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!