We had planned to leave White Cliffs bright and early, with Caroline prepping the previous night making sandwiches and snacks for our drive to Tibooburra. From researching the trip, we knew it would be an ‘interesting’ drive to say the least – made up of sealed and unsealed roads according to our Hema map. Despite asking a few people at the pub of the conditions of the road, we were still a little unsure what we would encounter as the area received approximately 10mm of rain last night.
Today was Caroline’s turn to drive and may I start by saying she did a magnificent job. We left the park and immediately hit Kayrunnera-Cobram road, approximately 150kms of unsealed road dotted with numerous road surfaces including bitumen, gravel, red earth compressed roads, red sand roads and thick thick mud!
During this first stretch of road, our roles of driver and spotter were continually tested. Caroline as driver had to navigate through different road surfaces, kangaroos, sheep, goats, emus, cattle and again some really silly lizards – that thought that ducking when the car was roaring down the road was a better strategy than moving out of the way. R.I.P Flat lizards. My job as spotter, was to look ahead, as far as I could and determine the most appropriate route to take for the car and van.
Due to the recent rain, despite the road being declared ‘open’, there were many parts of the road that I would describe as treacherous and should have been ‘closed’, particularly when you take into consideration the difficulty being magnified by towing a caravan. There was one part in particular where we saw the thick mud ahead (~100km outside White Cliffs) – Caroline took her foot off the accelerator and used gravity to slow our speed. When we hit the mud (which actually still looked like compact red earth), the car started to travel in a different direction to the van. Aquaplaning in mud may be a better description of what had occurred. Caroline had both hands firmly grasping the wheel. Her fists displaying white knuckles, her eyes concentrating on every groove and ditch ahead – this went on for what seemed like ages, but was probably only 2 or 3 km’s, but enough to rise Caroline’s stomach into her mouth for a while. As co-pilot, I remained calm (thought that screaming like a banshee wouldn’t have made our plight any better!) and slowly snuck my left hand up to the ‘Jesus Handle’ hoping Caroline wouldn’t see what I was doing. For those reading this chapter of the blog and not aware of what the ‘Jesus Handle’ is, well it is the handle above your head when you enter the door. The reason for the name? Quite clear I think – when you come into circumstances where you need to hold it, yelling ‘Jesus’ seems to help overcome said obstacle.
And it did. Caroline had a loose grip on the wheel while the car ploughed through the thick wet oozing mud – the right thing to do in my opinion. At one stage I recall seeing the caravan (which you can usually see behind the car), through Ava’s passenger window, or there about. We continued to to plough through the dirt and finally made our way through this part of the journey. Caroline thanked me for keeping calm and said that she experienced a similar euphoric experience to when she completed the Basic 4WD course – wanting to punch her fists in the air. Caroline 1 – Muddy Roads 0. She could breath again, relax her shoulders and shake out her hands.
Sayonara, Kayrunnera-Cobram road. We sat at the intersection to Silver City Highway – relieved to see bitumen again. After referring to Hema maps (which gives us our location presumably on satellite) I had to be the bearer of bad news and advise Caroline that it seemed we had another 100kms of sealed and unsealed roads. Admiring the random Hills Hoist clothes line (in the middle of absolute nothingness) and the stretch of road to our left (a makeshift landing strip for light planes) we turned right onto Silver City Highway. To continue the last leg of our journey.
Intermittent stretches of bitumen, closely greeted by unsealed roads meant that we both had to be alert for another 100kms. Fortunately this stretch of road was much more forgiving than the previous road. The only obstacles were a few ‘car washes’, large puddles that I felt Caroline may have misjudged, and a bit more boggy roads. While the car and van were not any cleaner when we finally arrived at Tibooburra – the good news is that we arrived safe and sound, albeit a little more exhausted than a normal 250km drive (which took us 4 hours).
These photos don’t do the state of the car and van any justice, as these were taken upon arrival at the site, as when we stopped after the initial aquaplaning for ‘pee’ stops, they were so caked in mud that there wasn’t much gap between the wheel and the hub – so we walked around and kicked off what we could.
But wait. There’s more. When stopping to take a photo of the Tibooburra sign, we noticed another sign that referenced the state of the road to Cameron’s Corner – the sole reason for making the 250km journey. CLOSED. Both Caroline and my hearts skipped a few beats.
We dropped the van off at The Granites Caravan Park – quite proud to be the owner of a 4WD which was now covered from head to toe and van from head to toe in red mud – no way this Prado is a city 4WD!. Thanks Bec for the tip to cover the fridge vents and the door vents with paper and gaffer tape to stop the dust coming in when driving on unsealed road – there was still a lot off dust, but nothing compared to what it would have been if we hadn’t spent 5mins sealing this morning. In the heat we headed to the Tourist Information to speak to a Ranger about the state of the roads for tomorrow trip. After speaking to him he advised us that the road sign should have been updated by his colleague. Due to the 37 degree day we were experiencing and dry hot winds, the roads were open again. As it is predicted to rain tonight, we will leave early tomorrow morning to see if the track is still open! Seeing as we won’t be towing it should be a lot easier and if the roads are anything like what we did today, tomorrow will be a breeze. A 280km round trip tomorrow, with some significant tourist attractions.
There was a Landcruiser and Caravan than pulled into the site not long after us, whose car was 100x more covered in red mud than ours – he had come down from Innaminka through QLD and was a bit shaken when he got out the car, as he described the roads as treacherous to say the least and should not have been open. He was wondering about Cameron’s Corner so we updated him and another couple at the site about what the ranger had said – so there may be a few of us heading up there tomorrow.
After a thirst quenching beverage at The Family Hotel, where we shared some yarns with the owner of the establishment and ogled over the artwork that adorned their walls by Clifton Pugh – provocative scenes of a naked man surrounded by ladies. Caroline took a photo of Audrey and I in the pub – the look on Audrey’s face makes it seem like she knew what the painting was about.
We headed back to campsite to do some panning for gold. One of our neighbours in the caravan park said the area was well known for gold! Thinking about all the gold we were going to find, we headed up a smaller mountain with granite rocks which needed climbing, armed with a sieve and a small garden spade. About 20 minutes of furrucking we headed back to campsite empty handed. However the girls enjoyed the adventure and Audrey had no fear whereas Ava jumped at any slight movement on the way up, but on the way down she was saying that she loves adventure and getting dirty (they were both red with dirt).
When we got back the girls did some craft and Ava completed her journal for the day and then we were all ready for a meal of home made burgers washed down with wine from Mudgee. A 2014 Wild Oats Shiraz – not bad for the price we paid, but nothing to write home about.
With the weather being good this evening, we shall stay in the area for another night and explore Cameron’s Corner. Fingers crossed!!