we were able to clean up the tractors, sort the campers and clear the washing load before being ready to head off east again. Whilst it has always been our intention to stay as close to the inaugural trek as possible, the need for flexibility remains after recent flooding in the areas we are going through. It was also agreed to make a slight deviation after Birdsville to allow a visit to Cordillo Downs – the largest wool shed in Australia – the famous Dig Tree of Burke and Wills and accept an invitation to visit an operating oil field out of Eromanga. During our break in Birdsville, Ron in the Uni Mog left us to continue his travels. As he was heading back to Alice Springs Eric Hill – co driver of Plains Wanderer – accompanied him so that he could make the planned pick up of their support vehicle that had been left there earlier on when we departed. Prior to leaving the group, Ron became a member of the Chamberlain 9G Tractor Club (our newest member and our first one from the USA). On the 9th August, Dennis Hill in Plains Wanderer left to return home after a telephone conversation with Noeline who wanted him back home. Also while in Birdsville George celebrated his Birthday (as he has done on other treks in the past) with an enjoyable evening at the Birdsville Hotel.
Day 40 it was time to say farewell to Birdsville (not before one last visit to the bakery!) and take to the ‘highway’. We enjoyed our visit to the woolshed, a place of great history, then went on to Arrabury homestead, obviously a former flourishing property now used as an out-station. We also visited ruins of old homesteads along the way and tried to imagine how the people had lived and what these properties would have been like in their hey-day. Our pleasure at the end of the day was to enjoy a wonderful roast dinner organised by Barbara and Dick. Our campfire looked great with all the camp ovens bubbling away.
Allan and Cedar surprised us all with desserts of quondong and custard tarts from the Birdsville Bakery.
As we continued on day 41 we still had some muddy and bumpy roads ahead of us but nothing in comparison to recent weeks. It was mentioned amongst the group that we had really come across roadside water holes etc almost all of the way although been lucky that we had spent very little time in actual rain or bad weather conditions. With all the lushness around, our farming contingent continually commented on the condition of the cattle etc and even to those of us not involved in the farming industry, we too could see how healthy and rich everything looked. .
As we continued on, our travels took us to the Burke and Wills Dig Tree near the Cooper Creek. As the afternoon was moving on we decided that the banks of the Cooper Creek would be our campsite for the night – very pleasant in the evening and wonderful the next morning with all the birdlife to hear and watch.
Being on the Cooper we were able to observe all he traces of recent flooding in the area; it must have been absolutely amazing to see because it was very hard to imagine when it all looked so calm and tranquil. When told of the height of the flooding, there certainly would not have been any means of driving through t at the time.
Day 42 as we were leaving our campsite at the Dig Tree the other trekkers arrived so there was one last farewell because we truly were going in different directions from there. Our travels for the rest of the day were on the Adventure Highway which gave us variety once again. We found there was quite a lot of bitumen at first (someone was heard to say on the radio “what is this black stuff Allan?”). Then we came across road works crews making repairs after the flooding. This just helped to add a little more water and mud to our rigs!!! Our morning tea stop gave us such a beautiful array of wild flowers only a few metres from the roadside and added to that was the company of a local lizard about 40cm long who was just relaxing and warming himself in the sunlight. By lunch time we had travelled some 134k’s and enjoyed a stop beside a small creek at the road side. As we continued on after lunch there were ranges of table top mountains in the distance, gas fields and oil fields as well as opal mining signs just about all the way. Seeing the oil pumping made us all think of the sights in the USA.
This obviously is yet another area of our great country with rich underground resources. Our campsite was at an old road works depot again providing a good site to spend a lovely evening together.
We were all up bright and early on Day 43, although still had to contend with some condensation dampness – one of the joys of camping!! We were on the road by 8.30am and enjoyed a fairly leisurely run in to Eromanga – some 60+k’s – during our drive along the Cooper Development Road we came across a memorial site dedicated to a young man – Angus Steele Chapman. One cannot help but wonder when we read the inscription, he was only 30 years of age when he died (we were later to learn that this young man had died in a motor bike accident). We arrived into Eromanga at about 11.30am and after fuelling was completed it was time for lunch at the local cafe – great burgers. After lunch we had a look around the town then followed directions given to take us to the operating oil field which we had been invited to visit. We arrived there at about 3.30pm and were shown to where we could set up our campsite. We spent two most enjoyable and informative nights as guests of the company and felt privileged to have been given such an opportunity. We also enjoyed the experience of being able to do some opal fossicking with a few good results although none of us felt that we could retire on our finds!!!!
Day 45 we said our farewells to the crew at the oil field and returned to Eromanga. This was where we were also going to have to bid a fond farewell to Barb and Dick as they had to start making their way back to Gnowangerup for commitments at the end of the week. The remainder of the group decided that a night at the Eromanga Caravan Park was the order of the day to catch up on some washing etc. Eromanga turned out to be a very interesting little town. With a population of approximately 80 people there is an oil refinery right in the town which takes a very large proportion of the oil found in the area; there is a fossil digging area just out of the town where dinosaur fossils have been found and are processed for three weeks each year; opal mining is predominant in the area and it is where Steve Fossit – balloonist – landed when he came down short of Birdsville a few years ago just to mention a few things. They have the most amazing Living Museum with a very informative movie giving the history of the area which we all enjoyed. The town comes under the Quilpie Shire and appears to have all the facilities a small town could want. Quilpie, some 106k’s away, is their closest larger centre for shopping and business needs. The local cafe has a small Australia Post outlet as well. There is a fairly large fly in, fly out work contingent in the town as most people were mainly involved in the oil industry. We spent an enjoyable evening mixing with the folk at the motel then enjoying a nice meal at the local hotel.
Day 46 began with all of us meeting at the cafe (as numerous other folk seemed to do as well) for breakfast then making one last call in the town to their lovely little school – a total of 5 students! This was a real highlight for all of us teachers, students and trekkers. Something like this creates a very special moment. The children, all junior primary, were so excited with the tractors and were full of questions but the one that really hit home to all of us was during our talk to them a school bus was mentioned and one child asked “what is a school bus?” – how amazing.
They are going to be taken to Brisbane next year on a school camp – we can only imagine their eyes then. They do have interaction with distance education children and also with the school in Quilpie. Our day on the road started after this visit and we headed to Quilpie where it was hoped that we would get some internet coverage so we could get our very overdue report out to everyone concerned. Our arrival into Quilpie gave us time for a fairly brief stop to have lunch, stores replenishment and CONNECT TO THE INTERNET!!! Whilst we did not have any specific plans for a school visit here it was a great pleasure to have students from St Finbarrs school brought to Bassy’s 9G to touch and feel our old machine and learn from us all about it and what we are doing during our trek. Thanks to Mr Litchfield and students.
On leaving Quilpie we headed south to Toompine known as “The Hotel without a Town” (another fondly remembered stopping point for our trekkers of 2000). These small hotels in the outback now rely largely on the tourist trade and with the offer of free camping, including piping hot showers to boot, it was hard to resist the sign pointing to them. Greg Datz, the licensee of the Toompine Hotel along with his ‘bright light’ Jonesie behind and in front of the bar and Marise, a delightful German back packer who was working at the hotel for a few weeks, offered such wonderful hospitality to all who entered. We all enjoyed a great meal that evening as well as a breakfast with the works the following morning. During the evening we met up with Di and Roc from Falls Creek who said they had been behind and in front of us since Alice Springs and who we then continued to meet up with at various points, right up to Nindigully where we said our last goodbyes. Thanks for your company folks.
Day 47 – Following our breakfast at Toompine and some more enjoyable time spent with Jonesie watching her tend the vast menagerie of animals housed behind the hotel including camels, donkeys, llamas, goats, ducks etc etc, it was time to say goodbye and be on the road again. As we travelled along we (the 2000 Trekkers) remembered a very special night in 2000 when we were hosted, by Randall at Bundoona Station, to a wonderful camp oven dinner (for all 120+ of us) and we were thrilled to suddenly hear him come on to our radio channel asking if we were the Chamberlain 9G Tractor Club who had just passed by his property. That was one of the very special moments of our trek just to be able to bring him up to date on where we (the Club) have been and what we have done over the years. It was also special to know that he is going well and still enjoying life on his station. Having determined that he had not seen the 2000 trek DVD we organised to leave a copy for him at the Cunnamulla Post Office. Eulo was our next stop for a short break with time to check out the Date shop with their great products including the Date Liquor and Wine again remembered from our 2000 trek. Then it was on to Cunnamulla. After some more meet and greet time and taking the opportunity to deliver the DVD for Randall, we were ready to continue on when a journalist, owner, operator of the Warigo Warrior, stopped us and asked about catching up with us at our campsite the next morning for interviews and photographs. This was organised and we then took to the road. A campsite was chosen about 30k’s East of Cunnamulla.
Day 48 – 18th August, 2010 – dawned beautifully amongst the trees. This day had a special significance to the group (as it has done on past treks) being that of Long Tan Day when we take time to remember the Vietnam War and our Veterans. Even being a small group we intended for it to have the same speciality as ever. As birds chirped in the bush surroundings and soft Australian music played in the background, a very moving service was held. Allan commenced with a few words then followed with the reading of a poem “Lost Youth” by Lachlan Irvine. Harry James (a Vietnam Veteran) recited the ODE and a silence was observed. Allan then read another poem (both poems were chosen by Harry) called “He was a Mate” again by Lachlan Irvine. After this Harry spoke a little about Men and Women in the Services, Post Traumatic disorder and the support offered on returning to Australia after service. We then remembered the Australian Forces of today wherever they may be serving. Following this we enjoyed a lovely bacon and egg breakfast together and took time to enjoy the surroundings for a little bit longer. Our reporter ‘friend’ James Clark then arrived for the interview about us and our Club etc and a photo shoot before we continued our travels on the Ballone Highway in to Bollon and on to St George. During our stops at these centres we really did hear some amazing stories of the floods which took place as recently as March, April – there were certainly some incredible happenings. Even being shown photos still made it so hard for us to believe. Whilst in St George we all took the opportunity to cast our vote for the forthcoming elections. After St George we travelled some 40k’s to the famous Nindigully Hotel (yet another place of very fond memories of the 2000 trek) where we set up camp in the grounds and again enjoyed the offer of hot showers before another night of ‘fine dining’ and hospitality. Overnight there were a few rain showers but all was well in our camps!
Day 49 – everything was fine when we woke up and once we were packed and ready to leave, we lined up in front of the hotel for a photo shoot as requested by the licensee ‘Burnsie’ (the company name being “Bindrinken Pty Ltd”!!) along with other travellers camped in the grounds. Burnsie then made a generous donation to our fund raising and requested details of possibly becoming a member of the 9G Club. So we look forward to hearing from him hopefully in the not too distant future. Thanks for everything Burnsie. By 9.30am we were on the road and heading towards Goondiwindi where we had booked a campsite at the Gundy Caravan Park – it was time to catch up with washing etc again!! Harry met up with friends on arrival into Goondiwindi and arranged for all of us to join them at the local RSL club for dinner. An enjoyable night was had by all. Also whilst in Goondiwindi some of the group were approached by a young lady who was asking about the tractors and our treks and mentioned that she and her family had seen the ‘Tail End Charlie’ rally pass through in 2007. Her name was Terri-Anne and she said that her parents lived at Wheatvale on the Cunningham Highway and she was sure they would love us to choose their property for a bush camp after Goondiwindi. Calls were made and we were welcomed by Jim and Marion O’Leary further down the track.
As we travelled the highways and byways during these past few days we enjoyed seeing lush crops, healthy stock and generally a great looking country. At various times we have been amazed by the amount of ‘road kill’ along the way, not only the poor old Kangaroo which often seems to be in the wrong place at the wrong time but also goats, pigs, cattle, sheep, lizards, emus and birds to mention a few. At times though, we still say we just do not believe how few sightings of live wildlife there are but then in saying that, there seems to be times when they are everywhere.
On day 50 we travelled from Goondiwindi through Inglewood and on to Wheatvale to the O’Leary property. Jim and Marion provided us with a great camp spot near their home with a readymade campfire pit where we all prepared our evening meal. Jim’s brother Paddy and his wife Ann-Marie called in to meet us and have a look at the Chamberlains. Also Jim and Marion’s daughter Nicole came along with her son Harry. The evening was chilly but most enjoyable around the campfire!! The wonderful hospitality of Jim, Marion and their family was much appreciated.
Day 51 we went in to Warwick then took another slight detour from the original 2000 trek. We headed north east and into some of the most beautiful country again with hill climbs and down gradients that we all enjoy so much. We made our way to Aratula where we were met by Don and Marion Kratzing (friends of the Bass’s) and guided to their property at Mt Alfred. Here we enjoyed yet another great stopover with beautiful views from their balconies and great hospitality. Marion served us all a lovely lunch on our arrival before we settled in to our campsite then Don (with Marion’s support) supplied delicious pizza’s from his pizza oven for our evening meal.
A highlight for all of us was meeting their four Irish Wolf Hounds (averaging 80+ kilos each) – they are certainly a loved part of the family. Thanks Marion and Don for a wonderful stopover.
An early morning breakfast with Marion, Don (and the dogs) was enjoyed by all before we headed off – in a shower of rain – for day 52. The drive from the Kratzing home to Rathdowny was again beautiful and adventurous with up gradients of 19% through the Border Range National Park (we all loved it).
At Rathdowny we had morning tea then remained ‘off road’ and headed in the direction of Kyogle. We had thought we may go to Nimbin but time was a bit short so that was left for another time. From Kyogle it was on through Lismore after which the adrenalin started to run as we drew closer to our final destination at BYRON BAY. With the excitement came the reality of being really back in civilization and on the highway with everyone else.
Our arrival into Byron Bay was a little later than we had hoped and unfortunately in a slight shower of rain but nothing could dampen our spirits. To us it was a fabulous achievement with some of the most exciting experiences behind us. These were all experiences (and our many photos) to look back on in days, months and years to come, with the greatest of pleasure. A celebration dinner was held at the Balcony Restaurant where we were joined by some of the Bass relations who had travelled from Atherton, Brisbane and Armidale in NSW to welcome the whole group in after completing such a mission.
With almost 6,700k’s on the GPS from Steep Point WA to Byron Bay NSW what a great feeling!!!!!
Whilst in Byron Bay we of course took the tractors to the Lighthouse to complete the journey and we also emptied a bottle of water collected at Steep Point into the Pacific Ocean as well as collecting another bottle to take back to Dongara where it all began.
Our story continues as we now make our way back to the West but having arrived at Byron Bay, our thoughts were –
WE MADE IT, WE LOVED IT AND WE ALL FELT SO VERY PROUD AND PRIVILEGED.
One very last thank you to our ORANGE MACHINES
which did us all so proud.
BYRON BAY – following our arrival on 23rd August, 2010 – days 53, 54, 55 – were spent in and around Byron. We were called on by various sectors of the media for interviews and photos. Many local folk came to chat with us, some even remembering the year 2000 when all those orange tractors descended on their City at the end of the inaugural trek.
On day 55 (Thursday 26th August) we hired an 8 seater vehicle and all went out for the day on a different sort of sightseeing trip. We went up the coast as far as Kingscliff then headed inland to Nimbin (the hippy town of the 1960’s).
On our way we visited a wonderful Tropical Fruit centre, enjoying some of the wares on offer. Our return route took us through some wonderful scenery as we once again faced the challenges of winding roads and plenty of hills. We all agreed it would have been good 9G country but with limited time we needed to ‘go conventional’ for the day.
Day 56 arrived and it was time to prepare to head out and farewell Byron once again. Another farewell was also the order of the day; it was time to say goodbye to the youngest member of Trek 2010, Walter James. After almost two months on the road as a support to the group and assistant to his Dad, Harry, Walter was going up to Brisbane to fly out to New York where he was going to be meeting his girlfriend Renae and having a ten day holiday in the ‘Big Apple’, a far cry from trekking in the outback of Australia for two months!! Saying goodbye is never easy but doing so with Walter touched us all. Here was a young man of 31 who, two months earlier, walked in to Cumber’s shed in Dongara (having arrived ahead of Harry) not knowing any of us and saying ‘I am here to join you on the trek to Byron Bay’. We all know how you must have felt at that point Walter (“what have I got myself into here with all these oldies”). Not only did you sort Harry out but you were such a capable assistant to all of us at one time or another. Thank you Walter.
The TREKKERS OF 2010 would like to formally put a challenge to you now Walter, being that you are one of the youngest members of the club. We challenge you, that in the year 2020 you do another re-renactment of the 2000/2010 trek from Seep Point to Byron Bay.
We would hope that we might all be lucky enough to be able to join your trek but that remains to be seen!!! You have proved to be a very capable young man and we are sure you would be up to meeting this challenge. We all wish you well in your future and hope you are having a great holiday.
Farewells said we started on our return to Western Australia by the Bruxner Highway via Bangalow, Lismore, Casino and on to the small town of Drake.
Having again crossed the mountains we felt the chill factor once more. On reaching Drake we were invited to park on the helicopter landing pad at the back of the hotel/motel! This helicopter was used in emergencies in a similar manner to the flying doctor in these areas. Being advertised as ‘Home of the Golden Harley’ of course Harley’s featured in the decor but not only Harley’s, the proprietor Bob Kane and his wife Desley have some of the most amazing memorabilia throughout the hotel. For anyone travelling in the area, it is certainly worth a stop to browse. As it was Friday night several locals and visitors gathered and there was a very generous raffle held (ongoing fundraising for the helicopter service) which we all enjoyed supporting. Allan was a lucky winner, taking off one of the very nice meat trays which would become part of our supplies for the trip home. We also enjoyed a lovely evening meal and breakfast during our visit – thank you Bob and Desley.
After a chilly ‘pack up’ at Drake on day 57, we continued on into Tenterfield some 50k’s uphill and down dale through some very heavily wooded areas still travelling on the Bruxner Highway. During this section we crossed the Great Dividing Range at a height of 888m just prior to arriving into Tenterfield. One claim to fame that Tenterfield acknowledges is that Banjo Patterson married a local girl. A quick coffee and ‘check out’ of the town was enjoyed before we continued on the New England Highway to Deepwater. At Deepwater we left the New England Highway and took a lesser road heading west out to Emmaville boasting a population of approximately 300. As has been said many times 9G’s (and their drivers) love getting off those highways!! Our stop at Emmaville allowed time for lunch and a tour through another wonderful mining museum put together and manned by locals.
When travelling throughout our great country it is a great pleasure to enjoy the many special collections of ‘our past’ and learn what took place in different areas all those years ago. The locals were telling us that they had had the wettest season in very many years which was a wonderful boost for them. The story of the ‘wet’ continues to follow us on our journey but we are still aware that there are places that have missed out on this joy and our hearts went out to those folk. From Emmaville we continued on the unsealed, well maintained back roads passing through the large centre of Inverell. Here we then went on to the Gwydir Highway then on to an alternative route heading to Bingara. The wildlife excitement for the day was seeing an echidna crossing the road – safely thank goodness. We made camp at a picnic site some 20k’s from Bingara having done 247k for the day.
We had now done 6976.6k’s since leaving Dongara.
At 8am on day 58 – 29th August – we left camp and headed in to Bingara. We must mention that we had certainly passed through ‘kangaroo country’ during the past two days. It is strange how wildlife comes in patches! Bingara gave us the opportunity to top up with fuel and gas before we continued on across to Narrabri. The route chosen gave us more hill climbs and vast valleys through beautiful Australian bushland dotted with bright golden wattle. Then it was on into cropping and livestock country. The farming fraternity of the group certainly enjoyed what they saw with the various crops and those of us not involved in the farming side of things enjoyed learning from the ‘experts’. The fast flowing creeks that we passed made a lovely sight too. Several of them were actually flowing over the road but nothing to what we had to cross in recent weeks. On the other side of one of the largest valleys we were back into ‘mountain climbing’ and then a decent with wonderful views all round. With some 30k’s to go in to Narrabri the countryside again flattened out now with mountains either side of us as we travelled along. We were also back into a large cotton growing area. Apart from what we could see growing in the fields, there was always a ‘dead giveaway’ with cotton puffs on the road and roadside having fallen from the hauling trucks. After this great drive we reached the Newell Highway with 4k’s into Narrabri and lunch!! As we left Narrabri Allan did a radio interview for a local station then we headed to the CSIRO Australian Observatory between Narrabri and Wee Waa. This was yet another place to learn, this time about astronomy – not something that can be learned in one visit though but very interesting all the same.
As we were about to leave this centre, Neville (Eastern Branch President) and Jenny Thompson arrived. They had travelled up to meet us at Wee Waa for the night so being aware of which route we were taking decided to intercept us along the way. For all of us it was great to meet up again and we then had them as our ‘support’ into Wee Waa. We all enjoyed a beautiful Chinese meal together at the local Club with lots of chatter and catching up over the table. A great night was had by all.
Day 59 began by farewelling Neville & Jenny, thanking them for making the big effort to just ‘pop in and say hello to us’. It was great guys. We then did a pre-arranged interview and photo shoot with a local media representative before heading in to the main street where we had to farewell another member of Trek 2010. Harry left us at this point to head down to Tamworth to visit family before going north in to Queensland again to catch up with friends and form his ‘team’ for the drive back west in about a month. Again farewells are not always fun; we knew you had a special purpose in joining us on Trek 2010 Harry and we were pleased to have been part of the team that saw you complete your mission Mate. We also knew Jock would have been so proud and as you often said he would have been watching over you. Safe travels Harry. On leaving Wee Waa we made our way out to Pilliga Bore – pumping hot water since 1902 – wow, this would have to be a true oasis in the outback. Anyone planning a trip into this area should mark it as a ‘must’. It was a wonderfully set up place with provision for campers or day trippers. There was a great warm pool, shower and toilet facilities with all water supplied from the ongoing bore. We certainly would have made it a campsite had it not been so early in the day.
Leaving Pilliga, we took an alternative route to Walgett – plenty of roo sightings on this track. One road side sign caught our attention as well “Come by Chance” appearing to be the name of a small historic village. Along this route we passed through some very large crops including canola, wheat, barley and faber beans. These crops were the best that Faulky had ever seen. Another reminder of what flooding can do in these areas was seeing the levy banks around the town of Walgett (these were also observed at other towns we passed through). Our camp site for the night was near Wombat Creek off Bush’s Road. We had now travelled 7364k since 3rd July, 2010.
Day 60 we enjoyed getting a nice little haul of yabbies from the creek in the morning, so cooked them up before leaving camp at about 8.15am. Our next planned stop would be at Brewarrina. Prior to our camp at Wombat Creek and on into Brewarrina we were still seeing all the signs of recent rains and flooding but fortunately none of this would cause any problems for us. Emus were the major sightings for the day – many, many, many! At Brewarrina, Anita from the local region newspaper joined us over coffee for a story and some photos. She also told us of the magnitude of the floods in the area on the last New Year’s Day. Again this was another town with levy banks for protection from rising waters. The Barwon River through the town still has the remains of the historic fish traps used by the indigenous many years ago but unfortunately because of the height of the river at present they were not currently visible. From Brewarrina we went on to Bourke and visited the ‘Back o Bourke’ interpretive museum, after which we continued on towards Louth on the Bourke-Wilcannia Road. As we travelled along we saw the large dams and canals supplied from the Darling River for irrigation. We were now travelling on what is known as the Darling River Run. Again we continued to see so many emus as we travelled along. Around 80k’s out of Louth/30k’s south west of Bourke we made our first camp on the banks of the Darling River and enjoyed our yabby catch for dinner together.
Day 61 saw us all up and ready to leave camp at 7.40am!! There was talk of rain coming although it truly was a beautiful morning. A few k’s down the road the country side changed to red dirt again – a colour we had not seen for a while. Still the increased sightings of emus continued along with goats. Our morning tea stop was at Louth where we passed on a greeting to the Licensees from Salty who we had met at Toompine. Louth was yet another town with levy banks for protection from the vast flood plains. As we read all the historic information along the way – one particular reference took our attention, that being that when the Darling is in full flood, it can be up to 80k’s wide!!!!! That really is beyond all imagination. Travelling along the Bourke-Wilcannia Road we often saw deserted homesteads – some of quite substantial structure – and ponder “where did the people go, how did they live” all those years ago in such harsh conditions and “what caused them to move off”? Drought years would no doubt have had a bearing of course. With lots of thinking time as we tonk along in our 9G’s, wonderful stories and ideas can be concocted!! The weather took a warmer turn as we approached Wilcannia – the forecast for the day was 30 degrees there. This would be the warmest we had experienced since leaving Dongara. We had lunch at Tilpa then continued on the west side of the Darling River. Some 20k’s out of Wilcannia we found a great camping spot where the Paroo River joined the Darling River. We had been told to try and see this area as it was the first time the Paroo had been flowing for many years and locals believe that as history goes it is a once in a life time phenomenon to see it – again we feel so lucky and privileged to be here at such a special time. In going to this point we were also told to take note of how the Paroo River had gouged the banks of the Darling River at the entry when both rivers were at their peak recently. We noted that point and then as we were setting up our camps we heard ‘cracking’ sounds and some ‘banging’ on the river’s edge. At the time we could not be sure what had caused it but later when exploring the river banks we found that the edges where breaking away and falling in to the water in many cases exposing the massive root systems of some very large, very old trees – guess this is just nature at work. With such great surroundings to camp in, we all enjoyed another shared camp oven dinner before turning in for the night.
September 2nd, day 62, we left this special camp site at 8.15am and did the last 20k’s in to the small town of Wilcannia. A local indigenous gentleman, named Waddi, aged around 60years, greeted us when we got out of our tractors and having been born and bred in the town had a wealth of information to impart. He was so interesting to talk to. He spoke of the early river boat days and tunnels under the streets for delivering to the businesses from the boats. Those early days must have been bustling both on the river and in towns like Wilcannia. We also chatted with Greg and Robyn Stephens from Warren in New South Wales who arrived at the same time as us in their restored army jeep having just completed a ‘trek’ with their club.
The “small world” bit came in to this conversation with some of the 9G’ers knowing some of their trekking companions as well. From Wilcannia we took the bypass road down to Menindee Lake. The red colour was still prevalent in the surroundings and the area even took on the appearance of small sand dunes with the wild flowers and green foliage being more or less the same as what we had experienced when crossing the Simpson Desert. In addition, sun flowers began to dot the road side creating a lovely contrast. We passed by a vast amount of dead grape vines so could only assume it was a venture that may have possibly failed through times of drought. Arriving at Menindee Lake was yet another moment of great interest. We went to the lookout where the overflow from the Darling River enters the lake, the roar and force of the water was incredible. Menindee Lake was – at that moment – an amazing expanse of water. We took the 13k drive in to Menindee town and were quite taken by the entry statement sign which gave a population of 980 but over the top of the 0 was placed a number one – we could only assume that a baby had been born to someone in the town recently! Our next destination was to be Broken Hill for our overnight camp and sightseeing. As we travelled along it was a delight to see the Sturt pea’s growing wild – a good photo shoot. Prior to arriving into Broken Hill all our telephones and GPS’s automatically changed to central time – isn’t technology great?!! We checked in to the Lake View Caravan Park and all had a fairly early, quiet night.
Day 63 – 3rd September, two months to the day since we left Dongara – we took an orientation/information tour of Broken Hill and surrounds which we all agreed was great value giving us a fairly good insight in to the City. One point that ‘came home’ strongly in Broken Hill was how the old style cottages and buildings of corrugated iron and pressed tin had been maintained to that day. In parts it was almost like a step back in time. By 2pm we were ready to leave the City in the hope that we could ‘make a few k’s’ ahead of the threatening skies and feel of rain. We headed in a south west direction towards Yunta on the Barrier Highway.
We had discussed slightly shorter routes off the highway but with so much talk and information of threatening conditions it was agreed that the highway was the best alternative. As we approached O’Lary the heavens opened and the rain bucketed down. For the Bass’s and Allan it was agreed that a room at the O’Lary Hotel would be the way to go and Cedar would ‘pop’ his tee pee closely alongside the Hotel. O’Lary was another of the little country hotels that rely so much on passing tourist trade. Once inside we found that the business was being run by the family whilst Dad was away for the night on medical grounds. Just after we arrived there and had checked in for rooms and dinner there was a telephone call seeking meals and accommodation for about ten people returning home in their army trekking vehicles. This group were about 45k’s out experiencing the torrential conditions that we had. Then three other travellers also arrived seeking shelter and meals because of the stormy conditions. An amazing family unit swung into action taking it all in their stride and making a group of travellers VERY happy. O’Lary will certainly be remembered as a special place for this group of 9G trekkers. If you are ever passing, pop in and say hullo to the O’Grady’s on the Barrier Highway.
When we woke the following morning we were told that there had been 4.25 inches of rain in the downpour and overnight as well as strong winds as forecast.
Day 64 – Following a beautifully prepared breakfast at O’Lary, we farewelled the O’Grady’s and the army trekkers and took to the highway again. Straight away we were on to fast flowing creeks and water all around us. The skies overhead were very black and the wind continued to blow very strongly – all as forecast. Our travelling was somewhat slower but still allowing us to ‘knock over’ some k’s. We passed on through Mannahill, Yunta and Oodla-Wirra during the day. Just before Yunta Allan did a front wheel bearing and whilst we were lucky that the rain had currently stopped, the repairs were carried out in 40+knot winds with a pretty high chill factor!! The repairs took about one and a half hours after which we were back on the road again. Most of the day’s travel was through rolling hills and beautiful looking pastures although a bit hard to really enjoy given the weather conditions. A break at Peterborough for a warm cuppa and a bite to eat was very welcome by all. Conditions had continued to deteriorate and it was agreed that the wind speed would now be in excess of 50knots. We still decided to continue on passing through Orroroo before reaching Wilmington where Allan and the Bass’s again took a room at the hotel and Cedar parked alongside.
Day 65 – Fathers’ Day – we headed out of Wilmington at about 7.30am making for Port Augusta. The skies were still overcast but looked like taking a clearing trend – we hoped!!! As we drove through the beautiful hills of the Mount Remarkable National Park there was fog in the valleys and the chill in the air was pretty high – Cedar and Allan in particular had to be well rugged up. Having said this it was magic scenery to start the day in. Some reminiscing of the 2004 trek was done as we passed through this area and other parts of South Australia. On reaching the Highway 1 junction the view of Spencers Gulf was a pleasant change. Fuel (for tractors and bodies!) was taken at Port Augusta then we were off again at about 9.30am. Being an exceptional season our travels for the day took us through rich cropping areas and beautiful rolling farm land. Small towns on the way all had stories of floods experienced in recent days but again nothing that put barriers in our way. We passed by Iron Knob, Kimba, Kyancutta, Wudinna and on to Poochera. Around 40k’s from Streaky Bay at Chandada, having now done a total of some 8940k’s since leaving Dongara, we decided it was time for another bush camp. Given the rain, we were cautious of going too far off the road but found a great spot on a side track that suited us to a ‘T’. We set up camp in a slight drizzle but from there on the night was fine.
Day 66 we decided to pack up and head in to Streaky Bay for breakfast before continuing on to Smoky Bay to say hello to club member George Baldwin.
After meeting up with George and attending to some required tractor chores, completing and emailing report No 5 and picking up some famous ‘Smoky Bay’ oysters, we decided to ‘make a mile’ (we all agree that it sounds better than ‘make a kilometre’!!). So with goodbyes said we were on our way at 3.15pm. George was thanked for making us so welcome as usual; we all would have loved to have stayed but really needed to keep moving west. We went on through Ceduna and stopped for fuel at Penong. As we were about to leave, it was noticed that Bassy’s 9G had a split in the rim of one front wheel. With a ‘ready to use’ spare being carried, the necessary change was made and we were soon on the road again. A few k’s out of Penong we found a suitable campsite at the roadside. Allan soon had the camp oven on the coals with our dinner under way and George prepared oysters for an entree`. Another 9G Club Member, Phil Price from Penong and his friend Damo caught up with us and delivered a lovely lot of mallee roots for our evening camp fire. Thanks for the gesture Phil and Damo. Glad you could stay and enjoy the fire with us all.
Day 67 dawned and guess what – condensation again! Gee we loved these mornings!!! A quick wipe down and out with the plastic sheets to cover the beds and we were all packed up okay. There was no point in waiting for the sun to dry the campers out because whilst not wet, it was a bit cloudy with certainly no real sign of the sun. Our first stop for the day was at Nundroo road house where we met a lovely (very generous) group of tourist on their way to the whale watching centre. They were travelling in a coach from the town of Butte, South Australia, on a five day tour. What a pleasant, happy group of folk to meet and chat with. As we travelled this first leg on to the Nullarbor, the green pastures continued and even the bush land glowed but it wasn’t very long before the land took on a “wide open spaces appearance”. Our next stop was at Nullarbor road house where we met up with a motor bike riding group who were riding to raise awareness of depression and its consequences. Since getting on to the Nullarbor there had been very little in the way of ‘road kill’ – one wombat and one kangaroo. Live wildlife consisted of two dingoes despite the caution signs warning of kangaroos, wombats, dingoes, camels etc!! As the afternoon went on the clouds became heavier with a slight/very light shower of rain falling and the winds became quite strong. Later in the afternoon we found a good camp site near a gravel dump (obviously placed for some up and coming project.) Once we were set up we were joined by Chas and Sandra from Queensland’s Sunshine Coast who were heading to WA to tour the Pilbara, the West Coast and South West of our State. Then we received a telephone call from Peter & Brenda Barr who were returning home. They were about 1.5hrs behind us and said they would join us a little later in the evening. This they did giving us all another great opportunity to catch up on events of the last few weeks since we farewelled each other at Birdsville.
On day 68, as our camp was only about 100yards from the cliff edge, we woke to a beautiful view of the waters of the Great Australian Bight. There was a chill in the air but no sign of rain. After breakfast we said goodbye to Chas and Sandra and continued west towards the South Australian/Western Australian border some 20k’s down the road. Once through the border check we went on to Eucla to enjoy one last coffee and chat with Peter and Brenda before they went on ahead of us on the last leg of their journey back to Esperance. Travelling on the Nullarbor we became aware of the many road transport trucks carting sheep from WA to the Eastern states because of the lack of rain in the south of our State. After having seen so much water throughout the country it was hard to believe that some parts of our own state had missed out once again. The weather for the day was looking good but from all reports there were warnings of more fronts coming from the West. At this late stage of our trek we hoped we would be lucky enough to miss anything really bad! After Mundrabilla some ‘wag’ had been busy decorating trees!! We passed quite a number that had been done with all sorts of paraphernalia – undies, shoes, shirts you name it and it would be sure to have been part of the ‘display’! Guess that could be called ‘passing the time of day in the outback’. We continued on through Madura and Cocklebiddy with very little to report. Wildlife, be it dead or alive was almost nil! We could only assume that there was so much green feed and water for as far as the eye could see that the animals did not really need to frequent the roadside. Also gone were the days of little or no traffic on the Nullarbor. Now apart from heavy road haulage of all shapes and sizes – very big business all throughout our vast country, there were the tourists/travellers in all manner of vehicles – campers, caravans, four wheel drives, cars and so on it goes, everyone being on a mission. Our overnight camp was about 5k’s east of Caiguna.
Day 69 we were up and ready at 6.30am (WA time) although we did not leave camp until about 7.30am after some minor repairs to the winding mechanism on the Bass camper. Once we left camp we were on to the longest straight road in Australia – some 146.8k without a single bend. We enjoyed lunch at Balladonia then arrived in Norseman at 4.40pm. After fuelling up we turned north towards Kalgoorlie. Having done a total of 402k’s for the day, we made camp 162k from Kalgoorlie. After so many weeks together and with such wonderful challenges and accomplishments behind us, this would be our last bush camp as a group because on reaching Kalgoorlie, Cedar and Allan would head south and the Bass’s would head north back to where it all began. That night there was lots of reminiscing around the last campfire reflecting back on all we had seen and done together. We also discussed the ‘outcome’ of the damper competition and it was decided that a ‘draw’ would be the best result because it was beyond any of us to say who really made the best one – or was it that we did not want to take the responsibility of making the final decision!!!