"Destination Unknown" Day 14 - Racing the rain south to Broken Hill (via Orientos & Tibooburra)

Thursday, Jul 14, 2011 at 00:00

Mick O

The rain ceased sometime in the early morning but it was still a very grey and gloomy day we emerged to. Breakfast and then pack-up as early as possible deciding to hit the road south before the heavy weather set in. Rather than head into Innamincka, we decided to back track a few kilometres to the Orientos Road and duck down the back way to Tibooburra. Apart from the gibber plains in the first 30 odd kilometres, I knew that this route could take a fair bit of water and remain largely unaffected. It also helps that I consider this run to be a far more scenic and interesting run than the Merti and Strzelecki routes south.


It’s hard to put a figure on the amount of rain that fell during the night but I didn’t expect that it would have been more than 3-5 mm. It would take a fairly heavy fall to affect the surface of the Adventure Way. Reaching the Nappa Merrie-Santos Road, we began our route south-east. As expected, the gibber country of the Strzelecki Desert was traversed easily and we made good time south. It wasn’t long before we were in the sandy country and this is always a joy to travel when it’s damp. I’ve always liked the country around the Mithaminnie Range and must stop off and spend more time exploring the area in the future.


Around Santos, the hall roads for the gas and oil rigs of the Tickalara Munroe and Toolachee fields begin. The obvious expansion to reap South Australia and Queensland’s resources has seen quite a lot of work in the area over recent years. A good things perhaps but while these well maintained super highways are great in the dry, they are a bloody nightmare in the wet and can become very slippery at the merest hint of rain. Thankfully we had a mixed bunch of old, corrugated roads and then occasional sections of new road. Then rain holding off was also a good thing.


There were plenty of feral animals about particularly goats. One emu got a little bit close to the front right hand corner of the tusk truck. Thankfully I was under full brake and clipped him just as I stopped, knocking the running duck of balance. After a couple of spectacular rolls, he was up with a dumb look on his face and then off again. One lucky bird.


We crossed the dry bed of the Warri Warrin Creek just before reaching the main Warri-Gate – Noccundra Road. Here we turned right and headed due south towards Tibooburra following the Warri creek as we went. To our left would be Naryilco and Noccundra. There is a new stretch of road some 20 kilometres long running beside the old track, completed but as yet un-opened. I reckon they’ll be waiting for the end of the bad weather before letting the public tear it up. It’ll certainly knock a few minutes off the drive to the Noccundra pub that’s for sure. Given the weather we were more than happy to take the rough old sandy track.


At one point we slowed down for what appeared to be a large calf or small steer on the road ahead of us. Imagine my surprise when on getting closer, the cow materialised into the biggest black feral boar I’ve ever seen. This thing was lean and huge and nonchalantly chewing on the spine of a long deceased cow. I’ve seen some big pigs in my time but this monster took the prize. He would easily have stood 1.2 metres at the shoulder. He trotted off to watch us from the bush only 30 metres from the road. Strangely I couldn’t coax the Crown Prince out of the vehicle to have a go at it with Mr Potato Man (the mother of all spud guns). Funny that. On we ploughed.


A light drizzle commenced as we approached the dog fence and border crossing at the Warri Gate. The cloud had dropped to form a ceiling only a hundred metres or so above the ground. Once through the gate we were inundated by thousands of kangaroos. The ground on the NSW side of the fence just seethed with huge mobs of roos. No doubt their migratory path north had been halted by the fence concentrating them into the area. Careful driving in these low light conditions.


We reached Tibooburra to find that the area had received a lot more rain than points further north. As a result, all roads out of the town were now closed. Damn. Nothing for it but a walk around town. Fuelling up in anticipation, we grabbed late morning snack at the service station/café and then went and parked outside the town hall. We spent a few leisurely hours wandering about the town and checking out the art works on the walls of the Family Hotel. The rain had held off all morning and finally at around 1:30 p.m., the Silver City Hwy south was opened and the mass exodus began.


The Sliver City Highway is largely all bitumen once south of Tibooburra. There are few patches of well maintained gravel but these are reducing in number each year. It was an uneventful trip south, reaching and running along the eastern edge of the Barrier Ranges and then into Broken Hill, booking into a local motel. A nice hot shower and then it was down to the Musicians club for a Chicken Parma and an ale before retiring. The CP and I will head off good and early tomorrow morning to reach Melbourne by the late afternoon. JT and the boys will take a few extra days to wind their way down to the Murray and then east and across the mountains into Gippsland. The circle is all but closed with only a junket run down the bitumen left to us.

''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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