Touring the Nullabor with Geoff Vallance
Many people may not know it but the Mayor of Shepparton, Geoff Dobson loves the adventure of exploring the Australian Outback.
Geoff and wife Prue have recently returned from one such trip that took them from Shepparton to border town to the Mouth of the Murray and onto Coober Pedy and Kalgoorlie, a total of six and a half thousand kilometres.
Geoff says you don’t take on a challenge like that unless you have the right vehicle and equipment and a back up in the form of fellow travellers.
There were three 4×4 wheel drives and six people taking part, Geoff with wife Prue, David and Lana Ball from Mooroopna and Kevin Breheny and Ann Furphy from Lakes Entrance.
It’s the beauty of the outback that keeps calling Geoff and Prue back, they have made some twenty similar trips over the past twenty years.
But on this occasion it was different, the rains had come, the desert was in full bloom and the wonder of it all, according to Geoff, goes right to the heart.
Imagine what a short time ago was desert is now covered in wildflowers, a mass of colour and even the trees have taken on a different hue.
Geoff says if you want to see the Great Victorian Desert in flower, now is a good time to go but do it soon before is goes away until the next rains.
Planning is paramount, you must have the right gear and the know how to use it, you need to know how to navigate and what to do in an emergency.
At one point they were 5 days travel to the nearest civilisation, so water, fuel and the right vehicle is important.
On one single day they blew four tyres, so you need spares, and equipment to repair. One of the vehicles had electrical problems but Geoff carries an inverter and soldering items, so an effective repair was able to be done (not by Geoff who is not your handy man).
On this crossing they followed the Ann Beadell track, the tracks were established at the time the British were testing rockets at Wimmera in the 1960’s.
Australian Explorer, Len Beadell was hired to make the tracks, he did so with the aid of a bulldozer and a light. He would drive ahead and stop at the top of a sand dune holding up the light, the bulldozer driver would drive to the light, the method was repeated until the Beadell tracks, said to be straight as a die, crossed the outback.
The tracks are corrugated, it’s a rough ride, you can only do 20 to 30 kilometres an hour.
Geoff has bought a special vehicle as his home away from home. Built for the army of South Africa, it’s a heavy-duty trailer with special couplings for the rough terrain. But it offers great accommodation inside with full size bed and lounge area and on the outside a roll out kitchen and refrigerator. Geoff’s vehicle, a Nissan diesel Patrol, also carries another refrigerator and backup supplies.
They were running short on fuel, but they knew there would be supplies just out of Serpentine, this was the halfway mark, and a service station and camping area has been set up for such adventurers.
As Geoff says just fill her up and don’t ask the price, but if you must know diesel was $2.70 per litre.
Over the years Geoff and Prue have met up with various Aboriginal groups during their travels.
He says to understand the Aboriginals you must understand their spirituality, their connection with the land, their myth, their dreamtime.
The Aboriginal teachings are passed down by the spoken word from family to family and that family’s soul is in the land.
Geoff and Prue have had the honour to attend a small corroborree and were taught how to cook traditional foods, it’s been an incredible experience.
Next year they will be heading back, this time along the Oodnadatta track via the Birdsville track to Broome where their son James is getting married next Easter.
Until next time,