Tuesday, December 6, 2022

Detour distress

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Seventy kilometres north of Barham sits the oldest town in the Riverina, Moulamein. The picturesque little town boasts the junction of the Edward River and Billabong Creek, along with a long history of pioneering pursuits.

On any given day, the streets of Moulamein would see the odd fisherman or ute laden with dogs trundling by, but not last week. Moulamein was the highway of detour distress.

From road trains to hot rods, race cars to caravans, Moulamein exploded with Sturt Highway traffic desperately trying to find their way without the traditional Sydney to Adelaide route.

With the highway shut between Hay and Andersons Corner near Ravensworth, west bound traffic was heading from Hay to Pretty Pine, across to Moulamein and for a time, using Kyalite Road until road conditions deteriorated, leaving heavy traffic to head up the Hay Road to Andersons Corner to re-join the Sturt.

Confusion reigned supreme, the 5-ton limit on the Kyalite Road was ignored as many B-Doubles pushed on, with at least one getting stuck.

Others were left circling the town, testing the streets as they saw the sights. Others headed lost out the Barham Road through the flood water, often returning over the bridge in a panic of frustration and at times low fuel. One B-Double was even witnessed doing a U-turn on the Moulamein side of the causeway.

“Where do I go?” Said a tattoo-clad gentleman out the window of a cab over a Kenworth towing a set of tautliners.

“Where would you like to go?” I replied with interest after 30 previous conversations, all with varying destinations and stories.

“All I’ve got is a GPS location, I think it’s Balranald,” the man offered.

I grabbed a map and showed him the way.

“How bloody far is that? I’ve hardly got any fuel!”

As we sat discussing the kilometres and burn rate of his rig, a man sprang up from behind the trailers. Dressed in hi vis from head to toe and wearing socks, no shoes, the man said, “Where the bloody hell is Ravensworth?!”

His B-Double was parked around the corner, idling in anticipation of its next destination.

This simple task to take some photos soon turned into well, quite the adventure. What would come around the corner next!

Before I could even think of heading off, the rumble of four Falcon hardtops were coming towards me. Like a kid in a candy store, the Landu, XC Cobra, XB John Goss Special and GT were eye candy indeed.

Seeing the ‘Kyalite Road closed’ sign, the leader of the pack started to turn towards Barham, a move which would have led the $500,000 plus worth of motoring classics to a meeting of flood water mixed with two foot craters and a centre mound of rocks which had beached cars during the day.

The second car stopped to chat, maybe it was a subconscious shaking of my head at the thought of an XC Cobra dozing through a wall of rock with his front splitter.

A quick chat and the beauties were safely on their way to the car show in Mildura.

The detour distress continued, cars and trucks streaming here, there and everywhere, number plates from all across the country.

The time had come to leave this spectacle. Even back in Barham, the stories weren’t finished. As I grabbed some fuel in Barham, an Indian gentleman with wife and small kids in tow sought counsel, “How do I get to Adelaide?”

The Koondrook and Barham Bridge Newspaper 24 November 202

This article appeared in The Koondrook and Barham Bridge Newspaper, 24 November 2022.

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