We left home in the afternoon on this sunny March day and cruised down to Morgan on the Murray River. Crossed over the river on the ferry and by 6 pm Uncle Milton and I were all set up at our camp at Hogwash Bend. This particular spot is popular with all Murray River campers but this evening we had it all to ourselves as it was midweek. A very pleasant evening passed, with tree frogs croaking and pelicans swimming close by, no doubt looking for the odd food scraps. We went for a dip in the river waters which was very cold at first, but then warmed up the longer one sat in the water. We were still on fire restrictions and so we had to do without a fire and cook with gas.
The next morning we tried to make an early start but got away from camp at 8.15 which is deemed late. We called in at Monash and had a cuppa with a friend before going on to Berri where we met up with another friend at his house and had another cuppa tea and a sticky bun. Then we moved on to Renmark where we bought fruit and veggies and a film. On the Mildura road just past the fruit fly quarantine gate Milton saw a packet of apples lying by the side of the road. We did a U-ey to pick them up. They were still fresh in their Woollies bag.
We took the bush track to the right of and on the South Australian/Victorian Border and set off for the first 60 kilometres. The track winds in and out of the border and there are some big dunes in the Mallee scrub. Their texture is quite hard. Eventually Old Rosie, the Nissan patrol, started struggling in the sand and we had to drop the tyre pressures to 18psi to get over a very high dune. We then became slightly lost some times and had to fire up the computer to check our bearings with the map and the GPS. It was a very hot afternoon and we found a clearing in the bush near some farmland at 4.30pm. Set up camp and refueled. I had a tub, washed my clothes had a relax and cooked tea early. The flies drove us nuts until sundown. A cool breeze sprang up after 8.30pm. We managed to get to bed at about 10.30pm. Just after midnight I changed position in my bed and activated the car horn. This woke Milton up who came running out of his tent looking for a fire that may have started. The rest of the night passed with out any incident. A strange looking bird flew over our campsite a number of times in the dark.
I rose at around 6.30 am and woke Milton with “Wakey. Wakey. Rise and shine”!!! Not sure if he was amused. We tried to beat the flies this morning but they were too smart for us.
It was an eventful day with lots of sand driving and a number of very high dunes gave us trouble. One dune took 5 attempts and we got right to the top but not over. So we resorted to some bush driving and found a track at a lower height and got over. It was a hard day’s drive with lots of ruts and small holes which made us bounce a lot. At one stage we drove over the side of dunes which had been blown over to the east from where the farmers had cultivated their lands. The more land that was cleared the more the dune seemed to grow. Eventually we ran out of the dune country and then followed the track south until we ran out of road. At one stage the track was very overgrown and we had to winch a fallen tree off the track. We eventually found ourselves in a farmer’s paddock as the border track had disappeared. We took a farm road to the west and made our way through farm tracks and paddocks until we found a major road. We then found our way to the small hamlet of Wolseley where we had a wash and filled out water containers and then on to Serviceton where we got further border directions from the small PO Store. We also bought a few things. The directions given were good up to point but then we started to run in to farm paddocks again and eventually found a hidden track which we thought looked promising. Once over a small dune we saw a sign, Little Desert National Park, and set off along that track through the Mallee scrub. The track we were looking for did not eventuate but when we found a clearing along the track which we were following and it was time to camp, right in the middle of the track.
After breaking camp in the morning I started the laptop, GPS and Moving Map software and drove down Blackboy track for a short distance until we came across East West Track and then went in that easterly direction. There were lots of detours and deviations with tracks running everywhere. Most were sandy tracks and we were restricted to third gear High Range. Had lunch at Broughtons picnic site. It is very well set up with large log tables and BBQ’s. After lunch we drove down the Mt Turner track for a few kilometres and in the middle of nowhere was a small hill about 10 metres high. I made a phone call to Jude from there as my Mobile Phone showed a low signal. The conversation was interrupted by Marsh Flies which were biting like mad. Then we drove down Macdonald Highway (sand track) and the inverter blew up, a diode melted and smoke poured from the glove box. We disconnected everything and continued on our way. Met one solitary vehicle and had a chat. By the time we got to McCabes Track we had had enough of bouncing and made for the bitumen. Drove to the Caravan Park at Dimboola and decided to stay for the night. Then we met up with some internet friends who were on an Outing of friends.
The following morning we went for a drive down the Horseshoe and Ankle Bends and along the Wimmera River and had lunch. After lunch we met up with some of the crowd and followed them for a while but doubled back when they went where we had been before. We made for the Caravan Park again after deciding to stay another night and pushing off in the morning for Big Desert.
A cold wind sprang up in the evening and it wasn’t long before we were all rugged up. There was much hilarity through the evening with conversations covering a myriad of subjects.
We broke camp the next morning at about 10am. Some of the others went off for a days drive to the Border Track which I thought would be too much for one day, forgetting of course that I am about twice their age.
We had an easy run up to Big Billy Bore campground and stopped to look at various places of interest along the way. Set up camp and later played with Rosie repairing the bushings in the shock absorbers. Then some locals from Murrayville dropped by for a chat and gave us a beer each.
Up early the next morning and had a hearty breakfast of tomatoes and bacon and packed up camp before the flies arrived. We took the track out to Cactus Bore, Coburns Track and then along Ngallo South road to the Mallee Highway. We crossed over and followed various tracks up to Settlement Road in the Murray Sunset National Park and then whilst looking for another track ended up back at the Border Track. This we followed up to the Sturt Highway and had a spot of lunch at the picnic tables. Then back along the Border Track heading north. Here the track is an easy run in two wheel drive. Just short of the Murray River the road diverts to the left and then north again to the Old Customs House. We watched the houseboats go by and stretched our legs and then went off to Renmark to refuel and buy some fruit for home. At Waikerie we had a look at an old FJ55 Landcruiser in a car yard and then pushed on to Hogwash Bend for a camp. Found a nice spot there right on the rivers edge but it was threatening to rain. Ate the last of our fresh foods and washed that down with a few glasses of port. Got to sleep at about 10pm and then it rained!
Tuesday morning and we were up early before sunrise. Milton pulled a muscle in his back whilst packing up his tent and I fed him some pain killers. Then Rosie would not start. After elimination I found that the points were burnt almost to beyond recognition. We replaced the points and soon we were on our way home.
We arrived home just on 1pm and after driving around all the small towns and hamlets we had passed through along the way looking in back yards for old cars and possible parts.
A good and safe trip.