Travelling Australia - Journal 2014b
|2 December 2014
Canberra to Hickey Falls
We drove out of EPIC during the morning busy traffic time but had to negotiate only a few traffic lights to get on our way out of Canberra on the Barton Highway bound initially for the Hume Freeway near Yass. Once we were clear of the ACT traffic was moderately light and the weather good for travelling in an air-conditioned vehicle, probably a bit uncomfortable without air-conditioning though. The outside temperature increased quite quickly and masses of cloud were possibly signs of rain to come. A consistent head wind slowly increased our fuel consumption and sometimes moved the van a little.
On the Hume Freeway we initially headed towards Albury then turned off to the north to go through Booroolola continuing on to Cowra, Canowindra, Cudal, Molong and Wellington to Dubbo. The land was initially mainly grazing with some cropping but cropping increased until the paddocks between Canowindra and Cudal were completely covered by harvested grain crops stretching to the horizon. The land was hilly and the road was nearly always in, or approaching, a bend and going up or down. Initially, on leaving the ACT, many hills approached 600 metres elevation but there was a gradual decrease as we drove north; the road began to have longer straight stretches and fewer, lower hills. By the time we reached Cowra elevation was 288 metres.
There were more hills after Cowra, especially through Canowindra to Wellington, then the road entered a flat plain at an elevation of around 290 metres.
We used back roads between Booroloola and Molong and found them to be quite adequate. At Molong we joined the Mitchell Highway, taking us through Wellington to Dubbo. The Mitchell Highway was deceptive; the surface had recently been renewed and was noticeably black with bright white line markings. The bitumen surface looked uniformly excellent for driving on but experience proved otherwise; some parts are excellent but other parts, looking equally good, were rough and bouncy. Traffic on the Mitchell was fairly light with a proportion of heavy transports.
In Dubbo we changed from the Mitchell to the Newell Highway and found ourselves in a road works planning disaster. Following the Mitchell to the junction with the Newell looked like being quite lengthy but a more direct route would take us through shopping street not ideal for towing medium sized caravans such as ours. Then we saw a proper green highway sign pointing off to the right to the Newell Highway and decided this was a short-cut designed for through traffic such as us; so we turned along that road. Then we came to "Road-Permanently Closed" signs and had, after all, to negotiate shopping streets towing the caravan. A piece of bureaucratic incompetence to compete with the road-works fiasco we met on the edge of Melbourne yesterday. We should have ignored the road signs and following the GPS along the main highways to get clear of Dubbo without the hassles we had with shopping traffic because of poor planning.
Leaving Dubbo on the Newell Highway inevitably mixed us with heavy transports between Brisbane and Melbourne but our timing was fortunate and we missed the convoys of trucks leaving Melbourne and Brisbane and certain times of the day and filling the Newell as they pass. We encountered few trucks going the same way as us and they did not present any problems, if possible, I pulled over to let them pass.
Part way between Dubbo and Gilgandra and Newell Highway entered hillier terrain as it drew closer to the Warrambungle Ranges. From about 280 metres elevation in Dubbo we were climbing hills up to 660 metres high by the time we reached our planned stop for the night at Hickey Falls rest area south of Coonabarabran. The parking area had one motorhome in it when we arrived so there was plenty of space for us to park. Unfortunately somebody had left a dead pig near the rest area and the smell, although not as overpowering as it could have been, was unpleasant.
Rain, which had been sort-of threatening all day, finally arrived on a hot night (more than 30° at sunset).