This Adventurous Age

Adventures travelling and working around Australia.


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2015 Travels July 22

WEDNESDAY JULY 22     WILCANNIA TO COBAR     277kms

Rain set in through last night, but there were only a couple of light showers when we were packing up.

Couey didn’t get a morning walk because the tracks were muddy and I didn’t want her tracking that into Bus.

The rain made it easier, after all yesterday’s angst, to leave here today.

Realized, as we were almost ready to leave, that scones, jam and cream were being served at the camp kitchen, so we joined some of the remaining campers there, and partook. Very nice they were too.

Left Warrawong at 10.20am. Had to drive back into Wilcannia to get fuel, at the cheaper outlet down a side street. As John got out and went to do the fuelling, Couey did her usual jumping around and barking, inside Bus, thinking she might be going to be let out. The servo man asked what breed she was – and then said he was about to go to Qld and get himself a stumpy, because he thinks they are great dogs. We know!

Old buildings in Wilcannia dating from its glory days as a river port

Fuel was $1.435cpl.

Some Wilcannia buildings are in a sorry state

The rain showers continued as we drove east, through the McCullogh Range and mulga country. The rain made the colour contrasts greater – blackened the mulga trunks and turned the red dirt darker. I found it really pretty.

Red, green and black contrasts

Saw many little groups of goats.

About half way to Cobar, the rain became steady.

Bleak outlook

Stopped at Emadale Roadhouse, where the forecourt was mostly under water. The stop was for a short rest for John and he went in and bought some mints. We did not let dog out. She would have had a lovely time wallowing in all the water.

There seemed to be so many trucks on this highway today.

As we drove along again, spotted a kangaroo beside the road ahead. It began to cross, then turned and bounded off the other way, whilst we were still quite some distance away. We wondered if it was the effect of the Shu-Roo gadgets that John put on the front of Bus. We had these same things on the front of the Landrover too, and they did seem to warn animals of our approach.

Birds of prey circling

Drove past the usually popular Meadow Glen Rest Area – a free camping place – and there was no one there. The country around there appeared very green, but the many more secluded parking areas off in the bush would have been red mud.

There were sheets of water on the sheep paddocks and some very miserable looking sheep.

The unsealed road to the Mt Grenfell Historic Area had a road closed sign up.

There had, clearly, already been substantial rain around Cobar.

We went into the Cobar Caravan Park. I hadn’t thought it necessary to pre-book for this large park, but now thought we were lucky to get in. They put us onto a cemented bus bay area, between the camp kitchen and the amenity block. Actually, a good location! Because it was meant for tour buses, it was a drive through site, so easy for us to park on without having to unhitch the car. The powered site cost $32.50.

Cobar site

The park was, by late afternoon, full – at least on all the formal, hard surfaced sites – and there are a lot of those. They were not using the grassy unpowered area, due to the wetness of the ground. We had stayed here before, and never seen the place this full. I suspected that some people who would usually be bush camping had abandoned the muddy bush and come to firmer ground.

Because of the full state of Cobar, I decided to play it safe and phoned the caravan park in Bourke to book us in for tomorrow night.

In between showers, walked Couey around the park.

Tea was baked beans on toast – John’s choice.

The night was foggy and damp, with a really heavy dew. The cloud stopped it from being really cold.

Damp camps are not fun!


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2015 Travels July 20

MONDAY JULY 20     BROKEN HILL TO WILCANNIA     215kms

Left the park about 10.20.

Went to the Plaza shops (yet again) where there was plenty of room for our rig in a far section of the car parks. Got John’s scripts filled, and a new battery for his blood sugar monitor.

Fuelled up at the Woolworths servo there – not really well set up for anything longer than a car, but we managed. $1.377cpl.

It was 11.40 when we left Broken Hill. A degree of directional confusion ensued – not sure whether that was due to us or GPS, but we ended up unnecessarily going right down the main street and through the busier centre of town.

Duty done – now the holiday can begin!

We soon started seeing lots of emus, and goats, along the road sides.

Noted that when (if) we are next in Broken Hill, we must do a day drive out along the Wilcannia road. There were some photogenic looking old buildings, eroded stream gullies, and country that would be interesting to wander about in with a camera. All only a few kms from town.

Blue sky and sunshine today. It was quite warm travelling with the sun coming in on me through the Bus window – nice.

Some low hills began to appear in a line coming up from the south – like a dune line – beginning to be visible about 50kms from Broken Hill. I think it was the Scropes Range. It ran parallel with the road for some way, then segued into the Spring Hills, which were very photogenic, with rocky outcrops and sparse, arid lands scrub. Out here, hills are a novelty.

Scropes Range

We stopped at the Spring Hills Rest Area – quite a pleasant one with toilets, a kid’s playground, a shelter area, and some trees.

Scropes Range Rest Area

A young man driving a standard car pulled in just after us: he was driving from Perth to Byron Bay for a music festival…wow!

Well set up rest area

There was a big dry creek gully next to the rest area, with big culverts under the highway – an indication of what can happen when it rains in these parts.

Flood contingency

We kept going through more hills and with cypress pines appearing. Passed the Dolo Hills Rest Area, which had great views over the flat plains to the east, which we then drove down onto. Dolo Creek was several metres wide, but shallow, with a bed of red sand.

Down onto the flat country

The GPS suddenly decided we should turn left – onto an unpaved station driveway. No idea why, but we didn’t do it. The gadget seemed to have these sudden brain fades. Nothing like this to make us start looking around frantically, wondering what she knows that we don’t.

Saw a huge feral cat crossing the road in front of us.

Drove straight through Wilcannia, which did not look any better kept than last time we were here.

Arrived at Warrawong on Darling at 2.15pm. The lady who greeted us was definitely not a backpacker. She was very pleasant and efficient and told us that she and her husband had been here for nine months as managers. But they only returned this morning from a week away, during which time the Sydney based owner of the place had arranged for a couple of backpackers to look after the place. So I was right! I gathered that their efforts had been less than satisfactory in tasks like cleaning! The grey nomads work ethic is better, just about every time…

The powered site cost us $37.50 a night, cash only – unusual these days. We were able to choose our own site, as only about four of the row along the bank were occupied. We chose Site 5, liking it both for its outlook and because there was only unpowered space on one side – which was not occupied during the time we were there.

Clear space between us and camp kitchen

There were changes from when we were here two years ago – as one would expect in a newly developing place. The area back from the “waterfront” sites was now grassed and well set up as powered sites, some quite close to the amenities. There was now a row of accommodation rooms, with a wide veranda across the front, and a big gas BBQ provided for every two units. They cost $120 a night.

Our view…

We set up, then took Couey for a run down along the billabong track.

The billabong at Warrawong on Darling

There were now some well defined tracks to bush camp areas on the banks of the Darling – very nice.

Ancient river red gum in the bush camping area

There were some sections on the black soils of the tracks where vehicles had really churned up deep holes.

Bush camps by the Darling River

Couey had a wonderful time going in and out of the billabong after thrown sticks. Finally, a romp in water! Her attitude towards going into the water had completely swung around since last time here. Now, try keeping her out! I think we had created a monster. Now, she smelled like a swamp.

There’s a dog in there…

John had a sleep. I went to happy hour at the fire pit and communal gathering area by the camp kitchen. Saw something I’d not seen before, in all our years of bush wanderings. They had put a steel dropper post in the middle of the fire pit. When building the fire, they drop a hollow log over it. When the fire gets going, the smoke is funnelled up the hollow log and does not bother those sitting around the fire. Brilliant! Someone said it was an old aboriginal method….but they didn’t exactly have steel posts?

Fire pit chimney

It was a very enjoyable happy hour – or two. Most campers came. The managers served up some savouries – cheese, biscuits, sausage sliced.

John eventually appeared. Around 6.30 I left to go cook rice and pork rashers for tea. It was dark by now. Couey had waited patiently, tethered to the front of Bus, while we socialized.

Watched Master Chef again – the TV signal here was fine, as was the internet and mobile.

Another cold night.

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2013 Travels July 8

MONDAY 8 JULY     WILCANNIA

Woke up to blue skies – and frost on the car!

Decided to stay another day, because it was so peaceful and relaxing here.

I took the opportunity to do a load of washing in the brand new laundry.

John filled our water tank, trusting that the treatment of the Wilcannia town water was trustworthy! It took ages to fill. NOW he believed me that we were really low on water – previously he’d been sceptical, of both me and the gauge. We did not have such things in the van and he seemed slow to trust the levels that they showed for fresh and grey water tanks.

Drove back into Wilcannia and cruised around, looking at the beautiful old stone buildings. In the late 1800’s, Wilcannia was the third largest inland port in Australia. Unfortunately, too many of the buildings were damaged or decaying. Two of the best remaining ones were the Police Headquarters (which originally had another purpose), and the Courthouse. I guessed that both were well-used these days! There were people milling about in front of the latter, and more people out and about in town, in general, being a week day.

I went to the supermarket. Their loose potatoes were a brilliant shade of green. I wasn’t prepared to buy a packaged bag of same, where there was no way of seeing in to check the colour of the contents. So we were still spud-less. I felt quite angry that the shop manager obviously thought it was alright to try to sell produce like that – an insult to the locals.

I did buy a bottle of pasta sauce, having to hunt a bit to find a variety that wasn’t past its use-by date. Disgraceful.

Posted cards I’d written at Copi Hollow, to assorted family and friends.

After lunch back at camp, walked Couey – and Bidgee – round the lagoon circuit. Bidgee actually managed to tempt Couey into the shallows of the lagoon, and they had a great frisk and wallow. Bidgee startled a kangaroo and then chased it off into the scrub; we didn’t see her again, but she was back home by the time we finished our walk. Couey was quite mystified by the kangaroo and not inclined at all to join the chase – good!

This morning, we were the only campers left in the place, but in the afternoon four more lots came in.

I went online and put a review of this place on the Badgers site, where travellers review parks, and also made a comment on a travellers forum I frequented. Told the lady manager I’d done this. She hadn’t heard of either – I got the impression she was feeling her way a bit with technology – and wanted me to show her those two sites, which I will do tomorrow.

The manager lit the campfire and we joined a really enjoyable happy hour gathering.

Pasta with sauce from jar for tea.


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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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2001 Travels October 4

 THURSDAY 4 OCTOBER   WHITE CLIFFS TO MOAMA   700kms

Despite the chilly morning, there was no lingering in bed this morning.

We breakfasted, packed up camp and headed out on the unsealed Wilcannia road. There was a long drive ahead of us, to get home tomorrow, because Saturday was the start of the competitive bowls season for John.

We stopped in Wilcannia only long enough to get diesel. This was such a sad town – all the superb old buildings, dating from its time as a major river port on the Darling River, now mostly in a state of real neglect. The dominant aboriginal population was much in evidence around the town – along with much grafitti and boarded up buildings.

From there, it was onto the Ivanhoe road – also unsealed but in pretty good condition. The country was flat for the most part. Some of it was grazing country, in parts there were sections of the rather barren saltbush type scrub country one finds around Broken Hill, to the west, and in other sections there was mallee type timbered scrub country. There was enough variation to keep it interesting.

With more time, I’d have liked to look around Ivanhoe, maybe even overnight here – it is another town that is associated in my mind with the pastoral heyday of western NSW. There were more shops and services than I’d expected, as it is such a small place – but I guess being so distant from other centres  accounts for that.

But we needed to keep going.

From Ivanhoe, the road was sealed, which made the driving easier.

From Hay, we were retracing the way we’d travelled north, less than two weeks before.

Stayed overnight in a caravan park cabin, at Moama, across the Murray River from Echuca. Bought fish and chips for tea.

It had been a long day of driving.

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