Once we paid the entry fee and got our map and suggested itinerary for the region, we set off. Our first run had us going through the Bendleby Ranges, up the western end and back down through Gum Creek Drive. Nothing too complex but enough to keep us interested, along with plenty of good scenery.
Our afternoon drive was a bit more challenging, and we got a glimpse of the most notorious track of the ranges, Billy Goat Ridge. Unfortunately time ran out before we were able to tackle it; it looked like hair-raising, good fun from the bit we could see, but with its large rocky steps and high potential for car damage, it’s probably better we didn’t get around to driving it. And it leaves something for next time! Overall, we had a great day exploring the area and thought it was well worth the fee. For the night’s camp we stayed at a delightful free camp on a farmer’s property just south of the town of Orroroo, which was shared only with a flock of curious sheep.
From Orroroo we had a long driving day to the historical mining town of Broken Hill in New South Wales, where we saw first hand how much a headwind can affect your fuel efficiency. We went from 18 L/100km to 25L/100km…eep! From that experience we can very much understand why people decide to spend an extra night somewhere to avoid a nasty headwind. Based in Broken Hill for the night, we ventured out to Silverton, where numerous films such as Mad Max 2 and The Adventures of Priscilla Queen of the Desert were filmed. While there we (particularly Marc) took a trip down memory lane when we came across a famous VW Beetle with artwork by Peter Browne. It had been over 25 years since Marc had last seen it!
That night, the first storm we had seen for a while rolled through town, and we fell asleep to the sound of heavy rain beating down on the van.
The next day was one of those days that can happen when traveling where nothing seemed to go our way. Our intention was to travel to Kinchega National Park in southwest NSW to check out the historic Kinchega Woolshed, drive part of the Darling River Run, then continue on to the rock formations of Mungo National Park. However, we foolishly left Broken Hill without checking the condition of the roads after the downpour of the previous night. This resulted in us driving about 100km to Menindee only to be told that all the roads south were closed due to flooding and wouldn’t be open for at least a few days; information that we could have easily found out if we had checked before leaving Broken Hill. To top it off, there was more rain predicted for the day so if we didn’t get out now, there was a good chance we could end up stranded in Menindee for a few days until everything dried out. So several hours, 200km, and a half a tank of fuel later, we found ourselves back where we started in Broken Hill.
Our only way now to get south was the Silver City Highway, a stretch of road we would consider one of the most boring roads we’ve ever had to drive. The only thing we had to break up the drive was avoiding feral goats who refused to get off the road as we approached. Several hours later we were relieved to arrive at our designated free camp for the night, only to hear a clicking sound coming from the van as soon as we got out of the car. Our hearts sank; we had heard that noise before: the sound of the battery protector cutting out the battery due to a lack of power. With the sun quickly setting, the only way we could resolve this was to connect to power for the night, which meant getting back in the car and driving another 80km to the town of Wentworth and paying for a powered site at a caravan park. But with all this frustration, there was still a silver lining. Not only did the lovely people at Willow Bend Caravan Park get us in touch with an auto electrician who fixed our van issue for next to nothing, we had a relaxing evening along the banks of the Darling River. All’s well that ends well, right?
he next day we dropped off the van in Mildura and heading off in what we’ve dubbed our “holiday home”, our Coleman pop up tent, for Murray Sunset National Park. While on our radar when we were living in Melbourne, Murray Sunset NP always felt too far away to reach for us, so we were super excited to finally get there. What we were not excited about, however, was the build up of dark clouds in the horizon as we entered the park. Having already had our travels plans derailed by weather just a few days ago, we weren’t keen to go through it again, so we nervously watched for any signs of deteriorating weather as we traversed deeper into the park. A couple muddy, boggy spots along the track only deepened the anxiety, and we prepared ourselves to turn back and hightail it out of the park at the first sign of rain. Despite the early worries, we made it to our campsite at Rocket Lake camping area and enjoyed a secluded sunset on the nearby hills followed by sitting by the fire gazing up at the stars.
In the morning we continued our exploration through the park. In Murray Sunset NP there are no impressive ranges to scale or many sweeping views of breathtaking countryside to witness. Driving through the remote, semi-arid terrain of Victoria’s largest national park, you appreciate its simplistic beauty. A highlight is the Pink Lakes, a collection of salt lakes at the southern end of the park.
We spent our second night here, enjoying the changes in colour as the sun set over the salt pan and the night sky put on the best show that we’ve ever seen.
From Murray Sunset we continued our travels east, meeting the Murray River at Swan Hill and following its path to Echuca before heading south to Melbourne. The Murray River was one of our usual go-to camping spots from Melbourne, but we’ve always headed to the eastern part, Albury/Wodonga way, so it was great to see a new version of an old favourite. We found some great spots as we travelled down, but our favourite was hands down where the Goulburn and the Murray meet, just outside of Echuca.
After a great few days in Melbourne catching up with friends and family, we made our way back to Mildura to pick up the van before continuing our journey through the Riverland region of eastern SA. We found more great spots along the Murray, such as Lyrup Flats outside Renmark, a great base to visit some of the local wineries, breweries and distilleries in the area.
Our favourite local spot? The Woolshed Brewery at Wilkadene, with its tasty selection of brews and great deck overlooking the river.
A couple days later we ended up back at Mount Remarkable National Park, ready to begin our journey further into the Outback than we had been yet. Next up: the iconic Oodnadatta Track.