01 Oct 1998 - Yunta to Mildura

Thursday, Oct 01, 1998 at 00:00

Mick O

I am not going to succumb to peer group pressure again. In the future, I shall set up my tent when ever I want to. Mysteriously, the mozzies appeared at 3.00 a.m. God only knows what they were doing prior to that. Scott gave up the battle at 4.00 a.m., making himself a makeshift tent out of a spare sheet. It was quite a set up. The sheet was laid flat then, gathered and tied in the middle. This was then tied to the end of a shovel, the spade end being set upon the table and weighted in place by the esky. The table of course was placed at the head of Scott’s bed. And I’m the sook for sleeping in my mozzie proof tent?! Despite their numbers being somewhat less than experienced on the cooper, they were persistent and showed a blatant disregard for Aeroguard. The moon had set by this stage so the sky was ablaze with stars. A stunning vista (not that Scott could see it). There was also a pleasant breeze that helped to keep the winged vermin at bay.

Another little unexpected nasty were the burrs and prickles that one encountered if foolish enough to step bare footed from the ground sheet. Bloody nasty. However you cannot let such an inconvenience distract you from the business at hand. You just have to continue suffering until finished then sink back down on the bed and pick them out from the soles of your feet before climbing back into your sleeping bag.

We were up at five to beat both the sun and the flies. It was a quick breakfast of cereal and jaffles (with flies). Scott fuelled the noble steed from our jerry can and after negotiating the blue bash back out to the road, we were on our way by 6.15 a.m. Back through the low range of hills we’d explored the previous evening and on to Koonamore Station. Koonamore was impressive for its collection of stone farm buildings, including a magnificent homestead and shearing shed. A few short kilometres down the track, we spied a tall stone chimney on the top of a stony ridge. There appeared to be ruins of buildings about it and scattered here and there, mounds of tailings. Closer inspection revealed what must at one time have been a small mining community. There were numerous stone cottages &dwellings. All were of dry wall construction and had long subsided into ruin. Here and there were deep pine lined mineshafts of indeterminable depth. There were also cavern like mine openings that penetrated the ridgeline at all angles. Some you could quite easily walk into but only as far as the light penetrated. To good a haven for poisonous things!

The chimney itself was some 15 metres high and looped with broad steel bands. It sat atop a stone smelter From the hilltop we could see further ruins in the distance to the south and found those to be the old hotel and settlement of Waukaringa. The hotel must have been an impressive place in its hey day with its high walls, deep cellars and underground water reservoir. The roof had long gone but the interior was still largely intact. Timber must have been at a premium when this place was built as even the skirting boards around the walls were made of mortar. Most of the usable timber in the building, floors, joists etc, had long since been taken. The hotel is only a refuge for nesting birds and reptiles now but it wasn’t hard to imagine it bustling in the station days and with the mining community near by.

From Waukaringa it was only 35 kilometres to Yunta. At 8.30 p.m. we left the dusty track behind for the bitumen of Yunta’s one or two streets. Our first in some 2000 kilometres. It was fuel, a snappy iced coffee at the Yunta Roadhouse then east on the luxurious sealed surface of the Barrier Highway. As I write, we are cruising through the low salt bush covered hills. It looks like rain has largely forsaken this area once again

The bleakness of Broken Hill was only enhanced by the dry north wind that blustered through the town bringing tonnes of station country topsoil with it.Broken Hill always strikes me as one of the hardest places I’ve been to on this earth (and I include a few Ecuadorian and Bolivian mining outposts in that also). Nothing ever seems to change here except that the place seems more bleak with every visit. The rows and rows of corrugated iron houses must be like ovens in mid summer.

It wasn’t long before we were on the Silver City Highway heading south to Wentworth. The tail wind was strong and gusty and just stripped the topsoil before it. There was lots of dust in the air as we reached the familiar environs of Sunraysia. We reached Mildura at about 2:00 p.m. and went straight to Judy’s place in Merle Court. She got quite a surprise to find the three of us ringing from her loungeroom as Rebecca had forgotten to ring her and let her know we were on the way. It was a pleasant surprise anyway (Well that’s what she said).

Many a great expedition has been finalised with the luxury of a hot shower. This trip was no exception. The dust and dirt was soon washed away from our bodies and clothing. The car took a little more effort but in the end, even it showed no trace of the wild country it had traversed in the preceding days. It was a pleasant evening spent with Judy regaling her with tales of daring do whilst we reviewed Cam’s video efforts.
''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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