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.

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