Last year we did long term travelling leaving home for three months at a time but circumstances have changed and this year we are looking for short getaways to hideaways within a comfortable distance
How we picked going away in to a heat wave is above suspicion. We gave it a scant glance as this week was the only one totally free in an otherwise busy calendar. I was insistent that I wanted to try out my old Nissan Patrol GQ lovingly known as The Datto, with the condition that if it did not work out we would come home and hitch up to the Isuzu MUX again as this our regular tow vehicle
And so this happened. We were travelling well until we started negotiating the Oodlawirra Hills in the middle of the day heading towards Broken Hill in New South Wales, when the temperature guage started rising. Now we have owned Nissans for some years and we jokingly say that they do not like hills. Once out of the hills however the temperature guage still reached up towards the ‘H’ and I decided to turn back 60kilometres out from home. Now, we had a full compliment of fruit and vegetables on board and to save an argument and aggro at the Fruit Fly Gate at Oodlawirra, we took a by-pass dirt road back home.
The Datto was bedded back in its own garage, the MUX hitched up, gear and tools changed over, and off we went for a second time. Driving with the sun to our back it was a pleasant drive east. Jude wanted to do some shopping in Broken Hill and as it was now Sunday afternoon late, we decided to camp at our usual spot at the old Mingary Railyards.
This camp is only about 300 metres off the highway but traffic noise is faint and after nine o’clock at night, the traffic slows right up so that we could get a good nights sleep. Of course a game was necessary with Blaise and she chased the ball in the low scrub losing it at times. We sat in the shade of the van until the sun went down and after a bite to eat and we went to bed.
After shopping for various goods including much needed beer and wine at the Wooworths Complex in Broken Hill, we set off towards Menindee Lakes. Jude took the wheel for around 100 kilometres to get in some practise and I took over again at the lakes. We scouted around and found shaded place to park the van only ten metres from the water’s edge with a bit of manoeuvering around trees.
It was a hot day and we spent some time sitting in the water of the main Menindee Lake. We passed the time reading books and in the very late afternoon a game with Blaise was insisted upon. Our small battery operated radio comes in to play when we are travelling ans we listen to various stations of ABC Radio.
During the night it did not cool down much either. Luckily we have an electric fan which I connected to our 240 volt inverter and we were able to get a good nights rest with cool air blowing over us. With the weather forecast advising all and sundry that we were now in for a number of days of extreme heat we decided that we should travel during the day, find a caravan park and have the luxury of airconditioning in both vehicles. And that is what we did.
Menindee Community Township is a neat little place with a number of houses, shops and a pub. We did a drive a round but there was nothing of interest for us and we moved on.
The road south started off with a speckled bitumen appearance which seemed that cracks in the road surface had been filled each and every day. The bitumen ran out at the council boundary and from there on it was gravel to Pooncarie and beyond. We stopped at the Post Office at Pooncarie and made enquiries about a mates children who live there and with the right information we caught up with Emma and Tony for a cuppa and a natter.
From Pooncarie the countryside flattens out along the reached of the river and a wide expanse of wheat fields are seen along the way. Mallee Trees and River Gums line the friges of the fields the last remnants after land clearing.
The gravel road was quite good and I sat on about 70kmh and before long we had arrived in Wentworth and booked in to the Willow Bend Caravan Park and were given a site right by the Darling River. The next four days were either spent driving around in the morning to visit eating houses or merchants of quaint attire (Pet Stuff), sitting in the river till our fingers crinkled or spending time hiding in the caravan. The van’s air-conditioning was our saviour and we kept it running 24 hours per day. The area where we were camped experienced two days of 45C and two days of 46C with a minimum temperature of 30C at night.
Come Saturday and we got away early, having hooked up the night before when it was cooler. We took the Perry Hills Road north and west of Wentworth towards Renmark. The first 24km was sealed, then there was good gravel road for 98km and thereafter 3o km of corrugations. Close to Renmark we came across the Calpernum Mallee Supersite on the side of the road. The Calperum Mallee Supersite has established and reinforced research infrastructure that can measure and monitor the condition of a nationally iconic region. It is linked to the Australian Supersite.
We caught up with our friends Glenn and Sadie in Berri. Blaise was invited into the house and disgraced herself. Never done that before. Glenn was very forgiving. After leaving Berri we swung in to our favourite Fruit and Veg stall on the Sturt Highway and stocked up on goodies for the next week. We bypassed the need to cross the river again by backtracking towards Monash and then taking the top road to Morgan.
After home made pies for lunch and other refreshments from the Morgan Bakery we were heading home along the straight run to Burra. Jude took over the wheel here as I was feeling sleepy. Near the Burra Hills we remarked that the rain forecast looked thin on the ground as there were only one or two clouds about but by the time we had crossed the range the clouds were more plentiful and the closer we came to home the clouds took on a rain bearing appearance. By this time I had taken over the wheel again and it was only a few kilometres north of Mt Bryan when I saw a Road Train approaching in the distance.
Then on the bend this Toyota Ute overtakes the Road Train.
200 metres…we are both doing over 90…….decisions must be made and fast
Luckily there was a wide entrance to a farm house on my left…I braked hard and then left the road. I had a tail as well and I could hear his tyres squeal
Whoosh and the whole moving mass passed us safely
Physically drained by our adrenalin rush, we steadied the wheel and made for home. Once I had the van parked in its usual spot, we left the rig hooked up and ducked inside to the air-conditioning as the temperature was still a steady 42C. Unhitching could wait until later when it was cooler.