Scrubbing up

January 17, 2010

Today was a travelling day, Broken Hill to Deniliquin. The driving day was broken into two halves: To Ivanhoe and From Ivanhoe. Ivanhoe is a mere spit of a town and doesn’t have much worth mentioning on a Sunday arvo.

To Ivanhoe:

A nice, clean bit of the unsealed road. No emus.

This was the unsealed road that I was concerned about yesterday. The first bit of the drive was an hour or so on sealed roads to Menindee, a nice little town that’s far larger than you’d expect for having only one sealed road into it. The bloke at the servo gave yet more advice for the unsealed road and added to the mixed commentary I’d received on it. Some say it’s the best unsealed road, some say it’s middling, this guy had a bunch of warnings. There was only one way to check it – see for myself. It actually wasn’t too bad and I got some experience driving in soft sand and small rock fields. It’s actually quite meditative as you have to keep your mind on the road at all times and move across the whole surface looking for the best route. The first hundred kilometers had a lot of areas where I had to slow down, but the second hundred kilometers was good enough to stay at 80 or 90 km/h. Curiously we had some emus try to escape us by running in the same direction as us rather than away from the road. But then again, emus aren’t famed for their intellect.

The Tourist Information Tank at Menindee

There were no fences out here, which reminded me of a story from yesterday: a flock combined of goats and sheep ran away from a car towards a standard three-wire fence. The goats, being goats and awesome, all slipped through the fence and made their getaway. The sheep, being sheep and the dumbest thing on four legs, were stymied and mulled about panicked at the fence.

After starting out apprehensive about the unsealed road, I was disappointed when it ended. I’d probably given the car a knock or two that I shouldn’t have, but it carried on like a trooper. I can see why people get excited about outback driving, though I might need a little more instruction before I tackle those roads that require you to bring winches and ropes.

From Ivanhoe:

The Long Paddock was full of dust storms and dust devils, but sadly they're not particularly interesting to drive through

From Ivanhoe to Deniliquin (actually a bit further on both sides) is an area known as The Long Paddock. It’s aptly named. There’s fucking nothing. We drove past featureless flat (as in FLAT flat to both horizons) scrubland for about 350 kilometers. It was so featureless that we’d point out things to each other, things like a single windmill. It really is like a single, enormous paddock – and WINDY to boot. But the road was good (and sealed) and the day was mild, and towards the end we started to break the monotony with odd sightings here and there.

In Hay we stopped off for some suprisingly good Thai food at a shop that does Thai, pizza, fish’n’chips and hamburgers. It’s funny how you see Aussie men above a certain age with a South-East Asian wife and immediately think ‘mail-order bride’. Maybe that’s just me. It’s probably a bit defamatory as they were both warm, kind people. In any case, the Thai food was pretty good for a fast food shop. Mum spent some time looking at real estate and it’s apparent that if you want a cheap place to live, move to a dying town. Big houses going for $100-200k. It was the same situation in Mildura.

Deniliquin is our final resting spot, a place I’ve always wanted to go to simply because I like the name. It’s bigger than I thought. But a rest after a ten-hour drive calls to me – though tomorrow is easy mode, only about four to five hours total with a break in the middle. So, as promised, not much plot, but some extra photos…

Photo that didn't quite work out. The sign in front says 'Nut bar under surveillance' and there are three policemen a little behind it.

Weird Bouncy-Castle-like thing at a caravan park in Deniliquin. I wanted a go...

One of the scrubby bushes that populate the Long Paddock is the *cough* 'Hairy Panic'. I would have thought that name would only be appropriate for either a band or a venereal disease.

This experience was not unlike the biblical story where Moses slowly drove forward and parted the sea of skinny cattle. It's in the back of the book somewhere.

This was the highlight of the second part of the trip. Usually when you see a sign like this, there's a long windy road to some special attraction somewhere...

... but not always. There's the sign in the background. Yes, this is the Sunset Viewing Area, pointed at the western horizon of the Long Paddock with a wire fence about ten meters in front. It's about 10km north of Hay, but you'll want to bring cushions. If you bring food for the wire table, make sure it's nice and heavy as there is something of a rather stiff breeze...


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