We headed off Wednesday morning around 9.30am after dropping the kids to school. We made great time out of Sydney and arrived at our first stop of Lithgow for a coffee and a pie, at 11.45am.
Nyree decided that she needed heated gloves, I had been offering for the last few months to get a pair but no she was ok! Anyhow we enjoyed our 40 min break in the sunshine and headed off in search of a pair of heated gloves in Bathurst.
The KTM shop in Bathurst had a pair unfortunately they were extra-large, we were looking for extra small. Next biggest place to find a pair was Mildura I guessed. So on we headed to Cowra. Arriving just before 3pm for a quick break and continuing to West Wyalong which was going to be our stop for the night.
We arrived just on 5pm after 480km, it felt good to be free of the city and moving west. After a shower, we gave up on the idea of walking up the main drag to grab dinner as it was getting pretty cold and we were happy to stay in the warmth of our accommodation. We ended up with takeaway Satay Chicken Pizza which was awesome, no beer tonight!
The next morning, we were away at 8am, filled the tank and off to our 1st stop for the day to get coffee at Goolgowi. It had not much more than a servo that doubled as the local corner shop and takeaway, we grabbed coffee and bacon and egg rolls, the coffee was ok the rolls were awesome.
We got going just before 11am and finally got to the dirt on a backroad that took us to Booligal arriving at 12.10pm. Again, nothing more than a few houses and a pub, which was unfortunately shut (due to Covid).
I was planning on cutting directly across to the Balranald Road and then heading down to the Homebush Hotel for our final stop before arriving in Tooleybuc for the night. It was past 12pm and we didn’t want to get to Tooleybuc in the dark, so we decided that we would go another way that was still dirt, but seemed a bit easier to navigate to get to the Homebush Hotel at a reasonable time. This new route took us down through One Tree and across the Long Paddock and Oxley before coming out on the Balranald road almost opposite at the pub.
In my excitement to reach the Pub I managed to lose it completely on the loose gravel entry to the car park, first drop of the trip – rider error, thankfully no harm and no one being around to see it!
It was getting cold just after 3pm, so it was a welcome stop to have our first beers of the trip in front of a fireplace. We’d been here a few years ago, and it was still as we remembered it (been here over 140 years). We headed off just on 4pm to get down to Tooleybuc before the Roo’s come out, we arrived just before 5pm, having knocked out 500km.
We had a shower and walked down the road to the Sporting club for dinner and beer. It was kinda strange being in a nice new, big club with next to nobody in it, there might have been 12 people all up. Anyway, Nyree went the lamb shanks which she was hanging out for and I chose the Veal schnitzel, Nyree picked the winner. It was back to the accommodation around 8.30, a brisk walk, I think it’s going to be cold tomorrow!
It was cold and foggy, and we were ready to leave just before 8am. As we crossed the historic bridge into Victoria, we couldn’t even see the bridge let alone the river. We quickly diverted to Piangil to fill up, which was a pain to stop as we had to start again, we continued along the Murray Valley highway through the fog, and it was cold the bike showed -1.5 degrees which is the lowest we’ve seen it get to. About 20km’s up the road we had to stop in a bit of sunshine as my fingers were stinging and going numb. It was that cold that the hand warmers weren’t doing anything. 20mins later after holding the exhaust we were on the move again. Actually, one of our water bottles is mounted just beside the exhaust and always heats up, so Nyree held it in her hands – hot water bottle! A further 20mins later we came to a stop as a policeman waved us down, as 2 cars had collided up ahead in the fog and they were clearing the road before letting any further traffic through– none was hurt. We waited here about 30mins and then were let through.
We went through Robinvale which looked pleasant but decided to keep going to Mildura to get our coffee. We arrived in Mildura just on 11am and did a quick visit to the Motorbike shop to see if they had the heated gloves – still no luck, there would now be no heated gloves for Nyree this trip. We graded a pie and a coffee and headed off at 12pm. We went up through Merbein and across the historic Abbotsford bridge and into Wentworth.
We rode around to Junction park and witnessed the where the Darling joins up with the Murray – The Confluence. There is an observation deck that you can climb to get a view of the rivers, it was hard to see but we thought we could make out the muddy murkiness of the Darling with the bluer Murray flowing from the high country. Another one of those particular parts of Australia that we can say we have seen!
The road to Pooncarie was sealed so we made easy time and arrived around 2.15pm, some 337km so far today. Time for a beer and plenty of daylight left to head up the other side of the river on the dirt to Bindara Station.
We left at 3.10pm and arrived at Bindara at 5.30pm just as the light was starting to fade, total for the day 441km. The dirt to the station was pretty tough, lots of sand and washouts made for slow going, I’d also managed to lose track of the km’s so as we travelled along this stretch, we weren’t sure how far to go. It became a bit of… it must be around the next bend and so on. We also wanted to be done before the roos came out! 2 really heavy sand patches the bike didn’t like so down we went. Low speed so no damage just hard work picking her back up out of sand.
Finally, around the last sandy corner and we were at the driveway to Bindara. We met the owner Barb, and she suggested a nice spot down on the riverbank, there were only 2 other groups and they were well away. It had been a long day so we headed down quickly to set up in the remaining light and start a fire for some warmth. It was almost a full moon so there was plenty of light, we cracked our instant meal which was Roast Beef & Veg and it was delicious as we washed it down with a cup of tea! We hit the sack pretty early, Nyree in 3 layers of clothing, sleep sack and her sleeping bag, me in boxers and a t-shirt.
I think about 2am I woke freezing, I found a pair of thermals and some soxs and threw them on without getting out of my sleeping bag. It was cold, so cold that you could feel any cold air if it made its way into the bag. So, I cocooned up at tight as possible and tried to go back to sleep. I eventually had to get up to take a leak at 6am, it was very cold, but still and clear.
We eventually got up about 7.30am, both of us not sleeping well because of the cold and decided over breakfast that we would have an easy day around the station and stay another night.
We spent the day walking some tracks up and down the river, had a look at the cemetery and generally took it easy. We took a very early evening shower, as the showers were roofless and had excellent pressure and hot water, it was great! We settled down in front of the fire and prepared our dinner which was Venison and Noodles. We hit the sack around 8.30pm and were better prepared for bed especially me, all our thermals on and fully cocooned.
It was another cold night, but we both slept better as we were prepared this time. We were up about 7am, a quick cup of tea was prepared and we packed up and were on our way by 8.30am. We were going to try and get to Mutawintji today, although I had my doubts that we would cover the distance, considering I had miscalculated our speed on the dirt tracks so far.
So we came up with a backup plan if we needed it later today. We headed west and turned north up through Kinchenga NP. The track was very sandy in some places and we came off in one patch, once again no damage. All the way up through the lower Menindee lakes which were all dry you can see how one lake fills then drains to the next, these big outlets that go under the track out in the middle of nowhere! We stopped and had a wander around the historic Kinchega Woolshed which was excellent, and made our way in to Menindee to have lunch at the Maidens Hotel.
We finished our lunch and headed for Wilcannia, up the east side of the Darling, this was a good 150km on a dirt track which snaked alongside of the river, crossing a few properties, we came across no one and eventually rolled back onto the bitumen of the Barrier Highway and into Wilcannia around 4pm covering 350km. At first appearances Wilcannia was an eyeopener, we filled with fuel and made the call that we would not travel any further today. We backtracked 5km’s up the highway to Warrawong on the Darling, which was a great little campsite and set up for the night. It was nice to camp on some lush green grass, unfortunately we had to share the fire as it was a communal firepit, we do like our solitude.
Next morning, I awoke to frost on the bike, so headed across to communal fire which was going, had a nice conversation with a young family down camping from Cobar. We had a good chat over a slow brekky and were eventually underway at 10am.
We headed back through Wilcannia onto the dirt and up towards Paroo Darling NP, we thought we’d have a look at the campground at Perry Lake for future reference. Somehow, we missed the turnoff and about 20kms’ later realized we were heading in the wrong direction, this meant doubling back on easily one of the roughest tracks we have ever travelled on (up there with the road into Cordillo Downs). So much so that Nyree had a dummy spit and refused to travel any further. After calming down she was back on board and we headed back to make our way to White Cliffs. We arrived around 2.45pm just over 217kms.
The pub had a nice set up with the dongas that were the accommodation being those that were used for the Sydney Olympics. We cleaned up and showered and headed across to the pub to settle in for the night for a few beers and dinner. As the sun went down it was cold – jackets and beanie, so we headed inside to the makeshift bar for dinner, I went the 400g T-bone and Nyree the smaller fillet.
We chewed the fat with a fella who turned out to be a Police Officer stationed at Wilcannia who was on a few days off. He was a nice softly spoken bloke, who you wouldn’t have picked as a police officer. We spent a good few hours chatting before turning in for the night.
Next morning, we were underway fairly early and took a scenic trip around through the Opal fields, which was classic, all these holes like a mole had dug, but nothing around to stop you from falling into them, and some were deep, you wouldn’t wanna stumble home drunk one night. Nyree best summed it up as being quirky, nothing like we have seen before, a great place to spend some more time next time.
We left at 9.40am and took the bitumen back into Wilcannia and turned back onto the eastern side of the Darling at 11am covering just on 100km this morning. Next stop Tilpa pub.
We arrived at Tilpa pub just after 1pm covering just over another 140km. The pub which had quite a few travelers having a beer, had not much else, it was even smaller than Louth, which was surprising, I don’t know why but it wasn’t what we were expecting. We shared a hamburger and settled in for a few beers, right in the sun it was the hottest it had been so far, and some of our layers had to come off which was great.
Kallara station was only a few kms up the track for we were in no rush to leave, love these stops! We eventually got moving and rolled into Kallara Station just on 4pm covering about 250km for the day. We met our host Julie, and she suggested heading down the track a few kms to the end along the river for an excellent spot. And it was right on a curve of the river, which was the widest and fullest we had seen so far since Wentworth. We set up and settled in for the sunset and a great little fire.
The menu was Thai Green Chicken Curry washed down again with a cup of tea! It was the mildest night so far and we hit the sack around 8pm. We were up fairly early the next day, although we didn’t have a lot of km’s in front of us, we were looking to have a few stops and wanted to get to our next camp with lots of daylight left.
We left around 9.40am and made our way up to Louth and Shindy’s Inn arriving about 10.50am after 80kms. Unfortunately, the Inn was closed for beers, due to Covid, but we chatted to a crew of fellas on their bikes who were heading north up towards Yantabulla while they waited for some others to join up with them. We left at 11.30 and rolled into Bourke at 1.10pm after a further 100kms. We stopped at the Port of Bourke hotel for lunch and once again shared a delicious hamburger.
We headed off to our last camp for the trip being on top of Mt Oxley about 53km east of Bourke. The campsite being on top of the mountain we arrived at 3.40pm, and were the only ones there. We had plenty of time to set up and sit back and enjoy the excellent view, we could see Mt Gundabooka off in the distance, and the curvature of the earth, and as the light started to fade the lights of Bourke in the distance as well as some homesteads and vehicles travelling on the surrounding roads.
It was a lovely peaceful night and even more milder than the night before. It surprised me the next morning that there was no dew as the sky was clear.
It was a quick easy pack up and we even had time for a cup of tea. We headed off just after 8am and took the back way to Mulga Creek Pub arriving at 10.45 some 145km further on. We stopped for a beer and shared a steak sandwich, finally got going just before 12pm. We zigzagged our way through Macquarie Marshes which had a tricky section where water was flowing across the road, and much to Nyree’s disappointment cleaned all the red dust off the bike. We stopped at Quambone for an ice-cream and continued zigzagging south east until we arrived at our last overnight stop of the trip in Gilgandra around 4.40pm after covering 486km.
We checked into the motel, showered and walked down to the Services Club for dinner. We were back in bed by 9pm and lights out for a good comfortable night’s sleep.
We were on the road before 8am pushing through to Mudgee where we stopped for coffee and brekkie at 10am. The Castlereagh highway was now familiar as we came back through Ilford, Capertee and back into Lithgow. After having great outback weather the whole trip as soon as we headed up from Lithgow the weather closed in, fog and rain reduced visibility at some points to no more than 10ft ahead, we took it easy all the way back along the Bells line and even stopped at Berambing for a coffee and a change of visors to clear lens.
We had made good time to be home for the kids so we detoured into Auburn to the bike shop to eventually get those heated gloves for Nyree, ready for the next bike trip.
All up we did just over 3300km in 10 days, 5 nights in the tent and 5 nights in accommodation, we took all our own food and water while in the tent, and we reckon we made a pretty good first up effort in doing a substantial solo bike trip. It was also great to finally finish our first Darling River run after first attempting it almost 4 years ago. The great thing about this trip is that it can be done again on the other side of the river so same but different.