We were off on another great outback adventure, such anticipation, we were still packing the mokes, yes of course we took 2 as usual when Dave arrived from Adelaide in his moke, a quick oil change and a check of wheel bearings for him.
Early morning rise next day only to find we had messages from Terry Pollard, still in Melbourne, that the road from Ivanhoe to Tibooburra was closed due to rain earlier in the week.
So a few hasty phone calls saw us heading to Broken Hill instead of Hay the original scheduled meeting place. So with Andy [Queensland] in Hay to wait for Tony and Stuart, Merryn and Jack their dog [New South Wales] still somewhere on the road heading to Hay and Terry and Cujo [Victoria] still in Melbourne our 3 mokes headed off, the scheduled meeting place now Broken Hill. Wentworth for the 3 of us saw a morning tea stop and for Dave to again check a wheel bearing, soon back on the road heading for Broken Hill, smooth sailing all the way, caravan park stop that night. Having time on our hands until the others arrived, we had no idea when that would be, we left the caravan park, too many people, we were bombarded with the usual questions about the mokes and “can I take a photo”, you all know what I mean.To the Information Centre for brochures etc and out to The Broken Hill Sculptures, 12 large sandstone sculptures a top Sundown Hill created back in 1993 and then a walk around the Living Desert Sanctuary, good exercise, and great scenery.
Longing for a bush camp it was out to a dry creek just before Silverton, the banks of the creek making a great camp site, sand, cows, wood what more do you need?
A good sleep, cooked breakfast and into Silverton, checked out all the town historic icons and out to Mundi Mundi Lookout and on to Umberumberka reservoir, very picturesque.Decided to check out the old cemetery at Silverton and back into Broken Hill to see if we could find any of the others. There is no mobile phone coverage at Silverton and we had sent messages the public phone as to where we were. Coming into Broken Hill and now mobile coverage we learned that the others were indeed in town, checking out Repco for parts etc so it was a great meet up, hugs and kisses all round, make what you will of that thought!! To the Kintore Headframe and Air Compressor Park for a photo shoot of the now complete convoy and out to our favourite camp site just before Silverton for another great night under the stars, Vernon changing the points in his moke.
So now the tour began in earnest, not before some had a little maintenance to do on their mokes, eventually underway to Packsaddle, some bitumen then the dirt, with me breaking the bracket that held the exhaust, thank goodness for tie wire.
Further on a stop at the “Tool Tree”, so many spanners and wrenches of various sizes, even a “Baby Tool Tree’’ with small sizes.
Back on the bitumen a detour off the road to a lake and lots of emu, with Stuart breaking a trailing arm pin going over a cattle grid [watch the speed going over them]. So while some did the repairs on the side of the road the rest found a bush camp site for the night on the banks of Lake Compton, the bush mechanics arriving after dark. We were camped not far from the grave site of Eliza Kennedy, a young lady who gave comfort to many, held in such esteem that a lovely head stone marks her grave.
To Milparinka, a once thriving gold mining town now a tourist destination with buildings of yester year, soaked up the history, out to the cemetery and then on to Tibooburra, replica of Sturt’s whaling boat, art in the hotel and mobile phone coverage, how did we survive without them? And so on to the real sand/dirt track through Sturt’s National Park to Cameron Corner and the Dog Fence where the borders of SA, NSW and Qld meet, time for yet another photo shoot. Decided to camp at the Corner Store, $5 per vehicle plus $3 each for a shower, it had been a few days without a shower so very welcome. The money for the camp site is donated to RFDS and the note is wrapped around a 20c piece with a thumb tack, you take 2 paces back from the counter and attempt to throw the note up and on to the ceiling, the 20c piece coming down to be reused, interesting ceiling.
Time for repairs, the Corner Store had a welder and the sub frame on Terry’s moke was badly in need of repairs, also got the bracket holding the exhaust welded on my moke. Continuing on with the track in parts good but mostly very rough 5 mokes turned off down the Old Strzelecki Track heading to Innamincka, Terry and Dave had sped off earlier and we assumed they were ahead of us, wrong assumption on our part. Past the oil and gas fields, great scenery and good banter about where Terry and Dave were, would we catch them?? About 30km out from Innamincka radio contact with Dave we found out they were behind us, we never arriving at the junction where they were waiting for the rest of us, back tracked and were able to find out by asking road workers and campers where we had been or not been, 5 mokes are quite distinctive out there and so a reunion in Innamincka. Camp at Policeman’s Camp Ground on the banks of the Cooper, lots of bird life, great night. Discovered I had broken a shocker bolt as had Terry so for us it was to find a friendly local with a great work shop who allowed us to use his power and shed, Terry’s had already been drill out previously so easy for him, well easier.
The others took time to check their mokes, Tony replacing a wheel bearing and Stuart fixing his CB. Petrol, ice creams, drinks and pies at the Trading Post and off down the bitumen before turning off at the junction to The Dig Tree where we stopped to chat to a road train with a flat tyre, the tankers full of crude oil from the oil fields.
Continuing along via Nappa Merrie, Arrabury and Cordillo Downs, coming across a road maintenance crew, the water tanker contractor being a friend of Dave’s, good mud here, Terry replacing a coil and getting bogged.
Further down the track, stony and rough, Stuart sustained a broken windscreen, duct tape to the rescue.On to Cordillo Downs historic wool shed and the singing fence, plugged a puncture in a tyre on Stuart’s trailer and on to Cadelga Homestead ruin where more repairs to Terry’s moke this time to the steering. Across the SA/Qld border and onto the Birdsville Development Road, on the way Tony breaking a wind screen, we had nick named him Biggles as he wore a leather flying helmet and goggles, good safety protection when a screen shatters, and on bitumen too. Another stop when Andy broke a brake line, he is good at that, so it was late into Birdsville and to the caravan park, yes 7 mokes once again the centre of attraction. A quiet day next day, for some a run or attempted run out to Big Red but all the water out that way meant otherwise, for us a walk around the town, lunch at the bakery with a Camel Pie for Vernon and a Lamb Shank Pie for me, delicious, washed down with a quenching beer, all that dust in the throat etc. A trip to the Birdsville dump for some yielded old road signs and some glass for a temporary wind screen for Tony’s moke, so for the rest of the trip he sported a GRID sign on the passenger’s side.
Dinner for most of us at the Birdsville Hotel that night, great fun and great company, we had met other travellers along the way and kept meeting up with them enjoying the company of Ali and Ray at dinner at the hotel that night. Next morning photo shoot out the front of the Hotel, where else!,
out to Burke and Wills Tree and to the Diamantina Crossing, Birdsville was filling up with tourists as the Birdsville Races were only a few days away. A photo shoot at the start of the Birdsville Track, we were not heading that way, and then back track down the Development Road to Beetoota and the old hotel, on to Deon’s Lookout where you could see “forever”. Continuing along the way Dave breaking a wind screen also on the bitumen, a temporary front wind screen fabricated out of the back window perspex plus some left over road sign and the back window also road sign, we were getting good at making wind screens,
another good bush camp that night. And so onto Windorah meeting along the way a Guinness Book of Records Solar bike challenge, an electric powered treadly, the support vehicles postie bikes and a mini/moke, a moke body with a modern mini front [salvaged from the Qld floods]complete with blades atop to generate power, they had heard from other travellers that we were headed their way so were on the look out for us, such is our fame!!, photos and swap of stories.
Into Windorah where Terry ferreted out a couple of mokes, icecreams and petrol and on out of the town past the Solar Farm, 5 sun mirrored dishes 13.7m across which provide daytime electricity to the town. To Quilpie, lots of road kill many dead boar along the side of the road. Quilpie was abuzz, Street Party that night and somehow we became a part of it, we had not intended to stay in Quilpie, the caravan park was booked out with all the travellers heading to Birdsville for the races but we were offered free sites at the oval with the use of the Council ablution block nearby, who could resist. So in return we did a static display of the mokes at the Street Party and enjoyed the Flamenco Fire and Scottish dancers, the wool bale rolling, the food and fun of the party, vibrant town. Heading towards Toompine Hotel next morning an emu decided to challenge Dave’s moke, one broken side mirror, one “traumatised” Dave, emu poo all down the side and inside of the moke and an emu with no doubt a headache and sore neck leaving feathers everywhere as it took off back into the bush. Toompine Hotel in the middle of nowhere but where everyone stops, too early for a beer so had to settle for yet another icecream, time for Tony to have a look under the bonnet, where was all the smoke coming from out of the exhaust?? and on to Yowah, off the main road, an opal town. Gossip here was that on the outskirts of Cunnamulla, where we were eventually headed were road blocks with vehicles being checked for road worthiness and we had some battered mokes with make shift screens, time to ponder. On to Eulo and the Paroo River, home of the Palm Grove Date Farm a must stop for date and fig produce and for Terry a mud bath in the artesian mud springs, camp that night near the river. More debate about our route as Cunnamulla was out next scheduled stop and we needed to refuel, everyone knew about the vehicle checks, so it was decided to send Terry, Vernon and myself into town, no activity at the bridge on the way in so radio the others to come along and we all refuelled. Terry checked out the situation with the local authorities and it was decided that we would head back out of town the way we had come for a turn off around 15 km further back, take to the dirt and head towards Cutterburra, turning off on to the highway and to Barrigun on the NSW/Qld border and so to Bourke, not where we were intending to head. So a change of plans, some heading across to Lightning Ridge, Tony nursing his moke home and Dave, Vernon and myself also deciding to head for home. Dave was on a mission and after a bush camp that night hit the highway and didn’t stop until Adelaide!! Vernon and I were more leisurely, checking out Cobar and Wilcannia and onto Broken Hill for the night and so to Loxton. We had travelled 4322km, accumulated a lot of dirt in the mokes, and had a great adventure. Thanks must go to Terry Pollard for organising and leading the tour and to our fellow travellers.