10-Mar-2002 -- Near Mungo National Park, NSW.
Continued from 33S143E.
Coming from Pooncarie, we took the turnoff to the Mungo National Park about 28 km south of Pooncarie.
Shortly before reaching the park boundary, we turned right at ‘Top Hut’ and headed towards Arumpo Station on the road to Robinvale.
Before crossing the 34ºS parallel, we turned into some farmland on a well-established track shown on my 1:250,000 map. I didn’t make a note of it at the time, but this turn-off was probably about 12 km from the confluence.
We followed the track through some grazing country before encountering an unattended ute with a small diesel tank in tow. The ute was parked next to a massive cropping paddock. We continued on the same track to its end that was about five kilometres short of the confluence. The farmer was in the process of ploughing this paddock with a huge tractor in ever decreasing concentric circles (probably a multi-day task) and I didn’t want to walk or drive over the freshly ploughed areas for obvious reasons. Accordingly, we retreated a few kilometres back to where the ute was parked.
We found another track that followed a fence line heading towards the confluence and that got us within a little bit less than two kilometres, but it was now about 6:30 p.m. and there wouldn’t be enough light to walk there and back before dark, so we called it quits there.
Back at the farmer’s ute, I wrote him a brief note explaining what that strange blue 4WD was doing driving around his farm as I’m sure he must have been wondering.
So we had four out of the six new confluences we were planning for and headed back to the road to Robinvale. From this road there were two turn-offs to Balranald (where we had motel accommodation booked) about four kilometres apart. I made a fateful decision to take the second turn-off as despite being about one kilometre further to drive overall, I would have half the distance to drive on dirt roads before hooking up with the Sturt Highway (the major Highway between Sydney and Adelaide).
Sadly, we struck a kangaroo right on dusk and about 50 km short of Balranald. We were fully aware of the heightened risk of roos at that time of day and had slowed down to about 70 to 80 km/h, but this one just jumped out right in front of us and we hit it square on the number plate. At first I thought we were OK because the roo deflected off to the right and everything seemed to be functioning normally. To be sure, however, I stopped about 500 metres down the road to inspect the damage and unfortunately it was quite severe as the bumper bar had collapsed and the radiator had been pressed back against the engine.
There was some coolant dripping from the bottom of the radiator so with a careful eye on my temperature gauge, we limped into Balranald and checked into our motel. The next morning I had the car looked at by the local mechanic and the diagnosis was that the vehicle was undrivable and would need to be towed back to Melbourne. A few phone calls to my insurance company and the auto club later, we organised a tow back to Melbourne for A$715. Fortunately the tow truck was a twin-cab so there was no problem fitting us all in.
Back in Melbourne, the best quote for the repairs came in at A$1,936 and the vehicle is with the panel beaters as I write this.
Ada was understandably upset at this turn of events, particularly as I had only bought her this new car for her birthday a month ago. Accordingly, my outback confluencing activities will be on hold for the foreseeable future.
If anyone has the time or inclination to attempt any of the unvisited confluences in outback NSW or QLD, I would be glad to help with maps and route planning – just drop me an email.