Pushing on from Broken Hill/Motorhome, more barren scenes with differing areas of bush, trees, plains and hills. Some preserved and ‘hotted up’ cars passed us by, one taking his chances overtaking on a solid white line. Eventually we came through the hills on our approach to Port Augusta. Exiting the hills our attention turned to the very high tower stretching from the flat land near the top of Spencer Gulf at Port Augusta. Near the top of the tower, a massively bright light. We had plenty of time to observe the tower as we waited for one of the 60+ carriage long train to pass.
Only later with the benefit of Google, did we find out this tower is a world-leading, concentrated solar power (CSP) tower plant. 127.metres tall, the tower collects the sun’s rays from a 51,500m² solar field consisting of more than 23,000.heliostats to supply heat, power and desalinated water used to grow tomatoes in greenhouses at the site. 15,000.tonnes are expected to be produced annually and creates jobs for around 175.people.
Port Augusta Sports Club RV Park was our stopping point. Nothing flash. Wide parking area on gravel with dump point and water available, all that we needed. Access through the parking area to the Sports Club to pay our $7 fee for the night and have a cool drink and dinner in their bar.
With knowledge of the kangaroos in the area from the previous night, we did not set off as early as we had on other days. As we travelled the 200.km stretch of Barrier Highway between Wilcannia and Broken Hill the numbers of kangaroos feeding at the side of the road in the daylight were less than the previous night, but more active. Mike again was driving well below speed through country that was dry and bare of greenery. Rain must have fallen at some point due to the patches or lines of small amounts of grass growing immediately next to the edge of the bitumen.
Barrier Highway is a main trucking route. We were constantly on the watch for trucks approaching from behind so as to make it easier for them to pass us. They travelled at speed and were numerous. We have become used to seeing two trucks travelling together with huge loads of hay obviously for the stock of drought affected farms.
About half-way to Broken Hill, three kangaroos suddenly came on to the road. As Mike slowed, two of them turned and jumped back off the road. Unfortunately, for the roo and us, the third one didn’t and we thought we had struck it with the side of the bull bar. It hit the front corner of our motor home behind the cab of the truck and also the electric step underneath, bending the step.
Roughly 20.minutes later, a large kangaroo came out from nowhere and burst across the road at speed, and unavoidably, we hit it centre of the bull bar. The number plate and bottom of the bull bar took the hit and underneath the bull bar, the front bumper was bent. As we passed over the kangaroo it hit the underneath of the caddy (towing the Suzuki) and took off the number plate from the caddy, leaving it hanging by one screw.
It is a ghastly feeling to have hit (and killed) the poor animals. We felt ill. In over 40.years of country driving, we have encountered many times, kangaroos that come onto roads and you don’t know which way they are going to jump. Their powerful legs propel them at great speed. Our country roads are littered with those that didn’t make it. This stretch of road is particularly bad, as evidenced by the stains on the highway.
Taking advantage of the last light of the day, we hit the road again. Not far out of Cobar we pulled over to check the vehicles and again clean the front window. Lee discovered two mounds in the ground each measuring about 30.cms diameter with whatever lives down there, able to come out of a 5.cm wide opening at the bottom. No idea on what made it and not sticking around to find out!
As we travelled into the evening to reach our camp site for the night, hundreds of kangaroos stood guard at the very edge of the bitumen, not moving, whether it be because of the sound from the “shoo roos” mounted on our vehicle, our bright spot lights or the knowledge of not wanting to be struck as their mates had on this busy trucking route? All were trying to feed on the minuscule amounts of grass growing at the edges of the road in an area hugely affected by long term drought. As we approached, each would lift their head from feeding and stand like statues as we passed. An experience never encountered before and glad to get to our rest area.
Tonight’s camp: Wilcannia Rest Area, approx. 16.kms on the western side of Wilcannia.
Today’s effort: 657.3.kms
After travelling about 384.kms, we parked at the rest area opposite the Heritage Centre for most of the day for Lee to continue working.
Cobar is a mining town and there are plenty of sites and sights around the town to remind you of that. Copper was discovered there in 1869. A short drive in the Suzuki took us to a lookout on Fort Bourke Hill that gives a good view of the open pit mine and entrance to the underground mine. This pit started as a small open cut mine in the late 1890’s. In the 1900’s, the Cobar area had a population of 45,000. Now, the town’s population is about 4,000. In an area of about 44,000 square kms, about two-thirds the size of Tasmania, there is a population of approx. 4,700.
Walking around the lookout area late in the day, some wildlife and interesting coloured rocks.
Many of the town’s buildings were built in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. The home in the first picture below, listed with the appropriately named Red Earth Real Estate, is a 4.bedroom, 2.bathroom home in the town on 1,043,m² land and zoned for home/business use, priced for sale at $325,000.
The Great Western Hotel (bottom right below) has the longest wrought iron balcony of any hotel in the State – over 100.metres.
More time is needed for us to be able to see all that Cobar and the area has to offer, such as mines, museums and Aboriginal rock art. Next time Cobar!
Another early start and now we are travelling through outback New South Wales. We passed by occasional areas of green grass but for the most part, acres of dry, dusty dirt and dried out scrub. Sheep, cows and goats graze roadside and are just something else to watch out for as we drive the country roads. Some bare paddocks had sheep grazing – but we could not see what they were eating. From where we were there appeared to be just dirt. Slim pickings for the two emus we saw as well.
As we neared Brewarrina, it was curious to us a fairly new lot of fencing on one side of the highway that stretched for kilometre after kilometre. On the other side of that fence, land cleared for what seemed like an extraordinarily wide firebreak. Beyond that, only trees – no lush farmland – it was as dry as any other properties we had been driving past. We wondered of the need for the fencing and what use the property had behind that fencing.
Entering Bourke Shire, evidence of recent rainfall with more patches of green, but with that came the road kill of wild animals killed at night, coming to the roadside for the green grass. Overhead, hawks and eagles hovered before joining crows to feast upon the carcasses.
Up with the birds, we had a good start to the day.
As we drove towards the New South Wales border, there was a long stretch of road with a concentration of prickly pears growing roadside, the largest specimens we have encountered and the most in an area. Prickly pears are an introduced plant to Australia and have the ability to survive drought and affect the survival of other plants near it as well as spreading easily to other areas and can affect stock survival. These prickly pears we were passing were clumps growing like small trees – approx. 3.metres high and sometimes so dense, impenetrable for several metres.
Just out of Goondawindi, we crossed the bridge over the MacIntyre River and were in New South Wales, travelling the Newell Highway.
This being a drought affected area, cattle have been left to roam next to roads for feed. The area we were travelling through must have had rain recently as in places, there was an abundance of grass growing. Rain had fallen overnight and that morning, leaving puddles here and there on the side of the road.
After about 467.kms over the day, our stop for the night – Walgett, NSW.
After the Brisbane Pre-Christmas Caravan & Camping Show had finished, Mike was keen to hitch up and get started on our trip home to Perth and drive out of Brisbane to avoid traffic in the morning. We have flown this distance before, and crossed between Perth and the Eastern States a number of times, but at around 4,400.kms to home, this is the longest drive we have undertaken ever and with the restriction of Lee’s work hours during week days. However there is sufficient time to travel back to Perth in time for Mike to be ready for the Perth 4WD Show on 9-11.November.
The weather was kind and with no wild life appearing, we travelled a couple of hundred kilometres from Brisbane and camped the night at the rest area a short distance past Millmerran.
Being at the Brisbane City Botanic Gardens very early, YMCA Rat Race signs were noticeable at various places. Lee had no idea what they were for until groups of people started appearing, first as a trickle then a flood, with each group carrying a plastic blow-up chunk of cheese and following the signs through the gardens. The various activities she had seen through the gardens were the obstacles each team had to use. What a novel idea! It looked like a lot of fun – except for the running bit! People dressed up. Some wore ears on their heads, skirts with bits of ‘cheese’ around the hem, groups wore distinctive colours and dress.
The gardens were only a part of the overall race where the ‘rats’ could race for either 4km or 8km. From the gardens across the Brisbane River could be seen “The Big Cheese” where the rats traversed the holes to get through to the other side.
Money raised was for the YMCA Breakfast Programme to provide underprivileged children with breakfast and teach students about nutrition. Great event!
Mike was spared (due to working) from taking in the sights of yet another garden with Lee. Within walking distance of the inner City, the gardens border the Brisbane River. Originally a botanic reserve was established to provide food for the early colony in 1828. In 1855 the City Botanic Gardens officially opened.
In the gardens a fountain dedicated to Walter Hill who in 1855 was the first curator of the Brisbane Botanic Gardens. When built in 1867, the fountain was a working drinking fountain made from sandstone and marble, with lions on its sides.
Walter Hill in 1858, planted a Macadamia Tree in the gardens. Lee could not determine which of the large trees in the grove was the Macadamia Tree – they were all large.
This was yet another park area of Brisbane well used by people on their Sunday morning exercise routines. Some walked/jogged the pathways through the gardens and down by the river. Some did Tai-chi. Sunday morning is market day and some of the stalls were a meeting place for breakfast. And others – well tomorrow’s blog will be all about that!
In the meantime, come for a stroll through the Brisbane City Botanic Gardens….
South Bank is a hive of activity whenever we have visited. Its Recreational areas, parks and walk ways line the banks of Brisbane River with the Wheel of Brisbane standing out on the bank. Around the vast parklands stretching along the bank for over 1.5.kms, cultural centres – galleries, museums, performing arts centre, cinema – along with many restaurants and bars. This day, with the weather so warm, families were enjoying the inland swimming areas, including one created with beach sand. All along the main walkway, the large metal structure lining the walk with its metal beams reaching up and bending as if it were itself growing, and covered in flowering bougainvillea. Within the nearby concentration of restaurants, the street was full of marquees for market day, with stallholders selling their craft and wares. A very busy place!