This Adventurous Age

Adventures travelling and working around Australia.


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2013 Travels July 14

SUNDAY 14 JULY     COBAR TO BOURKE     172kms.

We were away at 9am.

Couey was back to being reluctant to get into Bus at moving time. She actually snapped at John when he lifted her in.

We had to get fuel before leaving Cobar. Had intended to do so on the way in the other day, but our way into Cobar brought us to the caravan park first. Today, we joined the rush of travellers  fuelling up before leaving town, and had to queue. Hint to travellers – refuel when you arrive in town, not departure morning, when everyone else has the same idea!

Diesel was $1.569 cpl.

We’d driven the Kidman Way a number of times before. The way north from Cobar was the usual flat, not very interesting country. There were more trucks using this route than we had seen before. Not as many as on the Newell Highway, but still too many. The lack of truck traffic used to be one of the great attractions of going this way.

John needed to make five stops along the way. I estimated one stop for every thirty kms of travel! We could sort of joke about it – what else can one do?

This time, fuelled up as we arrived in Bourke, at the BP servo, where we paid $1.639 cpl. This morning, back in Cobar, also at a BP outlet, and not that far away, it had been 7 cents a litre cheaper – quite a price differential over a short distance.

In the past, we’d always stayed at Kidmans Camp at North Bourke. But they did not take dogs, so this time we went into the Mitchell Caravan Park, in the town. Our en-suite site cost $35. The gravelled site was small, with no real space to put out our awning, had we wished to, and not much space between us and the next van. Our little bathroom was clean and well fitted out.

Bourke site

Although the park accepted dogs, it could not be described as dog-friendly! The manageress was insistent that dogs be taken out of the park to do their business. Try explaining that, after the long night, to a dog with a full bladder…… But I got the impression that they’d had too many guests who didn’t abide by the normal common rules, as – unfortunately for the rest of us – is too often the case.

I thought that next time we came this way we should take an ordinary powered site – those were nicely grassed and would give us more room and a better spot for dog.

After basic set up, drove Terios to the Back O’Bourke Exhibition Centre, a very impressive new building on the northern edge of town, with really helpful staff in their information section.

Having just done a part day’s travel, we were not in the mood to do the full exhibition experience on offer, featuring aspects like history, aboriginal culture, outback lifestyle, so just had a short browse around there. Another item for the next-time list.

Drove back to town, to the Old Wharf area, where there was an interesting display of old machinery and a viewing platform on what was actually a replica of the original wharf, back in the days when Bourke was an important inland port. As the Darling River level fluctuated greatly between seasons, platforms at different levels allowed for the loading and unloading of the paddle steamers, regardless of river height.

Darling River ……again

Took Couey for a walk from there, on a path along the river levee, on the lead. This short walk tired John out, not so the dog.

Drove around the streets, looking at some of the substantial old buildings of the town – some interesting architectural styles that seemed unique to the town. I would like to spend time wandering slowly about the place, photographing some of these relics from the glory days. But not today….I would need to be driving myself, and alone!

The town did not seem to be as rowdy or threatening as it had on previous visits.

There wasn’t much of the day left by the time we got back to Bus.

Tea was ham steaks, potato and pineapple.

Spent the evening as usual: watching some TV, reading. John played his World of Warcraft computer game. I had an early night.


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2013 Travels July 9

TUESDAY 9 JULY     WILCANNIA

Upon waking, we decided to have another lazy day here, since it was such a pleasant place.

Went up to the office to pay for another night, then showed manager lady the forum location and Badger’s site.

I read for a while, then tried to download some more e-books to my reader. Couldn’t quite remember how I did that, the first time, at home. Did not manage it well, this time. I did get some transferred to the reader, but not all that I tried for.

It was too nice a day to spend for long in Bus, playing with technology.

Warrawong on Darling. Camp kitchen just visible behind car.

We walked Couey around the lagoon. She’d had such a great time here. She had some good wallows in the shallows, then actually ventured into deeper water, after thrown sticks. She almost – but not quite – got to swimming depth. This was followed by much rolling in the dust – and, much later, by a big brushing session, before she was allowed in Bus again.

I inspected the Terios front bumper closely. It was more stone pocked than I’d realized, on Sunday. I thought there were a couple of small marks on the windscreen too. It really would have been much better to drive the two vehicles separately.

I showered and washed my hair. The bathrooms here are so great – I doubted we’d be using any others as good for some time.

In the late afternoon, John lit the fire in the communal pit and we sat round it talking with other campers. One couple came from Clunes and were neighbours to an artist who was a good friend of my brother. The old small world thing again…..

Options for tonight’s tea were a bit limited by lack of fresh produce, but we enjoyed macaroni cheese with tuna. Yummy.

Daughter texted to say she’d forwarded mail today, to Charleville.

Watched the ABC’s Kitchen Cabinet again. Not as good as last week’s episode, because the two politicians featured were not really very inspiring or interesting ones.


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2013 Travels July 7

SUNDAY 7 JULY     COPI HOLLOW TO WILCANNIA     155kms

We took our time packing up and hitching up, leaving the park at 10.30am.

John really wanted to go direct to Wilcannia, not back through Broken Hill.

People at the Menindee Visitor Centre had told us that the road up the west side was marginally better at the moment, than the east. I suggested that I drive Terios separately, rather than tow it on the unsealed road, but John vetoed that idea.

West bank route from Menindee to Wilcannia

The west bank road was rough in places, where it had been driven on when wet. As a passenger, it felt like the Coaster “caught” in some of the wheel ruts. I worried about the following Terios, with its much narrower wheel base. An ok path for the Coaster was not necessarily so for the car.

It took us a bit over two hours to do the unsealed 138kms to Wilcannia, but John did need to make about five comfort stops along the way!

The country we traversed was flat and scrubby and not very appealing. Not the scenic route!

Yet another roadside stop!

In the quiet, run-down looking Wilcannia, we refuelled at the Liberty servo. $1.73cpl. This time, we’d managed 6kms per litre. Later, found out that the other servo, down a back street, off the highway, was considerably cheaper.

Parked by Bourke Park, in the town, and gave Couey a ball chase for a while,

Wilcannia has some lovely old buildings, dating from its era as an important Darling River port town, but it was sad to see the deterioration and neglect of some of this heritage – and the prevalence of bars on windows of those businesses that were not closed and boarded up. A very sad town.

The prevailing views we’d heard from other travellers were that camping in what passed for the caravan park in town, by the river, was not always secure feeling. We had no intention of doing so. On a Cartoscope free map that I’d picked up in Menindee, I’d seen an advertisement for a caravan park 3kms east of town – Warrawong on the Darling – and had Googled it. Looked both new and fine. We drove out there, thinking we would check this out, stay if it looked alright, otherwise drive on east and find somewhere to stop along the way.

I had some moments of doubt about this place, as we turned off the highway onto the approach road, to be confronted by a paddock full of old cars and scrap metal. But that was the neighbour’s place; the caravan park was well away from that.

Liked what we saw and booked in for a night, at $35 for a powered site. We could choose our site – most were unoccupied – and we picked a large grassy site on the bank overlooking a billabong of the Darling River.  This was really picturesque and lovely, ringed by trees and bush and with a mix of dead and live trees in the water. Lots of bird life.

Camp by the billabong at Warrawong

The place had only been open since Easter, so was still being developed. The new amenities were very spacious and clean, still with some finishing off work to be done. Each large shower cubicle also had its own handbasin.

There was a row of roomy, powered sites along the billabong bank, and the makings of more back from the bank. Already, there was a camp kitchen established, and a campfire area for happy hours.

There was town water – that solved our water shortage issue!

Set up didn’t take long, then we relaxed with our lunch, outside, taking in the view.

The billabong

Took Couey for a walk. The temporary caretaker who’d checked us in told us there was a track that went to the Darling River and on in a circuit right around the billabong. Once we were away from the formal camp area, Couey could range off the lead. The heeler dog that belonged to the managers saw us walking off and joined us – Bidgee. The two dogs romped a bit together, on the walk. I wouldn’t say they were the greatest of friends, but they tolerated each other. Bidgee was in and out of the billabong, frolicking in the water, but couldn’t tempt Couey to join her.

Looking back to the camp area from the track to the river

We walked across and looked at the Darling River. Its level was noticeably lower than that of the billabong, so we thought there must be some means of closing the latter off.

Zoom image of the camp area, billabong and Darling River

It was a good length walk – maybe 3kms in all – and very enjoyable.

Terios seemed OK after the tow, although small gravel being thrown up had roughened the plastic coating of the front bumper. There were also some small stone chips in the paint of the hitch. We now realized there were no mud flaps on the back wheels of Bus, though the overhang was such that I wouldn’t have thought thrown-up stones would be an issue. We would have to have some sort of protection for Terios if we were going to be travelling unsealed roads, in the future.

Late in the afternoon, the managers got back from a week off. Bidgee stopped hanging round our camp.

By evening, there were several other lots of campers in place.

I texted my offspring, and M, of our whereabouts. Asked my daughter to bundle up and forward our mail – which I’d had readdressed to her place – to Charleville. John texted his daughter of our new whereabouts. He was still hoping for contact from her.

Tea was sausages and eggs.

The night was cold, but we were snug.


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2013 Travels July 5

FRIDAY 5 JULY     COPI HOLLOW

The nights in these parts had been chilly, but the days fine, with lots of blue skies.

The solar screens had made a big difference inside Bus on the cold nights. The fan heater did not have to run as much, to keep us cosy.

Today was not as windy.

After our usual slow morning start, we bundled dog into Terios and set off to do some exploring.

Followed the dirt road round from Copi Hollow to the much larger Lake Pamamaroo, then skirted round that.

Lake Pamameroo

There were, at intervals, rough tracks going off towards the lake edge, which we assumed led to bush camping spots by the water. We took one of those and came upon a caravan parked in a clearing, right beside the lake.

Standing room only

A man came out of the van, in a hurry, looked at us and demanded quite aggressively that we not let the dog out of the car. We hadn’t been about to, but I didn’t think anyone free camping had any right to behave as if he owned the clearing and we were trespassing. The message was quite clear, that he didn’t want company in “his” clearing. Just to annoy him, I took my time wandering around and taking photos, while he stood with hands on hips and glared. I hoped that, with the weekend coming, his patch was invaded by noisy campers with a heap of children!

We continued on, looking at another couple of the lakeside camp spots. There certainly were some attractive camp places, for people who were self contained and didn’t need any facilities.

So, around to the Main Weir, part of the system that diverts water from the Darling River for storage in the Menindee Lakes.

Main Weir

Had a wander around a fairly extensive free camping area near the Weir. There were several lots of campers set up; some looked like they’d been there for a while.

Picnic and camping area near Main Weir

The camping area did have toilets, unlike the lake side clearings that we’d visited earlier, but seemed rather bare and dusty.

Pamamaroo Creek near the weir

According to display signs, the ill-fated Burke and Wills Expedition, in its early stages, had set up a base camp here, for three months, over summer.

Obviously, this was before the Weir and irrigation system were set up, but presumably the original Pamamaroo Creek must have been a pleasant enough place.

Ate our packed lunch there. Gave dog a good run where there were no people to be upset by her.

After a couple of hours at the Weir area, drove towards Menindee, stopping to look at the Menindee Caravan Park. By the shore of Menindee Lake, we did not think it nearly as attractive as Copi Hollow.

In the dry, dusty, not very attractive Menindee township, I collected some material from the Information Centre. Had a discussion with a couple of people there about the conditions of the two routes from here to Wilcannia – one each side of the Darling River.

Darling River at Menindee

Bought some supplies at the supermarket, cruised around looking at the town.

Drove to look at the railway bridge over the Darling. Built in 1927, it was part of the railway connecting Sydney and Broken Hill, now the main east-west line. The bridge had a sort of hinged opening section in the centre, that could be lifted up by a type of crane arrangement, now dismantled. This allowed the passage of paddle steamers up the Darling to Wilcannia and beyond. That river traffic no longer exists, of course. For about fifty years, this bridge was also the road crossing of the river, trains and vehicles sharing it. Now, the road bridge is some distance downstream, at the other end of town.

Railway bridge across the Darling at Menindee, showing part of old lifting mechanism

Left the town and followed the road around the curve of Menindee Lake, some 20kms to the little settlement called Sunset Strip.

As the name suggests, this is a narrow section of houses by the lake. It was a mix of pretty basic, not very attractive holiday houses, through to some quite pleasant ones, possibly the homes of the permanent dwellers. When the Lake had water in it, I could see the attraction as a holiday place for people of the area, or even as a permanent home for retirees and the like.  But, when the Lake dried up – not so nice, just dry sand and dust.

Menindee Lake at Sunset Strip

Like at Copi Hollow, sunsets across the Lake could be spectacular – hence the name.

We parked and wandered about on the little “beach” and dog had a run and explore. The breeze was making little wavelets at the water’s edge that she was none too sure about. This was one very cautious dog.

Oops – they are chasing me…..

Back at camp, John got under Bus and reconnected the drain system.

We decanted a ten litre cask of water into our fresh water tank. The gauge indicated it was getting low-ish. Did not want to risk not having enough water and damaging the hot water service or pump. If it was up to me, I’d have used lake water boiled on stove to do the dishes, and left the hot water turned off, but John didn’t want to do it that way.

The caravan park was getting much busier as people arrived for the weekend – mostly into the permanent structures.

I made tea of frozen battered fish, with French fries.


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2013 Travels July 3

WEDNESDAY 3 JULY     BROKEN HILL TO COPI HOLLOW     110kms

We got up earlier than usual, to pack up. That went smoothly, and we were out of the park by 9.30am.

Started off driving the two vehicles separately, because John was going to the local caravan repair place to see if they could fix the grey water drainage.

This business had not been open for the last two days (I wonder how the guy with the damaged wheel fared?). Today, they said they couldn’t do anything to help us until next Friday week! John booked a slot for then, in case, but we really did not want to still be hanging around these parts by then.

Fuelled up both vehicles. Diesel was $1.499 cpl.

Went to Home Hardware, where a very helpful young man got John some hose fittings and pipe lengths, suitable for the Bus drainage system, including a very small diameter piece that could be used to poke into hoses to try to unblock same. I bought a small piece of flyscreen mesh, so I could make a basic sink strainer, to try to reduce food particles heading for the grey water tank.

In the hardware shop car park, hitched up Terios to Bus. Great service at that shop – a very big contrast to the caravan place.

Bought a pull apart loaf for lunch, at the Woolworths centre.

At midday we left Broken Hill. It was a pleasant drive SE towards Menindee, through slightly hilly country initially.

We drove straight to the Copi Hollow Caravan Park, which was rather like entering a time warp. It resembled  what I remembered of coastal caravan parks  of about the 1960’s, with streets of old vans with attached solid annexe structures.

Lots of permanent structures at Copi Hollow; amenities block centre right.

But there was also a very nice, grassy, lakefront camping area. with power, if wanted, but only untreated lake water available. Knowing how much farming, cotton growing and hence chemical use occurred further upstream on the Darling, I wouldn’t be using this water supply for anything other than washing dishes.

We found a great spot, railed off on one side, so unlikely to have anyone else park close by. There were only three other rigs, spaced around the water front area. Our powered choice cost $25 per night. It was some distance from the amenities block, but the lakefront position more than made up for that inconvenience.

Prime waterfront camp at Copi Hollow….

There seemed to be few other people occupying the park, which belonged to the Broken Hill Speedboat Club. In summer, I don’t think it would be a great place for the casual tourist, because there would be much boat activity on the lake, but at this time of year it was very quiet.

The lake – Copi Hollow – was quite extensive, and full. Not always the case – in times of drought and with the way the man made water storages are managed, the lakes system can dry up. That would impact heavily on the way the Menindee Lakes are used as a playground for Broken Hill residents.

Some of the Menindee Lakes system. Copi Hollow the small lake, centre left. (Zoom)

After setting up, and a late lunch, we sat for a while enjoying the view across the water and the sound of little waves lapping the banks in front of us. Really serene and peaceful.

Took Couey for a walk along the channel that linked Copi Hollow to the main Menindee Lake. The banks were raised up, levee style, so there was a clear walk route in the scrubby area. Dog could free range and had a great time following all the new scents, though she never ventures very far from us. We walked about 3kms.

Back at camp, I took photos of the dusk and sunset across the lake – absolutely beautiful, and alone worth coming here for.

After our late lunch, tea was tomato soup, bread and cheese rolls, and yoghurt.

John discovered he could only get one channel on the TV, but it was the ABC, so could be worse.

Since there is only lake water available here, we would have to be careful with our water usage from the Bus tank.

I was ready for bed by 8.30pm! My internal time clock certainly changes when we travel. I think it relates to spending much more time in the open air, and in natural light.


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2007 Travels May 2

WEDNESDAY 2 MAY   MILDURA TO BROKEN HILL   300kms   

We had been able to remain hitched up last night – big tick to the caravan park – so there was not much to do to get on the road again.

But before we left, once it was past 8am, John consulted the local phone book and started phoning refrigeration places, to find one that could deal with our kind of fridge. Past experience suggested that it was either gas or thermostat. After some initial phone calls, we were able to drive straight to a place that would check it all out, parking in the laneway at the back of the business. The unit was found to need re-gassing, which was efficiently done. It did not take long – all remarkably hassle free. Maybe things were going our way now?

I wondered if all the extreme heat that the van had been in, last year, had caused a loss of refrigerant, somehow?

Crossed the mighty Murray, into NSW. Refuelled at Buronga – still $1.30cpl.

The very good Silver City Highway carried us north, with no dramas. Once away from the influence of the Darling River and the availability of irrigation water, the country quickly became flat, dry grasslands, with  patches of red sandy soil showing through. There were enough patches of scrub and stunted trees to keep it vaguely interesting.

We stopped at the rest area at Lake Popiltah, about the half way mark, to eat the sandwiches I’d made this morning. M usually only had a piece of fruit for lunch – she believes in simplified travel!

Lake Popiltah was dry, and from the look of the grass growing in its base, had been that way for some time. It is one of a series of shallow depressions, sometimes filled from high water in an anabranch of the Darling River, to the east. Since the flow of the Darling was heavily controlled by irrigation schemes and diversions, even in good years, the lake was more often dry than not.

The dry bed of Lake Popiltah

The large rest area would probably be fine for an overnight camp, with plentiful shade trees, including some of the cypress pines that I love, and a view out over the dry lake area. There was plenty of room to spread out. There were long drop toilets – rather “on the nose”. The rest stop was close to the road, though, and traffic noise might be obvious at night. However, it was great for a lunch break.

Lunch stop Lake Popiltah Rest Area

I can’t say that the southern approach to Broken Hill is all that attractive, skirting as it does the first of the large mining operations. I navigated us through to the Broken Hill City Caravan park, on the Adelaide road.

After discount, our site cost $22.50 a night. The sites were fairly small, the surface was wood chips – a good idea in this arid environment, where grass is not feasible. Wood chips do not get tracked into the van like small gravel does. Gets my tick of approval.

Since it was only mid  afternoon by the time we had set up, (Broken Hill operates on SA time, so we’d gained time) we decided to check out some galleries. Drove to the Boris Hlavica photography gallery where I had, on our last visit, bought a superb photo of Lake Eyre at dusk. I wanted to see what might be new there, and show the works to M. Although she had been through Broken Hill before, she had not been here. I managed to be quite disciplined, and bought only a card to send off for step daughter’s birthday.

We then tried to find a couple of advertised galleries that sold aboriginal art works. One was closed, and the other had moved. By this time, we couldn’t be bothered trying to track it down, so went back to camp, for the usual leisurely end to the day.


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2005 Travels March 12

SATURDAY 12 MARCH   GRIFFITH TO NORTH BOURKE   535kms

Today saw the usual, routine, trip north through the centre of NSW.

As the day progressed and we moved further north, it became drier and hotter, and more monotonous – but only because it was a route we had done before.

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Excellent rest areas in these parts

Refuelled at West Griffith – $1.18cpl; Cobar – $1.20cpl and Bourke – $1.20cpl.

Had a brief stop near Hillston for a leg stretch, then ate early lunch at the rest stop at the Lachlan River Crossing. Bird watched there and had a reasonable break.

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Plenty of room by the Lachlan River

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It was mid afternoon when we reached Bourke.

Went into Kidmans Camp Caravan Park at North Bourke. $22 for the site. We always enjoyed coming to this place – lush green grass on the sites, excellent amenities, interest in what developments had been made since last time we were here. We have seen the place grow from its early days.

Set up for the minimum overnight stop, then walked down to the Darling River, which borders the property. Wandered about down there for a short time, then relaxed sitting outside the van for the remainder of the afternoon.

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