Saturday, May 13, 2017


We set off from Bega and managed to get the last breakfast at Bemboka Drovers Rest Café before the power went off in the whole village.  In Cooma, we caught up with our friend Phil who had made an early start to get his van over Brown Mountain.  After a pie for lunch in Tumut, the three of us made camp at the free camp on the North Wagga river flats.  The camp ground was crowded and included a country music artist giving a free concert.  There had been a big motor home rally there over the weekend.  First job for the morning was a quick stop at TJM in Wagga for Phil to buy a new GPS, as he’d had a disagreement with his old one which came off second best (an angry finger cracked the screen).  We then headed for Balranald, hoping to get an early start the next morning for Mungo.

However ….. the next morning dawned very grey and overcast with predictions of “inches” of rain to come in the next few days.  We decided we would be better off sitting it out in a grassy caravan park with good facilities rather than stuck in the mud at Mungo.  Sure enough, by lunch time the rain had started and continued well into the next day.  As a consequence, all unsealed roads in the area were closed.  A look at the map gave us a few options (including going home and forgetting the whole trip as more rain was predicted).  We could access the Darling River via the bitumen road between Wentworth and Pooncarie or go up the Silver City Highway to Broken Hill and turn off to Menindee or Wilcannia.

While at Balranald a man came up to Phil and Ken asking if they could help him and his mate.  They had decided to take shelter from the rain and camp for the night under the bridge beside the river in very wet boggy ground, in a two-wheel drive car, towing a trailer.  Phil was very excited with the opportunity to break-in his winch.  After much difficulty (caused by the fishermen) they got them out.  While trying to get them out, Phil was pulling them to dry ground, meanwhile the driver was steering in the completely opposite direction towards even wetter ground.  Ken estimated their combined IQ at about 30.  Phil thought this was an overestimation.

Our first camp on the river
We eventually decided to try the Pooncarie option and see what the roads were like from there.  We found a very good camp beside the river about 20 kilometres up the road from Wentworth.  After exploring the area a bit, we decided on a nice high spot, just off the road overlooking the river – which was the whole point of the trip, to camp beside the Darling River!  There were some other nice camp sites in the area, but we didn’t dare drive in as they were still very wet and boggy.  We stayed two nights hoping the Mungo road may be open, however as we went past it still had a big “closed” sign at the turn off.

Another view from the first camp site

Our destination for that night was Bindara Station, the first one of the “Outback Beds” properties we stayed at.  At Pooncarie pub while having lunch we phoned and Barbara assured us that the road to their place was now open so we headed on up there planning to stay two nights.  After finding a very pleasant camp site right beside the river, the rain set in again – about one minute after we’d finished setting up camp and pegged out the awning.

Main Street, Pooncarie
Bindara was very well set up with marked out cleared camp sites along the river – enough for two or three vans in each site, well spaced out so we had privacy from other groups, plus several showers and flushing toilets conveniently located around the camping areas.  At $10 per head, per night we felt it was good value for money.  At night, we were amused by a pair of young foxes who were very daring and came right up within a few inches of us, sniffing around for food scraps, disappearing and reappearing at regular intervals.

As a result of the rain, once again all roads were closed, so we had to stay for three nights, after which the main roads were open, but all National Parks were still closed and were estimated to be closed for a further four or five days.  This meant that we had to go out to the Silver City Highway and into Broken Hill, instead of our planned route up through Kinchega National Park to Menindee.

1924 Ford, claimed to be in original condition,
and being driven on a trip, not a museum exhibit!
Broken Hill proved to be a worthwhile diversion.  Phil recommended the Broken Hill Musician’s Club for lunch, where we found there was to be a country music tribute show the next night.  The artists were Col Millington and Izzi Dye – and it was free.  After washing clothes, grocery shopping, a car service for Phil’s Nissan and a night at the club, we went out to have a look around Silverton.  At Silverton we met a man travelling in his 1924 Ford truck – not restored, but still in original condition he claimed.  However, it was fitted with a 2-way radio and GPS which would be a bit ahead of their time!

From Silverton we went off towards Wilcannia.  We decided to skip the Menindee to Wilcannia section as most of the interesting things around Menindee were in Kinchega NP which was still closed.

That night was spent at a free camp beside Little Topar Roadhouse.  Very pleasant evening socialising and star gazing with other families camped beside us.  There was a van with a couple and their grandson, and beside them in another van was their son, daughter-in-law and their two young children.  During the evening ‘granddad’ went for a walk and stood looking away from us.  His wife told the little 5-year old girl to go and ask what he was doing.  He said “Looking at the horizon”, but she replied very loudly “No you’re not, you’re doing a wee-wee!”.  She then proceeded to run around excitedly telling everyone “Granddad is doing a wee-wee!”.

Next morning, we drove around admiring the restoration work being done on the old stone buildings in Wilcannia, then on to Tilpa for lunch at the pub.  (Can’t go past those quaint old country pubs!)

Our next camp was at Kallara Station, another Outback Beds property.  This property has a few powered sites, camp kitchen and amenities near the homestead, as well as camp sites along the river.  The camp site we chose had a beautiful view of the river in both directions, being high up and right on a bend.  There were no facilities out at the camp sites, but at $5 a head per night it was good value (you could drive back to the homestead for showers, laundry etc).

The river in front of our camp at Kallara
After a couple of nights there, we moved up only a very short distance to Trilby Station as we’d been advised that it was worth going there.  Again, they had ‘caravan park’ type powered sites and facilities near the homestead, plus bush camping along the river, this time with a few ‘long drop’ toilets around the area.  The added attraction at Trilby is their station tour.  A map and detailed information folder are available at the homestead to do a self-drive tour to various interesting sites such as old machinery and vehicles, an abandoned homestead, stock yards and derelict steam engines and 1900’s farm machinery.  It gives a good overview of the different environments and work undertaken now and in the past as well as the history of the owners.
Camped at Trilby

After two nights at Trilby ($20 single, $23 double per night, which we thought a bit expensive compared to the other two properties) we went into Louth (another village with a quaint pub and not much else) and said goodbye to Phil who turned north-west continuing on to the corner country, while we turned east for home.

All the Outback Beds hosts and pub staff were lovely people and made us very welcome.  Phil was very happy with how his van handled on the outback roads and got very little dust inside despite some very dusty stretches.  Everywhere we went he advertised that he was looking for a travelling companion, however he didn’t manage to find one!


Tuesday, February 28, 2012


After a week in the city we headed down to the south bypassing the other major towns, spending our time travelling country roads and bushland.  We spent a night at Big Valley Sheep Station, then Windy Harbour (no more windy than the rest of the state!), and Fernhook Falls.

By now it was getting close to "going home" time and the weather was showery a lot of the time.  We spent a wet night in Albany, an overnight at Meridian Rest Area and had a quick look (again in the rain) at Esperance and it surrounds before getting to Cape Le Grande, another of the "must see" places.  We had planned to go on to Cape Arid, but as time was running out and we were told it was very similar to Cape Le Grande, we decided to give it a miss (save it for later).

We opted to take a short cut road to Balladonia rather than go all the way to Norseman, however this proved to be a long way round in the end as we got a flat tyre on the front of the truck.  When I went to put a chock under the back wheel on the opposite side, I thought that one looked low too, but presumed it was because the weight was all being biased that way with the front being on the jack.  By the time the front wheel was changed, the back one was completely flat!.  Fortunately it was a slow leak which held until we got to Balladonia where we were told we could go back almost 200k to Norseman or 500k east for the nearest places to fix tyres.  We plugged the front tyre and put it back on, but it soon went flat again.  We couldn't find a leak on the back, but it was holding up fairly well.  This left us with no spare and a slow leak so we decided we'd better go back to Norseman.  The result was that the front tyre was a write-off but the back was an easy repair.

After that it was a quick look in at the various vantage points along the Bight and one night stops at rest areas and caravan parks until we got to Wagga where we spent our first night in a house (guests of my sister and brother-in law) since leaving Melbourne five and a half months earlier.  The next night we were home.



We turned inland again and found Coalseam National Park, so named because of the visible coal seam in the cliff face along the river gorge, and site of old coal mining operations.  The park was almost deserted, the camp hosts had departed and there was no camping fee collection facilities so it was a free camp.  Two other vehicles made camp there overnight, but it was very quiet.  A rather nice place, but the weather was getting too hot and the wildflowers, which are a big feature of the area, were almost finished.

However we saw plenty of flowers at Western Flora Park.  This is a caravan park operated by a botanist who specialises in WA native wildflowers, on a 60 acre property which is mainly virgin bush.  For no extra fee the owner conducts a tour of the flowers explaining a lot of interesting facts about the flowers, the reason for the diversity of plant life, interesting aspects of the many different insects and birds required for pollination and all sorts of other interesting details.  After about an hour and a half of exploring the grounds, we were then taken into a room where he showed us specimens he had picked up on the walk, under a microscope (projected onto a screen via CCD camera).  Flowers that were so tiny the details are impossible to see with the naked eye looked totally different when magnified x 40.  We also saw them under ultra-violet light, which is how the birds and insects see them and the learned of the differences in colour due to this.  He also explained that although the "Wildflower Season" was considered to be over there were flowers to be seen all year round and we were seeing things that people who come earlier do not see.  After that we saw the plants and the country in general through different eyes and noticed much more as we were walking through the bush.

Next stop was another relaxing beach-side camp at Sandy Cape.  This was a very popular place.  We arrived about lunch time on a Friday and lucky we did as it was filling up fast.  Well before dark all the spaces around us were full, and well after dark vehicles with camper trailers were driving in, doing a lap and leaving again.  I don't know if they found places further around in the deep sandy areas, or had to move on further to other camp sites.  We spent two nights here, meeting up again with some friends from earlier camps, and spending the days exploring the nearby parks.

Another "must see" was the monastery town of New Norcia.  It is certainly unique with it's lovely old buildings and history.  Camping is also very reasonable - a donation  of about $7 allows you to camp on the sports ground on grass, under big shady trees and just across the road from the main part of the town.

After the pleasant little villages and wildflowers, we again headed back inland doing a big loop north and east to the old gold fields and sandstone country stopping at Mt Magnet (caravan park), Leinster, and Niagra Dam.  Leinster was interesting in terms of camping - a proper caravan park owned by the mining company so not expensive and meals available at the mess for a very reasonable price - "all you can eat" buffet style.

We also visited Lake Ballard, with the 'Inside Australia' art sculptures.  We were extremely under impressed and unless you are a devotee of modern art I would consider it a completely worthless trip.  The sculptures are ugly lumps of iron, supposed to represent the residents of a nearby town.  All I can say is that if they look like that they must be terribly inbred or from another planet!  It is spread out across a huge area of a salt lake and would take hours to walk around all of them.  We walked past the first two and decided we wouldn't waste our time and energy looking at any more of them.

Next stop was Kalgoorlie.  We spent two nights camped at Lake Douglas, a free camp not far from town and travelled back in each day to explore the town, and generally see the tourist attractions.  On the Sunday we went to Boulder markets and did a bus tour of the "golden mile" mine.  We spent one night in a caravan park to "clean up", then the last night at a free site in town with a 24 hour limit.

Leaving Kalgoorlie we continued on to Coolgardie and down to Wave Rock (and various other interesting rocks along the way) camping at Koralee Rock (very interesting stone walls on the huge rock area for water pipe line) and Wickepin before reaching the "Big Trees" country.

We spent a couple of nights at Shannon National Park, then Big Brook Dam doing walks and drives through the forest areas.  We had planned to go from here to the Margaret River area, however several bush fires broke out in the area and we woke one morning to find everything covered in fine ash, and ate our breakfast with it raining down on us.  This meant some of the roads we were planning to take were closed and we had to find detours, consequently not getting into the Margaret River wine growing area as this was the worst affected.  About 38 houses were destroyed, but fortunately no loss of life.

After trying to find a camping space in a National Park with tiny spaces and bollards everywhere we gave up and stumbled across Heron Point which was a much better place all round.  It overlooked an inlet and had nice walks and views.  It was another Friday afternoon, and again the place was full before dark.

This brought us into Perth where we spent eight nights, doing a boat trip down the river to Fremantle, visiting the markets, two maritime museums and old gaol.  We spent a very nice day in Kings Park, then visited friends from our Canning Stock Route trip three years ago, and met up with relatives from the UK who were passing through.