It was quite a cool morning when we left St George to travel to our next destination of Cunnamulla and I had resorted to a vest to keep my back warm. The chill didn’t last too long and by the time we were ready to leave the vest had been divested and I was in shirtsleeves.
From St George we travelled along the Balonne Highway to the town of Bollon some 100+ kilometres to the west. When I was a much younger man I had travelled to Bollon on a Vespa 125cc motor scooter as my mother was working on a station in the district and I was going to visit her. From Bollon to the Station – Wilgamah – the road was gravel and the bull-dust was thick; I hit a hole filled with bull-dust and the scooter’s momentum ceased suddenly; my momentum, however, continued until I found myself on my face in the dirt with a damaged crash helmet and a very wounded pride.
No such mishaps occurred on this trip and vehicle and van travelled safely arriving at Bollon in time for morning tea shared with the sticky little flies that are very prevalent in the west – the royal wave is quite in vogue out here.
From Bollon we drove west and as we encountered the boundary between Balonne and Paroo Shires we found the white line in the centre of the road disappeared and for the rest of the way to Cunnamulla the road was unmarked – obviously a different Main Roads district and a different policy.
About 120 kilometres west of Bollon we encountered another caravan stopped on the side of the road. On inquiring as to whether or not there was a problem we discovered they had broken one of the components their caravan suspension. Apparently the caravan was still mobile but with no suspension on the left hand side. The couple had decided they would drive slowly on to Bollon and seek mechanical assistance there. We were only about 70 kilometres from Cunnamulla and it may have been more prudent to return to Cunnamulla but they had just spent two days in Cunnamulla and decided to press on. Having been assured they were OK we travelled on to Cunnamulla arriving around lunch time.
While at St George we encountered some fellow travellers in a Retreat Caravan the same model as ours but only a few months old – they had a broken spring and had been waiting a week for Retreat to arrange a replacement. They had received the new leaf and had arranged to have it fitted at St George and were booked into the local Repco the next day. The lady was born in Charleville and they were heading for a “Back to Charleville” reunion being staged during the Easter period. The spring leaf has obviously been replaced as they have just pulled into the site adjacent to ours here in Cunnamulla.
We elected to book into a caravan park in Cunnamulla (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cunnamulla) as there seems to be few free camp sites available in the area. The park we are in (Warrego Riverside Tourist Park (http://www.cunnamullatouristpark.com.au/)) is reasonably newly established and sits on the banks of the Warrego River about three kilometres from the town centre.
The park has been planted with fruit trees, vegetables and many herbs all of which are available for guests to harvest. We’ve had a look about town, not that there is a lot to see and Margaret has done some washing and we have picked up a few supplies preparatory to moving on to Bourke in the morning.
The road south towards Bourke from Cunnamulla is in reasonably good condition and traffic is light. We made good progress to the New South Wales / Queensland border and once we crossed we were in the Bourke Shire and a sign informed us that we were now in the “real outback”. Just before reaching the village of Barringun we notice small flocks of sheep at varying intervals over a distance of several kilometres. We wondered if the fences in the area were in poor condition until we came across a B Double stock crate which had obviously had a mishap. There were fifty or more dead sheep on the side of the road and the prime mover and the smaller part of the stock crate were hitched up to a heavy recovery vehicle preparatory to being removed from the scene. Next we encountered a stockman and his dog on a motorbike whose job was obviously to collect the various small mobs of sheep and safely contain them off the road.
A little further south and we arrived at the Barringun Hotel and pulled off to have morning tea. There is nothing much at Barringun other than the pub and a roadhouse cum Caravan Park. While we were having our break the heavy recovery vehicle and another stock crate pulled into the roadhouse. We didn’t see them again after we left. Where we parked for morning tea there was a bee hive just above us and the insects were very busy. I am not sure what they were – they looked too big for native bees and looked more like normal domestic bees but why they were building in this old tree on the side of the road is a mystery.
We arrived at Bourke around lunch time and decided to book into one of the local caravan parks rather than stay at the local free camp at May Bend. After unhitching the van we drove into town for a look at what was in Bourke. Bourke (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bourke,_New_South_Wales), on the Darling River, has a history as an inland port and a replica wharf has been built in the town area in recent times.
In its heyday two such wharves services the river traffic which hauled supplies into the town and wool out of the district. There is still a paddleboat operating at Bourke and the PV Jandra (http://www.outbacknow.com.au/index.php/tours/detail/new_south_wales/outback_nsw/bourke/pv_jandra_river_cruises) provides trips for visitors twice a day. We enjoyed a leisurely afternoon on the vessel.
Near the wharf area is a fully restored 1923 vintage Crossley oil fuelled stationary engine which was relocated from various sites – Sydney, where it had been used to generate electricity; in the Allowrie butter factory at Coffs Harbour and then at Narromine where it was used to pump water. The engine was fully restored by Don Burns and the Bourke Shire Council in 2002. The engine is fired up each day at noon and run for 45 minutes for visitors and locals to view.
There are a number of historic buildings in the town and an historic bridge at North Bourke – the Gateway Bridge (http://www.ausemade.com.au/nsw/destination/b/bourke/attractions/north-bourke-bridge/nth-bourke-bridge-image-9.htm). We walked across this bridge and floated under it on the PV Jandra – it is indeed an interesting structure and a credit to the ability of the designers and builders.
We spent a quiet night and on Thursday morning after an early morning walk disturbing the town dogs in Bourke we headed south to Cobar arriving without mishap mid-morning. We are resident in the Cobar Caravan Park while it rains overhead – predictions are that the rain will clear by tomorrow – I hope so as I prefer to drive on a dry road rather than a wet greasy one. Tomorrow we will move on to Broken Hill where we will stay for three days.