Bush Trip 2012

Sea Wolves Dive Club Bush Trip August 2012

Broken Hill – Menindee Lakes – Tibooburra – Mt Freeling Station – Parachilna Gorge


Saturday 11 August (day 1)

Whilst Tumbles & Sue (in the Green Machine 2WD campervan) and Al & Val had already left earlier, Hook & Forrest, Wolf & Rudy and Fingers & Dicko rendezvoused at the usual place (Caltex Bolivar) 8:00am and headed off to Hallet and the Dare’s Hill Drive.

Al & Val had stayed overnight nearby and met up a few kilometres from Sir Hubert Wilkins’ boyhood home (he’s the cinematographer, explorer, ornithologist, pilot, soldier – Military Photographer who won the Military Cross & Bar – , and geographer, who tried to take the first “Nautilus” submarine under the ice-cap to the North Pole!) According to Val the homestead was just as cold as the Arctic, so he must have been already acclimatized.

Then on via a great little drive (historic ruins, a home-built Shooters’ whoopie and Al’s favourite, the Blacksmith’s Gate) to Terowie and North towards Broken Hill. A bad head-on smash near Yunta needed a small diversion and we got into the Hill Tourist Park in the late afternoon. (Here we discovered that the Grey Nomads impose a 8:30 pm curfew so any Club “do” was limited to the Muso’s Club – with Tumbles & Sue and later, Fitz & Fielke catching up: some intrepid venturers rocked on into the night but the curfew prevented a planned “all-nighter”.

Sunday (day 2) we had a leisurely start for the 100-odd kms along the bitumen to Kinchega Station near Menindee Lakes. Excellent accommodation at the “Shearers Quarters” (better than some Motels), where National Parks had laid on a heap of great firewood, ready for our debriefing, session which ran on into the night. Many happy campers vowed to return here to better enjoy the facilities and the Lakes and the historic setting (once the biggest sheep station in the Colony, with a shearers shed and old ruins worth taking a look at). Fitz & Fielke and the Odd Couple (Thommo and Brutus) joined us later in the day.

Monday (Day 3): Back via Broken Hill (after a look at the “Regulator” which holds back the Darling and allows SA’s Murray River a thin trickle of green slime) for the long run north, to Corner Country. Now we really discovered how odd the Odd Couple really were. Icecreams at Packsaddle and a quick stop at Milparincka for a look in the Courthouse Museum. They still have not found a new lessee for the Pub, so a quiet ale had to wait. Thommo’s set of Heinz 57 tyres provided a bit of a let-down, but he was soon back on the road to Tibooburra. Here, the National Parks won’t let you have a campfire, but we’d brought some of Kinchega’s excellent firewood and camped in the Lands Council excellent campsite (showers, toilets and a big shelter, with tables and seats). Unfortunately we had to skip the goldfield ruins in Dead Horse Gully, but most enjoyed a great meal at the Family Hotel (as Wolf & Rudy about the Rib-eye steaks), as we admired the Clifton Pugh paintings on the walls.

Tuesday (day 4) On via Cameron Corner and the Strzelecki Track to Mt Freeling. A quick look at Montecollina Bore (where we have previously enjoyed many a hot spa under the Milky Way) and across “the Cobbler” sand hummocks to Mt Hopeless, where the more intrepid took a left for Moolawatana and the hard way into Mt Freeling, whilst Hook & Forrest and Fingers & Dicko accompanied the Green Machine along the Strzelecki to “The Nob”, for the main track into the Station. The Station got rid of the sheep a couple of years ago (since our last visit( and now has re-stocked with cattle: much easier to manage in this country!

It turns out that the main track is the main track for a reason: we arrived before sunset to greet Paicey and Josh (with their bikes and Josh’s 2WD Ute) and Mike & Sarah (who had been delayed in Adelaide by the wrong part being sent for their 4WD). By the time the others arrived, we were esconced around the campfire with Dinner a’bubbling away. However, when everyone arrived, we found that every room in the place had to be used (who said they’d camp but took a room instead?). (More about this later.)

Wednesday (day 5) after Thommo’s Tyres displayed the speed and efficiency of a Formula 1 team, replacing another tyre (the morning after the big race), we hit the track for Yudnamuttna Mine. (The Women’s Team had a “lay day”, letting the boys have all the fun.) As Scott had advised us, the track was in a pretty bad state since the heavy rains earlier in the year (60” rainfall over the past 4 years). OK as far as the old Slate Mine (Wolf’s mouth watering non-stop, here) and the most scenic crapper in the State, but from there to Tindalpina Hut was a slow crawl. A few of us had the ticker for a Hill-Climb which led to a fantastic little valley and a tiny abandoned gold mine, where we had lunch. The others, led by “I don’t have a map, so I’ll go on ahead” Davies, set forth for the Hut, and before the rest of us arrived, launched forth into the great unknown. We sent Paicey & Josh out to look after them, but he lost contact for a while, whilst “I don’t have a map” led the others on further.

(By the way, Colin gets a funny look on his face when he can’t keep up with Josh)

Well, Paicey & Josh got to the mine turn-off without sight of the explorers: they were kilometres off to the East, with only poor radio contact. Finally they all back-tracked to the Hut and headed back to the Station. A long hard day, followed by a long hard night around the campfire. We had discovered that the Women’s Team had found a stray, Francesco the Italian Stallion, who was walking from Cape Jervis to Mount Hopeless (where he intended to purchase more supplies before hitch-hiking back to Adelaide). I tried to explain that there was no shop at Mt Hopeless, also tried to explain why it was called that and that there wasn’t any traffic to hitch a ride with. But he knew better.

None-the-less we fed him (3 full meals) and watered him (various bottles of wine) and he set off at 6:30 am next morning, for Moolawatana and Mt Hopeless.

Thursday (day 6): for some, the Exodus, with Fitz & Fielke, and Al & Val departing for places south whilst the rest of us headed east,  via the Italian Stallion, to Mt Fitton Homestead and then south to the University Yellow-Footed Rock Wallaby Aerie (or Eyrie, for you Yank-spellers).

Anyone’d think you all had never seen a Sturt Desert Pea before! (Well, actually, the whole desert was still in bloom, form the rains several n-months ago.)  Tumbles and the rest of the Flower Club were in heaven!

The creek crossing (rock descent) appeared daunting at first, but all (except Wolf) found it easy with a guide out front. Even the Pommy “new-Chums” found it a breeze. Wolf made it down the  rocks but upon digging 2 trenches in the creek bed, was horrified to hear the Hook was coming to the rescue, so he managed to launch Rudy into orbit in his desperation to escape before help (in the form of a Nissan Patrol) arrived.

Then the climb to the Aerie: Paicey and Josh went ahead and confirmed it was far rougher then last time, as the “track” (slightly more rutted than the rest of the mountain but with huge potholes for added traction and to fall into if you lost control) was badly eroded. Hot work, Paicey!!
However, we all made it up, for the most spectacular view within the ranges, with a several-hundred metre vertical drop to the creek beds below. Then the descent! We had no hope of continuing on, as Scott had warned us the track only got worse, so it was back to the creek (again, the imposing climb out of the creek bed turned out to be easy, with a guide) and back home for the night.

Along the way, we again encountered the Italian Stallion, already out of water (after crossing several waterholes and not bothering to fill up) and dehydrated from all our wine, he expressed puzzlement that there were “not many villages along the track”. However, he “borrowed” a litre or two of water, refused an offer of an additional 3 litres, because “its too heavy” and continued on his way to Mt Fitton Homestead (abandoned) where, we reckon, he thought the owner’s vestal daughters would ply him with food and wine and other temptations. We surmised he expected to catch a bus or train from Mt Hopeless for an easy ride home.) As I said, he must’ve known better than us.

However, back to our trip. Colin and Josh headed back South, to catch up with Fitz & Fielke, and Brutus finally found the courage to come out of the Closet. He had been holed up in the small closet off the Kitchen, but now got a chance to spread his wings in a vacated room, just like a butterfly coming out of its cocoon!  It was still a bit confusing for us all, as Thommo kept on complaining late into the evening about Brutus’s failure to provide him with the promised Porking, but later, when it finally happened, Thommo pronounced it was the best he had ever had! (The rest of us made do with beef or chicken or lamb…..)

Friday (day 7): Departure from the Station for points south. (Fingers and Brutus want to thank everyone for sweeping out their rooms and cleaning the kitchen.) We headed back to the Strzelecki and on to Lyndhurst, with the only event being Hook’s proof that nails+tyre+kph = side-wall-less tyre. We caught up with Tumbles et al at Talc Alf’s where Mike & Sarah were so fascinated with his Manifesto that they could not drag themselves away. Then refuel, air-up the tyres and down to the Coal-field (a big hole) , the Eyrie (not Miley)  Bucyrus, Copley (Meat Pies) and on to Parachilna Pub (with its traditional Aboriginal Art in Acrylic on Belgian linen) before finding a great little campsite in Parachilna Gorge.

After we activated our own dragline (tree-trunk recovery) then the Sea Wolves timber-mill & Forrest crew “located” some additional timber (tree+whoopee+dragline+snatch-strap=firewood) we had ourselves a campfire. (This was kindly supplemented later by some young blokes who were grateful when we “old farts” said “go for it” to their request to harvest their own firewood. (Seemed like a couple of incipient Sea Wolves, there: “Have chainsaw; will Party”!)

Saturday (day 8) Then, next morning, most left for home, with Mike & Sarah and Tumbles & Sue electing to enjoy another day in the Ranges.

Learnings:           Val + Driza-bone = still cold (except when Francesco turned up)
Al + big Fuel tank = “I can go anywhere from here”
Wolf + Slate        = wistful tears
Rudy + airbed    = “Can’t be bothered: I’ll sleep on these here rocks”
Tumbles + Feet on dashboard over corrugations = “I think it will hold together”
Sue + Echidnas = “I don’t want to leave (but where’s the next smooth road?)”
Forrest = “Pit-Stop Pete”
Dave-o + Camper = “Why rough it??!”
Mike & Sarah = “I think it (the whoopee) can, I think it can – Oh, that was easy”
Josh (looking over shoulder) = “Where’s Dad?”
Paicey (looking everywhere but over his shoulder) = “Where’s Josh?”
Fitz = “Been there, done that”
Fielke = “What’s a Bedroll?”
Brutus knows everything.            Oh, except pushing in the little button on the side of
the tyre-gauge, between readings
Thommo on radio: “Hey everybody, Brutus just admitted he was wrong!”
Fingers & Dicko: (q)         “Should we tell Scott (the Station Manager) to look out for
the Italian Stallion?”
(a)         “Nah, Stuff him!” (I’ll let you all work out who said which)
Francesco            = idiot (or “Look for me where the eagles are circling”)

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