Sunday, May 16, 2010

Day 5 - Noccundra to Bollen

We woke at Noccundra and were able to have a look around at the place where we camped -  it had been dark when we arrived and we had set up the tent using what looked like a big car park light.

The pub is Noccundra

We weren't in a real hurry to get away, but by the same token there wasn't going to be a lot for us to do.  And the flies were terrible.  For the first (and last) time during the trip I put a fly net thingy on my hat.  With that on I toddled around and took some photos, including some of a brolga in the distance.
Brolga on my camera's maximum zoom

Back at the mostly packed up campsite it was time for a shower, which meant showering in front of an audience!
Shower buddy in the female facilities

And in the males!
There are a couple of options for camping in Noccundra - you can set up at the pub as we did and for $10 a night you can have a hot shower and a flushing toilet.  Across the road from the pub there is a free unserviced camp spot.  You can camp there free and make a gold coin donation for the use of the pubs shower and toilet block.  

I had a couple of vehicle issues bothering me.  Neither all that problematic but while we were in civilization I thought we should seek some advice.  The corrugations and general roughness of the days driving to get to Noccundra had vibrated a 'leg' of my roof rack off the gutter mount point.  I had refitted new nut and spring washers but I wanted to do the entire set.  A thumb-wheel had also vibrated off one of the roof basket retainers and I needed to replace the complete nut and bolt set.  Finally, the drivers side door had stopped opening.  I had to climb from the passenger side and fiddle with the handle for a bit and it finally released.  I wasn't sure whether to pull the door apart or not but I did give it a good long squirt with WD-40, which washed the red dust out, and the door started working again!

So a couple of 4WD-ing tips about vehicle preparation:
  • Fit spring washers and consider thread locking glue on aftermarket parts;
  • Carry WD-40
  • Carry some spare nuts, bolts, spring washers, gaffa tape and cable ties.
With the 'damage' made good, for the time being we set forth, and planned to have a brekky stop at Thargomindah and try for some nuts and bolts there.  It's about 120km from Noccundra to Thargomindah and it's all sealed road.  We hit the town fairly early and settled for a coffee and breakfast at the roadhouse.  The roadhouse is a great place for all sorts of supplies for travelers in the area.  Thargomindah is one of the first countries in the world to use hydro power generation.  There is a museum in town which illustrates the way it is/was done. After breakfast I bought some nuts and bolts, and replaced the questionable ones on the roof rack and we set off for Cunnamulla.

Cunnamulla is about 200km further along so we planned to stop, have lunch and find somewhere to camp for the night.  With a population of over 1000 it is one of the bigger centres that we had been through during the week.  We traveled past the Lake Bindegolly National Park on the way in.  The rains had 'filled' the lake system and the signs were worth the stop!


Anyways - after about 2 hours we reached Cunnamulla, refuelled and had lunch in the park alongside the tourist information centre.

Ok - by now most of the regular readers will know that I am a country music fan.  Every country music artist and fan in Australia has been influenced in some way by the late Slim Dusty, and one of his close friends and fellow songwriter and performer Stan Coster.  One Coster's biggest hits as a songwriter was his tribute to the ringers on the stations in the outback - Cunnamulla Fella.  It was recorded by Slim Dusty, and later a variety of artists including Lee Kernaghan and even the Screaming Jets!!  The statue in town is a double size version of a ringer with his swag.

Now you know who he is!!

After seeking advice from the visitor information centre we set off for a campsite we had been told about at a town called Bollon.  After a couple of more hours on the road we located the little town and after a quick stop in the town we were directed to the campsite.

Kudos is due here - firstly to the folks at Cunnamulla for putting us on to it.  I was a bit surprised that they encouraged us to leave town.  Secondly kudos to the township or council or whoever is responsible for the campground.  Located on the river, it is free, pet friendly, there are fire places and plenty of shady sites.  In town, in a park opposite the local pub there are public flush toilets and free hot showers.

We found ourselves a site, set up for the night and then drove back into town for a very nice hot shower.

Back at the campsite we had some dinner and settled in to work out our next few days.  We decided to make a late start, clean our gear, and head a bit further across Queensland then head south into NSW.  All up I was happy enough to watch the fire burn down and the stars shine down from above.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Day 4 - Tibooburra, Cameron Corner and Noccundra

Having made it up to Tibooburra we were really about to start the adventure.  We had planned on camping in Sturt National Park but being off tourist season things didn't go our way.  Deadhorse Gully had a rather large resident snake, so we decided quite quickly not to camp there. The recent rains had closed a number of the roads in Sturt so we visited the other campsite that we could access.  It was overgrown with weeds so we decided that the caravan park was the quickest easiest way to go.

The people of Tibooburra are also worth a mention.  The were all friendly and helpful.  We had a burger and a chat in the Corner Country Store and got some good advice about the local road conditions and were told that our plans needed revising.  The folks at the pub also hold the key to public showers and the laundry facilities at the motel across the road so we decided to was some clothes.  While that was happening we walked through town to the Sturt memorial park, complete with a replica of the whaler that his exploration team carried in case the found the inland sea they were looking for.  It is definitely worth a visit.

Moving the other direction through town we came across the Tibooburra Outback School of the Air.  Given some of the vast distances between, well... things, in the NSW Outback some of the children don't travel to school, they receive interactive lessons over the 'airwaves'.  It was actually a Sunday, so we were unable to see a lesson in progress.  According to their website there are the only dual mode school where students from the township attend the school and the folks on the surrounding properties attend via the satellite communication setup, which replaced the HF radio in 2004.

If you visit corner country it is worth a look.  If you can't make it there the website is fascinating.

Anyway we broke camp at a fairly leisurely pace, had a shower in the caravan parks shower block and were ready to set off.  I mention it because of the frogs.  I have never seen that many of the little critters in one place at one time.  Apparently leaving the light on after sundown attracts insects, which in turn attracts frogs.  We also took the opportunity to again check the car before we left and top off our water and fuel.

We were really heading into the remote outback!

The drive to Cameron Corner is about 120km.  Turning off the Silver City Highway you get the feeling that the adventure is about to begin.

A typical outback road condition sign

Heading toward Cameron Corner the road was in fairly good condition.  My initial thought was that a grader had been through and smoothed the road somewhat.

After a short while we came across water again.  Interestingly there were a number of tracks past this 'lake' which is indicative of the water not always being as high as it was.  It probably also indicates that there was more water not that long before we passed through.

Roadside lake between Tibooburra and Cameron Corner

 The lakes were to become a little more important to us as the day went by.

It wasn't long before we arrived at the Corner...

Border crossing into the Queensland.

OK - what first.  To explain for those who have never been there - this is the point where the borders of Queensland, New South Wales and South Australia meet.  It is named for the NSW Surveyor John Brewer Cameron who surveyed the NSW/Qld border, and marked the corner with a post in 1880.

The corner marker - not the original

There is a shop at the corner that does food, friendly chat and advice on local conditions.  You can also camp either at the store or across the road from it.  If you camp at the store there is a nominal that covers the use of the facilities.  If you are in the store look up - on the ceiling you will find cash - donations to a charity - usually the Royal Flying Doctor's Service.  We had a bit of a chat and sought some advice about the best way to continue our travels.
The other thing here is the famous dingo (native dog) fence.  Work started in 1880 and finished in 1885, it runs from about Dalby, Queensland to Nundroo, South Australia.  It is the worlds longest fence, running for 5614km.  The intent of the fence is to keep the dingo clear of the fertile sheep growing regions.  There are a limited number of gates where you can get through the fence.  The fence is maintained and if you are near it you are asked to shut the gates and not to climb on the fence.

The fence and a don't climb sign

With the obligatory photos taken and the advice from the folks in the Corner Store ringing in our ears we set off.  We had intended originally to have a bit of a look around and then head for Bourke from Tibooburra,  We know that the road was closed so the advice was head into Queensland for a bit, and then cross in to NSW above Moree.  We were happy to take the advice.

The first piece was that there would be some puddles to drive around.  The second was always use the track around the puddle - don't try and drive through.
An outback puddle blocks the road
The track around to the left.
We thought that we had the Outback travel thing under control - using the tracks around was not too bad until...

We actually considered turning around because we couldn't find a track.  As we drove back towards Cameron Corner we did spot some flattened grass.  We could continue.  For the first time in the trip we were in four wheel drive and doing some, literally, off road driving.  After about 20 minutes of driving through long grass with on loose sand we found our way back on to the road.

The track around - easy to see how we missed it

We were feeling pretty good at this stage, cruising along the track towards Noccundra when we came across the next challenge of the day...
The road had pretty much been washed away

I had been bogged - mainly as a result of not being in true 4WD, and losing momentum in the soft bulldust.  We engaged 4WD backed out, picked a different line...

I wasn't the only one through here

On the 'other side' we met another couple who had intended to travel to Cameron Corner but didn't fancy their chances after we had a bit of a chat about the road conditions they had ahead.  We continued on, feeling pretty good about ourselves.  We passed through more bulldust, around more puddles, through some boggy mud until we finally hit a well formed graded road, where there was a fairly big sign showing us our options.

In the background it's pretty easy to see the stormclouds were forming, so we continued on.  We decided against a bush camp.  We had been told of a nice free riverside spot, but the chance of being unable to move after the rain inspired us to push on to Noccundra.

We arrived there to find a campgound beside the pub with hot and cold running water.  We set up camp and cooked dinner, and were in bed fairly early.  Although we travelled less than 400km for the day we were exhausted - mainly from the fun we had had!