Wednesday 17 March 1982
The boat crews started early from Collarenebri. Tony Love from Overlander magazine experienced his first ride in a power dinghy.
The Barwon River was in full flood, peaking at the Namoi River junction near Walgett. Navigation proved challenging and difficult. Roly needed to pay close attention to the map to ensure that he did not lead the others up a creek or anabranch.
The support crew at Walgett was also up early. A check on the water level revealed a 300 mm rise in twelve hours. Tony and Ted headed for Bourke to check on road conditions and find a suitable overnight campsite for the entire group. Bob and Ivan remained with the bus at the Walgett campsite, attempting to repair the bus starter motor.
Passing through Walgett mid-morning the boat crews caught a glimpse of the bus. It had been seen so rarely over recent days that some of the crew thought it headed back to Perth.
The river coursed through ‘improved grazing land’. It followed a tortuous, winding course. Many times the boat crews had to stop and cast around to pick up the correct course.
Large earthen levee banks – desperate efforts to hold back the floodwaters – were everywhere.
Mario and Shane were together in a boat for the first time. It took them about an hour to adjust to each other’s handling and trimming methods.
Walgett’s flat, featureless country is reminiscent of the Nullarbor. It was clear that the boat crews would not reach Bourke in one day as planned. Ted and Tony visited Colleworoi Station (just upriver from Brewarrina) and the owner offered full use of all facilities. With so many of the stations along the river being abandoned it was fortunate to find a place with power, water and showers. After making these arrangements, Tony and Ted returned to Walgett and guided Bob and Ivan in the ‘yellow monster’ to the Day Five overnight stop.
The river level dropped by about half close to Colleworoi.
After the boat crews arrived a comfortable camp was established. I called a meeting of the senior members to explore the options available with regard to the problems the Expedition was experiencing with the bus and other delaying factors. Already the possibility was arising that the journey would not be completed in time to get some members home by their deadline.
It was resolved to secure a starter motor for the bus from Sydney.
The meeting, held around the table inside the bus, was brought to an abrupt end when electrical wiring on the engine caught alight, filling the interior with dense, acrid smoke. Bob and I were able to remove the shorting wire but not before we both got a ‘lungful’ to emerge coughing and spluttering. It was pointed out that it was probably no worse than one of Mario’s cigars.
DAY 5 – SUMMARY OF PROGRESS
|Namoi River Junction||1036|
|Tootha Station (fuel)||1302|
|Departed Tootha Station||1325|
|Macquarie River Junction||1533|
|Miralwyn Station (fuel)||1548|
|Departed Miralwyn Station||1551|
|Colleworoi Station (overnight)||1520|
|Running Time||9 hours 22 mins||24 hours 20 mins||33 hours 42 mins|
|Refuelling||26 mins||2 hour 20 mins||2 hours 46 mins|
|Delays||38 mins||5 hours 49 mins||6 hours 27 mins|
|TOTAL TIME||10 hours 26 mins||32 hours 29 mins||42 hours 55 mins|
|Distance||318 kilometres||635 kilometres||953 kilometres|
|Average Speed||33.9 kmh||26.1 kmh||28.3 kmh|
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