"Destination Unknown" - Some background & Day 1 - The Boys trip of 2011 Begins

Friday, Jul 01, 2011 at 06:00


About 12 months ago, a few of my mates were listening to my most recent tales of adventure from our three month sojourn into the Western Deserts and Kimberley. Besides the ohhs and ahhs as I regaled them with episodes of daring-do, there were the “gee I’d love to do that” comments. “Well” says me, “why don’t we organise a boys own trip over the school holidays next year”. Three rules;

1. Boys only;
2. lot’s of man activities along the way; and
3. NO Lawn Rovers!

All right, I had to adjust that last one to good tyres all round. As the plan started to formulate, we wanted to give the lads a good slice of the Australian outback, take in some Iconic and historical places and be able to do it within the two week confines of the school holidays. The plan was a trip to the Flinders via Broken hill and then up passed Lake Eyre on the Oodnadatta and north to Dalhousie Springs. From there we would cross the Simpson to Birdsville and then down through Cordillo to the Cooper, and Innamincka taking in what places of historical significance we could.

The invitee list included myself and the Crown Prince (Here by referred to as ‘the CP’), My cousin Pete and his boy Jack (Jack and the Crown Prince are in the same year at school together and are mates. He also has the handle “Jack-a-bags”), and two of my best mates, Hugh and his lad Justin and Johnno and his two boys JB and Riley. The boys are all within a year or two of each other which was a good thing. Both John and Hugh had been veterans of the passenger’s seat on some of my previous expeditions so were both keen to get out there, and knew what to expect.John had just bought a 10 year old Prado that he had been fitting out, Hugh had is GU4 Patrol and Pete would bring the Lawn Rover(a petrol Disco IV) which had previously been the property of his wife and used as a shopping trolley and for lugging the kids to school.

As the Spring, summer and autumn of 2010-11 bought unprecedented rains to Queensland and the outback, we found our plans changing with degrees of uncertainty surrounding access to the Simpson. As our departure date drew closer, we still had no indication that the Simpson Desert would be open for a full crossing, the Eyre Creek remaining impassable. Come the day of departure, we decided to keep our options open, thus our trip was given the name “The Destination Unknown Tour” which was genuinely reflective of our situation.

I had been overseas for most of June and returned home only two short days before our intended departure. The Crown Prince had been tasked with duties during my absence so I arrived on the Wednesday, CP’s 16th birthday, to find supplies waiting and the CP with his Learner drivers logbook in hand. He had just sat and passed the exam that day. We had the family around for a celebratory dinner that night but the occasion was marred by tragedy when our beloved staffordshire terrier, Chiko, slipped the side gate and was hit and killed by a vehicle more or less outside our house. It was a terrible thing to happen and the CP was shattered to lose his best mate of 5 years. She was a beautiful dog and we felt her loss immensely. It was probably a good thing that we were heading away for a couple of weeks as it may help numb the loss.

The next day we lay Chiko in the back yard and I managed to get everything squared away and loaded while the CP was at school. Queen Vik headed out on an early flight for a few days in Palm Cove. Hugh and Johnno and their lads arrived that evening and it was pizzas on the lounge floor as the excitement mounted. We were aiming a for a 6:00 a.m. departure and had agreed to all meet at McDonalds on the ring road for a racing breakfast before heading north. What follows are our adventures over the next 7,000 kilometres across 5 states and some Iconic outback country.

Friday 1st July, 2011

Following the tragic events of the previous days, it was a good thing to be closing the door on the house and getting away. I had managed to get everything loaded and squared away (sort of) including the spare tyre casing for the Land Rover. Meeting at the appointed rendezvous, the McDonalds at the southern end of Melbournes ring road, we scoffed a few McMuffins and then hit the road north. I had chosen the Mildura-Broken Hill Route as I knew a good camping spot that would allow us an early set-up and shakedown. If anything was loose along the way, it also gave us plenty of opportunities to find anything we might need to fix it. Mildura would also let us get any last minute supplies or items we may have forgotten (like some camp mugs for me).

Thundering up the Caldewr Highway, our little convoy soon reached Marong where it was time for the CP to earn his stripes and his first entry in the log book. I was a bit nervous allowing the newly minted Learner into the drivers seat of the mighty Tuck-Truck as she’s a big vehicle with a lot of weight. Tyres and suspension also give her different handling characteristics that he might normally expect from mums shopping trolley. Anyway, we’d go slow and let him get the feel of it for an hour or so.

Charlton saw a morning tea/snack break at the local bakery and a visit to the butcher for tonight’s dinner then and then on again with me giving a running commentary of our family history (where your mother met your father type stuff) over the UHF as we strove deeper into the Mallee.

Mildura saw a visit to the supermarket for some last minute supplies before heading on across the Abbotsford Bridge at Curlwaa and into NSW.Wentworth followed and then up the Silver City Highway towards Bunerungee and the Anabranch lakes. I wanted to stop good and early to allow plenty of daylight to set up for the first time and for the boys to have a bit of a look around the bush. The feral goat population was thriving with huge mobs grazing along the roadside.

At Popiltah Lake, we turned into the bush to a site I’d stayed at a few years back. It allows you to get a good kilometre or so away from the road and being situated at the base of a few sand ridges provides plenty of timber and a bit of shelter.

It was three-ish when we arrived and as per usual, my set-up took all of 25 seconds (I just love cracking the roof top taj open. It’s so bloody easy). The boys got their swags set while I got the fire going. The CP was itching to create fire with his flint stick which he did in fine Bear Grylls fashion followed by a lot of strutting, chest beating and exclamations of “I am man...look what I have made...I will call it fire!”. While the lads roamed and played with their boys-toys, the men gathered around the camp fire to discuss the days activities and prepare the meal over a few refreshing beverages. The fire was soon ringed with foil wrapped spuds and the BBQ sizzling into a fantastic sunset. Life’s good.

''We knew from the experience of well-known travelers that the
trip would doubtless be attended with much hardship.''
Richard Maurice - 1903
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