One Woman - One Dog - 7000kms - 3 weeks - NSW/QLD/NT/SA/NSW - An adventure of a lifetime

Sunday, Jun 21, 2009 at 16:30


Plans change. I learnt that on the second day of my first solo outback journey. Destination - Alice Springs for the Finke Desert Race.

Plan A

Sydney - Bourke - Wanaaring - Tibooburra - Cameron Corner - Merty Merty - Lyndhurst - Oodnadatta - Marla - Alice Springs and return the same way.

Plan B

No plan B

Actual Trip

Day 1Sydney to Bourke - straight run as I had to delay leaving Sydney by one day so wanted to make up time. Had read about Mays Bend near Bourke and decided that should be the destination for my first campsite. After just remembering where it was, found the sign to turn right and went for it. Had to engage 4WD - yippee - I must be really off road now!

Now finding a campsite in a strange place in the dark was a bit of a challenge and also a lesson learned. Managed to find a site where the previous tenants kindly left a large pile of fire wood and an exisiting fire pit. Score! Made a cuppa and finally got some sleep.

Day 2 Bourke - Thargomindah - Woke early for me - sunrise! What the? Headed to the Local Tourist Information to get the road conditions and weather report. Had looked on the internet the night before and it didn't look too good. Plus it was cold. I was heading North and in my book that means warmer weather. Not happening. Checked the weather in Longreach and Mt Isa. Warm - 28 degs. Now we're talking. Further North I go! Never planned to go up that way but hey - the weather was not too good on my original planned route - rain had set in - so change I did.

After the OK - I headed off. Excited when I saw my first evidence I was going "outback" - the gravel road and warning signs. Time to drop the tyre pressures.
Took it really easy to begin with and just found the comfortable speed for me and the Van. Then really started to take in the scenery - lost count of the amount of times I stopped and got out just to stare in amazement at the colours surrounding me. Words just can't do justice to the sight and feeling.

Arrived at the Hungerford Border Gates - I made it to QLD! And it was getting warmer!
A look in the Pub, bought the usual sticker and fridge magnet and continued to Thargomindah. Just loving driving on dirt. Each surface change was a slow and feel how to go - still remembering what I had read on the websites. Working so far.

So much wildlife - never realised what a diverse amount live out here. Interesting how they love to run on the road in front of you - must be an outback thing.

And finally made it to Thargomindah in the daylight!

Day 3 Thargomindah - Jundah Hmmm - the pitter patter of rain on the roof of the van did not excite me this morning - holy crap - I can't drive in the rain on mud! Very quick pack up, fuel and hit the road. Now it's alot quicker to go up to Quilpie via the dirt road. Only 55kms of dirt - should be OK.Well it was but I must admit I was having adrenaline rushes as the rain still kept on following me and now I was on red dust soon to turn to gooey mud. Mother Nature must have felt sorry for me and held off any real downpour until I hit the bitumen. Then she let loose. It was raining cats and dogs in Quilpie. Still managed to run to the Tourist Info to grab another sticker and magnet. Checking on the weather there - more rain - head further north. Longreach - it was sunny up there.

Made it to Windorah - not without learning about floodways first.

Met some other Finke travellers in the Windorah Tourist Info - doing the same as me - trying to get to Alice on dirt roads but the weather changing our plans. They decided to stay the night and check things in the morning - I wanted warm weather - further north!
Made it to Jundah to find they have a free caravan park for travelers, complete with hot showers and a coin laundry. Nice! Had to get the little butane stove out that night, so it was a quick 2 min noodles.

Day 4 Jundah - Winton - Lazy day driving today - No dirt roads for a while but still plenty of obstacles - so a trip to Longreach to see the Stockmans Hall of Fame - something I've always dreamed of doing.
Left Longreach after lunch only to stop 100kms out as I could smell fuel - badly. What the? Still had phone service (lucky) made a couple of calls - breather not working properly on the auxillary fuel tank - hmmmm. Worked out if I drain some from the aux to the main - give it a bigger air gap and release the cap everytime I stop - problem solved. Warmer weather good for me - not good for the fuel tanks. Then decided seeing as I was stopped already, may as well check the oil and water. All OK. Must remember regular maintenance checks on this trip.

Winton Tourist Info suggested I camp at Long Waterhole as it was just out of town and free. Found it and setup camp

Beautiful place and a great sunset

Then the rain came - no campfire tonight. Bummer. Then I discovered black mud - it sticks and sticks - I grew 6 cm within seconds! Even the dog grew and it was stuck to her paws. Full damage control went into motion - garbage bags everywhere - even on the dogs paws! This stuff is horrid - another lesson. Slept on and off listening to the rain. Was I going to be able to get out of this?

Day 5 - Winton - Past Mt Isa

Sunshine!! A great start to the day. Now to get out of this mud hole. Minimal packup as I'd already put most stuff away last night. Now - remember what to do in thick mud. Engage 4WD LR, get into 2nd gear asap and go - don't stop. I can do that - well I'll know soon enough. Deep breath - Storm (my faithful companion) sitting in the front seat watching my every move - great! Launch sequence initiated - T minus 3, 2, 1 - blast off!!!!!!!!!

Once I got moving I didn't stop - although a slow speed in reality - it seemed so fast as the engine revved but dragging itself out of this. Straight past all the other campers - looking like they were waiting for some more sunshine before moving (probably a smart thing). Smiled, but didn't wave as I needed both hands on the wheel. Managed to get onto the track into the place only to do a 180 degree spin! Once it started - I knew I was a passenger and just let it happen - giggling mind you. Thank goodness the road was wide enough! Another lesson.

Once on the bitumen - I relaxed - I did it - unscathed. Coffee time.

Cruised the streets of Winton checking things out - absorbing the sun as much as possible. Easy drive again today and arrived at Mt Isa early evening. Setting myself up at McDonalds to use the free WiFi - checked the 4WD sites and the weather. All good up this way - no more rain. Awesome.

Mt Isa really didn't grab me as a place to camp (I'd been there before) so I checked the Camp Bible and found a spot around 100 km up the road. So refuel, free hot shower at the Shell on the outer side of town - feeling brilliant. Found a dirt track further up - so found a great spot for the night. Peace and quiet with amazing stars. Can it get any better?

Day 6 - Somewhere between Mt Isa and Camooweal - Somewhere past Tennant Creek

Another glorious morning - still waking early - still not sure what that's about. Started early to Camooweal - arrived around 9.30am. Still the same as I remember 11 years earlier! Had noticed on the way that one of my tyres seemed to have a slow leak. Couldn't see anything when I fueled so put some more air in and off I went - in search of the NT Border. Not long after I arrived!!! Yay! - made it this far. To celebrate - Storm and I setup at the Border Sign and had breakfast. Now down to dressing in shorts and a TShirt - I was a happy camper (ha ha).

Was amazing when I headed off that there were signs about every 400 metres - so today was the day to photograph street signs! Every sign I came across I stopped and took a pic. Gonna take a long time to get to Alice at this rate - who cares?

Next lesson was crosswinds - huge crosswinds! In the little Van - it was a challenge let me tell you. So I backed off big time - easier to drive and less fuel - something that the fuel gauge disputed with me. Soon enough I came across Avon Downs - more signs so more pics. Not noticing that in front of me was a police road block. Lights flashing and 2 cops standing on either side of the road. They then started to wave me down. No problem.

I stopped and said "G'day - how's it going?"

They then launched into a massive interrogation of had I been drinking???? 10.30am??? What did I do for a living, where was I going, what was I carrying??? Licence, is the Van registered to me? Why did I stop up the road 3 times?

After checking everything, going over the van and contents, licence and rego all ok and breath tested - examined the contents of my camera to prove I stopped to take pics of the signs - dissappointed they said I could go. I asked them what was going on - they then told me that someone had reported a Van swerving all over the road and going slow!!!

Bemused - I told them my problems with the crosswinds and my day's option to photograph every street sign. I asked if I could photograph them - NO. Oh well - welcome to NT..... at least I got my own personal road block!

After a brief stop at Barkly Homestead for a look around and more stickers and magnets - onward I go. Threeways - again another look, then Tennant Creek and a supermarket - meat for dinner!Well - chicken really as it was cheaper. Provisions stocked - and a campsite further down the road in mind - the sun slowing setting - I was in heaven. I now understood why they call the NT the "Red Centre" - it's colours are so rich and vibrant. I definately wanted to be setup before sunset.

Found a campsite about 100 kms south of Tennant Creek - Bonney Well. A few other Caravans were there and a tent. Wood supplied for the fire and water available - too good. They really know how to look after travellers out here. So I got to work creating a feast for dinner - chicken laksa - who said you can't cook anything on a camp fire! Yum Yum - Storm agreed as she got some as well.

Early to bed watching the latest episode of Desperate Housewives as I'd downloaded all the episodes I'd miss while away (yeah I know - sad).

Day 7 - Bonney Well - Alice Springs

Saw another sunrise - getting used to it now. Met another camper watching the sunrise. She was cycling back home to Tasmania after already cycling from there to Darwin! Solo! Awesome - another crazy woman. We shared breakfast and I gave her some more supplies as she hardly had much due to weight. After our girls' talk we both decided to pack up and head off for the day.

Now this is when things started to change course. Remember I had noticed the day before that the tyre had a slow leak? Well not so slow now. Nearly flat! I decided it was now or never to change the tyre. Major job, but do-able.

Getting the spare tyre down from the roof is a bit of an ordeal. As I'm only 5'1" and not much to me - well brute strength just doesn't come into play.
Before I left I worked out how to get the tyre up there - ratchet straps! Slow process but it does work. So the reverse should work - right?
Well it did - while the other caravan campers watched in amazement - I'm sure they thought this was a scene from "Australia's Funniest Home Video".
My theory was don't rush - slow and steady. Does 40 mins count as slow?

Tyre on the ground, dug out the "fix it box" - found the rattle gun (yep - every girl has one don't they?) socket, torque wrench (only way I know I've done the wheel nuts up enough), air compressor, bottle jack, support blocks of wood. All set.

Now some very strong mechanic somewhere along the way before I left had done the wheel nuts up so tight - that took at least 20 mins!!!!!!! Not joking. By this time I needed another cuppa. Got the fire going again and boiled the kettle. No point rushing these things, plus by now I felt like I'd done at least 2 hrs pumping iron at the gym.

OK - back to work - jack up van - take off wheel - examine tyre - found large screw!!!!! Not happy - they were new tyres! Cleaned off more mud that was still lingering from the other night. Finish cuppa.

Not a good idea - another lesson!

Just as I sat down to finish my coffee - crash!!!!! The Jack had collasped and my poor van was now perched at an awkward angle sitting on it's hub. Hmmmm - make another cuppa.

If I had just finished the job and put the new wheel on - maybe this wouldn't have happened. Boy was I gonna cop heaps from the guys when I tell them.

Now it was try to fix the jack (the little piston on the bottom came out and the fluid with it). Wonder if engine oil will work? Find out soon enough. Fixed the jack but was now hesitant to use it. Borrow one.

So then out of nowhere this tall, suntanned, fit cowboy arrives in his Landcrusier to stop and get some water. Crap - how do I look? Quickly brush hair - put on dark glasses, brush off dirt - and slowly walk over.
Exchanged the usual plesantries then asked if I could borrow his jack - explaining my situation. No worries - grabbed his jack and then told me he'd help once he finished filling with water.

By the time he came over I had the new tyre on but was grateful for the help in getting the old tyre back up on the roof. He then stayed for a cuppa and chat - he was heading to Alice for the Finke race as well - who wasn't going tho this thing?

I had all the power tools out by now, so I decided to do a few changes to the "fit-out" of the van - moving clothes nets inside, putting in more hooks to hold stuff etc. I just love power tools - anything's possible! Oil and water done, air pressures checked, packed up everything - only 11am! Time really doesn't mean anything out here - it just is.

Finally on our way - Devils Marbles was the next stop - Wow! What a sight - kept thinking if I touched one they'd start rolling away. Wonder why the Devil had so many marbles anyway?

Checked out Wauchope (this one certainly ain't no Timbertown) - outback sense of humour starting to appear. Noticed most people serving in these places are overseas backpackers trying to earn some money to see more of Oz. (Note to self - start planning to work your way around Oz in pubs - need strange accent)

Next onto Wycliffe Well - hmmmm - very strange place - Storm wouldn't get out! Apparently their claim to fame is it's ranked 5th for top reported UFO activity in the world. Didn't hang around to wait for them - needed to push onto Alice - plus I bet they couldn't fix my tyre.

And just on dark made my destination in Alice - only took a week. Excited to see the guys - they looked more relived I was alive. I had failed to look at the mobile the whole time and see their messages "Where R U?"
Ooops - Note to self - let people know you're still alive every now and then.

Day 8 - 12 - Finke Desert Race
Now where the team was staying in Alice was a place called Undoolya Station. It is the first original station founded by the Hayes pioneerers in 1884. Absolutely beautiful place - how lucky was I? The family still own and run the station - approx 24000 hctrs. Whoa - that's huge!

I went through all my mechanical hiccups with the guys - getting them to show me how to clean the air filter, check the spark plugs, etc ... and ... tyre plug the flat!!!!

To their rolling on the floor in amusement (I'm used to it), they gave me step by step instructions on how to remove the screw, ream the hole - easier said than done - need brute strength again, attached plug to what looked like a large crochet needle and push it into the hole - yeah right! I did manage to do it after 15 mins of pushing, struggling, grunting, sweating. Done - I can do this! Wow - another lesson. I was so thankful the guys didn't take the tools out of my hand and do it themselves, they understood I needed to do this as they weren't going to be out there with me next time. Funny but that one simple job gave me so much more confidence in being "Outback" alone. I'm Wonder Woman (well not yet but let me dream ok?)

So the baby Van got cleaned and checked ready for it's next adventure - getting home after the race.

I headed down to Finke with the guys in the Service Truck for the next few days - now living out of my swag (packed my clothes etc down the sides, then I look like I'm not taking much - sneaky eh?) Storm got a breather staying at the farm with the other dogs - rounding them up the whole time apparently.

The event was awesome and being with your mates was great around the campfire. Work finished - everyone packed - we headed off in separate directions. I chose to go back down the Finke track. Not sure if I could do it, I spoke to the locals who gave me the thumbs up - "You'll be right love - no worries".

Day 13 - Alice to just somewhere before Mt Dare

OK - I'm doing it. Now for some reason before, I had it in my head that there would be no way I would be able to do some of these minor tracks. Why? Couldn't give myself a good reason now - so off I go.

Drop tyre pressures, everything bolted down, all secure, fuel tanks, water replenished - Hi Ho Silver - we're away!!!

Holy crap - 5 kms on the actual race track and I could see a very expensive suspension bill at the end. Move over to the main track - that's better - not! After a weekend of traffic up and down - the main track was really chopped up. Still I was loving it - a new experience - deep sand ruts, water bog holes, corrogations, Ghan sleeper nails to dodge - this track seemed to have it all - and nothing I'd experienced before - steady and easy - no race now - thank goodness. Little Van's no rocket ship.

Stopped at Bundooma - remembering I was doing the Old Ghan Heritage Trail. Cool! Seeing these sights out here really makes you wonder how the hell these guys built this stuff all those years ago. Real Pioneers they were. Amazing reading the info at each siding. Also a great reason to stop and have a break - something I have down to a fine art now.

And after hours of bouncing around, red dust whistling it's way through every hole and crack in the Van, covered in dust - Storm and I had done the Finke track - with no injuries to us or the Van - how good am I???

After already spending days down at Finke itself, we headed straight on to Mt Dare. Now I was really getting excited - the edge of the Simpson - I never thought I'd be doing this - neither did Storm (I'm sure she was wondering what the hell are we doing out here?). This was definately not in the Plan but hey - I'd come this far and was having far more fun on dirt than bitumen plus the weather was good - no rain.

When I saw the sign warning about travel in the Simpson - well I did take a deep breath. Was I really prepared for this? Did I have enough of everything? Mentally scrolling in my mind food, water, fuel, spares - yep I think I have what I need - find out one way or the other.

Immediately the road surface changed again - what seemed like thick red sand - another lesson - Van can only take corners in this sand at an average speed - OK - remember reading something about that. Everyday was a school day on this trip - I was learning so much and loving it. Why wasn't real school ever like this?

As the sun was fast sinking in the western sky, I knew I wasn't going to make Mt Dare before dark plus I didn't like the idea of driving on these roads at night - I'm not that good!

Found a nice little area where there were some other tyre tracks off the side and made camp for the night. This was awesome - me and Storm, totally alone in the middle of nowhere - sky, sunset, stars, open space, quiet - this was living at it's best as far as I was concerned. Not every man and his dog gets to come out here!

Day 14 - Mt Dare to Dalhousie

Do you ever have one of those days where so much happens you really had no idea that morning - stuff just happens? Today was a day I'll never forget.

Sun shining - cooked breakfast consumed - my next destination Mt Dare and a look at Dalhousie Springs. Read about these places before but now I was about to see them with my own eyes!!! It's happening again - that excited adrenalin rush..

Before too long - I was at the NT/SA Border - another crossing - love it! Just as I'd closed the border gates, climbing back into the van - 18 camels trotted across the road in front of me. What the? I'm in Oz aren't I? We don't have camels do we? Yep - sure do - roaming our vast land probably annoyed by strange vehicles disturbing their habitat. Now that was really cool - how many people see that?

The road today seemed good compared to yesterday - Storm appreciative of this. I did get a little confused when these side tracks started to appear, making my choice of lane a pot luck draw. After probably 20 kms (Yeah Yeah - I'm a slow learner) I discovered the side tracks were the lane of choice - derrrrr! Another lesson. Soon we came across an intersection pointing to Binns Track - ah - now I know where it is - must plan to do that track one day (another one to cross off - nothing can stop me now - well except major mechanical failure).

And around the corner (outback speak for kms up the road) Mt Dare Hotel was found. No way! I was here - I must be dreaming - this wasn't in the schedule. I kind of had a bit of an emotional moment (hey I'm female OK) realising this ain't no dream. I'd done it. For months I had read the road reports on getting to Mt Dare and honestly, I was a little hesitant driving there, fearing the road was way beyond my driving abilities and the poor little van would shed it's skin and collapse into a pile of metal toothpicks.

Nah - nothing to it! That's what I though now (well for a few seconds anyway), then let out the biggest sigh of relief. Again unscathed we'd done it together - Storm, Little Van and me. Time for a celebration in the bar.

Well it seemed every die hard "Finkite" traveling south was at the Hotel. Bike riders, competitors, spectators - all very relaxed and enjoying the surrounds. I tried to look cool, calm and collected - should have looked in the mirror first! Not good! Too late now - everyone was looking at me. Not a good feeling - especially when you finally see your reflection. Eeek - my hair had changed colour to red straw with face to match!

Realising my chances of anyone buying me a drink was zero (I wouldn't want to buy me a drink either looking like I did), sticker and magnet in hand and directions on getting to Dalhousie, I slunk out back to the safety of my van. On inspection I could now see a film of red dust on every single thing inside - Storm included! OK - tomorrow is cleaning day!!! Bummer!

Now my instructions from the guy at the hotel was "go down to Bloods Creek - look for the windmill on ya left - turn there - then turn again later on - better that way - rough as guts the other - got it?" Yeah - sure......

What's rough as guts? Should I be doing this? Well, unless I wanted to turn around and go back the way I just came - (which logistically was stupid) - onwards soldier we go. Now the mud map directions did concern me a little but on checking the "real" maps, I found that there was a road - so it should be OK shouldn't it?

About 80 kms - should be there soon. Oooh I can't wait - a hot spring.

Scanning the side of the road for a windmill - relived when I found it (and the sign!) I ventured closer to Dalhousie.

Then something just shook my world - literally! The road was insane - ruts and corrugations beyond anything I'd experience earlier. There was no way you could go fast to try to smooth them out - it was just above crawling pace - and even then you bounced and shook like you do at an AC/DC concert. How much of this do we have to endure? How much CAN we endure?
I giggled when I heard on the radio another group of people obviously on the same track complaining about the roughness! OK - this must be what they call rough but not "rough as guts". Thank goodness I stuck to instructions and didn't take the other track!

On finally reaching Dalhousie - my arm muscles numb but looking damn fine after that workout (well I thought so), my view was this Oasis in the middle of nowhere.... Wow!
I now understood the feeling desert travelers must have had when they stumbled across these life saving heavens in the most desolate of places. Mind Blowing! Nature sure is amazing.

Checking out the area and dipping my toe in the water - I was in heaven - it truly was HOT! Yes yes yes - I hate cold water - I Love Hot Water - we're staying here the night!!!

Now this is when I was faced with a huge moral dilemma - Storm. I couldn't keep her locked up in the van the whole time - but what to do? Finding the ranger was not there as I came back (Storm in tow) some other campers came over to see Storm. They were Border Collie breeders and where so excited when they saw her (missing their own back home). The Police also turned up at the same exciting time! Oh Crap! Now I'm done (wonder if those ones up north put them onto me?).

Now don't ask me why or question anything (it's history now anyway) I was given the clear to stay with Storm provided I kept her within the vicinity of the Van. Really??? Seems they didn't have the heart to send me on my way that day, seeing as I was traveling only with her and she seemed very well behaved. "She was, I was, Yes Sir, Thank You". That's about all I could mutter out. I felt so privileged and wondered why this was happening to me? Just accept it baby!

Campsite setup - Storm sleeping - I finally got to swim in the spring! Oooh - the calm feeling floating in hot water. It was beautiful - and although I ended up looking like a red prune, I felt wonderful. My world was at peace - for a few minutes anyway and I'm sure I looked a damn sight better than earlier that day.

Now late afternoon became a bit of a circus - vans and camper trailers everywhere - hmmm getting crowded - oh well - go with the flow and enjoy another amazing sunset.

Ended up sharing my site with these 3 other "Finkites" traveling back down to Adelaide. Now we're talking 3 big burly bikie looking guys with the long hair etc (bit like me eh?) who were the funniest and kind hearted blokes you could meet. They cooked extra sausages and chops for Storm (who by this time was grounded in the Van as the dingos were about and she thought she could round them up - don't think so honey - it's their home not yours!) and then made the most delicious raisin damper. I actually got the recipe from them - apparently it was handed onto them 5 years earlier by another camper on the road. Tradition is you pass it on only when you're on the road camping (sorry can't give it to you here) I felt honoured.

Bellies full, sore from laughing and telling stories, I fell asleep that night so happy and content. What a day - I could never have guessed it would turn out the way it did.

Day 15 Dalhousie to Edwards Creek

Very slow start this morning - I tried to delay my leaving this desert spa - cleaning done, mechanical checks and top ups done - off we sail into the horizon again - aware this time is was going to be a bouncy trip for a while, dodging the waves of rocks, ruts, sand holes - you name it. Checked out the Dalhousie Ruins, again still in awe at why someone would come all this way to setup up home - then looking around and seeing why - raw beauty - Oz Style.

Heading further south road conditions changed again & again & again - boy was I getting a workout at different surfaces. I noticed that a small plastic cover had come off the dash - not surprised with all the shake, rattle and roll going on. I found that the cover hid a screw - which I could tighten with my fingers? This can't be good can it? What does it do?

While stopped for a lunch break under the shade of a "something" tree (no idea what it was), I looked at where this screw was attached. It looked like it attached somewhere to the steering. Was this right? How could I tighten this with my fingers and it be responsible for my steering? Panic! Tools! Lots of Tools! I need more tools!

Calming down I tightened the offending cause of great concern and had another very long hard look at what it did. Um Well Um - it held the dashboard down. Ooops - crossed a bridge before I really got to it didn't I. Idiot! Another lesson.

Pink, being a colour I like, was the sight I got when we arrived in Oodnadatta. Not a pink I would really recommend mind you. None the less, checkout of the area, fuel, magnet and sticker and a huge splurge on a vegie burger (not bad really - it did have green stuff on it so I was happy - craving fresh green veggies and Milo badly), we ventured further down the Oodnadatta Track in search of our campsite for that evening.

Passed by the Algebuckina Bridge in all it's glory basking in the afternoon sun, so couldn't resist another stop and pic. Storm ventured onto the bridge as well - not realising how far up she was. Duffer! She freaked out walking back. I just kept taking pics of her.

Thought maybe Warrina Ruins would be a good place to camp - err - no. Way too windy and exposed - move along, move along.

Then discovered this beautiful area near Edwards Creek. Sheltered, campfire already setup - home for the night. The silence really was golden - a moment you just wanted to hang onto forever. Fed and totally relaxed, gazing into the spectacular circus of stars above me, I knew my life had been enriched in so many ways and mostly by Mother Nature herself. She tested me during the day and rewarded me with the evening. Smart bugger isn't she?

Day 16 Edwards Creek to Blanchewater Ruins

Jolting upright to the thunder of a road train passing by made me realise I must be getting closer to civilisation. My peace and quiet had gone for the moment. Oh well - time to move on. Morning duties completed - my faithful dog and I set off to discover more of my own backyard. Why did I wait so long?

It must have been early as I arrived at William Creek in no time and it looked like everyone was still in bed. Now you will read heaps of stuff on the William Creek Hotel but nothing will really prepare you for this adventure. Enter the door - and don't look back.

William Creek was established as a Ghan railway watering & service point back in the late 1800's. Now it serves as a watering and service point for outback travellers, most going to see Lake Eyre by plane. This was an option way beyond my budget (I did try to pawn some items for cash - but no takers). So the strange watering hole was my only outpour of money. You could spend months there with your neck craned at an awkward angle trying to read all the stuff on the ceiling, let alone the walls.

Coffee (they sell cappucino's - can you believe that?), sticker, magnet and more memories in hand - further south on the "track" we headed.

After the previous day's efforts on outback tracks, Oodnadatta Track was a doddle. So I got more of a chance to take in the bizarre features that surround you out this way. A Bubbler that would outdo all other bubblers, Cowards Springs - nowhere near as warm as Dalhousie (I'm spoilt for life now), crazy scrap metal icons rising from the soil,
road trains, cattle grazing on dust in the middle of the road (not sure what their logic to this is), and then - Lake Eyre South - whoa - now this was something - even from where I stood. It was hard to distinguish what was an optical illusion and what wasn't as to where the Lake started and stopped. Salt encrusted soil mirrored reflections in the distance - was it water? was it just the salt? I'll never know but the sight will stay with me forever. Gob smacked!

Farina Ruins another site we checked out then arrived at Lyndhurst - and probably the best free hot shower in SA! I must have got a bit excited with the hot water as I nearly fainted and had to open the shower door to the outside world just to breathe. Lucky no one was around - or free shows it would have been!

Clean, looking wonderful and fabulous in clean dusty clothes, our night camp on the horizon - we pushed on. A big day driving today but still so much fun. Managed to make it to Blanchewater Ruins before dark and made camp amongst the gum trees. Another amazing night to cap off another amazing day. I really didn't want this to end - ever!

Day 17 - Blanchewater Ruin - Cameron Corner

Ooooh - big stretch - what a wonderful sleep. Yawning I staggered out of the little van to be greeted again by another glorious day - was I lucky or what?

Cuppa time and a check of the maps - hmmm - seems easy today - not far at all.

The Strzelecki Track seemed like an outback superhighway in comparison to the other roads I'd been on. Still - utmost respect was necessary to survive alive and in one piece in my case. Not going to get cocky now - that'll backfire for sure.

Montecollina Bore was a bit of a sand bashing excercise to get there - but slowly bash we did. Hoping the water was warm (didn't click it was a bore not a hot spring) I thought a quick dip would be a good idea - nah - bad idea. Blowing a gale, the water freezing cold, I retreated as fast as a clam in it's shell. Put on more clothes - keep going.

The sign to Cameron Corner via Merty Merty appeared. I was really going to Cameron Corner!!! Now I've had this thing in my head for a while that I've wanted to go here as it's the 3 states corner - a pure novelty for me. I even tried to arrange a group of us to go there for NYE last year but everyone piked at the last minute leaving me to garden until midnight at home (weird I know but it was a full moon and hot and I was on a mission). So here I was - alone - heading east on my course to the corners. Who would have believed?

My advice to anyone who suffers from seasickness - take another route! The waves of small dunes rolling before you are best tackled on an empty stomach. They were the best fun, scary at times, but a giggle as you peaked the crest to discover the road was way down there! And these were babies! One day I'll tackle the big ones but not just yet - let's get over these first.

Little van was starting to make some rather throaty noises - hmmm - sounds like I've got a sports exhaust all of a sudden. Stopping to check - yep - you guessed - I'd ripped a hole in the muffler! Metal flapping in the breeze - not good. OK - it won't hurt the engine so I'll fix it later (I hope). Crank up the stereo louder (such a girl thing to do).

When we reached the Yellow Bus (who the hell would put a double decker bus out here I ask you? - although I'm glad they did) - my stomach had settled enough to take in food. Storm passed - looking a little green. She did pick up when she found all the Cockatoos camped in the bus though. A picnic with "We All Live In A Yellow Submarine" blarring on the stereo then "I will survive"- Me - Queen of the Desert and Storm danced around the Yellow Bus. Thank goodness no one was around (or that we knew of anyway) - a great memory forever!

Sustained a little longer - I made tracks to Cameron Corner. And soon enough - I had arrived! How cool is this place? You really have to stop and stare to work out which state you're in. I was going to stay here the night - a splurge paying for camping but so worth it.

The splurge happened to be $5. I can handle that - the catch was you had to throw your $5 note up on the ceiling and make it stick if you wanted to stay. Not sure if I could handle that being vertically challenged but worth a go! There is a trick and I won't share it with you - you'll just have to go to find out yourself - but I did throw my money in the air and it did stick first go and I got change!!! Now work that one out!

Campsite picked, fire stoked, I headed off on my walkabout of the 3 states. I'm not sure what the record is for walking to 3 states in one go, but I managed it in just under 1 minute - tough I know - but months of training had gone into this - calculating which way was quicker clockwise or anticlockwise - in other words, I was gleefully skipping around the corner marker like a child with a new toy - elated I was here.

I was so lucky the night I stayed as the infamous Bill Mitchell was still there (as I write he's left for Ballarat now) and Fenn and his family the new owners
- paying out on each other constantly - it was a scream. I was also treated to 3 ultralight planes arriving - driving right up the road - one doing a burnout on the grid (crazy nutcase), and parking outside the store!!! They had decided to come here for dinner and stay the night - only in the Outback!

After heaps of talking, laughing, shouting and my Milo craving extinguished (as Bill found some out the back and made me a cuppa) and again being graced with a beautiful sunset, sleep was greeted with another smile on my face. My dream had been realised - I made it to Cameron Corner - and it was good - real good.

Day 18Cameron Corner - Wanaaring

How many times have you had someone greet you with a smile and a hot cuppa in hand for you - in the outback on a Sunday morning, after a Saturday night, while you're under a car? Can't remember? A first for me.
What a way to start the day - damn - I should move here! Bill was curious as to what I was doing under the van and thought I'd like a cuppa to explain.

Muffler fixing. No choice but to somehow make it quieter (it was really loud now). My idea was metal putty and fencing wire (2 items I learnt to carry from my research). Bill seemed amazed that I had these items - "good toolbox" he said - I secretly was a little chuffed! (Pays to research - hee hee). He left me to my devices and I tackled the problem as best I could.

Now don't laugh - I'm learning remember - but my putty attempt wasn't the greatest but it did work for about 5kms before it blew off leaving the fencing wire to do the job (which it did a bit). At least it sounded quiet and fixed when I left. (Note to self - pack wire brush, put fencing wire on outside of putty, or better still pack muffler bandage!!) Another lesson. How many's that now?

I had mixed emotions leaving Cameron Corner - absolute delight I had achieved another life goal making it here, and pure sadness I was leaving a true corner of life I now hold with so much respect and admiration for the people who make it what it is - The Outback - honest and amazing!

I now only needed to drive to Tibooburra then onto Wanaaring and Bourke to have completed my pre-planned journey - in reverse and with a hell of a lot more adventure than I had bargained for - not one single thing to change either.

Loved the drive through the Sturt National Park - had a brief look at Fort Grey and the camp area - shame no dogs but a great spot none the less. Still seemed I was a million miles for nowhere - mesmorised by the rocky horizon before me.Tibooburra was near.

Sunday afternoon in Tibooburra - not much going on but then what did I expect? I cruised the town with my now sounding "hotted up" van, arm half on the door - was I cool or what ? An Outback survivor!

Now feeling like an idiot, window up, I headed to refuel and give Storm a stretch. Back in the van and Wham! Reality hit me like a brick! The phone rang!!! What was it? Where was it?

It went nuts - message beeps, missed call beeps, beep, beep, beep - Throw it away - You can do it........

You know the saying - "You can take the girl out of the city but you can't take the city out of the girl" - Kinda true - I couldn't throw it. Staring at the messages, I knew my walkabout days were numbered. Sad as it was, I was at peace in knowing I had just achieved the most incredible journey of my life - just me and Storm.

Now I was on a deadline to get back to Sydney. I pushed on to Wanaaring making it just after dusk. Stayed at the hotel there owned by Moc & Sheree. OMG!!! What characters. They were the craziest couple out - Moc refusing to charge me for camping, free hot showers, Gas BBQ and MILO - again - two nights in a row!! Score!

Sheree organised the rather bizarre cocktail making - passed on that - and the city v's country pool game. Let's just say it was a very noisy night! Even Storm got in on the act and was under the pool table - rounding up players! The perfect way to end our Adventure. Awesome!

Day 19 Wanaaring - Sydney - Straight through run (well compared to the other days)

Waking at the crack of dawn (again) - I packed up and headed off early. I needed to be back in Sydney tonight. BIG day driving.

And so my little journey ended with Storm and I arriving home very late that evening in one piece, little van still just alive (although in need of some extra TLC), magnets and stickers galore, dirty, dusty and probably two of the most happiest souls around. We Came, We Saw (A LOT), We Conquered Heaps and one day soon we'll do it again!

PS - If not for the amazing websites and people who contribute to them, strangers who gave me encouragement and advice, my mates who let me raid their workshops, and my belief in myself (easy to say now eh?) I would probably be stuck 'Out the Back O Bourke' somewhere or still in the lounge room reading stories about going.



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