Cunnamulla to Wilcannia

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September 20th 2016
Published: September 25th 2016
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Stage 2 of our Central Australia to South Australia longer going down the Birdsville Track

Cunnamulla to Wilcannia

Monday 19 September

It was a beautiful day with clear blue skies but we stuck to our decision to go south to Cunnamulla and not west to Quilpie/Birdsville.

Craig gave us a mud map of all the environmental features from Charleville to Bourke, an incredible bloke who not only has an Economics Degree but also a PhD in Anthropology and is on the board of the local Catchment Group. We said our goodbyes and headed into town to pick up bread and some cream buns (no, I didn’t have one!). We also fuelled up.

10kms out of town we saw the Angellala Bridge Explosion Site where in 2014 a truck carrying 53 tonnes of ammonium nitrate caught fire, crashed and exploded, The blast radius was over 1 km but felt for 30 km away and had locals thinking there was an earthquake. The Cira 1897 bridge was destroyed and miraculously only 8 people were injured and not killed.

The road was seals but bumpy in places. We saw many emus and beautiful pink Grevillia and lots of dead roos.

We stopped at Wyandra for morning tea, with our cream buns, and to chat to the locals sitting on the veranda of the pub. They told us the local water was beautiful and helped a guy with MS!!!! The bore water we drank from the Evening Star Park was also beautiful and very soft.

We headed to Cunnamulla for lunch. Pulling up in front of the Visitors Centre we first asked what the roads were like and the story was the same all dirt tracks were closed. So we decided to go through the Centre’s museum and Great Artesian Basin story which was displayed through a video and an assimilation shaft which took us back 50 million years. This was as old as the water in the GAB.

The video presented how the GAB opened the region, the over use of the system, as well as the conservation strategies of today including the capping program.

Next we saw the big bronze statue of the Cunnamulla Man’ then drove out to the Robber’s Tree here a bank robber lost control of his get-away horse so climbed up the tree where he was bailed up by locals until the police came to arrest him. We also saw the tee which Princess Anne planted which is in front of the Shire Council building!!!

It was time to be on our way so we headed for Barringun Pub which is on the NSW/Qld border. We forgot our passports but they let us through!!!! Lol!!

There were 8 NSW country lads at the pub on their way to a rodeo in northern Queensland. We had a chat with them while we had a light beer. What was unique about this pub is that 92 year old Mary is the publican. Unfortunately, she had a fall a few days previously and was in Brisbane. However, we had a look at her full-sized professional billiard table which was transported to the pub by bullock tray in the 1800s.

Next stop was Bourke which was 134 kms south from the border. We arrived at the Mitchell Caravan Park just before 6.00pm happy hour and found that they were putting on fish and chips for $5 each. We took up the offer and spent the evening deciding on our journey over the next few days.

I’m not sure if we were on Plan B, C, D, or E but it certainly wasn’t A! We had to be flexible with our plans as the rain was so unusual in this area which is usually 35+ degrees in summer and an annual rainfall of 315mm per year. There was water everywhere. All creeks and rivers were flowing and the black top roads were the only ones opened. The red soil and the black soil plans were definitely something to keep away from, particularly towing 3 tonne of caravan. We couldn’t get into the Gundabooka National Park because the road was closed. We wanted to see the Aboriginal rock art which is apparently incredible… trip!

Tuesday 20 September 2016

The road from Bourke to Cobar was beautiful. There was a constant carpet of white, yellow, blue and the occasional red ground cover flowers. The trees ranged from dark green to silver grey.

We saw a lot of goats and emus including 11 young emus all being looked after by a male adult. We saw the occasional cattle and sheep. There was water on the side of the road from time to time.

We arrived in Cobar around lunch time. All these outback towns are so well set up for the parking of big rigs which we found opposite the Great Cobar Heritage Centre. This centre had a museum (inside and outside) as well as a very helpful lady who gave me a host of maps and booklets which may have kept us there for a week!!!!

After lunch and after Leura and I did the Peak Gold Mine and Golden Walk, Doug and Leura headed west for Wilcannia as they had seen the sites of Cobar.

Tom and I drove up to the Fort Bourke Lookout and water filtration plant to see the large open cut mine which continues to operate. They were still extracting gold, silver and lead and a bit of copper.

I walked down the hill to get some fantastic photos of the flowers in the area. They were beautiful.

We then drove the 250km west to Wilcannia. The weather was fine all the way. Again it was a beautiful drive, sitting on 95-100kph with the occasional rolling rise of the road. Basically the road was very straight and flat! Oh what a big country we live in. Tom & I swapped the driving to mix it around.

We checked out several of the free camp sites along the way but they were all on dirt and the forecast was for more rain. We certainly didn’t want to get bogged over night.

We arrived in Wilcannia just after 6.00pm when everyone was getting together for happy hour. The Warrawong on the Darling Caravan Park was green and welcoming. It was next to a lovely lagoon which had an island in the middle, as well as being surrounded by the river on 2 sides. The facilities looked very new. It is also home to Rissole the resident emu. The camp kitchen was well set up and the camp fire was burning when we arrived.

It didn’t take us too long to hook up to power and get dinner ready over a couple of lovely reds. Doug, Leura, Tom and I did some more travel planning after dinner over coffee and chocolates!!!

That night it started raining but wasn’t too heavy.

Additional photos below
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