Day 7 – Bourke to Bellsgrove Station

Friday 19 March 1982

The mosquitoes at Bourke Weir had everyone up early (4.30 a.m.).  George had stayed up all night working on the motors again, just as he had done at Collarenebri.

For the first time the Darling Descent expedition was ready to go before the sun was up.  With being two days behind schedule, every little bit helped.

The advice from the Shire Clerk was heeded and five boats portaged around Bourke Weir in the early morning gloom.  Ted showed everyone the best method of roping a dinghy down flowing water.

Mario and Tony were despatched in Rover to complete the first refuelling operation.  The remainder of the support crew and the team from Overlander magazine remained at Bourke Weir until it was light enough to film and photograph Steve and Bob, in the sixth boat, as they shot across the top of the weir and through the stoppers.

The first time over the weir was a little slow so they gave it another try.  It was a spectacular failure with a broken swivel bracket being the result.

However, the Glen Villa Weir further downriver was a moderate drop and gave all the boats crews the opportunity to shoot the weir.

The warm conditions had dried out the dirt roads.  The problem of flooded roads, bogs and mud had become one of dust and heat haze.  The rear door of the bus, specially fitted prior to the Expedition, let in a lot of dust.  Apart from the discomfort for the occupants, cleaning away the dust added considerably to the time taken to establish each overnight camp.

At Yanda Station Rover became bogged about five kilometres from the river.  Mario and Tony had to carry five boat fuel tanks using Tony’s HF antenna as a carry pole down to the river.  The boat crews had cast around on the numerous tracks searching for the refuelling vehicle – a course of action that wasn’t really very wise.  A few hot words were exchanged between the refuelling crew and the boat crews – the 40oC heat and the high humidity didn’t help.  The next fuel stop went perfectly and calmed frayed tempers.

Throughout the day the boat crews saw many old relics of the past on the banks of the river. Tractors, steam engines, pumps and all manner of machinery were still sitting where they had been used in bygone years.

Spark plugs oiling up and dirt in carburettors caused minor delays throughout the day.

The bus was too heavy to drive across some of the older bridges on the Bourke-Tilpa Road.  On a number of occasions it had to be driven through the dry creek bed the bridge spanned.

As darkness fell the boat crews realised they would not reach the planned overnight stop.  The night sky did not reflect off the water sufficiently to navigate safely through the overhanging branches and other obstacles so the boats were pulled onto the river bank.  The crews walked about 500 metres through prickly undergrowth to the road where I found them.

I called Rover and the boat crews were taken to the camp thirty kilometres downriver at Tilpa Weir.  In the morning the crews would be transported back to where they had left the boats at Bellsgrove Station.

It was an exhausted team that bedded down early after a magnificent meal of genuine Italian spaghetti.


 Departed Bourke Weir 0605
Glen Villa Weir 0735
Depart Glen Villa Weir 0755
Yanda Station (fuel) 0837
Departed Yanda Station 1020
Clover Creek 1330
Louth 1523
Stony Creek Weir 1627
Winbar 1700
Bellsgrove Station (Overnight Stop) 1907
Running Time 9 hours 27 mins 42 hours 06 mins 52 hours 33 mins
Refuelling      30 mins 3 hours 24 mins 3 hours 54 mins
Delays 3 hours 05 mins 9 hours 27 mins 12 hours 32 mins
TOTAL TIME 13 hours 02 mins 54 hours 57 mins 68 hours 59 mins
Distance 265 kilometres 1218 kilometres 1483 kilometres
Average Speed 28 kmh 28.9 kmh 28.2 kmh

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