I love spur of the moment travels. I was having a conversation with Richard’s cousin Catie recently and we talked about how good it would be to see Menindee Lake now that it is full of water. We were at Menindee last in July 2020 and only two of the lakes had any water in them. Menindee Lake, the largest of the system, was bone dry and had been that way for 7 years. Since last year lots of rain has fallen in the catchment and Menindee Lake is full once more. What a sight that must be!
So that short conversation became a plan and here I sit in the Motorhome at MacCullochs Rest Area on the Barrier Highway about 45km from Wilcannia. It is still early morning but the Apostle Birds are up and about tapping on our shiny hub caps (I think they see their reflection) and the big rigs have started going past. Catie & Robert are parked up next to us in their new van probably still asleep. There was a little herd of wild goats grazing only 10 metres from our camp.
This journey began on Friday afternoon when we left home in Griffith NSW and headed west towards Hillston on the Lachlan River. We found a great little camp spot just 36km north of Hillston at Willanthry. Here the Highway crosses a concrete bridge over the Lachlan River. The river was very full and running very fast. All that water will eventually end up at the Mouth of the Murray in South Australia. The Lachlan River runs into the Murrumbidgee River between Maude and Balranald and the Murrumbidgee runs into the Murray near Boundary Bend in Victoria.
The Rest Area at Willanthry is a lovely spot right next to the river. There is a large paved flat area with picnic tables and rubbish bins. We were able to park right next to the river. We were the only campers on our side of the river however there were two others on the opposite bank. Although the Rest Area is right beside the road there was little road noise during the night and we had a peaceful sleep.
There has been a bridge across the Lachlan at Willanthry since the late 1800’s. The first was a timber beam toll bridge that stood where the current concrete bridge now stands. The second bridge was a timber truss bridge built in 1885 and became known as Coopers Bridge. There was a toll of threepence a wheel and threepence a horse to cross Coopers Bridge. A second Coopers Bridge was built in 1921 and it was again a timber truss bridge. The new concrete bridge was built in 1998. You can see the ramparts of the last of the timber bridges just near the Rest Area however all the timber was dismantled. A DVD recording of the demolition of this historically significant bridge is kept at the Library in Hillston.
Willanthry was once a thriving little town first settled in 1854. There was a hotel, a store, post office and a few private dwellings. A school first opened in 1933 and finally closed in 1972. The hotel burnt down before 1900 but the old store stood until it was relocated to the coast in the 1990’s. There might not be any buildings left but it is a lovely spot for a camp beside the river.
We met up with Catie and Robert at Newey Reserve in Cobar. We’d been there before and it is a lovely spot for a lunch break with flat spots to park so you can see the water in the reservoir. Newey Reserve is full of huge old pepper trees that make for inviting shady spots to pull up. We’d just finished our lunch and a chat with some fellow motorhomers when Catie and Robert arrived. They brought their lunch over and we all sat in our RV to discuss our plan for the afternoon. We decided to continue on towards Wilcannia. Our friends Andy and Jenny are already in Broken Hill and plan to head out to Menindee and find a good spot for our three RV’s alongside Lake Pamamaroo.
Once we left Cobar I was on a road I’ve never been on before. I’ve been to Cobar many times and also to Broken Hill however I’ve never been on the Barrier Highway from Cobar via Wilcannia to Broken Hill. Our plan was to get to Wilcannia, fill up with fuel and check on the state of the two gravel roads that travel on either side of the Darling River to Menindee to determine which one we will take. I’m expecting that to be a slow trip for us in the motorhome.
We pulled up for the night at MacCullochs Rest Area near Wilcannia. This is a large rest stop popular with big rigs and there is even Telstra Service. The rest area has a children’s playground, pit toilets and even a book exchange in an old red refrigerator.
We had not long set up camp when a couple of escort vehicles and a police car with their lights all flashing arrived followed by a huge truck towing a long low loader. Robert and Richard went off to chat to the driver to learn more about the amazing rig. They found out lots of information from the driver. The low loader alone was worth $1.4million. It had 8 rows of wheels with 8 tyres in each row. The first set of 4 wheels and the last two rows of wheels steered. The low loader could carry 240 tonne. The load on top was a giant mining truck minus its wheels and its tray. Just that part of the truck weighed 60 Tonnes.
There were two of these massive rigs travelling in convoy. They were taking the trucks from Adani Mine in Queensland all the way to Adelaide where the massive vehicles will be refurbished. The loads were so wide they took up the entire width of the road. Of course there were many escort vehicles that travel in front and behind with flashing lights. I wonder how they get though towns? They had been travelling for 10 hours and had come 600kms from Cunnamulla in Queensland that day. The logistics were staggering.
The driver of the first one to pull up at the Rest Area was quickly out of his truck and checking the tyres and the load. He climbed up onto the low loader and then up onto the truck to remove some branches they’d collected from trees along the side of the road. The load was so tall it had knocked off quite a few large branches and he tossed over the side.
Once the entire convoy had assembled they set up a camp and cooked their dinner. We assume they all slept in their vehicles. It really was quite a sight to see.
It was really windy when we pulled in and set up camp at MacCullochs Rest Area however the wind died down enough so we could enjoy a small campfire and a good chat before retiring for the night.