Saturday, July 15, 2017

Purposeful Meandering across Oz - Week 1

Distance traveled = 2840km

18 months after a hair brain idea to drive across Oz tackling many of our great dirt trails was conceived, we headed off on our 8-week adventure across Oz with 4 other like-minded families in convoy. Our first day on the road saw us push three quarters of the way across NSW as we headed to Bourke.  Leaving Wollongong at 3am it was a cold chilly traverse across the Blue Mountains before stopping in Bathurst where sub-zero temperatures greeted us for breakfast. Needless to say, our breakfast stop was a very quick affair.  Back on the road the towns quickly passed us by and the kilometres added up, the kids who are season travellers now didn’t seem to mind the long day that was unfolding. Frequent stops and a plethora of animal life beside and on the road kept us all on our toes. Just as the kids started to get restless we drove into Bourke where accommodation at the Kidman Camp was settled upon. Throughout the rest of the afternoon our fellow companions filtered into camp where our days driving ensured an early night was had.
Sunday in Bourke doesn’t have a lot to offer the traveller as we quickly found out, with only the bare essential utilities open. Much of the days banter centred around the weather pattern that was building over western QLD and the impact it'd have on our coming days. Heading around town the old wharf on the Darling River reminded us of yester year when much of the town’s produce was transported by river. A flock of corella’s numbering into their hundreds kept us amused as they buzzed the trees above us and late in the afternoon we sat by the river watching the paddle-steamer make its daily trip down the river.
Monday saw us setting off in convoy towards Charleville. The aridness of NSW was quickly on display with much of the land desperately needing a good drink. The road-kill outnumbered the living and the flat barren ground offered little to see. Our first stop was the obligatory NSW-QLD border crossing where a few emus tried to share our photo moment. Pressing on to Cunnamulla for lunch we felt as though we were in the Southern highlands not sunny Queensland as once again the chilly conditions meant we spent more time in the car than outside. A few photos with the Big Fella and we were heading north again. A further couple of hours up the road and with rain threatening we rolled into Charleville where we made a beeline for a camp-spot we’d discovered a few years back. With a few hours light remaining we did a bit of exploring before settling into our first campfire of the trip.
Tuesday dawned to clear skies and virgin roads for us. Heading west from Charleville we found ourselves on Australia’s longest road, not that we planned to follow it to the end but what we did traverse offered amazing variety of Australia’s landscape. By lunchtime we’d made it to the small town of Quilpie where lunch recharged our energy supplies. Back in the saddle we pushed further west towards Windorah but just shy of our intended destination a perfect bush camp on the banks of the Cooper Creek was too good a location to drive past. A perfect backdrop of the sun setting over the water and another campfire was a perfect way to end a long day in the car.
It was only Wednesday of our first week but we’d already got ourselves into a good route of breaking camp and being on the road 90min after waking up. The day’s adventure would see us finish in Birdsville watching the “state of origin” but before then a lot would have to be achieved. After 30km on the road we struck our first dirt roads of the trip, airing down tyres and preparing for the countless kilometres ahead was all part of the adventure. By our standards the first 50km of dirt was reasonably rough our max speed never getting over 80. A bit further west we took a detour southward where after more and more dirt roads had us arriving at Haddon Corner, which is where the SA and QLD borders intersect. The comical photos of us standing in 2 states at once provided some light entertainment. Back on the road and retracing our tracks we were soon heading towards Birdsville again. The only relief to the dirt roads was the occasional emergency airstrip of bitumen which dots the countryside out this way. By late afternoon and with the sun setting on a long day we finally pulled into Birdsville where we opted for caravan park accommodation so we could walk into town for the nights festivities………… Don’t mention the footy.
Thursday dawned as our first lazy day since Bourke. Many of the families took the opportunity to do some washing, tidy up their rigs or dust off the kilos of dirt we’d collected along the way. For us, we took the opportunity to have a look around town. Birdsville is essentially a meeting point of many roads, either for those who’ve just conquered a major outback quest or those who are about to set off on one. The town has a little bit of everything but not a lot of much. By lunch time we’d headed out to the “Big Red” sand dune to see the highest sand dune in the Simpson desert. For many the challenge is to drive up the steepest sections of the soft sand. We preferred to watch others cook clutches and bury their cars…. Back in town we checked out the only licenced bakery in NSW where we indulged in a camel pie.
Friday seen us on the road again heading north towards Boulia where excitement was building for the anticipated Camel races. Much of the day offered more dirt roads and flat endless plains, we stopped occasionally to look at old ruins and one point we passed over the Tropic of Capricorn. By mid-afternoon we’d arrived in the bustling township of Boulia. The sleepy population of 200 had swelled into the thousands as the races and a car rally converged on the town. For us this provided a flookish opportunity for Leonie to catch up with her brother who was in town for the Road Boss car rally…. As the sun set on our first week of travel we once again found ourselves sitting around another campfire under star filled skies.

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