After making lots of trips both long and short, a trip along the Darling River was in my sights. Seemed like there would be a lot to see and the planning started early in 2012. After canvassing our usual crew we had acceptances from 9 starters so it was looking good. I was hopeful they would all still be there in early November when we were planning to head off. I was hoping that we might avoid the worst of the hot weather and rain by choosing Nov and largely thats how it worked out!
We had a large range of bikes ranging from our trusty KLR's and DR'/Zs to the more exotic KTM 625 and 690, then through to a GS 800 and the massive 1200 Super Tenere. No plans for anything terribly knarly but the sand could be tricky and if it rained well......... The roads up there turn to shite very quickly.
We agreed to meet in Mildura on Saturday 3rd Nov at a caravan park where those of us who trailered would leave the cars and trailers and head off around lunchtime. Ben on the GS has travelled up via Wyperfield and Sunset Country Nat Parks in his kitted out Landcruiser Ute, Dave and Dan had ridden up (real men). When we arrived at the caravan park it looked like the full contingent had made it. A good start!
Everyone got busy getting the bikes organized and gear stowed. Next stop was the servo to top up fuel and Rotopax containers etc, and grab a bite of lunch.
After a few k's of bitumen we hit the sandy road that lead to Mungo National Park and our first nights accommodation at Turlee Station shearers quarters. The road was mostly good, with some deeper sand to keep us on our toes. Everyone soon stopped to lower the tyre pressures to make it a bit more stable.
We set off for Turlee and I pulled up at the turnoff to Mungo/Top Hut and found we had picked up a stray. Mark on his trusty KLR, loaded to the gunnells, had ridden across from Adelaide to catch up with the Top Hut crew but decided to tag along with us for the evening and see if he could catch them in the morning. I suspected they would be off early.
Mark on the red KLR
We soon rolled into Turlee and were very happy with our choice. Nathen and Sophie have done a great job of opening their working farm to visitors and we got set up and tucked into some beverages and started thinking about dinner.
The sleeping quarters
Novel radio check in. Worked a treat.
The mess hut, complete with full kitchen, jumbo coolroom and a relaxation area.
Everyone was up and about early the next morning. Keen to get out to Mungo and explore. We hit the road and we were soon at the rangers station at Mungo and checked out the old Mungo Shearing Shed.
After a look around the shearing shed we headed for the "Walls of China" and then the loop out through Mungo. On the way we frightened the hell out of some Magna driving backpackers as they negotiated the track out the "Walls". The suspension on the old Magna must have been shot at is was rolling around like a boat on the uneven ground and as the nine bikes thundered past the open window they took evasive action. After that short ride we arrived at the Walls of China and it was starting to warm up!
The landscape is very different from anything I have seen before, and its and ancient lake site, with tracks and relics dating back thousands of years. After doing a bit of walking we saddled up again and headed off for the loop around the national park. We expected some sand and narrow tracks and we werent dissappointed. It was a great ride through there, so if you are visiting make sure you do it.
Dan and Darren saluting the camera in Mungo National Park
Steve on the DR at Mungo. Theres even a tiny bit of roost coming off the back wheel .......
On the loop we saw a goat trap, built next to a dam, it allows them to get to the water but not out of the trap. They are then trucked away for sale. Very clever. We then reached Vigars Well, an old travellers stop with a natural spring that trickles out of the side of the large dunes. Very surprising to see it there.
We headed on to Zanci Station, an abandoned farm which still had the remnants of the original operation. By this stage shade was at a premium as it was HOT!
My bike in the shade.
The old stables at Zanci
Not much left of the old homestead!
The old cellar pictured here was nice and cool!
Dave with his Super Ten and Micks 625
Doug with his DRZ400
After a good look around we came to the conclusion that the settlers here were tough buggers! Our next stop was to be Pooncarie and we set off for Top Hut Rd to get us there. We thought we might see a few other ADVers but they were well gone from Top Hut. The Top Hut Rd was pretty good going, with some patches of sand that were a bit tricky but we made good time and popped out on the bitumen where we said goodbye to Mark who had to hightail it back to Adelaide for some prior commitments. A quick blat down the blacktop had us in Pooncarie in time for lunch and a well earned drink. The pub is a bit of an institution and we enjoyed a good meal and a chat to a few of the drinkers before we braved the heat again and headed for Menindee after a quick look around town
We checked into the motel in Menindee in the late afternoon and did some maintenance on the bikes. The dust meant that air cleaners needed regular cleaning! Once we had achieved this we all showered and headed for the pub across the road for a beer and a meal. After a great steak it was back to the accommodation for a quiet Jim Beam and off to sleep.
The plan in the morning was to do a big loop through the historic areas around the lakes at Menindee and then to head to Wilcannia and Tilpa. Everyone was up and about early and we hit the road.
Darren getting excited on the 690 on the road between the lakes and the Darling
Doug having some fun...
Kinchega Woolshed was our first destination and after blasting along the sandy track we arrived there to see some history laid out before us. This shed was one of the biggest in the state and is now about half its original size! It is well preserved and there is lots of old eqiupment dotted around. Worth a visit.
Steam driven eqiupment was obviously all the rage.
The woolshed and another steam driven thingy.....
The old woolshed and race.
Ian on the lakes loop
Dan on the trusty KLR, followed by Doug and yours truly.
We had a look at an old homestead site. Not much left now. We then headed out to get a good look at the lakes. Another sandy track.
Great to see the lakes brimming. Nice scenery too.
Me on the KLR
Dave with the Super Ten.
Mick with the KTM 625 cranked. He's even colour coded.
Steve on the DR
Ben on the 800GS
After checking out the lakes we hit the road headed for Wilcannia. These roads were a hoot. Almost dual track, with tight gravel or dry, packed mud meant that the speeds could creep up and we were having a blast.
Dan Darren and Ben with the rest of the crew raising some dust..
Me kicking up some dust on the KLR
Dave and Ian
We arrived in Wilcannia in time for lunch although options were a bit limited. We went to the little supermarket and and pub and bought some supplies for our stay in the shearers quarters at Kallara Station just outside Tilpa. A BBQ was planned and we had a good supply of bevvies to keep everyone happy. The town is an odd mix of elegant old buildings built of sandstone and run/burnt down commercial buildings. Glad we werent staying there! Ben took the opportunity to ride across the old wooden bridge over the Darling (it was closed but he has a habit of not noticing the signs. I seem to remember an underpass somewhere too) with a couple of bemused council workers watching on.
After a quick bite we headed for Tilpa along the river. After a hour or so we got close to the river and I headed in for a look. Not a lot of water but a nice spot for a break. Dave decided it was too hot and stripped off for a swim while the rest of us had a drink and a break under the trees.
Dave contemplating his swim.
Shameless shot of two KLR's on the river bank.
We arrived at the legendary Tilpa pub late in the afternoon and settled in for a couple of beers before we headed for our accommodation. The pub is right on the banks of the Darling and makes a great watering hole after a days riding. Its a great old pub, with walls covered in messages from visitors on every available space. For a donation to the RFDS you can write your own message. We lined the bikes up and refueled for the following days run to Bourke.
The farm at Killara was well set up so we unpacked and everyone rushed to claim a bed. The BBQ was duly stoked up and the hosts provided us with ice and a huge esky so the drinks were icy cold
If you look carefully beyond our gas powered (yes its true) bbq you can see how close to the river we were.
Our accommodation at Kallara Station. Not your average quarters.
Old cemetery on Killara Station
Into the evening we were settling in for our meal and it started raining. With a long distance to the nearest bitumen we were a bit concerned as it got a bit heavy, so we went to bed after a lot of drinks thinking about a potentially slippery day tomorrow.
Rain on the way!!
It turned out that we had no cause for alarm as you could barely tell there had been any rain. After a quick breakfast and packing the bikes we were off again to Bourke. This time we were on the north side of the river, a less travelled track and it was great. Lots of wide open spaces, with the odd emu or roo to keep it interesting. The speeds were increasing and the landscape kept changing.
Taking a break at the intersection that heads into Louth. We didnt go there, planning to do it on the way back on the other side of the river.
After another hour we pulled up in a small forest for a break. This is what I meant about the changing landscape.
Another hour saw us pull into Bourke, with the last stretch on bitumen. We quickly found our accommodation, the Port of Bourke Hotel, and checked in. What a deal. $50 each for a bed, dinner and breakfast! Nice locked parking area behind for the bikes.
Port of Bourke Hotel with our bikes out the front.
View over the river in Bourke
The Crossley oil fired Engine and Generator used for power by the pioneers after it had previously been used in Sydney.
With plenty of daylight left we decided to head out to the lookout at Mt Oxley, while Dave (who is a lunatic) decided he would go for a run as he was in training for the Perth Ironman! The trip out there was about 40km or so and the first 20 odd was tar. We hit the intersection and started down a long straight dirt road and arrived at the council sign pointing to lookout and took off down that track. We arrived at a gate to find it locked with a chain and about 10 padlocks! WTF!?? We were ready to turn around and head back when Ben decided to check out the gate and this is what he found.
A couple of jiggles of the pole and it slid out of the ground! We duly replaced it on entering and when we left!! We later found out that you can get a key from the Tourist Information Centre in town but only during office hours, so recommend that if you want to visit yourself.
As we climbed the steep road up to the top of the mountain, which was badly eroded by water, and it opened up to a magificent 360 degree view over the surrounding countryside. We all had a wander around and took some photos before heading back to Bourke. Here's a sample of the views.
On the way back to Bourke we came across Dave running at a fast pace 12km from town and still headed away from town.........
Steve and Dan checking the view.
the view from the road up the mountain
We all freshened up and headed down for our evening meal (inlcuded in the price of accommodation at the pub) not sure what to expect. The meal was magnificent. A nice rib eye with baked spud and vegies was my choice washed down with ample quantities of bourbon and coke! We all agreed it was the best value accommodation of the trip. The rooms opened onto the balcony so we could sit out there and catch up on emails, calls to home etc and a quiet drink after we came upstairs from our meal.
Ben catchin up on emails and sorting digital photos on the pub balcony with Ian, Dan and Mick!
We were off the next morning on a planned river cruise on the Jandra paddleboat. A good way to see the river. The trip went both up and downstream and was well worth the price.
The boat had a hitchiker on board.
The banks of the river had some hardy gums, which had sprung into new life with the breaking of the drought.
There were some signs of the floods in the previous year too!
Lots of birdlife too
There is a magificent old bridge that used to rise to allow the boats to go underneath. Story goes that the locals saved it by proving to the Government that if they had the money that it would cost to demolish it they could maintain it for many years to come.
Our trusty vessel
We then headed to Gundabooka National Park, where I had read they had some excellent Aboriginal rock art and some nice views. We had to slab it out there most of the way as there were no dirt roads but we eventually turned off onto some dirt and after another half hour of riding we hit the road into the national park and made our way to the rest area where we would walk into the gorge with the paintings.
The track from the rest area leading to the gorge
There were some nice views but we didnt have time to climb to the top of the mountain so we headed into the gorge.
Doug making his way into the gorge.
The rock art was well preserved and worth a look. You could see why this place was special to the local indigenous tribe, with fresh water and plenty of shelter, it was like an oasis compared to the surrounding country.
After our walk we remounted and headed back out to the main road to make our way south west toward Louth, and then on to the station at Killara again for the night. The guys had a bit of fun on the fantastic smooth red dirt track.
Doug getting a bit sideways.
Regrouping at an intersection where we were heading to Louth.
It was starting to look stormy and we were worried about rain. We headed off with fingers crossed. By the time we were halfway back to the river road it started raining and when we reached the bitumen it was pouring and the track was getting decidedly slippery, with that red dirt turning to stickly mud very quickly.
Regrouping on the bitumen to decide what to do next!
We decided to head back to Bourke and see if we could get some accommodation for the night to see what happend with the rain as the road to Louth wasnt an option, with about 50km of red dirt and mud in between us and the town. We arrived back in Bourke with the rain getting even heavier, eventually turning into a torrential downpour! When we caught up under a verandah in town we realised we had lost one member of the crew. After a bit of searching in the town Simon and I headed out to the river road to see if he hadnt come to grief. After an hour of so we realised he must have headed to Cobar thinking that was the way we ended up going. We headed for Cobar on the bitumen and half way there I got a text saying thats where he was, which was a relief. We had phoned the pub in Cobar and booked motel rooms for the night so all was good. The next morning we went out to the mine site and checked it out.
Our home for the night in Cobar.
The obligatory lineup shot in Cobar!
After a quick trip to the local bike shop for some oil and other supplies, we headed for Broken Hill via Wilcannia. Lots of bitumen on this trip as most of the tracks had been closed by the council. We say lots of wildlife including emus and roos, but by far the largest visible population was wild goats. Literally hundreds of them along the roads.
This one nearly got hit.
In Wilcannia we stopped for lunch at a cafe, had a chat to the locals, filled up with fuel and took a few photos. I mentioned the contrasts in the town so here are a few photos that explain it......
We arrived in Broken Hill in the late afternoon, and it was still hot. We were booked into the Palace Hotel, famous for being used in Pricilla Queen of the Desert (keep the smart remarks to a minimum folks).
It is a beautiful old building which is being slowly renovated. The rooms were small but comfortable, with shared bathroom facilities. The huge balcony was put to good use for a BBQ that night where we feasted on butterflied marinated lamb! Plenty of the amber stuff was flowing too. What a great spot.
The Palace Hotel
Broken Hill is full of magnificent old buildings and we did a bit of a walk around town to take it all in.
The Trades Hall, reputedly the scene of many rowdy meetings, but they eventually forced the mining companies to fix the safety issues that lead to many deaths in the mines around the town. The miners memorial on top of the tailings heap lists all of them.
Simon and Steve at the miners memorial
The plan for the next day was to head out to the Daydream Mine for a tour and then to Silverton. We had a great breakfast at a little cafe in town and then headed off. The ride to the mine was mostly bitumen for the first bit, but the road in was rough in places with some washouts and creek crossings. When we arrived we booked for the tour and poked around the old mine site taking photos and checking out what must have been incredibly tough living conditions for the early miners.
Some old mining equipment.
Some ruins of the old mine.
A scene inside the mine. It was very tight in there with the low roof catching my helmet a few times. I was glad I had it on.
After the mine tour we headed for Silverton and were rewarded with some of the usual scenes I have viewed on this site so here are a couple
Ben found this beta version of the new KTM adventure bike, built with good ground clearance for the rough tracks and loaded with the latest and most reliable technologies. The long travel suspension in particular should be noted. The large wheels also built for those knarly tracks.
We did a quick trip north of Silverton after some lunch and a look at the galleries and found this water storage. A nice spot.
Back to the hotel for a good meal in the restaurant and getting ourselves ready for the trip home. A few of the guys were getting away super early because they were riding all the way home. The rest of us had a leisurely breakfast and headed off. It was a solid ride on the bitumen to Wentworth where we stopped and checked out where the Murray meets the Darling and as you can see below the Darling is a lot muddier than the Murray!
Simon, who captured a lot of the bike action shots on his new Canon.
After some fish and chips for lunch we arrived at the caravan park and loaded our gear and bikes for home. Thanks to all the guys, including my brother Simon who drove the chuck wagon loaded with drinks and gear, for a great trip and easy company. Looking forward to the next one.
Rear L to R Ian, Dave, Steve, Doug, Ben, Dan, Simon
Front L to R Warren, Mark, Darren and Mick