The plan for this trip was to check out some of the areas of the Murray/Darling River upstream of Loxton through to the Menindee lakes. With fine weather forecast for a few days we packed the DR650's and headed off on a brisk Adelaide winters morning. After heading up Anstey's Hill we were soon off the bitumen and onto some tracks through the hills The countryside was very green and there’s nothing like a ride through the Mt Lofty Ranges during this time of the year It wasn't long before we'd picked up some more nice tracks I don't think the alpacas see too many bikes through here Once past Mt Pleasant the country side opened up a little With some wet patches thrown in After a dispute between the gps and a fence line (which shouldn't have been there ) we worked our way through what looked suspiciously an easement and made it through to the Marne River This great little bit of road follows the normally dry bed of the Marne River through to the sleepy hamlet of Blackhill From there it was a short hop to the river at Walker Flat Where we waited for the punt to take us over to the other side Once over the river we stopped at the lookout and could see that the mighty Murray looked in pretty good nick. Now those observant ones amongst you may have wondered what those interesting green canvas bags were hanging from Paul’s handlebars. Wonder no more - they are the new patented (ex canvas awning) handlebar muffs designed especially by him and hand sewn (the day before) the trip. They seemed to actually work - I just told people he wasn’t with me Once over the river we headed north east along the Bakara Sand Road and then through mallee country until we stopped at Loxton for a pie (some people get grumpy when they’re hungry ) The plan was to head to a known campsite out of town and settle round the fire for a few quite ales. With some beers already on board we just needed some ice As we headed towards the river I noticed that things had changed quite a bit since last time I’d been through (pre flooding). The track in was now underwater and an alternative route was pretty rutted then when back on course we found a locked gate and sign. Even the fence was a little tricky to get through Never one to give in easily it was time to explore around for other options and low and behold a way through was soon found where an old fence had washed away With a bit of maneuvering we got through the tree line and continued on It was soon pretty clear that there was no way a vehicle could get into this area at the moment so despite the changed circumstances we headed off for our elusive campsite The main track I had previously used was now also under water so we skirted around looking for a way through. There were lots of areas of cracked mud where receding waters had left their mark and we soon learnt that any green coloured mud patches soon led to trouble After heaving away for a while we got Paul’s bike out of its bog hole (and quickly warmed up!) and kept moving towards our camp Of course this was all after Paul’s bike stand had slowly sunk into the mud. The weight of that ice bag made all the difference Finally we got to our spot and found it was too soft to camp on Oh well, we kept plodding along and soon found a great spot on a slightly higher piece of ground that was dry and right on the bank. It wasn’t long before camp was set up And those beers were thrown down We then did a bit of a recee on the bikes and found that compared to the way in, there was a quick and easier way out, so we thought we’d run back into town for a feed. And a good meal it was too! Note to diabetics.. love handles are useful Then it was back on the bikes with gps and led lights on and back to camp Day 2 Another clear cold morning greeted us on the banks of the Murray River It wasn’t long before breakfast was on the fire With the camp packed up at a leisurely pace we took our route out Once off the river we headed east until we entered the Murray Sunset National Park on Carwarp Rd This took us further east to Taparoo track where we turned north until we came to the ruins of the old Taparoo Homestead After a look around we then took the Berribee Track north This was a great run through hard sand with emus and roos being the main concern. As we neared the Old Mail Road we veered off on the little used Pipeline Track that eventually petered out in a claypan so we followed a fence line until it met the road. From there we thought we’d check out the bridge repairs (Army Bridge) where it crosses over to Lindsey Island. The old one was there and passable to a bike last year but no such luck this time round So back onto the Old Mail Road heading east past Lake Wallawalla which had plenty of water in it. In fact by the look of the posts it would have been well and truly underwater not that long ago. Soon we had past Ned’s Corner and headed along the river on Swifts Creek Track This area was still pretty wet and we soon lost the track but meandered along the river between the gum trees and small lakes The past height of the river was clear on the trunks of the trees This was a great area so we decided to stop for some lunch at a spot on the river’s edge After a bit of a break it was back to the Old Mail Road before we hit the bitumen just out of Wentworth. Here we crossed the river on an interesting one way bridge. After sitting at a red light for 5 mins (as the bikes seemingly didn’t trigger the traffic light sensor in the road) a car finally came up behind us and the light turned green. However, as we headed off a great semi trailer came across the bridge towards us. Top system Next stop was for fuel, water and ice. Luckily the service station guy saw me filling my pack with water and came out to say it wasn’t drinkable. He gave me a key to the drinking water tap and with extra fuel on board we were set Just as we began to leave we spied something that took our fancy So a quick pie was scoffed down before we headed for the Lower Darling Road. After some bitumen the dirt soon started and we headed towards Pooncarie. We had a good campsite sussed on Para Station having stayed there on a previous trip through by 4x4 a few years ago. When we arrived at the station we found a new caretaker in place who was, let’s say, a little bit “vague” :stoned We explained we’d had permission to stay before but he wasn’t really sure without speaking to the owner in Wentworth. He did say we could stay by the station but we thanked him and headed off to look elsewhere With it now close to dark we eventually found a nice spot tucked well away from anywhere And soon we had camp set up with a nice fire to keep the chill at bay Day 3 With the Darling River at the foot of our camp we started another day Once camp was packed up we continued on along the Lower Darling Road and were amazed that they had crops this far out. On our previous trip out this way the place had been as dry as a bone It wasn’t long before we were on the Higher Darling Road and then cut through to the river at Minda Station. When you look at his kit, those from South Australia will understand this next shot This section of road had only recently been opened (with road closed signs still down one end) and it was a nice ride close to the river. From there it was a short run into Pooncarie where we stopped at the excellent café and gallery John and Pauline who run the cafe are very friendly and helpful and John makes a egg and bacon roll to die for. Don’t miss one if you pass through At this stage we topped up out tanks with an extra 5 litres bought in Wentworth as there is no fuel available anymore in Pooncarie Then it was off to the pub to stock up on a few supplies Then the unthinkable happened when Paul was restocking the esky He knocked over one of the beers and the can split . Luckily not much was wasted! Our next stop was Bindara Station on the western side of the river about 100kms north of Pooncarie. With the road still officially closed on the Government website I rang Barb Arnold at the station and she assured me it was all ok but that a detour did need to be taken. The first section of road was wide and in good condition And we soon passed the old bridge over Yarlta Creek It was getting close to lunchtime so we decided to head in close to the river and start a fire and marvel at some of the ancient gums that line the river The detour was pretty obvious when we came to it, despite Barb telling us that a couple of 4x4’s had gone straight through and winched themselves through the bog Then the road ran close to the river where it was obvious that any bit of rain would cause issues. In fact talking later to Bill at Bindara, they had no road access for 7 months after the river flooded Bindara Station itself is a wonderful spot The Arnold’s are set up to cater for tourists as well as run the farm. What we really liked about the place was not only their friendly and down to earth attitude but the fact that they allowed us as much space as we needed. We camped a few kilometers upstream from the homestead where we could go where we liked with plenty of room and firewood. All for $10 a night It was a great campsite right on the banks of the river With the frigid water of the rivers putting us off having a wash on the previous few days (getting soft..) we decided to head back to the main camp area and grab a shower and cook some tea on the communal fire You can’t beat that Heinz Chunky Soup With a little Uncle Ben’s rice to top it off Then it was a few beers and yarns around the fire with Bill and some of the other campers Not only is Bill a top bloke, but like all good farmers he’s got a few hidden gems in the shed To be continued..