Thursday, February 17, 2011

Outback New South Wales

What's that old saying? "Many a slip 'twixt cup and lip", or perhaps "The road to hell is paved with good intentions". I thought that being in NSW, the "Premier State" I would get better mobile coverage than other places, especially as I was following the main highways, but no, get more than 20kms from a decent sized town and you get nothing!

Also, to be perfectly honest, I haven't been doing much worth reporting about. I shot through from Queensland, mainly to get some decent weather and while there have been some really nice days (and some stinking hot ones), there has still been a lot of rain and thunderstorm weather all the way across NSW.

Monday, 17th January 2011 - Day 766.

I stopped overnight at Bluff Rock, just south of Tenterfield. Not a bad little spot, but very small, hard to find a level spot and very close to the highway, but only 10 kms south of town so a convient spot if one needed a re-supply.

Tuesday, 18th January 2011 - Day 767

The Kia is playing up. I hit some decent hills south of Tenterfield and the engine keeps dropping into "crawl mode". I don't know what the problem is, but it is very similar to what happened when I ran out of fuel one time and I fixed it by bleeding air out of the fuel line but that hasn't worked this time. Note to people with diesel vehicles: don't don't don't EVER run out of fuel, it's a real pain in the bum bleeding the lines and besides, you're actually not supposed to do it.

I checked around and the nearest Ultratune is in Tamworth, I'll have to hole up there for a couple of days and see if Ultratune can fix it. The vehicle was fine before I got the 60,000 Km service at Ultratune Strathpine, so Ultratune can fix it. I am a little concerned about getting a campsite in Tamworth 'cos the Country Music Festival is coming up and the town is likely to be bursting at the seams.

Thursday, 20th January 2011 - Day 769

Good news followed by bad news. First I managed to get a campsite at the caravan park in Tamworth, but they were so full, that they were putting vans in the camping area, no water connection and I had to get them to provide an extension cord so that I could connect to the power. As it happened, I didn't need to book in, Ultratune had a look at the Kia that afternoon. They said that they couldn't find anything wrong, but they changed the fuel filter and bled the lines and I took the Kia up the big steep mountain just outside of town and it seemed to be OK.

I cut out the two days I'd booked in for and hitched up and headed south, but as soon as I got to a couple of decent hills, the problem came back again. I'm going to have to take it to a Kia service centre and get them to fix it, but gawd knows when I'll see a big town again. It seems to run fine on flat roads, even towing, and I can easily get up to 130kph or so to pass the road trains, but it is really annoying if I hit a really steep grade.

I'm getting toe-ey to be in the Flinders Ranges again and I have been through this area a few times, so I'm doing 300+ kms each leg and going until I see a nice spot to camp.

I headed down through Gunnedah (Namoi River), Coonabarabran and Gilgandra (Castlereigh River) to Warren (Macquarie River) and this whole area has been affected by flooding, particularly over Xmas. A chap in Warren told me that a lot of the country roads to the north are still closed after the Xmas flooding. I found a nice campsite at Sandy Creek, just 10 kms or so south of the town. It has the usual little shelters except that these have mud on the roofs from the flooding, which means that the creek here was at least 6 or 7 feet over the bank. Although it is named Sandy Creek, it might as well be named Muddy Creek in its present condition. There are some quite big fish jumping in the creek, but I had a look down on them from the railway bridge and they are all Carp - useless for eating, especially with the water so muddy.

Monday, 31st January 2011 - day 780

I had such a nice little spot at Sandy Creek and was very loath to move. I have got plenty to read and I'm getting a good signal on the satellite TV, so why use fuel. A few nice sections of bushland to have a ramble and close to town so I can get fresh bread when I need it - What a life!

I had only been at Sandy creek for a day when in pulled the Highway Hilton, Steve and Wendy in the bus, that I had met at Monto in the South Burnett. They were only staying for a day or two, but we had a good old natter before they left.

Had a couple of real stinking hot days (got up to 47degC or 117degF in real money) and then a couple of days of thunderstorms, so I just battened down the hatches and rode it out in (relative) comfort. If it's really hot, it's unpleasant setting up or packing up the van, and if it's raining, you miss the scenery, so I like to wait until the weather is nice before moving on.

I headed west through Nyngan (Bogan River and the last river before the Darling) and headed for Cobar. I've been through here several times and it never seems to change.
Just an observation: they have a curious habit in NSW of angle parking in reverse, that is with the rear of the vehicle to the kerb. As a consequence, it can be an absolute nightmare trying to find a place to park a vehicle with a van anywhere within cooee of the shopping centres. These places which are on major highways and are tourist destinations must know that they are visited by travellers with motorhomes and caravans in tow. Would it be so hard to have a designated area for van parking in the centre of town? Other states do it, why not NSW?

I tried to refill a jerry can with water at the big information centre in Cobar (what a magnificent old building) 
but it came out really brown. They told me that the recent floods had stirred up the dam supplying the town with water and that it was the same all over town. Residents of Cobar, you have my deepest sympathies. It seems passing strange that in the 21st century, we can't provide clean drinking water in a civilised town.

The book tells me there is a good camsite at Meadow Glen, a bit over half-way to Wilcannia so I have headed there and the book (for a change) is right. The site reminds me very much of Western Australian Rest Areas, a lay-by with a water tank (carefully marked "Water may not be suitable for drinking" just to cover them from being sued) a shaded area and picnic tables and a fireplace or two, and then behind that a large area where travellers can get away from the main road and set up for a day or so (or a week or so in my case).

Monday, 7th February 2011 - Day 787

Note to self: When you find a nice area to camp, c-a-r-e-f-u-l-l-y check the area for ants. This place is absolutely infested and I took a wander to see if I could find a better spot, but the whole area, which is quite large, is alive with the little beasts. I actually unhitched and drove all the way back to Cobar and bought some ant powder for outside and some ant baits for inside, because they had got right into the van and they were everywhere. However, problem now solved, the powder and baits worked fine.

A few days of really hot weather and then the thunderstorms hit. I think it may have been the outskirts of Cyclone Yasi as it moved down, I actually had a creek running underneath the van for a day, neatly under the back, between the wheels and out the front again, while the matting out the front door, under the awning was bone dry.

The generator has been getting a good workout, because I have had three or four days without a sign of the sun. I now have all the solar power I need after buying a second 80W panel and I've got plenty of storage with the second 100Ah battery, but all of that is useless if the sun don't shine. It has been very humid and staying very warm at night so I have had the fan running all night in an attempt to try and get some sleep, but the worst of it should be over now, especially as I get closer to Broken Hill.

Saturday, 12th February 2011 - Day 790

The Kia seems to be running OK at the moment, but then again it is dead flat out here - Love it! This is really the type of country I love, miles and miles of open plains with the occasional range of hills to do some decent bushwalking. Warm during the day and cool enough at night to get a good night's sleep.

It is so green all through here that it is hard to believe that this is the Aussie Outback. Since I left Perth in December 2008, there has been rain through the outback the whole time I have been travelling. I have been travelling through the outback since I first left home in 1964 (that's 47 years for the slow readers) and I have never, never seen the whole country green and lush. So far I've been through the Gibson Desert, The Simpson Desert (twice), Sturt's Stony Desert and the Tanami Desert, across the Barkley Tableland, The Nullabor and the Oodnadatta track and it has been green the whole way.

Westwards, ever westwards. Somebody told me a while ago that when I was out this way, I should stop for a while at Spring Hill, and they were right. A great little spot, althogh a bit small, so make sure you get there early because it seems very popular. The first night I was there there was only me and a couple of backpackers in a tent, but on the second night, there were 8 full-sized caravans and three or four others pulled in late and had to keep going.

The rains seem to have been kind to the local fauna.

I pushed on westwards and came to Wilcannia. I was looking forward to seeing the Darling, because I was last through here 7 or 8 years ago in the middle of the drought and I was interested to see the change in the Darling River. This is what it looked like in September 2004

And this is what it looks like now.

Wilcannia is one of those places that seasoned travellers tell you not to stop at, not even to get fuel or a cold drink, but I remember it as having some beautiful old buildings, even though the town itself was a shithole.
Well, the beatiful old buildings are still there, although it is pretty obvious that they're not getting any maintenance at all, but the town is even worse than it was before. I don't know exactly what a shithole degenerates into, but Wilcannia is it. I've been to plenty of places with a poor reputation like Laverton, Yuendumu, Fitzroy Crossing and Warburton, and none of them were as crappy as this place.

I pushed on to Broken Hill, not that I had much choice, all of the roads around here going anywhere except the main highway arer all closed. Ivanhoe, Menindee, Tilpa, Tibooburra, White Cliffs, all closed even to 4 wheel drive, they must have had some monster rains around here and they tell me there is more on the way. I fuelled up and did a minor shop in Broken Hill and kept going hoping to find a nice spot to stop and wait out the rain.

Across the NSW/SA border and through Olary (nothing there except the pub) and I was not having much luck with a campsite. All of the designated areas were simply lay-bys no shelter, no shade and right on the highway. Finally I found a little spot which wasn't a signed Rest Area, but what may have originally been a flood diversion years ago, but it has a couple of trees and looks fairly level and is resonably off the highway so I'll stop here for a day or so.

Wednesday, 16th February 2011 - Day 796

Just a hint for those travellers who may be considering buying a vacuum sealer to "cryovac" your meat. If you haven't got a freezer, don't bother. I bought a Sunbeam FoodSaver and a heap of meat in Brisbane and packed it all  in individual meals and I have wasted time, money and meat. I stored it all in the bottom of the fridge (the coldest part) and most of it I have had to throw away.The chcken thighs were off within about 4 days, The lamb chops within a week, I didn't dare try the Pork chops, those things'll kill you, and now the mince steak, which has lasted longest is a bit iffy. All after only 4 weeks. The vacuum packer is going in the bin and I'll buy meat from a butcher who cryovacs. Evidently the commercial units not only suck out all of the air, but actually pump nitrogen in as well. All I know is that butcher-cryovaced meat has lasted me 8-10 weeks in the fridge and this stuff doesn't. Oh well, more to write off to experience, I should know the lot by the time I'm ready to fall off the perch.

I pushed on into South Australia and I'm currently in a huge rest area called Nackara, about 25kms N.E. of Oddla Wirra. There is not much here, a couple of bins and a couple of picnic tables, (no toilets) but the area is immense and there are tons of shady, level area to camp. I went in to Oddla Wirra to get a bit of petrol for the generator and had a look around. That took about 10 seconds. Apart from the Quarantine checkpoint and a petrol station with a little cafe, there is absolutely nothing else there.

I need a couple of days good sunshine to get the batteries fully charged and then I'll head for the Flinders Ranges.

See you soon


Red Nomad OZ said...

Hey! Great to hear your latest tales - we've been on the Cobar/Broken Hill stretch many times, it's so amazing to see it so green! Only problem is the millions of feral goats that have now bred up!

Happy travels - look forward to your next installment!

Wendy & Steve said...

hey Mick, glad to hear you r still enjoying this lifestyle. We r currentlt in Port Broughton with engine problems and heading over to Port Lincoln once we are back on the road. After that we have to head back to Melb for s week or so to sort out our personal belongings that have been flood affected and deal with the insurers - that should be a heap of fun!!!!!! :-(