Crossing the Nile

I’m writing this from the comfort of the Birdsville Bakery, having a coffee and a curried camel pie so any hopefully any suspense should now be removed from the story!

I left Bondi at 1930 on Monday evening with 2,000km of driving ahead of me. I went through the Sydney Harbour Tunnel and up the M2 towards Bells Line of Road and the Northern edges of the Blue Mountains. It was dark and raining heavily which made travel slow through the winding Blue Mountains roads over Mt Tomah and down into a very cold and dreary looking Lithgow. It was 6C outside. There was nothing really eventful in this section of the journey and I decided to call it a day at 0015hrs when I reached the little town of Goolma, 75km east of Dubbo. I slept in the back of my van parked on a grass verge just off the main road.  I must have slept well because I didn’t stir until 0730. I jumped up, made a cheese and ham wrap with the food in the esky and hit the road to Dubbo around 0800. I passed the turning for Western Plains Zoo and made a note to bring the girls here sometime this year. The road to Bourke from Dubbo is almost perfectly straight for nearly 400km. Not very exciting but I had some good tunes on ;o) and the sun was shining. With all the rain there was quite a bit of wildlife around and I saw two foxes running along the edge of the road.  I pushed straight through Bourke…It looked very tired and run down with boarded up hotels. I’m sure it’s not all like that but wasn’t inviting enough to stop.

A familiar sight on the roads out here.

The next leg would take me across the Queensland boarder and up to Cunnamulla where we’d stopped and camped the previous year. Again a lengthy trip of about 260km or 2 and half hours but benign of adventure.

Open Roads…

We took the Charleville Road last year but I could already tell from the land here that the rains had changed the landscape from a rugged, dry red clay/sand to a lush and beautiful looking bushland with red soil and bright green shrubs. I took the Eulo Toompine Road out of Eulo and headed for the Quilpie Thargomindah Road that would take me to the Toompine Pub about 70km south of Quilpie. I was about 5km from the pub when I hit my first roo. It made a big thud on the front of the van and then no movement…I narrowly missed a second before I got to the pub….no van damage thankfully. I arrived there just as the sun was setting. It looked beautiful with the sun going down and was a hive of activity with the Historic Land Rover Society pitching camp after a days drive out Toompine.

The Eulo Road

I parked up and went in to talk to the landlord about the road ahead…It was getting dark, I was on my own and the phone signal is very patchy out there. After about 5 mins the guy behind the bar returned with “Dogger”, the landlord. He confirmed that the council had just instructed him to close the road because the Bulloo River was in flood about 35km North towards Quilpie…between me and Windorah…but someone had just come through an hour earlier and he suspected it was dropping although running strong.

I decided to go and have a look thinking that I was going to sleep in the van again anyway and I’m not drinking until after the race so what difference did it make whether it was at the Toompine Pub or parked south of the river waiting for an opportunity to cross. I drove around the big “Road Closed” sign that spread across the road and drove out on a well made sealed road with apprehension but also thinking this road is pretty good…how bad can it be??!

Well by now it was pitch back and I was a good 40km along the road from Toompine and help. I got to the edge of a fully-flowing river about 2o meters wide with a road somewhere under it…Now understood why the road was closed ;o( I checked my phone and had no signal. The flood gauge was just too far to see the depth of the river so I put full beam on the van and got the binoculars out of my bag…0.2m.ish. Just 20cm of water…I can drive across that….but what if the back wheels don’t get traction and I get washed off the road?? I backed up the road a bit and the phone pinged..Signal back. I phoned Jenna again and we had a broken text and voice conversation where I explained it was like crossing the Nile…at the worst part…crocs, hippos and everything. She told me to wait while she phoned a friend.

While I was waiting for her to come back to me, some lights approached from behind. A young local guy in his yute wound down the window and I explained what I was doing…he said “don’t worry…she’s low. Follow me.” And over we went….it was awesome, water going everywhere and no sign of being washed away…or hippos! It turned out there was 2 channels to cross but it was great fun…I even thought about going back so that I could do it again but that would have to be another time.

The road’s under there somewhere

I drove the last 30km or so in the dark looking out for more kangaroos but fortunately they didn’t seem as adventurous as the last ones. After all the excitement and Bear-style antics, I decided to pull up in Quilpie, have some food and climb into my sleeping bag in the van for the second night…..I was really enjoying this solo travel stuff I think.

The final day was about 625km from Quilpie to Birdsville via Windorah where we stayed and had the “fuel incident” last year. Again I slept well, filled up with fuel (Diesel) in Quilpie and set off around 0800. It’s only a couple of hours to Windorah and with all the rain, there was an usually high amount of wildlife around. I saw goats, horses, cattle, Bustards, Emu, Kites, beautiful huge Eagles, lots of roos and even a pair of Brolgas wading in the pools by the side of the road.

Windorah Solar Station

Unusually green road to Birdsville

Water across the road to Birdsville

The last 300 or so kms is along gravel roads which challenged the 2wd van in a couple of spots with deep grooves from all the 4wds or deep mud pools across the road but all was good and only tested the traction control on the van twice with a bit of drifting…seemed to work fine. I arrived around 1430 and headed straight to the famous Birdsville Bakery for a curried camel pie and a coffee. A great way to finish off the long drive to Birdsville.

…Next up gear check and weighing in…eeek!

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