15/12/15 We’d intended returning home to Redcliffe in March for a month or so to catch up with everyone, but decided instead recently to be back for Christmas after almost eight months travelling.
From McLaren Vale, we drove north to Peterborough via the M2 Expressway that took us through the heart of Adelaide. It seemed to be the most direct route and I expected it to be like Brisbane where expressways from south, north or west take you quickly across the city. But the M2 soon changed from a fast multi-lane expressway to a clogged dual lane urban road with lots of traffic lights and lots of city traffic that slowed us to a stop-start crawl. I’d commented previously on the poor state of the country roads in South Australia, and we now found that the ones in Adelaide are very ordinary as well. I came to call them “Hallelujah Roads” because I kept saying “Jesus Christ!!” as I drove along. I’ve come to really appreciate the good roads we have in Queensland after spending time in South Australia.
From the overnight stop at Peterborough, we travelled the next morning 300kms north-east on the Barrier Highway to Silverton, just out from Broken Hill. I wanted to see the Mad Max Museum but, as things go, it was closed the afternoon we arrived. We had lunch at the rustic Silverton Pub and looked around the ruins and standing buildings of the old mining town before setting up for the night at Penrose Park on the edge of town. We’d driven all that day through light drizzly rain and the rig was mucky brown where the diesel exhaust had stuck to the wet van and car. So, after setting up camp, we got stuck in to washing them down to a squeaky clean result.
Another early start the following day had us heading to Broken Hill for fuel and then east, still on the Barrier Highway, through Wilcannia to a free camp at Meadow Glen Rest Area, 50kms west of Cobar. It was a large bush area set back from the highway with a shady cover of pine trees. We were the only ones there apart from a few goats and a young forlorn looking black mickey bull in need of company, who stayed nearby all night.
The country we’d come through in the last two days was low and flat, with very sparse vegetation and, apart from lots and lots of feral goats on the side of the road or family groups of emus crossing from one side to the other, there wasn’t much of interest, so we had the music and podcasts cranked up.
On the plus side, the roads in north-west New South Wales were now so much better than those we came across in South Australia, and travelling became much more relaxed and a little quicker.
Native Australian fauna doesn’t mix well with moving motor vehicles. Lots of kangaroo and emu roadkill needed to be avoided as we travelled along, but interestingly we didn’t see one instance of a run-in between a goat and a vehicle. Goats seem to have enough smarts to move a little away from the roadside as you approach and don’t try to cross in front of you, unlike those crazy suicidal emus and kangaroos that have no road sense at all. In fact, goats seemed quite indifferent to our presence in their domain.
At one stage, we pulled in to a rest area for a cuppa and were greeted by a group of wild goats that had taken over the shade shelter and were standing up on the seats and tables. They’d made themselves quite at home and had even worked out how to operate the push tap on the side of the water tank to get a drink for themselves. While not at all bothered by our presence, they showed great interest in the biscuits we were eating.
From Meadow Glen Rest Area, we turned north at the nearby town of Cobar and went on through Bourke to overnight at Barringun near the Queensland border and south of Cunnamulla. To describe Barringun as a town would be much too generous. It comprises a small pub on one side of the road and on the other side, the Bush Tucker Inn roadhouse that we camped beside for the night. While setting up, we were greeted by the local welcoming committee – a Shetland pony that followed us around nibbling at our clothes, a couple of sheep that came over to check out the van before wandering off looking for grass, the biggest feral pig I’ve ever seen, and a couple of ravenous emus that just freaked us out. There’s something evil about an emu. Power was available at the Bush Tucker Inn, which was the reason we pulled in there. It was very hot and humid and, while we set up, the air-con was cranked up to the max. We then beat a hasty path across the road to the pub which offered a limited range of drinks from an esky in the room out back. All that mattered was that they were nice and cold. We had a couple of drinks and a chat with the bloke behind the bar who was the brother of the licensee and helping out there on weekends. In response to our question, he advised that the population of Barringun was seven, after counting through the residents of his side of the road and the other. It’s great how in country towns they know everyone by name.
The following morning, just north of Barringun on the Mitchell Highway, we crossed back into the Land of the Proper Coloured Rego Plates and went on to Cunnamulla, made a right-hand turn east on the Balonne Highway and on through Bollon to St George. That night was spent at the Pelican Rest Tourist Park. It had become way too hot to consider free camping, and we were more than happy to genuflect once again to the God of Air-conditioning and to also cool off in the park’s swimming pool. It can be a tough life pioneering around the West and you’ve got to get it when you can.
From St George, we followed the Moonie Highway through to Dalby, then the Warrego Highway east to Jondaryan where we’d intended overnighting at the Woolshed complex. But now being so close to home, we decided to push on all the way.
During our spur-of-the-moment return trip home, we had travelled through three States (South Australia, New South Wales, and Queensland) in four days, and through three time zones (6:00pm in SA is 6:30pm in NSW and 5:30pm in QLD). Which I guess means we got back the extra half hour that we aged when entering Northern Territory from Queensland back in July.…I don’t know, I’m starting to confuse myself now with the Maths but, still, would like to believe I’m feeling just that little bit younger. Anyway, the clocks have been reset, the jerry cans on the roof of the Land Rover are back to fading at their normal rate, and we’re home again…
“Travel does not exist without home….If we never return to the place we started, we would just be wandering, lost. Home is a reflecting surface, a place to measure our growth and enrich us after being infused with the outside world.” ― Josh Gates, Destination Truth: Memoirs of a Monster Hunter