"We're going to the Louth races," said the Brickie, "First weekend in August. It's a pisser event, like Birdsville was 20 years ago."
It would take a week to get there, and probably the same to get back. A big commitment, so it was accepted that not all could do it. However, no matter how many went, we'd do it. And we had a little business to do along the way with our brother club, the Mildura And District Fully Unrestored Car Keepers, a.k.a, the MADFUCKers.
Day 1: Saturday 31st July, Moolort to Wemen. Day Total: 365k's. Trip Total: 365k's
We assembled at Robbo's for the start. There was a slight problem in that the Brickie had his wedding anniversary with The Child Bride and wouldn't be able to make it till Monday, with Fergie Tractor and Norm. "The Hobbit", so it was decided, in the way that farmers have of overcoming these slight problems, to simply bung three cars on the farm semi, and wait for the bastards down the track.
Stork, in the back-up 4WD would join us on Sunday.
So the actual starters were: Arfer Long in the A Model Ford Ute, Deaf John, the Wolf and Frazzle in the Studebaker, Robbo, Cowboy Kenny, and Big Trav on the truck with Dodge the blue healer.
The cars on the truck were: the Brickie's Dodge, Robbo's Ply Mouth Pig, and Kenny's Buick. thus we started.
This was a transport stage of the trip, but it was good for a number of reasons. Both Arfer and Deaf John had done work on their cars. Arfer was chasing a "knack-knack" noise and largish oil loss, which he attributed to impending doom, and thus pulled the engine down. He found nothing wrong whatsoever, but the Ford kept "knack-knacking" and chucking out oil in profligate quantities. "Total fucking waste of time," he concluded, and henceforth just ignored it.
Deaf John had done the big-ends, and this was the resurrection trip. The car purred like a kitten all the way up, and we were both very pleased, he with the car, and I with DJ's restrained driving style.
We were heading for the Murray, and Wemen seemed a likely spot considering we had a semi that could not take the rough stuff, and so the first camp had to be close to the highway.
A good place was found with abundant firewood. The truckie's camped under the semi, and we pitched tents. A good night was had by all.
This was our first experience with Kenny and Big Trav in camping, and though I had camped with Arfer all down the Murray, and with DJ and Robbo on occasions, it's always interesting to see
how others do it.
Everything went like clockwork. Everyone did their bit without being asked. It was all teamwork, and I knew that this was going to be a great camping trip.
There was only one slight glitch in the harmonious ambience. Frazzle the whippet is 9 years old, and never been particularly fond of other canines, whereas Dodge the bluey is a pup full of beans, and wants to play. Not a good combo. A dispute occurred in relation to a stray biscuit, and biting ensued with the whippet being the bitee. Though the Dodge forgot the incident pretty much as soon as it occurred, whippets are brooders.
Day 2: Sunday 1st August: Wemen to Yelta.
Day Total: 147k's. Trip Total: 512k's
In the morning, the truck headed to Mildura, and the cars ventured into the Hattah-Kulkyne forest, thinking we would take the longer, more scenic route.
Within half a mile we realised that, though we could have done it, the recent rains were
going to make it a very long trip, and we would not have come out without a couple of serious boggings.
This was really an omen for the rest of the trip.
We decided to head for Yelta and the MADFUCKers.
The boys at Yelta had read a small article in Eddie Ford's rag, "Restored Cars" written by the Wolf on the Ferals and how to set up a small club (which the polisher clubs had hated), and had run with it. They had contacted us and invited us to lunch if we were ever in the area.
Never ones to refuse a free lunch we decided to accept. We were overwhelmed by their hospitality. Not only lunch, but we parked the semi there for two weeks, they provided dinner, all of the wine, extra wine to take on the trip, and put us all up for the night. We owe them bigtime, and will repay them in spades soon.
They are still in the final stages of formation, and the feral onslaught has provided an impetus to get on with it.
Their cars were eclectic. There was an enormous Oldsmobile Toranado front wheel drive 2 door shaggin wagon, an Austin Champ, a couple of early Suzuki's, and pride of their lot, Keithy's Maxwell ute. (I understand that since our visit the hunt has been on for more ferals.)
Stork, the cook arrived in the back-up truck and trailer, and by the time we unloaded the cars from the semi, lunch was ready.
This was a great success, thanks to Keithy,Yoney, BoomGate, Tiny, Scotty, and Sue The Boort Chick. Because this was such an important event we all wore appropriate hats.
Lots of food and booze was consumed, Arfer made a speech and presented the MADFUCKers with a rabbit trap to add to Keithy's collection, and by mid arvo we were all primed to go for a frolic in the cars around the dirt tracks between the farm and the Murray River.
The area had had good rains and the tracks were slippery and wet. This country has a high clay content and the tracks can just sink under you, especially if water has ponded there. The Wolf, driving the Stupidbaker, took a corner a tad fast and gently slid into a wet ditch, and bogged. He was hoping to be pulled out by a Dodge, to complete the humiliation, but was pushed out by Big Trav instead. He's probably got more grunt than the Dodge anyway.
We went back, had more food and booze, by which time night had fallen.
Someone decided it would be a splendid idea to have another little drive along the tracks at night time, which we did, and by some minor bloody miracle no-one drove into the Murray, and we all made it back.
The rest of the evening was spent in philosophical discussion on matters ranging from gearboxes to golden showers, with Deaf John being very erudite on both matters. In the morning, the worse for wear, we buggered off.
Day 3:Monday 2nd August. Yelta -Pooncarie.
Day Total: 124k's. Trip Total: 636k's
After a slow start, we made it to Wentworth where we waited for the Brickie to arrive. He finally did, a few hours late, with Fergie Tractor and Norm The Hobbit. Also along for the drive was Klean Kevi in yet another 4WD backup. (Normally we don't take kindly to moderns, but these circumstances were different.)
We found out that the Louth races were cancelled because of track conditions occasioned by the unseasonable wet. This didn't matter to us. We were going anyway.
After endless phaffing about we finally shifted.....to another part of Wentworth where we dropped off the Brickie's modern, and had yet another photo lineup.
At last the phaffing about was over, and we were on the open road again.
The road to Pooncarie is all sealed, and dead boring. Although it supposedly runs beside the Darling, sightings of the river are rare.
Arfer in the A Model shot off first, and the Wolf and DJ were soon after him in the Stupidbaker. After an hour's travel we caught up with Arfer sitting on the side of the road having a beer, and we joined him to
wait for the others to catch up.
This took quite a while, and when they finally arrived they informed us that the Brickie's Dodge had run a big end, and they had towed him back to Wentworth. Not an auspicious start.
Whilst driving along with Deaf John, I noticed him playing with the whitelines, going from one side of the road to another.
I thought nothing of it. Whatever amuses on this dead boring bit of tarmac, I thought.
A mile or so further on the divergences were becoming more creative, and it was only when we were heading straight towards a post that I looked over to find him fast asleep. We changed over and made it safely to the welcoming bosom of the Pooncarie Pub, where we calmed our nerves.
We camped on the river at Pooncarie, and it was here that the Brickie calmed his nerves with Tequila Sunrises, after the day's Dodge disaster. The days must be short in Mexico because it did not take long for the Sunrises to turn into Sunsets for the Brickie, and he retired to his swag, which had been pre-warmed by Frazzle the Whippet.
Day 4. Tuesday 3rd August
Pooncarie - Ellendale (on Wilcannia Road)
Day Total: 244k's Trip Total: 880k's
Dirt at last! It had been a while, and our spirits were lifted.
We changed cars and drivers. I was still in the Stupidbaker with Big Trav as driver.
Trav, at least 6'4" and 250 pounds, had not had a lot of experience of vintage cars, but was quick to cotton on. The track out of Pooncarie to Menindie was superb dirt: fast and flat with few bog ruts, and we travelled accordingly, sitting on 45 - 50mph.
"You know," he said, "I can't get my leg up to the brake pedal, the bloody steering wheel is in the way."
"Don't worry," I replied, "we won't have to stop, and anyway, you can just go down through the gears."
About 10 minutes later a large bang was heard as the near-side rear tyre .
blew out. The car started fish-tailing alarmingly and we both thought that we would roll the bastard. In the few seconds, that seemed much longer,
I grabbed the steering wheel while Trav opened the door to get his foot onto the brake pedal. The front
brakes bit with a vengeance and we actually left black marks on the dirt.
Fuck!! Someone had a bottle of whisky and passed it to us, and we both soothed our very frayed nerves. Going sideways on a road in a tall ute deserves a dram or two.
After a few restorative ales at Menindee, we headed out on the Wilcannia road. The track was good, the weather was splendid, and we were all in fine spirits. Several games were played whilst on the move: paddymelon chucking was one, as was "Chase the emus on the sides of the road."
Then Cowboy Kenny took it up a notch or two.
He decided that he would visit each car, whilst on the move. This involved careful driving on the dirt roads to get the cars tracking side-by side close enough for him to step across. Gutsy stuff, which no-one caught on film, unfortunately, though the pic below is of him visiting us in the Stupidbaker, whilst Norm The Hobbit was driving.
His next trick was safe compared to car-jumping, which was to climb onto the bonnet of the Buick whilst it was travelling along at 45mph, and enjoy the fresh air whilst having a beer. This was a Priscilla Queen of the Desert moment, which we did actually manage to get some video of. Click HERE to see it.
We encountered increasing numbers of puddles on the road, which meant that the game changed to an automotive version of the schoolboy favourite: Stomp in the Puddle.
The Ply Mouth Pig was tooling along, with Robbo driving, Deaf John in the back, drinking a long-neck, and the Brickie in the front passenger, when they noticed the Buick with Big Trav and Kenny coming up behind them.
The Brickie had an unopened can of beer ready, and was shaking it vigorously, ready to give them a good spray when they drew alongside. So intent were all in the Ply Mouth in watching the Buick, that they did not notice the approach of a very large puddle. Big Trav however did, and with superb timing, before the Brickie could pull the tab, he hit the puddle and sprayed the entire Ply Mouth, inside and out, with mud. Only Robbo escaped the mudbath. Bravo!
After that we found a campsite by a dry creek and called it a day, and what a pisser of a day it was.
The usual camp night followed: get enough wood for a week, set up tents and swags, cook a high meat diet, drink piss and talk bullshit. Regarding the high-meat diet; at this stage, after bacon, eggs and sausages for breakfast, sausages and often chops for lunch, plus meat for dinner, Arfer Long was giving out scurvey warnings if the cook didn't buy any veges. But the bastard was mostly pissed, and only answered: "IT'S ALL GOOD! FUCK'EM!" which sorta became the mantra for all of the trip.
Day 5. Wednesday August 4th.
Day total: 296k's. Trip total: 1176k's
Another frost, but the dog at the end of the sleeping bag kept the temp in the bed at a reasonable level. Memo to self: Must clip
the bastard's toe-nails.
In the morning we chanced upon a deceased emu. Much speculation passed as to the circumstances of its passing. Some opined that it may have caught sight of Kenny's bare arse, and gave up the will to live as a result.
Others say that it drank some of the Wolf's red wine in the night and died a terrible death. But I reckon this bush chook met with fowl play onna count of the bullet hole.
Whatever it was, it was cut up and bunged into a camp oven with about a gallon of rough red.
Into Wilcannia we went. I was most impressed by the public architecture. Beautiful stonework, especially the enormous police complex. They reckon there's a problem with our dusky brethren there, but the ones we met were pretty nice. The only hassle we had was from a bloated blob of female white trash who did a bit of road rage because we had blocked up one of the exits to the servo and delayed her for 50 nano-seconds. Takes all kinds to make the cosmic stew, but I reckon this one was a turnip.
We learnt that the road to Tilpa was closed. This means what it says in NSW. If you enter a closed road, and get caught, especially if you also get bogged, then you are liable for the following penalty: $1000 per wheel of vehicle, including spare.
If the beak was charitable, we would have been up for:
4 Vintage cars = 20 tyres = $20,000
2 Support cars = 10 tyres = $10,000
1 Tandem trailer = 5 tyres = $5,000
However he could also have counted in the 4 wheels on Shaun The Sheep Eski, which would have pushed the price up to $39,000, or almost the entire grog budget for the trip! Not worth the risk!
The reason for this is that the Councils are cash strapped, and it costs a fortune to re-grade the roads, which has to be done because the deep wet ruts, when they dry become even worse road hazards.
So we headed east along the highway to Cobar, stopping only at the start of the closed road where we saw the dead pig.
The trip along this road was dead boring, except for the section of the MacCulloch's Range, which offered great views.
The country, however, was in fine trim, with lush vegetation, and thousands of goats, which they tell us are farmed nowadays.
Stopped for a late lunch (sausages) at the Tilpa turn off, near Barnato Station, then we were back on dirt. The country was absolutely superb, with its stands of native pine, and lush undergrowth. At times it seemed as if we were travelling through an enormous golf course.
This had been a fair hike for the day, and we were glad to see the Tilpa Pub. Had a few beers, and decided to call a rest day for the next day,, and come back to the pub then.
The publican put us onto a good camp spot at the Tilpa Weir on the river.
On the way there, Kenny decided to check out the surface condition of the side of the road, and got bogged.
He was hoiked out by Klean Kevi, and headed out to the camp. Unbeknown to all of us Klean Kevi himself got bogged trying to get back to the road. He had to walk a coupla k's back to the pub and get the publican to rescue him. What shame! The only member of the mob to seek outside help! And his ute was all mudded up as well!
Day 6. Thursday, 5th August. Tilpa-Louth
Day total: 93k's. Trip total: 1269k's
We had to skedaddle. If we were on the road before they deemed it closed, then we were OK, unless we got bogged, in which case the legal picture may be a little muddied.
It was going to be a lay day. No hurry, just laze around the weir, do a little fishing, whatever. And that's exactly what
we were doing, after a hearty breakfast, (eggs,bacon,sausages).
This picture of bucolic bliss was shattered by the arrival of Klean Kevi, who had gone back to Tilpa to thank the publican, and have a shower (and we suspect clean his ute). He informed us that rains were
approaching and the authorities were on the point of closing the road to Louth, but had not done it yet.
We packed up in record time and were out of there. A pity, because we were all looking forward to a nice night's entertainment at the Tilpa Pub. Next time maybe.
It was important that we leave, because, if the road was closed to us, we would have had to go back to Cobar the way we came, and then up to Louth on the all-weather road, a detour of 295k's.
We were told that there was only one really bad patch, but there was a way around it. We did not know exactly what this meant. That particular "bad patch" had resulted in a family being stranded there for two days, and when they were rescued they were fined $5000. The road had only been reopened for the one day we drove up it.
Off we went!
I was driving the Stupidbaker along a really nice dirt road when I noticed tracks up to what looked like levy bank on the side. Paid no attention till 200 yards further up we came to the black morass that had marooned the family a couple of days earlier.
Up behind us came Cowboy Kenny in the Buick, who decided that the levy at that point looked pretty good, and went for it. Bogged.
We backed up the quarter mile or so till we found the earlier tracks and gunned it up onto the levy. Even then it was touch and go.
Had a go at hoiking the Buick out, but broke the cable, and had to wait for Klean Kev to come by with his snatch strap. (Memo to self: buy one of those fuckers.)
After that, it was just a matter of following the detour tracks, and we made it into Louth in pretty good time.
We noted that when we came out of the track, that the road had been closed. Lucky I guess.
Last to arrive at the Louth Pub was the Ply Mouth, and we were all surprised to see what looked like an ageing ex-member of Les Girls in the passenger seat. "She" flashed a leg at us, and we could tell by the varicous veins that this ancient ruin was none other than the Brickie. Had us wondering for a nano-second but.
After a few dozen restorative ales, we set up camp at the race track, next to a bunch of Melbourne-suburban-A-grade- total-fucking-idiots. We ignored them as much as we could, and the Brickie prepared for the contest that night: The Damper Cook-off.
Had the camp fire ready with coals, kneaded the dough, bunged it all in the camp oven, shoved it in the pit, and headed for the pub again.
We also put the emu on to cook.
Unfortunately two things happened: 1: the fire was a tad too vigorous under the damper and darkened it a bit, and
2: unfortunately thefire was not too vigorous under the emu and didn't incinerate it.
The emu was the stringiest bloody meat ever chewed. I say "chewed" because I couldn't swallow the stuff, and passed it onto Frazzle, who didn't seem to mind at all.
The Brickie, arriving back from the pub, wasn't put out by the dusky nature of the damper and entered it anyway. We went along to provide support.
A very lively judging process ensued, and despite our vocal support, the Brickie was unsuccessful in the damper section, and no more successful when he entered the same damper in the scones section. We were disgusted and reckon there shoulda been a "Terracotta Brick Damper Section" which he would have won hands down!
Day 7. Friday 6th August. Louth lay day.
Day total: 3k's. Trip Total 1272k's
The Melbourne suburban dropkicks were so obnoxious that we shifted camp the next morning to the Louth Cricket Ground, where we spent the time mending stuff, wandering around, and occasionally visiting the pub and yarning to the punters.
It was whilst we were at the pub that the coppers rolled up, and an undersized Member of the Force, replete with firearms and the general paraphenalia, swaggered up and asked: "What's with these cars then?" Big Trav, who towered a complete foot and a half over the copper said: "We're on a club run from Victoria."
"Oh! All right then." said the copper and buggered off. The Force was obviously with us.
We visited some of the architectural highlights of Louth, but that did not take us long, so we headed back to the pub for the evening party.
This was a ripper event, with a good band, and lots of buxom country wenches, who were very friendly.
The country farm-boys were fairly taciturn, standing around, looking like extras waiting for the posse to be formed. They all seemed to drive utes with long-horn transfers on the back windows, though they did not seem to take the message to heart. (For the life of me I cannot get what it is about R.M.Williams, an outback habberdasher, that gets these guys so engaged. Maybe it's just the long-horn transfer, and wishful thinking.)
Anyhow the wenches were good, and into partying. Rising above the frey, if rising is the operative term, was Norm the Hobbit.
Standing a bare 5 foot stripped naked, he was head and shoulders above the ten gallon hats of the posse, and probably would have been if not protected by a phalanx of amazon farm girls. He did his seductive Cockatoo Hop dance step, and they were just putty in his hands.
I am reliably informed that a "maiden" even proposed marriage, or the next best thing, in the heat of the dance, but our Hobbit was steadfast, having obviously spied the posse out of the corner of his eye.
A breaker of hearts is our boy, but true blue, and we made it home to the camp, at about 1.00am, to where the wimps and pikers had retreated, hours earlier. Disgraceful! Should be drummed out of the club for Conduct Unbecoming A Feral!
Day 8. Saturday, 7th August.
Louth-Cobar-100k's north of Ivanhoe.
Day total: 263k's. Trip total 1535k's.
We were also aware that this would be the last night for the entire crew, because the Stork, Fergie, and the Hobbit would leave use tomorrow when we got to Ivanhoe.
We stopped off at Cobar for lunch and fuel. This is a most prosperous looking mining town, and we were bailed up by the local newshound, and shunted off for a "photo-opportunity". Notalot happens in Cobar I suppose. Click HERE to see the coverage, which is basically just the crap at the start of the website. I suppose it fills up fish wrappers.
It was around this time that we started having a few problems with some cars. Arfer was having fuel problems, Deaf John was having battery problems, and Kenny's generator was fucked, and was also having a few exhaust pipe problems. Nothing major.
Left Louth early, leaving behind a broken heart, but..shucks!...that's life. Headed out of town fast towards Cobar. This was a tarmac road and fairly boring, but the country was interesting in its vibrancy. So green and lush.
We were aware that the weather was chasing us, as the bureau was forecasting wet weather, but we had evaded it in the past few days, and we hoped that our luck would hold.
We headed South-West towards Ivanhoe, and came back into that beautiful pine country that looked like a golf course.
Found a camp-site about 100k's from Ivanhoe, with plenty of firewood.
The Hobbit was pretty shagged out from all of the Cockatoo Hopping of the night before, not to mention the stress of the hunted, and for all of the world looked like he had carked it. We had a coffin handy, and were about to administer the Last Feral Rites, when the bastard woke up. Just can't rely on anyone these days.
Day 9. Sunday 8th August.
Ivanhoe Road -
Lake Mungo Road.
Day total: 162k's.
Trip total 1697k's.
We were in no particular hurry to proceed, in fact the night before had taken a toll on several of us, so we just mosied along till we got to Ivanhoe.
Quite liked Ivanhoe on a Sunday. Very quiet, which suited us.
Everyone too shagged out to feel up to much, so we headed to the pub, where, along with beer, we also got a good shower.
Ivanhoe was a good little town with a nice feel to it. Pityno-one took a pic, but that's how it goes.
It was here that we said goodbye to Stork "Fuck'em! It's all good!", the Fergie, and Norm the Hobbit, who were all going home directly, more or less.
We decided to head out, after a coupla hours at the pub, and make our way to Lake Mungo.
We were now not even on minor roads, and the road conditions showed it. They were shockers. Badly rutted, with minimal grading, and we were considerably pounded, but the country was very interesting,and changing ridge by ridge in terms of vegetation.
We motored along till our usual "look for a camp" hour of about 4.00pm. Deaf John and I had been advance guard and found one, and waited. No-one came, so, after half an hour we headed back. We found the Buick and the Ford at a crossroads, with a dead kangaroo in the back, which the Buick had hit at that spot. As we pulled up, the Ply Mouth also came into view, so we camped at that point.
The roo was butchered into Road-kill stew, with onions, garlic, and lots of red wine, to marinate for a day or so, and the rest of us busied ourselves with getting firewood.
Day 10. Monday, 9th August.
Lake Mungo Road - Cavan Station.
Day total: 156k's. Trip total 1853k's
From the red earths of Ivanhoe we traversed into the white clay of Mungo. This means that even a couple of millimetres of rain would stop us dead. And the roads showed it. Flat hard bake for miles, then vicious ruts where the last pondage had caught the last 4WD.
Beautiful in its desolation.
These are the overflow plains of the Darling River, before whitefellas took so much water, and built so many dams, that it never overflows anymore. The largest of the "lakes" is Garnpang, (above) a flat plain so large that you can see the curvature of the earth.
We were close to Boree Plain, which reminded me of the poem by John O'Brien.
The message of this poem was to be driven home to us later that day.
Though the going was rough, it was a great drive because the environment was so utterly spectacular. We stopped often to muck around, and just drink it in, along with some cleansing ale. The Brickie was even moved to attempt to shear Shaun The Sheep Eski. Frazzle the Whippet, meanwhile did his road-kill impersonations. And very good he was too.
Eventually we made it to Lake Mungo National Park, where we thought we might stay for that night. We were in no great hurry.
When this writer, the Wolf, was a young sprog of barely 20 summers, he visited Lake Mungo en route to have a squizz at the Great Walls Of China, which turned out to be some slightly bigger than usual sand dunes.
The dunes did not impress, but Mungo Station did, and I was looking forward to seeing it again after 40 years or so.
The shearing shed was as monumentally impressive as it was before, but the rest, under the management of National Parks had turned to twee.
When I first went there, the family still ran the show, and the shed was a normal shed. Grass grew everywhere sheep could not get to, the old dero steam engine lay in the grass, in other words it was a working station, with nice people, dogs everywhere, and a friendly atmosphere.
Now, signs proclaimed that dogs would not be welcome. How the fuck could you run a station without dogs?
Dodge, the blue-healer is as much an Australian icon as Mungo, and more so than the bloody bureaucracy that runs the joint. Every station had not only its working dogs, but its hunting dogs, so Frazzle the whippet, would have been at home beside the fire in the homestead.
Instead we have the shearing shed, cleaned to the point of antisepsis, a restored steam engine that looks totally out of place in its little anally tidy captive stall, a tarmacked 1/2 acre parking lot, super-tidy National Trust offices right next door that stick out like dog's balls, and bloody signs everywhere!
We thought we might camp at the joint, but, apart from the fact that they would give us grief about the dogs, the area looked as appealing as suburban Oakleigh, and you had to buy firewood in little parcels. Nah..fuck'em!
We decided to head for the Darling again.
We had no great idea exactly where, but not really keen to backtrack to Pooncarie, we decided to find a place that was close to the road, on the way back to Wentworth.
After a great road, we hit the highway, and turned south-west. The point closest to the river chanced to be near a driveway that said: "Cavan Station".
We sent the Brickie in, as an emissary to ask if we might be able to camp on their bit of the river. He came back saying: "No! You will not be able to camp there, but, you are welcome to have the shearers quarters for as long as you like!"
Day 11, Wednesday, 10th August.
Lay Day: Cavan Station.
Day total: 10k's. Trip total: 1863k's
"Now someone driving through the rain will happen in, I bet; So fill the fountain up again, and leave the table set. For this was ours with pride to say--and all the world defy-- No stranger ever turned away, no neighbour passed us by. "
Makes you wonder about what century you are in. Is it the cars? No, these people are decent folk and would have been as kind to anyone who asked for shelter. That they gave shelter to 8 weirdos in beaten up old cars is a testament to their tolerance.
We give our heart-felt thanks to Susan and Patrick Byrne for their kindness.
They came each evening, (we decided to stay an extra night), and we chatted to them and their kids about what we had done, and about their place, the seasons etc...stuff.
What they gave to us was 4 double bedrooms, a kitchen, with both gas and wood-stove,and all cooking gear, an
ex-schoolroom as a lounge, with fireplace, a bathroom and a laundry,..... and kindness. What they asked from us was......... nothing.
But they gave us a bit extra, faith in the essential decency of ordinary people, and maybe that the world of John O'Brien is not a dead relic, but still lives, at least near the Boree Plain.
We decided to have a lay day, and just bum around. Have a look at the river, eat the kangaroo, whatever.
The river was flowing, but 25-30 foot down from its peak earlier in the year when it received the flows from the big wet in Queensland. The green of the bank is the result of that earlier flow, as is the billabong up high where we caught some yabbies.
We decided to picnic on the bank, and eat the Roadkill Stew, but before, we would visit the bridge.
This bridge was put in by the Byrnes and their neighbours over the river, so as to save their neighbours a couple of hours travel to pick up supplies.
It's made of old rail track, welded in place, and despite the ricketty look and feel, Patrick assures us that it will comfortably hold a loaded B-Double. Every mega-flood or so it gets washed away, but they pick up the bits, and put it together again. He did not seem to think this was much of a problem and would only take them a week or so. Time, is after all, a relative concept, but neighbours are real.
It felt great to drive on, though walking was difficult enough for a human. When Dodge the Bluey tried it he ended up marooned with all four down and unable to move. The ultimate cattle grid!
We lazed around there all arvo. Ate the kangaroo stew, which wasn't bad at all, did a little fishing, had a look at a demented sheep on the other side that was doing a Shaun The Sheep Eski impersonation, drank a little beer, talked bullshit, and generally chilled out.
It was a beautiful setting, and the weather held out.
Late in the arvo, the Brickie decided he had better track on home, and so Klean Kevi unloaded the backup trailer onto the survivors, and he and the Brickie headed for Wentworth to pick up the Dodge (not the dog). We were down to 4 cars, 6 people, and 2 dogs.
Had a quiet, warm night at the Cavan shearers quarters. Chatted to the Byrnes, who came by, and prepared for the journey home.
Day 12. 11th August.
Cavan Station- Wemen.
Day total: 213k's. Trip Total: 2076k's
We said goodbye to the Byrnes family, and meet the parents/grandparents as well. Promised to return.
Then, with one last pic at the gate we were well and truly on our way home, with the weather closing in on us with a vengeance.
The wind was howling in from the Northwest, and it was bloody cold. We did not know it, but this was the start of the wettest period in Victoria's recent history, and we were out in it.
We loaded the Ply Mouth and the Buick onto Robbo's truck at Keithy's and continued on to lunch at Red Cliffs Pub.
Here the remnant travellers were to be truly astounded. Big Trav, he of the tats, the blue T-shirt in freezing weather, the frightener of coppers, said: "Have a look at this." And presented us with a poem of the journey to Louth!
He'd been writing it in Arfer's car as they were going along since Cavan. (Printed elsewhere on this site.) People are endlessly surprising.
We continued on till Hattah, when the boys in the semi, with Trav on the back in the Ply Mouth with Dodge the farting bluey, took their leave and went straight home.
Deaf John and the Wolf in the Stupidbaker, and Arfer in the A Model went back to our initial camp at Wemen.
We had saught to get a little further into the Kulkyne forest but the tracks were appallingly greasy to the point where steering was optional.
We camped 10 metres from our first camp, and circled the cars to keep out the gale that was blowing. Nonetheless we enjoyed the yabbies that had been caught at Cavan, plus the last of the sausages. Rugged up, it was still a good night out.
The wind howled, but it did not rain a lot, the camp fire glowed, the Murray River flowed on below us, and we discussed what had been a superlative frolic. Who could ask for more?
Day 13, 12th August. Wemen-home. DayTotal: 345k's. Trip Total: 2421k's.
We rugged up as best we could, and headed home with the wind howling against us.
Both Deaf John and I were more than pleased to have Frazzle Whippet between us who acted as a superlative thigh heater, and occasional rug when he wanted a change of position.
Poor Arfer, alone in the A Model resorted to 1920's technology to avoid the icy blast. He steered from the passenger leeward side, and used his throttle control to govern speed, a technique that relies upon eternal vigilance for survival, especially on the Calder Highway between Sea Lake and Witcheproof. There must be at least one truckie checking his medication on seeing a vintage car with a passenger, but no driver.
After Wycheproof we headed back to the quieter back roads to St Arnaud, and from there to Logan to call in on our mate Logan Keith.
We were met like long lost family as usual, and the Keith was in hyper-drive and very entertaining. He even shouted Deaf John a beer (unheard of ever!) because it was the bastard's 68th birthday.
As we drove along, we noticed the enormous amount of water lying on the sides of the road, and that the creeks were all flowing. Even though we had spent nearly two weeks with rain either before us, or after us, none of it had actually fallen on us, which we found pretty amazing.
With the long drive in freezing conditions, we were pretty desperate to get home, but the trip had a little sting for us at the end.
100 yards from the Maldon town sign, the A Model had a flat tyre. Never let your guard down!
Aftermath. Sunday 15th August.
We decided to meet at Robbo's Ruin on the Sunday, to sort out bits and pieces, to yak about the trip, and have a bit of a feed and pissup, and because Kenny had agreed that some cove from the R.M.Williams magazine (those Long Horns again!) was going to take some pics of us, and spin some yarn. We didn't object all that much.
Everyone agreed it was a pisser of a trip, and that we would do it again, this time with horses. We also agreed that we would revisit Cavan, and our friends from the MADFUCKers pretty soon.
The trip had been remarkeable also because of how little went wrong. The Dodge had run a bearing, but the Brickie was quick enough to pick up the noise, and shut the thing down, so that minimal damage was done. In fact by Sunday he had replaced the bearing with one from another motor, and was mobile again.
The Buick's problems with the generator was an irritant, not a great problem, and will be nutted out. Deaf John's problems of split rims can be solved with money, i.e. buying new rims, and his other problem of flat battery was due to a dud cell in his battery. The A Model did what it always did, neither better or worse. The Ply Mouth Pig ran well until Robbo put some water into the petrol tank, when it objected, as you would
After the pic session we went for a drive to see how Cairn Curran Reservoir was filling up, and, as a last little appendix to the trip, the Stupibaker got bogged on the lake floor, to be pulled out by................................The Dodge! Click HERE to see part one, and HERE to see part two..