We packed up fairly early and headed over to the pub at Noccundra to fuel up in preperation of a run to the Dig Tree. Having a chat with the lady that ran the pub while paying for the fuel (not too bad at $1.71/l) she mentioned they get the road closures report about 9am and they were expecting a few more roads to open. We had already decided to not go any further west than the Dig Tree as roads have been cut all the way to Maree and with all the people we have seen via Quilpie heading to Birdsville there must be a few hundred vehicles on the other side of Innamincka waiting for roads to open to have a run at Birdsville for the Big Red Bash. If the roads are still a little soft I can’t see that turning into an enjoyable experience for us.
Even though the sign at the turn off notes the road to Innamincka as ‘Open’, heading west we see no other vehicles for the first 2 hours. It’s very green out here and I suspect this area is usually just a big gibber plain in dryer times.
Thinking we were on bitumen the whole way to the turn off at Nappa Merrie Station we were a little surprised to find a 10km section of dirt just after the half way mark. It was still very wet and quite chewed up in places where the oil & gas mining trucks have pushed through. Slowed down and managed to zig zag around all but 2 or 3 sections where water still covered most of the road. Took it slow and steady and got through with minimal fuss.
Coming up to the turn off we heard some radio chatter that sounded like a group travelling together and found about 25 4wds and camper trailers on the side of the road airing up again ready to head back the way we had come. Turned in to Nappa Merrie station and after the first few little corregations decided to pull over and air down.
We didn’t think the road in was too bad but when we arrived at the entry point to the dig tree we came across another group where their single axle Jayco had broken an entire spring pack. The ranger told us that he had managed to scavenge some old springs from the station dump and luckily they found something they could use. He also reckoned he saw quite a few broken caravans at this end and his thoughts were too much speed, along with too much weight were the main causes. I was struck by a few thoughts: 1) gee they are lucky they broke down here; 2) they are fortunate to have the skills and tools to remake the spring pack; 3) I’m liking the independent Outback suspension on our Starcraft.
The ranger tells us as we are paying the entry fee that they are expecting another flood coming down the Cooper and that the peak will be that night. Half the camp ground is roped off due to wet ground and he takes us down to a spot where we ‘should be right’ as he is expecting water in some of the low lying areas of the camp ground. We quizz him on what is the likely hood of being stuck for more than a day, chance of the Cooper overflow flooding the road back to Noccundra and chance of closing the station road back out to the main road. He is a bit sketchy on information and can’t give any sort of definitive answers. We decide to have a think about what we’ll do after looking at the attractions and having some lunch.
After an hour or so of swatting at the most annoying of Australian flies (the little ones that don’t go away when you swipe at them and want to crawl behind your sunglasses, up your nose and in your ears etc) we have some lunch and assess our position. We are halfway through our trip and at our furtherest point from home, we have agreed to visit some friends north of St George in about 4 days, we are down to 1 tank of water and less than 20 beers in the fridge, we don’t know if the flood coming will rise and fall in 24 hours or if we’ll be stuck here for a couple of days, the flies are so annoying. We reluctantly decide we are better off playing it safe and heading back to Noccundra so we can continue the rest of our holiday as planned.
I was particularly looking forward to camping out here for the night but that will have to wait for next time. We arrive back in Noccundra about 4pm and again enjoy that we are set up in 10 mins. The kids were playing at the playground near the pub yesterday and ask if they can go over there again so Megan and I head over to the pub to have a beer or two before dinner.