The last of the Darling

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August 23rd 2009
Published: August 23rd 2009
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Wild West NSW

Point 1 = Wilcannia, Point 2 = Broken Hill, Point 3 = Menindee Lakes, Point 4 = Pooncarrie, Point 5 = Wentworth

We will be entering our 5th week of travelling tomorrow and I can’t believe how quickly time is flying. I’m happy to report that since I was last “blogging”, Woody has been bathed and is now looking more like his usual self, although it did take me a good few hours to brush all the red sand from his coat!

We’ve had such a busy two weeks I don’t really know where to start (although I will try not to make this as long as the last 2!). After leaving Mount Oxley in Bourke, we entered our first adventurous road stretch; the unsealed road from Bourke to Wilcannia which is only passable in dry weather. Since we had seen no sign of rain during the first two weeks and the little signs before you enter the road said “ROAD OPEN” we decided to go ahead with our planned route and on we ploughed. The road is sealed in places (only the really problematic areas I suppose) but is mostly unsealed. You pass through areas where it is mainly stones and gravel and then there are the exciting bits where there are kms of red dust which is like driving on red snow to me! Lots of fun. I’m pleased to say we reached Tilpa in one piece although unfortunately the same cannot be said for the stone guard on the trailer which had taken a severe bashing and needed to be fixed (ahhh, the good old zip tie!). We also had a beautiful thick layer of red dust inside the trailer on all of our belongings! So, in the long run, it wasn’t only the dog that was red!!!

Half way to Wilcannia is a little place called Tilpa which consists of a pub (hotel) and a couple of neighbouring houses. Of course we couldn’t allow ourselves to pass through and not give the town any custom so a few pots of Tooheys it was! Again, we found the people to be very friendly and it would appear when you go to the pub in Tilpa, your dog has to go too. There must have been an equal number of dogs in the bar as people! We were served by a lovely lady called Esther (who was so excited as she was about to become a grandma) and we also met two great guys from South Australia (one of which was a chook farmer!) who were on a boys camping expedition and going the opposite way to us. It turned out they were to be our camping neighbours and campfire buddies for the night. We certainly had a laugh or two and we now have people to visit in SA, when we’re passing through! In the Tilpa pub, for a $2 donation to the RFDS (Royal Flying Doctors), you can make your mark on the wall which we did so if you’re ever there, make sure you search us out.

After Tilpa it was another 200km or so on the dirt road where you see way more emus than people. We had to stop a couple of times to let them cross the road otherwise they run alongside the car with you and don‘t make driving easy! We didn’t stop in Wilcannia but decided to keep going to Broken Hill, where we were eager to meet up with civilisation again. Before entering Broken Hill, you have to get rid of numerous fruits as a fruit fly control measure, however we had not reminded ourselves of this and so instead of sitting on the side of the road eating 4 oranges, 3 kiwi fruits, two capsicums, several apples and a bag of tomatoes ….we opted to just put them into the bins supplied. I am pleased to report that Broken Hill doesn’t have a fruit fly infestation ….. but it certainly has a very healthy population of fat rats living in those bins!

Despite the fat rats, we found Broken Hill very nice. We stayed in a caravan park again (as one can only take so many showers out of a plastic bag!) and stayed for two nights enjoying the sight and proximity of other human beings. On our wanderings around Broken Hill, enjoying the old buildings and scenery it has to offer, we found the Big Ant and the Big Bench, which is situated outside the Broken Earth Café with a fantastic view over the city. We each got photos taken of us on the bench and when I see the one of Richie, I can’t help but giggle and think of the Dennis Waterman character from Little Britain!

After talking to some travellers at the caravan park we were advised to go and see Silverton. Silverton was very cool, like the genuine Wild West of NSW! It is a very small town with the feeling like it is in the middle of no-where despite being only a 20 minute drive from the bustling Silver City that is Broken Hill. Apparently it was founded about 10-15 years before Broken Hill but was somewhat abandoned and wasn’t developed as Broken Hill was found to have better mining prospects (Silver, Zinc, Lead etc). Anyway, what is left of Silverton is worth the drive to see. There are a couple of small art galleries, the old Gaol, court house, and a couple of old churches. The main attraction of Silverton though has to be the Silverton Hotel which has featured in over 140 movies and TV commercials including that of numerous XXXX commercials, Priscilla Queen of the Desert, A town like Alice and Mad Max II to name just a few. They even have the Mad Max car parked out the front.

From Broken Hill, we travelled back across the red sands (through more emu country) to Menindee Lakes to join the Darling River again. This is a pretty spot but it is certainly an eye opener to the amount of water that actually makes it from the
Trades Hall, Broken HillTrades Hall, Broken HillTrades Hall, Broken Hill

An example of the fabulous old buildings in Broken Hill
Darling River into the Murray. Compared to what we had witnessed up north at Bourke, there was only a trickle making it over the weir at Menindee to make it into the final stretch of the Darling before it reaches the Murray. Something strange happened at Menindee too, some kind of force took over Rich (not sure what yet though) and since then he has been making me camp oven pizzas (very nice!) and all different kinds of scones and breads. I’m not sure what has happened to him but I have a feeling I will be buying him an apron if this continues!!! He is getting to be quite the expert in the outdoor kitchen! I may have to defend my right to cook!!!

OK, I think I will finish in Wentworth although we have since been through Mildura (lots of oranges, orchards and vineyards, quite a contrast to the previous weeks), Gol Gol and Boundary Bend but I won’t bore you with them just yet! After Menindee Lakes we passed through Pooncarrie which looked like a great spot to stay at. Had we known it was going to be as nice we would have stayed overnight here but we had already made plans to travel down to Wentworth. On reaching Wentworth you would almost have believed you were in a different country. Everything was green again, there were lush green parks and of course this is where the Darling and the Murray River merge. As they merge between two locks the water level is beautifully high and the birdlife is fabulous. It was certainly a sight for dry, desert eyes! In Wentworth we stopped in at the tourist info centre and found out that the local caravan park didn’t take dogs so we were at a bit of a loss of where to stay. Then a little voice from behind the counter offered us to stay at her place (with Woody), a homestead on the north side of Wentworth. When we arrived at the homestead (which is currently on about 100 acres), we met her husband and his mates sitting around the camp fire on the Darling River and learned a bit of history about the place. As it turns out, we were staying at the home of Ian Law (and his wife Barb) who was a Rover for Hawthorne in the 1960’s. Rich and I obviously
Main Weir at Menindee LakesMain Weir at Menindee LakesMain Weir at Menindee Lakes

The flow of the Darling River that makes it to the Murray!
had no idea until they showed us around their beautiful home (where they do have guest accommodation) and there were lots of pictures, AFL shirts and memorabilia around! Whoops! I’m English….what do I know?!!! We had a great time with them and I was even happier when Barb took us to meet their 4 dogs, 4 horses/ponies, hens, geese and even Dorothy the sheep!

OK, I think I may have failed in making this one shorter but hey, I’m sure I’m keeping you well informed! Richie has just finished making yet another scone so I will go and eat it and keep him happy! Life’s tough eh? Take care and I’ll catch up with you further along the Murray …..

Additional photos below
Photos: 13, Displayed: 13


Hay on the Wildlife Refuge peninsula, WentworthHay on the Wildlife Refuge peninsula, Wentworth
Hay on the Wildlife Refuge peninsula, Wentworth

With the Murray on the left and the Darling on the right

27th August 2009

3rd Blog
Hasn't Richard shrunk? Better check the temperature on your camp shower! I was aware of Broken Hill Pty the mining and shipping company so it was good to learn about the place too! Loved the goanna trail and we are very impressed with Richards culinary skills from the camp oven. Hadn't realised such ovens existed and wondered how they worked? We can only imagine what the Bourke-Wilcannia Road can be like after heavy rain. Does that ever happen there? Hoping night times are warming up for you all, looking forward for the next blog. Take care, love Roy and Linda xxx
21st November 2009

Hey Richie and Haley! Paddy here back in Ireland, Jimbo gave me the link to your blog. Hope yee're having a great trip!! Pics look great. Im off to "write the theme tune" and "sing the theme tune"

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