Just a short trip report on a short trip in the JK U Rubicon to Mutwintji NP and Kinchega NP and back.
I finished re-building my camper trailer. The previous one had rotted out all the timber framing and started to fall to bits while on a trip across the Anne Beadell Track last year. So I thought a short trip to try out the re-build was in order. The newly built camper is made out of plywood, like the previous ones, with its own solar panel power supply attached to the roof and connected to a 135Ah AGM battery.
I left Melbourne and headed up toward Echuca and then followed the bitumen to Hay and on, eventually to Ivanhoe, in the middle of nowhere. The road is all bitumen to here and in good nick. Cruised at about 90-95 km/h, for comfort: the JK bounces around a bit at higher speeds when towing, I have found.
Very dry and dusty country. Heaps of emus and even more kangaroos. Many dead on the side of the road. These provided an all day gourmet banquet for the various scavengers and raptors.
I camped overnight on the side of the road somewhere, the first night in the newly re-built. Very comfortable on the bed, a single swag laid flat, with a sheet and two sleeping bags for warmth. These were needed since the nights are very cold. Day temp was about 20C and wake up temp about 4C. The Dry-as-a-bone earned its money.
More bitumen to Ivanhoe, just another dot on the map. Paid $1.79 for unleaded here. Country petrol prices (about $1.59 / l) were much less than in the city.
The landscape continues as completely flat and very, very dry and dusty. Nothing but stunted scrub trees, black blue bush and salt bush. Tumbleweed littered the plains, and prickles galore. Shoes were a necessity. Emus, kangaroos, an occasional fox, appeared now and again. Goats, cattle and sheep as well and all these appeared to be in good nick, the cattle especially. The dams were all dry.
Another night camp by the side of the road before heading up to Wilcannia. More dry and dusty plains. Why does anyone want to farm this semi desert country?
From Wilcannia I headed north to White Cliffs which I gave a miss and turned left to head west and down to Mutwijinti NP. More dirt, dust and flat plains. I camped at Mutwijinti NP. It was very nice here, with lots of campsites (I was 1 of only a few visitors). The park has solar heated showers and good and clean toilets. Fires were permitted.
While here, I did the Homestead Creek walk over about 2.5 hours but gave up when it became necessary to climb like a goat, which I am not. Many dead goats and other animals littered the only water pool I saw on the climb – I did not want to join them. The stink was very intense. I guess that when the rain comes again, the pool will be washed out. The gorge itself fills with about 10-15 feet (4-5 m) of water in the right conditions.
It was nice while walking the Gorge to come across kangaroos and a few rock wallabies as well, all doing their own thing - mostly sleeping in the heat of the day. Not one snake or lizard was seen.
Lots of bird song around the campsites, especially in the evening and morning when the sunrise and sunset were spectacular. The smallest birds seem to have the most spectacular and noisy songs. I mostly have no idea which bird was which. Some, being completely wild and people naďve, came within just a few cms of my feet. These included seed and honey-eaters of various shapes and sizes, a family of Apostle birds and a family of white tipped Chuffs. Quite funny with their antics. They all manage to scrounge food from the dry environment and they all looked very healthy.
Next morning I wanted to do the Mutwintji Gorge walk but the access road was closed and had been for months, something that was not on the website. Wouldn’t you think that a dry weather access road would be opened for visitors in peak season. Oh no, not here. I was quite peeved, since it was one reason I had decided to do this trip.
Leaving the park, on more dirt road, I skirted the Acacia Downs station as I headed south to Broken Hill where I filled up with fuel. I headed along the Menindee Lakes road. The lakes were full of water and popular with boaters, fishers etc. I eventually reached Kinchega NP where I camped by the Darling River, which actually had a good volume of water in it, which was different than when I first visited about 10 years ago.
There were quite a lot of campers taking advantage of the Oct long weekend. Of course I listened to the footy grand final (AFL). Did a walk to the derelict Homestead site circa 1876 (about). It is amazing that anyone had the idea of farming this country. Floods and drought got them in the end. Quite ingenious how these early settlers coped with the hardship of living in such a remote environment. The Darling River was their life line. Apparently I missed the Pooncarrie races and music festival held over the weekend.
The dirt roads were dry weather roads in good condition. I sat on 80k/hr mostly. Lower tyre pressures would have made the trip more comfortable. I was too lazy to lower them this time, deciding not to because the roads, though rough, were not too bad. Lots of bulldust (shallow pits) with severe 2-3 inch jump ups at the edges that had the trailer bouncing around like crazy. So too, at cattle grids. These jump ups, though small, and all along the dry dirt roads, can severely damage suspension components. You have to slow down for the ones that you see, and hope that the ones that you can’t see (which are many) are not too bad.
Everything had to be tied down and checked now and then because of vibration and corrugations. I almost lost a spare trailer tyre and snapped a chain that holds the anti-sway bar up. The trailer was remarkably dust free, although a very, very, very fine dust layer did manage to penetrate the cabin. Not too bad, I reckon, considering. I had to look hard to see it. No real mishaps with the gear thankfully, and tightening things regularly on such harsh roads is a necessity. These roads are closed in the rainy season.
This was an easy short road trip that covered some very barren country and that had good road conditions. It was enlightening to get a better idea of the grip of the current drought, although I am not that sympathetic toward farmers who insist on farming semi desert country.
It was good to see many people, often men on their own, out and about in their 4WDs topped and tailed with a variety of gear. I had lots of them wanting to look over my trailer. Of course I showed it off - after all I built it. And it did just as well, I am sure, as some of the $100000 behemoth “off road” vans I came across.
The JKU Rubicon performed flawlessly, again.
I will post some photos when I can. I hope you enjoyed the read. If I think of anything else to say, I will add it later.