DESERT TRIP 2009

This year i was again invited to be support truck for a group of guys on BMW motorbikes for another crazy outback adventure. The group consisted of several policeman, retired school teachers, paramedic,communication worker and myself. Being BMW lads the bikes ranged from a 650 through to a 1250. All the riders are experienced riders on tar, dirt and sand. After 6 months of planning ( from fuel stops, food and liquid intake, overnight stops and spares ) we set a date for july 27, 2009. l towed Geoffs camper trailer behind my newly acciquired 80 series that i specced up for the trip. I ended up throwing new mud tyres ( nankang 33'' mud terrain ) at it, decked it out with a flash rear storage system, other extras included 2 fridges, radios and the usual 4wd gear. This time we decided to precook a lot of the meals to keep the cost down, and at the end of the day we could just heat the meals up, cook some rice or pasta with it and ''presto''. One of the main points we discussed for this trip was to stop and smell the roses where we could. Lazy days were set into place if we fell behind or we just wanted to look around. Agreed by all.


DAY 1...
SANDY BEACH to TAMWORTH
346 km



After setting out a food budget, organising food, pre cooking meals ( to be frozen in the fridge and simply heated up at the end of every day), organizing the nightly drink quota, getting the 2 QLD boys to ride down for a rendavoius and planning the route across the western plains- we organized a time to meet and greet before setting out. After packing the truck and trailer, the lads ( andy, bruce,laurie,davo,geoff,rod and myself ) departed sunny sandy beach mid morning with an easy drive up the mountain to head towards Tamworth- where Jim was awaiting for us with a bbq and a beer. The plan was to stop every 2 hours or 200km so we could regroup or refuel. First stop was Dorrigo, and man it was so great to finally get on the road. Going through Coffs seemed like a friggen nightmare- traffic, stopping at lights and people !!! get me out of here !!
After a long haul up the mountain we grouped at dorrigo for the first of many stops. Geoffs trailer weighed around 1 tonne and the cruiser just loved climbing the mountain with it in tow.



Most stops were for a wee walk, 10 mins or so.....
I was the first one here, but our rule is the bikes go first and i follow behind. Just like the last trip- everyone ( including me ) thought i would be dragging the chain, but honestly, i was only ever 5>10 mins behind them. No drama....I suppose at the end of the day i have the beer !!!!!
After a few checks we were soon off, heading for Armidale. The road from Dorrigo is full of twisty turns, sweeping corners and long straights.... The bikes roared off into the distance with me wandering along. This iwas the first big trip in this new car, so i really didnt know how it was going to perform- i mean it had a few checks before this trip several services and a good wash, but i had my fingers crossed all the way. Weather on day one was fine for the tablelands- brisk but sunny. We met at Armidale where the bikes refuelled ( a couple of them only have a 250km range ). We decided to stop just 60km down the road for lunch at Uralla Pub- great idea. Had wedges + sweet chilli sauce and sour cream washed down with a beer-- yummo.


After chatting about what lies ahead, we headed towards Tamworth. An hours trip wasnt going to take long but we were all keen to catch up with Jim. It must of looked a sight with 7 bikes and a 4wd in tow pulling into his otherwise quiet street. A few beers, a great bbq with huge tamworth steaks was a nice welcome to Jims. We prepacked the car with his goods, shot down the shops for some small incidentals and continued the tomfoolery into the night.


DAY 2
TAMWORTH TO BURREN JUNCTION
245km



After a few beers last night and a huge feed we arose to a bright sunny day to continue our journey to the Aussie outback. Unfortunatly we forgot to seperate the snorers from the rest of us....ARRRRRR..... With a country breaky put on for us we were soon packed up and revving engines. Heading out of Tamworth was a great feeling, seeing green paddocks that went forever, hearing crows call to each other and the general feeling that we were finally getting somewhere. Jim was going to lead us towards Manilla then head across the top of Lake Keepit on the dirt towards Narrabri. We regrouped a few times at the start of the dirt, then at major intersections to keep the group together. A strong cross wind was felt blowing across the paddocks-nothing the boys couldnt handle. Passing Kapatar National park was impressive as these peaked mountains seem to rise out of nowhere. Lunch was at a Narribri truck stop, only because fuel was needed for the bikes. I was still using my fuel i got at Coffs- i love the economy from turbo diesel trucks. Leaving Narrabri we passed some of the worlds biggest cotton fields- bloody impressive !!! Around the outskirts of Wee Waa, colours changed with bright fields of canola making an bright statement against the dark skies.




There was talk about being able to see the curvature of the earth, but REALLY i think it was an illusion. With time ticking away we headed for a spot called Burren Junction. Our plan was to camp just out of town, here it was free camping with the bonus of a hot thermal spring with showers. WOW. When we arrived it was to the suprise of quite a few grey nomads who watched us rock in and set up camp.We had a spot near the local towns water supply-which made for a great sunset across the local dam. I cooked some great steak ( tamworth steak of course !) sangas for dinner- all washed down with a few beer and a glass of red wine !!! Certainly not camping too hard. After dinner a few of us took a dip in the pool which was a great delight. A great 2nd day and closer to the dirt.




DAY 3
BURREN JUNCTION to GUMBALIE
382 KM



The night last night was great, we all spent time in the local hot springs relaxing the bones, indulged in a few coldies and started getting into the desert trip groove. The day was a typical winters outback day, chilly but sunny. This was the day we were looking for- the last day on tar. Passing through towns like Walgett, Brewannia and Bourke things weren't to healthy, business’s closed, shutters on windows and even iron bars around some of the towns attractions. The drive (for me) consisted of long sections of tar, but honestly there was plenty of colours out here as in the past few months there had been plenty of rain to support these areas. Flowers were out, cattle were fat, plenty of cotton and no die back in the gums. Last stop was Bourke before our next camp. We were hoping to get out further towards Wanaaring, but this trip is a no rush-take our time journey. As the boys were fuelling up I seeked advice from a local about any safe camping spots around 100km out of town. I was given directions to a spot on the Warrego River, just past Gumbalie; a small ‘’don't blink or you'll miss it town’’. Right on the mileage I was given we shot off to the left and wandered in about 200 metres. Fan-bloody-tastic! A great sight complete with dry fire wood, the river was flowing and a nice spot for the snorers to be separated from us. This was our first night in the start of the ‘’real outback’’, no one else in sight, no noises and no worries, just 8 guys and their machines! Scary. Step 1, set up camp, step 2, collect firewood. Step 3, beer, cheese and bikies, life is tough in the outback! As the boys feed the fire, refreshed themselves dinner was prepared; tonite was Honey Soy Chicken and noodles. Tomorrow it is dirt, sand and rock- woohoo!

                                       

                                     



DAY 4
GUMBALIE to TIBOOBURRA
357 KM



God I love my swag- warm as toast, comfy and quiet. Most of us we up and around as the sun was rising over the Warrego River, great sight to see. A few birds were feeding around the banks, ducks were on the water and we were looking forward to hitting the red dirt. Pack up was quick and we were on the road by 8. The dirt red sandy dirt started just 5 min down the road. This was a good spot for the boys to drop their tyres and grab a few pics of the clean bikes against the contrast of the red dirt. The terrain through out the day changed from long sandy straights to red gibber rock as we approached Sturt National Park. The country side was amazing today, flat seemlessly lifeless moonscapes, then into bright red sand dune type areas- in which grew spindly bushes. This is what we were hoping for. Lunched at Wanaaring, caught our breath and headed towards Tibooburra. I would hate to do this in summer, the heat would be excruciating. Tibooburra was not what I was expecting, more like a lunar landscape with huge round boulders littering the town for as far as you could see. Tomorrow we head to the Corner Country with over 220 sand dune crossings – hope the bikes know that!!

                                    

                                    



DAY 5
TIBOOBURRA to STRZLECKI CREEK NUMBER 2
283 KM




Another great night around our small campfire. Watching the sun come up over the lunarscape was eerie in the way the rocks threw long shadows around. We were all pretty refreshed after long hot showers last night (it had been several days since the last one- boys can do that!). Heading west from Tibooburra we were all pretty anxious to find these big dunes, see the yellow bus and have another awesome day. Around an hour into the trip there was a huge plume of dust emerging, and that only one thing- ‘ROADTRAIN!’...The only smart situation here was to pull off and wait, these guys don’t move. When we hit the dunes we were very surprised on how different they were, some were short and sharp, yet others were small gentle ones. The road was in pretty good nick for out here, bit of wildlife from camels, emus, roos and cattle. As we passed through Fort Grey the road got a little worse with bull dust holes and several pretty sharp corners. We spent several hours at Cameron Corner taking the whole place, having lunch and watching a plane land on the road! 

Today was a short day but we needed to leave here and find a campsite. We were hoping for Montecollina Bore on the Strzelecki but time wasn’t on our side. Before we hit the Strzelecki there was a very strange sight to be seen- an abandon yellow double Decker bus. The Strzelecki was in very good nick, as it is a main road to the northern gas fields. The decision was made to look at the Strzelecki creek crossings as we knew there would be a few trees around for wood and shelter. We pulled over at the number 2 crossing. We found a spot around 400 metres off away from the road and with plenty of wood here, we were set. Camp was set up, wood was collected and the daily chat continued till dusk. The beer flowed as we ate a great stew with rice topped off with canned fruit, followed by rations of red wine- can it get any better ? It took till night 5 to spot a satellite screaming through the sky, but this one was different, as it passed us it turned and one of the reflectors caught the suns rays way off past the horizon. And at 50,000 feet, the horizon was a long, long way away.


 
 





DAY 6
STRZLECKI CREEK to ARKAROOLA
445 km


After yesterday achievement (some 200 plus dunes, lunch at Cameron Corner and driving the iconic Strzelecki Track) we wondered if anything could top our trip, just keeps on getting better and better. Heard one road train rumble along the track last night, even though we were a long way off it is just deadly quiet out here. Our camp was short of Montecollina Bore so we headed south for there. We were hoping for another bore like the one we found on the Birdsville, but we were soon to be disappointed. Sure it is a hot bore, with parking but after years of neglect there was rubbish laying and honestly it wasn’t what we expected. Why do people come out here and spoil these areas? 26 km back down the Strzelecki we turned off and headed towards Mt Hopeless. 

This road was full of the old gibber rock for as far as the eye could see. We followed a Talc mine truck for several kilometres before he turned off, and with the Gammon Ranges coming into view, we pulled off the road for a lunch stop and to admire what we had come so far to see. The Gammon Ranges were an impressive sight as we lunched on a flat rocky plain, was like a red simmering sea. Time was called so we trundled further towards Arkaroola; the road dipped and weaved through old creek beds as we travelled beside the ranges. We watched the trees get thicker the closer we got towards our next turn off. Regrouping at Balcanoona we headed into a gorge that would lead us into Arkaroola. After setting up camp, collecting firewood and showering (again it had been several days), we settled in for another outback sunset and a night chatting about our day and maybe a plan for tomorrow.









DAY 7
EXPLORING ARKAROOLA



Today was a kick back day here in Arkaroola. The plan was to explore the old homestead, several walks and watch the ranges change with the setting sun. Arkaroola is now a Wilderness Sanctuary attracting many visitors every year. We were interested in the ruggedness and the remoteness of the area, this is seen in the walks we did. Deep gorges cut into the ranges that date back millions of years. The landscape here was amazing- twisted trees struggling to survive in the baron earth. We settled on walking the Spriggina Trail, nothing too hard, just nice not to be driving today. This trail took us several kilometres through several gorges and over several peaks, the views were amazing. 

After lunch we wandered up to the old original homestead and wondered how life was as we poked around old machinery, windmills and explored several old mines. We found an old windmill pipe and as boys will be boys, we dropped rocks down to see how long before they hit the bottom- lets just say it was bloody deep. After some shenanigans here we headed back to camp for an early dinner of spaghetti bolognaise, garlic bread topped off with coffee and Monte Carlo bikkies around a great campfire, as we enjoyed the last rays of sunlight as it hit the peaks or Arkaroola. This place blew me away just how remote it was and the magic that the hills had, defiantly coming back.








DAY 8
ARKAROOLA to WILPEANA POUND
214 km


We bidded farewell to Arkaroola around 8 and were looking forward to today as we headed south towards Wilpeana Pound. I couldn’t get over the size of the Flinders, as all day it was a never ending range. The road south from towards Blinman was pretty rough but it let us take in the beauty of the area as we crossed dried up creek beds, passed through small gorges and wound our way through valleys. The difference between the north and south was incredible, and this could be seen as some clouds were hovering hover ‘’The Pound”. Most of this trip we stop every 2 hours, to stretch the legs or if we want to smell the roses, today was no different. We found an old mine shaft and sheep water trough made from a tree cut length ways. 

Great find with the Flinders shadowing our find. We hit the tar (eww !!) near Blinman, the country side was very green, emus watched us as we roared past and wildflowers started appearing. Stopped at Huck’s Lookout were it gave us views south across a fertile valley towards Wilpeana Pound. It was one of those speechless moments. Wasn’t far to the camping area at Wilpeana along the tar as the road wound its way through these valleys. Booked in for 2 nights, another day to explore and reminisce on the past few days. Today wasn’t a big km day, took us around 6 hours to cover the 214km but there was so much to see- ‘what's more important- the journey or destination ?”







DAY 9
WILPEANA POUND to BROKEN HILL
481 km













From the ground the “Pound’’ looks like a bunch of valleys and gorges. Well that’s what I thought until we got to the lookout at the end of Hills Homestead walk. From up here it looks like the top of a volcano, and that’s where this place got its name. Originally a sheep grazier kept his flock of sheep in here using the volcano rim as his fences. The creeks were full here, flowers were out and the gums were beautiful. Plenty of wildlife surrounded the camping areas with wallabies’ often grazing beside our campsite. Last night was probably the coldest with a really good frost, I was up before the sun to climb one of the hills for some photos, and I wasn’t disappointed. 

Today was going to be a non dirt day as we do some big miles to Broken Hill. Leaving Wilpeana Pound the sun was shining from the east giving some great sights as we left the Flinders heading towards NSW. Old ruins littered the country side around Orroroo and Peterborough, showing us just how old this area was. Lunch was a casual affair when we hit Peterborough but we needed to keep going as there were a few more miles to make up. The road towards Broken Hill was long, boring and windy. Dodging road kill and seeing more trucks and cars that we were used to made up the rest of the day. Arriving at Broken Hill we settled into a caravan park, washed and did a quick grocery shop. Tonite was going to be another cold one.





DAY 10
EXPLORING BROKEN HILL















I decided to make a big breaky for the guys, so we gorged ourselves on bacon and egg rolls before we headed out to explore the area. Having been here several times before I had a plan in mind. First on the list was a wander through town, indulging in coffee and cake while some of the boys caught up on a few chores. Shadowing Broken Hill is a zinc mine, we visited the memorial, top of the mine area and the ‘’big red chair’’. A must do is a 25km drive out to Silverton, a very old historic settlement that is now abandon. Originally a silver mining town, not much is here now except for a museum, several art galleries and the Silverton Pub, where movie memobillia line the walls. 

Over the years several movies have been made in this area including Mad Max and Priscilla. This was a relaxing afternoon. I had one more place to take the boys before dusk and it was to the Living Desert Sculpture Park just out of town. Here there are around 15 large stone hand carved statues that sit on a knoll looking towards Broken Hill and the Mundi Mundi plains. These statues are amazing, all have a different story carved from a different artist from around the world. A great time to view these statues is at dusk where the sun shines through some carefully cut hoes in the stone. Leaving here at dusk we were a bit humbled on the sights we saw today, but tomorrow was another adventure. Green curry and rice for dinner with ice cream for desert certainly topped off a great day.








DAY 11
BROKEN HILL to LOUTH
450 km













Some of the boys said they didn’t sleep to well last night due to the way wind was blowing and making the trucks sound louder than normal- buggered if I know I slept like a log. Even though they all really enjoyed Broken Hill, it was a blessing to rise early and leave. The first stint was a long 250 km of tar dodging dead roos from last nights traffic on the road and having another cross wind. Yeah I had to wind the window up !. We spent an hour at Wilcannia where a mate is a school teacher, was good to catch up. We seeked advice on which dirt track we should take as we wanted to head north along the Darling River. The eastern side was the best choice, a bit rougher but that meant no traffic. The road certainly was full of large bull dust holes and good size ruts made from traffic on this road 4 weeks ago when there was water laying around. 

To our amazement there were wildflowers in bloom by the acre, a great setting against the red soil and white gums that lined the road. The only traffic we saw were the local cops from Bourke, checking the road after the floods. Stopped and chatted for an hour before they directed us to a great lunch spot on the Darling just 50 km up the road. The river was flowing ever so gentle that was good to see, several Major Mitchell Cockatoos were calling out to each other here. Love the out back. It was an early lunch, but we had all day. A decision was made to head through Tilpa by crossing the Darling and to travel on the western side to Louth. Traffic increased by around 300% ( passed 3 cars!). This 85 km section was extremely dusty. Louth was a funny little one pub town with a population of around 50. We had to have a beer here and by doing that a local told us of a great river campsite just up the road, complete with firewood. A camp on the Darling- Perfect !. The night consisted mainly on toilet talk, not trashy, but how do you poo in the bush !, a few beers, a great fire and a big meal of stew, rice and tinned fruit.










DAY 12
LOUTH to LIGHTNING RIDGE
398 km











Today bought uncertainty just where we would camp and how far we would travel. Leaving Louth we headed into the sun which made travelling for first hour a bit uncomfy. What we didn’t know was that in several days there was going to be the local race meet where people come from miles around to race, drink and to catch up. This explained the large increase of traffic on the way north east (into the sun) which was slow going. Our first stop was at a point where in 1829 Captain Sturt ended his journey, at this point he turned around to head home. We hit tar again towards Bourke where we fuelled up and had a feed. It hit me that our journey was drawing to a close. In our original trip plan we kept a day up our sleeve in case we had a drama or wanted to do more rose smelling, so we decided to head further north to Lightning Ridge. 

This meant passing back through Brewarrina and Walgett. It felt uncomfortable passing vehicle every 10 mins. The road towards Lightning Ridge was narrow making, didn’t leave much room for other traffic. Lightning Ridge blew me away, could not get over the size of the place. Four caravan parks, large shopping centre, RTA office and more. The afternoon was a mixed affair. Several of us did a town tour where the others stayed back at camp, saw some unusual buildings, some were grand some were not so grand. Very interesting place, will defiantly go back- maybe for a scratch around some of the mine tailings. Today had been a big day, was nice to settle back at camp for steak and veges.






DAY 13
LIGHTNING RIDGE to HOME
698 km












Well today was the day I wasn’t looking forward to, and as we packed up there was a silence around us- this was the day we headed for home. Instead of hitting the tar we heard of a dirt road to Collarenebri-that was us. Apart from some local farm traffic, several emus running on the road and driving into the sun again, it was heaven. Soon the tar was waiting for us as we hit the Gwydir Highway heading through Moree, Inverell and finally having lunch at Glen Innes. 

Was nice to see the country side green and littered with trees, very different to our last 12 days away- wasn’t nice to see lines of traffic, stop go signs and more tar. After lunch we bidded farewell to the QLD boys, made more sense that they departed us here, than heading down the mountain then go north. Wandering down towards the coast I couldn’t help but think of all the things we saw, did and just how boys are boys when all alone. I enjoyed this journey, but its great coming home- only to plan the next trip, either down to Tassie via the Victorian High Country or the Gulf via Atherton Tableland. Choices Choices Choices. Thanks guys for an excellent adventure !!!!!!.




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