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!

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