My original plan was, “to drive to Tibooburra, visiting different places on the way, including Inverell where I was born. Stay in Tibooburra a couple of days at The Family Motel. I intended to leave my Ute out the back of the pub for five or six days and cycle to Cameron Corner and back. That idea was quickly stopped as I was told by several people that no one is allowed into the Cameron Corner Store because it’s in the Queensland side of the fence and a roadside sign displaying, “QLD Boarder Closed Heavy Fines”. I had fully intended to stock up on water to cycle the return journey to Tibooburra. Not being able to carry 5-6 days of water plus my other gear to cycle the complete loop. I had to do something else.”
After my morning run and a belly full of food I decided to go for a cycle up the road towards the Queensland border. Good time to think and enjoy the ride. It’s a long time since I have cycled on corrugations and red sand.
You must get back on the horse that threw you………After last year’s stack on my mountain bike, today was my first-time back cycling on an outback track.
The cycle was at first a little scary, not knowing how I would go on the corrugations. These outback roads are not like the dirt tracks I often ride back home. After each kilometre I became more confident and rode like an excited boy. The head wind was quite brutal heading north, “hey, toughen up” I said, coming back will be a breeze and fun. I rode a few kilometres past the Wompah Gate turn off, stopped at the top of a hill, for a drink and a gel then headed back. I was back in town by 1:00pm in time for lunch.
I spent the afternoon sitting on the front veranda of the pub. This veranda goes the full length of the Hotel and is directly on the main street, perfect spot to watch all the tourists arriving in town. There was certainly a lot of motor bikes come here for the weekend and plenty of grey nomads. I did my washing while I was there, the laundromat was opposite the pub, just so easy.
One of tourists, Geoff, had just done a circuit to Cameron Corner. He told me about the Jump Up loop. This gave me an idea for a new plan – “Plan B”.
Plan B – I will drive to Cameron Corner and stay the night at Fort Grey campsite in the Sturt National park. I’ll drive the Jump Up loop and come back via the Cameron Corner road. After I set up camp at Fort Grey, I’ll go up to the Cameron Corner brass plaque on the NSW side of the fence, about 30km, smile and take some selfies, of course. Do a walk to Sturt’s’ tree dig. I got my National Park permits to drive in and camp, cost me $22.
The drive to Fort Grey campsite via Jump Up road and Middle road took me through the centre of Sturt National Park, to Lake Pinaroo. The road criss-crosses Jump-ups, gibber plains, clay pans and rolling sand dunes. I continued to Cameron Corner and parked at the gate of the South Australian border. I walked about 70mtrs down along the dingo fence to the brass plague and took a selfie. Looking to the north, not 300 metres away was the Cameron Corner roadhouse but I was unable to go there because it’s in Queensland. So many border towns with one shop that can’t sell to us just over the other side of the fence. Our politicians sit in their plush offices in the city, they have no idea.
As I was walking back to my Ute, looking forward to camping the night in the bush, I heard a SUV coming along the road. It drove up to the border gate, people got out opened it and drove through. Hell, the border is closed, this couple didn’t know or couldn’t give a rats. The lady took a photo of the border sign and off they went.
After setting up my camp, I grabbed some gear and did the ‘Park Walking Trail’, a 7km hike which takes around 2 hours. I had plenty of water, sunscreen and my camera. The entire walk is extremely well organised with signs showing the way and other signs explaining about the landscape, flora and fauna on the way.
Walking also gave me the chance to stop and take photos whenever I liked, unlike a cycle trek where the best bits whiz by at 15-20km an hour. On foot you have all the time in the world to stop and take shots of birds, plants and some of the deep cracks in dry soil. The walk was a bit longer than the estimated 2 hours for me because I stopped heaps of times taking photos.
After walking across the dry lake bed I found Sturt’s Tree. Lucky for me the lake was dry otherwise I would have had to walk an extra 14kms around the lakes edge. Sturt’s tree marks his 1845 camp on the mouth of Frome Creek. It’s quite amazing how these explorers trek for months in the outback because apart from Antarctica, Australia is the driest continent on the planet. Being so hot you don’t notice how much you’re sweating because it wicks away immediately.
On the way back at camp I saw a couple of kangaroos sitting in the shade of the trees on the last sand dune before the camp area. It had become quite hot over the last hour. You can understand the importance of having water on any walk or ride in this back country. It’s like when I’m trekking solo, water is reserved for drinking and cooking, there are no showers or excessive washing of dishes.
I had plenty of water to cook with and drink as I was only camping for the one night. I use Wilderness Wipes (Sea to Summit) to wash my body. It is so much nicer to sleep clean with the red dust removed. I use these when I do my solo cycles and camps on the side of the road. Now that I’m all clean, I begin my evening rituals of camping in the red dirt. I check my tent for spiders, ants or other crawlies. Then put what is needed into the tent for the night. I spray the lower area of the tent with Deet (insect repellent), zip up and head for the kitchen.
My kitchen consists of a small methylated spirits stove (Trangia), cup, utensils and a precooked meal ‘Cattlemen’s Beef Stew’ (Happy Camper Gourmet). I was lucky to be able to camp next to one of those National Park table and chairs.
I was up early, set my camera up just before sunrise. I put the billy on and made a cup of coffee and prepared my oatmeal mix ready for breakfast. It was 4°C this morning quite cold for me, so the cup coffee while photographing the rising sun was just what I needed.