Mercedes Clubs National Rally 2022 – Day 6 Glenelg to White Cliffs

With the rally now over, it was time to start our drive home to Sydney. Like our journey to Adelaide, we had planned a scenic route back. Our route takes us home via Broken Hill, Wilcannia, Cobar and the Barrier highway. Most of our group had not seen this part out Outback Australia before, so were keen to experience it as part of this trip.  Today we would be driving 784KM.   Our destination was White Cliffs, an old opal mining town.

Yesterday, our group had decided to leave early to ensure we got to our hotel while it was still light. We were keen to ensure we were not driving around Wilcannia and White Cliffs after dark, and wanted to see a bit more of Broken Hill. Therefore we rolled out of the Stamford Hotel at 4:30AM in the morning.

Leaving for White Cliffs

Our goal was to get out of Adelaide while it was still dark, and stop for breakfast around dawn to ensure we were not driving on outback roads when kangaroos are too active. We managed to see the sunrise while we drove and then stopped at Terowrie for a fuel up and a service station meat pie for breakfast. We planned to fill up more often than previously on this drive. The service stations are fairly far apart (often 200KM) and we didn’t want to chance one being closed our out of fuel and running out. Therefore, we filled up every 200KM or so to be sure.

sunrise on the drive to white cliffs

At Terowrie, a lady staying at the roadhouse urged us to drive through the old town before getting back on the highway. We were a bit skeptical, but we were really glad we did. She had told us it was this original old town from the 1880s that was basically untouched and she was right. It was definitely worth the short detour to take a look. There were still buildings with blacksmith signs and so on.

From Terowrie, we ventured further and further into the outback. The traffic really started to thin out and eventually it was mostly road trains, Toyota Landcruisers and the occasional car. For readers who live outside Australia, the Land Cruiser is king of the hill when it comes to outback Australia. Nothing comes close. I had never driven with Road Trains before, so it was quite the experience passing them. Most of them were doubles, but there were the occasional triple road trains along the way.

road train

Eventually we reached the NSW/SA border at Cockburn. At this point it was starting to get pretty hot and the green 280CE was starting to suffer. It was able to maintain our pace with the windows open and the heater on full, vents pointed out the window. That would keep the temperature at about 100c. In addition, the rear suspension had sagged even further that the car was starting to resemble a taildragger airplane.  This car, being an 81, is was not equipped with SLS.

Eventually we reached Broken Hill for our lunch stop. we had made pretty good time arriving at 11:30AM instead of our planned 1PM, thanks to our early start. Broken Hill was quite different to what we had anticipated. There were a lot of people around and some of the shops on the main street seemed more at home in Byron Bay than a previous mining town. Still, you couldn’t get away from the mining heritage, with the Miners Memorial dominating the skyline above the town. After lunch in a local cafe, we went up to take a look at the view and the memorial. It really highlighted how dangerous mining was until the second world war, and how gruesome some of the deaths were.

broken hill

At that point my car started to run pretty hot in the city. The auxiliary fan had stopped working. Luckily, it was just a fuse and we had it up and running again quickly. It had obviously been running a lot as temperatures were starting to climb. I was seeing about 90C on the gauge before lunch. My electric can is modified to cut in mid 80s to ensure reasonable A/C performance with R134A.

Up until this point the scenery had been quite interesting. However, the first hour after Broken Hill was pretty monotonous. In addition, both 280CEs and my car were starting to feel the heat, so we had to maintain 110KM/H to keep temperatures around 100C. At this point, the white 280CE and my 450SLC could maintain 100C and have the A/C on. The green car was still cranking the heater to keep temperatures under control. The day was so hot that as soon as we stopped, coolant temperatures rose quickly due to the lack of air flow and water pump. At our stops during this part of the drive, you would see all three cars with bonnets open and electric fans running to try and keep temperatures reasonable. The 380SEC was completely unaffected, highlighting how good the W126 cooling system is. Certainly on 40+ days in Sydney I would normally drive a W126.

hot under the collar

Eventually we arrived in Wilcannia. There was a real eerie feel about this town. It seemed almost deserted, like the residents had just picked up and left. Given we had a 200KM round trip to White Cliffs, we decided to fill up at the local BP. It was the strangest petrol station I have ever used. Down a lane in the back of town, it looked more like a junkyard with a petrol pump. You had to pre-pay your petrol in a kiosk while the lady running it eyed you off from a shipping container room. it was really expensive too.

From there, we started the final leg of our drive to White Cliffs. We stayed at the White Cliffs Underground Motel. A downside of this choice was that the room don’t have their own bathrooms, but the novelty of sleeping underground seemed worth it. The rooms didn’t disappoint, it really was quite a cool place.

white cliffs

We had dinner at the Hotel which was nice but quite expensive. After starting at 4AM, we were pretty tired and ready to retire to our caves for the night. Tomorrow is a 6:15AM start and the marathon 1,000KM drive to Sydney.

Today’s drive was long, but really good. It was such a different experience driving in the outback, from the road trains, to the scenery, to the vast expanses of emptiness in all directions. Totally different to driving in the USA or Europe, which I’ve done more than my own country!

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