Border Track, 15-23 May 2021

Day 1 – Saturday 15 May 2021, by Greg & Maria

On Saturday morning the Dean’s left home at 7am and it seemed that we were all eager to get going,  soon catching up with Mark Abbott, Cecilia & Alan Littlewood & Michele & Jim Corbett.   We formed a convoy and, after some two-way chatter, realised that some of us had to have a pit stop to ‘off load’ some fruit and veg before heading into Renmark. 

As agreed, the rest of the group gathered in the car park at the Renmark Shopping Centre and after a photo shoot, left dead on 12 noon, heading to Paringa. At Paringa we stopped for a refreshing ale at the Woolshed Brewery and a ‘hotdog’ for Alan.

Our first car repairs went to Warren and Caroline who needed some assistance when they noticed their front stone guard had come loose.  The guard was removed and subsequent repairs agreed to be done later that day. 

We then travelled to Customs House to check out the sites and then followed the Border Road to arrive at our first campsite – Lindsay River.

Once we set up our own accommodation, Greg lit the campfire and we all gathered around for nibbles prepared by Maria & Steve and our own BYO drinks.  

Day 2 – Sunday 16 May 2021, written by Steve & Maria

We left Lindsay River campsite around 9.30am  Victorian time, and drove along the Border Track.  It was a beautiful morning and surprisingly not too cold.  We will survive yet! 

After morning tea we pushed on and suddenly came across the Sturt Highway—and it was as busy as Rundle Mall (almost)! 

Kevin, in his white Trailblazer, happened to come across a busy time so he was waiting to cross.  All other traffic suddenly slowed down thinking he was a ‘radar’ car.  Finally he was able to cross, as were the other cars in the group.  Off we drove to the ‘Shearer’s Quarters’ campsite where everyone set up the tents, had lunch and then in the afternoon we drove 90k round trip along the Border Track.

Greg, our leader, nearly collected a dozen goats on the track.  We had seen kangaroos and rabbits but hadn’t come across any goats until then!

Alan and Cecilia led the way home back to camp and we had another great campfire where there was a lot of storytelling and jokes.  Mark had left his jacket at home and wished he could borrow Caroline & Warrens ‘granny’ blankets to keep warm.  The night was very clear and you could see the millions of stars in ‘The Milky Way’ but it was also freezing, but ‘we will survive’.

Day 3 – Monday 17 May 2021, written by Jim & Michele

We left camp at 9.10am from the Shearer’s Quarters campsite and headed out to the South Bore Track.

 Once we found the soft sand Michele learnt quickly how to turn the ‘traction control’ off and when to use it.  Our first sand hill was spectacular – high, deep ruts with just enough scalloping to not allow a good run up!!!

Cecilia also took the wheel for this section and did very well getting up this big hill on her first attempt.  A couple of others had to have another attempt at this hill.  It was a good lesson on tyre pressures. 

We then headed out to the Rockholes and all offered ideas as to how they were formed.

After morning tea we headed out along the Sunset track through Mallee country – some sand but easy going.  We then took the Underbool Track and then onto Last Hope Track – not sure of what we would find, however it was also easy going.  We arrived into Mopoke Hut campground just after 3pm.  It was a beautiful campsite, with a good clean long drop and hut, which Mark Abbott scored for the night.   He rolled his swag out in the hut and later some of the ladies helped decorate it for him.

Another beautiful evening around the campfire with no wind and no rain but cloud cover, so no stars.   We even had a lace tablecloth under our evening nibbles, thanks to Greg.  It’s going to be cold overnight – now at 2 degrees.

Day 4 – Tuesday 18 May 2021, written by Jim & Lea

After a chilly night we awakened to a beautiful, sunny day.  Our fingers were a little frozen at first!  The temperature gauge on Greg’s vehicle showed -3 degrees and we had some ice on our storage bag and on top of the car.  We left Mopoke camp ground at 9am travelling along the Mopoke Track, with Steve and Deb leading.  Easy driving along sand and views of Mallee scrub, saltbush, spinifex and native pine adding to the diverse colour palette of the natural environment. 

We avoided some deep ruts along the way.  Due to lack of rain there were numerous dead branches on the ground.   Very few birds or kangaroos were out and about.  We met the Ranger who surprisingly Greg knew and had a chat with.  We then travelled along Honeymoon Hut and Mt Jess tracks but avoided the Corbett Track!

After leaving Murray Sunset National Park we stopped alongside the track for morning tea.  We then travelled along Clark Road and saw hectares of cropping country with evidence of dry seeding. Stopping at Walpeup, we all enjoyed showering at the local Caravan Park. 

On the way to Underbool for fuel top-ups, sheep were grazing on both sides of the road.  We turned onto the Mallee Highway past Linga Air Training Base and then from Murrayville Nhill Road, we turned onto the Fire Break Track and into the Big Desert State Forest with its dense vegetation.

We had fun bouncing around as we drove over many ’scallops’ and sandy soil before setting up camp at the          picturesque ‘Yellow Gums Old Army’ campsite.

Day 5 – Wednesday 19 May 2021, by Alan & Cecilia

We woke up to a very chilly morning again. Greg’s temperature gauge read -4 degrees!!!  We all basically ate our breakfast huddled around the fire that Greg kindly stoked up and then had a leisurely start to the day, leaving camp around 10am.

We headed towards the sand hills (again!), and saw amazing vegetation of all shades all around the tracks and surroundings.  I was most impressed by all the flowering banksia. The leaders managed to   see some emus (who were wise enough to disappear before the rest of us showed up)!

We reached a monster sand-hill and many folk climbed it and shook their heads about it… so next thing? –  Greg drove straight up it and   managed it well – so eventually all cars climbed it with only one needing to be dug out – a little.   Once on top, we had our lunch and admired  the panoramic views.

After lunch we drove on to another tricky spot and a couple of vehicles chose not to attempt.  Those that did the track, managed the track well.  Michele and Jim had, by now, realised that some straps had fallen of their vehicle and decided to drive back along the track to locate them but with no luck and only found a blue thong.

On the way home Greg thought he had a flat tyre but after  several opinions were offered, he pumped the tyre back up and as it didn’t go flat again, drove it back to camp.

Once at camp some of the girls took a leisurely one hour walk finding emu droppings (but no emus) and several    interesting beetles (whom Lea and Maria tried to save by removing them from the track).  

Early nibbles and drinks as we were such good little drivers today, followed by dinner preparation, followed by more drinks and jokes ranging from ‘terrible’ to ‘passable’.  A sprinkle of rain overnight but all in all a comfortable nights sleep.

Day 6 – Thurs 20 May 2021, written by Steve & Deb

We set off at 9.30am, with Lea and Jim leading and Warren and Caroline tail end.  The first part of the trip was along Cactus Bore track.  As this  was a part of the Track we had travelled yesterday, we kept an eye out  for Jim & Michele’s straps – but alas, no luck!  We continued along the track, stopping for morning tea at the site of Sims Perry’s Hand Pump, which was sunk in 1928.

Morning tea over, we travelled a bit further along the Murrayville to Nhill  track. This road was a bit wider and had a clay base, so we made good time.  It wasn’t long before we had our next stop at Big Billy Bore.  This bore was first put down in the 1800s and was used by stockmen to water their stock as they drove them from Nhill Station to Kow Plains Station. 

Some of the group took a short walk up the hill to find a rain gauge and dutifully recorded the rainfall in the register (off course it was zero – we were in the desert, after all!). 

We were very impressed when we stopped to look at Big Billy Bore campground – a lovely site with plenty of room and great facilities.  A bit further along, we stopped to have lunch at Stockman’s campground – again, good facilities, but a lot smaller.

After lunch, Jim & Michele took the lead.  We stopped to let our tyres down once we hit Brushcutters Track – good job – lots of sand and humpty-dos and some hills.

Heading back towards camp, we took Campbell’s track, which was very pretty but we all gained a few more bush pin stripes along the way! We turned on to Big Dune track, and many of us stopped to take a quick picture of the dune. Unfortunately it was getting late and we didn’t have time to try our luck.  Never mind – we’ll just have to come back to try it next time.

We had spent nearly all day travelling, and had not seen any wildlife until the last leg when Jim and Michele were lucky enough to spot a Mallee Fowl.  We arrived back at camp at about 6pm, after a great day of sand driving.

To end today’s entry we need to make a special mention of Maria N who did a great job of driving the ‘truck’ all day and to Jim Corbett and Kevin who tied for the best worst joke of the day!

Day 7 – Friday 21 May 2021, written by Warren & Caroline

The convoy of cars lined up behind Greg and Maria’s car at 9am, ready to leave Yellow Gum Camp site for places West and South.  It had been a cold and frosty morning – the thermometer had dropped to -5 degrees and all fingers were hard to move because of the cold. 

After heading North along the Cactus Bore Track, we turned left onto Firebreak Track, which was clearly a firebreak zone between the farmland to the north and the Big Desert State Forest. The vegetation along this track was the same as the State Forest but has been trimmed so that it is lower in case of fire.

We turned south onto the Border Track stopping for morning tea at the edge of a private property, ‘Scorpion Park’, set up for endurance bike riding and camping. 

On entering Ngarkat Conservation Park, we were interested to see the lasting benefit of work done by various 4WD Clubs, including ours, in recent years to maintain and develop the infrastructure that protects the park.  The Border Track in this section is officially ‘not maintained’ and is quite rough. We moved the two-ways to Channel 24 and they seemed to work today.  

Jim Corbett’s car fell into a deep hole, trapping Michele in the car.  Jim had to complete earthworks to get underway again.  We lunched  at Hensleys Trig Point with a panoramic view over the Mallee landscape.  Steve and Maria’s truck, on tackling one of the steep slopes, developed problems with the suspension that were resolved by team effort and some sharing of tools. 

For the entire trip we seemed to be scaling or descending sand dunes with many little undulations and gyrations in between.  After days of rocking in our cars, today’s notable quote was ‘Corrugations are better at this speed’ – we were stopped for a comfort break!!  Everyone tackled the sand dunes with ease, after the experience gained over the past few days.

The vegetation was Mallee eucalypts, cypress (native) pines, brush, banksia and spinifex in flower, however differences could be detected as to what species dominated in any particular area.  Sometimes the native pine was up to 3 metres high, making the landscape look          forested, other times brush looked more skeletal. The banksia that flourished on Hensleys Trig Point was very elegant.

We headed to our campsite, Red Bluff, as the sun sank in the west, gently covering the low vegetation on the Mallee countryside in reddish hue, and we were impressed with a 360⁰ sunset. Red Bluff lived up to its name and was vibrant red as we arrived.  We hurriedly set up tents and organised evening meals.  Greg started the fire and we were a merry group as we enjoyed a late Happy Hour, laughing over the day’s adventures. 

Our thanks to Greg and Jim, who had done the reconnaissance pre-COVID for this trip, and to Greg for steering us safely to camp today.

Day 8 – Saturday 22 May 2021, written by Kevin
We woke to our final day of the trip.  Everybody packed up and had breakfast as it had been agreed we would be happy if we did not leave camp until 10.00am. There was another group of 4WDs camped in the grounds and a friendly young guy agreed to take a   picture of the group for our final day. 

Steve and Maria did not want to do any further damage to their car so we took a slow drive out of camp and found good tracks and chicken runs whenever we could. We did encounter some big holes and everybody got involved in determining the best route and then gave drivers guidance through these.

A second set of deep holes, were encountered, with the same result. Group leaders, Jim and Michele, commented on the spirit of the group and how everybody worked as a team to get everybody through safely. 

For lunch we pulled up on the track and everybody put more air into their tyres as we had now left the soft sand behind us. We emerged onto a road that Steve and Maria could take as they were returning home with their vehicle today. They said goodbye to the group and we all reflected on their resilience  during this trip. 

The rest of the group continued along the Border Track but this  section was quite different to what we had previously encountered, as there was dense   vegetation along the track and we had sharp turns around trees and some holes. Sometimes the trees, yakkas, shrubs and grasses were that close that new pin stripes were added to all vehicles.  We came out of the track and continued along dirt roads into Bordertown, our final destination. We all fuelled up and then travelled to the caravan park, where camp was set up, hot showers had and we all had nibbles. 

Our meal had been arranged for the local hotel, the Woolshed Inn. The food was good and plentiful, it looks like the place the locals go to, so that always stands the test. We would recommend the Woolshed Inn for a good feed. After dinner, Warren and Caroline left, as they had to be home by the Sunday. 

It had been yet another good day enjoyed by all. Jim Corbett made an interesting observation of the trip, while not planned, we had our first stop at the Woolshed Brewery and our final stop at the Woolshed Inn.

Day 9 – Sunday 23 May 2021, by Greg & Maria

Our final morning pack up, banter and coffee was had in Cecilia and Alan’s Cabin they opted to hire for the night    instead of setting up their tents (Steve and Deb did the same). 

Greg and I would like to thank everyone for participating in the sandy challenges, the adherence to time schedules and for the comradery of the group. Together we had fun, helped each other when needed, shared in the day to day chores of setting up campfires and various other bits and pieces.  

Thank you once again for tagging along and making the Border Track trip a success. 

 Greg & Maria