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Published: August 27th 2014
Well, it was unlike any Florida I had ever experienced before. Red soil, sparse scrubby bush, fellow grey nomads exploring the “west” in their fancy caravans and 4 wheel drives, and us! Florida was the name of the rest stop we camped at just east of Cobar on Monday the 25th
August – just exactly one week we had now been on the road. From lunch time that day we had finally run out of small scenic less travelled country roads that we had been following as much as possible in an endeavor not only to avoid the mad rush and scramble of the major highway with its road trains and big rigs, but also to more comfortably enjoy the beauty of the country side through which we were passing.
My last blog I wrote at Lake Burrendong east of Wellington where we left on Sunday morning. Back into Wellington where Lou spent some time tracking down the ancestoral home of a friend while I stocked up on supplies. In her quest for the right hut to photograph for her friend, she also learned of a scenic and interesting country road that would take us to Dubbo via a little town
that claims Banjo Patterson as one of its sons … Yeoval. In fact Banjo only lived there until he was 7, but that does not take any of the shine off the historical claim to fame for this little village. We stopped for lunch and were keenly photographing a rather strange looking sculpture of a chap with a split head (see photo) which we thought must have been Banjo. We were quite disappointed when we discovered it was someone else entirely (claim to fame or relevance to Yeoval unknown to us) and then were told that his family home was no longer visible having decayed into rubble and a couple of old tanks and was on private property anyway.
So on we went to Dubbo, and slightly beyond to a free camp reserve on the Macquarie River just off the Newell Highway. Lucky we didn’t leave our arrival too late as there was barely a spot vacant in this scenic and very quaint little campground. Seems we are not the only travellers who follow the advice of the Free Camps 7 (6) book. And guess what … the weather has now improved. This evening was quite barmy – almost
warm. We walked along the river, and took several (lots?) of photos of the sunset and were once again ready for bed as soon as the sun had set.
Monday saw us set out nice and early and this time we were truly heading west. But again, we managed to delay the inevitable highway by detouring through some delightful countryside all the way to Warren. Fields of lucerne almost ready for harvest, barley and/or oats and golden canola spread out for miles on either side of the road. Truly lush and rich country side. But no country side is perfect … and now we started to sight feral cats … too numerous to count, we were amazed at the number we encountered darting off the road and into the long grass along the sides of the road.
From Warren we had to make our way back to the Barrier Way … we could no longer avoid the highway … but the drive was still wonderful. The country side started to change now, and crops gradually gave way to salt bush, red soil and scrubby trees. By 3pm we were both wilting and ready for a feed and sleep,
and so we were very pleased when the rest area called “Florida” loomed into view. We were not the first to make Florida our over night stop, and several of our companion travellers we recognized from the previous night on the Macquarie River back near Dubbo. Friends by now!!! And happy greetings all round.
The bird life in Florida was intriguing as you will see from some of my photos. Oh guess what … very annoying, neither Lou or I brought our bird book with us … so identification is going to have to wait until we either get home, or find a second hand one in a Vinnies!!!! But these little birds were very busy … well, it is spring and they were very cosy with each other!!! And they are very used to travellers and not at all shy. I thought a couple of them were actually going to get in the Sally wagon for a while. No scraps of food dropped on the ground lasted very long before they were greedily gobbled up.
The weather is now quite warm … Sally even started without any assistance of an artificial nature from me this morning. A
good sign indeed. Back onto the Barrier Way, we arrived in Cobar in time for a coffee and mid morning snack – but not until we had driven up to the Fort Bourke Lookout to view the enormous open cut mine that we assumed at the time was a copper mine, but subsequently discovered is in fact a gold mine. The photos speak for themselves – amazing, so deep; we watched an enormous piece of machinery on wheels haul a load of crushed rock all the way from the bottom to the top, and then watched as a shift of miners emerged from the hole at the bottom … little ants in the bottom of the pit.
And then we set off for Wilcannia on a long, straight, moderately undulating road slicing its way through scrubby vegetation growing out of deep red soil. Now the feral animals are goats – they are everywhere in droves, all shapes, ages, sizes and colours. They graze right on the edge of the road and don’t turn a hair as huge semis and a myriad of vehicles fly past at 110+ kph. Tonight we are camped on the banks of the Darling River
in Wilcannia. I have always been fascinated by the tales of paddle steamers and their trade and travel on the Darling River – even more than the Murray. I have seen the Darling once before – at Bourke on my way to Darwin a few years ago. But there the Darling was quite substantial, and I could not relate that piece of the river to all the stories I had heard about how the river boats used to get stuck upstream if they were not quick enough, or the season was too dry, and they would have to wait for the rains and floods up north before they could sail downstream again. But here I can totally imagine it. Here the Darling is small, very very green, narrow, sitting at the bottom of very steep walls of soil. Here I can see the steamers stranded. And there has been a lot of rain out this way just recently. I heard a river report on the radio earlier today where they were giving the height of the rivers at various places, and expected from that report to see a lot more water.
Anyway, it’s a great place to camp. We
may just relax here for a day or so before moving on. There are some very old and interesting buildings in Wilcannia and they will certainly need to be photographed. The town itself looks very poor and struggling; certainly has seen better and more glamorous days I would think. But its still here, and the people are wonderful. Steve the manager of the caravan park (yes, we have power and hot showers tonight, what a luxury, but no mobile service or internet access) is a very chatty chap and he has a pet emu!!! He demonstrated just how friendly and how she loved to give him a cuddle when we registered. And the hot water is great he said! Just turn it on, and off again when you are finished!!! Ah, you’ve gotta love the outback!
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