Monday morning 1st November we were finally on our way. We said goodbye to the kids for the next 2 weeks, as they all headed reluctantly off to school. We were on the bike by 8.30am and didn’t strike too much traffic as we made our way south and pulled into our usual coffee shop in Mittagong around 10.30am.
A fairly quick stop and we were away again 45mins later, we pulled into the Yass service centre around 1pm for our first refill. From here we headed down to Wee Jasper, crossed the bridge at the fullest Murrumbidgee river that we have seen here and turned onto the dirt at Nottingham Road. Once before we came this way in the truck trying to get to Blue Waterholes with the kids and missed the turnoff down Broken Cart trail and ended up coming out at Tumut, which turned a 7hr drive into 11 (another story). Not this time, we crossed a creek or two and got onto it easily, it was a great ride and would be awesome on the smaller bikes although I could it see impassable if it was wet. We only saw 1 couple, tending their horses, no one around – the joys of week day departures and riding.
We came out onto Long Plain, and headed down past Blue Waterholes turnoff and onto the Snowy Mountain highway for a quick bitumen zip to our first night camp at Yarrangobilly Village Campground. It was 4.15pm, so we had made real good time and knocked over 480km for the day. There was only 1 other camper on our side and another across the highway so again pretty much alone, the only traffic coming through to complete their work days were loggers and the Snowy 2.0 workers. The most wildlife that we spotted was brumbies and they came down to our camp to suss us out. Tonight was expected to be really cold, like 2 degrees so we got set up and started a fire for a meal before it got dark and quickly ate and hopped into our sleeping bags soon after.
And yes the night was freezing, but we were prepared, sleeping bag inners, full thermals, gear that we brought that we knew we would only use once, maybe twice, on this trip. We didn’t have a great sleep because it was cold and when I rose the next morning the bike and our tent was covered in ice. Nyree said that the brumbies woke her in the middle of the night as they galloped through the campsite.
Once the sun came up it got warm and dried out our gear, we had a cooked breakfast and headed off around 9am for our coffee stop in Tumut. Coming into phone service in Tumut bought bad news, National Parks at Mungo had left a voicemail saying that the park was being closed due to a weather event and that we couldn’t stay there. This meant we would have to make a direction change to our planned trip as the rain was expected to be severe and close a lot of dirt roads that we were travelling on before we reached Broken Hill in 3 nights time.
We headed off after our coffee and cut across to Wagga Wagga and up to Weethalle where we filled up for the 2nd time. It was really hot and we grabbed an ice block and it was also Melbourne Cup afternoon which we were oblivious to who had won. We continued our zigzag up to Lake Cargelligo arriving at 4.30pm at Frog Hollow, our camp for the night covering around 460km.
It was blowy where we camped right on the lake edge, a few grey nomads about, but everyone out of each other’s hearing range so a peaceful but windy night. We cooked our dinner and turned in fairly early it blew most of the night but didn’t bother us. We were up early and ready to go, grabbed a coffee in the main street and sat down at the lake to enjoy with a pie.
The weather was overcast but not raining, we decided that we would head towards Cobar via Mt Hope and then reassess where we would punch onto to, it would most likely be too far to get to Broken Hill but we might pull off on the side of the road somewhere between. We stopped at Mt Hope pub and had a beer and chewed the fat with the publican and his dog, who was a lovely bloke and full of good stories. When we finally got back underway it was going to be touch and go if we would beat the rain into Cobar. We lost, it got us about 30kms out, and made for a slow trip into Cobar as it was fairly heavy. We stopped to have a muesli bar and the rain got heavier, so we decided that we would stay in Cobar for the night and head to Broken Hill tomorrow if the weather eased.
We booked into a motel, showered and hung some gear out to try and dry it, the rain was fairly steady so we decided that we would just stay put and have one of our freeze-dried meals for dinner and take it easy.
After a good night sleep, the morning dawned ok, no rain, but fairly overcast, we had a look at the miner memorial and drove out to the Fort Bourke Hill that overlooks the Peak gold mine pit and then headed onto the Barrier Hwy to Broken Hill. It was a fairly uneventful ride of 450km odd and we rolled into Broken Hill around 2.30pm. We had booked accommodation for 2 nights at the Silver Haven Motel, and planned to do lots of touristy things. After tidying up we went for an afternoon stroll up the main street to get our bearings and some info on some things that we could see.
We decided that we would visit the Junction hotel across from our accommodation for a beer and see what was on offer for dinner. We split bangers and mash and rissoles and mash and all up they were delicious and Nyree loved the fact that there were both piping hot. It was just the sort of night we enjoy, a quiet few beers, a meal and a good chat with the publican.
The next day dawned hot, so after a coffee in the main street we decided to head down to Menindee for the day. Its only about 110km down the road so just over an hour. We rode around to the causeway and couldn’t believe how different it was compared to when we were here last time, Tandure Lake and Lake Wetherell were both full, the weir was overflowing, and Lake Pamamaroo was full are far as we could see, people were even skiing on it.
Last time we camped on its edge and it was dry, I remember walking out on it one night to take a pee, well had I done that now I would have been 6 ft under water. People were also camped everywhere. We watched with fascination as a big snake attempted to get into the swallow nests that were built on the gates and steal their eggs. The swallows were dive bombing it, although I don’t think it really bothered the snake, he wasn’t successful as he couldn’t get up the vertical walls.
We headed to the Maidens hotel for lunch, and same as last time we were here, shared a steak sandwich and chips and chewed that fat with some local fellas who were heading through and had stopped for lunch as well.
We headed back and did a quick detour up to the Caravan Park on Lake Menindee and took a few pictures as it is the biggest lake out of the dozen or so that make up the Greater Menindee Lakes. Back into the Hill we headed to the Line of Lode Miners Memorial that overlooks the town. It was impressive but sad, it’s amazing to read about the deaths that have occurred since the Hill was discovered. We also had a look around the Junction mine and the informative signage gave a good description of what it must have been like in its heyday. We then headed out to the Living Desert Sculptures on sunset, they were not quite as we had expected and although interesting, didn’t really float our boat, glad we didn’t pay the entry fee. Because of the heat it had been a big day, so we decided to get Pizza and have an easy night in our accommodation in front of the TV.
The next day dawned hot again and we headed off walking again, unfortunately because of Covid not many galleries were open, not Pro Hart nor Jack Absalom. We were able to visit the Albert Kersten Mining and Minerals Museum and that was really good value with lots of interesting photos and stuff about mineral that neither of us had any idea about.
We ducked into the Palace Hotel and had a beer, Nyree had seen the movie, I haven’t. We then headed out to the Royal Flying Doctor Base at the Airport. This was excellent, we were taken on a guided tour in the hanger and looked and learnt about the history of some of their old retired planes and even got to sit in the cockpits. It was an excellent few hours and we highly recommend visiting it. We then headed back and grabbed some cheese and nibbles and decided that we would ride out to Silverton and have a beer or two and then a bit further to the Mundi Mundi Plains lookout and watch the sunset.
This was an adventure, as I said it had been another hot day and as we left the Hill it looked stormy to the west and in the general direction to Silverton! There was fork lightning and big black clouds, the further away we got from the Hill and the closer we got to Silverton the darker it got, then we realized it was not rain but a dust storm.
We pulled into Silverton Pub just in time, the wind picked up and everything was getting covered in dust and dirt, we got inside just in time as outside turned dark. It was all over in 10 mins as it blew through, the bike was covered in dust, what an experience!
We had a few beers, did a quick loop around town and headed out the Mundi Mundi lookout only 5km down the road. We set up for the sunset, chairs, chips and nibbles, camera at the ready and were surprised to be joined by about 10 others with the same idea. Not surprising really, but it was the first time that we had encountered ‘crowds’ on this trip.
Anyway, it did turn out to be a spectacular sunset and yes you can make out the curvature of the earth from the lookout. Darkness came and we headed back into Silverton and then a cautious ride back into the Hill and our accommodation.
Sunday morning dawned fine, and it was an exciting day, we were going to travel station tracks up along the SA border and hopefully end up in Tibooburra some 470kms and 8hrs later, it felt like we were really starting to get out into the nowhere! We headed back out through Mundi Mundi Plains and along past the turnoff to Eldee Station, where we stopped for a break, and chatted to an older couple who were driving into Eldee. They said they would be heading up the way we were travelling a day or two later.
It was a great ride and we were averaging about 60kph, so Tibooburra was looking good for 6pm.
As we came through Border Downs rain started to lightly fall. We came around an easy corner and down we went. Out of nowhere, we had cracked the surface and it was not good what lay underneath. We struggled to get the bike up as we couldn’t get any traction and were now covered in mud. The bike was a mess and as we tried to remount and continue, we got another 50 metres down the track before we were off again, it was now raining a bit more consistently. Struggling to get it up again I tried to ride out onto what looked hard ground only to bring it down again. By now water was running along the track and making big puddles. The bike had lots of mud and the tires were caked ad looking like donuts. The guards were jammed with mud, we weren’t going anywhere.
We spend a good half an hour with sticks trying to clear the mud off the tires and out of the guards, it was pretty solid and looking back on the where we had come from, we had made a pretty bad mess of the track. We had seen no vehicle all day, so we were on our own. After struggling for a few hours it was about 4pm and we decided that we would bivouac here for the night and hope the weather improved so we could continue on tomorrow. We couldn’t even get the bike off the track so we left it where it was and set up our tarp and tent.
We had a cup of tea while mulling over exactly where we were and what our options were. We cooked a meal while it was still light – a nice Lamb Fettucine and settled in. The rain had stopped but it still looked very threatening. It was a peaceful night’s sleep although I think both of us slept lightly, I expected to wake up to a cow as I opened the fly but there wasn’t nothing out there.
There was blue sky so I thought an hour or two of sunshine would dry the track and we would be on our way. Within a few minutes of getting up, a fog rolled in and the sky/sun disappeared behind it, and so did our chance of getting going early. We had a cuppa and pulled the tent down and hung it across some bushes with the aim to get it dry before we packed it. Eventually when things were dry enough, we packed the bike and gingerly headed off, the track was still wet with puddles and we were sliding all over the place. We were sitting on about 20kph and I rode with both feet off the pegs for balance and to forestall a slide. But no more than 1km on we went down at low speed, beginning what was to be the first of quite a few drops that day.
It became the regular, ride gingerly thinking we had got through the worst and out of nowhere down we would go, sometimes we could get the bike up, other times we would have to unpack, lift and repack. Nyree even did some walking ahead so I could get through some parts that looked sketchy. After about 2hrs we had travelled a little more than 10kms, it was going to be another long day!
We had a convoy of about 5 4wd’s come through, 1 towing a trailer and even they were all over the shop, they soon disappeared out of sight and we were on our own again. We finally hit a stretch and it seemed we were out of it, but down again, this time at a bit of speed and probably our worst stack so far, it looked firm and solid, but as I walked back over it to investigate how, it was very deceiving and was basically a thin crust on top of mud. Something like this for where we come from would take a lot of rain, so it goes to show out here – a few drops and the roads do indeed become impassable.
Finally, after about 4hrs we got onto some higher ground and the track changed to a much more sandy based one. (In revisiting the maps after this adventure, we were bang smack in the middle of channel and intermittent lakes country around Border Downs and Old Quinyamble).
The going got better and finally we came up onto the NSW/SA border track which was a nice run (with lots of gates), following this for a while we hit Hawker gate and turned towards Theldarpa and Tiboorburra. We originally wanted to continue on north to Cameron Corner and come back into Tiboorburra from the west , but we were too late in the day and we were both trashed from our exertions over the last 24hrs. All we wanted to do was get to Tiboorburra, shower, have a beer and get off the bloody bike. It was still 150km to Tiboorburra and it seemed to take forever, eventually we got into town around 6.30. After setting up camp in the Granites campsite, we showered and walked into the pub for a very well-earned beer and a feed!
It wasn’t a late one, a snitty each, a few beers each, a nice walk back and bed.
Next day dawned clear and it was going to hot, we decided against riding out to Cameron Corner, we needed an easy day, and if we were going get on the bike it wasn’t going to be an all-dayer. We had brekkie and a lazy coffee and decided we would head up the blacktop to have a look at the Qld border at Warri gate. Although the road was now sealed to the border, it wasn’t complete, so we spent some time riding on the wrong side of the road because of unclear signage. After we started dodging graders and water trucks we were directed to travel on the correct side. We then came back onto brand new bitumen which seemed like we were the first to travel on it. Anyway, we eventually reached the locked gate at the border – with a padlock and security camera’s – The Queenslanders taking their Covid lockout quite seriously. We stopped to read the information board and it was hot the bike read 36 degrees.
We headed back a few km’s and took the turnoff into Sturt NP and rode along the Jump up Loop Road to Olive Downs station and continued through the jump ups, stunning scenery – the massive dry waterways – what it must be like when it rains out here, and the lack of landmarks to gauge exactly where you are and what direction you came from and are heading to! We eventually came back out onto the highway, we were going to continue onto Mt Wood station and loop back into Tiboorburra, but we were done on the bike for today. We called it quits and rode back down the blacktop to the campsite. That was the day done we showered and wandered back into the pub for dinner.
We ran into the older couple that we had chatted to back at Eldee station, there were staying in the hotel accommodation. We ended up having dinner with them and had a lovely evening in enjoyable company.
We had decided that we would give the corner a miss, it would be a whole day out and back and we weren’t sure if we got out there, if we could visit the store as its actually located in QLD. Instead, we would head across the cut line to Bourke and try and follow our original route up to Hebel and along the QLD/NSW border all the way into Tenterfield before heading south back home.
We were up a little earlier than usual for our big day as we had a fair few kms to cover and weren’t sure exactly where we would pull up for the night. We headed to the fuel station to top up and get a coffee, and I got a text from Kwiambal NP office saying our booking was being cancelled as they were expecting bad weather. While we were digesting this, a few fellas pulled up on bikes and said they had been through the day before and that it may be hard going and the cut line may even be closed as bad weather was expected today, food for thought! We headed into the NP office to try and get some information; they could only say that the weather was coming but could not confirm if the cut line would be closed or open.
We had now lost a bit of time while we tried to get some confirmation, we knew the weather was coming so we decided that we would head towards White Cliffs instead, as we could travel down the Silver City highway bitumen and cut across Henry Roberts Road. We headed off and ducked into Milparinka to have a look at the ruins. There appeared to be no one around, so we sat down in front of the pub and publican popped her head out of the door and apologized for having the door locked, as she was indeed open! We headed in and had a good old chat, unusually for us, we stuck to the cokes, I think we were subconsciously concerned about the weather and the road going to shit again if we do get caught out in it.
We got back on the road and made good time south to the turn off and it was all sweet for about a kilometer until it turned to dirt and it was a bit wet. We rode gingerly on there were some wet patches and some washouts but we were managing to move along ok, and the bike was handling well. We also seemed to be dodging the rain as we’d see it in front of us and then the track would veer away, the pattern continued like this all the way into White Cliffs. There was some bad damage on the road about 20km’s out of White Cliffs, we weren’t sure if it was from rain that had fallen today or previously. We made it into White Cliffs about 3pm and set up in the Caravan Park.
We cleaned up and headed into the hotel for a beer and decided that we would do dinner as well. It was a lot warmer that last time we were here, so we enjoyed ribs outside in the beer garden. We headed back to camp for a fairly early night had a cup of tea in the tent as the wind picked up and light rain started to fall.
We woke early the next day, the wind was still blowing so we made brekky in the tent to keep out of the wind, luckily it wasn’t raining so it gave us a good chance to get packed dry. The sky was very stormy so it only felt like a matter of time before we were going to get wet. We weren’t actually sure where we would head for tonight but it would have to be back somewhere past Cobar as we had no option but to ride the bitumen back.
We stopped at Wilcannia to fuel up and the servo fella said we had just missed a downpour, we continued on across the Barrier and unfortunately caught up to the rain, it was a tough hour or so, very windy and rain sideways. We had to stop to put more layers on, wind chill must have been around zero. After a hard few hours, we made it into Cobar and refueled and headed to the bakery for a pie, and to remove some layers as the sun was now out and shining! We were not certain on where to stay tonight, Nymagee was about an hour ride away, and I thought I read something about camping near the pub there, so we headed off down the road.
It was a dirt road into the town, nothing more than a street junction with a pub and a few houses on the corner. It was wet on the road and you could see where water had flowed across recently with big puddles everywhere. The pub had a back grassed area but it was sodden and very wet. Accommodation tonight was going to be in the pub! We got the last room available as they were full up with workers in the locality for the harvest. We unpacked some clothes and showered and settled in for a beer or two before dinner.
The rain came and it one of the heaviest downpours we had ever been in. So much came down the street flooded and turned into a river, Lightning struck the ground just across the road and it was awesome as I made a loud pop – we didn’t know what it was – the locals said that’s lightning hitting the ground! Awesome!
Everything outside the front porch of the pub was flooded it was like we were on an island! It lasted for about an hour so ferocious – glad we weren’t a) on the bike b) in a tent c) outside! We enjoyed delicious homemade pizza and chicken wings and had a really enjoyable evening in this awesome little pub.
The next day we planned to head down the road to Condobolin but were advised against it as the road was dirt and it would have been impassable. So, we backtracked out the way we came onto the Kidman way and set our sights on Hilston. Again we weren’t sure where we would end up, but Cowra seemed a good stop for our last night as it wouldn’t leave too many km’s to get home on our final day. The weather was still crap and we copped a downpour leading into and out of Mt Hope and this made for a pretty uncomfortable and cold ride into Hilston. We stopped at the bakery where we usually do and grabbed a coffee and a pie to get some warmth back into us. We had a look at the Lachlan River which runs behind the town and you could see the level it had run at with debris high in the trees and it still had a good flow as well.
We started south towards Goolgowi and then turned east through Rankin Springs to West Wyalong and through Caragabal where we stopped for a break and to add some extra layers and it had been drizzling but looked up ahead to be raining more heavily. Between here and Grenfell the water covered paddocks right up to the road and we even stopped at one point to video the water flowing heavily right beside the road almost to the point of covering the road. We came into Grenfell and noted that it looks like a spot that needs another look at sometime in the future.
The rain continued and we arrived in to Cowra to stay at the motor inn about 5pm. We were very wet and cold and exhausted. We showered up and ate some of our packet camp meals as there was no way we were heading back outside. We caught up on some TV and came up to speed with the torrential rain that had been falling over the past week in NSW, we were wet but had no idea what had been happening over the last week!
We awoke on our final morning packed and headed back across the bridge to have a look as the Lachlan River was now in flood, we’ve been here a few times, and the spot where we had a picnic lunch with the kids on a previous trip was now under water. On our way again back through rain to Bathurst and a coffee and pie stop, and the weather cleared, it was cold but not wet. We made our way back home, with layers, cold but at least dry and parked the bike in the garage just after 4pm.
All up we covered 4,202km which was on par with the original 4,200km odd that we had calculated when we sorted our original itinerary. In hindsight our planed route went out the window on our 2nd day, and we missed travelling some remote roads, once the weather hits out west, you really become limited to keeping on the bitumen. This made it a bit boring as we want to ride the dirt on the bike, and get to some places that are easier on the bike than the vehicle.
So once again the map has gaps where we must get to next time.