Clearly not many people had their fingers crossed….After writing last nights blog and retiring for the night to more kindle reading (a very early birthday present from Caroline – which has restored my interest in reading), I didn’t get the chance to share with you the amazing storm that hit Tibooburra! Supersonic winds, a fantastic light show and the odd spot of rain. Caroline and I hunched over the table in the van last night watching the lightning whilst making plans of whether we would brave Cameron’s Corner. In the end we decided we would make a call early morning. If the roads were open and the weather was good, we would give it a try. If not, we would spend another night in Tibooburra.
We woke quite early this morning, around 6am. To give the girls some space from each other I took Audrey out to peruse the road situation followed by an early morning scooter ride in her pyjamas. I bet the people of Tibooburra have never seen such a spectacular sight. Audrey in her orange and white short short p’jays and yellow and white striped singlet re-enacting a flamingo styled scooter session. One foot firmly planted on the scooter, the other confidently held perpendicular to head height after each push. This little girl makes me laugh all the time!
Audrey and I returned to disturb Caroline and Ava’s story time of “Are we there yet?”. Despite the roads being declared “open”, I advised Caroline that I was not so sure that we should make the trip out to Cameron’s Corner. After one minute of firmly holding my ground for not doing the trip, I agreed with Caroline that we should give it a try :).
We quickly ate breakfast, secured the van and packed the car. We were off.
If I recall correctly, the turn off to Cameron’s corner stated the journey would be 138kms. After starting the journey on bitumen (and recalling what the locals said about the trip taking over two hours), I thought to myself; at my current speed of over 100kms per hour, I should have this trip done in around one and a half hours. Easy!
The initial confidence-boosting bitumen ended after approximately 2kms and we hit unsealed roads, similar to what Caroline experienced the previous day. The rain from the previous night once again caused the red earth to expand and emulsify. Red earth filled the grooves of the car, which quickly resulted in the mud guards and wheel arches also filling in thick red mud. At this early stage in our trip, I recalculated our journey time to be approximately 4 hours and started looking at how much fuel was in the tank. Enough I think, but my reservations in the trip to Cameron’s Corner once again began to rise.
Approximately 30 minutes into our journey we encountered another animal to add to our collection. A magnificent Wedge Tail Eagle with an approximate wingspan of 2 metres! At this stage Caroline asked the girls what had been their favourite animals we had seen so far. Audrey – the stinku Bongo, Ava – the baby elephant. “Daddy. What is your favourite?” ‘Monkey I said”. Ava replied “you only like monkeys because they are cheeky like you – just like when you bought the worlds largest chocolate bar and didn’t share any with me…” ‘Seriously, this girls memory is amazing.
Shortly after spotting this beautiful bird (I am guessing 30kms in) we were greeted by large pool of water that completely blocked the road. Caroline and I thought it was time to turn around. We gave it a shot and were beaten by the elements. Whilst sitting in front of the pool of water, a 4WD tore up the shoulder of the road closest to me and drove straight through the water obstacle. Caroline and I both looked at each other and thought – we can’t do this! Not wanting to be beaten by a little bit of water, Caroline got out of the car and started walking to the obstacle – looking to see if there was an alternative path we could take. Not having the UHF in hand, she left the rest of us to watch her walking along side of the bank of the water, pacing around to determine whether we could proceed.
Within moments, the girls and I noticed the same 4WD was heading back in our direction. The driver, a lovely chap called Ben who lived and worked in Alice Springs and who looked like a seasoned 4WD’er had returned to see if we were ok. Caroline worked her charm and we formed a convoy (of two vehicles). I immediately felt more comfortable with the roads ahead. We synchronised UHF channels with Ben – we had a chance of making it!
Sitting about 50 meters behind Ben, I tried my best to follow his route, keeping our tyres in a similar line to his path. Mud was flinging everywhere and I tried my best to look confident while the car slid from side to side (I did have the three most important ladies in my life in the car with me)! We shortly approached water obstacle number two. Like before Ben drove straight through, ‘water off a ducks back’. He radioed us and said “go straight through, don’t hit the sides, they are too soft and you will be stuck”. I accelerated, held the wheel and drove through. Success! Water flew everywhere and Ava complained that her window was now ‘dirty’!
We continued our journey, unsealed road followed by bitumen – I had started to feel more comfortable (but advised Caroline that if Ben was not around it would have been stupid to complete the trek by ourselves). After 1.5 hours we approached water obstacle number 3. Ben blurred something over the UHF. We pulled up to his vehicle and looked in awe at the sea (yes sea) that was in front of us. Now I am not sure of the dimensions of the water formation, but it was as wide as it was long. Ben, Caroline and I stood at the side of the bank trying to ascertain where the other side of the road was. None of us could determine the right approach to take. At this stage I said it was time to pull back. Support Ben if he wanted to cross, however as he put it, “no one makes a 1km snatch strap. Time to turn around!”
For Ben, this obstacle meant a 600km delay to his trip back to Alice. He commented that he would have to let his boss know he would be late for work on Monday. For us, I was still happy that Ben would be our escort back to Tibooburra. Hurrah!
We started heading back, feeling more confident again that we had a guide to assist in our journey. After ten minutes, we saw our first car coming our way. Ben flagged them down and advised them to turn around (it turned out they were one of our neighbours at the Tibooburra Caravan Park). They continued on to have a look at the lake, whilst we continued on our journey. Another five minutes passed and another 4WD was stopped by Ben. This time it was a local ranger whom was coming to erect a sign to advise of some of the road dangers (which I may add we had already crossed!). After a brief conversation with our new formed friend, he was advised there was an alternative route he could take to cross the lake, river – whatever you want to call the vast stretch of water. We shook hands, thanked him for his support and wished him all the best on his journey north.
We continued back on the ‘road’ to Tibooburra. Feeling more comfortable this time, I chose not to take the safe route through the remaining obstacles. Head first! I loved it! Each time we traversed an obstacle, I let out a triumphant roar. The road would not take us today!
We returned back to camp around 11am. With Audrey asleep in the car we packed the van, hitched up and decided we would make the journey to Menindee. This meant that in total we would have driven 610kms from 8.30am arriving in Menindee at 6pm. On this leg of the journey I lost two dollars to Ava and one dollar to Audrey for the animal spotting (emu – or the ‘bushy bot’ as the girls affectionately call – the biggest money payer for the girls) – a great way of keeping the girls entertained whilst on a long journey. Credit to our little girls. Once again the girls had been fantastic. So patient being stuck in the car for so long!
Similar routine as previous nights, however this evening we decided to give the girls a special treat of being up later than usual. The girls ate mouthfuls of dinner whilst chasing each other around the vast open grass areas around our van, went down beautifully without a whisper and Caroline and I commenced our evening routine of blog writing and photo editing before hitting the kindle again. Tomorrow is a day and night with no driving. Time devoted just to the girls!
- A special note of thanks to ‘Ben from Alice Springs’. A real gentleman whom generously gave up his own time to help a stranger out. It’s a pity we don’t help strangers out more often. I hope to follow Ben’s lead once again and help strangers out when they are in need.