After a fantastic couple of weeks touring outback NSW, the Great Ocean Road and Victoria’s Alpine National Park we thought that the quick run home would be an anti-climax, the boring part of the trip. That was until we learned of the “rain bomb” about to explode over the Australian east coast!
We dropped out of the internet void of the Victorian High Country to learn that heavy rain was already falling in Queensland’s south east corner with much more predicted. This increased pressure to get home before we were isolated, so we reviewed our plans to pick a safe route through the reported flooding. Originally we intended going straight up the Newell Highway to Brisbane via Toowoomba, but news of floods throughout the Darling Downs had us considering a dash to the coast and a route up the Pacific Highway…
After leaving the tour group we got into Mansfield (Vic) later than planned at about 4pm and still had plans to reach Narrandera (NSW) for that night’s camp, a 3.5 hour drive across the NSW Riverina district that would get us there just on dusk. We had to cancel our Hipcamp booking given the late arrival but the site’s host suggested the Brewery Flats free camp as an alternative, which was great advice!
Brewery Flat looked to be an old sporting ground but it proved to be a great camp site, flat and grassy with several large shade trees. There were plenty of other vans and motor homes set up but all were well spaced for privacy, with the highway a few hundred metres away being the only source of distraction. We were soon set up, fed and ready for an early night given our anticipated long drive the following day.
On our way out of the camp ground the following morning we said hello to one of the neighbours, a cute Shetland pony in grounds of the old brewery. The building itself seemed to have been converted and extended with a modern home built onto the old brick tower, very cool!
With plenty of miles to bank and a plan to drift closer to the east coast we headed north to Parkes before angling across to meet the New England Highway at Tamworth. This had us cutting across heart of some great NSW interior countryside and townships, including the wonderfully named Dunedoo complete with a hands free talking public loo in the town’s park.
We were now on a change from our original route home and by late afternoon we were on the lookout for a camp site. After a bit of Wikicamps research by #1 navigator Suzzanne we decided on the oddly named Mother of Ducks Lagoon Nature Reserve, a free camp established recently by the Guyra council that had good reviews. We pulled into a site between some established campers under darkening skies with light rain starting to fall, but on a level gravel site that meant we were quickly set up.
A week before when camped in Victoria I had made up a big batch of beef bolognaise that we froze as back up meals. With a late arrival and light rain it was a great night to reheat one of these, together with some garlic bread, for a hearty meal while cosily tucked up inside the TVAN’s tent. A hot chocolate finished things off nicely before we were in bed for the night, ready for one last day and a big push to get home if the the roads stayed open.
Overnight the weather that had been smashing SE Queensland had drifted into northern NSW, with the town of Lismore starting to suffer century high flood levels and real danger of our route home becoming cut. We still had mixed reports of road conditions on Queensland side of the border and stayed with our plan to dash to the Pacific Highway which we thought would give safe passage home.
After a bakery breakfast at Glen Innes we headed eastward on the Gwydir Highway towards Grafton. Rain was getting heavier and there was a huge amount of water moving through as we crossed the Washpool Ranges. Several small land slips had pushed trees and debris across the road, making for some interesting moments on the road, while the many creeks and gullies were roaring with turbid brown water. It was all very dramatic and was giving us plenty of entertainment until we saw flashing lights and parked vehicles ahead – we then learned that a major land slide had closed the road with the predicted reopening time being somewhere between five hours and five days. The local SES volunteers also suggested that Grafton was likely to flood and if we stayed here the road behind us may also be cut!
We had been getting road condition updates from Lachie back in Brisbane, and given the situation in front of us decided our best chance was to retrace the 150km back to the New England Highway and head home via Tenterfield, Warwick and Ipswich. So we turned around, unsure whether the road damage we had seen earlier was worse and could close our escape route.
The road block that forced us to turn around ended up being a blessing, if we had of continued that way our path would have been cut by flood water at several places as the extreme rain fall made its way to the sea down the northern rivers of NSW. We instead ended up tucking in behind the rain system, with brightening skies as we crossed the border into Queensland and eventually made our way home. We passed many places with heart breaking water damage and flooding which readers would have also seen on the many news reports at the time.
And so ended our three-week three-state odyssey, a trip that took us from the hot dry interior of the country to the cold high points of the Australian alps. We caught up with loved ones, met some old mates and made some new friends along the way, all of the ingredients for a fantastic trip.
And now the dreaded clean up of the rig, some repairs and maintenance to complete and then repack and re-sort our gear in readiness for the next adventure – subscribe to our blog to find out where it will be 😉
Cleaning last of the high country dust from the Cruiser, changing the cabin air filter