Stories from the Great Southern Road Trip Part 2: A Sudden Change of Plans.

Ten days into my Great Southern Road Trip many a cliche is leaping into my head

  • The best laid schemes of mice and men
  • If anything can go wrong it will
  • If life gives you lemons make lemonade
  • Every cloud has a silver lining

There are no doubt many others that would fit my current (first world) predicament! After much procrastination and side stepping in the last months of 2020, I went ahead with my road trip to Coastal Victoria and Tasmania. All was going well. My tent-erecting  skills were improving and my detailed planning was reaping benefits.

Going to the races was not on the original plan but it was fun!

Everything was going smoothly.

And then….

And then the Premier of the State of Victoria declared an immediate snap five day lockdown due to increasing COVID numbers. EEEEEK what should I do?

I was very much enjoying the small town of Mallacoota which is just on the other side of the border, but I didn’t want to be stuck there for another 5 days! So I did what nearly everyone else in the caravan park did, I packed up in a hurry and hightailed it over the border before the midnight curfew.

Aslings Beach Eden, not on the original itinerary.

I cancelled all my upcoming accomodation in Victoria even those bookings beyond the proposed lifting of the lock down, because if there is nothing else we have learnt from the COVID pandemic, it’s that you need a Plan B, C and D! I didn’t want to risk getting into Tasmania.

I checked the Tasmanian border entry conditions and it seems that the best plan is to stay out of Victoria altogether. I am in a holding pattern, waiting to make a quick nonstop dash from the NSW border to the Port of Melbourne to catch the ferry to Tasmania. 

Jincumbilly: A unintended treat!

Lemonade aplenty. 

I have been able to make plenty of “lemonade” by staying in Eden and doing another long walk in Ben Boyd National Park, catching  up with friends in Berridale, doing the Main Range Loop Track walk in Kosciuszko National Park, and revisiting Braidwood. I have another couple of days to fill in and will drift back to the coast before making my way westward to Wagga. From here I will be able to drive directly to Melbourne on a single tank of petrol without needing to stop. 

Would not have done this either!

Off the bucket list.

In the scheme of things my inconvenience has been trivial. It’s not like I had to cancel my wedding like many Victorians were forced to do. My payments have all been refunded. The most disappointing cancellation has been the walk to Wilson’s Promontory to stay at the lighthouse. This was on my 60 for 60 list and now I won’t have the opportunity to do it before my birthday. I might have to extend the deadline!

The Next Big Adventure

I am planning another big adventure. Some of you may have followed my posts about planning a road trip around Scotland. It started with a very thorough (and fun) process of plotting out my activities, destinations and driving routes. I pre-booked my accommodation and ferry transfers. It finished with a BIG compendium of notes and information. 

Well, it’s time to plan another big adventure for 2021. This time I’m staying in Australia. I had already planned to do that before Corona hit. It was my intention to do some travelling around Victoria in conjunction with my upcoming 60th birthday celebrations.

Camera sitting on a map
I won’t need my passport this time

Freedom!

I have been lucky enough to work in a job that accrues Long Service Leave and have quite a bank of it stored up. I’ll be taking ten weeks off work and by adding on the long summer holiday and the autumn holidays, I don’t have to go to work for 18 weeks. Did you hear that folks, 18 weeks off work! Nearly 130 days! 

O thank you Unions! Blessed be the fruit of your hard work back in the 1970s!

So now the dilemma is what to do? I want to ensure I don’t run myself ragged and do too much opposed to not wanting to get to the end of the 18 weeks and think I have wasted my time. 

The big picture

To this end, I have started to plan, in less detail, my next big adventure. I have several things on my 60 before 60 list that will be included and some new ideas. There are lighthouses to see and a balloon ride to take. A real proper go at astrophotography if I can find a dark enough sky. 

At this stage, the overarching plan is to

  1. Stay at home for half the time and 
  2. Travel for half the time in two stints. A short getaway in January and a longer road trip in February and March.

In the stay-at-home period, I might paint the internal walls in my house and sort some of that domestic stuff. I would also like to make a more serious and sustained attempt to write some feature articles that will bring in some moula! The travelling-period, well that will be a road trip!

Where am I up to? So far I am collating my ideas. Throwing everything on the pile. Everything! Money, time and logistics are magical and unlimited. From here I’ll narrow it down and book what I have to and leave more up in the air than last time since if things go pear shaped, I’m not far from home. 

This might be a tad ambitious but I’m still thinking about it!

Impact of COVID19

Of course, it’s all complicated by the fact that not all the Australian borders are open due to COVID related travel restrictions. Do I just presume they will be open by next year and plan away? Or do I  plan a long extensive trip of my own state?  Do I create two plans? I had thought about a walking tour on the Overland Track in Tasmania. I’ll have to book that. But Tassie’s borders are still closed….

Ahh…. such tantalising first world problems to solve

Broken Hill Road Trip Part 2

This is the second post about my road trip to Broken Hill and covers part of the trek back east.


For much of the time as we drove through the Aussie Outback, I had the song by James Blundell and James Reyne looping through my head.

“way out west where the rain don’t fall, working for the company drilling for oil….”

The catch was that it was raining! The week before we headed out, the township of Broken Hill had actually flooded! (a flash flood!) Some of the unsealed roads remained closed and there was water lying in ditches by the roadside. As a result, things looked green and relatively lush. 

The wildflowers had bloomed and there were flashes of colour everywhere. Many of these “wild” flowers are in fact escaped garden flowers and technically feral weeds.  Nonetheless, there were fields of purple Paterson’s’ Curse, yellow daisies and mauve sweet asylum. The perfume and the buzz of bees made a heady mix for the senses. 

Following the Darling

After four days in Broken Hill and environs, our next stop was Cobar. Thankfully the roads were open and we were able to do some dirt driving. I bought my Suby just for this purpose! We took the scenic route, turning north-east at Wilcannia passing through Tilpa, Louth and Bourke before heading almost directly south into Cobar. A mere 677 km, 220 of it dirt.

Our route more or less hugged the Darling River. You could see it was well below its banks and the river red gums still desperate for a flooding to kick start their reproductive cycle. It’s very hard to imagine that towns like Menindee, Bourke, and Wilcannia had ‘ports’ with active paddle steamers moving wool, minerals and wheat to the South Australian coast in the 1880’s.

It was a  seasonal route even back then before wide-scale theft of water by large corporations in Queensland. (Yes! I’m talking about you, Cubbie Station!).  The river height obviously varies greatly with new bridges built very high and looking more like sky platforms than bridges. 

The terrain was flat and still dominated by saltbush and spinifex. There were emus but strangely, I didn’t see any live kangaroos. There were, however, large wedge tail eagles in abundance, both on the ground eating road kill, and soaring high above us. 

Wilcannia

Wilcannia is a small, but once grand town. The heritage-listed civic buildings indicate that it was a thriving place. Now it has a small, declining population of around 550, seventy five percent of which are indigenous Australians. The town’s welcome sign was not very welcoming. Since Aboriginal people are in a high-risk category for COVID19, the potential for a tragedy is high if visitors share their germs. One of the underlying themes of our road trip was to spend a little bit of money in each place we visited to help out, even in a small way, the local economy. Given we were not symptomatic, we decided that use of the public toilets, a cup of tea and cake were essential! 

Towns like Wilcannia have gotten a bad rap over the years as being unsafe, but I certainly felt welcomed and sitting by the river on a glorious spring day was well worth the stop. The locals were friendly and chatty. As I was lining up the shot of the Post Office, a fellow who was sitting in his ute waiting for his friend to post a letter. moved forward for me so I could get a clear shot! He reversed back when I was done and we exchanged a raised hand and a friendly smile.

Tilpa and Louth. 

These small villages fit into the “blink and you’ll miss it’ category. Tilpa, unless we missed the main part of town, had a tennis court and a pub. That’s it. The pub was very busy with many well-used 4WDs parked out the front and two large tables full of people ignoring social distancing rules. 

Friendly (?) locals at Louth

Bourke. 

We nearly didn’t go to Bourke. Taking the scenic route added 220 km of dirt road and 3 hours to the trip. The road had been closed and initially off the itinerary, but I’m glad we did. The town was bustling. Again filled with attractive heritage buildings from yesteryear. We had a very good pizza at the Port of Bourke Pub washed down with a (non-alcoholic) beer! In fact, I was very pleasantly surprised that most of these Western pubs had non-alcoholic beer available, you can’t always get it in Wollongong. (See my post about why I am avoiding alcohol for a year)

We walked down to the “port” on the river and watched some kids jumping into the water, enjoying their school holidays in an old fashioned style without a digital device in sight! An elegant old building being used as a guest house was up for sale. I could do that. For a while. Another adventure to add to the “after I win the lottery” list. 

Cobar

The last stretch of road from Bourke to Cobar was sealed all the way. The desert was replaced by woodland with eucalypts and small shrubs.   It was getting late, the sun was low and the spectre of bounding kangaroos crashing through the windscreen was a concern. Sadly, the only critters we saw were feral goats. I gave up counting. So many, too many.  

Cobar like Broken Hill is a mining town. It is also a haven for those who like old architecture. We stayed in a cabin at the caravan park, which was very good. Spacious and well set out with a good amenities block. We didn’t have time to see much as we arrived late. 

There was a dull but persistent humming in the background wherever you went in the town. At first, I thought it was the rumbling of trucks passing, but I think it may have been a ventilation fan or some other mining machinery. 

On to Orange.

The next morning the final destination for our road trip was Orange, the self-proclaimed foodie capital of NSW, and the topic of my next post. Once again taking the scenic route (read: the longest way around!) via Nyngan and the geographical centre of NSW. 


I acknowledge and pay respect to the traditional owners of the land we travelled through and thank them for allowing us to enjoy their beautiful places.