Connie Sue Highway - South through Neale Junction

Tuesday, Jul 14, 2009 at 00:00


Tuesday 14th July, 2009
Connie Sue Hwy, 100 km north of Rawlinna
30 21 46.94 125 32 14.92

Well my prediction on it being a cold night was unfortunately all too accurate. Minus 3C it got down to, or about 8 degrees colder than the fridge! By no means the coolest night I’ve experienced, the Bolivian Altiplano holds that record, but cold enough to make it difficult to get out of bed. Never the less I managed to drag my carcass from the cot at a little before six and get the day started.

Breakfast was jaffles by the fire while we greeted the sun and waited for the canvas to dry out. We were away at 8:00 a.m. and onto the magnificent stretch of road that is the last 80 km down to Neale Junction. The track was in excellent condition with the odd patch of sandy corrugations and exposed rock. There were a few large washaways which had caused a diversion for the track but provided no issue. Things just had to be approached with a bit of caution. As the Connie Sue wove its way through the sandy hills, the hakea, acacia and grevillea slowly gave way to a predominance of box and other eucalypt. Some of the wattle and grevillea were coming into flower so the contrasting pinks, mauve and yellows provided a colourful highlight. While the many sets of animal tracks left in the soft sand of the track hinted of abundant wildlife, we didn’t see any at all until well into the day. We reached The border of the Neale Junction Nature Reserve a little before nine and continued the few short kilometres to Neale Junction.

It’s hard to miss the Beadell marker at Neal Junction, it being situated in the middle of the track as it is. The white of the post stands out as you drive towards it. Being a few minutes to 10:00 a.m., we decided to have morning tea under the trees at the junction and so had the billy on and smoking in no time, enjoyed a cuppa and some fruit cake before heading over to the marker and taking the obligatory photos and signing the visitors book. I was chuffed to find Suzette’s business card in the tin from her visit in November, 06. Cripes it must have been hot then! While we were there another vehicle pulled in from the west. Fellow Victorians, they’d been camped at the camping area that is situated 200 metres west of the junction marker. In our chat they described the horror condition of the track. Apparently the corrugations were so bad along the length of the track that they had been in 1st and 2nd gears only, travelling at 20 or so kilometres per hour for a lot of their trip. It had taken them 6 days to get to Neale Junction. In that time, the only other vehicles they had seen were two beating a retreat back to Coober Pedy having suffered suspension damage as the had headed west. I didn’t remember it being that bad from my crossing back in 2006 but it prompted a quick council meeting as we spread the maps out over the Nissans bonnet and pondered our options. We decided to continue south and complete the Connie Sue as the thought of another 5 days of grinding corrugations just didn’t cut it at this late stage of the trip. Before departing, we checked out the facilities at the camping area and found a shelter and tank, info stand, Fire ring and a drop toilet. Most impressive and with the recent rains, the tank had a good amount of rainwater in it.

We were away a little after 11:00 a.m. and on the track south. What a revelation. The damn thing was an outback road, not a track. It was in excellent condition with hardly a corrugation. There were some occassional rough patches where people had attempted to negotiate the track in the wet and the odd patch of exposed rock but otherwise a 60-70 kph surface. We got some excellent views to the south and west from the high country just at the start of the Neale Breakaways. The track got wider and wider. The country changed to Eucalypt woodlands and then to mulga and mallee scrub. We stopped for lunch exactly 100 km south of Neale Junction on a rocky limestone rise. I would have sworn I was in the country 20 kilometres north west of Wentworth as the mulga and blue bush became predominant and the spinifex had all but disappeared. The billy was on again for lunch and some hearty soup produced to ward off the chill of the biting southerly wind.

There was an evil looking band of cloud above us as we headed off after lunch but thankfully it broke up somewhat as we headed further south. Late in the afternoon, we spotted our only camel for the day as he plodding quietly south, a big fellow who looked a bit more woolly than his cousins up north. Near the settlement road, we hit the first of the main hall roads. It was mighty and wide. From the gouge and bog marks left embedded in its surface, it was obviously a hard thing to negotiate when wet but it looked and felt great to us! We crossed the Leech lakes and then the geographical location where Ernest Giles crossed in September 1875 on his successful crossing of the continent west to east (his return to the east coast). We continued on our southerly path turning off the main road and onto the Rawlinna track, a two wheeled track that heads some 70 km down to several stations and Rawlinna. Here we passed our first vehicles of the day, a group of five heading north. Despite pulling up and winding our windows down to chat, all five vehicles just continued on north without so much as slowing down. What’s going on in the world? Knowing that we would soon be entering the treeless surrounds of the Nullarbor, we decided to pull off a bit early while the timber lasted. We pulled off into the saltbush scrub around 3:15 p.m. seeking what shelter we could from the wind. The cloud is still overhead, low but not threatening. The sun is poking through a few gaps to our west as it sets. I’ve prepared a bit of stodge for dinner to keep us warm...Spag Bol. Always a winter winner. Al’s got a cracker of a fire going, best I go sit near it.
''We knew from the experience of well-known travelers that the
trip would doubtless be attended with much hardship.''
Richard Maurice - 1903
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