The last leg

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July 29th 2015
Published: July 29th 2015
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Burren Junction Artesian bore free campBurren Junction Artesian bore free campBurren Junction Artesian bore free camp

Just couldn't resist the moon over Jupiter at dusk
Well all good things have to come to an end, and so it is with this trip. We have been asked which was the best place we went to, and that has been a really hard question to answer. The fact of the matter is that Geoff would say that this was one of the best trips over all that we have done. At the end I will put in all the figures (so those that do not find that interesting can skip it). Suffice to say here that we have been pleased with the trip on a number of fronts; we are still talking to each other, the caravan performed well, the car performed well (mostly), and we visited places and stayed in places that we have not done before.

We left you in Lightening Ridge last time, so to finish of the travel report we will pick it up from there. As we said, we are now in the “just get home” phase of the journey, but that doesn’t mean that we were not going to visit some places that we had not seen before, meaning that we were still zig-zagging our way South. Back nearly to Walgett and left towards a place called Burren Junction – a lazy 250 kms. Why BJ you ask, well we have been travelling over the Great Artesian Basin for a while now and having tried the artesian baths at Mitchell, Charlotte Plains and Lightening Ridge, Marg was now becoming a self appointed Artesian Bath Quality Control Officer and BJ has artesian baths with a free camp site attached. The self appointed artesian bath quality control officer ruled that these were not quite hot enough (yes, I know, for someone who thinks 15 degrees is a heat wave that was a very big statement). The folk at BJ have concluded that the grey nomad brigade are a good source of revenue, so they are quite happy that many seem to have set up permanent residence at the bore site. Not our cup of tea, but you can understand it happening when you have free hot baths thrown in with the free accommodation. We were only there for a night, but met a couple from Mildura who insisted that we come around to their place for happy hour. He was 73 although he could be easily mistaken for being 10 years younger. I am sure that is a result of the nomad lifestyle, or perhaps landing his plane in a tree 18 months ago took 10 years off his life?

Just a quick update for those who have followed the satellite reception saga. Marg made the suggestion that we give it one last try here, with the rider that if it didn’t work it was going to be left there! OK, high stakes, but worth a try. We set up the dish on its stand and without really trying (and definitely no fine tuning) and Geoff got the best reading he has ever seen on the sat finder. Marg yelled somewhat in amazement that he had ‘got it’ and the set top box went through its set up like it was a new installation. We were back in business. No Ron, we did not watch Home and Away!

Moving on, we headed Eastish via Wee Waa (they like to keep place name simple in NSW), and Narrabri where we hit the Newell Highway. This hwy is the main route for road freight between Melbourne and Brisbane, and didn’t we know it. After 3 months of travelling where the caravans outnumbered everything
Pilliga State Forest Sculptures trackPilliga State Forest Sculptures trackPilliga State Forest Sculptures track

The valley below the statues
else on the road and were few and far between as well, it was a real shock to have end to end B-doubles sitting on the rear bumper bar. Fortunately it was only for about 50 kms until we took a tea break and managed to re-enter the hwy between the masses. Another 50 kms further we turned into a farm stay at Pilliga Pottery ( No they don’t grow pots, it is a pottery of high repute that allows travellers to use some of their spare land or use one of the B & B cottages on the property. As far as the pottery is concerned, it appears that it works a bit on the commune type where potters come in and share their craft with other like-minded folk. It appeared that they live in a 2 story building known as ‘The Farmhouse’ which is very much dorm style. Very interesting place and Marg was in love with the exquisite pottery. The main downside was the distance in from the highway – some 21 kms over a rough dirt road. While we were there took the opportunity to explore the Pilliga State Forest and the Sculpture walk. This was a recent project to recognise the indigenous people of the area and to “bring them back to country”. The fact that we actually found the place Marg would say was due more to good luck than anything else – Geoff would say it was a magnificent feat of navigation, all the while negotiating wash outs and boggy sections of the forest road. We continued on for a very brief look at the Warrumbungle N. P. near Coonabarabran. Now that was a feat of navigation as the GPS in the car gave up on the rough roads and would not play properly, not to mention coming over a crest to find a B-double across the road – fence to fence, as he unloaded his cargo of cattle. Got to love a bit of impromptu 4 wd driving. The Warrumbungle N.P is a place that we have put on the list to revisit in greater depth on another trip

We took a turn off mid way between Gilgandra and Dubbo to avoid the trucks, although they seemed to have reduced in number in the few days we were at Pilliga. This road took us toward Narromine and we were quite
Pilliga Pottery - farm stayPilliga Pottery - farm stayPilliga Pottery - farm stay

What an amazing imagination
surprised to see the amount of farms growing cotton along this route. We did subsequently see a poster outlining the importance of cotton to the Narromine area at the Information centre. Marg has picked up a term from fellow travellers – ‘sacred site’ and it refers to the town bakeries along the way, and to be frank we had no idea how dedicated we were to these sacred sites! We had to visit the sacred site at Narromine for one of the best vanilla slices Geoff has tasted.

By now someone was only interested in getting back to the comforts of home, and so the journey turned into something of a sprint. After an overnight stop at the showgrounds at Tullamore - country showgrounds are a good source of free/low cost camping , and that is all we have to say about that, we were on the road again and the weather was looking decidedly threatening. Back on the Newell Hwy, the next stop was a caravan park at Narrandera. Narrandera is at the junction of the Newell and the Sturt Highways – Melbourne to Brisbane, and Adelaide to Sydney/Brisbane. The caravan park was opposite one of the busiest truckies fuel stops I have seen. And of course you understand that when they move out, they go through about 13 gears just getting onto the road! Not to mention the cowboys who insist on using their exhaust brakes as they slow down to come into the truck stop – just so you know they are arriving. It seemed like it was going to snow there it was so cold, so this is one town we will not be rushing back to visit any time soon.

Last stop (yes, dear reader, we are nearly there) was a place called Majors Creek at Mitchellstown. No prizes for guessing how the creek or the town got their names. That aside, there was a bit of a bonus in stopping here, as it is at the end of a road that just happens to go past my favourite winery – Tahbilk ( and also Mitchelton). To make it even better, the navigator was even keen to give the winery a go. So in we went with the caravan on the back – well you need plenty of storage space when you visit a place like Tahbilk. Ooh, there were some good wines
Burren Junction Artesian bore free camp Burren Junction Artesian bore free camp Burren Junction Artesian bore free camp

Dusk is always good in the outback
and even better bargains and we needed all the storage we could find on exiting. We were alone at the campsite, which was not much of a concern as we were only about 100mts from the fence surrounding Puckapunyal Army base and if they could not defend us, who could?

Last leg was into Melbourne and the weather really gave Geoff some reason to question the sense of this move, but by the time we got home things were starting to improve. Did we have a great time – you betcha!

Technical data:

· Time away – 14 1/2 weeks

· Total distance travelled – 14,746 kms

· Total fuel consumed – 2,333 lts

· Total cost of fuel - $3,174

· Running Ave. cost of fuel - $1.36 lt.

· Running Ave fuel consumption – 15.8 lts/100km

Additional photos below
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