Being on the Murray river, some say Mildura isn’t the real outback yet. If you tell people at home that you’re going to the outback some will tell you, ‘there is nothing there’, with wide open eyes of angst and amazement. So we decide to go see for ourselves what ‘nothing’ looks like.
Well, for one, there is a whole lot of sky. There is so much sky out there! And it seems that everything that breaks the sky is beautiful and interesting where it would have been ordinary in a more populated area. Without the sensory overload of the cities, we become hypersensitive to any colour change or movement.
Unsure whether there would be another quarantine checkpoint at the state border, we waited with filling our small fridge again until we crossed back into New South Wales at Wentworth (this wasn’t necessary, so if you want to stock up, do it in Mildura which is a much larger town!). Small Wentworth is the crossroads for the Silver City Highway or the Menindee road, both going to Broken Hill.
We choose the Menindee road which more or less follows the Darling river. The landscape changes to scrubs and salt bush with some trees now and then. Small wild melons, yellowish and green, line the shoulders of the road.
We camp at a low cost camp ground in Pooncarie, right on the river, under a canopy of enormous red river gums. Typical of these low cost campgrounds is that there is either an honesty box where you pay the fee – or in this case, we pay our 10 dollars next morning at the Hotel Pub in the village.
When we enter the pub, three dusty heads turn around and look up, slightly bewildered but friendly, at these strange city folk (who themselves felt they were already losing much of their city-ish-ness in the outback dust). They are curious enough about us to start chatting: ‘that’s a long walk, from Holland’. Holland seems quite far away for more and more people we meet.
There don’t seem to be a lot of international travellers on these roads, while we do meet plenty of Ozzie campers here. At the campsite a nice couple gives us information about roads, routes and camp sites throughout South Australia. They are true nomads (though not grey), having lived on the road for more than two years now after selling their Adelaide home and buying a 4wd, caravan and all gear to be self sufficient. They pick up contract work when they need and want and travel slowly through the country the rest of the time.
After Pooncarie the asphalt stops. We head to Menindee Lakes in Kinchega national park. On the road there we see the occasional sheep grazing in the bush, plenty of emus, and feral goats eating anything that comes before them.
At the entrance of Kinchega national park, there is a sheltered, but unmanned information point where we put our camping and national park fees into an envelope, depositing it in the box provided.
We drive around the park in search for a good spot to camp, looking for animals along the way. It feels like a proper game drive with emus, kangaroos, wallabies and dragons crossing our path.
We visit the historic woolshed where in its day millions of sheep passed through to get a haircut. You can still stay at the shearer’s quarters, but we head back to the river. There are over 30 spots for camping along the river, stretched out over twenty kilometres. Only a couple have drop toilets, so we head for one of those.
There are over 30 spots for camping along the river, stretched out over twenty kilometres. Only a couple have drop toilets, so we head for one of those. We are completely alone in an amazing place, in the middle of the bush. This feels like real bush camping. We feel quite small with our van, while most here have full self sufficient camping gear with them. Most 4×4 cars are bigger than our campervan… And that is without their caravans.
The next day we explore more of the park and the lakes with kangaroos and dead trees, coming back to the river in another spot at night. The lakes are a stunning place, but the flies are quite horrible here. So we decide it’s time to head back into civilization. Broken Hill is on the horizon.