Towing a Trailer along the French Line West to East

Hello All, I am planning a trip with friends through the Simpson Desert next August towing a camper trailer. I have read a lot of comment about towing a camper along the French Line, some say no way, some say yes, I need to know what the best way around the french line is. I plan to travel from Dalhousie Springs to Birdsville in time for the races. If I follow the french line and turn off to the WAA line then rig road, can I turn north and follow K1 north to Poeppel Corner to continue along to Birdsville or would I be better off continuing along the rig road to get to the Birdsville track then turn north? Jim
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Reply By: Member - mark D18 - Tuesday, Dec 22, 2015 at 17:36

Tuesday, Dec 22, 2015 at 17:36
James.

Its a much more enjoyable trip not towing a 1 to 2 ton anchor across 1100 sand dunes.

Of course its is possible with a CT , but its puts a lot more stress on your tow vehicle .

You should also consider if towing the damage you are doing to an iconic track .

The authorities strongly suggest not to tow.

Whatever route you take CT or not enjoy the trip.

Cheers






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Follow Up By: Shaker - Tuesday, Dec 22, 2015 at 23:41

Tuesday, Dec 22, 2015 at 23:41
How do you damage sand?
A couple of windy days & the tracks almost disappear.
To be honest, I have seen far more track damage, real damage done to tracks in the High Country, than I have in the Simpson Desert or the Canning Stock Route.

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Follow Up By: Frank P (NSW) - Wednesday, Dec 23, 2015 at 08:26

Wednesday, Dec 23, 2015 at 08:26
Well, until that happens you make the track a b1tch for following traffic.
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Follow Up By: Echucan Bob - Sunday, Dec 27, 2015 at 09:31

Sunday, Dec 27, 2015 at 09:31
Frank,

If we repeat this myth often enough will it eventually come true?

Bob
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Follow Up By: Allan B (Member, SunCoast) - Sunday, Dec 27, 2015 at 09:48

Sunday, Dec 27, 2015 at 09:48
.
.
Well just who does create the track gouges on the dune faces? The Rainbow Serpent?
Cheers
Allan

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Follow Up By: Les - PK Ranger - Sunday, Dec 27, 2015 at 09:56

Sunday, Dec 27, 2015 at 09:56
'Damage' to Simmo routes isn't so much long term damage, but it takes a good season for it to blow over and self repair a bit.
The ruts on the western side of dunes now make it much easier (or rather more comfortable) driving towards the west, it used to be the other way around.
Hard to get momentum for the larger dunes when the ruts are so deep and regular that you can't get more than say 20k/hr without bouncing around, making the damage worse then.

Crawling up with low tyre pressures works a lot of the time, but not all times, at different temps / time of day, and when traffic is high and the sand deep and fluffy.

Not all damage is caused by people towing, some is from people running too high a pressures too, or just going too hard when not needed (those high pressures), but I have seen towing vehicles on French Line and WAA Line struggling, we saw a motorcycle group abandon their FL attempt in July due to their towing support not being able to make progress.

On several crossings we've seen towing vehicles stuck repeatedly on some dunes, having to be snatched over, does a lot of rut damage that affects others, and holds up traffic no end (backing down 3 x - not an easy feat at times - before taking a snatch over), especially in June - Sept when it's really busy.
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Follow Up By: Allan B (Member, SunCoast) - Sunday, Dec 27, 2015 at 10:17

Sunday, Dec 27, 2015 at 10:17
Les,

The track gouging is worse in recent years. Increased traffic surely plays a part but I suspect (without evidence) that the advent of vehicles with increased engine power (turbo's?) has enabled wheel spin more readily. Once a gouge begins then the 'bounce' effect of other vehicles enhances it.

I can plead innocence...... my dear old Troopy does not have sufficient power to spin a wheel on anything. She just crawls up in H2-H3 but soft fluffy sand at the top sometimes challenges her.

I did escort another car/trailer across W>E once and as far as I could see he did not spin a wheel. Tyres at 15psi and sensible use of power seemed to serve him.
Cheers
Allan

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Follow Up By: Les - PK Ranger - Sunday, Dec 27, 2015 at 12:36

Sunday, Dec 27, 2015 at 12:36
Yes Alan, very easy for some to turn the power on as they're slowing to a stop, and usually it just makes things worse.
Better to slow, stop, reverse down and have another crack a little faster / different line.

Towing it's probably tempting to give it a boot rather than backing down for another go.
Of course towing can be difficult to back down some of the longer dune slopes where they curve, all adds to the dilemma of towing.

I find using low range drive as I approach, when I get onto the dune face, I knock it into 3rd and just go steady and generally walk it over like that, it won't kick down as it holds in 3rd . . . if I slow too much becasue of the sand or undulations, I just knock it back to 2nd like a manual and finish it slower but remaining steady . . . usually :)
Worst case back her up and have another go as above.
Love the auto :)

The thing is the sand can change week to week (even morning to afternoon) with how difficult the dunes are.
Doing 3 routes across this year, I was surprised how different parts of French Line were in May and July as compared to another section we did early April '14.

French Line between Knolls and Colson is very undulating now too, a trailer of less than very high quality off-road build could be an expensive recovery.

QAA has its own serious dunes too that even a Rig / Knolls / QAA route to BV would entail.

Rig road as we completed all the way in late October wold be my pick at the moment for a trailer crossing, so much less troublesome.
Out Warburton, up the BV Tk to BV, and a day trip out the Big Red / Peoppel without towing would be a lot less hassle for the OP (and other travellers).
It will be a very busy in the late August to attend the BV races early Sept.
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Follow Up By: Allan B (Member, SunCoast) - Sunday, Dec 27, 2015 at 15:55

Sunday, Dec 27, 2015 at 15:55
Yes Les, auto transmission has the edge for the soft stuff. Which is why it is so important to choose the right gear in a manual whilst approaching the dune.

I have only been stuck once, on our first crossing years ago. Late on a warm day, got up the dune OK but there was a sharp turn at the top with soft churned sand. No matter where I turned the steering the Troopy just continued straight on. (Yes, I did have the hubs engaged) After the third attempt I gave up and camped in the swale. And it was the best night we have ever spent in the desert.
Next morning, with cool sand and 15psi we drove straight over no trouble.
Cheers
Allan

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Reply By: B1B2 - Tuesday, Dec 22, 2015 at 18:33

Tuesday, Dec 22, 2015 at 18:33
James,
The last dune on the Rig Rd before the K1 was 32 meters high and it took the turbo 80 series a few runs to get over it. Tyres deflated more for each attempt. That was a few years ago. I certainly couldn't have got a trailer over that without help. I think the French Line would be easier.

Good Luck,

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Follow Up By: Member - Howard (ACT) - Tuesday, Dec 22, 2015 at 23:47

Tuesday, Dec 22, 2015 at 23:47
that dune is a no brainer since it had the top dozed off and was graded several times in the last 2 years to provide access for drilling rigs and other trucks to poolawanna bore site. Its now a 2wd road from Poolawanna via Rig then down Warburton to Birdsville track or it still was when I last went across in july .
regards
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Reply By: Les - PK Ranger - Tuesday, Dec 22, 2015 at 20:23

Tuesday, Dec 22, 2015 at 20:23
Jim, as mentioned if is rough any way you go, and with a CT you might find the going slow, considerable recoveries needed (for any of your party towing), and if damage to a CT or tow vehicle, recoveries are $$$.

2015 Patrol, do you have the V8 petrol ?
If so, you have some grunt there for towing :)

So much depends on your camper build, if a really good genuine offroad, name / build then you'd probably be ok, not easy, but it should survive if taking the speed right where needed.

If you deflate tyres on the tow vehicle and CT, you can be all right to drive straight through with enough momentum etc, depends on how bad the sand is, hot / dry and it's deep fluffy (afternoons esp), damp from night cool in the mornings and it's a lot easier.

French Line is very undulating, so yes, I'd avoid that towing.
Also complicating the rather slow track is it will be very busy then, and multiple hold ups of recoveries with both people towing and non towing, makes it a slow drive.

We did FL all the way on a July trip this year, so much traffic, we couldn't tell who was Arthur or Martha on the radio calls, most couldn't tell you where they were (!), you just had to keep a good lookout.

WAA Line is sort of a mini French Line, but a good line to drive generally, less used and not as chopped up.
I did that April 2014, so can't tell you what it was like this year.

Just the last week of October gone, I did Rig Rd from Warburton X entry on the BV Tk all the way to French Line, then out via Dalhousie and south to the Ood Tk.
It was considerably easier than French and WAA Lines, but does have a couple of fun dunes, and just as many (but smaller in size).

The K1 track up to Peoppel is pretty good, generally following the corridors, but then you still need to get through QAA and that has some decent dunes and lots of traffic.

The drive out via Warburton is easy, so maybe you could go out to the BV Tk, and up to the races from there, then do trip out from BV to Poeppel without the CT, and have a crack at Big Red on the way too ?

If you left BV very early, you could do Poeppel Cnr and back, approx 350km, but of course some of you route is slowish . . . 40km of that is pretty fast 80k's out to Big Red and back, between some dunes you can crack 40ks, a lot of the driving is 30ks or so.

Time to air down and up, half an hour to an hour at Big Red, Poeppel another half hour, probalby looking at a good 10 - 11 hour day.

I take it from BV you'll be driving home to NSW via the east to better roads (via Windorah), or maybe down to Innaminka and out via the corner region ?

Going up there, some advice on the route to Dalhousie.
If going via Mt Dare, take Bloods Ck route back to Dal, the more direct looking route could break your rig, tyres, or CT.
It's a boulder field going direct, up to soccer ball size, the rest are at least cricket ball size, be warned.

If ok for fuel ex Oodnadatta and going from Hamilton to Dal direct (Hamilton has diesel but pricey ~ $2.45 from memory), take the same route, up past Eringa Waterhole and left, or try Pedirka Tk.
Pedirka is usually very rough, but it was well graded when we drove it out in Oct, and we managed 60 to 70k/hr in some places.
Lots to see down there, from the south Pedirka siding ruins, Cherrikana Waterhole (careful not to scare animals here), Dalhousie Ruins, Dalhousie Srpings proper lookout, then of course Dalhousie for a swim.

My trip report here covers that crossing the other way to your travel, but might be of interest . . .
Rig Road Simmo report
There is reports before that covering my drive from Brissy across if you want road report via Walker X, Innaminka, east to SE QLD.

Of course it might rain and all your plans will be really knackered then !!! :)
Anyway, the planning side of things is great, enjoy the next 8 monts or so and have a back up to get there and back.
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Follow Up By: Les - PK Ranger - Tuesday, Dec 22, 2015 at 20:29

Tuesday, Dec 22, 2015 at 20:29
Whoops, 3rd last para, sentence should read . . .

"If ok for fuel ex Oodnadatta and going from Hamilton to Dal direct (Hamilton has diesel but pricey ~ $2.45 from memory), take the same route, up past Eringa Waterhole and RIGHT, or try Pedirka Tk."

I was still thinking of coming the other way :)
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Follow Up By: Member - James L8 - Tuesday, Dec 22, 2015 at 21:27

Tuesday, Dec 22, 2015 at 21:27
Thanks Les for such a detailed description, I only have the 3 litre Patrol, my intention is to come down from Alice Springs via Finke and then onto Mt Dare and Dalhousie Springs. I think I may take the WAA/Rig road to the BV track as you suggested and then take a run out to Poeppel Corner and Big Red, after a couple of days at Birdsville. Thanks again Jim
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Follow Up By: Les - PK Ranger - Tuesday, Dec 22, 2015 at 22:00

Tuesday, Dec 22, 2015 at 22:00
Cool Jim, and no problems.

When going from Mt Dare to Dalhousie, you keep going straight to Bloods Ck Tk, then left and pick up Dalhousie Rd again, to avoid the boulder field.
The roads manager up there told me once they grade that flat, and the boulders just come up within a week or two, and they if / when the get funds, it will be realigned away from the problem.

You could go down Rig, onto WAA, then Erabena or Knolls down to Rig Rd to go out, or just stick to Rig all the way ?
Lone Gum is a nice little detour, and a few camps just near the tree(s) on side tracks, fit in there fine with a CT.

That's a good route down from north.
When we got to Mt Dare on the July trip, we headed up to Alice via Finke (did the West Macs, looped around west to Gosse Bluff, back to Palm Valley and out Boggy Hole to the south).

It was just after the Finke Desert Races and the road from Finke to Maryvale was REALLY bad, so heavily corrugated.
Hopefully it may have been graded since, and still ok before your visit, though the races will be on again June QB long weekend before your trip through there !!

Just be aware of how bad that bit of road can be.
I had a delay at Mt Dare (broken torison bar mount to get welded up) and I sent the others with me on ahead, they took about 7hrs to cover the 270km to Chambers Pillar, I left Mt Dare at 1400 to catch up with them, and got in at 1945, and about 5hrs driving, had a blowout to change near Mulgrave.

From Maryvale, Chambers Pillar side trip and camp there the night is very worthwhile, that road's not as bad as Finke - Maryvale, good camp and awesome sunset / sunrise views.

This is the Red Centre trip report if keen for a read and look at pics / tracks.
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Follow Up By: Allan B (Member, SunCoast) - Wednesday, Dec 23, 2015 at 00:24

Wednesday, Dec 23, 2015 at 00:24
Hi Jim, I endorse everything that Les has said above and will add a couple of my thoughts.

It will be a big ask to get over some dunes with only a 3 litre vehicle. At least you are less likely to tear-up the track. Low tyre pressures (15-18psi) and choosing the right gear to avoid the need for a gear-change halfway up is the go.

On our annual visits to the Western deserts we usually trek across the Simpson and have always gone via the French/QAA Line with no difficulty. However this year on our eastward leg we went via the Rig Road all the way to the Warburton Track and out to the main Birdsville Track. Certainly this route was somewhat "easier" than the direct French/QAA route, but the bigger benefit was the more attractive scenery. I doubt that I will ever bother with the QAA again! Turn South off the French Line at Wonga Corner, 30km after Purni Bore. This route will take you right past the Lone Gum and there are good camp spots all along the route. Certainly you will miss Poeppel Corner which is not a 'big deal' in my book unless you need to tick it off the bucket list. lol
As Les said, you can do a day trip out to Poeppels via Big Red without the trailer.

Les described the road down from Alice Springs via Finke to Mt Dare rather accurately. It is usually badly corrugated and with soft sandy patches. An attractive alternative is to go from Alice to Mt Dare via Santa Teresa and Old Andado. This is quite a comfortable track and provides an opportunity to inspect the homestead of Molly Clark (Google it) still maintained as she lived in it. On our last visit, caretakers were in residence and promptly put the kettle on for tea and cake. Memorable!
From the Alice, the Santa Teresa road is a continuation of the airport road. Santa Teresa was a Catholic Mission, now an indigenous community and the road to there is maintained in tip-top condition. The route through Santa Teresa township to Andado is not signed but just follow your nose straight up to the tee-junction and turn right.

Which ever way you go Jim, have a great trip.

Cheers
Allan

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Reply By: Danna - Tuesday, Dec 22, 2015 at 23:44

Tuesday, Dec 22, 2015 at 23:44
Hi James L8
We drove whole length Rig Rd. from east to west, not towing with V8/4.5L Troopy that is upgraded to max performance front & rear diff-locks. Of cause deflated tyres to suit a terrain. Yes, we didn't have to winch or go on few attempts, but we talking about different vehicle to your. I would not tow going that way even with our very capable Troopy.
Traveling all the way from Bv to Mt. Dr. or Mt. Dr. to Bv. (as B1B2 written some dunes are 32 meters high). Some dunes are higher than Big Red. Sometime the height is visible only when you reach about 3/4 of a dune, as a blown sand makes another dune on top. Those ridges are very high and soft. Then we must remember the clay that use to be wonderful thing, but now is broken and undrivable so only solution is to bush-bash your own track.
The Rig Road use to be easy way to go, but these days is probably hardest way to go. Definitely harder than French Line, to bush-bash all the camps on Madigan Line or Hay River Tk.
It would be good idea to call Birdsville or Mt.Dare before you go to ask for their opinion.
Good luck anyway
Cheers Dana
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Follow Up By: Les - PK Ranger - Wednesday, Dec 23, 2015 at 00:35

Wednesday, Dec 23, 2015 at 00:35
Hi Dana, when did you do that Rig Rd run ?

As mentioned above in another post, the whole track from Warburton to well onto past K1 has been well graded, there are no dunes anything like Big Red in size now.
Did it a couple of months ago.
We even found the often mentioned holes in the exposed sand on top of the eroded clay capped dunes to be virtually non existent.

All who read this should keep in mid that by next Aug the tracks (all of them) will be different, rains could severely affect the eastern side of a Rig / Warburton route exit too.
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Follow Up By: Allan B (Member, SunCoast) - Wednesday, Dec 23, 2015 at 00:39

Wednesday, Dec 23, 2015 at 00:39
Hi Dana, it is interesting how we each view any particular track very differently. See my Follow Up above.
I was aware of reports of the clay topping breakup but did not find it a problem at all, certainly not "undriveable". The only 'different' issue we noted was the sand blown across the track on the crests which required a spot of care, but not a 'problem'.
However, I'm glad that we do not tow. The need to back-down for another attempt with a trailer behind is not attractive to me!
Cheers
Allan

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Follow Up By: Allan B (Member, SunCoast) - Wednesday, Dec 23, 2015 at 00:46

Wednesday, Dec 23, 2015 at 00:46
Hi Les, that "grading" you referred to really surprised me and had me looking for a drilling rig that someone must have graded the track for. But no drilling rig was seen. Blimey, if they keep this sort of thing up we will be seeing Winnebagos at the Lone Gum!....... Heaven forbid.
Cheers
Allan

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Follow Up By: Les - PK Ranger - Wednesday, Dec 23, 2015 at 00:54

Wednesday, Dec 23, 2015 at 00:54
Yes, I know Allan, was looking for the mystery reason for all the roadwork myself and never saw anything, could have been somewhere off the track I guess, up K1 or similar.
It was really such a nice little touring type drive, was just a little disappointed it wasn't just a little more challenging, but we had some fairly hot weather to make up for it, and it was really the run through from Warburton straight across I was wanting to experience that trip.

Not once did either myself or Bob Y need another shot at a dune, I think we both ran H4 all the way, but then with my stock wheels / tyre sizes, I usually get by fine without LR on any of the normal crossing routes.

Not sure I'll do it in 2016, really haven't made my mind up what big trips I'm doing next year, might just wing it !! :)
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Follow Up By: Sigmund - Wednesday, Dec 23, 2015 at 08:47

Wednesday, Dec 23, 2015 at 08:47
At races time it's going to be busy in the Simpson and there'll be little sympathy for someone blocking the track by having to back down slowly, trying to avoid sliding into a jacknife, for a 2nd or 3rd run. You'll get some comments on the radio.

If you're a half-skilled sand driver you can avoid digging divots but you still tear up the track more with the greater traction needed to get up a dead weight behind you. That's why Parks recommend you don't do it.
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Follow Up By: Allan B (Member, SunCoast) - Wednesday, Dec 23, 2015 at 08:47

Wednesday, Dec 23, 2015 at 08:47
.
Aha Les, Thread 108645 provides the clues to the grading.
Cheers
Allan

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Follow Up By: Les - PK Ranger - Wednesday, Dec 23, 2015 at 10:16

Wednesday, Dec 23, 2015 at 10:16
..
Ah yeah Allan, I remember the thread now, just couldn't remember where I'd seen it !
Good to know that oil wells are finished in the area, and is now a water monitoring well for the artesian basin.

Pity the thread is archived and an update to current conditions can't be posted on there, but anyone searching should find this thread too.
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Reply By: Member - Warrie (NSW) - Saturday, Dec 26, 2015 at 10:47

Saturday, Dec 26, 2015 at 10:47
HI James, here's my 2 bobs worth. Two rigs both towing campers. We did Rig E to W in Sept and thought we could shorten the trip by heading up to the WAA Jn to go west. Got 3 km and turned back as it was simply too hard towing a trailer.No clay capping and so all soft sand. Wasted a couple of hours but no big deal and returned to Rig Rd and went via Lone Gum as it was the sensible option. Have a look at the pix in Rig Rd Dune Dilemma and other places along the route to see what it's like. We got bogged 4 times between us where we needed to use a snatch strap and a couple more where we reversed out and had another go at a faster speed. All fabulous fun ... W
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Follow Up By: Michael H9 - Saturday, Dec 26, 2015 at 11:13

Saturday, Dec 26, 2015 at 11:13
What pressures were you running?
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Follow Up By: Member - Warrie (NSW) - Saturday, Dec 26, 2015 at 11:26

Saturday, Dec 26, 2015 at 11:26
18 to 20 psi by a dodgy old tyre gauge. Tyres 245/70 16 inch Bridgestone Duelers. A worse situation than anything on the Rig was on the Finke River 4 x 4 route aka Boggy Hole. Dead flat but fine soft sand so went down to 10 psi. See pic in Finke Gorge National Park...... W
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Follow Up By: Michael H9 - Saturday, Dec 26, 2015 at 11:35

Saturday, Dec 26, 2015 at 11:35
My old Pathfinder used to handle soft sand best at around 14-15 psi. It was a great car and I still have a soft spot for them. The only thing I'm particularly finiky about now is my tyre gauge and compressor especially on sand. I even use a digital gauge now. :-)
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Reply By: Bucky - Sunday, Dec 27, 2015 at 10:35

Sunday, Dec 27, 2015 at 10:35
James L8
We are doing the Simpson next July and will be taking our Camper thru.
Why not, it should be easy enuf, and weight spread over 6 wheels is better than a heavily laden vehicle only. (and safer too).

It's all about tyre pressures, and not hurrying, thus avoiding damage.
Do your homework, double checking everything on your vehicle, and Camper, then double check it all again.
I have done heaps of desert tracks with our Camper Trailer, including the Canning, and never had an issue towing up and down sand dunes.

Check out some of my posts from the Canning trip in 2009, that are written up.

I actually followed our camper trailer through the Simpson in 2005, and loved the way it handled the rough stuff, so I struck up a deal out in the middle of the French line, with it's previous owners, and brought it off them..

As far as the rest of your questions, I cannot answer them, but we will be doing the Rid Road, the WAA line and hopefully to the Geographical Centre, provided floods don't hamper the trip.

Just have to wait and see

Cheers
Bucky



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