Brrr what a freezing cold night. Thank goodness for diesel heaters! Flannelette sheets and the microfibre blanket helped to keep us snug and warm overnight.
After breakfast we set off for the final leg of our journey. I’d updated our trip stats page and, wow, we’d done nearly 8,000 km on this trip. This had been the longest and the most number of days we’d been on a trip in our motorhome since we bought it way back in 2016.
Since we retired in 2020 we have been fortunate to have done three long trips, one exploring northern NSW for 6 weeks, another following the Murray River from Albury to the mouth of the Murray at Goolwa in SA. That took us 4 weeks and now this latest trip at just under 8 weeks. It has made such a difference to our travel now we don’t have a deadline to be back at work. The trip really does becomes a meander. If we like a place we can stay, if we feel we’ve seen everything in that place we can move on.
As we drove further south on the Newell Highway we reflected on the last 8 amazing weeks. We had left our home in Griffith, NSW on 16th June and traveled northwards though the NSW outback towns of Hillston, Cobar and Bourke. We had a tyre valve fixed and visited friends in Cobar. In Bourke we visited the Back O’ Bourke Exhibition, Fred Hollows Grave at the historic Bourke Cemetery, the historic weir, the wharf precinct, and the Back O’Bourke Gallery.
We crossed the border into Queensland on 19th June and visited the town of Cunnamulla where we saw the statue of the Cunnamulla Fella and visited the Visitors Centre & Museum. Next stop was Charleville where we spent a busy couple of days visiting the Historic House Museum, the Visitors Centre, the Royal Flying Doctor Service Visitor Centre, The Cosmos Observatory, did a guided tour of Hotel Corones, and did a tag along tour of the Secret WWII base. While in Charleville we stayed in a CMCA RV park for the first time and thoroughly enjoyed that experience.
Then it was on to Tambo where we visited the famous Tambo Teddies store and Blackall where we visited the historic Blackall Wool Scour and saw the sculpture of legendary shearer Jack Howe.
Before we got to Barcaldine we discovered one of our favourite camp spots at Lara Wetlands. What a fabulous spot and one I’m sure we will go back to. It was one of those places that just appealed to us. We went in for just one night and stayed for two.
Then we traveled further outback to Longreach. It was here that we first realised how crazy it was in Australia with so many people traveling in their RV’s. People couldn’t travel overseas so we think they’d decided to see Australia instead. RV’s of every description. We saw camper trailers, rooftop campers, caravans of all sizes, camper vans, motorhomes and even a few 5th wheelers. Longreach was inundated with travellers. To make matters worse it was raining and so the low-cost RV park at Apex Park alongside the Thomson River was just a sea of mud. The two caravan parks in Longreach were full to bursting and people were camping in the council caravan car parking spaces. It was here that we ‘stealth camped’ in the carpark of the Qantas Founders Museum. That was an experience to remember. Our motorhome looked so tiny parked under the wing of a giant 747.
There was lots to do in Longreach however and we visited the Qantas Founders Museum, the Longreach School of the Air, and the Stockmans Hall of Fame. It was in Longreach that our dear friends, Kevin & Sally caught up to us and we got to camp with them out at the RV park once it had dried out after the rain.
Continuing on we arrived in Winton where we visited the Waltzing Matilda Centre, toured the Australian Age of Dinosaurs and Lark Quarry to see the dinosaur footprints.
The excitement of going to the Big Red Bash in Birdsville was building when we left Winton and headed west towards Boulia. We camped with Kevin & Sally at the Middleton Hotel in the middle of nowhere and enjoyed a cold beer at the old pub.
Sadly the next day Kevin & Sally got their third puncture on their car and as they no longer had any spare tyres they made the decision to return to Winton. This was a sad time as it meant they would probably miss going to the Big Red Bash and we’d planned it for so long.
We continued on through Boulia and Bedourie and finally arrived at Birdsville on 2 July. It had taken just over 2 weeks to get there. It was here that we met up with the rest of our group of 14 that would be going to the Big Red Bash. We camped on the Birdsville Common for a couple of nights and it was great to catch up with everyone’s travels and how they’d got to Birdsville. Those couple of days were spent in preparation for our week out at ‘Bashville’. The challenge is that you have to take all your own water and make it last for the week and there is no dump point out there.
I remember being quite excited on the morning of our rollout AND our gas bottle ran out in the middle of the night! That meant we had to be up very early to get to the roadhouse and get in the queue to get it refilled. What a nuisance!
The others waited for us where the tar ended and the gravel road commenced and it was a convoy of 7 that made it to Bashville on Sunday 4 July. We had all bought 2 day Early Entry tickets. The next week was spent enjoying the great company of our friends, sitting around the campfire, enjoying the fabulous music, exploring the Simpson Desert and generally having the most fabulous time. Highlights of that week have to be listening to Paul Kelly play his set, the helicopter ride over the desert and the dust! OMG the dust! It got into everything! The motorhome had never been so dirty. Surprisingly we managed our water usage really well and still had water left over at the end of the week AND we both had showers every day (they were pretty quick ones). Also we didn’t have to use our second toilet cassette. We both used the BRB composting loos during the day and only used the motorhome loo at night. this meant we only had one full cassette after a whole week of camping!
Going to the Big Red Bash was another big tick off our bucket list.
Following the BRB we were off to Boodjamulla National Park but first we had to travel northwards to Boulia and Mt Isa, Cloncurry, Bourke & Wills Roadhouse and Gregory Downs. We had a couple of days in an awful caravan park in Mt Isa. It was awful because the sites were so small and we were crammed in like sardines in a tin. Our site was so small that we couldn’t even put out our awning! However a couple of days there enabled us to give the motorhome a good clean and do multiple loads of washing. It felt so good to get rid of the dust.
A highlight of our visit to Mt Isa was doing the Hard Times Mine Tour with our dear friends Mandie & Pete.
Camping alongside the gorgeous Gregory River was another highlight. We even had a swim! The water was cold and very fast flowing but it was crystal clear and it really is a little oasis down on the riverbank.
We spent the next few days camping at Adel’s Grove and visiting Boodjamulla National Park. Here we caught up with cousins Robert & Catie, Mandie & Pete, Brian & Helen and the two Judy’s (longtime friends of Catie’s). Paddling both the lower and upper gorges with Catie and Mandie & Pete was a highlight of our stay at this remote, incredibly beautiful location. Sadly we had to say farewell to Mandie & Pete as they needed to head for home to return to work and farewell to Robert & Catie and Brian & Helen as they were continuing northwards to the gulf. We’d had a great time together.
We really put our motorhome to the test by taking it to Birdsville and Boodjamulla NP. The road to Birdsville via Boulia and Bedourie was mostly tar but there was still some 50-60km of rough gravel road. Brian assured me that it was really a good gravel road but not in a motorhome with rigid truck suspension! The road to Adels Grove was much worse. It took us 3 1/2 hours to go 90km. We let the tyres down to 50psi and just had to go very slowly over the worst of corrugations. I was really impressed with how well the motorhome handled the rough roads. Nothing fell off in spite of the shaking!
The trip to home from Adels Grove (almost on the border with the Northern Territory) took us nearly three weeks. It’s a very long way from the gulf country of Queensland to the Riverina in NSW. Our route home included Julia Creek, Richmond and Hughenden, Winton and Longreach and another 3 night stay at Lara Wetlands. I think I’ve said it before, we love that place. On our way home we found that Richard’s cousins Ross & Jenny were also in Queensland and we arranged to catch up with them at Lara where we had a lovely few days relaxing and catching up.
Next it was on to Emerald then down to Carnarvon Gorge. There we stayed at the Takarakka Bush Retreat for 3 nights while we explored the gorge and did a walk each day. We both really enjoyed our stay in that lovely spot. A highlight there was doing a helicopter ride over the unexplored and remote Moolyamber Gorge. I wonder what treasures are to be found down there one day?
Then it was on to Roma, Dirranbandi, crossing the border at the tiny town of Hebel and back into NSW. Lightning Ridge, Walgett, Dubbo and Forbes and finally home again. 50 days and 8,051kms traveled. So many wonderful memories to cherish.
Like all of our trips though, the best part is coming home to our beautiful family. It was so good to see my 85 year old mum, our three children, their partners and our seven amazing grandchildren. Oh we miss them so when we are away. FaceTime is great but nothing compares to the reality of being hugged by those gorgeous little people. It’s safe to say they were very glad to see us too.
Now to clean the motorhome, get a new windscreen because we got hit by a stone and it has caused a big crack, do some minor repairs and get her ready for the next meander. I wonder where that will be?