Day 4 – Yarrowee Station to Collarenebri

Tuesday 16 March 1982

After a surprisingly comfortable night, given the problems created by floodwaters, the boat crews made an early start from the patch of mud that was their overnight stop.

There were no time-consuming delays for breakfast, washing dishes and packing personal belongings – there was no breakfast and all private gear was on the bus which, unbeknown to the boat crews was at Nyngan.

The privations of the previous night had served to mould the boat crews into a closer and more determined team and their performance on the run to Mungindi was exceptional – or perhaps they were just hungry for breakfast.

Having one boat out of commission meant that every other boat was subject to additional pressure.  The Nav Boat had two heavyweights, the second boat towed the motorless boat, the third boat carried the damaged motor and each of the other two boats carried an extra person.

The Barwon River continued narrow, winding and bushy.  Despite the extra loads and the problems of towing a boat through the floodwaters in the treetops, we were able to maintain a good speed.

We stopped at Yarrowee Station and Roly made arrangements with the owner to transport the stricken craft and two crew overland to a point were the crew in Escort could later collect them after the main boat party rendezvoused with them in Mungindi.

Single strands of wire stretched across the river had previously been a hazard and on two occasions during the morning’s run Roly and I in the Nav Boat had to take swift evasive action and then warn the following boat crews of the potentially hazardous situation.

From the Weir River junction the Barwon became wider and much faster with more floodwaters. A second flood was building up.  About six kilometres from Mungindi the New South Wales-Queensland border leaves the river and follows the 29° line of latitude west to Cameron Corner – the intersection of the borders of Queensland, New South Wales and South Australia.

Glimpses over the banks of the river showed signs of cotton growing.

At Mungindi, we made contact with Mark and Cam in Escort.  They headed back to Yarrowee to collect the boat and its crew but not before reporting that the lack of knowledge concerning the whereabouts of each group, as a result of the breakdown in communications, was causing concern to relatives and friends in Perth.

Having had to survive the previous night on half a packet of nuts and raisins and half a loaf of bread between twelve, the boat crews tucked into a hearty breakfast.

At Mungindi I instituted a number of changes to both groups (water and land) to tighten up control.  At this stage it was believed that the bus was between Nyngan and Walgett (unconfirmed).  There was no word on Rover (although they were probably with the bus).  Hopefully by this time Escort was on its way back from Yarrowee.

Getting the team back together and working in concert was the priority consideration and, as this could only be done from the land, I moved out of the boats and into Escort.

The support crew in the bus and Rover had spent the night at Nyngan, unsuccessfully trying to contact the crew in Escort and/or Perth.  They headed off towards Walgett (downriver from Mungindi and Collarenebri) mid-morning.

The weather had cleared and the ground was drying out very quickly with the warm conditions.  Creeks that had been swollen with floodwaters and had cut roads were now empty.  The bus crew reached Walgett just on dark and camped near the bridge.  During the day Tony established radio contact with Perth and was advised that the crew in Escort had spent the previous night at Mungindi waiting for the boats.  The crew in Rover and the bus were now aware that they were downriver of the boats.

Meanwhile, back at Mungindi, the boat crews headed off towards Mogil Mogil – with the most difficult and inaccessible part of the river behind them.

While waiting for the boats, Mark and Cam in Escort had spent the previous night in Mungindi.  The piglets they had collected from the boat crews the previous afternoon at Boonanga Bridge had been placed in a sack and tied to the bullbar.  While Mark was inspecting the sack one of the piglets broke free and took off down the main street of Mungindi – with what seemed like most of the town’s dog population chasing it.

After the boat crews left Mungindi late morning, the support crew again drove into the main street to refuel the vehicle, all jerry cans and the spare boat fuel tanks.  Just as they were departing for Collarenebri the eating utensils came loose and fell out of the back of the vehicle leaving a trail of spinning plates and skidding knives and forks.  Coupled with the episode of the runaway piglet the previous afternoon, the cacophony of rolling enamel plates and clinking cutlery on bitumen ensured that the Expedition’s visit to Mungindi was memorable – if for all the wrong reasons.

Beating a hasty retreat from Mungindi, the crew in Escort travelled to Mogil Mogil station to refuel the boats.  Richard and I (now in the land support crew) renewed acquaintances with the owners who had extricated us from the blacksoil a number of days earlier.  The Darling Descent was able to return the favour by repairing a pump used to lift their drinking water from the river.

The water level at Mogil Mogil registered 7.6 metres.

From Mungindi the current was easy to follow by watching the floating debris.  We saw galahs, corellas and ducks in great numbers and magnificent river gums completed the impressive picture.  The rest of the day was a fast and uneventful run through grazing and cotton country to the caravan park at Collarenebri.

George commenced work on the motors and did not stop all night.  Park residents assisted by providing light and power.  As contact had not yet been made with the crew in the bus the fourteen expeditioners who were together were without food.  The town’s only store re-opened and Shane purchased enough supplies to cook up a feast.

Bob and Tony arrived in Rover from Walgett and, even though they returned to spend the night with the others at the bus, the Expedition was at last able to act as one unit.


 Departed riverside camp 0614    
Yarrowee Station 0805    
Departed Yarrowee Station 0852    
Weir River Junction 0910    
Mungindi 1030    
Departed Mungindi 1147    
Boomi River Junction 1247    
Departed Gelorbon 1040    
Keetah Bridge 1053    
Mogil Mogil Station (fuel) 1520    
Departed Mogil Mogil Station 1545    
Collarenebri (overnight) 1723    
Running Time 8 hours 13 mins 16 hours 07 mins 24 hours 20 mins
Refuelling      25 mins 1 hour 55 mins 2 hour 20 mins
Delays 2 hr 31 mins 3 hour 18 mins 5 hours 49 mins
TOTAL TIME 11 hours 09 mins 21 hours 20 mins 32 hours 29 mins
Distance 220 kilometres 415 kilometres 635 kilometres
Average Speed 26.8 kmh 25.8 kmh 26.1 kmh

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