On to Coober Pedy (with a few stops on the way)

We left Port Augusta quite early for what was going to be a long drive. First stop was the town of Woomera where the famous rocket test range is, I can remember as boy in primary school reading about the exciting things they were doing in Woomera, they even launched a satellite from there. The history of Woomera is all around with many displays of rockets, missiles and jets in various historical parks around town.

Woomera Sign
The sign that greets you at Woomera, complete with missile launcher in case you’re unaware of what they do here
Meteor Jet
An old Meteor jet sits in the historic park
Rocket Park
Rocket park at Woomera, spent hours here looking at all of the displays.

When I finally got dragged away from Woomera we headed north, the most disappointing thing about travelling distances in South Australia was the lack of shade and rest rooms, a few bush excursions were required. We came across Lake Hart which is is a dried salt lake at the moment. Lea and I ventured down and had a look.

Lake Hart
The colours of the scenery were in stark contrast to the white of the salt on the lake. It seemed to go on forever.
Lake Hart track
A soft sand track leads away into the distance and an old burnt out wreck stands guard on the track.
Lake Hart
I found the white lake against the brilliant blue sky quite breathtaking.

Next stop Coober Pedy

Port Augusta – Resting up for the Centre

It was nice to have an easy day after the long drive from Menindee. Once we passed the quarantine inspection point in South Australia we saw some amazing country, the Flinders Ranges are spectacular.

South Australia Border
And into South Australia
Giant Red Gum
There was a sign that said “Giant Red Gum” so we turned the corner and had a look. Pretty Big, 500 years old, pretty amazing.
Giant Red Gum
We stood in front to give a size comparison.

Today was all about relaxing with no particular agenda. It was a good day for some laundry and shopping and general loafing around. We did head out for a look around in the afternoon had a fantastic time. It always pays to get away from the usual sights, you never know what you’ll discover. Tomorrow we head off to Coober Pedy.

Port Augusta Bridge
This is the Joy Baluch AM Bridge, it crosses Spencer’s Gulf and is probably the most iconic sight in Port Augusta
Old Barge
Before the bridges were built the only way across was on a barge, the remains of the last barge used lies decaying near the sight of the new bridge.
Metal Flags
I found these metal flags on the esplanade, I really liked the look of the and how each one represents an element of what makes Port Augusta tick
off road
We followed the gulf and went off road to do a bit of an explore…
We wandered onto the coastal plain for about 5 minutes when a flock of wild budgerigars took off right in front of us, it was amazing. I followed them and finally managed to get this shot.
Beach Shacks
This area is famous for beach shacks, some more elaborate than others

Camping on the Darling – Kinchega National Park

We wanted to visit the Menindee Lakes on this trip but sadly they have been completely dry for quite a few months now, that wasn’t going to stop us from pitching the tent on the Darling River though. The Menindee region is a pleasant 1 1/2 hour drive from Broken Hill, we seem to have arrived when the countryside was at it’s best with lots of wild flowers on the side of the road and green as far as you can see. Travelling this far west really gives you an idea of how large Australia is, totally flat in all directions so talk about big sky country.

We arrive at Menindee which is a sleepy little place and went straight to the information centre, had a good look around and bought myself a Menindee camo cap. With my newly established beard progressing well I look a bit like an extra on Duck Dynasty wearing it.

Camping at Kinchenga National park is really straight forward, there is a registration area on the entry track where you pay $7.00 per day for vehicle access and $5.00 per person per day for camping so our night on the Darling cost us $17.00 (Bargain!).

We found a fantastic campsite a picnic table and drop toilet down-wind (thankfully) we I set up cam then sat down with a glass of wine and soaked up the tranquillity then a rather large goanna walked by to say g’day.

We arrive at Kitchenga National Park
We arrive at Kitchenga National Park near the town of Menendee NSW
Campsite view
The view from our camp site, ahhh the serenity
The campsite all finished, the Coleman "Instant Up" tent is truly a simple set up and we parked the car next to the picnic table and extended it's awning over the table for a nice shady eating spot.
The camp site all finished, the Coleman “Instant Up” tent is truly a simple set up and we parked the car next to the picnic table and extended it’s awning over the table for a nice shady eating spot.
A friendly goanna walked by and said “hello”, I won’t mention what Lea said when she saw him ūüėČ
Night time at the camp
Dinner time. Jaffles, dairy milk chocolate and bug flavoured tea (don’t forget the insect repellent)
A glorious sunrise over the Darling River, no fish or yabbies caught but we had a great time. Next stop – Port Augusta SA

Day 6 – Broken Hill and Silverton

Washing day today before we ventured off!

First stop on today’s adventures was the Broken Hill Miner’s Memorial, perched on a hill amongst the mines in the centre of town. ¬†A very fitting tribute to all those who have lost their lives since the late 1800s in mining disasters and accidents, health issues (particularly lead poisoning), and complications from injuries. ¬†No such thing as workplace health and safety ‘back in the day’.

We then visited Jack Absolom’s Gallery, to be greeted by the man himself at the door. ¬†Quite an interesting old chap and his landscape artwork was truly inspiring and true to the places he has spent much time visiting. ¬†We even bought a small framed print to take home. ¬†Joe really loved having this opportunity to meet Jack, whose camp cooking recipes have provided much inspiration over the years.

Late morning we drove the 27km north west to historic Silverton, spending time in the very old cemetery and then heading into town to check out the collection of old buildings, dating back to the 1880s. ¬†One such building was the Silverton Pub…not to be passed by of course! ¬†We enjoyed one of their legendary hot dogs which was washed down by an icy cold beer. ¬†Then more historic buildings to peruse, a local museum with an extensive collection, the Mad Max Museum, then time for further refreshment in the form of a quandong icecream cone – absolutely delicious!

We then had about an hour to kill before heading further west chasing another magical outback sunset…so back to the pub!! ¬†Then west in the late afternoon, first to view the weir then to the Mundi Mundi lookout which looks over the vastness of the Mundi Mundi Plains to the west. ¬†Out came the camp table, chairs, nibbles and wine – yes, things are done in style in the outback setting. ¬†We were joined by a number of others who came to this spot like pilgrims on a mission, fantastic. ¬†We waited, and waited, sipped some wine, and waited some more before we were rewarded with the most amazing sunset I reckon I have seen. ¬†There we were witness to a palate of golden colours after the sun went down behind the curve of the earth in the distance. ¬†A very ‘WOW’ moment. ¬†Ah, the serenity…

Miner's Memorial
The Miner’s Memorial at Broken Hill, each white rose represents the loss of a miner’s life in Broken Hill area. Very sad and moving.
Some public art located near the miner’s memorial, I just had to try it.
Silverton Pub
The Silverton Pub, a must stop place.
Inside Silverton Pub
Inside the quirky Silverton Pub, the hot dogs were amazing
Mad Max 2 Museum
The Mad Max 2 Museum, a must for Max Max fans
Mad Max Museum
The last of the V8 interceptors ….
Mundi Mundi sunset
Waiting for the sunset at the Mundi Mundilookout

Mt Grenfell and Broken Hill

What a day! Lea and I are exhausted from a huge day in Broken Hill, what an interesting place with spectacular surrounds. We arrived yesterday after travelling from Bourke some 620 km with a 40km detour to Mt Grenfell (near  Cobar) so see some Aboriginal rock art, it was well worth visiting.

Ngiyampaa walkabout sign
Ngiyampaa walkabout, the track leading to the rock art and interesting rock formations.
Rock art
The ancient rock art was found beneath a ledge, the photo doesn’t do it justice, there are depictions of dancing, emus, kangaroos and hands. I wish there was a description detailing what was presented but very interesting just the same.
A lovely waterhole on the track, I just had to stop and take a photo.

Broken Hill awaits

Well it might seem weird but our first destination was the Broken Hill Cemetery, we’ve always found cemeteries as a great source of local history and the larger ones have tour maps pointing out the interesting residents. Broken Hill was no exception, we walked around this large cemetery for an hour and a half following the guide. We saw Pro Harts grave and many notable locals, so very interesting.

I’ll let the photos tell the rest of the story…

Pro Hart Gallery
Pro Hart’s Galler is a must do, some truly exceptional paintings and a interesting documentary tell the story of this great artist. We found it captivating.
Bell's Milk Bar 1
We heard about this authentic 1950s style milk bar and decided to investigate, wow talk about time warp, have a look at the next photo.
Bell's Cafe 2
This is the inside of Bell’s Milk Bar, straight from the set of Happy Days with the jukebox blasting out “Get a Job”. They serve really good coffee and lemon meringue pie.
Broken Hill Trades Hall
On to a walk around town, there is some beautiful old buildings like the old Trades Hall
Living Sculptures
Last activity was to see the living sculptures and sunset, pretty amazing to see a desert sunset amongst the sculptures.
No words needed for this beautiful sunset.

And on to Bourke

Nothing like listening to John Williamson on the road and hearing a song about a town you’ve just visited, this was the case with Lightning Ridge, gee Johno knows how to tell the tale and get it right. Well long drops (toilets) and rest areas are non existent between Walget and Bourke so we pulled over past a bridge over a billabong and tried our instant canteen set up, total success. The spot was a great photo opportunity…

Lunch spot
Our lunch spot with Lea hard at it getting lunch. Thanks to the drawers and the new spot for the table it was an easy process and we were talking to each other when we left ūüėČ
I loved the look of this tree (the model doesn’t look too bad either ūüôā
daisies at the billabong
I think we’re seeing this country at it’s best after the June and July rains, here’s some pretty daisies near the billabong we stopped at

We arrived at Bourke mid afternoon and found our digs at Kidman’s Camp, what a great place. If you stay here don’t miss Poetry on a Plate, a great meal around the camp fire and some wonderful poetry accompanied on guitar. Truly an awesome way to relax at the end of the day. Here are some pics of our stay in Bourke, tomorrow we travel to Broken Hill.

Kidman's Camp Cabins
Our Cabin and the setting sun, the sky was amazing
Darling River
The beautiful Darling River at Bourke, I spent quite a while looking at this scene.
Billabong at Kidman's Camp
Ah the serenity, a billabong at Kidman’s Camp
sunrise at Kidman's Camp
Sunrise from our cabin, bliss!
Back o Bourke exhibition Centre
The Back O’ Bourke Exhibition Centre has some interesting displays and history about the region.
Bourke Crown Land office
I loved the look of the old Crown Land Office
Yabbie trap prep
Getting the Yabbie traps ready whilst the security goose honks away at me
One lonely yabbie caught, a nice size but we let him go (lucky yabbie). We’ll try again at Menindee
Jandra river cruise
A river cruise on the Jandra was a relaxing way to end the day.

Home to Lightning Ridge

There is nothing like a road trip to clear your mind and re-charge the soul, day one saw us travel to Lightning Ridge on¬†Newell Highway, we haven’t travelled down the Newell since our 1996 family road trip with the kids, oh the sounds of “are we there yet”, “he hit me”and “I have to pee” are but a distant memory and we cruise down the highway taking it all in. We drove through some wonderful farming country ¬†and a very green Western NSW due to the recent rains. There is canola growing everywhere on the side of the road and quite few wild flowers. We noticed a lot of prickly pear cactus between Moree and Walden, it seems it’s becoming a pest again. We left at 5:30am and arrived around 4:30pm, ¬†rather than rambling on I’ll let the pictures tell the story (click the image to view a larger version):

Stanley the emu
Meet Stanley the emu, he overlooks the highway just before Lightning Ridge. This sculpture was created by John Murray and is made out of a VW Beetle and a couple of satellite dishes. Pretty neat.
Population sign Lightning Ridge
No one quite knows the population of Lightning Ridge, many people live in camps and aren’t recorded.
Black Opal Tours bus
Taking the Black Opal Tours bus, we were the only two on it Sunday morning, Dave gave us a great introduction to the town.
Fred Bodel's Camp
This is Fred Bodels camp at Nettleton just outside of the main town, this hut was built in in 1916 in the early days of mining. Fred Bodel lived here till he passed away aged 93. Apparently he did well from the mine but still lived a modest life.
This is an open cut at the top of Lunatic's Hill, it's called Lunatic's Hill because the strata that contains opal is at a constant depth around 30 meters, those that chose to mine at Lunatic's Hill had to add the height of the hill to their mine. It obviously didn't stop a group called 'The Lunatic's Hill Syndicate" who open cut the whole area.
This is an open cut at the top of Lunatic’s Hill, it’s called Lunatic’s Hill because the strata that contains opal is at a constant depth around 30 meters, those that chose to mine at Lunatic’s Hill had to add the height of the hill to their mine. It obviously didn’t stop a group called ‘The Lunatic’s Hill Syndicate” who open cut the whole area.
Lunatic Hill Spare Parts, lots of old vehicles strewn around this paddock
Opal cleaning centre
When enough rock is extracted from the mine it is taken to be cleaned at an operation like this. A concrete agitator is used to remove clay from the opal with copious amounts of water. The cleaned ore is the sorted, we were told that around 25% of opal is lost in this process. (I love taking photos of big machines)
Cooper Cottage
This is Cooper Cottage on the main street of Lightning Ridge.

Nearly ready – one more sleep

Our Mitsi
Our Chariot – a Mitsubishi Challenger 2.5L TDI.

One more day to go and it’s time to pack the wagon. Our test run to Mount Isa taught us a lot on what to and not to take plus, how to set the back up for convenience. ¬†We always stopped to make lunch when we were travelling, the Waeco CFX 40 fridge is was great keeping everything cool and fresh but our plates, cutlery and every thing else we needed were in stackable plastic crates that required the back to get unpacked every time we needed something. What a pain in the A$%e.

This time we purchased some cheap plastic drawers that can hold the FUEs (Frequently Used Essentials) and are easy to open leaving everything in place. If they only last one trip they’ll be worth it. I still have one stackable crate for camping gear which we’ll only need to set up camp and the rest of the camping gear is up on the roof rack inside a waterproof rack bag. We’ll only need to get at this when we stop to camp¬†which is only 2 times and the rest we’ll stay in cabin parks.

Packing up
Packing nearly done, you can see the drawer unit on the left and the Waeco fridge on the right.

Just have to load the clothes and we’re ready – Early night for a 5:30 am departure to Lightning Ridge.

A new beginning for the old blog!

Joe and Lea at Porcupine Gorge
Joe and Lea at Porcupine Gorge – July 2015
Trip map
Our route during September – 2015

Welcome to the new rubio.id.au blog! The original blogsite was our way of journaling our travels around Australia, I made my last post in 2009 when I started using Facebook to share our adventures.

Lea and I are about to embark on a 1 month Journey for our home in the Moreton Region travelling through Western NSW, South Australia, the Northern Territory then via Mt Isa and Townsville back home. It’s an exciting trip and I felt I should do more than post some pics on FB.

So here’s the new blog, it’s not just for this trip but other odds and ends that might prove interesting. So come and join us on our travels, projects and odds and ends. We welcome your comments and feedback, ¬†Let the adventures begin!