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The Outback Camp - the largest camp for 2023

I have returned from one of the most relaxing and rewarding camps that I have been on in a long time. A journey totalling 3,096km on a round trip of the state's west was undertaken over eight days and involved two motel stops along the way before meeting up with another camp veteran, Dave, to continue with the rest of the trip using tents and swags at each stop.

Friday, 10th November:-

My boss politely suggested that leaving work at midday would be a good idea and I couldn't help but agree. The car was packed the night before, ready to shoot for Sydney's mighty WestConnex underground road network and the M4 Motorway for the first leg of the journey. The first stop was the fish and chips shop in the Blue Mountains hamlet of Blackheath for an early tea. Then I drove to Mudgee for an overnight stop at the Federal Hotel. The hotel dates from the late 1800s and facilities are basic but there is a pub downstairs where meals and drinks can be purchased and the rooms are clean and equipped with air conditioning and a big telly.

Saturday, 11th November:-

Just after sunrise on Saturday morning, I packed and left the hotel and headed to the car waiting out the front. I headed to the Mudgee Bakery for brekky and soon found myself eating well for the long journey that awaited.

Curry pies, sausage rolls and appropriate desserts would be a theme for this holiday. Off I went and this would become the longest leg of the journey, some 1,031km along the Mitchell and Barrier Highways.

Lunch was at Cobar, the last town before the long and isolated stretches of the Barrier Highway. I arrived at Broken Hill at around 14:30 and checked in to the Hilltop Motel - as the name suggests this motel is on the top of one of the highest parts of Broken Hill, with views out to the North West from the room I had booked. The room was clean and tidy and equipped with air conditioning and a spa bath, plus the usual shower and toilet. There is also a restaurant on site called Bettina's, with a wide range of food on the menu. On this night I wanted something a bit more basic so I headed for the local milk bar for a hamburger and chips on the advice of the bloke at the Ampol roadhouse.

Later that afternoon I met up with Dave and organised the drive south for the following morning before getting a well deserved eight hours of sleep.

Sunday, 12th November:-

On Sunday morning, we packed and left the motel and then made our way to Menindee, a journey of about 155km. There was a bit of a lack of planning for this one, as there are so many camping options, we decided to set up the first camp on the banks of Australia's third-longest river, the Darling River. We spent two very peaceful nights on Crown land near the town of Menindee and managed to take some drone footage of the surrounding area before some eagles decided to take a bit more notice of the invasion of what they perceived as their airspace. We managed to co-exist with the birds without either the birds or drones getting too close to each other for comfort. Wild birds generally do not tolerate man-made objects - something we kept in mind whilst airborne.

The camping area is free and is well maintained by the local council. The only annoyance - and in this region there will be many places where they are encountered - was some electric pumps at riverside which are used for irrigation. The pump closest to us operated at random times, suggesting that it fed a storage tank, which in turn fed the farm's sprinklers. Whilst the latest El Nino has appeared to have arrived, there is no suggestion of a pending drought - yet. The river is flowing freely and the giant Menindee lakes are full of water.

Monday, 13th November:-

Whilst on the Menindee leg of the camp, we visited the Kinchega Woolshed which is maintained by the New South Wales National Parks and Wildlife Service. Much of the original woolshed and neighbouring shearers quarters remain on the site along with a slaughterhouse, general store and water tanks. Some of the equipment used back in the day when this was a working facility also remain and all relics are on display. How the pioneers managed to get all this equipment from Great Britain to an area more than 1,000km from Sydney is anyone's guess but due to the isolation, and the heat, it would have been back-breaking work for all involved. It would have also been dangerous work - considering this place is right inside the home range of some of the world's deadliest snakes, the Inland Taipan, Eastern Brown and King Brown and back in the mid-1800s there were no medical treatments for bites.

On a very fortunate note, at no time on this camp did either of us confront any snake. We are in to snake season and all snakes will be out of their burrows at times in search of food so it is amazing that we missed all of them. We didn't even see any roadside which makes me wonder if the eagles have been feasting on them - there were lots of eagles for the whole trip.

Tuesday, 14th November:-

On Tuesday we broke camp and headed for Mungo National Park for a night. The road, was mostly red sand, as can be seen in the photo below.

Along the way we stopped at the small village of Pooncarie for a quick home-made lunch. Unlike some of the other breakfasts and lunches shown here, this one was healthy - sandwiches with nutritional fillings. The photo below shows the vehicles on the bank of the Darling River at the local camping area. It seemed quite peaceful but we hadn't planned on staying there and if we did we may have changed our minds as there was a fairly strong smell of blood-n-bone in the air, a commonly used fertiliser in rural areas.

Fortunately the corrugations weren't too bad and both vehicles survived the trip. The humidity was almost zero and thus the heat was tolerable. When we stopped close to the location in the photo below, we were paid a visit by one of the local farmers. My drone (just outside the NP limits) must have made her and her three border collies curious.

Due to a seemingly un-necessary park fire ban we had to resort to other measures to keep the mozzies away. I guess that the park fire bans in this region have come about due to some people being irresponsible with their fires. It is a shame that the actions of a few spoil things for the majority who do the right thing. As there is long grass in the Mungo campground, there is a danger that a large fire could ignite, but again, only if people aren't doing the right thing. The ground is well maintained with good distances between the fireplaces provided and the longer grass.

The ground also has bins, toilets and walking paths. There is a water tank and sheltered picnic seating at each camp site and all facilities are well maintained. The overnight stay here was suggested by Dave, as it is apparently a good place for photography - which we both indulged in. In fact, the new title image for this website is the sunset at Mungo National Park.

On the subject of sunsets, here's another shot. Along with another photo showing a close-up of the terrain at China Wall.

Wednesday, 15th November:-

We break camp from Mungo and head to Hay in the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area for a couple of nights. The camping ground was okay from a few standpoints but was a bit too open and there were no showers, just flushing toilets, which was fine as both Dave and I have camp showers, complete with gas hot water on tap. As a side note, both of us are well set up and our camps are usually two self-contained camp facilities in one, as there are times when we are camping alone or with others. So there is a lot of duplication rather than there being a case of "you bring this and I'll bring that". A lot of people camp this way these days, so if something breaks, it is then easy to share resources. It also ensures that things do not get forgotten.

On the first night in Hay's free camping area, just on the bank of the Murrumbidgee River, we couldn't help notice through the night that a fair few truck drivers fail to read signs and respect the rights of people who are trying to sleep by running their exhaust brakes whilst cruising through town. Hay's main street is a part of Highway 20 - the Sturt Highway - which allows road trains so hearing an exhaust brake from one of these monsters for several minutes as it moves through town can be quite annoying and what's more, if the correct gear is chosen, there is no need for the exhaust brake under those circumstances.

Apart from that, I didn't mind the campground, though Dave had some reservations about it and declared it a oncer. We didn't have trouble finding some firewood and as fires were allowed, a campfire was part of our arsenal to keep flies and mozzies away as much as possible.

Thursday, 16th November:-

On Thursday, we did a day trip to Griffith. We ate lunch at one of the pubs on the main street - the Hotel Victoria. This pub has a good restaurant and Dave had a giant hamburger (think twice the size of a Hungry Jacks whopper) and getting tired of red meat, I had the fish and chips.

We could not help but notice the Italian connection to the town with many businesses having Italian names. After a few hours spent in Griffith we headed back to Hay for the second night.

A redundant windmill appearing through the heatwaves shows what life here was like back when this area was first settled - hard, dry and at times lonely.

Friday, 17th November:-

On Friday, we ate breakfast and spent a few minutes planning where to spend the last night. As I had picked the Hay camping ground it was Dave's turn and we ended up heading back to an old haunt, Tumut, which is in the Snowy Mountains. The spot we stay at is quite good and situated on Crown land about five km out of town. When I say "good" I mean it is an idyllic spot just on the bank of the Tumut River, downstream from the Blowering Dam - one of the hydro-electric dams in the iconic Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Scheme. The water was flowing quite strongly down the Tumut River, indicating that the power station was in full swing. The closure of the coal-fired Liddell Power Station earlier this year is putting a lot of pressure on remaining baseload facilities and on the way home from the camp, heading up the Hume Highway I couldn't help notice three wind farms sitting idle because there was no wind blowing to move the windmills. Without getting too political on this issue, it is clear that we seem to be heading in the wrong direction on the subject of electricity generation.

Back to the camp at Tumut, last time we stayed there, a neighbouring camp consisted of roughly ten tents, all linked with tarp shelters and pop-up gazebos and the family patriarch decided that it was necessary to run a generator until 23:00hrs - clearly a quite anti-social activity. We did not experience that this time and all campers were well behaved and there was a lot of tranquillity there for the night.

The unfortunate side to camping here is that only caravans and motorhomes are permitted. Tents and swags are generally not a part of the deal and we have been spoken to by the local ranger for breaking that rule but as it was a one-night camp and we had plans on breaking camp early we felt that we could get away with another stay. This camp ground has no toilets, showers or water but as mentioned before, we have these things with us.

Saturday, 18th November:-

On Saturday morning I ate a small breakfast and then we broke camp and headed for the pie shop in Tumut for a more formal breakfast before ending the camp with the trip back to Sydney.

377km up the Hume Highway and Hume Motorway made a safe trip home which included avoiding the Highway Patrolman who was set up on the median near the split level bridges near the Nattai River. We both arrived home safely after completing a trip of more than 3,000km, trying our best to avoid everything from rabbits to emus.

In conclusion, a photo of my odometer - showing just over 476,000km, proving that old Holdens never die. Whilst the factories, like many regional woolsheds are long gone, the Holden Lion will live forever.

Some photos have been added to this article today and over the next day or two there will be more to come.

Written at 20:58 on 19 November 2023 by Lord Watchdog.


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