This Adventurous Age

Adventures travelling and working around Australia.


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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 1

MONDAY 1 JULY     BROKEN HILL

First thing, I trotted up to the office to try to book us in for an extra night. Luckily, we were able to have just one more night on the site we occupied. How good was that, in school holiday time, in a very busy park?

I did a load of washing, and walked dog around the park. Daughter appeared about 11.30 and she and her father set out for Menindee, in her car.

Menindee Lake

I went shopping for foodstuffs, leaving Couey in Terios while I did so. Had some computer time in between trips to the washing line, and began to organize the cooking of fried rice for tonight’s tea. Daughter had wanted us to eat at her place again, but John didn’t want to – partly because it would be a late meal, and partly because she had talked of making an eggplant moussaka. Definitely not his sort of food. It would also take the pressure off daughter to rush back to make a meal.

I really enjoyed the calm and leisurely day.

Unfortunately, it was evident when they arrived back, about 5pm, that the day had not been a successful father-daughter bonding exercise! Father was deposited, daughter drove away, with no farewells or see you laters. I guess the dog had a good day out, though.

I presumed, then, that there would just be the two of us for tea.

John was not happy, obviously. A bit later, he couldn’t find the glasses he needs for any close up work – reading, TV, computing. He hoped he hadn’t left them in daughter’s car, He was just about to phone her, when a text came in saying that she had found them and that I – and only I – could collect them from her office tomorrow, after 10am! Efforts to arrange to collect them sooner were not successful.

We passed a pleasant evening playing Yahtzee and Mhing – a card game – about all John could manage with limited vision.

John thought the Menindee area was attractive, so he wanted to go and spend a few days at a place he saw today.

Guess I hadn’t needed to book that extra night, after all……