Page 91: heading east again
|After much discussion we decided that, world financial crisis
or not, we are going to continue our travels. The pull of the open road
is just too strong. Since our resources have severely diminished we will
now seek employment as we go. Our first destination will be Tamworth in
N.S.W. for another Annual Country Music Festival - our fourth.
Our journey of 3,848 kilometres to Tamworth will be divided into seven stages 'overnighting' at Coolgardie, Domblegabby, Nullarbor, Kimba, Broken Hill, Cobar and then to our destination, Tamworth. Each leg will average a little over 500 kilometres. Pam is going to do some of the driving. It will be a first for her, towing the caravan on the highway, and a first for me riding shotgun.
|A rough map of our proposed route from Byford (Perth) to Tamworth.|
We got away at 07:30 and our 569 kilometre journey to
Coolgardie went without incident. Initially we had a strong easterly wind
opposing us which made our consumption figures disappointing but, hey,
you can't win all the time.
We were again on the road by 07:30. This getting up in
the middle of the night has got to stop. We had a second breakfast in
the B.P. Roadhouse in Norseman then set an easterly course for Domblegabby.
Pam had again taken a share of the driving and again excelled herself.
|Wednesday - Christmas Eve|
|We left Caiguna early, though the 07:30 start had slipped to 07:45. During the day we drove from Western Daylight Saving Time through Central Time, which is not widely recognised except by those that live within it, and into South Australian Daylight Saving Time. The time difference cost us an hour and a half. Additional leisurely stops along the way had further set us back so it was six thirty in the evening before we arrived at the Nullarbor Roadhouse.|
|The Nullarbor Plain on Christmas Eve. As the name
suggests, no trees, only shrubs to the horizon in every direction.
The Plain is 550 km wide, east to west. The Eyre Highway, Australia's main east-west road conduit,
is as you see it - one lane in each direction.
| Pam had done quite a lot of the driving. Being Christmas
Eve I spent the time, as we continued eastward, scanning the tundra for
a glimpse of a virgin or three wise men. Pam assured me that I was wasting
my time. One virgin was asking a lot, one wise man was really stretching
things, but three wise men? Pure fantasy.
We were greeted at the roadhouse by friendly staff who were already in the Christmas spirit. As the place was almost deserted - as indeed the road had been - we all piled into the bar for dinks and an evening meal.
|Thursday - Christmas Day 2008|
|I was awakened on Christmas morning by a most violent thunderstorm. The wind was rocking the caravan and rain was lashing down. I couldn't find Pam at first, she was outside struggling to push our folding chairs under the 'van. The storm passed over and left the day overcast and sultry though the sun broke through later. We had decided to spend Christmas Day at Nullarbor and press on the following morning. This decision was possibly influenced by the Christmas lunch being prepared in the roadhouse kitchen and, just possibly, the close proximity of the bar.|
|The Nullarbor Roadhouse seen from the Eyre Highway.
There's our caravan to the right of the motel sign.
No, not to the left of the sign, to the right!
|The meal prepared by the roadhouse kitchen staff was really
exceptional. Pam has described it in her diary so I won't duplicate it here.
The lunch was primarily for the roadhouse staff who were joined by the staff
from the Eucla Roadhouse just 200 km. to the west, on the W.A./S.A. state
border. The chef from Eucla was the mother of the Nullarbor chef so there
was a family connection. They all sat around a large square of tables in
the middle of the restaurant.
There was only one other visiting couple in the caravan park apart from Pam and I. They were from Sydney and they, too, joined us for Christmas lunch. They had decided to have a complete change from the usual family Christmas in the city and brought their caravan out to the shores of the Great Australian Bight, far from the maddening crowds.
|Friday - Boxing Day|
We were again awoken by a violent thunderstorm and heavy rain. The rain continued into the morning with no sign of abating and we departed with our windscreen wipers getting some unaccustomed exercise. The 610 km. journey to Kimba passed uneventfully and we arrived in fine weather but with a very dirty car and caravan. Since the park receptionist had not specifically told us we couldn't wash the caravan, I decided to do just that until somebody told me I couldn't. Nobody did.
|saturday (and Sunday)|
We were on the road by 08:00 in light drizzle which soon
stopped. During the morning the overcast cleared and we continued under
a sky littered with billowing cumulus clouds and bright sunshine - a sight
to gladden the heart of any glider pilot.
|Another eight hours on the road saw us at Cobar by five o'clock
- happy hour. Not having all the rigmarole of unhitching is something I
could easily get used to. It's just a matter of parking, connecting the
electricity, connecting the water then sipping the wine.
Realising we didn't have quite enough fuel to complete the journey we stopped half way through the trip at a small town called Wilcannia. The place is infamous for it's Aborigines who, according to stories which I confess I can't confirm, were moved there from Melbourne. They allegedly burned down the Wilcannia supermarket - it certainly did burn down, the charred remains are still there. The few businesses that we saw had strong gratings across all their windows. There were several sulky-faced blacks hanging about the town centre. It certainly didn't feel a happy place. We have passed through Wilcannia previously and were warned by other caravanners not to stay in the Wilcannia Caravan Park; word spreads quickly. If the allegations are true, the Aborigines have certainly put paid to any reconciliation in that town by destroying any tourist industry it may have had.
Leaving Wilcannia we found ourselves crossing the Darling River flood plain. A plain it was, flooded it was not. The Darling originates in Queensland as the Culgoa River. There, a controversial agricultural company known as "Cubbie Station", claims it does the lower regions of the river a 'favour' by diverting all flood waters into its own giant storage lakes. This prevents the flood plains of the lower reaches of the Culgoa/Darling River, and thereafter the Murray River, from receiving the occasional floods so necessary for flushing the river and for the life of the giant trees and other flora on the flood plains. And when they perish - which is already happening - with them goes the animal, bird and reptile life.
On page 19 of this ponderous tome we reported that, while staying in a caravan park in the Queensland town of St. George, despite a violent thunderstorm and torrential rain all night, the park's sprinklers continued to spray water over a wide area. We thought this must have been an oversight or malfunction of a timer, so brought it to the attention of the manager. He was totally unconcerned and took no action despite the park being practically under water. That water was being pumped from the Balonne River which becomes the Culgoa River which becomes the Darling River. The Darling flows into the Murray which is dying for lack of water. Lower down, the Murray River supplies water to the city of Adelaide. Lower still it gives life to Lakes Alexandrina and Albert, both of which are now writhing in their death throes.
Why is this situation allowed to continue? Because of the parochial attitude of State Governments and the failure of the Federal Government to intervene. In this case the Queensland Government doesn't give a damn about water users in New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia. Why should it? Those users don't have a vote in Queensland.
Okay, off the soapbox and on with our journey.
The 250 kilometre stretch of the Barrier Highway between Wilcannia and Cobar runs through open country. Along that stretch of road we saw small groups of feral goats near to the road verges, hundreds of them, all sizes and colours. It was a little unnerving but they seemed to have better road sense than most animals and either moved away from the road as we approached or stood still. We also passed a mature emu with at least ten cute half-grown chicks on the verge. Ahhhh!
The final 575 kilometre stretch, Cobar to Tamworth, took
us along the Barrier Highway to a little town with the quaint name of
Nevertire. From there the Oxley Highway took as all the way to Tamworth.