Claypan 70 km west of Tibooburra NSW (enroute to Camerons Corner)

Sunday, May 29, 2005 at 00:00

Mick O

Sunday 29th May, 2005
Claypan 70 km west of Tibooburra NSW


It was a brisk nite to say the least. Having gone to bed so early, I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised to be awake at 2.30 a.m. and ready to spring out of bed. Amanda had to answer the call several times and on one of the journeys managed to find the only prickle bush in a 100 metre radius. I was to tired to ask what part of her anatomy was punctured.

Arose at 7.20 a.m. to a fine sunny morning and the bleating of feral goats. It’s a testament to their fortitude and ability to eat anything that they seem to be prospering in these hard times. Certainly the sheep need to be tough to survive. There’s not many of them about but those that are look damn mean. I suppose it’s the tattoos and cigarettes that add to the impression.

I hate to be proved wrong but I will own up to being wrong on occasion. I managed to use the toilet seat to good effect during the evening. I must confess it was a bit like trying to thread the eye of a needle and it’s given me infinite respect for what WW2 bomb aimers had to endure.

I stoked the fire and on gaining a bed of glowing coals set about creating a couple of jaffles and a cup of tea for breakfast. The packing up went a little quicker but we have decided to leave the floor in the tent. It makes it a bit tougher to get the protection cover on but should save us 10 minutes in setting up tonight. We were on the road to Broken Hill by 9.20 a.m., a leisurely start to be sure but I feel confident we’ll be able to crack the whip a bit once we get into a routine.

The first thing that strikes you on the drive north along the Silver City Highway is the exceptional dryness of the country. Now that’s saying something coming from one who is used to dry country. Even the hardy scrub is turning up its leaves and dying. It’s not often you see dead saltbush as it‘s a plant that lives in a state of perpetual death anyway, but believe me, it’s dead and dry. No wonder the sheep are thinning out.

The amusing thing to note is the acknowledgement gained from fellow motorists in the forms of waves and finger gestures as they pass. I’ve identified the most popular and will attempt top give a brief description of them.

1. The “Peace Man”; Left hand at 12 o’clock, index and middle finger raised in the classic sign of the 60’s.
2. The “Cockatoo“; Left hand at 1 or 2 o’clock on the wheel, thumb remains and four fingers move up and spread to the left.
3. The “Dicky bird“; One for true cricket lovers. Right hand up with fingers clenched and the index straight up. Slight movement forwards towards windscreen as if answering that age old question “ow-iz-ee?”.
4. The “Goal“; Hands in the classic 10 and 2 position on the wheel, both index fingers rocket upwards at the same time as if Sav Rocca has just threaded a beauty from 65 meters out.
5. The “Stop!”; Right hand up in front with palms out towards oncoming driver.
6. “The Howe”; (Refer Amerindian custom - F Troop etc) Left hand gesture. Elbow stays to rear and in middle of seats, hand up vertically with palm exposed and all digits extended together.
7 “The Frank“; My personal favourite and named after Cousin Frank who’s to tight to waste much energy. Left or right hand at 12 on the wheel, index finger only moves slightly up. At least it’s a gesture of acknowledgement, no matter how small.
8. “The Cowboy”; Index and middle fingers outwards like you’re playing shoot-em-ups.
9. “The Pope”. Hand forward palm outwards. Thumb out and index and middle fingers straight up. Ring and little finger bent inwards to palm. Also more effective if you make the sign of the cross as you pass vehicle!

The landscape was broken by our first glimpses of the barrier ranges at 10.10 a.m. They were low and purple on the north-western horizon, a good indication that Broken Hill wasn’t to far away. Sure enough we arrived a good 30 minutes later. A quick visit to the petrol station for diesel and gas, Safeway for supplies and a broom and at 11.45 we were again on the Silver City Hwy heading north for Tibooburra.

The road was in an appalling state. It hadn’t seen a grader in a very long time. The bitumen patches, although a relief, were all to infrequent and the dirt patches were corrugated, excavated, bull-dusted and sandy, quite often all at once. Although dry, the scenery was a bit better as we wound our way through the ranges. They are truly ancient and worn. With no ground cover as such, the country's origin in the depths of a shallow sea was obvious buy the ripples of rocks breaking through the dusty surface and running off across the hills.

We arrived at Tibooburra shaken and dusty at about 3.20 p.m. and immediately filled up with fuel before revisiting old haunts namely the Family Hotel, I don’t think Pete had moved from the bar since my last visit some 6 months prior! It was a quick scotch and then on the track to Cameron’s Corner. Again the road is very sandy and well worn path. We’ve camped on a large claypan 70 km west of Tibooburra as there are no fires allowed in the National park surrounding Fort Gray. Set-up went much more smoothly and efficiently. We’ve had the aperitif of Baileys, Camembert and crackers. Hearty spag-bol next. A beautiful evening and attendant sun set.
''We knew from the experience of well-known travelers that the
trip would doubtless be attended with much hardship.''
Richard Maurice - 1903
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