Parkes to Lake Cargelligo
Here I sit beside the swollen lake and I reckon I have about one hour of perfect serenity before sunset and the mozzies come and carry me away.
Pete and I departed in Parkes after breakfast in the bakery. He had to return to Sydney to go to work. He said it was going to be a newspaper morning and then a glorious afternoon. How right he was.
I headed west to Condobilin – 100kms away with a slight detour at the 70km mark. The second reason for coming via Parkes was to go and see the Utes in the Paddock.
The Utes is a community project with about 15 old Holden utes which have been painted by famous and not-so-famous artists and erected in various angles in the paddock of West Burrawang Station.
One minor problem – the display is 3kms off the main road down a dirt track. Now I've been on dirt tracks before – some good solid hard packed dirt, some loose gravelly rubbish which has you riding white knuckled. This was worse than anything I have experienced so far. This was 3kms of rocky, corrugated nightmare with a covering of loose dust and a barely discernible track down the centre where it was somewhat tolerable at 10km/h. At least it was flat – no sliding sideways down hills this time.
The scooter actually manages quite well holding a steady 10km/h if you are not tempted to speed up on the smooth patches and then have to apply brakes before the next lot of boulders. You have to grip the handlebars quite firmly so that they don’t bounce around by themselves but I was just holding on so tight that arms began to ache after just one kilometre. I stopped and let a 4WD pass, rested my arms and waited 5 more minutes for the dust cloud to settle. I made it without dropping Mrs Mac and was revelling in the peace and beauty of the area – just deciding which tree I might be able to sneak behind when along came a car – then another, and another. About 10 in all turned up and they climbed out of their air-conditioned comfort machines and immediately started whinging about the atrocious state of the road... all the while I am thinking "you should try it on a scooter buddy".
I departed soon after the invasion, and headed back down the way we came – promising Mrs Mac not to take her on any more dirt roads this trip.
A short stint down a nicely tarmac’d road and we arrived in Condobolin. I sussed out the public toilets, the local park and War Memorial and topped up with petrol. I’d only done 100km and she only took 3 litres but my range with the load on is around 250km. I enquired about the availability of fuel between here and Cobar only to be told “none at all”. 258kms to Cobar! So... if I run out of petrol 8kms from Cobar, I’m sure someone will stop and give me a lift into town.
I headed off just on midday calculating a cruisey three hour ride. I’ll stop half way have a bite and a drink and a stretch and get into Cobar mid afternoon, set up tent and off for a good explore. The road was glorious, straight and perfect surface and no traffic. I was loving it and the last ties from Sydney fell away.
Now here’s where it all goes pear-shaped. One would assume that the main signposted road leading out of town would be the sealed road. Wrong! It was the direct route but it was not the sealed route. 60kms down the road it suddenly turns to gravel. No indication whether it is 1km of gravel or 100kms of gravel. With 190km to get to Cobar I’m not risking it. Nothing for it but to turn back to Condobolin and get some accurate information. 1.5 hours later I return to the same petrol station, top up with fuel again and this time ask the question I should have asked the first time. Which is the “sealed” route to Cobar.
So we pour over some maps, and some of the locals chime in, and then one or two scratch their heads and wonder if the sealed route is flooded and should we ring the SES and find out.
So this is what we found out: the road I was on had 133kms of gravel (I’m glad I turned back); the sealed route to Cobar is through Mount Hope (incidentally the one I had looked up on Google Maps and planned to use); the road to Mount Hope has one section of flooding and you have to detour to Lake Cargelligo; the detour would increase the distance to 450km (having already done 230km today); it was now 2pm and I would not get to Cobar before nightfall; if I was going to go that far south then I may as well do a clockwise circuit and do Broken Hill on my return journey instead.
I love it when fate takes over. The ride to Lake Cargelligo was glorious. Bonar Swamp was swollen and lapping at the edges of the road, with magnificent water birds everywhere. The road was straight, not a curve or bend for 20kms at a time. Mind numbingly straight. You have to remind yourself to look in the rear vision mirror every few minutes otherwise surprises tend to sneak up on you. My only surprise was a small group of Harley riders returning from Dubbo. At least it wasn’t a Road Train.
I got into Lake Cargellico around 3pm, found the Caravan Park with the wonderful Bridget with beer in hand saying “it’s Sunday... just pick a spot 'on the house’ “. Apparently Bridget had partied hard with fellow Ulyssians the night before and she was feeling magnanimous towards the club members.
I set up the tent, blew up the airbed, emptied everything from the panniers to find some clean clothes (must devise a better system) and had a lovely shower. Wandered down to the lake and here I am, one hour later, about to be carried away by the mozzies.