Some River caching …

By the time I had woken up, Garry was busy doing caravan park stuff and Deb was at work in town.
 
Today was a geocaching day around Mildura. The weather was very changeable, depending on where I was. On the western side it was warm and no wind while on the eastern side was windy and wet.
 
At the end of the day, I headed out with Garry and Deb for an Chinese meal at Andy’s Kitchen in town. I had the seafood special and boy did it clear the sinuses and bring on a sweat. We finished off the night with some night geocaching with a couple of moments dodging kangaroos.
 
Diesel @ Mildura $1.529 per litre
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Time to get some warm weather …

Having been back home for just over a month and only at work for a couple of weeks due to my knee injury and surgery, I was getting itchy feet again for travel. The cold weather didn’t convince me that staying home was an option.
 
I had originally booked a week of Long Service Leave to go with the High Range 4WD Club to Googs Track on the West Coast. But the plan was to change. I booked another tour of Long Service Leave that gave me 20 days off and decided to head northeast to warmer climes and attend the Queensland Outback Geocaching Muster in Barcaldine.
 
Rachael returned home from the US yesterday, so managed a quick catchup and finished my last night shift this morning, then it was time to hit the road.
 
There was a short diversion to The Bend Motorsport Park to check out what we are going to do at the Adelaide Rally in November. It was cold and windy so was looking forward to some warmer weather in a few days time.
 
Heading towards Loxton, the temperatures were rising with 21C by the time I got to the border. The skies became very dark and the temperature dropping 10C with heavy rainfall for the next 100 kilometres.
 
By the time I arrived at Mildura, the rain had stopped and the temperature had risen to 18C even though it was 7pm.
 
Checked into the Apex Riverbend Caravan Park, dining in Garry and Deb’s cabin, before hitting the hay for some well deserved sleep.
 
Diesel @ Loxton $1.559 per litre
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No wind today …

It was too early to head home, and with the wind long gone, we headed through the Southern Flinders to the Clare Valley. My knee was still pretty sore and I wasnt up for a lot of walking but we still did a little bit of it.
 
The weather was certainly a lot colder now than what we were used to. The jackets and ugg boots were on. There was even a campfire at the Clare Discovery Park.
 
Tomorrow will be our last day on the road.
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It’s bloody windy …

After being buffeted all night, the wind was still blowing. We packed up and drove the 3 kilometres to Augusta Caravan & Campers on three wheels, to get the repairs done.
 
Bridgestone were across the road so that was the new tyre sorted.
 
While the van was repaired, a geocaching mate called in and took me caching.
 
After a couple of hours the van was all fixed but the wind was still blowing, so we decided to stay in Port Augusta at the Discovery Park and hope the wind abated tomorrow.
 
Jenny spent the afternoon reading in the van while I headed out geocaching.
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What are the chances of that …

After going through some plans, I had decided on strapping up the axle with the missing wheel and driving on 3 wheels into Marree to see if we could get repairs done there. I also dropped the water from the tanks to lighten the load.
 
We headed over to the Mungerannie Hotel to say farewell to Phil. As we were chatting a empty semi trailer arrived. The driver got out and he was wearing a Caravan Repairs shirt on.
 
I quizzed him about whether he could repair the van. Peter said he owned the Augusta Caravan & Campers and could do it back there. I then asked whether he could take the van on his truck and he asked whether I could reverse it onto the back.
 
Peter had dropped off some gear at a nearby station and only called into the Pub to drop off his business cards that he forgot to do yesterday.
 
There was a cattle ramp nearby and with only 5cm on each side between the wheels and the edge of the semi tray, I soon had the van reversed on. It was then chained and we were soon heading down the Track towards Port Augusta.
 
It was an eight hour drive to Port Augusta with a stop at Hawker to measure the height of the semi with the caravan on the back. There was a railway bridge in the Pichi Richi Gorge area with a clearance of 4.8 metres. No problems, we measured in at 4.5 metres.
 
We had a moment just before the bridge where we nearly took out a kangaroo but apart from that we were soon in the freight yard of Clift Freight Service unloading the caravan.
 
Peter allowed us to camp overnight in the yard then take the van to the Repair Yard in the morning. It was blowing a gale. There were no showers tonight as I had drained the water this morning.
 
 
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Bring on the Birdsville Track …

Today started out OK with us bidding farewell to Frank and Helen as we left Birdsville and headed down the Birdsville Track
 
Given the amount of traffic that had been up and down the Track for the Big Red Bash, the first 200 kilometres was pretty good. Most of the time I was sitting on 80kph having to slow down to around 20kph in spots particularly in the creek crossings.
 
With 100 kilometres to go to the Mungerannie Hotel, I got a call on the CB from a car parked at a road junction. He told us that we probably had a flat tyre on the caravan. We pulled up to check it out. We were at Blood Creek.
 
Sure enough, we had shredded a tyre but due to the road noise on the deteriorating Track, never heard it blow. 
It didnt take long to change the wheel with the assistance of our CB mate, grab a geocache at the location then head on our way.
 
To check if the tyres were going down, I would do a wiggle every 10 kilometres and check the tyres in the mirrors.
30 kilometres out from Mungerannie Hotel, on one of the wiggles, I only counted 3 wheels on the caravan. On no, I have lost a wheel. And it was the spare one we had put on 70 kilometres back.
 
We dropped the caravan and headed back to see if we could find the wheel. Luckily I spotted it in the low bush about 2 kilometres back. We managed to find 2 wheel nuts as well.
 
Back at the van and 2 of the studs were broken off as well. After putting the wheel back on and grabbing a couple of nuts off the other wheels, we were back on the road with 4 out of the 6 nuts on.
 
I stopped every kilometre initially to check the tightness and each time the nuts were loose again. It was about 20 kilometres before the nuts remained tight.
 
Finally we made it to Mungerannie Hotel to find that we now only had 2 studs holding the wheel on.
 
After setting up, we had a meal and a few beers with Mungerannie Phil. There was not a lot he could do for us as he didnt have a tyre to suit our wheel or any studs either.
 
I decided to sleep on it and work out a plan in the morning.
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Tick Big Red off the list …

This morning we checked out the Birdsville Visitor Centre, just a short walk from the caravan park. They had an interesting film on the people of the Diamantina.
 
We made sure that we were not too late for the Birdsville Bakery today grabbing a curried camel and satay chicken pie. I am not sure but the camel sure tasted like beef 🙂 .
 
It was then time to catch up with Frank and Helen and head out to Big Red to enjoy the sunset. Frank had been told that the road out to Big Red was rough and to be careful. Apart from a 100 metre section, this road was the best we have been on so far and even had a 5km sealed section in the middle.
 
Arriving at Big Red, I was somewhat underwhelmed. I was expecting a sand dune a lot bigger and higher. Even the track up didnt even look like it needed 4WD to get up. There were already a number of 4WD’s on top so we took some time to lower our tyre pressures to 20psi while they came down.
 
I headed up first to see what it would be like as Frank was not a huge 4WDer. The track was fairly firm apart from a bend near the top but overall it was an easy climb. I walked back to the track to talk Frank up but he had already started, unfortunately I could tell that he was in low range which would not get him past the soft section. As he reversed back, I got him on the radio and told him to use high range and use a bit of momentum. All good this time up.
 
As I returned to the car, it was a matter of dodging the 4WD’s coming up the western side of the dune and at some point I must have twisted my knee as I would find out in the morning.
 
There was plenty of action with 4WD’s making their way up the western slope but around 430pm they all disappeared and it looked like we were to have the dune to ourselves for sunset.
 
As we approached sunset, enjoying nibbles and beverages, two car came to join us but that was all.
The sunset was spectacular and we grabbed plenty of photos.
 
The drive back to town was in darkness and we called it a night once back in town.
 
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Tick the Birdsville Pub off the list …

Another warm day, with the flies warming up as well. We had a bit of cleaning to do. 
 
Yesterday while travelling on the dirt sections, the vent in the shower opened up and sucked all of the dust we were making into the van or at least it seemed like it.
 
Included in that was a lot of washing as everything inside was covered in dust. We headed into the Birdsville Caravan Park where there was water, power and washing machines.
 
Most of the day was spent getting rid of dust. By 3pm, we thought it was time for some lunch so headed over to the Birdsville Bakery to find it closed at 230pm.
 
Oh well, a quick tour of the town checking out the artesian bore and cooling ponds before calling in on Frank and Helen (the three wheeled caravan) to see how they were getting on.
 
Their home for the next few weeks is in their caravan in the Birdsville Roadhouse yard. We ended up doing happy hour with them before heading to the Birdsville Hotel for dinner.
 
The pub was still suffering from the Big Red Bash with no white wine or lemonade but plenty of beer. The meals were good, particularly the Barrimundi we had.
 
We got kicked out of the Dining Room at 10pm, they wanted to clean it so after buying the obligatory stubbie holder we headed back to the caravan.
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Another corner off the list …

Well we had some very changing road conditions in our travel today. It started with 2 lane bitumen then to single lane bitumen to wide gravel road.
 
Even the gravel road was changing with good gravel surface to bull dust to white powder and some sections of heavy corrugated road. Every now and then they would put a section of bitumen in as a “overtaking opportunity” or an “Emergency Airstrip”.
 
The first 200kms through to Haddon Corner was not too bad with bitumen for 3/4 of the distance then the Innamincka Road having been recently graded with little traffic on it.
 
The last kilometre into Haddon Corner involved a couple of sand dune crossings. I could have unhooked the caravan but what would have been the fun in that.
 
The first dune had a solid surface going up but on the down side it was very soft. That was no worries as there was a second return track to the north that was a lot less steep.
 
The second dune was not as large as the first and again had a firm surface going up but very soft going down. There was no second track coming back on this dune. Thus should be fun coming back.
 
At Haddon Corner there is the obligatory signs, visitor book and point post. This is the northeast corner of the State of South Australia. 
 
It was now time to conquer the dunes. First attempt on the western dune was a flop. Thats OK, reverse back and give it some more momentum. Second attempt all good and over we went.
 
The eastern dune wasn’t even a challenge with the northern track and soon we were on our way to Betoota.
 
A short distance from Betoota is Deon’s Lookout with views from a tabletop over the surrounding countryside. There was even another section of bitumen but this soon ended heading into Betoota.
 
The sign for Betoota says it all, “Population 0”. It is a ghost town however the Betoota Hotel is being resurrected in time for the Betoota Races at the end of August. 
 
However for us today it was a pub with no beer. We were going to camp here but decided to do the last 170kms into Birdsville.
 
This was probably some of the worst road with a lot of corrugations. In fact 35kms from Birdsville there was a caravan with only 3 wheels.
 
It was Frank and Helen from Griffith, NSW. We stopped to see if they were alright and all was good, just waiting for a tow truck, so we continued on.
 
Arriving into Birdsville just before sunset, we crossed the Diamantina River and I looked right and recognised a caravan on the banks of the River.
 
It was our friends from Western Australia, David and Deanne. They have been in Birdsville for a month, working the Big Red Bash.
 
We pulled up and camped the night with them along the banks of the Diamantina River and enjoyed a campfire.
 
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Anyone for chicken …

Another clear skied day in Western Queensland and only a few hours to get to our next destination, Windorah.
 
Once again the caravan park was virtually empty when we left. We are getting used to that.
 
The road west to Windorah was predominantly single lane bitumen which takes for a special sort of driving. Unfortunately most of those still returning from the Big Red Bash don’t seem to have that skill.
 
Most of the drivers heading east seemed to think that it is either a physical challenge or a big game of chicken.
There were many times I had to take evasive action to avoid getting hit.
 
How did I know they were Big Red Bashers. They had it written over their windscreen.
 
When we arrived at Windorah, we spoke to the Visitor Centre staff and they said that it has been like this for the last 2 weeks.
 
They have been just getting off the road when they see traffic coming when coming to work.
 
Windorah is on the Cooper Creek and even with the rain that occurred a couple of months ago, the creek is looking fairly empty.
 
I guess most of it has made its way down to Lake Eyre.
 
We took the town tour and the nature drive to check out the sights of the area. It didnt take too long to see it all.
After-all the population is only 80.
 
Hopefully most of the Bashers are now further east from us and we wont have traffic issues again.
 
Tomorrows destination is Haddons Corner. This will be the second corner visited. We have done Camerons Corner already.
 
Diesel was $1.17 in Windorah.
 
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