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    Western NSW – Down the Darling, July 2020 - Part 2

    Click here to read the first part of this trip.

    Day 11 – Tuesday 7 July 2020 – Wentworth to Broken Hill

    Weather: Minimum of 9.1ºC and fine

    Another warmish night. I am awake at 6:45 am and I listen to the two ABC news and read the newspaper on my tablet. I get up at 7:55 am and have breakfast. We leave at 8:52 am and head back into Wentworth. After a toilet stop at the paddlesteamer, we go to the bakery to buy something for morning tea. I was after scones, but none. I get two small teacakes.

    While in town, Ron books us all into the Lakeview Caravan Park at Broken Hill. We leave town at 9:25 am and head up the Silver City Highway. This is a tar highway so we get along at a good speed, although there are a couple of spots undergoing work where we have to stop at red lights.

    PianoLibary
    The piano at the rest area.A library in a fridge!

    We stop at Popiltah Rest Area at 10:45 am for morning tea, it is still a cool 13⁰C. This is a nice camping area 130 kilometres north of Wentworth. This also has a piano for people to play and a book library! I pick up a book but have nothing to leave. John and Maureen arrive at 11:00 am. We head off at 11:20 am.

    We arrive at Broken Hill at 12:20 pm (South Australian time for rest of the day and tomorrow morning – 12:50 pm NSW). We go to Woolworths as we all need to stock up with groceries. I also get some wine. We leave at 1:25 pm. I then refuel, 44.8 litres at $1.219 $54.55 for 12.5 litres per 100 kilometres. At 1:50 pm I book into the Lakeview Caravan Park which is on the eastern outskirts of town.

    Broken HillBroken Hill
    Lakeview Caravan Park (no lake view!)The view from Block 10 Lookout

    The cost for an unpowered site is $24 for a night, pretty good value considering what some of our national park sites have cost! The camping section is a nice grassy area with a nearby camp kitchen and the toilet block is also nearby. After lunch, Sharon, Ian and I head off to do some sightseeing. We first go to Block 10 Lookout. This is near the Coles and has views over the main mining area as well as lot of the town.

    We then go to the Royal Flying Doctor Service display at Broken Hill Airport. It costs $12.50 for a guided tour of the museum and the three old planes in the hangar. The museum has old radios and medical equipment and lots of great photographs. The planes include a Beechcraft King Air, a CAC Nomad (Australian made) and a DeHavilland Drover. The tour takes about an hour and is well worth doing.

    Broken HillBroken Hill
    A recreation of an outback station's Flying Doctor radioIan in front of the CAC Nomad

    We leave here and go to Bells Milk Bar which is nearby. This is an authentic 1950s milk bar. I have a milkshake, brilliant. I really would have loved to stay here longer, but it is getting late. We then go to the main lookout on top of the mining dump. This is called The Lode Lookout. However, the museum is closed as it is late and the view is not great as the sun is low. We only stay for a short time and then head back to the caravan park.

    We arrive at the caravan park at 4:55 pm. I put on a load of washing and then have a shower. We have decided to go out for dinner at the Palace Hotel. This is where part of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert was filmed. Before we leave, I put my washing in the dryer. We head out at 6:35 pm in John’s car (Ian and Sharon in their’s).

    Broken HillBroken Hill
    The DeHavilland Drover that will be restored as a displayThe outside of Bells Milk Bar
    Broken HillBroken Hill
    Inside the main section of Bells Milk BarThe juke box inside the back section of Bells Milk Bar

    The Palace Hotel is in the main street and a nice old hotel. However, the restaurant is all booked out but we can have dinner from a limited menu in the bar area. We have a drink and then order dinner. It is a nice pub, but most of the service is very crappy (apart from the new barmaid). My dinner when it finally arrives is lukewarm, the person who delivers is very rude and just dumps the food on the bar without even attempting to find who it is for.

    Later, another patron has a big argument with him when their food (which they ordered before us and he had to complain about) is again dumped on the bar. A local goes off at him, abusing him for not been a local. He finally shuts up when we come to his support, telling the local that the service has been crap and the bloke delivering food very rude and hopeless. Ruins the night really!

    Broken HillBroken Hill
    The Big Seat at the Lode LookoutThe entrance foyer of the Palace Hotel

    We leave at 8:00 pm or so and after dropping by the Coles liquor store so I can get a bottle of sparkling wine for tomorrow night’s dinner, we go back to the caravan park. My clothes are not dry after one run through the dryer so I put them on again. We go into the camp kitchen for a beer as it is very cold outside. We go to bed at 9:50 pm, it is only 5.0⁰C.

    Weather: Fine, maximum of 13ºC
    Arrived: Lakeview Caravan Park, Broken HillTime: 3:50 am Distance: 317 kilometres

    Day 12 – Wednesday 8 July 2020 – Broken Hill to Packsaddle Creek

    Weather: Minimum of 0.5ºC and fine

    A freezing night, frost on the grass near Ron’s car, but not mine! I get up at 7:45 am and after listening to the SA news and reading the paper. It is still very cold! We have breakfast and leave at 8:40 am. I stop off at Coles as I have forgotten to get a couple of things. We arrive at Silverton at 9:45 NSW time (9:15 am SA).

    SilvertonSilverton
    Outside the Silverton HotelThe Silverton St Carthage Catholic Church - 1886

    We walk around Silverton which is really almost a ghost town. The highlight is obviously the pub, the Silverton Hotel. It is not yet open of course. There are a few art galleries, a church or two and the Mad Max 2 (Road Warrior) Museum. This does not open till 10 am SA time, so we have to wait around. There are also a few VW Beetles done up like Mad Max vehicles and an old Suzuki 4WD.

    At 10 am the museum opens and I pay the $10 to enter. The wall outside is a part replica of the compound in the movie and above the wall is a replica of the Main Force Patrol headquarter’s sign. Inside there are many original vehicles and props as well as some replicas, lots of photos and a good video, although it is on a crappy old TV and should be on something bigger and better really. They also sell mementos. Was not too bad, plenty of people went in, so the owners obviously make a good living out of it.

    SilvertonSilverton
    Outside the Mad Max MuseumThe orogonal bus from the movie

    After this we go to the hotel and have a beer. We leave at 11:10 am SA and go to the Mundi Mundi Lookout. This has great views but is also famous for being in the Road Warrior movie where key scenes where shot. We leave at 11:20 am SA time (all future times NSW). Shortly after we hit the dirt road where we stop while Ron and Ian air down their tyres (I don’t). The road is pretty good, very few corrugations and we make good time.

    Silverton
    Panoramic photograph at Mundi Mundi Lookout

    At 12:35 pm we stop for lunch in the bed of Smiths Creek. We have travelled 79 kilometres today and I have averaged 13.3 l/100 km since Silverton. It is a cool 15⁰C but sunny. We also cut timber for our fire tonight. We leave at 1:10 pm. At 2:00 pm we stop 46 kilometres on to take some photographs as it is quite a stunning spot. I fly the drone too. Here five other vehicles pass us (they were stopped for lunch back further).

    SilvertonSilverton
    Lunch at Smiths CreekIan cutting some timber for tonight's fire

    We leave after 10 minutes and a short distance on we stop again when Donna spots some Sturts Desert Peas on the side of a creek bed. We leave a short time later. The road here is quite good and we sit on 80 to 90 km/h. There is some bulldust in spots, especially on some corners. There are dozens of gates that have to be opened and closed today. Mostly it is Donna opening and Sharon closing, but occasionally I end up closing a gate.

    SilvertonSilverton
    Sturts Desert PeaLooking north
    SilvertonSilverton
    Looking southGoing through one of many gates

    It is a bit greener near Avenal Station. An interesting thing about today is that nearly every station has Telstra phone coverage (including internet). It extends out about three kilometres from the homestead. We end up passing most of the other vehicles (perhaps all, I cannot remember). We arrive at Packsaddle Creek at 3:50 pm. We camp about a kilometre to the east of where the road crosses the (dry) creek bed. It is 216 kilometres to here from Broken Hill, I have averaged about 13.2 litres/100 km today, pretty good.

    We set up camp on a nice flat section, plenty of room and trees around us. We are perhaps 50 metres from the creek. There is now no wind, unlike most of the day. We start a fire straight away as we are cooking roast dinner in our camp ovens. We have the normal drinks and nibblies starting at 5:00 pm. At the same time, Ian’s large chicken goes on, 15 minutes later Ron’s smaller chicken and at 5:30 pm my marinated pork which is in two smaller pieces.

    Packsaddle CreekPacksaddle Creek
    Our Packsaddle Creek campsiteThree camp ovens on for dinner
    Packsaddle CreekPacksaddle Creek
    Looking east at Packsaddle CreekPacksaddle Creek

    At 6:00 pm I put my vegetables into the camp oven. At 6:45 pm all three dinners are cooked and we serve it up (we share meats). I purchased a nice bottle of Australian Chandon sparkling and Donna, Sharon and I have this with our dinner. I use my new crystal champagne glass for the first time. An excellent meal!

    After dinner we sit watching the stars. We see at least 10 satellites and 4 shooting stars. This is despite an almost full moon. We go to bed at 10:05 pm, it is a cold 6.4⁰C.

    Today we travelled from Silverton via Eldee, Willangee, Mount Woowoolahra, Joulnie and Pine View.

    Weather: Fine, maximum of 18ºC
    Arrived: Packsaddle Creek Time: 3:50 pmDistance: 216 kilometres

    Day 13 – Thursday 9 July 2020 – Packsaddle Creek to Depot Glen, Milparinka

    Weather: Minimum of 1.4ºC and fine

    A second cold night, but no frost as it warmed up later to 5.5⁰C when the wind picked up from the west. It is a cool 6.2⁰C when I get up at 7:40 am. I was able to listen to both ABC Melbourne and Adelaide 7 am news on my radio. It is calm with a high overcast. After breakfast and some other things, we leave at 8:55 am.

    Dog FenceDog Fence
    The dog fence, this is the only section you are allowed to drive alongsideThe dog fence, South Australia is over the fence

    The road this morning is a lot rougher than yesterday. Again today there is Telstra coverage at the stations. Border Downs and Moorabie have coverage. We arrive at the dog fence along the South Australian/ New South Wales border at 10:00 am. This is 61 kilometres from our camp site and I have averaged 12.0 l/100 km. I take some drone photos here and the others photos of the fence. We leave about 10:20 am and at 10:40 am we stop 20 kilometres along for morning tea. We are still on the dog fence.

    Dog FenceDog Fence
    A very old sign, from the 1950s or earlierA whopping big bull ant!

    There has been phone coverage along most of the fence. We leave at 11:00 am and 20 minutes later stop to cut timber for our fire. We leave just over five minutes later. At 12:35 pm we arrive at Depot Glen, 181 kilometres from our camp. It is a warmer 17⁰C but overcast. We have lunch here. This is where Sturt and his exploration party were stuck for six months over the summer of 1844/5 due to extreme heat.

    Dog FenceDog Fence
    Ian approaching one of the many gatesSharon closing a gate

    After lunch we drive the short distance to Pooles Grave. This is where Sturt’s second in command, James Poole, was buried after he died of scurvy on 16 July 1845. There is a gravestone and also a tree which has carved in it, JP 1845. This is believed to have been done by Sturt’s party. From here we drive to Mount Poole which is on the nearby Mount Poole Station.

    Mount Poole is not very high, it is an easy walk to the top, although there is not a real good track up. As well as the 360⁰ views, there is a cairn on the top. This was built by Sturt’s men to commemorate Poole. The cairn is correctly known as Poole’s Cairn, although I have also seen it referred to as Sturt’s Cairn. I fly my drone and take some photos of the view and us at the top. We spend about 45 minutes walking up and back.

    Pooles GravePooles Grave
    James Pooles Grave SiteThe carved tree, JP 1845 is very clear

    After this we return to Depot Glen. I did not mention this before, but this is a permanent waterhole, which even when Sturt was stranded here did not dry up (Sturt says it was so hot the lead fell out of their pencils!). It is 2:40 pm when we set up camp here. There are a few spots where you can camp. We travelled 196 kilometres today and I have averaged 13.4 l/100 km since Broken Hill. After setting up camp we have showers using Ron’s car shower.

    I make the dough for tonight’s dinner, pizza. I let it rise and later roll out six pizzas, one for each and a garlic and cheese one to share. We all put in bits for the pizzas, bacon, chicken, pineapple, salami, cabanossi, onion, capsicum, chilli sauce, mushrooms and of course, mozzarella cheese. Everyone selects their own toppings and makes their pizza.

    Pooles CairnPooles Cairn
    Drone shot of us at Pooles CairnAnother photo of Pooles Cairn
    Depot GlenDepot Glen
    Depot GlenOur campsite at Depot Glen

    We have a fire and sit around it having drinks. I put on the first pizza at 6:00 pm. They are all cooked by 7:00 pm. Fantastic, better than any restaurant pizza I have ever had. After this we have the Aldi version of Baileys, not the same but nice. It is overcast and warm when we go to bed at 9:40 pm.

    Weather: Overcast, maximum of 17ºC
    Arrived: Depot Glen, MilparinkaTime: 2:40 pm Distance: 196 kilometres

    Day 14 – Friday 10 July 2020 – Milparinka to Tibooburra

    Weather: Minimum of 9.2ºC and raining

    It was a warm night and at 5:40 am it starts raining. This goes on for 75 minutes apart from 15 minutes in the middle when it stops. It is not heavy but it is consistent. I get up at 7:40 am and cook bacon and toast for breakfast. It starts to rain again. My shoes have about 15 mm of mud on the bottom and it is hard to walk around. During the slight gaps in the rain, we pack up.

    Depot GlenDepot Glen
    Thick mud on my shoe!Mud in my wheel arch after driving to Milparinka

    At 9:30 am we leave. It is still spitting but looks blue towards Tibooburra (to the north). We arrive at Milparinka at 9:45 am. It has stopped raining. We have a look around the town. Again, this is a ghost town, with some old buildings like the court house. There is a hotel which I assume is still open (in 2010 it was closed, but I was not sure if this was permanent or temporary).

    MilparinkaMilparinka
    Some of the buiildings at MilparinkaInside the Milparinka Museum

    There is now a camping area behind the court house, nice toilets and showers. However, the camping area has lots of sticky mud, although it looks like there was less rain here than at Depot Glen. My car has a lot of mud on it and under the wheel arches from the short drive. We leave at 10:30 am.

    It is tar from here to Tibooburra, in fact, as of a few days ago, the road is officially sealed from Broken Hill to Tibooburra. We arrive at Tibooburra at 11:00 am. I go straight to the main fuel station (should have went to the smaller one, 7 cents a litre cheaper!). Here I fill up, 64.6 litres at $1.369 = $88.44. We have travelled 499 kilometres since Broken Hill at an average of 13.2 l/100 km.

    TibooburraTibooburra
    Parked outside the Family HotelA couple of the murals inside the Family Hotel

    After this we go to the Family Hotel and park outside. We all have a look around (I have been here five times before, including two weeks in January 1980 for work). We meet up with John and Maureen who arrived yesterday. We have a beer in the hotel and we all look at the artwork on the walls of the hotel. These have been done by some very famous Australian artists including Clifton Pugh. We also get water for our tanks from a tap outside the hotel. There is more rain around to the north. We leave at 12:20 pm and drive the short distance to Dead Horse Gully Camping Area in Sturt National Park. This is a 10 minute drive and it is on the north-western side of the town.

    TibooburraTibooburra
    The main wall of murals inside the Family Hotel. The publican from 70s and 80s is the devil top left.A photo I took in 1980 of the murals. Note the difference, including one female nude now missing

    We pick a spot next to a large undercover area as it is certain that there will be rain shortly. It soon starts to rain and thunder. There is some lightning and it really pours. We sit under the shelter till it is over. We make lunch while this is all going on. The rain stops at 1:15 pm and there is a nice double rainbow.

    TibooburraTibooburra
    The rain is pouring downA rainbow after the rain has stopped
    TibooburraTibooburra
    The view from a section of the Dead Horse Gully walkA view of our campsite at Dead horse Gully

    After the rain it comes out blue. I set up the Shippshape tent, including the two sides (in case it rains) and fly the drone to get some photographs. At 2:00 pm it looks like some more rain is coming and it later rained a bit. After this it is fine again and most of us do the Granites Walk which is at the camping area. This is a nice walk. After we finish, at 4:30 pm Ian and I go in his car to town.

    We go to the Tibooburra Hotel (the two storey hotel). There are quite a few vehicles coming into town. The ones coming from north and west particularly have large amounts of mud on them and under their wheel arches. At the pub we have a couple of beers and then get back to the camping area at 5:45 pm.

    TibooburraTibooburra
    The Tibooburra HotelIan inside the Tibooburra Hotel

    It is now a totally clear sky. I cook pork fillet and make Asian rice from a packet. We use the provided BBQs and burners. After this we sit watching the stars, seeing 11 satellites and four shooting stars. I also watch South Sydney play West Tigers on my phone, pretty good reception. Souths win 18-10! I go to bed at 10:10 pm after the game. It is now 13⁰C.

    TibooburraTibooburra
    Sunset at Dead Horse GullyA drone shot of Dead Horse Gully looking towards the town

    Weather: Overcast and rain, maximum of 17ºC
    Arrived: Dead Horse Gully, TibooburraTime: 12:30 pm Distance: 60 kilometres

    Day 15 – Saturday 11 July 2020 – Tibooburra to Cameron Corner and back to Fort Grey, Sturt NP

    Weather: Minimum of 9.2ºC and fine

    Last night was again fairly warm and when I get up at 8:00 am it is 10.5⁰C. After breakfast I dry some of my wet stuff out and then packed up. We leave at 9:50 am for town. John and Ian left a bit earlier as they needed to get fuel and water and some other things. We leave Tibooburra at 10:00 am. It looks like there is rain out to the west.

    We stop for morning tea at 10:55 am, having travelled 69 kilometres. The road has been good to here, although you can see where some cars yesterday have slipped all over the road in spots and there is some water on the creek crossings, giving lots of mud puddles. My car is now extremely dirty as one “creek” crossing where there were two small mud puddles totally sprayed up over the car, even though I was only doing 50 km/h when I hit them. The rain holds off and the dark clouds go to the south and disappear.

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    A foggy morning on the road to Cameron CornerAfter I went through the small patch of mud!

    We leave at 11:20 am and the road remains fairly good, although just before the turn off to the Fort Grey Camping Area and a bit past this there are two sections of road which are totally covered with water. We have to detour off the road around these sections. Nearing Cameron Corner we come across a new fenced off section of Sturt National Park. This appears to have been done to protect native species from dogs, foxes and cats. In September 2020 there is some publicity on this in the media. The road passes through the fence which has radar activated sounds to deter the predators from going though the gap in the fence.

    We arrive at Cameron Corner at 12:30 pm. We go into South Australia and then over to the gate into Queensland. While technically South Australia is closed to us (due to COVID-19), there is nothing stopping us entering.

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    One of the larger water patches on the roadGoing through the dingo fence on the SA/NSW border

    Queensland reopened to New South Wales as from yesterday, but you need to complete a form and request approval to enter. There is a Police car at the gate and we speak to the Police officer. He tells us we can apply to him for access, but we will need to complete a long form. We decide it is not worth it just to go to the Corner Store for a beer. Funny thing is we were actually in Queensland when we were speaking to the officer as the fence is not right on the border!

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    The road block on the SA/Queensland borderAt Cameron Corner, SA front and right, Qld to left and NSW behind

    I have been here many times before, at least five or six from memory. The others have never been here. We walk over to the actual corner, take some photos and I fly the drone too. We then have lunch at our cars. There is a cold wind so even though it is sunny, it is cool.

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    A drone shot of Cameron Corner, SA right, NSW back left and Queensland front leftThe crossing into the new dog free reserve near Cameron Corner

    We head off at 1:25 pm. We backtrack towards Fort Grey and just after turning off the Dunes Scenic Road onto the Cameron Corner Road, we come to the second big “lake” across the road that I mentioned earlier. There is a bright red Ford Ranger bogged on the western side of the road. It is 1:50 pm.

    We pull up and go to have a look. When we came past this water, we went to the eastern side of it, but not off the road reserve. The Ranger has gone to the western side which is a bit higher off the road and also has a big drop to the west. The car has sunk down so far it is now laying on the ground.

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    The bogged Ford Ranger with two of the young blokesRon about to pull the Ranger out

    The vehicle contains four young sub-20 year old males. After looking at it, we decide to pull it out backwards, it would be very hard to pull it forward. Ron will pull it. John puts a towing hitch in their tow bar and we attach a snatch strap. Ron is going to slowly pull them out, not snatch them. He starts and we yell to stop. The driver has either his foot on the brake or it is in park! “What, you want me to put it in reverse?” says the driver!

    Ron easily pulls them out. We leave at 2:00 pm. At 2:10 pm we arrive at the Fort Grey Camping Area. We set up camp in the same spot I camped in 2010. There are a number of free BBQs and sheds as well as a toilet. It is a bit warmer as more protected from the wind and temperature is now 17⁰C.

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    A drone shot looking from the camping area towards Lake PinarooLooking straight down at our vehicles

    After setting up, most of us go on the Lake Pinaroo walk. This goes to the old Fort Grey Homestead ruins and then across the dry lake. In 2010 I could not do this as the lake had a lot of water in it. I decide to do the extra section to Sturts Tree. This is another carved tree from Charles Sturt’s 1845 expedition. This is almost on the other side of the lake. The whole walk takes me about 100 minutes, about 35 more than the others.

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    The windmill at the old Fort Grey HomesteadAn old dam on Lake Pinaroo bed, boiler for pump on right
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    Sturts Tree and the supporting structureA close up of Sturts Tree, this was where it was blazed

    We have showers using Ian’s gas hot water system and then drinks. I cook another Mongolian lamb strips for Ian and myself. We have this with leftover rice from the other night. There are four other cars here, one of which is playing very loud music till another person goes over to them. Must have been extremely loud for that bloke, we were a long way from him and it was loud here.

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    Our camping spotA gecko

    The wind finally totally drops at 9:00 pm. We go to bed about 9:35 pm, it is 13⁰C.

    Weather: Fine, maximum of 17ºC
    Arrived: Fort Grey, Sturt National Park Time: 2:10 pm Distance: 173 kilometres

    Day 16 – Sunday 12 July 2020 – Fort Grey to Mount Wood, Sturt National Park

    Weather: Minimum of 7.1ºC and fine

    After again listening to the ABC Melbourne news, I get up at 7:10 am. It is nice and sunny unlike the last two mornings. I have breakfast and then fly the drone to get some photos as it was too windy yesterday. We leave at 8:55 am. We backtrack about three kilometres to Middle Road. This is a much rougher road than the ones we have been on during this trip and last time I was here in 2010 it was closed due to water.

    We are only a few kilometres down this road when Ron calls out over the radio someone is bogged. He then says it looks like they have camped here. We come to a very long stretch of road totally covered with water. Guess what, it is the red Ford Ranger again! This time they have gone across country to try to get around the water. We can see where they have gone and where in a couple of spots they must have got bogged.

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    The Ford Ranger bogged again!The water across the road where they got bogged

    This time the car is bogged on what looks like hard ground but is, in fact, in spots very soft. We stop well back from them and walk over. There are two small tents set up and only two of the young blokes are here. They tell us that they got bogged yesterday evening and decided to camp here. The other two blokes left at 6:00 am to walk, believe it or not, to Cameron Corner. In a straight line, they are only 2.5 kilometres from where we camped last night at Fort Grey.

    We tell them that they should never leave their car, but if they did walk, they should have only walked back to the Cameron Corner Road where if they had sat and waited, dozens of cars would have went past today. As we did not see them, they must have really turned towards Cameron Corner. This time I will pull them out, so we again set up the same as yesterday and I easily pull the Ranger onto harder ground.

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    Binerah Downs Homestead ruins and damSome of the artefacts from the homestead

    As we talk to them, it becomes obvious they have no idea about 4WDs or how they operate. They ask “what does the 4WD button do” and “does 4WD Low give you more power”. I show the owner how to put it into 4WD and low range and explain what they do! He then asks me to drive the car back to the road so he does not get bogged again. I do this. We tell them that they should pack up straight away and head off to find their mates. We wonder if this is the last we see or hear from them!

    We continue on our way. As I drive, I realise that I probably could have driven the Ranger out of where it was bogged just by putting it in 4WD (I did not realise when I pulled them out it was still in 2WD). The road has lots of water over parts of the road, especially near the Lake Pinaroo, and we can see that only two vehicles have travelled on it since the rain almost 48 hours ago. At 10:10 am we arrive at the Binerah Downs Homestead ruins. We stop and have morning tea as we explore the area. There are lots of building remains and many bottles and small pieces of machinery.

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    Olive Downs Homestead and tennis courtThe ruins of the Olive Downs Shearers Quarters

    We leave at 10:45 am and go down the Toona Gate Road back towards Tibooburra. We then go back on Middle Road again, this section is much better than the earlier part. It is also a lot greener here than out towards Cameron Corner. We see some small flocks of budgerigars. At 11:35 am we arrive at Olive Downs Homestead (which you cannot actually access) and then the nearby shearers quarters. These are now ruins after a storm ripped off the roof sometime before 2010. I stayed here for two weeks in January 1980 for work.

    Sturt NPSturt NP
    At the lookout on top of the Jump UpsLooking back towards the Jump Ups

    We do not stop long and at 11:47 am we arrive at The Jump Ups Lookout. This has great views down over the lower land. We have travelled 92 kilometres this morning. We have phone reception for the first time in over 24 hours and check emails etc. It is sunny but a cool 14⁰C. We leave after 10 minutes and see more flocks of budgies on the way. This is now the Jump Up Loop Road.

    Sturt NPSturt NP
    Horton Park OutstationAt the Gorge Lookout

    At 12:25 pm we arrive at Mount King Tank which is a nice spot to look for birdlife. We have lunch here, I make a Mongolian lamb wrap. We leave at 12:55 pm and after a short stop at South Myers Tank (where there is a bird hide), we cross over the Silver City Highway to go on the Gorge Loop Road. At 1:35 pm we stop at Horton Park Outstation. This small building was an outstation of the much larger Mount Wood Station. There is an even older ruins near the road. The remaining building is an interesting example of a not as prosperous property building.

    Sturt NPSturt NP
    The whim at Mt WoodInside the Mt Wound Shearing Shed

    We leave at 1:47 pm and continue on, with a short stop at The Gorge Lookout. This has some views over the lower land, not really a gorge, but nice anyway. We pass by Mount Wood Homestead and Camping Area and go to the Mount Wood Pastoral Museum, arriving at 2:38 pm. This is great recreation of some of the various machinery items used on 1800s sheep stations. There are also some real items here too. Well worth a visit.

    We backtrack to the camping area and at 3:00 pm we set up camp. This is a very small camping area and tonight all the usable spots will be taken. It really needs to be expanded as every time I have been here it has been crowded. After I have set up camp, I have a cuppa and then Ian, Sharon and I walk to the homestead (which you cannot really see much of unless you are paying to stay there). We then walk to the Mount Wood Shearing Shed which is a great example of 19th century shearing sheds. We go via the shearers’ quarters which are mostly much newer.

    Sturt NPSturt NP
    At Mt Wood Camping Area looking towards the homesteadA fantastic sunset tonight

    Back at camp it is time for drinks. I end up cooking pork ribs with periperi sauce. I cook in a small saucepan with some water on the bottom. I use the gas burner on the provided BBQ. I have some left over oriental rice from last night and I add this to the saucepan and soak up the juices. A very good meal.

    Tonight we have a great sunset and later the wind drops. It is a cool 10.7⁰C and we cannot have a fire, so we go to bed quite early at 8:40 pm.

    Weather: Fine, maximum of 15ºC
    Arrived: Mount Wood, Sturt NPTime: 3:00 pm Distance: 186 kilometres

    Day 17 – Monday 13 July 2020 – Sturt NP to Mays Bend, Bourke

    Weather: minimum of 3.8ºC and fine

    A very cold night and at 7:10 am when I get up it is only 5.2⁰C. We have breakfast and then pack up. We leave at 8:40 am. We are travelling via the Tibooburra Road which then becomes The Cut Line. This road used to be called the Wanaaring Road but for some reason changed about 20 years ago. At 10:15 am we stop on the side of the road for morning tea. We have travelled 130 kilometres averaging 12.3 l/100 kilometres. It is a cool 10⁰C.

    We have seen lots of budgies on the way here and at this spot we see a dozen pink cockatoos. We leave at 10:32 am, it is quite dark to the south-west, but this comes to nothing. We pass through Wanaaring at 11:25 am, we do not stop. Just past here there is a 12 kilometre long section of tar road and a few smaller sections. We stop at 12:40 pm at a spot where it looks like they are preparing to tar another long section. We have travelled 306 kilometres, again, 12.3 l/100 kilometres.

    The road to here has been pretty good, with only a few bad sections. I travelled this road in 1978 in my Holden Gemini, it is much better than it was then! On the way I had an awful noise from a wheel. I end up working out that it is a small rock stuck between the disc pad and brake pad, on the back right wheel I think. I have to stop a few times and reverse before it is dislodged. We leave at 1:12 pm, it is a cold 13⁰C!

    Wanaaring RoadMays Bend
    Lunch along the Wanaaring RoadMays Bend camp site

    It is tar from here to Bourke so we have to stop again while Ian and Ron pump their tyres back up to normal pressure. We also stop for timber. We meet Eda and Ray at the North Bourke intersection. While Ron goes into town to get fuel, we head out to Mays Bend where we spent our second night on this trip. We cannot go to the spot we camped at before as Ray and Eda have a motorhome, it will be too high to get past one spot and I doubt they will get up one of the dry creek crossings.

    I scout ahead and find a good spot on the river but there is someone else there. I end up finding another spot which is on a dry billabong. This is to the far left as you come in. We set up camp here and Sharon soon has a nice fire going. It is 3:25 pm when I have finished setting up. John ends up finding us after a few problems and then Ron arrives.

    We have showers using Ron’s setup. I make up my Apple Crusty Pudding which I will cook in my camp oven after we have dinner. We have drinks and nibblies and then I cook chicken fillet with smoky BBQ sauce cooked on Ray’s new and never used biji BBQ. Later I put the dessert on and we have it with ice cream that Eda bought in Bourke (I phoned her from Wanaaring to get). An excellent finish to the meal. We sit around the fire and have a few small ports before going to bed at 10:00 pm.

    Weather: Fine, maximum of 13ºC
    Arrived: Mays Bend, BourkeTime: 3:15 pm Distance: 410 kilometres

    Day 18 – Tuesday 14 July 2020 – Mays Bend, Bourke to Lightning Ridge

    Weather: minimum of 3.2ºC and fine

    Another cold night. I get up at 7:10 am and make breakfast. We leave in dribs and drabs as some have to get fuel and others water. I leave at 8:45 am and go to the Outback Centre where I top up with water (and use the toilet, sadly none at Mays Bend). I then fill up, 98.8 litres @ $1.259 total $124.39. I averaged 12.4 litres/100 km for the 797 kilometres since I last refueled in Tibooburra.

    We leave Bourke at 9:30 am and head for Brewarrina. It is a reasonably good tar road. We arrive there at 10:35 am. I looked for a bakery to buy something for everyone's morning tea, but there is none. Unfortunately it is a pretty sad old town, not many resources for residents or visitors.

    BrewarrinaLightning Ridge
    Brewarrina Fish TrapOpal Caravan Park

    We go to the Brewarrina Fish Trap and have a look around and then have morning tea. The fish trip was made from rocks in the Barwon River by Aboriginals eons ago. By opening and closing slots, water levels were raised and dropped, enabling fish to enter and then be caught as the water level dropped. Ingenious. There is another one at Arrawarra on the coast, this time in the ocean. We leave at 11:30 am, it is still a cool 12ºC.

    We travel via Walgett and on the way we stop on a side road for lunch at 12:40 pm. We leave at 1:00 pm, it is only one degree warmer! We arrive at Lightning Ridge at 2:35 pm and check in to the Opal Caravan Park which is on the road out of town to the east and almost opposite the artesian bores. This is a very nice caravan park, but it has a crappy system for unpowered sites, nothing is marked out and you are not allocated a site. This means people are parked all over the place.

    We finally find spots and set up. Unfortunately Eda and Ray have not booked a spot, so there is no place for them, although they are told to come back later and there may be room. The problem is part of the unpowered area is not usable at the moment due to the rain that fell while we are in Tibooburra. After a cuppa, a few of us walk over to the artesian bore and have a soak. Very warm, about 40ºC I reckon.

    After this we walk back and Eda and Ray have now been able to come in and are camped next to us (we sort of saved them a spot). We have a beer and Eda brings out a cake for my birthday. It even has candles on it! After showers, at 5:30 pm we walk to the Lightning Ridge Bowling Club for dinner. There are restrictions on numbers, but we were told we did not need to book. We find a large table and order drinks and dinner. Ray and I share some Chinese dishes, very nice.

    John and Maureen arrive late as they drove basically by themselves and they had a flat tyre out of Brewarrina. After a nice dinner, we walk back to the caravan park (2.3 km each way, 25 minutes). Ron, Ian and I have another drink. We go to bed about 10:30 pm. I read for 30 minutes before going to sleep.

    Weather: Fine, maximum of 13ºC
    Arrived: Lightning RidgeTime: 2:35 pm Distance: 327 kilometres

    Day 20 – Wednesday 15 July 2020 – Lightning Ridge area

    Weather: minimum of 5.7ºC and fine

    Another cool night, only 7.5ºC at 8:00 am when I get up. Ron, Donna, Ian, Sharon and I walk over to the artesian baths, not many people here so it was great. We are back at the caravan park at 8:45 am and I then have breakfast. I put out the solar panel for the first time on the trip to keep my battery topped up.

    Lightning RidgeLightning Ridge
    Golf course at Club in the Scrub, this is a "green"The Club in the Scrub

    At 10:10 am, I head off with Eda and Ray in their motorhome. Our plan is to do the Orange Car Door tour to the Grawin Opal Fields which are about 80 kilometres away. Most of it is tar road, but the last section is a very rough dirt road. We stop at the Club in the Scrub for a beer (they have a golf course!). We leave here at 11:30 am and head deeper into the opal fields. We pass a huge mound of mine refuse and stop to have a scavenge for opals (none of course).

    We continue on to the Glengarry Hilton where we plan to have lunch. However, it is way too crowded for our liking, so we decide to go onto the Sheepyard Inn. However, when we get there it is empty. When we ask about food (which is advertised outside and in all information), we are told there is none and they have sold out of pies (I call bullshit on that one, no way they could have sold out already).

    Lightning RidgeLightning Ridge
    Old 55 series Toyota LandCruiser, made from 1967 to 1980! I used to drive these at work.The house with walls made from beer bottles

    We head back to the Club in the Scrub and arrive there at 1:30 pm. We have stopped at the war memorial on the way. We order hamburgers and another beer. The hamburger is $10 and chips $2. Both were very good. We leave at 2:15 pm and head back to Lightning Ridge. We do the Red Door Tour (guides are $1 from the visitor centre). Two castles, a house with walls made from bottles and more.

    Lightning RidgeLightning Ridge
    The huge castleThe oldest house in Lightning Ridge - 1916

    We arrive back at the caravan park at 3:50 pm. I have a cuppa and put the solar away, my battery is now 12.9 volts. I also put the small amount of washing I did yesterday away. A few of us walk over to the baths again but they are way too crowded.

    After a nice shower, we have drinks at 5:15 pm and then I cook the rest of the Mongolian lamb from a few nights ago. We have more drinks after dinner and I go to bed at 10:00 pm. It is a cool 9ºC.

    Weather: Fine, maximum of 17ºC
    Arrived: Lightning RidgeTime: 3:50 pm Distance: 0 kilometres in my car, about 170 km

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