AWOL Around Australia...


After studying the maps I couldn’t really find any side detours worth it in this region, so we just spent most of this day pounding more bitumen, albeit at more like 90km/h. As opposed to the 110 we were doing on the way over. Why? Because it means the fuel consumption of the 1FZ in the 105 goes from catastrophic to merely terrible. A side benefit (or maybe the main benefit) is you tend to relax more, take in more of the details, talk more, listen with more interest to the interview on the AM radio station (that’s all you’ll get for a lot of country Oz), etc, etc.

This attractive building is to be found in the town of Moree. Which is a green oasis in sea of dusty dry country (especially if you are coming from the south). Why? The town is supplied by water from the Great Artesian Basin, the massive aquifer that stretches across a large part of the continent. Last seen by us, bubbling out into the desert via the mound springs on the Oodnadatta Track. Also the old boy with the walking frame engaged us and was a wealth of information about the buildings in the town - interactions like this help make the country Australia experience.

Christmas Corvette.

On arrival at the town of Bourke, our journey would begin to deviate from the journey out here. Thinking that we probably wouldn’t be in this area again any time soon, we would now head directly west, rather than south west, further into the Outback. Incidentally, this is roughly the area we were heading to after Christmas before N got sick and we went home. Then, as now was the height of summer. A couple of Poms (English people) in the Australian Outback in the middle of summer, what could go wrong...?

So we took the Wanaaring road out of Bourke, marked on my map as all dirt, the start of it had recently been sealed. Then it went back to dirt, but good condition and not much slower than the black stuff. Familiar scenes soon greeted us.

Now the Outback is hot, dry, lonely, dusty, filled with many friends if you like flies and not without proper danger too. However, it has a unique feeling that gets kind of addictive, and I could feel my junkie starting to get his fix.

Anyway, it’s was N’s birthday. So we were headed for the only pub in the region, hoping for a cold adult beverage and something and chips!

The fierce heat of the day was keeping the local wildlife from being particularly active, which is always a concern driving at this time of day almost anywhere in Australia. So we made good time to the Wanaaring pub.

We quickly set up camp and headed over to the pub for a couple of drinks “is there a menu? “Nope” “two steak and chips?” “Should be ok” a bit of banter with the locals. Another couple rolled in, in a beast of a stretched 200 Series.

Wasn't the last time we would run into these guys.

We had hit a bird on the way in, they caught some carnage too.

Gotta take your girl somewhere special for her birthday..

At least I could confidently say, this was a place that none of our friends had been to before, very exclusive...

Leather steak, a Wanaaring speciality. Hot chips were good though. You have the adjust your expectations out here or you just won’t get it... (the pub, was staffed by one, relatively young guy. Barman and cook).

That night was one of the hottest we’ve had camping, probably around 35 degrees C/95F. The air was totally still, almost no movement. Anyway so we sweated and panted the night out. The coolest part of the night was just as the sun came up, so we actually slept in relatively late, till about 0730. As we didn’t sleep much the rest of the night, this was good!


Wanaaring was a fairly typical Outback town.

Despite this I was enjoying being back in the remote outback with its dry and dusty towns, wide open spaces and rich red dirt. The plan was to push through to the town of Tibooburra this morning. Then take stock of the situation, weather, fuel, road conditions, etc. All being well we would push on to Cameron’s Corner, where the corner of the states of New South Wales, Queensland and South Australia all converge at the same point. From there push down the Strzelecki Track to the north of the Flinders Ranges. Picking up our route from our Red Centre trip last year, then down to Eyre Peninsula from there.

Here is a map for reference. The pin is Cameron Corner, so you can see we were well off the direct Adelaide to Brisbane route by now (which is more of less a diagonal line between the two cities). Port Augusta is our eventual destination with Port Lincoln being at the bottom of Eyre Peninsula.

The road was good this morning. Pretty smooth and not much wildlife. How many other vehicles did we see? Not one.

With no warning the Cruiser suddenly slides sideways, I give it a dab of oppo and straighten her up. Then she has another slide, bit bigger this time, another armful of oppo and an “oh, darling!”from the passenger seat. Slowing we see a puddle ahead. The surface of the road looks completely dry, but as we pull over to the side it is apparent it is wet and muddy under the sun baked surface crust. We can see several puddles and parts of the road are hard to stand on, that slippery it is. As we gingerly drive on, only a few hundred metres later the road is back to dry, dusty, hard corrugations. Obviously the rain just fell very heavily, on that half a kilometre of road and none other...? Welcome to the Outback.

This actually ties in with what the farmers have been saying (on the AM radio, you get a lot of farming news!) that there is rain around, but it is very patchy one farm gets it, his neighbor doesn’t.
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Big country.

Anyway, we arrive at Tibooburra without further incident. Although it should be noted the road got progressively rougher the closer we got. As we transitioned from red dirt country, to more rocky terrain. We pass Mount Stuart on the way in, named after John McDouall Stuart who was the draftsman on Charles Sturt'sexpedition. Stuart, would go on to be arguably Australia's greatest explorer.

Tibooburra is an altogether more thriving town than Wanaaring was. Its proximity to Cameron’s Corner and the Strzelecki no doubt means it sees more tourist traffic. We go on the hunt for coffee, and strike gold at the Corner Country Store, they also make a mean bacon and egg muffin.

We chat with some of the locals. I have a powwow with N, as I’ve changed my mind about the route. It has taken us 3 hours to do the 200km to get here this morning, and looking at how far we have to go means we’ll spend another night if not two in the blazing Outback summer heat. Also the roughness of the roads concerns me, considering the amount of damage, short and long term, the truck sustained after doing the Oodnadatta Track last year. I had good reason to suspect the Stryzlecki Track, also being one of SA’s Classic Outback routes, would be similarly hard on the Land Cruiser.
Not to mention we would need to top up fuel here, at $1.60/L. So that plan will have to keep for another day. It will make for a great trip in the cooler months, maybe out of Adelaide with a few mates.

So, I just write all of that to explain some of the factors in route decision making. I find sticking steadfastly to a plan just doesn’t work out here. You have to be willing to adjust to circumstances as you find them. On the flip side it is worth doing some research and having a rough plan, otherwise you can just wander a bit aimlessly. Sounds sort of idyllic in theory, but I find a balance between the two, and a willingness to change anything and everything as required is what works best in the real world.

So we headed down the road to Broken Hill. Part bitumen, part dirt. Part rough goat track along side the road crews putting in the bitumen sections. With some ‘Mars-scapes’ along the way to boot.

I originally thought we might make the country SA town of Peterborough tonight, but with the roadworks sections slowing our average, and the fact that I could feel the effects of a lack of sleep coming home to roost, meant we adjusted to the small hamlet of Cockburn just outside of Broken Hill as our overnight stop.

As we approached Broken Hill the road has a few twists and turns in it. One of which we had to take evasive action on, as the semi trailer coming the other way misjudged his speed through the bend and was rapidly understeering across onto our side of the road, truck and trailer... I slowed and pulled off while he sorted himself out. One of those don’t want to think about the consequences of being 200m further down the road at that time...

Cockburn turned out to be a let’s say, authentic outback experience. The few locals left trying to give their town a reason to cling on. It would have certainly given the Swiss girls camping next to us (in a rental Hilux camper they were returning from Brisbane to Alice Springs, cheap-ish way to see the country “the $100 of free fuel Hertz gave us, didn’t get us very far!”) a genuine ‘Mad Max’ feel.

C'mon old man, keep up!

Travellers rest. $10/night.

Making morning coffee on the railway sleeper table.

Another night of broken sleep as high winds hit during the night, as a cold front finally blew through. At about 0130 one of our awning guy rope buckles finally gave up after 12 odd years of Australian sun and wind, and with it noisily went the awning. Oh well, just the way the cookie crumbles sometimes, I got up to fix that up, and peg down the extra guy ropes for the tent too.

Original guy rope vs new for comparison.

And with that, we were back in South Australia.

Thanks for reading.
The Eyre Peninsula. Part 1.

South Australia.

An easy drive that morning to the town of Orroroo, on the edge of the Flinders Ranges. Made more interesting when we took the old dirt back road, rather than the highway.

I've been to Arkaroola a couple of times. Note this is the original sign in miles.

I was strangely comforted being back on 'home turf' and in a landscape that I had travelled through many times.

Mad dog lady.

There has been rain here too.

See the creek banks in the distance. Proper water has come through here at times.

Orroroo is a cool country town. I’ve stopped here many time on Flinders Ranges outings.

Mad small when you see them in the flesh these days.

Oororoo main street.

One the way out of town we passed the Swiss girls Hilux pulled over with both of them fast asleep inside. I guess the camper wasn’t exactly peaceful in last nights wind either.

Onto to Port Augusta, meant we were finally ‘back on track’ of our original itinerary after the detour to Brisbane (it should be noted that Roxy was as delightful a dog as you could wish for, and will make an excellent camping and adventure companion. She’s also very patient with our grumpy old man Rollo, so the detour was totally worth it). However the 105 was overdue a service. Mainly just an oil change and spark plugs as most other things I had covered off before we left for Brisbane.
Fortunately Port Augusta Toyota had those parts in stock, and after purchasing some oil and a drain tray I found a quiet car park and quickly changed the oil. I can get it done in about 15 minutes. The drain tray and old oil filter went in the skip bin of the auto store, and we took the old oil to the waste recycling centre. The plugs can wait a few days.

Not a Land Cruiser. Seen at the car wash.

A quick car wash to wash the old oil off the engine block and axle, and a restock of the food supplies and we were on our way.

Right onwards to Eyre Peninsula, one of my favourite parts of Australia. An easy drive to the town of Kimba, about a third of the way across the upper part of the peninsula. But first, a quick stop at an old favourite.

Some low life has graffitied the sign since we were last here. Wanker.

We had traveled through Kimba a few times before, notable mainly for its beautifully painted silo on the main highway.

Note no snorkel on the Cruiser. The silo painting has faded a bit in the two years since this was taken.

This is an old photo, as the light was not good when I photographed it this time. You also can’t drive right up to it anymore (in fact you probably weren’t meant to when I took this shot, but...).

I would suggest having the silo art has made the town realise the benefit of giving people a reason to stop, and now the benefit of giving them a reason to stay. So at the back of the town they have built a dedicated free camping area, with toilets and showers. As usual we were the only tent campers, and other campers came in all shapes and sizes.

A totally peaceful night was a welcome contrast to the last few. We headed out to the servo that morning to get some $1 coins for the shower. There I bought two books that had been advertised at the campsite.

Not sure what the exact link to Kimba is with the author, although he has a PhD in Ecosystem Management, and is a fellow of the outback. Anyway keen to get stuck in. If nothing else these trips have reinvigorated my interest in reading stories.

Standard issue country servo from here.

I also noticed they served a range of curries (the servo was run by an Indian couple). I asked what time the curries would be ready “oh in 15 or 20 minutes” awesome, enough time for showers and to check out the statues at the back of the town.
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The statues depict Edward John Eyre and an indigenous man. The explorer was reliant on the local bush skills to successfully explore this area.

Chicken madras, and paneer (fresh cheese) curries, with a naan bread.

So, we had traditional Indian curries for our late breakfast, out in country South Australia. Australia may not have the exotic food culture you find in some other countries, but its diversity of population means you get these nice surprises from time to time.

We didn’t have too much ground to cover today, for a nice change. So we ambled down and few farm tracks and minor trails. This one got very minor.

As this was the state of the original trail.

Dang photo makes it look like nothing, some trail bikes had run up the middle, but I wasn't going to risk Bertha up here when there was an easy alternative.

This photo gives some better perspective.

This monolith is Carappee Hill, looking angry in the overcast conditions.

It reminded me of Bald Rock, on the NSW/Qld border, that we visited last year. Just less bald, patchy rock, receding rock, thinning rock...

Heading south west, we passed many salt lakes. The cloudy skies stopping them from looking their best.

Most Land Cruisers in Australia are more basic shades. I'm glad this metallic blue stands out in almost every landscape.

Onto Greenly Beach, tucked in behind another monolith, Mount Greenly. Can't find anything in who Greenly is, but it is a spot worth hunting out. After a full week of driving everyday and overnight campsites, we would stop here a couple of days.

Ratatouille and Camembert toasties for supper that day.

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So we spent a ‘rest day’ changing the spark plugs and giving the Land Cruiser a good once over. A few other small jobs. Plenty of beach walking and rock pooling. I tried fishing in the afternoon in some of the rock pools, but to no avail. I’m new to fishing, and I am not sure I really have the patience for it, but anyway, I don’t mind just skipping around the rocks, the day I catch something will be a bonus.

Greenly Beach has a very photogenic swimming hole. The sun came out for just long enough for a couple of photos. Judging by the steady traffic to and from the swimming hole that day (relatively speaking, about 5 car loads) it is certainly a popular spot with tourists and locals alike.

It was cloudy most of the time (so of course we both got sunburnt...) but it is just a beautiful area.

Doggos were loving the beach.

It was a good leg work out getting on and off!

The only thing we didn't dig was they had lined the campsite with road base. That stuff gets everywhere...

Salt deposits.

These little orange crabs were hiding in the rock crevasses.

The fury of the Southern Ocean, don't go swimming here.

We (I) managed to get one of these soldier ants into our tent one night. I'm still sporting the swelling from the bites...

So a good spot and definitely a good place to spend a couple of nights. Had the skies been clearer we would probably have stayed another night and climbed Mount Greenley, but that’ll keep. The great thing about being in your home state is it’s not too much of a stretch to come back here.

Time to get back on the road.
fantastic write up, and great pics!
We did the Kimberley last year,
Sydney, Bourke, Mt Isa, Darwin, Argyle,
all the Gibb River Road, Broome, Derby, and every bloody gorge in between.
Bungle Bungles, The Tanami, Alice, Ularu, Katja Juka,
Down to Adelaide, then Home via
Broken Hill , Menindie, Ivanhoe, Hillston, Condobolin, Forbes and home.
10 weeks, and ready to do it again...need more funds but!