Hope and hay
Kenworths and R-Model Macks, with trucks ranging from rigids through to B-Triples and double road trains loaded high with round and square bales of hay and straw.
With traffic stopped, the convoy of 150 trucks and 200 trailers slowly pulls out onto the Kidman Way, farewelled by a large crowd of well-wishers lining the roadside.
Over the Murrumbidgee River into Griffith, the convoy makes its way through irrigated orchards and pasture, with large puddles of water on the roadside from an overnight storm, then onto Hillston.
The convoy weaves its way through Hillston through another crowd of well-wishers, and the pace picks up out on the open road.
Paul Betts works his way through the 13-speed Roadranger in our T401 and we are soon cruising along at 90 kilometres an hour, about halfway along the line of trucks which is stretched out over a few kilometres.
There is plenty of goodnatured banter over the radio as the kilometres tick by and before long we are slowing down to wind through the settlement of Mount Hope, which consists of a Pub and a phone box by the side of the road.
Just beyond the Darling River at North Bourke the call comes over the radio that a couple of bales have shifted on a truck ahead.
Within a couple of minutes three trucks have pulled up to help and extra straps are thrown to get the load to Cunnamulla safely.
Rolling again we are in a group of five, with Jillaroo Jess heading our mini-convoy, however a rising temperature gauge has caused her some concern.
Nearing the border the temperature has stabilised and once again the pace picks up with the kilometre peg showing that we are only 140 kilometres from our destination.
Crossing into Queensland at Barringun, storm clouds are brewing and within 10 minutes the wipers are on as we pass through a brief shower, unfortunately not the solid, steady rain that is so desperately needed out here.
As we near Cunnamulla the convoy is spread out over 19 kilometres and half an hour later we are pulling into town to a huge welcome at the showgrounds as the trucks line up to park in two lines.
The ramps are dropped on Geoffro’s trailer, the chains undone and machinery is unloaded for the morning before the hay runners head for an evening meal, a few beers and stories.
Already over 30 degrees at 8am the following morning, the Cunnamulla Showgrounds are a hive of activity with trucks being unloaded for hay to be collected or sent to outlying properties.
Over 100 trailer loads are being delivered direct, with some trucks travelling up to 260 kilometres beyond Cunnamulla, whilst back at the showgrounds Paul and Geoffro, along with a number of other tractor and telehandler drivers are buzzing around shifting bales between trucks and stacking hay for collection.
With the temperatures at 42.5 degrees, the support crews are vital.
By early afternoon over 2000 bales of hay have been unloaded or sent out, and the trucks are starting to come back in after making their deliveries.
Upon completion of the delivery runs, the truck drivers who are staying in town for the Saturday night concert head over to cool down and relax and swap stories with a few hard-earned beers.
Unfortunately trucks rarely stay still, and a number of drivers have to leave on the Saturday to get back to their regular duties, having donated their trucks and time for the cause, with trucks having come from as far as Tasmania to take part in the run at considerable personal expense.
Such is the case for Paul Betts, who has to return to work on the Monday, and with Geoffro having secured a backload south, the tractor and telehandler are quickly loaded and secured on Paul’s T401 before the return trip to Burrumbuttock begins.
Back down into New South Wales via a quick photo stop at the border and into Bourke we make good time before pulling into the Caltex at Cobar around 9pm for a meal break.
Another 110 kilometres down the Kidman Way, camp is made for the night at the Gilgunnia Goldfields, with the swag rolled out on top of the trailer in the cooler night air.
A pleasant end after bearing witness to Australians at their finest.
A FIRST: Scott and Lya Mulchay were doing their first hay run.