Outback NSW - March 2009

Thursday, Mar 19, 2009 at 01:00

ExplorOz - David & Michelle

The circumstances arose for this trip when ExplorOz was invited to exhibit at the Outback NSW Tourism Symposium in Wentworth NSW and it was agreed that the only logical way for us to manage it was for me to go alone and David to stay behind with the kids. In a first for our family, David would juggle work and domestics for 9 days on his own and I would not only fly interstate, I would team up with my parents who were planning to start their retirement touring and get to tag along with them as a back-seat passenger to reach the conference venue in Wentworth and then continue on to Adelaide visiting family in Mt Barker before flying home to Perth. The planning was tedious but finally the day came when it was time for me to go...

Thursday 19th March, 2009
3.40am awoke. Taxi to Perth airport 4.15am. Board Virgin Blue flight from PerthSydney at 6am. Was seated beside sisters Katie (15) and Sharni (9) – travelling with their family of 7 to attend a wedding. Fantastic kids that made me homesick the moment I met them but we all just clicked and swapped addresses and I can’t wait to see them all again. A great start to my trip.

Upon landing 25minutes early in Sydney my box of conference materials did not come out on the baggage conveyor. I found it at the oversized counter. Dad was late to pick me up.

Driving thru Sydney things looked familiar but it no longer feels like home. It’s been 11 years since it was. An important reason for coming to Sydney rather than Melbourne before reaching Wentworth is that all my family live there – in particular my 96 yr old grandmother who has just started to show signs of dementia. She probably won’t remember my visit, but I will.

We’ll leave tomorrow to head west towards Wentworth but I don’t need to be there ‘til Sunday afternoon. Mum and Dad are using this short trip to shakedown their new rig - Diesel V8 LC200 and Ultimate camper (I have a swag) so it was entertaining to sit back and watch other people go through the packing and new gear phase. They had lots of new gear – most of it hadn’t yet come out of the box! But, the trip is not complex and they are confident travelling so it’s just a matter of putting it all together in the bush and seeing what needs adjustment. I’m just thrilled that I don’t have to cook or care for anyone else (very strange). I have brought a good book!

Friday 20th March, 2009
In what became trip tradition, we left late morning but stoped not more than 20mins later to purchase a coleman butane gas bottle to operate their coleman hot water system that only came out of the box the night before.
From North Turramurra, we travelled via Richmond to Lithgow where we stopped for lunch then Bathurst, Orange, Eugowra, and Forbes where we encountered locust swarms that made a mess of the vehicle as they kamikazed on the windscreen.

We were originally hoping to get to Lake Cargelligo for the night but it was apparent we weren’t going to make it that far so a bush camp was found on the Lachlan River (Warroo) just before sunset and I took numerous photos of my parents’ first attempt to setup the camper, whilst I rolled out the swag.

We enjoyed a lovely evening but then the weather set in. I moved my swag beneath the wing of the camper for protection and went to bed watching vivid lightning and rain.

Saturday 21st March, 2009
I was up early before sunrise and took a walk. I found a dead cockatoo. Dad found a broken fuse in a converter adaptor plug from the inverter to a power board and was dismayed to realise this was the only fuse for which he overlooked spares. Now don’t ask me all the technical details cause I don’t really pay much attention to this stuff but basically the problem was that this adaptor plug was not your ordinary run of the mill cig lighter adaptor so the fuse needed was much smaller than what was in any other adaptors we had – it was of course unique and therefore my Dad’s whole fancy power system was in trouble (he is a retired research scientist with a PHD in radio physics and I find that electrical things he sets up are often more sophisticated that perhaps they need to be).

So, we didn’t leave camp until 11.30. We took a lengthy stop in Condo(bolin) with all attempts to find a replacement fuse in vain but a compromise accepted. Modifications would be made at the next bush camp - we didn’t reach it however until the very end of the day at 7.30pm.

That night on the banks of the Darling River near Menindee I sat with my headlight on trying to read, and a bug flew into my ear and stayed there buzzing. I had vivid recollections of the pain this caused David when a similar thing happened to him on the Canning, so I knew better than to try to get it out with a cotton bud. It was flapping and buzzing in my ear for an hour or more and I wasn’t terribly happy about it. It eventually stopped but I refused to attempt to extract it. In fact I rang “a friend” on the mobile to Google the best treatment and was told to put a thin blade of grass into my ear whilst the bug was still alive in the hope it would climb on and I could gently pull it out. Great theory but there is no blade of grass on the banks of the Darling River in March! After a few G&T’s I didn’t really care and it did eventually stop buzzing. I never did see any evidence that it came out but I had no more trouble with it thankfully.

Sunday 22nd March, 2009
The next day was Sunday and I was due in Wentworth by evening to prepare for the 2 day conference at which I was running an ExplorOz display stand. The usually late morning start meant we didn’t feel like traversing the winding road on the west side of the river through Kinchega National Park so we headed back to Menindee and went down the Wentworth Pooncarrie Road on the eastern side of the river. Although you only see glimpses of the river from much of this road there are numerous access tracks leading to the river’s edge and we took a few side trips.
What I had completely forgotten was quarantine and surprisingly there is no sign (that we saw) advising us out of Menindee of a quarantine stop until you reach the yellow honesty bin and warning sign. We opened the fridges and ate as much fruit and veg as we could manage – the rest went in the bin. So I’ve made sure this waypoint is marked on the trek note. I had 2 nights booked at a motel in Wentworth within walking distance to the conference venue – the largest building in town – the Wentworth Sporting Services Club – a great monolith that seemed to me to be out of all proportion for such a small town but of course it was a hangover of the days when the pokies were only legal in NSW and the club was the lifeblood of the town. It’s clearly different times now.

Monday 23rd March, 2009
So on Monday morning, I garbed up in my ExplorOz uniform and setup our display stand. Thankfully I was able to get connected to the internet to demonstrate ExplorOz using Telstra 3G via Nokia Data Suite.
I was there to offer information about our services to the 200 delegates attending the conference - industry businesses, key tourism contacts and state/federal tourism bodies. Outback NSW Tourism also launched (as a result of winning an AusIndustry grant) a Darling River Run promotion to increase awareness and visitation plus tourism expenditure in the area so lots of local operators were in attendance and it was a great opportunity to meet these people. Interpretive signage has just been installed right along the touring route of the Darling River Run and the grant has covered the cost of this plus marketing and promotion. The conference theme was Partnerships in Tourism and I found a great level of openness towards learning from each other. This was our first trade display at such an event and it certainly seems more suitable than exhibiting at a consumer 4WD and Camping Show so there may be more opportunities like this that I’ll look at in the future.

I met with people such as Carolyn Childs, Director TNS Australia, Barry Baillie, CEO Caravan & Camping Industry Association NSW, Prof. Ross Dowling Foundation Professor of Tourism at Edith Cowan University, Tony Clarke - Head Teacher Tourism & Hospitality TAFE Western Sydney (and big fan of EO), and Denis Carlisle from WSFM who all gave presentations at the conference. I also spent quite a bit of time with the other trade displayers namely, Warren Parrot from Discover Downunder (big fan of EO), RFDS Central, Outback Beds, and Wentworth and Balranald council representatives. Numerous delegates showed genuine interest in ExplorOz Business Membership and the tourism bodies were all very keen to take our promotional flyers to make available at their outlets to spread the word about ExplorOz. I must thank Trevor from Murray Trek 4WD Outback Tours for being the first to sign-up on Day 1 as a Business Member. It was a hectic day and the bulk of my work was during the meal breaks so I actually missed out on food all day. Thankfully a posh dinner was put on that evening so although I didn’t have time to change, we were taken by bus from the club to the Coomelia Club for a beautiful dinner of yabbies and citrus salad, mallee lamb rump, and a decadent raspberry and chocolate log that sadly I couldn’t finish. I sat with David Mooney - Tourism and Development Manager, Diamantina Shire Council and talked all night about friends and acquaintances in Birdsville.

The evening also included entertainment from Donna Boyd - with a live performance of her song Angels Fly Close to the Ground, and Take Time which has been licensed for advertising by the Outback NSW Tourism Campaign. A big end to a big day.

Tuesday 24th March, 2009
I sat in on the conference talks for Day 2 and then loaded all my gear into a bus with a satellite group to tour Mungo National Park in the early afternoon with Graeme Clarke’s Harry Nanya Tours. It was an hour and a half drive, followed by a didgeridoo interpretative performance by Graeme in the Visitor Centre, an early supper, followed by time to explore the Woolshed and then a sunset tour of the Walls of China. Graeme’s tour is highly informative and entertaining. At the end of the sunset tour I teamed up again with my parents who had been in Mungo for a day already. Just switched my bags from the bus to the LC200 (hasn’t got a name yet, I tried to suggest “Elsie”?) in the Walls of China carpark. I met a group of people enjoying sundowners on the boardwalk who were avid ExplorOz site users but I was tired and happy to know that camp was already setup for me at Main Camp with a hot dinner waiting (thanks mum) and a G&T (muchly thanks Mum).

Wednesday 25th March, 2009
This morning we were approached by the other Ultimate van owner in Main Camp who turned out to be one of our EO International anonymous users – has used the site for many years but isn’t even registered as a visitor. This couple are Kiwis who travel Oz 6mths of the year then return home for the other half of the year leaving their rig at their son’s house in Sydney. We know from our stats that the large anonymous user group are just as active as the Visitors and Members just with a different approach to their use of the site. Gary? Says he’s a big user of the Weather, Fuel, and Roads reports and has used many of the Trek Notes over the years. Has never used the Forum and has never read a newsletter. He does use the Ultimate forum however. So there you go – quite a different story to the one we typically hear.

We made a getaway about 10am (last to leave the campground) and headed to Mildura via the Arumpo Road (now there’s a gas fitting, and more electronic bits to source). From Mildura I have until Friday 3pm to get to Adelaide airport to catch a flight home so time for one night camping out. We took the Sturt Highway thru to Renmark then Berri and looked at the free council campground on the Murray River at Martin’s Bend but then decided to head further out of town into the national park and picked a campsite in the Katarapko section at Booky Cliffs – lovely!

Thursday 26th March, 2009
Whilst it’s been lovely to get a bit of camping in with my work trip I miss my kids and David very much. The mobile service has been exceptional and not only have I been able to take/make calls just about everywhere, I’ve also been able to receive my emails to my phone (via Exchange Server) so I’ve stayed “in touch” with home very easily. Anyway, today for me was hilarious. The shakedown trip is getting down to the pointy end and finally the hot water system was turned on, the porta-pottie given a fleeting glance, and the HF radio setup via HFOz to transmit a GPS logging position.

I couldn’t resist the temptation to explore the remainder of this section of the Murray River National Park and even though Dad has the full VMS incar pc system setup in the front, he also has a laptop and gps running in the back so I felt right at home tinkering away on OziExplorer making waypoints and plot files as we did a quick mapping survey to enable me to bring back the data to the office to create a new trek note for this wonderful camping location.

The Riverina is definitely worthy of more time but for now, I was eager to get the data and bookmark it for “another trip”. We had to retrace our steps back to Berri and we then headed south to Loxton, out to Wunkar (and we did see only “one car”) and onto Swan Reach – where I decided my next trip would be to cruise the Murray by houseboat – well why not? Look at this for relaxing....

The road to Bowhill continues along the top of the riverbank with exceptional views such as the lookout at Big Bend.

Bowhill itself could be a great place for people like us that love waterskiing – similar to the holiday house strip at the Hawksberry River.

We crossed the river at Mannum by vehicular ferry and agreed to take a quick tour of Murray Bridge before zooming along the M1 into Mt Barker where we stayed with my cousin Kylie who organised a great family dinner for us at her place with other family members.

Friday 27th March, 2009
My final day – started with wine tasting at the Lane just out of Hahndorf and lunch in main street Hahndorf before saying farewell to family and boarding a plane from Adelaide airport to return to my family in Perth.

It’s been a long time away from my kids – but a great rest for me. I’m feeling recharged and hopeful that some positive business will come out of the conference, but if not, the time spent with my family was more than worthwhile.

Michelle Martin
David (DM) & Michelle (MM)
Always working not enough travelling!
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