Sunday 13 June (No internet)
Having applied for our permit to enter South Australia on Friday and it did not come through by the end of the day, we decided that we would give it until 12:00 on Saturday. Also, because it was dated for the previous day, we thought we should lodge a new one for entry on Saturday. We also thought it would be a good idea to contact their help line to understand the timing of an approval being given. Apparently, every single ‘pass through’ application from Victoria is reviewed by a panel and, with 6000 on the waiting list, we were told it could take 3 – 5 days! With time not on our side, we had no option to resort to our plan B. This took us east (away from where we need to be), and north into Queensland.
We packed up and left Tibooburra at midday to set out along the 222 km gravel road to Wanaaring. At the junction of the bitumen and the gravel, we pulled over to reduce the tyre pressures in the wagon and trailer. All was going well for our first attempt at this, until we got to the first trailer tyre. When I removed the tyre deflator, the valve popped out. There was no option but to change the tyre (accompanied by some colourful language from yours truly). However, with the help of my very able assistant we successfully completed the task and got on our way without further incident.
Because of the lost time with the tyres, probably about an hour, it was about 5 o’clock by the time we crossed the border into Queensland at Hungerford. We set up camp in a small campsite that seemed to have been taken over by bikers, although none were to be seen. We took the advantage of the last 30 minutes of daylight to wander to the main street. On passing the hotel I had a sudden desire for a beer, so in we went.
The Hungeford Hotel
The Hungerford Hotel is run by a husband and wife team, but unfortunately the wife had broken an ankle and was unable to work. This meant that hubbie was barman, cook and waiter. When we entered, we were greeted by a couple of blokes who we thought were locals but turned out to be two of the bikers (with the others eating in the restaurant and drinking outside). Anyway, they were helping out the landlord by serving us, but not really knowing prices etc, so payment was due when the landlord returned from the kitchen.
Chatting with them we discovered that they were a group that meet once a year from all corners of Australia (except, of course, Victoria this year) for a weekend. When they returned to the campsite they got a fire going and sat round having a yarn. Fortunately, they dispersed by the time we were going to bed.
Once again, part of our evening was spent planning our next stage of the journey, but did manage a game of Scrabble.
We had decided to push ourselves with a couple of days of long drives to try to make up for lost time, but even with doing so, it looks like we will miss out on out visit to the Bungle Bungles.
We set our first target as Windorah, a distance of 605 km, for Sunday night and the second as Boulia, a further 600 km and leaving only 300 km to Mount Isa.
This first leg took us through Thargomindah and Quilpie. Although mostly on gravel roads, it was a relatively easy drive due to the lack of other traffic. Around lunchtime, we were looking for a suitable stopping place and found a very new picnic area (it looked like the tar had only been laid in the past couple of days) at Baldy Top Lookout, just south of Quilpy. We managed to get some exercise climbing to the top for some magnificent views across the landscape.
We intended to stay at the caravan park in Windorah, but as we approached the town we passed a Rest Area (a free camp with toilets), turned round and set up camp there. Although right next to the road, it was a very peaceful spot with the various other travellers well spread out. This was my first real opportunity to photograph the milky way since leaving – clear skies and no light pollution.
After a very cold night we set off early on the next long drive to Boulia – this included a stretch of 400km with nothing in between.
Internet access at last
Having passed the tropic of Capricorn, the weather seems to have improved – I am sitting outside at 9 o’clock in the evening still wearing shorts. The campsite here is really comfortable – great showers and plenty of animals including two camels over the back fence, a pet kangaroo and a couple of cats.
We are looking forward to a much more leisurely drive tomorrow before we head across the border to NT (border permit already in hand).
Friday: Broken Hill to Tibooburra – 335 km
Saturday: Tibooburra to Hungeford – 334 km
Sunday: Hungeford to Windorah – 605 km
Monday: Windorah to Boulia – 600 km
Not being able to cross the border at Tibooburra has meant us clocking up an extra 350 km and an extra day.