Travelling Australia - Journal 2015c
|17 June 2015
Broken Hill to Mildura
The weather was overcast and raining as we drove out of Broken Hill on the Silver City Highway bound for Mildura (in Victoria) via Wentworth (in New South Wales). Broken Hill ended fairly abruptly; then we were driving through saltbush/bluebush scrub with scattered trees. The land was flat with the road fairly good in long, straight stretches and a good bitumen surface; there were no passing lanes. Traffic was very light, the lack of heavy transports was obvious; in the entire trip to Mildura we counted three heavy transports and one of them was a sheep transport we had seen coming out of a pastoral property along the road. Most traffic was sedans or 4WDs; there were some caravans but not in large numbers.
The very light traffic probably was the reason for the very low number of road kill; we counted only one kangaroo carcasse and one or two foxes. The lack of road kill no doubt was the reason why we saw very few Australian Ravens which normally gather on road kill as an easy source of food.
Although the land appeared to be flat, the GPS recorded a steady downward slope to the south (the direction we were going in). Broken Hill is at an elevation of about 300 metres (above sea level) and the road had gradually descended to 47 metres elevation by the time we reached Coombah Roadhouse. This roadhouse is the only building along the road between Broken Hill and Wentworth, it is also the only source of fuel.
By the time we passed Coombah, vegetation along the road had changed from low bluebush/saltbush to dense mallee cover then again to Black Box woodland. Since Black Box woodland is usually found around lakes and along large rivers it was no surprise to see lakes near Coombah. The roadhouse is beside Coombah Lake but the road crosses the dry lake bed shortly after passing Coombah. Presumably the road builders were confident the lake will not contain water again, presumably the channel into Lake Coombah has been blocked to make sure.
There were no formal rest areas along the Silver City Highway between Broken Hill and Coombah but there is a large rest area at Popiltah, beside dry Lake Popiltah, where we stopped for lunch. Lake Popiltah is one of a cluster of interconnected lakes fed from the Great Darling Anabranch which leaves the Darling River south of Menindee and flows into the Murray River downstream of Wentworth.
17 June 2015 - Broken Hill to Mildura, page 2
An anabranch is a watercourse which leaves a parent stream, flows separately for a while, then rejoins the parent stream; an anabranch is usually a sign of very flat terrain and meanders significantly. The Great Darling Anabranch flows across such flat terrain that it not only meanders but has also formed a network of more than a dozen lakes. The Menindee Lakes Scheme upstream on the Darling Rivers main watercourse had blocked water before the anabranch leaves the main stream and the lakes were dry.
Popitah rest area was on a slight hill beside Lake Popitah. The hill was home for some substantial eucalyptus and cypress trees with Black Box woodland around the dry lake bed. By the time we stopped at Popitah the rain had stopped but the sky was still grey.
From Popitah (half-way between Broken Hill and Wentworth) the Silver City Highway generally followed the route of the Great Darling Anabranch although that watercourse meanders so much it was rarely in sight from the road. The road remains at about 50 to 70 metres elevation since it was now on the Darling River floodplain formed after thousands of years of water flooding out of the riverbed, especially after heavy rain in the headwaters in southern Queensland.
At a place marked on maps as Bunnerungee (although there are no building there now) the road crosses the Anabranch just before a turn off to the east (our left hand side) and down a dirt track to a large rest/free camp area beside the anabranch. At this stage the anabranch has left the series of flood plain lakes and has a wide stream bed. This is a large area and appeared to be quite pleasant after a quick inspection but access may be difficult in wet weather on the dirt road.
17 June 2015 - Broken Hill to Mildura, page 3
By now the cloud was clearing and, as we approached Wentworth, the sun began shinning fitfully. We passed through Wentworth, crossing the Darling River, and following signs to Mildura then turned off the Silver City Highway to cross the Murray River and go via Merbien to our destination on the southern side of Mildura. When we turned off the Silver City Highway (on to the Calder Highway) we crossed the Murray River via an old, narrow bridge which had access controlled by vehicle initiated traffic lights. Since the approaches were curved we had to wait at the traffic lights without being able to see the bridge. When the lights turned green we had a clear bridge ahead of us.
Around Merbein we were surrounded by grape vines spread out to the horizon. These continued nearly all the way to the edge of Mildura where we turned into our selected caravan park for a five night stay.
Bunnerungee rest area is at 33° 34' 49"S, 141° 45' 07"E.