Travelling Australia - Journal 2011
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23 August 2011 - Charleville to Bourke-Nyngan via Cunnamulla
We drove out of Charleville at 7:49 on a bright, sunny day after a cool night. We anticipated two or three nights of free-camping driving to Melbourne and had loaded up with more fresh water than usual. The van can carry 180 litres of water but that makes it heavy so we were carrying less than a full load - about 120 litres. Online route planners had given a distance of 1695 kilometres from Charleville to Frankston; the journey would prove to be 1703 kilometres to the Frankston caravan park we use when visiting Melbourne.

We left town on the Mitchell Highway with Cunnamulla 199 kilometres away as the immediate destination; the road began poorly with a rough surface making us slow down but improved steadily. This was cattle country initially but the number of sheep we saw from the road increased the further south we went. Although traffic was very light there was a lot of roadkill, nearly all kangaroos or wallabies as far as we could identify mangled carcasses. We also saw our first emu roadkill for this trip.

Emus were present in paddocks along the road in considerable numbers, often in groups of five to seven with one group of eleven; these may have been families reared in the last season. Most emus were behind fences but a few times we had to slow down as we approached a group which had some birds on either side of the road and anything was likely to happen since emus are completely unpredictable. Between Charleville and Barringun on the New South Wales border we saw more than a hundred emus in total and more in New South Wales.

After refuelling in Cunamulla we continued along the Mitchell Highway towards New South Wales. Sheep were now widespread, although there were still some cattle. The paddocks were mostly open woodland with grass ground cover, there were also areas of thicker scrub. The road between Cunamulla and Barringun was now much flatter running in long, straight stretches with gentle curves; the surface was reasonably good except for about 10 kilometres of old road near Barringun, some of which was being replaced. Traffic was very light and mainly caravans with a few motorhomes and one or two trucks. We saw only one road-train loaded with general freight; the cattle road-trains so common north of Charleville were not seen here.

North of Barringun we passed two vegetated sand dunes, one fairly close to the road; these desert features emphasised that, despite the apparent good health of the trees and grass around us, we were still in the more arid parts of Australia.

We stopped at Barringun for lunch, this is a very small place, one or two pubs, with fuel not available. Just north of the town in Queensland the road construction team was using UHF channel 40 to co-ordinate movements of their road-making machinery; it probably wasn't useful to hear those conversations while trying to work out where we should drive through the construction site.

Between Barringun and Bourke the Mitchell Highway was mostly reasonable quality. At first the road ran through open grassy paddocks with many sheep grazing; we also saw a number of goats in small groups. On the open paddocks we saw many more emus and our second road kill emu. Earlier we had seen a couple of feral cats. Open paddocks were replaced by scrub for most of the way to the edge of Bourke and we could only see emu feeding on the grassy strip along the edge of the road. Traffic remained very light; a few general cargo road-trains, caravans and sedans but still no cattle road trains.
Van and Pathfinder in Rest Area Caravan and Pathfinder in Glenariff Rest Area half way between Bourke and Nyngan. The Mitchell Highway is about twenty metres beyond the background trees.

Travelling Australia - 23 Aug 2011, Charleville to Bourke-Nyngan - page 2
Approaching Bourke the road passed grape vines and citrus orchards (oranges and mandarins advertised for sale). Refuelling in Bourke was a bit of a challenge with one service station no longer operating, another having the driveways blocked while they had their tanks filled, and yet another badly laid out for a vehicle towing a caravan wanting diesel fuel; but we filled up and set off for Nyngan.

The Nyngan-Bourke Road is about 200 kilometres long and made up of long, straight sections which are not quite dead flat. There are a few slight bends around a couple of villages along the way. The surface was generally pretty good, traffic was very light. Various agricultural activity around Bourke, including irrigated orchards, soon gave way to fairly dense roadside vegetation comprising an upper canopy dominated by poplar box with round, deep green leaves, shrubby ground cover, and a variety of mainly acacias as mid-level canopy. The land appeared to be divided into pastoral properties, although we couldn't see cattle or sheep among the trees and shrubs.

With less than an hour to spare before sunset we pulled into Glenariff Rest Area mid-way between Nyngan and Bourke. It was pretty basic with a water tank and no toilet but we are self-contained and it suited us well. I backed the caravan between trees; caravan and Pathfinder remained connected for the night. We had driven 579 kilometres of the 1700 or so we would drive to reach Melbourne.
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