07-Jul-2004 -- Our first confluence; it had been Ken’s original idea to go to the nearest remaining confluence to Melbourne, Victoria. On July 6th, 2004, we headed for 31˚ S 141˚ E. We left the south-eastern suburbs of Melbourne before dawn at 6 am, where it was a fresh temperature of 2˚C. With four hours sleep, and Vass just flying in from Singapore 24 hrs before, we were a bit bleary-eyed. Nevertheless, we carried on with smiles on our faces, ready to travel the 900 km (as the crow flies) to the confluence point.
By about 2:00 pm we had reached Mildura, on the Victoria-N.S.W. border, at which follows the Murray River. We crossed the Murray and entered N.S.W., where we noticed a quick deterioration in the quality of the roads. Using our GPS - which was hooked up to the PDA with all the maps we needed - we headed to an anabranch of the Darling River. Heading through flat, saltbush country we found the bridge that crosses the anabranch. Unfortunately, it was completely dry, and we now had to find a new camping site. Undeterred, we headed along the Silver City Hwy towards Broken Hill, a mining town in outback N.S.W.
Around 3:30 pm we found a great spot for a camping site, just off the highway. The GPS called it Coombah Creek. First and foremost we started up the camp oven. We soon had a delicious pot roast with baby potatoes, onions and garlic slowly simmering away. We set up the tents, and had some olives, feta and red wine as appetisers. By dusk the meal was ready, and we ate our tender meal under a blanket of stars.
About 5:30 the next morning we got up. The night had been cold, as the frost on the car attested to. After waking up we had damper with the gravy of last night’s pot roast. We packed up the tents and left for Broken Hill.
By 9:30 am we had reached Broken Hill, where we exchanged the family sedan for a turbo charged diesel 4wd hire car. By 10:00 am we were on the road again, heading towards the last town before the confluence, Cockburn. We topped up the fuel at the servo there and said goodbye to the bitumen - and hello to the dust and gravel. The sign to Mulyungarie Station said 64 km. Thankfully, the roads in the region had all been graded in the last few weeks, and so our journey was extremely comfortable.
When we reached Mulyungarie Station, we saw that the track that we planned to go up had been designated a no access road, which, without the permission of the station manager, can entail a $2000 fine. Before we left we had not known if the track was public or private, and had no way known of contacting the station manger. However, we were lucky enough to meet the wife of the station manager at the homestead, Mrs Kathy Conners, who was about to take the men out their lunch. Kathy told us that we could follow her out to speak to her husband Tony Conners. After a 20-minute drive, we met up with Tony at Stirling Dam. We told him about the project, and he readily agreed. (Jokingly he said we should give him the PDA in exchange for permission.)
With some new directions, we followed a track that saved us going back to Mulyungarie Homestead. This new track joined up with our originally planned track, at Crabb Tank. We followed the track, which put the 4wd under its greatest pressure so far. Soon we reached the S.A.-N.S.W. border, which is marked by the dog fence. The purpose of the fence is to prevent dingoes (Australia’s native dog) and domestic dogs that have gone feral from moving into areas where they kill stock.
We crossed into the next station along, Quinyambie, near the corner where the fence turns westward. There we met a man engaged in maintaining the dog fence. We told him about our quest, and inquired as to where the manager of Quinyambie station could be found. After he gave us directions, we headed off along the dingo fence. Evidence that the fence is necessary was in the form of many dog prints pacing up and down and shallow holes that had been dug by the dogs in frustration at having their wanderings impeded. We encountered many sand small ridges, and native wildlife. We took the photos of the confluence point, at 2:45 local (SA) time, on 7th of July, 2004. The confluence proved to be actually 32 metres west of the dog fence. After seeking and gaining Mr Paul Jonas’ permission (Quinyambie Station manager), we left the station, and crossed into NSW again. Following a wide unsealed road, we headed off, our job done a day earlier than planned.
That night we camped near a dry creek bed, a tributary of Morphats Creek, and enjoyed a spectacular sunset. We had what Ken and Steffan reckoned was the best steak that they had ever eaten. That morning, we got up early and witnessed an even more spectacular dawn sunrise. We left for Broken Hill and returned to the 4WD by 10 am. After checking out the main drag of Broken Hill, we headed south again.
That night we camped on the Darling River, and enjoyed corned silverside cooked in the camp oven. We stayed up later that night than on previous ones, taking in the last chance to enjoy one of those beautiful star lit night skies that the Australian outback is famous for. We eventually headed to bed when the wind picked up. In the morning we spent our time admiring ancient red gums that had survived by the Darling River for many centuries. We left for Melbourne, on the way checking out a previously done confluence 36˚ S 144˚ E that was close to the highway. By 7:00 pm we were home.
The journey had gone quickly, but we had covered 2000 km in four days - encompassing three states of Australia’s heartland. It was our first confluence point, but it ain’t gonna be the last.