The next morning we headed back to the tourist centre in Broken Hill to see if we could get some more information about outback New South Wales. There wasn’t a lot to be found, so we decided to make up our minds about which way to drive to Queensland once we got to Cobar.
First we drove 200 kilometres to Wilcannia, where we refuelled, bought some fresh bread and had lunch. We ended up having lunch in a small picnic area across from the hospital, as another party beat us to the only table near the river. The town itself looked like a war zone: many buildings had their windows boarded-up or smashed, and appeared to have been deserted. The town looked like it was dying, but this may be a wrong impression. We stayed long enough to have tuna salad sandwiches, and then drove on.
We pulled into a rest stop about 200 km east of Wilcannia to see if it would pass as an overnighter. I thought the place was just passable, despite a lot of rubbish lying around. The kids wanted to drive on to Cobar, however, so we could book into a cabin. The kids won the argument, so we drove to Cobar where, much to their dismay, the cabins were booked out. So we tried the big old hotel in the middle of town which looked cheap, but it turned out that it was cheap because it was a total dump. We opted to go back to the caravan park and set up our tent, which we did, and we ate marinated steak, sausages, caramelised onions, potatoes and beans, under the stars. Susie did a load of washing. It rained lightly and we set up a divider in the tent.
We broke camp at Cobar the next morning and put in a solid day’s driving. We covered almost 600 km to Moree, somewhat further than we anticipated. First we stopped at the tourist information centre in Cobar to get some information about outback towns further north. We got a booklet on the Kidman Way, which was helpful. We also learned why there was an accommodation shortage in Cobar: a rally was passing through that day. We saw some of the cars on the road, and the Premier of NSW, Bob Carr, had just paid the town a visit.
After some prevarication about which way to drive to Queensland, we set out for Bourke on the grounds that it would be less likely and less easy for us to get there, if not on an extended holiday such as this.
The drive to Bourke was pretty: there was red soil and lots of bush on either side of the road. When we arrived, we inspected a reconstructed pier on the Darling River (see featured image for this post). It looked like a nice place for a bite to eat, so we went off to the local bakery and bought elevenses and sat on a bench next to the river. Consistent with the ongoing drought, the water level was exceedingly low.
Without much ado we pushed on to Brewarrina. Unfortunately the local Aboriginal cultural museum was closed because it was Saturday. This was disappointing, because we are always looking to give the kids positive experiences of Aboriginal culture. As it happened, there were some traditional fish traps in the river behind the museum that were well worth checking out.
We paused on the main drag to admire the artwork on the Brewarrina Hotel, and then pushed on to Walgett, where we dropped into the local supermarket for some supplies. At this point we made an error of judgement. We passed the turnoff to a caravan park just outside of Walgett, but decided to press on to Collarenebri. We would look for a bush camp on the road, and if we didn’t find one, we’d just get an onsite van or cabin in Collarenebri. There were no bush camps along the main road, however. The land just got drier, greyer, and more drought-stricken. Both stock and native animals were straying onto the verge between the road and the station fences, and the amount of road kill was staggering. The amount of litter by the side of the road was also truly awful, and the verge was very exposed. Thus there was no place to conceal a tent from the blazing headlights of passing traffic.
We pulled into Collarenebri at a petrol station to ask about a caravan park, but there was none in town. The bloke behind the counter gave us some options for camping, none of which sounded very appealing. We checked out one as we left town, but it was far too exposed for my liking. It was getting late, and we were 140 km shy of the next big town, Moree. I felt up for the drive, so we pushed on to Moree, even though we were well into “kangaroo o’clock”. I drove very carefully and used other vehicles as escorts as much as I could.
For the first time on our road trip the country around us looked ugly. It was grey, flat, over-grazed, over-cleared, full of rubbish and road kill. I was getting tired as well, and I was feeling the effort of constantly watching out for animals. I pointed out foxes and roos to the kids. There were sheep and cattle right next to the road, sometimes straying onto it. The other traffic was mostly hoons or road trains.
We found a caravan park in Moree. Susie made pumpkin soup. The caravan was filled with the babble of the television for hours, and as if to reward us for our determined push northward, the weather is warm and muggy. A few drops of rain have fallen on the roof as I write. We might sleep better if it cools off a little.
Tomorrow is the first day of spring.