Most of the mud had been washed off by the time the travellers reached Winton, but Christine Betteridge still set about cleaning the van.
Most of the mud had been washed off by the time the travellers reached Winton, but Christine Betteridge still set about cleaning the van. Alan Betteridge

A dry, dusty, dirt road one day, thick mud the next

OPINION: After a peaceful night camped at the Combo Waterhole I was awoken by sound of rainfall, something I did not want to hear.

The rain was gentle at first but I could hear it getting heavier.

In the outback, dirt roads quickly turn to mud and can trap the unwary and we had 8km of dirt road to cover before we could rejoin the highway.

By this time Christine had awoken and knew we had to make a move fairly quickly - our morning cuppa would have to wait.

When I ventured outside I was greeted by the sight of rain-darkened skies and could see it would become heavier as the morning progressed.

As luck would have it, I hadn't completely unhooked the car, as is my habit, so getting ready to go was made much simpler.

Even after the small amount of rain we had the road had turned to slush.

What had been dry dusty dirt been the day before had become thick mud.

It was a slow trip out and we could hear the mud covering everything as we progressed.

I dread to think what would have happened had we not been in a four-wheel drive.

We breathed a sigh of relief as we re-joined the highway and turned for Winton.

It continued to rain and was heavy in some places as we headed south.

Arriving in Winton you could see the locals with smiles on their faces - they didn't care if it rained all week.

The car and van were still covered in mud and we got a few knowing looks from the locals.

"Been down a dirt road have we?" one local said with a wry grin.

"Wouldn't try that too often in these parts when it rains," he added.

"The missus got stuck in town last year and couldn't get home for two weeks.

"It was the most peaceful two weeks I've had in years," he laughed as he sauntered off down the street.

We cleaned the car and van as best we could and continued our journey passing through Longreach and on to Ilfracombe where we once again stayed at the caravan park.

After setting up I headed to the Wellshot Hotel for a well-earned beer, while Christine elected to stay at the van and catch up on some reading.

As normal I found an elderly local propping up the bar and he was only too willing to have a chat.

I asked if he had lived in the area all of his life.

He just pushed his battered old hat back, scratched his head and replied: "Not yet I haven't."

They have a very dry sense of humour in the outback.

We intended to stay just the night but ended up staying for three - it's just one of those types of van parks where you are made to feel really welcome and as I've mentioned before the happy hour each afternoon has to be experienced to be believed.

We planned to travel to Emerald and then head down to Springsure and Theodore rather than the way we had come as Christine had heard about the floods down that way and was determined to help out their economies.

And besides, we had never travelled that way before.

Maryborough couple Alan and Christine Betteridge are touring western Queensland with their caravan in tow and keeping us entertained with their travel tales.



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