Monday, April 26, 2010

Day 3 - White Cliffs to Tibooburra

After breakfast, loading the car and some goodbyes to the folks who had also stayed at the underground accommodation we decided to have a drive through the opal mines and head north west for Tibooburra.

We drove through discussing what life must have been like when opal was first discovered, before electricity was reliably generated, before the roads were good enough to ensure regular supplies were available...  We decided that it must have been a tough life.  Heading out onto the main road we had our first experience of driving in the outback proper.

 Typical red dirt outback road

The locals in White Cliffs told us that some of the roads had been closed as a result of flood waters coming through but the roads to Tibooburra were open and in fairly good condition.  All the way through they were.  However there was evidence at the side of the road that the waters had been through.  We stopped to have a look.  Fortunately no other vehicles were about.

The creek bed makes it easy to see the power of the water that had flowed through.  Interestingly we saw no water for miles and miles, until we reached the Silver City Highway.

 The locals told us that what is now green is usually red dust, but for the rains and the flooding.

The other thing that we had to adapt to was the vastness and remoteness of where we were.

The Discovery looks tiny in the Australian Outback

After a while we reached the Silver City Highway junction, where we found, intriguingly, what we called the tool tree.

Anyone have any idea why it's there?

 The Silver City highway runs from Buronga on the NSW/Vic border to the Warri Gate north of Tibooburra.  Departing from Buronga on the New South Wales Victoria border it snakes it's way north, through Wentworth to Broken Hill.  Apparently it is sealed south of Broken Hill, and there are sealed parts between Broken Hill and the Warri Gate, but not many...

It didn't take us long before we came across the roadside Patterson Lake and Salt Lake.  These were almost literally roadside lakes and after a couple of hours on red dirt roads were not expecting to see so much water.

Outback roadside lake

We returned to the highway and decided to head to Tibooburra, have some lunch, organise accommodation for the night and check out the road conditions to Cameron Corner.  The Silver City Highway changed from sealed bitumen to good dirt to quite corrugated sections.

Corrugations of the Silver City Highway
The black 'spots' are locust
Our next stop was the 'ghost town' of Milparinka.  When gold was discovered in the region in the 1870's there was a 'rush' to Milparinka, but gold wasn't found there but nevertheless the town developed as an administrative centre with banks, shops, pubs, a newspaper, police station and even a court house.  As the township was progressively abandoned a local community group has restored the historical buildings, which were open and 'manned' when we arrived.

Milparinka Visitor Information Centre
Note the chair and cup of the volunteer
We enjoyed our stop and look through the buildings and in particular the friendly chap at the visitor information centre, and with some regret we left.

It didn't take long before we arrived in Tibooburra.

Advice in town was to head into Sturt National Park to camp but we eventually took a drive through the open part of the park and settled in for the night at a caravan park.

It hadn't been a long day but we had seen some amazing territory, and we were as ready as we could be for the adventure across to Cameron Corner.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Outback Day 2 - Nyngan to White Cliffs

I guess these posts will be as much about the journey as about 4WD-ing and camping.  Especially last week's post and this week's post.

Our intention was to leave Nyngan fairly early and make haste along the Barrier Highway to about Wilcannia.  Mostly not a long drive (about 400km) and on a sealed highway we thought that we would set off fairly early, arrive and set up camp fairly early and explore the area.

It didn't take much driving down the highway before we definitely got the feeling that we were heading in to the outback.  The Barrier Highway has a number of little roadside rest stops and we pulled up at one for a look.

The red dirt and the trees are typical of this part of the outback, and the facilities were well maintained.

After an hour or so we arrived at Cobar.  A town built on mining (copper was discovered in 1870) the it is worth stopping and having a look at the visitor centre, which houses a museum.  It is also worth a drive to have a look at the new mine.  Doesn't matter what you think of mining, the scale of the operations is always somehow impressive.  One of the other things that Cobar is 'known' for is being the home of the pub with the longest iron lace veranda in NSW.

After a bit of a look through town we continued toward Wilcannia and stopped for lunch at another roadside rest area.  As planned we arrived in Wilcannia after a couple of hours on the road. Being on the Darling River Wilcannia was once a thriving inland port, complete with riverboats.  Apparently paddlesteamers were preferred due to their draft and the variable, but usually shallow depth of the river.

When we arrived it was still fairly early so we decided to 'turn right' and head north to the former opal mining settlement of White Cliffs.

We had checked earlier, and at the junction of the road there was no indication that the road was closed, so we set off to look for accommodation in the locality.  Ultimately we chose to stay at underground accommodation in White Cliffs.  There are two places you can stay at, the Underground Motel and the Underground B&B.  It is a unique experience and although unplanned I enjoyed it a great deal.  There are only a couple of places in Australia where you can spend the night underground so we enjoyed the stay greatly.
 The entry to our accommodation

Particularly the view from the roof at sunset.

Outback sunset 1 - White Cliffs

Outback sunset 2 - White Cliffs

We didn't camp at White Cliffs as such but we did learn two important things - bring the 240V cord for the fridge...

Note the fridge on gas in the car park

We had also driven through a locust plague.  It is worthwhile checking your vehicle's airbox, particularly if you have a snorkel fitted.  I emptied the locusts from mine in Nyngan and again in White Cliffs.  I think the snorkel was acting like a bit of a vacuum cleaner when driving through the swarms.

Depending on how I feel tomorrow, I shall try and get another post up, from White Cliffs to Tibooburra...

Saturday, April 17, 2010

We are back from the outback - summary and Day 1

I mentioned in earlier posts that we were heading off for a two week trip through outback New South Wales.  Well after about 4800 kilometers of driving we have made it home.  Over the next couple of weeks I will post some of the photos and some of the stories of the trip.  There were some great 'lessons learned' for future remote area travel and I'll share those as we go along.

For the folks who regularly read the blog you will know (sort of) that our intention was to travel to Cameron Corner, where New South Wales, Queensland and South Australia meet.  (Yes - you did read that correctly!)  We were then planning to head to Tibooburra, then across to Bourke via Wanaaring.  The recent flooding in the region however put paid to that plan and we decided to head up to the Noccundra Hotel and across the 'bottom' of Queensland, to Moree then toward the coast at Grafton to meet up with family before heading south for home.

We had an absolute blast - from the slopes and plains around where we live to the red dust of the outback, lakes that are normally dry, roads that have washed away, roads closed due to flood waters or flood damage, the desert, the coast, a beach, some mountains and some waterfalls, the trip had it all.

Our first two days saw us put some serious distance between us and home. 

Night 1 we spent at Nyngan - from our place the route took us through Forbes, Trundle and Tottenham.  Ultimately we had traveled some 460-odd kilometers and had positioned ourselves at the junction of the Mitchell and Barrier Highways.  We set up at a caravan park and were due to head off the next morning into the outback!

Interesting stories are revealed as you pass through these townships - Forbes is said to be named after Sir Francis Forbes, the first Chief Justice of the New South Wales Supreme Court.  The story goes that the name was supposed to go to Hill End, near Mudgee, but a government administrative error meant that the declaration was made for the current Forbes.  I don't think Sir Francis will be too bothered - Hill End is now a 'historical site' according to the NSW National Parks and  Wildlife Service - Forbes is a township of some 8000+ people.

Trundle - population about 400 boasts the pub with the second longest balcony in NSW - more on this later.

Then there was Tottenham - population about the same as Trundle, where 33km west nor-west of the town is the geographical centre of New South Wales.

We arrived at the van park in Nyngan and settled in for the night - excited about the prospect of heading into the outback proper the following day.

The Bogan River, Nyngan
 Campsite - Night 1 - Nyngan

Next time I get a chance - day/night 2 - Nyngan to White Cliffs...

Friday, April 2, 2010

Away for a couple of weeks

Today we leave for our trip into the outback.  We are headed to the far north west corner of New South Wales and looking forward to seeing the outback for the first time.

One we get back I will post the story and pics - it should be great.

Have a happy easter and travel safe.