This Article was written by Ilona Booth some years back




When Australian Geographic issued invitatons for people to be at the opening of the restored Inland Mission Hospital, arriving in the most unorthodox or oldest method of transport they could devise, we couldn't resist. (One arrived by bicycle, one walked, one parachuted, and there were several other vintage vehicles, including a 1912 T Model)

The opening date was to be July 22, round about the time it's good to be out of Victoria, so we put out feelers for company on the trip, and were delighted that Jenny and Dennis McIlroy and Trish and Peter Laughton were free to come.

Our pre-dawn getaway went pretty much to script and we were through the city before the traffic got willing and put too much strain on our little string brakes. Made our first overnight stop at Ouyen, booking into the magnificent old pub. There was time before dinner to tighten a few nuts and bolts on Min that had been overlooked in her pre-trip grease and oil change. This improved our oil consumption problem no end. Next night was at Broken Hill, arriving just on dark and taking out the last of the on-site vans, having crossed a time zone (clocks back...) and I think, a couple of state borders. Spent a day looking over the town - you know - second hand shops, art galleries, museums - and were interviewed by the local press. On returning to our cars, parked prominently in front of the Tourist Bureau all day, there was a note on our windscreen from a local classic car man inviting us to visit, which we did. Returning to the park, we took advantage of the free taxi provided by the local clubs to ferry people to and from their establishments, and went to dinner. The trip home was by bus, an education in itself. This bus tours the clubs, the driver gets down and goes in and prises Fred or Bill from the bar and drops them home at their door. Had a marvellous tour all over town, with running commentary and some singing. FROM BROKEN HILL to LAKE COBHAM The road out from Broken Hill was alternately gravel and bitumen, in roughly 15k lumps. Crossed a time zone again (clocks on...) About 40 miles from an outpost fuel stop called Packsaddle we found the track leading to the lake they had told us about, and set ourselves up to camp for a couple of days. Lit a big fire to scare away the lions and tigers and keep us warm on the outside and a little judicious port to keep us warm on the inside. Spent the next morning walking along the lake - amazing bird life, with the foxes enjoying a wide selection of it. Feathers everywhere. After a lunch of potatoes roasted in their jackets in the coals of the campfire (generous gobs of butter and grated cheese) we walked it off for a few kilometers, heading north to the salt lakes, which turned out to be mostly dry. Stopped for a while on the main road to watch for the VDC cars which we calculated would be going through that afternoon. Only saw about three of their contingent go through as we passed the time playing bowls on the highway with paddymelons. Then back to stoke up the fires for the evening meal. LAKE COBHAM to MILPARINKA, TIBOOBURRA to OLIVE DOWNS. Back on the road, the next place to show was Milparinka - a C1882 pub and one and a half beautiful stone buildings, remnants of a gold rush era. The road runs past on the way to Depot Glen, where Sturt and his sixteen men, 200 sheep, horses, cattle, a dray and even a boat were marooned for six months in 1845, waiting for rain that would ensure water for the forward journey. Sturt's second in command, Poole, contracted scurvy here, and died nearby when being taken home. A tree was blazed with the date, it still stands and is little bigger 149 years later. On the way we passed through some spectacular gibber desert - white stones to the horizon, like snow, with no vegetation. From there we went on to Tibbooburra, eating lunch at the historic pub. Taking the advice of the Ranger, we drove out on the Jump Up Loop Scenic (alt) Road to Olive Downs, where we planned to overnight. There was definitely No scenery to be seen, just bare red gibber plains. (This does of course depend on the state of mind at the time of viewing, as well as the mode of transport one is currently enjoying) The road was corrugated, rough and stony in places, narrow tracks and sandy in others, with washaways, all negotiated into the setting sun. Soul destroying stuff. There was some inventive use of some old Anglo Saxon incantations in our cockpit. The spectacular Mesas we were expecting to see did not eventuate, just a couple of little ones that loomed about where the main road joined, and which we would have seen from the 'main' road anyway.

Click here for page 2

Click on these images to see as an enlargement