Tibooburra, Sturt National Park campsites and Cameron Corner.

Friday, Jun 22, 2012 at 21:03

Member-Heather MG NSW

This part of our trip had long on my wish list of places to explore and finally we were on our way, having decided to take the Silver City Highway past Packsaddle Roadhouse when we drove out of Mutawintji National Park on Friday 8th June 2012. We did this chiefly because there had been recent rain which had closed dirt roads in the area and we did not have up to date information on the state of these. It was a longer option with more stretches sealed and all new road once we rejoined the Highway.

On our way north, we stopped at a lookout and then at Packsaddle Roadhouse to buy fuel and to eat our lunch. I was surprised that the landscape was not anywhere near as flat as I had imagined, and there was a sizeable range to the West and quite close to the road...in structure similar to those we have seen in the Flinders ranges in SA with diagonal linear ridges of rocks. Outside the bitterly cold wind still blew from the South but it was fine and sunny.

The road surface and conditions were variable. Bitumen stretches were generally good and at first much of the dirt road had been very recently graded. However the further north we drove, the more rough bits there were and our progress was slowed considerably. We found the spots where the bitumen ended and dirt began were mostly rough and there were less sealed sections.
We had intended caling in at Milparinka and visiting historic sites on our way, but as it was getting late, decided instead we would drive the 40 kms or so back while we were staying near Tibooburra for a few days.
So around 4pm we arrived at the town and found our way to Dead Horse Gully campground about two kms north of Tibooburra along a dirt road, to see whether it was suitable to park our van. At first it appeared as though the only sites left were too sloping and rough for us but after spending some time doing a walk around, we found a perfect place well away from the other campers and partially screened by trees and large granite boulders. By the time we got set up, the sun was setting.We were impressed to find non treated water (which we used for all purposes apart from drinking and cooking), garbage bins, free gas BBQ's, tables and seats, and clean well maintained long drop toilets

I filled in the camping permit ($5 per person) and we spent the next hour making phone calls to family as there was full telstra phone signal and we had not been able to contact them since leaving Broken Hill four days earlier. I spent ages online catching up on email news and checking roads and weather relevant to our location and plans for later in the week.
So ended our first day at Tibooburra.

The following morning (9th June) we packed lunch and drove back to Milparinka. I had such an interesting morning because of the Historic sites relating Sturts expedition to find the inland sea, as his party passed close to here and spent 6 months in a hole dug underground at Depot Glen, on the banks of the river, waiting for rain to fall and weather to cool so they could make their way back to Menindee.

We called in briefly at the Tourist information building and had a short walk looking at the remains of the buildings which were built during gold rush days but long since abandoned. Unfortunately there is nothing much to bring tourists here now as even the Hotel is not functioning, but I think bush camping is possible on the banks of the Evelyn river just off the road into the town. There is a strong voluntary team which ensures that the Information centre is manned and i spoke to a very helpful man there and picked up pamphlets.

We drove firstly to Depot Glen, and then to the grave of one of Sturt's party, Poole, who died from scurvy after months of suffering. The tree and its blaze marked with the year still remains, miraculously untouched by graffiti or fire, alonside of which is a monument. It's a visible reminder of the harsh country, even now sparsely inhabited, and made us think about the deprivation which the European explorers endured in the quest for fame.

Afterwards it was a short drive across rough tracks through a property to visit Sturt's cairn. The car park is part way up a rocky hill, Mt Poole, and there is a walk to the summit where the sizeable cairn which Sturt directed his men to build to occupy them stands. It became a memorial to their team mate when he died some short time afterwards and stands well over two metres tall and probably eight in diameter...although those figures may not be too accurate!
We were pleased we had not tried to tow the van here yesterday and had plenty of time to enjoy the walk and the expansive views from on top.
Back in the car we had a quick lunch before returning to the southern edge of Tibooburra. Here we took theright turn towards Wanaaring and did the Gorge loop drive , a 100km drive through mitchell grass or gibber plain country, stopping to have a hot drink from our thermos at the Mt Wood campground in Sturt National Park. It was deserted but had good facilities...flat area, clean windy loo toilets, untreated water, bins, free gas BBQ's and all for $5 per person Afterwards we had a brief stop to look down on the 'Gorge' and then took the short detour to park and walk to the summit of Mt Wood...4 1/2 kms return.
As usual we did this in record time, taking under an hour and with John a hundred metres in front of me at most times, despite a rocky uneven track. The views on top were a great reward even though it is only 120 metres above the surrounding plains.
We rejoined the road and arrived back in our camp at Dead Horse Gully around 4.30 pm, having re fuelled and picked up the essentials...bread, and chocolate for John who has already eaten nearly all of his supply bought in Broken Hill and meant to be eaten in small portions until we get to Cloncurry in a few weeks time!!
The sun wasn't long in disappearing behind the granite boulders and because we couldn't have a fire, we retreated to the van for the evening, me happy to have great mobile wireless internet signal and communication!

Sunday 10th June we were up early,with lunch packed, and headed off around 8.30 am to see Cameron Corner, a trip of 140 kms one way,and the place where three states - NSW, Queensland and South Australia meet. The night had been very quiet despite Tibooburra celebrating a festival this weekend.
I loved the changing landscapes...undulating hills, flat mitchell grass covered plains stretching as far as the eye could see from which jump ups suddenly appeared, the wonderful terracotta red Waka claypan (a complete surprise to me) a swamp with water visible, red sand dunes and patches of mulga scrub. John patiently pulled over and waited while I took photographs and carefully negotiated the sometimes quite rough road. There were patches where the ground was still damp with quite deep wheel ruts, rough hard stony uncomfortable bits, sandy stretches and corrugated corners, small crests and even occasionally some really pleasant smooth short sections which had been recently graded.

On arrival I was surprised to find that ' the Corner' is not totally flat red and devoid of vegetation. We let ourselves through the Dog fence but not before taking a couple of pretty ordiinary photos, tnen parked near the Cameron Corner store, the one building at this lonely outpost. We paid the store a quick visit and purchased a stubby holder and two icecreams then went outside to read information boards and take photos before re entering NSW.
On the way back we took a 1 km detour to Fortville Gate, then pulled off the road to take photos along the Dog fence and had our lunch in the Campground at Fort Grey which is 30 kms from the Corner.
I enjoyed th return journey just as much...its always like a new trip when going in the other direction as the light changes and the landscape looks different (well, to me it does). I think John was just pleased to be off the dirt when we arrived back in Tibooburra.
We stopped at the roadhouse and took advantage of the laundry there. I stayed with the machines while they washed our clothes and then we both pulled in across from the Family Hotel to use the public shower. The key is available at the Hotel and fee is $5 per shower...a bit steep maybe but worth every cent I reckon as it was hot and there was plenty of water to wash off the red dust and sand. We are conserving our van tank water for drinking only so haven't used our shower, making do with an all over wash in a bowl.

While he waited for me in the Hotel bar, John forced himself to have a few beers and then we had a look around the pub with artwork painted on the walls in all the rooms, some by people such as Clifton Pugh, and it's probably regarded as risque with sprawling nude figures and buxom females, some at head height! I reckon there must be some interesting photos taken and they are certainly a conversation starter!
We had no time to sit around though as it was getting late and there was a pile of wet laundry in the car. Back in camp, the line was put up and it was hung around with the sheets under the awning , ready to dry in tomorrows sunshine.

Monday 11th June.

It was a rest day for us but we were not not idle, beginning it with the 4 km loop walk around the camp ground through the boulders, and the short walk around the former mining site at 'Golden Gully'. Joh did a check of the underneath of both vehicles and I baked a fruit cake and re charged all our batteries...camera, toothbrush, kindle, laptops and did some re organising and tidying of the van cupboards to prevent too much shaking around in the next unknown bit of the trip further north and throug Warri gate into Queensland.
We decided to return late in the afternoon to Tibooburra and have another shower, also buying a few groceries, and I checked the status of roads further north. All is in readiness for our departure in the morning.

Tuesday 12th June.
After a glorious sunrise which turned the granite boulders in the campground to glowing reds and orange hues, we packed up and headed North on Silver City Highway now mostly unsealed apart from occasional creek crossings and floodways. After the drive to Cameron Corner the road surface seemed good.

We had decided to camp in Olive Downs campground before leaving NSW so we could do a walk around the Jump up country in Sturt National Park and were there mid morning.It was deserted so we parked in a level area at the back of the campground and set up the basics for an overnight stay, had a quick lunch and set off to do the loop walk of approximately 3 1/2 kms for views over jump ups and back through the landscape. It was warm and very dry...can't imagine what it would be like here in Summer or how anyanimals survive but it was an interesting walk.
The flies here were persistant and annoying despite us spraying ourselves liberally with repellant!

As with the other three campgrounds in the National Parks, this one also had clean windy loos, non treated water, free gas BBQs and garbage bins and sites which suit caravans as well as other types of campers. Only one other vehicle set up for the night and he was totally screened by the mulga trees although this is not a very big area. It is a picturesque campground..to me anyway...with the muted green of the trees and the deep red earth. I just love these colours against the intense blue of the sky and never get bored by it, although when just a small amount of rain turns the earth to mud its not so attractive!

The night here was one of the coolest we have had and it was very quiet.
Of all the paths you take in life, make sure a few of them are dirt. John Muir
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