On the dirt … and the gravel, and the bulldust » KathSwinbourne

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Feb 11 2013

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On the dirt … and the gravel, and the bulldust

On the dirtDriving from White Cliffs to Broken Hill we have two choices. Go back towards Wilcannia and out the Barrier Highway and stay on the tar, or go via Mutawintji National Park on 200k of dirt.

Naturally, we picked the second route. After all, we’re in the outback we have to drive on the dirt.

Perhaps we shouldn’t have, given that even though it’s a high clearance, big arsed black ute, it’s not 4WD. But the locals all seemed sure when they looked at the car “Nah, you should be ok in that”. They weren’t considering our lack of experience!

A few ks onto the dirt, at the first bulldust hole that pulled at the car I thought of another reason not to drive that way. I forgot to bring a shovel and I don’t think the big cooking spoon would be good enough to dig us out if we got stuck.

The list of things we forgot is longer than the list of things we remembered!

But we continued.

Flat scrubby countryWe drove along gravel, dirt, and bulldust, through some of the most amazing country you’ll see. Across wide, flat scrubby expanses, past dry creek and river beds where the red earth has been cut deep and sharp by the rushing water when it finally arrives, into jump up country, and back to the flat scrub. And all the while the red dirt, that amazing red of the outback, and wide open spaces.

This is tough, hard country, and there’s evidence of just how tough everywhere. Cemeteries are full of people who died of typhoid or thirst, many of them children who were particularly susceptible to both. In White Cliffs there’s a memorial to a man who was appointed “guardian of children abandoned in hard times”. That’s tough country!

But still people persist – digging out the earth in the hope of finding that elusive opal and striking it rich, or running sheep and cattle on huge stations where each cow has hectares of space in the hope of just finding enough to eat.

And we persisted, though we nearly came undone on a gravel patch. The explosion as I ran over a large pointy rock had me hoping I knew where the jack was in the car! But it was okay. It was the rock that exploded not the tyre.

Finally, we made it. The western-most point of this trip as two sheilas and a (Triton) ute drove triumphantly into Broken Hill. And kept driving through to Silverton to set up a bush camp and pop the champagne to celebrate.

On the dirt

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