Friday 3 September: Brisbane to Moree
Early rise tho a poor sleep lots of dreams and B. snoring too, set sail by 7:45. We'd packed the van yesterday much to the entertainment of my clients throughout the day. The weather has warmed up for our departure and it was smoky from the controlled burns being carried out all round Brisbane, and very still. The early morning traffic was tedious but not seriously bad so we had cleared Ipswich by about 8:15a.m. We are not surprised that controlled burning is happening as there is an abundance of dried grass from the rains we've had and the following warmth. It looks like a tinderbox out west so I hope people are taking the bushfire warnings seriously. As we drove into New South Wales there were acres of yellow weed looking quite dramatic, at least I think it is probably weed and not a native wild flower; have to look it up. Saw a couple of emus in the weed. We had lunch in Goondiwindi, excellent bakery (The Gunsynd Bakery) with freshly made salad rolls and apple turnover. Had a brief nap at lunchtime then on we went to Moree. We managed to chase down a pair of togs for B., a thermos and some tinned tomatoes before closing time and managed a damp setup of the van; drizzling now and promising more, boo!
Saturday 4 September: Moree to Cobar
After a pretty good night, we were both very tired; we woke to a cloudy morning but not actually raining. The wind had got up and dried most of the van and bed-end flies from last night's rain, so we decided we would pack up and continue the journey having thought last night we might have to lay-up for the day here. We were all packed and ready to go by 9 o'clock; getting better at it all the time! We do learn from our mistakes, e.g. ALWAYS checking the fridge door is locked after having had beer sprayed all over the van floor one time last year! As we drove away from Moree towards Coonabarabran the sky grew steadily heavier and the wind picked up until by lunchtime, when we arrived in Gilgandra, it was throwing it down in horizontal torrents. As we got out of the car to dash into a nearby cafe B's wallet flew to the ground and about ten $20.00 notes fluttered under the van and into a puddle. What a scramble to pick them up in the blowing rain! We then spent the next twenty minutes wiping the notes dry on our pants so he could put them back in his wallet. The girls in the (very deep-fried type) cafe thought we were mad, I think. We had a good hot greasy lunch tho and then drove on. We both find that the drive immediately after lunch is very difficult to stay awake in and at one point B. jerked the wheel having momentarily closed his eyes! Scary! So we stopped and had ten minutes of shut-eye, which helped enormously. I had driven over three hours this morning and was nodding off myself when we had to stop. Once that immediate post-prandial need for a nap was catered for we could drive on easily. We had the footy on the radio, which nearly put me to sleep again, but B likes it and he was driving so that was OK. We reached Cobar at about 6 pm. The countryside is quite wet; lots of water lying on the side of the road and lots of grass. There were some lovely and varied wattle and cassia bushes all flowering along the roadside. There were crops grown right through to Nyngan but after that it became rougher sheep type country. It's very samey tho; right from Moree through the Pilliga Forest area to here at Cobar. This town is full of evidence of mining with mullock heaps and tailings all over the place. The campsite here is overfull and we've been squeezed in on a powered tent site with no water. Lots of people laid up here yesterday because of the weather. Tonight it is windy but clear so I think the heavy rain has gone. We have to remember to turn the clocks back half an hour for Broken Hill tomorrow.
Sunday 5 September: (Father's Day) Cobar to Broken Hill
We had a chilly night but a lovely clear morning. We left the campsite about 8:45a.m. and went hunting caches in the town. It is a funny old mining town where copper was mined from the late 1800s and has several lovely old buildings as well as a stark reminder of the mine in the mullock heap and smelting works memorial on the edge of town. We went hunting the camel mascot of the rugby union team; found the cache but not the camel. When we at last set sail for Broken Hill we found we were driving one of the prettiest roads so far with fields of wild flowers either side of the road. White paper daisies covered acres and acres making it look like a light fall of snow; and yellow everlasting-type daisies created a contrast, while the dramatic purple of Paterson's Curse flashed by. Then there were the white spikes of flowers like small lilies and a sudden shimmer blue where tiny cranesbill (storksbill) blossomed. And all along, above the little flowers were the wattle and cassia bushes with bright yellow mongst the green. It was really gorgeous especially where the bright ferrous red soil showed through. In patches the ground covers was a gorgeous soft green that contrasted wonderfully with the red soil. Immediately outside Cobar there were small trees of a delicious smokily grey-green but these gave way to no trees at all or larger gums in the low patches. Sometimes we passed bright red washouts that created gullies and most of these still had water in them. It was easy, interesting driving but nevertheless we had to stop for a Nanna nap after our lunch in Wilcannia. The Wilcannia cafe made a mean hamburger that we ate beside its football field. It was chilly tho as the wind blew across the plains and kept the temperature to about 15 degrees C. As we drove into Broken Hill Nick rang from Sydney having just arrived home from his holiday with Sara in the UK. He sounded upbeat about it all and wished B a happy Father's Day. Helena sent a message as she'd tried to ring on the satellite phone but we hadn't had it on. B had tried to get hold of her from Wilcannia to try the phone out but then, when he didn't get her, he turned it off. Well, now we are ensconced in Broken Hill and it seems there is a lot to see here so we might have two to three nights here to give us time to recover from the past three days of heavy driving. Besides we have to do all the caches B. has looked up and see the art galleries and the mines and the sights of the town! I had picked samples of wild flowers to draw here but we had to throw them out because of the rules about bringing plant life into Broken Hill. We had a chilly night but a lovely clear morning. We left the campsite about 8:45a.m. and went hunting caches in the town. It is a funny old mining town where copper was mined from the late 1800s and has several lovely old buildings as well as a stark reminder of the mine in the mullock heap and smelting works memorial on the edge of town. We went hunting the camel mascot of the rugby union team; found the cache but not the camel. When we at last set sail for Broken Hill we found we were driving one of the prettiest roads so far with fields of wild flowers either side of the road. White paper daisies covered acres and acres making it look like a light fall of snow; and yellow everlasting-type daisies created a contrast, while the dramatic purple of Paterson's Curse flashed by. Then there were the white spikes of flowers like small lilies and a sudden shimmer blue where tiny cranesbill (storksbill) blossomed. And all along, above the little flowers were the wattle and cassia bushes with bright yellow mongst the green. It was really gorgeous especially where the bright ferrous red soil showed through. In patches the ground covers was a gorgeous soft green that contrasted wonderfully with the red soil. Immediately outside Cobar there were small trees of a delicious smokily grey-green but these gave way to no trees at all or larger gums in the low patches. Sometimes we passed bright red washouts that created gullies and most of these still had water in them. It was easy, interesting driving but nevertheless we had to stop for a Nanna nap after our lunch in Wilcannia. The Wilcannia cafe made a mean hamburger that we ate beside its football field. It was chilly tho as the wind blew across the plains and kept the temperature to about 15 degrees C. As we drove into Broken Hill Nick rang from Sydney having just arrived home from his holiday with Sara in the UK. He sounded upbeat about it all and wished B a happy Father's Day. Helena sent a message as she'd tried to ring on the satellite phone but we hadn't had it on. B had tried to get hold of her from Wilcannia to try the phone out but then, when he didn't get her, he turned it off. Well, now we are ensconced in Broken Hill and it seems there is a lot to see here so we might have two to three nights here to give us time to recover from the past three days of heavy driving. Besides we have to do all the caches B. has looked up and see the art galleries and the mines and the sights of the town! I had picked samples of wild flowers to draw here but we had to throw them out because of the rules about bringing plant life into Broken Hill.
Monday 6 September: in Broken Hill to Silverton and back.
What a chilly night! And with me having forgotten to put the doona in (stupid, stupid me!) we struggled through with extra jumpers and bed-socks and shivering. Can't go on like this, have to buy another covering. So off we went (after a scrambled egg breaky) to Big W to get a cheap but WARM (we trust) doona. It was a fine and clear day that gradually warmed up and in the sun was gorgeous. We went caching first off, one on Otto's Hill where we walked up a derelict house site and I was able to get a close up look at some of the wildflowers. It was nearly and DNF tho B. found it under some rocks near a post not in a post as the clue had said. The next one took us up to Junction Mine, which gave a great view over the city. The mineshaft (Browne's Shaft) is still there with gradually rusting winch and wheels. The skyline here is full of stark mining silhouettes on top of slagheaps. An enormous mullock heap lies right across the town cutting South Broken Hill off from the rest of it. After a first to find Burke and Wills cache deep in a bush, and an Earth cache where we had to search for answers to questions and take a photo of B. in front of the ore lode line, we decided to head on to Silverton, 25K out of town for lunch. Silverton is an almost abandoned township with only 19th century buildings and ruins. It has been used in many, many Aussie films (e.g. A Town Like Alice, The Mad Max series, The Flying Doctor TV series and Fourex ads) and the pub is famous worldwide. Each time it is in a film it gets a different name and it has them all proudly listed in the bar. We had lunch there and it is still a 19th century style square bar in the middle of the room with all sorts of fund and jokes round the walls (e.g. Some days I wake up grumpy and some days I just let him/her sleep.) I bought myself a beanie there to keep me warm tonight! We walked round Silverton and saw the Coin Carvery where the fellow carves away the blank bits of pennies and dollars and leaves the filigree figure of the creature suspended in the centre as a pendant. He then dips them in gold and sells them (about $175.00 each). He is the only person in Australia with permission from the Treasurer to tamper with Australian money. We went on up to the cafe from there and had yummy scones and coffee and I saw my first wild Sturts Desert Peas. They are startlingly brilliant flowers. On from there we went to the Mundi Mundi lookout, which has a breathtaking view of the Mundi Mundi plains that go on for miles. We spotted some activity down on the plain and when we went to investigate a security fellow stopped us because the Mad Max IV film company, who are just starting to get read to film don't want gawpers like us! However, we gathered that the actual filming will be delayed by at least a year because the unusual rain has left the plains too green and pleasant! We went on to the Umberumberka Reservoir and saw a couple of shingleback lizards and lots more flowers. The reservoir was just about full and supplies water to Silverton and Broken Hill. Before we left Silverton we called in at a gallery that had some beautiful watercolours but all priced around the $600.00 mark so not today! The owner suggested we walk over to the ruins and look at all the wildflowers and it turned out to be a lovely idea. We really enjoyed ambling around the house ruins and seeing all the flowers and the remnants and bits of broken glass some an inch thick from old bottles etc. At the cafe there was a large collection of artefacts from the ruins round about including some half dolls that had been used on pincushions and tea-cosies etc. fascinating! I found a small ground glass stopper that we have kept. We returned to Broken Hill then via the Penrose Park campsite that looked really lovely. Once back, we did another three caches although one was a DNF and the other we couldn't even find the way to get within a kilometre of it all a bit frustrating.
Tuesday 7th September in Broken Hill
A FREEEEEZING night down to about 2 degrees C, it was 3 deg. When we got up in the van and there was frost on the grass and the car. THANK HEAVENS for the new doona! We had a lovely cosy night with only the bits outside the bedclothes feeling the cold (i.e. noses). We got up early tho as we both needed a pee, and once out of bed that was it! I decided to do a load of washing right away, as it was a wonderful drying day. We planned to stay in and around the city for the day and that worked out excellently. We started off with a couple of inner city caches and then went off to the Pro Hart gallery That was fascinating; what a way with colour and design he had! They catch you tho, $4.00 to get in and then to find it is mainly a shop! We did enjoy the gallery bit tho even tho it was very chilly in there. After that we felt we'd earned a cup of coffee at the Broken Earth Cafe on the top of the slagheap in the middle of the town right next to the Miners' Memorial. Wonderful view of the city and surrounds and we walked across the slagheap on a metal walkway over to the Miners' Memorial that lists all the names and manner of death of all those who died mining the Broken Hill mine until 2007. Quite dramatic with all sorts of horrible deaths e.g. caught in drive belt, fell from cage, suffocated in tailings etc.
We decided to try to get lunch in the
city but only found the Silver City Mint and Art Gallery purporting to sell locally
made silver tho most of it appeared to be cheap importations. So we went back to
the van and made lunch and took it to the Keenan Lookout where we met Jo and Morry
from Terrigal. It was bright but chilly in the wind up at the lookout so we decided
to make for the van again and make some hot tea to take to the Living Desert
Sculpture display. On the way, we stopped at Jack Absolom's gallery and there he
was. He nailed us down with a harangue about the Labour Government! He must be
well into his 80s and still a forceful character. His paintings are realistic and
good but not a patch on Pro Hart's. He and Pro Hart and three others Schultz,
Pickup, and Eric Muller were the Brushmen in the Bush, supporting each other in an
artists group in the 70s and 80s. Then, at last, we made our way to the Living
Desert. The idea was to be there at sunset as recommended, but
a. the park closes at 6.30 and
b. the clouds had come up and there was not sunset!
We still had an hour and a half to do the 20-minute each way walk and see the sculptures. The walk was gorgeous with wonderful rock formations and the wonderful wildflowers including great patches of Sturts desert pea and about twenty-five other varieties. The sculpture had all been done in 1993 by a symposium of sculptors from as far and wide as Mexico, Georgia, Dubai, Tiwi Islands, UK and here. Great chunks of sandstone were brought in from somewhere near Wilcannia and cemented up on the hillside and the sculptors sought to bring out their idea from the rock. Some were interesting and one or two really striking but most were just dramatic lumps of rock against the skyline. There were wonderful views from the sculpture site and we got there just in time to enjoy it before two busloads of tourists arrived. At this point we scuttled off down the path back to the car. It is a beautiful place and I'd love to spend more time drawing there. To have our tea and cake B. and I drove on a little bit along the dirt road and sat, totally alone with a magnificent silence all round us as the light faded and had our afternoon tea. It was unreal and magnificent especially when a very dark kangaroo hopped in sight and started feeding; a wonderful start to the evening.
Wednesday 8th September: Broken Hill to Hawker, South Australia.
Another day of driving and this time it started off being very boring flat open plain edged by low hills speckled with green, low shrubs, no trees, no flowers, only the occasional emu family to entertain us. We did a little caching along the way but even these didn't take us to anywhere particularly interesting. The weather was grey and showery and when we stopped at Peterborough for lunch (luckily our most southern point) it was only 14 deg C outside with a wind chill factor making it feel like 4 deg. I reckon! Peterborough is a railway town with lots of railway history and some nice old stone buildings, but not much else. By the time we got there, the scenery had changed to be grassy with some gum trees and then, as we drove north to Hawker, it became rolling green hills, slightly reminiscent of parts of Scotland. At Hawker we are at the foot of the Flinders Ranges in a very pleasant open campsite with quite a strong wind whistling in from the west. We plan to go out into the ranges tomorrow. Jenny and Werner should arrive here either tomorrow evening or on Friday. whoopee!
Thursday 9th September in Hawker, Flinders Ranges.
This time it was an exceptionally warm night and I got up two to three times to change the bedding, taking OFF the doona and putting back the blankets! Not a restful night! The day dawned grey and windy, looking as tho the heavy clouds would close in any moment. We managed breakfast outside but by the time we went chasing caches it was spitting and verging on misty rain. One cache was up on the old rifle range so we walked the kilometre or so to get up to it, for all the world like walking in Scotland with the wind and the mist and the low bushy undergrowth. We followed that up with one at the cemetery and then went on to the lookout on Jarvis Hill. That was a good kilometre hike up, up, up, to the top. It is part of the Heysen Walking Trail and well marked even tho it is on private property. The view from the top was breathtaking, right over the plains with Hawker in the middle, to the ranges on the other side. And then the sun came out!! From then on the clouds cleared and we had a glorious day. We decided there and then to make for Wilpena Pound while the sun shone. It turned out to be a good decision as it was a lovely afternoon. When we got there we found it was a green grassy area round a creek with wonderful giant river red gums in it. I'd thought it would be starker and more mountain walking like at Ormiston Pound in the West MacDonnell Ranges and was surprised at the lush greenery and flat areas of it all. B and I caught the shuttle bus to the final gate and then walked on to the old homestead and then up the rocky hillside path to the Wangara Lookout. Wonderful view but very puff-making walk! Rather touristy too. But it is a wonderful geological structure and looked very striking in the bright clear sunlight. We got back to the van in time for B. to log on and log all his caches and then Jenny and Werner arrived. How amazing to catch them exactly as we'd planned so long ago! We all went out to the Hawker Pub for a meal ($20.00 schnitzel evening so that's what we had). They are camped right beside us and it is so lovely to have them here!
Friday 10th September in Hawker and the Flinders Ranges.
Nice easy wake up, if a bit chilly because of the wind. Jenny and Werner came into the van for brekky, as it was too chilly outside. We planned the day so we could do the first bit together (the Moralana Scenic Drive) and then separate and while B and I do caches, they could do Wilpena Pound. First we went into the town and while they shopped we went to see the seismograph in the Mobil Petrol Station. It monitors the whole Asia-Pacific area with its sensors that are set up near Wilpena. The printout of the quake that caused the tsunami in 2007 is displayed on the wall and showed how strongly it was registered here. They also pointed out recent shakes that have damaged Christchurch NZ a couple of days ago and Rotorua last night. It is quite fascinating and this afternoon, when we called in to get fuel, I popped in to have another look and it was moving quite dramatically for a minute or so, so I wonder if NZ has been hit with an aftershock! After that we drove in convoy up to the Moralana Drive and through between the Wilpena edge and the Elder Ranges. It was quite easy going through some beautiful green hillocky areas and across several creek crossings. We took the extra turning down to Black Gap but it was drizzling and mizzling so we just went down to look at the creek and did not walk along it into Wilpena. The creek had some lovely river red gums and was very pretty. The contrasting greens and rusty reds of the countryside are most satisfying and enjoyable to see. The variety of green is almost unbelievable, ranging from smoky bluey green through darkest bottle on to citrus yellowing green, all of them totally different in the saturation and tone from the English greens we so enjoyed in June and July. Because of the cypress and the gorges and hillsides it felt like a mixture of Scotland and Canada; the misty rain helped with that too. After driving out onto the main road, Jenny and Werner went off to Arkaroo Rock and Wilpena, which we went off to the Stokes Hill lookout to find a cache. We, what a lookout!! Literally 360 degrees unimpeded view of the ranges round us. Unfortunately the wind was howling and so we sat in the car and ate our lunch once we had found the cache. I had to have a pee and felt it was the most exposed pee I'd ever had, tho anyone looking would have been at least 1 K away. There were no bushes, trees, rocks or buildings to hide behind at all.
After Stokes Hill, we tried to go up Willow Creek, but could only get as far as the homestead. The couple of kilometres up there were really beautiful along a creek with sheets of wildflowers and young red river gums. We stopped and listened and looked for birds at one point and saw a pair of Burke's parrots and a pair of elegant parrots. The next stop was on the way to Sacred Canyon for another cache and there I saw the most spectacular red-capped robin with bright, bright red on his head and breast and the rest of him black and white. Breathtaking! From there we went to Pugilist Hill to find the cache called King Hit. har-dee- har. This is another wonderful viewpoint with 360-degree views quite close to the Chace Range. These hills were interestingly patterned with green rows of vegetation and silver lichen and red, red rock all in zigzags across the face; marvellous. The car took it all in its stride even tho we had to go into low-range to get up and down the hill. The final viewpoint of the day was a lesser one at Castle Rocks near Hawker and we had to walk a bit to get to the cache. It was guarded by a bearded dragon, a black kite and a few crows.It was getting a bit late by now so we went back to Hawker and bought some more of their expensive and old fruit but they had no real coffee so we left that. Then it was on to a final (I thought) cache outside the town near an old cemetery. On the way in I, at last, managed to photograph an emu and a couple of roos too. This cache is in a derelict part of town, which is no longer within the town boundaries. Now the cemetery is just a few gates and two tombs; strange how places change over time. We did make an abortive attempt to find yet one more cache but it was too far away and we couldn't find the right road out to it. So, as a cup of tea was calling, we made our way back to the van to await Jenny and Werner's return in comfort. And now, having been fed red wine and cheese and biscuits, we are off to dine in the barbecue area with our dear neighbours!
Saturday 11th September, Hawker to Parachilna to Copley.
Having eaten wonderfully last night and slept OK once I'd got out the doona to warm me up, we woke to a gloriously sunny day. We struck camp and moved on; the plan being to see if we could get into the Parachilna Gorge campsite and have a night there on our way up to Maree. The Gorge was a few kilometres off the highway on a dirt road that crossed the creek many times. We soon decided we could not take the van along that road so we turned back to Parachilna roadhouse and left it there. The plan then became to do the road through to Blinman and have lunch there, and then perhaps drive on into the national park a bit more. After that we'd return to pick up the van and go to Copley to the caravan site recommended by Jack Absolom. And that is exactly what we did. The drive up to Blinman was exhausting and sick making but absolutely beautiful through some wonderful creeks and the Gorge and then out over the top with all the different rock types and amazing vegetation. Once again the different greens were almost incredible, there were so many. Blinman was a pleasant little town with a cafe and shop and pub and as the lunch at the pub had been recommended to us we went there. And a good recommendation it was! They make their own bread and Jenny, Werner and I had their focaccias; yum! After lunch we went on and stopped at Youngoona and walked up the creek bed trying to find the waterhole, however it had been filled up with stones and debris following the recent heavy rains. The lass at the Blinman Pub said they'd had a hundred and forty mm in two days. One of the most lovely things about the creek bed was the colours of the stones; pink, purple, green, yellow, grey, brown, a rainbow coloured creek bed! It was such a lovely sunny day we were walking in short sleeves and everything looked bright and beautiful. We drove on after that towards the Brachina Gorge and went through different layers of rock making all sorts of different ridge shapes and vegetation styles. We turned round where the Road Closed sign was up for one way and the other way went back to Hawker. It was a bit of a slog all the way back to the van and I had to work a bit not to be sick so was really exhausted by the end. Brian and I stopped at the roadhouse for a cuppa and choccy biccy and then followed on to Copley where Jenny and Werner had a site all sorted for us. A word about the roadhouse/pub; it was quite old but had been added to with some very modern architecture. It runs a very swish restaurant with native Australian menu, e.g. emu, camel and roo and quandong pie; all a bit poncy! Sue Fisher who had been there last year had recommended the food to Jenny and Werner and we had originally thought we might eat there. However, the landlord mentioned that they had fifty-four or fifty-six people booked for that night so it was a good thing we'd changed out plans! The Copley campsite was on the plain behind Leigh Creek and was very friendly but a bit wild and woolly. They had a lovely campfire and a whole heap of campers. Quite a few were people who'd at last made it through along the Birdsville track. They had quite a lot of stories about creek crossings (one stretch of 113 of them in a row!) and getting bogged etc. It has made us wonder about getting to Maree as there is a lot of water over the road between Copley and there. We went out to the pub to eat garlic prawns and bangers and mash and the local netball team celebrating.