Don't Let Bad Weather Spoil Your Adventure
Your trip plans should take all things into consideration, particularly the weather and especially rain.
On all remote trips, the level of enjoyment felt by those on the trip correlates with the level of planning. Making sure everyone has a comfy bed, a hot meal, a cold drink and a glowing fire are the mainstays for a good trip. Getting home intact also rates highly.
We started planning our outback NSW trip a couple of months in advance. Our objective was a week beside the Darling River at Toorale National Park, 100 km south of Bourke, with its remote location, campsites perched right beside the mighty Darling River.
The week before our trip Bourke and its surrounds started getting plenty of rain, 24mm. Roads to Toorale National Park were closed as was the park itself. Plan A was out the window, time to switch to Plan B. A week on the ground at Warrawong on the Darling River would be just fine. At 270kms down the Darling from Toorale, Warrawong is a fantastic caravan park, located just off the Barrier Highway near Wilcannia. Apart from modern amenities and great spots for caravans it has a rocking camp kitchen, 1700 acres to explore and 12kms of river frontage with splendid campsites.
Off we go
The predicted rainfall was looking more likely. At the very least we’d get a day or two of sunshine before the rain hit. We blazed across western NSW in bright sunny conditions before getting to Nyngan for night one. Nestled next to the Bogan River, the Nyngan Riverside Tourist Park has fantastic facilities. Our camp was next to the river close to the palatial camp kitchen with fridges, gas barbecues, a rather good bar and enough space for 50+ people. With the Bogan River lapping at its edge, it was a welcome spot to have dinner and chat with other travellers.
Weather forces another destination
As we continued travelling under clear blue skies, the weather report was not reflecting what we were seeing. After hitting Cobar, we reassessed our plans and dropped into the Farmer's Daughter & Co for a coffee. Despite the prevailing sunshine for the next day or so, mid-week was looking dreadful with 60mm rain predicted. Things were looking a bit grim and a call to Bourke’s National Park office confirmed our concerns. There was only one option remaining – a short dash north to Gundabooka National Park.
The park was open and National Parks advised us the road in was not wet. We’d be there by lunch time allowing us to enjoy a sunny afternoon and clear evening at one of my favourite outback parks. The thought of a cattleman’s cutlet cooked over the coals and a cheeky glass of red had me salivating.
At the entrance to Gundabooka National Park, we are greeted with ‘Yamakarra mayingkalka’ - Welcome to Our Country. If we were only going to get one day of nice weather, then this was the place. The park is a nature lover's playground and Dry Tank is the main campground. With its red-dirt floor, Mulga trees and brand-new facilities, Dry Tank is the perfect place to throw down the tent pegs for a few days.
Traditionally, Gundabooka was a meeting place for Ngemba (Stone Country people) and Paakandji (River people). The ‘Stone Country’ people heralded from the Cobar Peneplain while the ‘River’ people lived along the Darling River. Both groups claim a special interest in Gundabooka land, as ceremonial events were held in the Mt Gundabooka range.
The park is home to 137 species of birds, 26 species of reptiles and frogs, and 18 species of native mammals.
There are some beautiful walks with the Little Mountain walking trail leading straight out of camp and a flat 5km return walk with a viewing platform overlooking Mount Gundabooka (495m) awaiting.
If looking at Mount Gundabooka is not enough, you can scale the southern end of the range via the Valley of the Eagles Walk but you’ll need to drive to Bennetts Gorge picnic area where the walk begins. There’s plenty of birdlife on the walk and changes in the vegetation keep you enchanted. The walk is flat until you start the climb to the summit. It's a Grade 5 walk and should take three hours to return. Though it's not for the faint-hearted as the walk covers rocky and steep terrain but the hard work is rewarded with stunning views across the plains.
Another highlight in Gundabooka is the Yapa (Mulgowan) art site lookout. There’s a picnic area at the start of the 1.5km return walk to the art site. The walk is a Grade 5, so make sure you’re ready for the challenge. After our exploring, nothing could detract from a lovely evening around the fire, enjoying steak and red wine for dinner while taking in the smells and sounds that Gundabooka served up in the evening air.
The next day we headed to Bourke for lunch at the park adjacent to the Old Bourke Wharf, with an impressive view of the Darling River. Water had reached the top of the banks and she was in full flow. This is where the supplies were once loaded for transport down the Darling to Wentworth. Council’s efforts to create a beautiful park and informative walkway along the river are to be congratulated. There’s also a great cafe - Cooee on Coffee - that was very welcoming.
Our objective of spending a week sitting beside the Darling River hadn’t panned out. However, our trip showed that any adventure may need some adjustments along the way and so we ended up having a lovely time at one of my all-time favourite places, Gundabooka National Park.