Jacko’s August Travels North

Our trip north was a dash to Narrandera for night 1…turned out to be
0c in the morning though. Then a long drive to Bourke and it was 1c the
following morning. Then we went on a bush road to Hungerford just over
the Qld border for some much better weather of mid 20s daytime, and cool
single figures overnight, so we stayed 2 nights at th CP….$11 per
night for power and full bathroom facilities….fantastic, but the pub
meal in the town of 9 permanents was superb. Currawinya NP was nearby,
so we explored the past of this vast sheep station, now NP

Shearing stands at the old wool shed -Currawinya Station

More bush road to Thargomindah for a snoop, then on to Quilpie on
another dirt track to camp on the banks of the Bulloo River. Nothing
better than a freedom camp with big camp fires for 2 nights. We had been
to Quilpie before, but didn’t see the Amy Johnson tribute, so nailed it
this time. An amazing adventure for a young British aviator in the
1930’s trying to beat a Bert Hinkler record crossing to Australia.

We have spent another 300km on a dirt bush road today from Quilpie to
Blackall where we will stay 2 nights…to do some washing and re-stock.
This “Channel Country” in Qld is amazing and challenging, for its
remoteness, flatness….hence the channels when it rains, and for its
harsh dry climate.

Here is photo of Blackall’s version of the Black Stump….this one
a survey peg from the 1860’s, but since blackened. All black stumps have
the common thread of marking the edge of nowhere!

Blackall’s black stump

Also some pics of the partially resurrected plant, funded by a
$100,000grant from PM Hawke, and massive vollunteer input from the local
community. The buildings have been recovered from desolation, and much
of the working plant stripped and overhauled to safe working order. The
plant was the only scouring plant for hundreds of kms, and sheep would
be herded for shearing and scouring from surrounding farms. Water at 58c
from the Great Artesian Basin (capacity…170,000 Sydney Harbours!!) was
heated and maintained at 60c for scouring, and the entire plant,
including workshop, and amenities, was run by steam from 2 boilers, and
the giant flywheel….returned to working order today. It is all started
up (now small diesel steam engine) to show the plant in running order
for every guided tour….every hour! They even have a dozen or so
merinos on hand to show what they would have looked like.

With the advent of synthetic fabric and subsequent demise of the wool
industry, hastened by the uncontrollable menace of wild dogs, there are
NO SHEEP in western Qld any more, now turned over to cattle. The
Blackall Woolscour Plant closed in 1978, and the town virtually
deserted. It is now making a steady comeback.

Nice town, with obvious civic pride and certainly RV Friendly

Pioneer trip into the heart of the Great Dividing Range.


………….10 whiskery and wiry men saddled into 5, four-wheel drive vehicles, 80 series Toyota, Land Rover, Ford dual cab, Prado Toyota and a 100 series Toyota. With photos taken they left the Kangaroo Tower at 9.10am and headed through the green hills and valleys of Christmas Hills and turned left up the Melba Highway at Yarra Glen.It was a lovely sunny morning, low wind, farmers were baling hay and cows were being milked. Onward past Yea through the road works to Molesworth, a one pub country town, then on again stopping in Yarch a lovely little pit stop town. It was now 10.45am with no time to waste as the mountains were beckoning.

By 11.25am we were in Mansfield having passed through Merton and Bonnie Doon on the banks of Eildon Reservoir.

Early lunch and coffee was sought at Mansfield. With the excitement of the challenge in front we soon turned towards Mt.Stirling. The mountains had a blue aura about them backed by an inviting blue sky, this reminded me of the “story of the spider and the fly”. Reaching the foot hills we turned left at the fork in the road towards Telephone Box Junction. 3The snow field shop and change area was closed for the summer season.
In single file we headed into the forest of tall timbers now on a gravel road, lots of the trees had died having been burnt during the 2006 fires which burnt over a million hectares. Nature was re afforesting the lower stages of the mountain with wattle now in yellow bloom, but the floor was littered with thousands of fallen trees. Life and death hand in hand.

Down Western link track twisting and turning heading for a camp site by the river, when a warning came via the UHF grader on the track. These tracks are very narrow and graders are wide and big but with patience and skill we all passed unharmed.No one tooted their horn we simply waved thanks to the grader driver.

4Down, down we went and were then faced with a river crossing and a steep gouged bank to negotiate on the out ward side. Harry called “Quick Daryl, jump in with me and take some photos” as the others crossed. All crossed okay and we found a beautiful base camp to set up ready for the next few days of 4 wheel drive exploration.

This site is known as Pineapple Flat and is on the banks of the King River the home of the King Parrot with its crimson  chest and very friendly nature.In much haste these five vehicles spun around and around seeking out the best Real Estate sites for their tents encircling the camp fire, like a modern John Wayne western movie. With great speed and skill tents erected, camp fire started (poor wood), tables erected and chairs circled around the would be fire, men sat waiting for Lou to serve up our first meal. A small dead limb fell on to Marks 80 series and dented the mud guard, a warning of the danger of limbs falling. After a lot of chat, Marks homemade beer and some reds, we settled down for a very welcome snooze.


6th Tuesday (2nd day)
Up at 5.30 am (some of us) stirred the fire, wash, weeties, corn flakes and raisins and a cuppa. Half the crew packed and ready set out for Craig’s Hut used and built for The Man From Snowy River film. 12It was a grueling climb along Burnt top track from the camp, more evidence of the forces of nature and the devastation of fires. The ridges have dead trees standing after ten years and the thousands of fallen trees and many more leaning against those still able to stand. Still new beauty can be seen everywhere. We found Craig’s hut high in the mountain on a plateau. 8The weather was perfect and with clarity the view extended as far as the eye could see. The rest of the sleepy team caught up with us here. There was 1 bar of telephone reception to be had here. We had a nature walk of approx 1 kilometer.

We headed down the southern side of the mountain and climbed the Bindaree Water Falls and we were able to go behind the water fall itself which was like a see through sheer curtain. 9Some great photos were taken. After a count of 10 heads we headed to Bindaree Hut and had to do another river crossing of the Howqua river in the Alpine National Park.We had lunch there from our car fridges Greg brought all his bush fly friends along but they only seemed to like Mark’s and my sandwich – back across the river and headed back to Pineapple Flats Lodge.

We collected much better fire wood and were able to create great coals for cooking, much to Lou’s delight. Camp ovens came out from every tent, every would be cook gave advice, every man had a poke at the fire even when it was perfect. Lou cooked with Harry’s help (camp oven bread) a great roast beef and roast vegies all washed down with Marks beer and some fine reds. As we sat ringed around the warm campfire, Him Plurry Fine Fella Mark Dellar, started reciting the poem written by Thomas E Spencer – The Day McDougall Topped the Score. With animated enthusiasm and a captivated audience nearing exhaustion at the second last verse he swung quickly to his left and standing behind him were four travellers. He started to ask can I help you? And the good-looking blonde said please don’t stop now we were so much enjoying your reading, and without further ado Mark completed his poem to a hearty applause. The travellers were from Germany, USA and? 4 in total they wanted help to cross the river to set up camp and yes they had 10 helpers – Aussies are good.

Another great day was discussed around the fire and a good night’s sleep was had by all except at about 3 am as Jim was sitting on the throne, a long hearty bellow was heard, was this relief or an animal warning.

Wednesday 7th Dec (3rd day )
Up about 6.30am, nearly a full house for brekky when a King parrot 17sat on Harry’s car near our tables H slowly walked over with a cracker in hand and fed the parrot. It stood on one leg and held the food and fed itself with the other, many photos taken. Sunny skies and low wind favored us as we had wood fire toast and peanut butter with Billy tea. We were all off again across the King River up the mountain twisting and grinding away and onto Speculation Road down to the river where a herd of Angus beef were crossing the bridge. We stopped as they drank and ambled across toward us. I got to talking to the owner, a Mr Bruce McCormack 11and his dog Tully, he spoke of the 2006 fires, the permits needed to graze cattle and the bond of generations of cattle families some who ride the horses to muster the cattle when needed. I was sad to have to leave Bruce and Tully and the many stories I would have enjoyed.

We went on to King hut and the camping grounds then headed up the Stair Case Rd to Cobblers Lake. This road would have broken a black snakes back as it zig zagged back and forth climbing all the way over bare rocks. So steep with fallen timber left like discarded pole vaulting poles, the sideways thrusting tested the seat belts all the way it was with relief when we reached the top but still bumped heavily till we reached the heavily lake Cobbler and Cobblers hut. The water was mirror like very large and edges protected by bulrushes. We had a car boot lunch here and by now getting rather hot, we then headed back past some large water falls cascading down the cliff face from Cobblers Lake overflow. The road back was much smoother and we passed Rose River back to Pineapple Flats Lodge.

With lots more good wood the camp fire was creating very good coals for Lou to cook up his lamb stew and vegies and H’s bread. Phil said to try this drink, whisky and water, good for a woodsman. That was okay, later with our team bonding by then I had little feeling as I drank and laughing at the same time the straight whisky fumes stopped my breathing, I think I will stick to water for a while. Jim showing how much he respects cleanliness jumped into the river. On return and shivering he returned to our camp only to observe the two lady travellers in bikinis heading to the river for a tidy up, his remark “I landed to early.”
This Plurry Good Fella Mark Dellar came back into camp again and started raving about Mulga Bill’s Bicycle by Andrew B Patterson, again it captured everyone’s attention to the last line. Then a good night’s sleep, but again Jim at 3.00 am –  yes on the throne again, heard this loud chesty noise in his haste to seek the protection of his tent his torch battery went flat, he was a trembling wreck by the time he found his tent again. By morning the travellers had packed and gone onwards trekking around Australia.

8th Dec our last day
Up at 6.30am and looking around the camping circle with no one to be seen only Peter the Great’s Akubra hat hanging head high on the tent pole, waiting patiently for Pete to arise. Then slowly each pioneer emerged from their warm beds to welcome the dawn to the music of several Kookaburras and the smoke of the camp fire and a face wash in cold water.
A hearty breakfast was devoured expanding our ribs for the energy needed for the days challenge ahead. 4 from the team of 10 were heading home today, tents being folded. Mark gave his demonstration saying it only takes 5 minutes or 20 if being watched – yes it took 20 minutes. Cars were packed securely and a quick check around to make sure everything was picked up and including our rubbish so leaving the bush in pristine condition as we had found it on arrival. Those staying decided to escort us out to Telephone Box Junction and then explore more of this wonderful region.

At 10.00am, with motors warming up, we were heading out when the rain started plus the temp dropped. In single file we crossed the King River climbing upwards toward Circuit Road when the lead car radioed back tree across road. Well, Whisky Phil with white flashing eyes unraveled a chain saw just ahead of Miss Daisy Greg with his chainsaw. It was raining heavily by now and Peter stood with camera in hand. Under the shelter of his Akubra hat he recorded this event with helping hands clearing the logs off the track.
After that we soon passed Fork Creek with Mark D and O Wise One following. As tail end Charlie’s we followed on and by 11.05am we all arrived at Mt Stirling café (closed for summer season) being 1230 meters above sea level. It was very cold now, raining with possible snow predicted by Jane Bunn 5 days ago. We left 6 tough guys all waiving to us and wishing us a safe trip over their UHF’s as we headed past Mt Stirling café to Mansfield where we stopped for a pie and coffee before heading towards home. Before Bonnie Doon the rain was so heavy that driving became difficult but it cleared away and the rest of the trip home was very pleasant.

A hot welcome shower and first shave for 4 days and a couple of hours sleep and ready for a home cooked meal  to reminisce with Lady Florence over this great adventure. All of the remaining 6 made it safely home the next day; they went to Mt Bulla but were clouded in.

………………They should have listened to O Wise One.

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Cast:-
Jim G……….Swimmer
Harry M… …Team leader
Gordon B… B and B
Leon H…… Swag Man
Greg M…… Miss Daisy
Phil D. …….Whisky
Peter T. …..Akubra
Mark D. ….Plurry Nice Fella
Lou F. …….M.K.R (cook)
Daryl M…..O’ Wise One

*** Written and reported as experienced by Daryl Morrow  – circa 2016

Jacko’s NSW north coast trip – Scotts Head

Never heard of this place……ever heard of heaven…..yep, it’s here. Just south of Nambucca Heads this hideaway has a basic shopping facility, and a fantastic Bowls Club, and a sheltered/ secluded beach which is idyllic. Better still, the CP is nestled behind the high sand dunes sheltered from the prevailing winds. there is a lookout a few hundred metres away that attracts migrating humpback whales and their calves only a few hundred metres from shore for the most spectacular display we have ever seen.
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Jacko’s Journey update …. Burketown to Atherton Tablelands..

TopEnd2
The brand new wharf and pontoon at Burketown on the Albert River….said to be the best barra fishing in Australia.


Burke and wills last camp before their final, failed assault to reach the Gulf…beaten by the wet season and their lack of bush skills. We had a few tears at the campsite .3
Morning coffee on the way to Normanton from Burketown4
Termite mounds next to our morning coffee stop.5
Replica of Kris the 8.63m croc shot near Normanton when it was legal……the largest salty ever recorded.6
The Gulflander train that stills run to and from Croydon for tourists.7
Sunset on the beach opposite the CP at Karumba.8
Part of the remaining fishing prawning fleet still operating from Karumba.9
Our campsite at Karumba.10
Cobbald Gorge – some of the grateful girls with our tour guide Ron…..an amazing 3 hour tour……followed by dinner on the restaurant deck with a couple we met on the tour…..from Montrose.11
Infinity pool, pool bar, dining patio at Cobbold gorge.12
In the little 10 seater electric boats on a tour exploring this amazing gorge. A must on all bucket lists.

….to be continued…..

We made it to the top end!! Aug 8th 2016

We made it to the top end!!
Aug 8th 2016

…to be continued….

Jacko’s Journey continues…..Mount Isa onwards…

TopEnd…. just a couple of ‘hard time miners’….

1Panorama of MIM massive underground lead, copper & gold mine.
2
Our campsite on the Gregory River, the best freecamp we have ever stayed
at. We went upstream and drifted down the crystal clear waters at our
leisure, and basically did nothing for 2 days.

Canoeing the gorge in Lawn Hill NP……a close second to Karigini NP in
the Pilbara for spleandour and challenge.

5Lawn Hill Gorge at sunrise…..left camp at 6am to ford across a river
torrent in the dark up to my waste, then scramble up a nearly vertical
rock face for 300m to be there at dawn for this shot…..how good is
Lawn Hill Gorge???

6Our bush campsite at Adels Grove, the main camp to explore Lawn Hill
NP……..had a campfire every one of the 4 nights there.

7Main street and pub at Burketown on the Gulf….a lovely small town with
great civic pride.

8Burke and Wills camp 119, the last before their final 3 day attempt to
reach the Gulf…which failed due to wet season swamps and impassable
river crossings. There were 15 trees “blazed” at this camp site but only
a few remain. It was truly humbling to be at this famous site where they
had used 3/4 of their supplies, yet had the return trek to endure and
finally perish.

9….to be continued

Jacko’s Journey – The Simson and Beyond – continued……

Barry & Denise, our intrepid travelers, are on their way to cross the Simson Desert then heading further North. I’ll be adding to this post when he is able to send updates of their journey……Admin.
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15June2016    Had five great days in Mildura catching up with friends from our farming days, then two long drives to make Coober Pedy yesterday. Sadly the weather has thwarted our flights over Lake Eyre and Painted Hills and we are stuck here waiting for friends to catch up for the Simson Desert crossing hopefully starting Sunday.
CP hasn’t changed much since we were here 5years ago.

299Crossing Bloods Creek, soon after leaving Mt.Dare at the start of the Simpson Desert Crossing. It was unexpected, and the water was over the bonnet before David took this photo. The first100km or so is crossing rough plains before reaching Dalhousie Springs,
where the 1100 sand dune crossings commence.

Below – Camp at Dalhousie Springs and an 8.00am swim before leaving.


Cresting a dune. You can’t see the track ahead………….Cresting a dune. You can't see the track ahead
Nearing the crest, trying to maintain momentum with no wheel spin……..Nearing the crest, trying to maintain momentum with no wheel spin
Descending a dune………….Descending a dune
Often as hard on the way down with deep corrugations and ruts to contend
with………Often as hard on the way down with deep corrugations and ruts to contend with
Great camp in the shelter of one of these massive dunes……..Great camp in the shelter of one of these massive dunes
Sunset over a saltlake from the hill……..thumbnail_Sunset over a saltlake from the hill
Crossing a dry saltlake….and they weren’t all dry!Crossing a dry saltlake....and they weren't all dry!
Ripping through mud at the end of another saltlake crossing……..Ripping through mud at the end of another saltlake crossing
Another camp with magnificent wildflowers everywhere over the crossing.
Now a green desert………..Another camp with magnificent wildflowers everywhere over the crossing. Now a green desert.
At the bottom of the final 40m dune known as Big Red. Note the spectator
vehicles on top watching the sport………At the bottom of the final 40m dune known as Big Red. Note the spectator vehicles on top watching the sport.
Part way up, bouncing, swerving, cheering……..Part way up, bouncing, swerving, cheering.
Just before the final successful ascent…..thumbnail_Just before the final successful ascent

That’s it for the Simpson, a truly memorable experience with great
friends Val and David Edwards. We loved the challenge, the excitement,
the remoteness, the green landscape with so many wildflowers, the
camping where tales were swapped and good food and wine
consumed……..all and more than we hoped for.
B.J.

** Stay tuned for the next episode in the adventure as Barry & Denise head further north…… Admin.

Jacko’s Journey – The Simson & Beyond

Barry & Denise, our intrepid travelers, are on their way to cross the Simson Desert then heading further North. I’ll be adding to this post when he is able to send updates of their journey……Admin.

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15June2016    Had five great days in Mildura catching up with friends from our farming days, then two long drives to make Coober Pedy yesterday. Sadly the weather has thwarted our flights over Lake Eyre and Painted Hills and we are stuck here waiting for friends to catch up for the Simson Desert crossing hopefully starting Sunday.
CP hasn’t changed much since we were here 5years ago.

Desert Trip 10 Pioneers of Eltham Men’s Shed and OMNI

9th November 2015
Day one

It was 8:45 am and the sun had just risen above the Eastern ranges in Eltham as a 1980’s series 60 turbo charged Toyota Land Cruiser driven by Mark Dellar and Peter Thomson picked up Old Daryl, to meet up with seven other adventurers on a five-day trip through the deserts of north-western Victoria, Australia.
1We met and grouped together at the perimeter of Calder racetrack at KFC’s roadhouse. We had to wait for the Captiva driven by Leon Higgins and Lindsay Clark – they were held up by an accident on the M80 Freeway but we believe they were tangled up in their brides’ nighties. At 10:05 we headed off in Indian file – a Toyota Prado driven by Harry and Jim then Greg and Lou in their Range Rover Discovery, next the Captiva followed by our classic 60 series Toyota Land Cruiser. It was a cool day; no rain and we were all cheerful and excited as we headed north on the Calder highway – our kilometers read 1398 as we took the Bendigo Mildura turnoff.
2We headed left at Bendigo through Lockwood South, Marong, Bridgewaters, Inglewood and passed the Major Mitchell monument as we headed further north to Wedderburn speedo now read 1480 kms
We arrived at Charlton at 1 pm where we stopped at a lovely café and had coffee and various cakes and pies. It was heating up so off with the jackets. The toilets on these trips are always an adventure in themselves – the urinal was so high up that various nameless members had to stand on a stool!!
On the road again and at Wycheproof the railway line runs down the centre of the main street . . . . don’t ask me why. We were now in the heart of grain growing country; the crops were very poor but ready for stripping, some headers were working leaving a trail of dust and chaff drifting into the atmosphere. Then onto Birchip by 2:30pm where a two storey pub, built in 1927, seemed to be beckoning us to stop awhile, but on we travelled to Beulah then turned up the C227 highway to a town called Rainbow on the edge of the desert.
We stopped here for fuel. Our vehicle took 53 litres and the kms now showed 1671, it was 3:50pm.
I stopped at the top on the main street at the railway siding to take some photos of a painted advertising shed, also a centenary rail painting and two lovely old two storey pubs, one being the Eureka Hotel with the food banners on the verandah and the other one being The Royal Hotel. I was the only person walking in the town’s main street, so I thought, until I heard a footstep behind me. Turning I saw a man in a hurry but I still said G’day to him – he replied “I’m in a hurry, can’t talk, have to wind up the bus and take the kids home from school”, and like The White Rabbit he was gone.


I was invited to drive the classic Toyota towards the start of the Desert as the sun was now getting low on the horizon on our first day. What a shock – it was like driving my Massey Ferguson tractor! After two laps of the main street we headed out along a narrow strip of sealed tar road towards the desert – everyone in our car was hanging on grimly calling out Jesus as we went sharply from side to side along the road. It took 5 kilometers before I went anything like in a straight line.
And there it was, a welcoming sign to Wyperfeld National Park. We travelled along a Mallee scrub lined track to a lovely camping site provided by Parks Victoria; tables, chairs, toilets and fire pits. We unloaded the camping gear from the four vehicles and set up our tents, swags, comfy chairs etc as Leon and Lindsay prepared a grand meal for us all – spaghetti bolognaise. Drama struck early as Mark realized he’d forgot to ring his wife and, with trembling lips and quivering of body he headed back toward Rainbow – he travelled some 27 kms before he got phone reception. 5With tents erected and beds made we played a game of Bocce with steel balls while waiting for our first desert meal. We had to wait for the flies to retire to eat and before the mozzies arrived. It was dark now and when Harry produced a bright light, so we could see our way around the camp and tents, we were invaded by swarms of migrating flying white ants – they were so thick and attracted by the bright lights we had to turn them off and converse in the dark.
10 tired pioneers then retired to bed and snored their way into the dawn of day two.

Day Two, 10th November 2015
Start 1747 kms

The early sun spread gold across our campsite where a mother kangaroo lazily crawled along the grass with its half-grown Joey keeping close by; slowly everyone emerged from their tents and swags eager to eat brekky before the flies gained formation and attacked us all over again. There was much laughter and anxiety as each group attempted to fold and pack their tents, cook bacon and eggs and eat burnt toast. It was about 9:45 when we headed out past a very large iron roof structure which is designed to catch rainwater and fill the two large concrete tanks nearby for fire fighting and wildlife.
We headed through sparsely treed Mallee scrub on a good sandy dirt track, stopping at a lookout we climbed on foot to this steep spot and climbed the steel lookout tower that gave us panoramic views of scrub, sand dunes; it was overcast with a light southerly wind. All through this country there were thousands of ant nest mounds; it is said they look after the Butterfly larvae and receive some nectar as a reward.
6We excitedly headed for an area called Snowdrop, which must have had the largest sand dune in all the desert. With cameras in hand and lungs full of oxygen, we started to climb this moving terrain. I tried to get some photos on the way up – this gave me a spell to gain more desired air. At last on top, most of we townies were gasping for air, but it was worth the climb and group photos were taken. I now know why it is called Snowdrop – if you look at Jim’s photo I am sure his white undies had slipped around his ankles.

7We then headed for O’Sullivans Track and another lookout – it was a 1.5 km walking track through scrub and with sharp grass seeds that anchored themselves firmly in our socks, however the view was worth the effort and climb. By this stage I started to be suspicious the other 9 were testing me out to see if this old bugger would last the 5 days.
We drove along Gunners Track and somewhere in this desert the track climbed some soft sand dunes and you guessed it – the Captiva threw in the towel.8 Out came the long-handled shovels and “digger” Lindsay moved more sand than a thousand kids on Bondi beach. Snatchem straps were attached to the old turbo powered Toyota – it took off at high-speed and when the strap ran out of slack – bang, Leons neck suffered severe whiplash. Stunned he held the wheel on full lock as he was dragged forward to safety with a wave of sand piling up on his bonnet. This event was to happen many times and thereafter Leon became known as “Sandman”.
Underbool was our next destination we arrived at 5:30pm, some vehicles topped up with fuel and I headed off to take some photos. The one horse town was deserted; the only exception, a large semitrailer which tried to mow me down as I stood in the middle of the highway taking a photo of the old two storey pub, with its gutters rotted out and dangling from the roof with one end resting on the barren ground. On the window it had a phone number painted in lipstick which said ‘for service please ring’, the main double doors said ‘push hard’ so I did; sticking my head in I saw 3 men sparsely spaced around the bar and a battle hardened barmaid with a long neck bottle in her callused hand; they were all watching TV so I called out in my best country voice “G’day what’s doing in this metropolis?” One guy replied in a slow disinterested way “we’re havin a beer” and turned to watch TV again. Where is the country hospitality these days? Never even offered me a beer, so I turned and jammed the front doors hard together again on my way out.
9By 6 pm we were in the Murray-Sunset National park on the banks of Lake Crosbie and the famous Pink Salt Lake. We set up camp here and some photos were taken of the sun setting across the lake. Mark “the Instructor” with his unmentionable apron cooked our second desert meal of chicken and stir fry veggies washed down with homemade beer, followed by Thommo’s famous red wine, then washed down by Greg’s red skin wine, followed by the best Port, followed by the best group bonding evening with jokes and full tummies. No one complained about how cold it was, but Mark highlighted and commented on the noise of the snoring choir as he stuffed in his earplugs and headed into a canvas pyramid.

Day Three, 11th Nov 2015 (Remembrance Day)
Start 1891 kms

Windy cold and cloudy – had two Weet Bix and a cup of tea for brekky. Others had eggs and bacon, toast plus coffee, again lots of fun folding tents, chairs and blankets ready for day three’s adventures. Left Lake Crosbie, passed Lake Becking and Mt Crozier by 11:20am. At 2pm we stopped for lunch at the T-intersection of Underbool Track and Pheenys’ Track. 10All sorts of lovely food came out of various fridges as we sat on the limbs of the twisted Mallee that made comfortable swinging chairs to eat from – it was so peaceful as we sipped our teas and marvelled at the wild flowers . . . . . all four of them.
Some drivers swapped around and it was great to see young Huon “lone Pine” at only 22, being accepted within the group of oldies and given the chance to drive various vehicles under trying conditions. He did better than yesterday in the Toyota with its hair trigger accelerator and stiff clutch as we entered the bumpy rough terrain. We gave those kangaroos an exhibition of how to hop high and shake up all the food in the different compartments – the upshot was we had great frothy beer at the end of the day.
The skies were darkening as we pulled into the Shearers Huts camping grounds. Here there were some quarters and shedding that had been restored with the assistance of the Sunraysia Men’s Shed.
With a storm pending and a structured fire pit we decided to gather some wood and have a campfire for us to sit around having our group meal. We set up our tents ready for a stormy night’s camping as Harry and Jim cooked up Rice and Tuna plus a lovely salad followed by apricots and custard. We were all thankful for such a hearty meal, Thommo provided digital music via Bluetooth from his iPod as we sat around the fire talking and joking well into the night as lightning lit up the sky; rain would be so welcome here. We retired into our tent with all windows and door flaps zipped up.
Lindsay tried to sleep in his bubble tent but later admitted he spent a lot of the night in the Captiva.
Lots of sand one day, water the next!

Day Four, 12th Nov 2015
We headed off from camp at 9.30 am.

11The three of us woke through the night to rain, thunder and lightning Mark “the instructor” stood straddled across Peter trying to close off the windows and stop the rain getting inside. He looked like a grandfather clock in loose undies with his pendulum swinging side to side as the lightning flashed intermittently. The ground was wet and sticky in the morning, we stoked up the fire and I saw Lindsay standing in the smoke like a fire warden surveying the situation, he then jumped onto the picnic table holding his mobile phone high above himself – claiming you get better reception up there.
Brekky was successful as the rain had stopped and the ground was drying up, but the tents were wet and sandy now. The Instructor had folded his tent and stood by Greg and Lou observing their efforts12 to fold their pyramid tent . . . . . . he soon became frustrated and threw his arms around stuttering “no, no do it this way and that way” he then walked away and took his blood pressure tablets!!
Harry the “Navigator” invited me to drive his Prado on day 4 of the trip . . . . what an impressive machine, we easily drove over the sand dunes only to hear “Sandman” again calling out “I’m stuck”. As we mounted the top of a sand ridge waiting for the Captiva to catch up we saw a large kangaroo stooping over a fresh water puddle in the track and I am sure she reached into her pouch withdraw an enameled pannikin, scooped up some water and had a drink, placing the pannikin back into the pouch before hoping away into the safety of the bush.
By 2:30 we were in Murrayville, we stopped for our fridge lunch in a lovely park opposite the two storey pub with a phantom sign on the wall that said “There are no Ghosts here but the spirits are good”.
13It is only a small town and the Fire Warden and I visited the local op shop, which was the original bakery, the wood fired oven was still there. It was here we met the lovely Christine who ran this shop, she told us just last week they had 86 mm of rain and it flooded the school and also her shop. I took her photo and we bought two books, a bottle of her home-made chutney, and 3 brass belt buckles with a camel on each one that I guess were worn by the Afghan traders as they brought supplies loaded upon the camels crossing the desert sands with their camel trains, to these remote settlements. All this cost us $6, and Christine invited us to sign her visitor’s book.
We headed off back into the desert and stopped at Big Billy Bore, (kms now 2139) there was a windmill pumping water and some holding tanks with water available to the weary travelers, we mostly washed our faces and filled our water bottles leaving there at 3.30 pm. We were heading for Red Bluff on the South Australian border road of the Big Desert. 14We stopped to load up firewood on top of two vehicles and on we went only to find the road some 20 kms along was flooded and the clay very sticky – with great disappointment we turned back and made camp on the road side between Murrayville and 70 kms north of Nhill. We could hear a cow mooing in the fields, reminded me of my Jersey cow back on the farm some 66 years ago. We dumped the wood for some other travellers to use at Red Bluff camp site and we set up our last camp on the road side amongst the Mulga.


Lou our chef and my Doctor Greg cooked our last evening meal – spaghetti and beef cheeks and we all eagerly sat around in a semi-circle and devoured this superbly prepared meal, everyone had bonded well, there were lots of fun stories about our adventure, we had all learned so much about our country and about each other. I went to bed early because of my infected eye, which Doctor Greg had helped me with so much. They all sat around my tent and I started snoring country music and humming in tune, but they complained that they could not hear each other laugh and talk, so they went to bed early also.

Day 5, 13th Nov 2015
Speedo read 2234 kms at start of day

We had a great tuition session from “The Instructor” and we filmed it all in motion (thanks to an iPhone6) as he gave more lessons on how to fold and pack a pyramid tent.
With brekky over we were all getting ready for our homeward bound journey, tyres getting pumped up for the highway and whilst this was being done we took lots of photos of the group around the sign of the BIG DESERT
We headed off at 8:30 am back through the wheat and grain farms, we passed through Yanac with its rail siding silos and the general store named Wheatons. Most of the land is flat with very spacious paddocks, then onto Nhill by 9:30 am, then Wail with more silos and a very small town 17called Pimpinio and then to Horsham for morning tea at 10:45 am where the parking meters were not working but they can still book you somehow. We are now back to civilization, warts and all, 11:33 and on the way again past the Deelea State school no 721, then past the outskirts of Stawell and arrived at Ararat by 12:33 where we stopped for lunch at the Leopold Hotel. We took a group photo and said our goodbyes. On leaving the pub I saw a painting of Chloe18 hanging near the front entrance, the only other one I have seen is in Young and Jacksons in Flinders St, Melbourne.
Passed through Beaufort at 2:30 pm and skirted around Ballarat heading down the Western highway toward the M80 and home.
We are now entering the uncivilized zone getting lost before the M80 but getting back on track was a nightmare once we entered the freeway it was bumper to radiator and at standstill many times. About Dalton St we heard and saw there was an accident ahead so we slipped across to Settlement Rd, Thomastown – which was no better. It took us over one hour to get from there to Eltham, now being 6:10 pm we were all pleased to arrive safely home and to get the first shower in five days and to shave off all that grey stubble.
End kms 2720, for a total trip of 1475 kms
The temperature was never above 30 deg on this trip, however since returning temperatures have been as high as 42 deg.

We had a very peaceful five days away only to come back to the horrific news of the bombings and shootings in Paris where 127 people were killed. I could only hear the words made famous by Peter,Paul & Mary in the early 1960’s ……………………

“When will they ever learn?”

Trip Vehicles and Pioneers were:
Toyota Landcruiser:
Mark Dellar – ‘The Instructor’
Peter Thomson – ‘Thommo’
Daryl Morrow – ‘Oh Wise One’
Land Rover Discovery:
Greg Mitchell – ‘The Doctor’
Lou Fazio – ‘The Masterchef’
Toyota Prado:
Harry Morris – ‘the Navigator’
Jim Gundrum
Huon Thomson (son) – ‘lone pine’
Holden Captiva:
Leon Higgins – ‘Sandman’
Lindsay Clarke – “digger”
Story by Daryl Morrow ©

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